Monday, March 13, 2006

Think Deeply: Worship

Have a seat and lets discuss an important issue. Since you are buying, I would like a Vanilla Cappuccino.
The issue: our worship of Creator God.

I'll start the discussion with a question and see where that takes us:
Should we follow the Regulative or the Normative prinicple regarding our worship of God? The Regulative principle states that everything we do in a corporate worship gathering must be clearly warranted by Scripture. Clear warrant can either take the form of an explicit biblical command, or a good and necessary implication of a biblical text. The Normative principle states that as long as a practice is not biblically forbidden, a chuch is free to use it in its corporate worship gatherings.

As you give your answer, be sure to give examples.


Chase said...


If a chai tea latte were really before me, I might give a longer answer...and I still might later. In short, this sounds like one of those areas where perhaps two views are in conflict, and what is correct is some where in between the conflicting views. Maybe not- just a tired opinion that welcomes dialogue and rebuke- Tired at 9:24- I must be getting old.


Sarah said...

I agree. I think if you lean too far on either side, you could miss the point. On one extreme you could only do what the bible says period. But then dont sing specials or have "mission moments" (where every month we stop and pray for a country.)

But on the other hand, if you lean too far, you could be neglectful. (is that a word?) End up doing things that dont need to be done and distract away from worshiping the Lord. Seems to me everything has a balance. (at least grey areas)

But honestly I have never thought about that before. But I would also like a Chai Tea!!!! Iced! yummo

Mark Redfern said...


I lean heavily toward the regulative principle because I see God in Scripure immensely concerned with how He is to be worshipped. Nadab and Abihu lost their lives because they offered "strange fire" before the Lord (Leviticus 10).

Our pastor preached a message on corporate worship this past Lord's day. It hit a lot of the issues regarding the regulative principle. Scripturally, God desires (in corporate worship) the Scriptures to be read, the word to be preached, prayer to be offered, songs to be sung, and giving to be joyfully participated in. I can give you verses if you like.

justin said...

I also lean toward the Regulative principle. However, there are a couple of things I am trying to work out in my own thinking.

For example, why does the regulative principle not rule out things that we use which the Bible does not command (you may need to read that sentence again)?
Why is it ok to use a sound system in worship, or projectors when we are not commanded to use them? The only answer I can think of is that the regulative principle only relates to what we "do" and not what we "use."

So, maybe a better question would be: Does the regulative principle rule out choirs, solos, or instruments not mentioned in the Bible? Does the regulative principle rule out announcements and invitations in worship?

Am I making sense?

Mark Redfern said...

You are making sense. Remember, it is a principle and is therefore to be directed by Bible-saturated wisdom in its application. The general principle is to "sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord," but the application may be varied. I would encourage you to read my pastor's brief booklet called "The Regulative Principle of the Church" for more on this. His name is Sam Waldron. You can probably find it online. If not, you can get it pretty cheap. We are working through all of this in my Doctrine of the Church course for this semester. We have not gotten to this issue yet, but I anticipate dealing with it in the coming weeks.

dtaras said...

I'm not quite sure what principle to label myself, but here is what I believe.

Regarding corporate worship, the bottom line is that we are to worship God in Spirit and Truth(John 4:24). What concerns me is not the means that people use to worship (such as:guitars, piano, sound system, etc.), but rather the heart of the worshiper. The question is if God hears the praise and worship of those whose hearts are infected with harbored sin and unrepentant hearts.

The culture changes, but divine principles does not. The principle set is to worship God in Spirit and truth. There are guidelines set, but we also have to consider cultural issues. I think things can get really sticky if we are too dogmatic on the external focus of worship. If that were the case, should we follow all of what the Psalms say about worship with lifted hands and dancing? Does that mean we aren't truly "worshiping" if we don't do those things?

The main issue is that our worship raises God and humbles us. He is to be the object of our worhip and affection. God focuses on the heart of a man's worship.

I was mainly focusing on the singing or "worship" part of a regular Sunday morning. I do believe that when the church gathers - as Mark said, "Scriptures is read, the word to be preached, prayer to be offered, songs to be sung, and giving to be joyfully participated in."

Just a few thoughts ...

chase said...

Mark, Where is that booklet available online? Me email is

justin said...

The reason I am bringing this up is because I have been reading a lot of Mark Dever stuff. Dever is the champion of the Regulative principle. I plan on asking him some of these tough questions this weekend as I visit his church.

Mark, lets get practical: What about drama? Is there ever a time when it is right to have a drama in worship?

Rob Tombrella said...

I think we can all see the dangers of the normative principle. But, I think you have to use wisdom either way. Just because I adhere to the regulative principle doesn't guarantee that God is pleased with the worship service. I could dangle snakes and still claim regulative.

If the default of the church service remains on practices explicity or at least heavily implied principles in the text (congregational singing, preaching, communion, prayer) there is freedom for other practices that enhance those priorities.

For instance, I find drama to be occasionally, totally appropriate and effective. Note. Occassionally. If drama occasionally serves as a tool to be the best way to illustrate a biblical principle, I think we have freedom to use it. The danger is when we claim the use of drama for illustrative purposes while we are truly depending on drama as an entertainment church-growth motivation. Not thinking of any church here--just sharing thoughts.

dtaras said...

Great comment. I agree.

justin said...

Rob, I agree with you.
But my question is this: Is that the Regulative principle?
We all agree the Bible says nothing regarding drama. So, if we include drama, can we still say we hold to the regulative principle?

I'm asking a question of semantics. We need to know what we mean by these terms.

Mark Redfern said...

The heart of the worshipper is crucial (Matt 15:8-9, John 4:24), but so are the means. Many people have a problem with the regulative principle because they might say, "But, my heart is not warmed by a formal liturgy." My response: Is it the liturgy's fault that your heart is cold, or is it your fault? I do not mean to be negative, but I have found that I receive the most blessing (and I believe God is most glorified) when:

1. We worship God according to the Scripture most faithfully.

2. Our hearts and minds are passionately engaged.

Justin, regarding drama. My issue is: How do we know God wants it in the worship service? We don't. He hasn't told us. Therefore, I grow increasingly uncomfortable the more we "guess" in worship. Faithfulness to the Scripture in this matter honors God and assures that our worship is pleasing in His sight (granted it is in Spirit and Truth).

dtaras said...

I agree. God is most concerned with the heart of the worshipper and I think we should be wise when it comes to the type of worship that we partake of. I would rather heir on the side of caution with these principles. Some things can be distraction to others even though they might not effect us. Therefore, we should hold to the essentials that are outlined in scripture and be cautious outside of those lines.

If it distracts or causes my brother to stumble that I clap during worship, I would rather stop clapping for their sake. There is nothing inheritely wrong with clapping, but I don't want to be a stumblin block to anyone. Congregations need to find a proper balance in whatever decision they decide. It should above all be biblical and it should be edifying to the ENTIRE body.

One example:
I am part of the worship team at our church and we take the singing and praise part of worship very seriously. There are instances that we have a song request that is a song that is 100% God glorifying and awesome, however, if the song is too hard for people to sing and it is a distraction b/c they do not have the ability to sing it, then we choose not to do the song. It is not b/c the song is not a great song or unbiblical, but we want to make sure that we are leading them with out distraction or hindrance.

Just some thoughts ... great points Mark.

Mark Redfern said...

I think your point on edifying the body is very good, and I like your approach. Thanks for your comment.

One other word regarding this discussion: The reason I favor the regulative principle is because it exalts the sufficiency of Scripture. I see the normative principle as incredibly presumptuous. Let's not presume upon God. Biblically, what I believe God is seeking is true worshippers who worship Him with passionate intensity (Spirit), consistent with who He is (Truth), in the way He has prescribed (Regulative Principle). The normative principle I think unintentionally assumes that as long as the worship is "spirit and truth" the means don't matter. But, is worship really "in truth" if we take no consideration for how God might desire to be worshipped?

This has been an edifying discussion.

justin said...

Yes, this is a great discussion. I hope I get a chance to ask Mark Dever some more about it while I'm up here in DC.

Mark Redfern said...

Well, Justin, if you do, I think you'll find he believes in it. He rights of it in The Deliberate Church.