Contend Earnestly: Regulative vs Normative Principle of Worship

Monday, February 12, 2007

Regulative vs Normative Principle of Worship

I am not fully educated on the history of the worship music when it comes to the Puritans and the Reformers but I recently read out of the latest Banner of Truth the article by Riemer A. Faber titled, The Reformers on Psalms and Hymns in Public Worship. I just want to throw my two cents in on this issue that is very divisive and also can bring a preacher to his knees if not handled properly. I do very much agree with Luther when he said:

When God's word is not preached, one better neither sing nor read, or even come together.

I agree that the exposition of the Scriptures is of the most high calling and purpose of our weekly Lord's Day meeting, and this exposition is to only exalt our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The same goes for our worship in song. Luther also stated:

The gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely by proclaiming the Word of God through music.

I completely disagree with those who adhere to the Regulative Principal of Worship being the same reason that Martin Luther believed in Hymns and used them. He also stated:

We may now boast that Christ is our praise and song and say with St Paul in 1 Corinthains 2, that we know nothing to sing or say, save Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Luther started to write hymns, it would seem, to proclaim Christ and the worship of Him. This article also points to the fact that Luther interpreted and supported the Christocentric emphasis on the psalm-singing.

Faber notes that Luther felt that as the Psalms of the Old Testament are prophetic, the New Testament passages convey the fulfillment of prophecies. Therefore, Luther even allowed the Nicene Creed to be sung congregationally as well.

I don't pretend to know the history of the worship service but I will say that if one believes that hymns may be used I don't understand how anyone can come down on services that use praise music to proclaim Christ. I will tell you that I love the hymns and would rather sing them over any other music, but that is just my personal preference.

I feel as long as the words proclaim the Christ and exalt Him alone, it is acceptable as long as the music is not in a form to drive out unity (such as singing Amazing Grace with a Led Zeppelin feel). But this last part has to be determined by the elders on what is deemed acceptable.

I do know that Jonathan Edwards didn't allow for Isaac Watts' hymns in his services for a long while and only when he allowed them, their friendship probably had a little to do with their usage. But, Watts' hymns were highly controversial at the time.

As I take a look at the modern worship service, can I honestly say that I accept the norm? No, and this is why I wish I was convicted of the Regulative Principle but I am not. So, I have to be discerning on the Normative Principle and understand that this comes with much baggage. But, I also know that even those at the time of the Great Awakening dealt with these same issues.


Anonymous said...

The traditional view of the RPW would say only Psalms should be sung in worship. But this has it's problems in that the Pslams are usually paraphrased and metrically altered thus diluting the purpose of the Regulative Principle. Historically the Church has used extra-biblical music in worship. But if you are going to depart from the view that only Pslams should be sung, you have entered into the very subjective world of what exactly is appropriate for worship.

Seth McBee said...

Your last point that:

But if you are going to depart from the view that only Pslams should be sung, you have entered into the very subjective world of what exactly is appropriate for worship.

This is I sometimes wish that I was convinced of the RPW so that it would not be so subjective. But, for me, as I look into the Scriptures, I see the use of hymns, based solely on Scripture and to the exaltation of Christ, as appropriate.

But I understand the thought of "where does it stop?" that is where the elders must be godly men that wish only to exalt Christ in the worship service.

von said...

I am convinced of the RPW, but do not see it as mandating uniquely Psalms, any more than it mandates uniquely the reading of the word in preaching. And the regulatory mechanisms are the same for singing as they are for preaching or teaching: the oversight of the elders. Greg Bahnsen wrote a similar article.
However it is problematic that the church has replaced the singing of Psalms completely... and of course much of the church has discarded the singing of hymns.

Seth McBee said...

I completely agree with your sentiments...I have actually, since I was raised SBC, never sung Psalms in a Lord's Day service. How do you like that? The only time I have done so is when I went to my buddy's reformed church about 4 months ago. It was actually really, excuse my language, "cool." Probably better put, worshipful. (if that is a word)

Anonymous said...



Related Posts with Thumbnails