Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Problem of Contemporary Worship...

Roman style:


RPV said...

You nailed it James.
Most, if not all of the "conservative" churches, whether R&P or no, are already compromised in principle on worship ("reformed" as in doctrine. worship and government).

IOW the G&N consequences of the Second Commandment, i.e. the Regulative Principle of Worship as confessed in the Westminster and 3 Forms is a dead letter, if not a well kept secret or a skeleton in the closet.

To allow uninspired songs and instrumental music of whatever variety, whether historic or contemporary is arguably to sell the pass.
The organ was only brought into Rome's worship in the 12th century, before which the same had been instrument free. Fast forward to today and the organ is seen as the epitome of faithful obedience for many reformed and the antithesis of contemporary praise music. Go figure.

On the other hand, if the objection in part to instruments is that they accompanied the burnt offering in the ceremonial worship of the temple by divine command, then one might ask how come it took Rome so long to combine/include them in the "sacrifice" of the mass?)

Historical theology professor Scot Clark (URC) at Westminster West discusses musical instruments a bit at his Heidelblog:


Ken said...

I have to admit, I don't understand the push to be instrument free.

Seems contradictory to Psalm 150 and other OT passages.

The problem is not so much contemporary worship style - but the content and of course, here with the Roman Catholics worshiping the consecrated host - that is really bad and idolatrous.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like all sorts of Rock and Rock in worship, but I think tastefully done accustic guitars and flutes and piano and percussion that doesn't drown everything out is fine; as long as the words and theology dominate.

RPV said...

Again Ken, instruments were only brought into the "ceremonial" worship of God - at his command - to accompany the sacrifices.
But Christ's sacrifice on Calvary was once for all and the ceremonial worship/types are fulfilled and done away with.

We no longer sacrifice lambs, burn incense or anoint with oil, all typical elements of the ceremonial temple worship and mentioned in the Psalms.
So too musical instruments, which typified the joy and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, fulfilled at Pentecost.

Further the reformed understanding is not that the Second Commandment only forbids what is blatantly idolatrous. Rather anything that is added to - i.e. superstitiously - to God's worship without his command, is also a violation. Granted that is obviously not the intention of those who introduce these things, but nevertheless, if God does not command it, good intentions cannot sanctify it.

IOW this is one of the original historic hallmarks that defines what it means to be reformed as over and against lutheranism, anglicanism and evangelicalism, never mind romanism.

Yes, there are some things common to human societies and actions that are part of the worship of God; time place, etc. WCF 1:6, but these are not of its substance.

Yet try to take away musical instruments, choirs or singing Amazing Grace and you will find out whether or not people think - often quite vocally - they are the sine qua non of worship. Or mere incidental circumstances.


James Swan said...

I probably should have explained more about why I posted this. I did it primarily because I've heard Roman converts complain that their former churches didn't have a sense of "holiness" because of the contemporary music in the Protestant churches. Here though we see that going over to Rome doesn't mean this sort of "contemporary" worship is avoided. No, Rome has the same sort of issues within her churches- everything from "contemporary" music to charismatic worship, etc.

Personally, I don't have a problem with instruments being used in church, as long as it doesn't turn into a rock concert. The last thing i need to hear is a guitar solo at church during a hymn. 9 out of 10 ten times, the solo is awful anyway. Some day I'm going to write a blog post entitled, "Rock Star Syndrome" (a Swan-ism I'm fond of using) for people that get into organized religion and act like rock stars, or wanna-be rock stars, be it playing music or leading a bible study, or preaching in a church.

And now... back to playing guitar which is what I've been doing this morning.

RPV said...

Fair enough James.
But as a member of the URCs, as I am, are you aware of the original historical reformed position on the question as found in something like Van Dellen and Monsma's Commentary on the Church Order?

Likewise Ken, as a Baptist (correct, no?) you know that while Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle did sing uninspired hymns, it was acapella only.

True, I can't play guitar very well, but there's more to it than that.

Protestants may not be as culpable as Rome when it comes to the Second Commandment, but if they think they get off scot free, they got another thing coming.

IOW if there is sin in the camp, maybe it's no wonder that Israel can't stand against her enemies Jos. 7:12.

Bob S

Ken said...

Yes, I am a Calvinistic Baptist (Southern). (like Spurgeon, Piper, Mohler, McArthur, but without the dispensationalism as dogma.)

Thanks for the info on Spurgeon, etc. I did not know that. I will take Scripture over Spurgeon on that issue.

I will disagree, and I will take the Psalms on instruments and "play skillfully" (Psalm 33:3) and "sing unto the Lord a new song" (Psalm 33:3, 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9 - "upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to Thee". That tells me a tastefully done song of praise to the Lord with accoustic guitars (and flutes, and tasteful percussion, as I wrote before) is great! As long as the words and theology are consistent with the Scriptures. They don't have to be "word for word" Psalms only. Seems the NT makes room for not only Psalms, but Hymns and "Spiritual Songs" also - Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; whatever they might mean.

I don't see a specific verse that says that instrumental music is only and necessarily connected to the sacrifices and the temple, therefore has passed away, like the clear verses on the food laws (Mark 7:19; Acts 10-11) and sacrifices (Hebrews chapters 7-10). I do not see that intimate and necessary connection to the tabernacle and temple sacrifices, and as passing away.

Steve Finnell said...


Is interfaith ministry a Christian concept found in Scripture? Yes, it is, however, the interfaith ministry found the Bible teaches converting men of all faiths or no faith at all to accept Jesus as The Christ the Son of the living God and the only way to the Father. The interfaith gatherings in the Bible were not a forum used to proclaim that there were many roads that lead to heaven. The interfaith meetings were not used a symposium to agree that all religions may lead to salvation.


Acts 17:1-3...they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And accord to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ."

At his interfaith meetings Paul did say we are all trying to reach heaven, but we are just traveling different avenues. The apostle Paul did not preach a compromised gospel.

Acts 17:13 But when the Jews of Thessonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds.

If your teaching and preaching is not stirring up the crowds, is it possible, it is because your gospel message has been amended to mollify your listeners or readers?

Acts 17:22-34 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said. "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, " TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you......32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this." 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed..........

When Paul was preaching at the interfaith conference at Athens what took place?
1. He did not tell them it does not make any difference what you believe as long as you are sincere.
2. He told them they worshiped in ignorance.
3. Most rejected Paul's preaching.
4. Some believed the truth of the gospel.

The apostle Paul did not change the gospel to make it more palatable to the crowd. He did not tell them that all religions are approved by God.

Galatians 1:6-8 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven , should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you , he is to be accursed!

Paul was preaching to a interfaith/interdenominational group, the Judaizers at Galatia. Judaizers were Jewish Christians who were advocating keeping Jews customs in order to be saved. The apostle Paul did not say that all denominations could teach different terms for pardon. He said if they taught a gospel contrary to what the apostles taught that they should be accursed.

1. FAITH: John 3:16
2. CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10
3. REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38
4. WATER BAPTISM: 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38

The apostle Paul was not a fan of interfaith/interdenominational meetings that advocated all faiths or that all terms of pardon bring about salvation.

The apostle Paul believed in the ONES: (Ephesians 4:4-6)
One body.
One Spirit.
One hope.
One Lord.
One Faith.
One Baptism.
One God.
One Father.


pilgrim said...

Just a question for RPV--do you only worship using 1st century Hebrew music?

RPV said...


The argument from psalms proves too much in that if we are to praise God with the "timbrel and dance" of Psalm 150:4, the question naturally arises. Will we have tap, ballroom or break dancing? Or just 'liturgical dancing'?

We might laugh, but it is not as far fetched as it sounds. (Yup, I've seen it, tho out of worship.) What can pass for "evangelical" these days is a travesty. Nevertheless, principles work through, even if we might not live to see them, the judgement of the 2nd commandment coming down upon future generations. Neither did Rome's departures in doctrine, worship and government occur over night.

Two, if previously the OT Psalter was the inspired songbook of the church, the exhortation in Eph. 5 and Col. 3 to be 'full of the Spirit' and the 'Word of Christ' is a pretty slim foundation to open up things up to uninspired song. Much more the psalms are titled variously as 'psalms', 'hymns' or 'songs'.

Three, that instruments were only commanded to be brought into the temple worship to accompany the burnt sacrifice references 2 Chronicles 29:25-28  

And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.  And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel.

Distinguish between what are the commanded elements in worship and the changeable/indifferent circumstances that necessarily accompany them.

While I am not currently a member of a P&R church that practices the historic P&R practice of a'capella psalms only, the tunes that accompany the songs inspired or no, have generally been considered indifferent and decided by the "Christian prudence" of WCF 1:6

thank you,
Bob S.

Ken said...

Yeah, I predicted in my mind that you would mention the dancing . . .

I still like good Rock n' Roll with good words: (not for Sunday worship; but I think this is great for a youth/college outreach kind of thing.)

I don't see how musical instruments violates the 2nd commandment at all. I am not even against wooden crosses in church. I am not against the Jesus film (that Campus Crusade did) - it is not for worship, rather for teaching history and truth of the gospel.

the Chronicles passage is historical narrative, but it does not give a principle that instruments are only connected with the sacrifices and they also necessarily have to be done away with, when the New Covenant shows that the sacrifices are fulfilled and finished.

pilgrim said...

Sorry RPV, I don't follow your argument.
I don't get how it supports your case for exclusive psalmody, but allows you to use later music
I don't know which music you use-but most exclusive psalmody proponents I have run across use music from the last 300 hundred years or so (mostly more recent than that, but nothing post 1950-and normally nothing post 1899)

RPV said...

Dunno Ken, you want to argue for instruments, but not dancing. Why not?
It's like arguing for incense, but not the robes and thrones in Revelation.
The Westminster Assembly said we not only know what God commands from what he explicitly tells us, but also by the approved examples. For instance, we are never explicitly told Sunday replaces the OT sabbath of Saturday, but we have repeated instances by Christ and the apostles meeting on the first day of the week, not to mention Christ's resurrection on that day.
And while we are explicitly told that the animal sacrifices have ceased because the Lamb of God has come, the same goes for the rest of the ceremonial worship, of which musical instruments was a part.
No, that won't satisfy the literalists/fundamentalists, but that is no matter. The charge is to teach and preach the whole counsel of God and the presbyterian and reformed faith is the closest thing to it in an imperfect world.

What we sing in the worship of God is one thing. The tune is another. One is a commanded element of worship; the other necessarily accompanies it, but is indifferent. For example while we are commanded alal the 4th commandment to worship on the Lord's Day, the specific time per se is indifferent, whether 10 or 11, 2:30 or 6:30.
Hope that helps.

Bob S

Ken said...

I hear you and understand; but we will just have to agree to disagree on these finer points; like infant baptism - I cannot see it at all as Biblical; so I think Believer's baptism along with Calvinism in matters of God's Soveriengty and Providence and Election, etc. is the most Biblical system. And not so extreme on other matters. I am glad that Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians and other Protestants can be friends and brothers and sisters and have the benefits of the wisdom of some kind of separation of church and state, since the 1700s - I was amazed that the Zurich council executed Felix Manz and others (who were with Zwingli, but broke away over this issue), just because they had themselves re-baptized, coming to the conviction that beleivers / disciples/ credo-baptism was more Biblical than infant baptism.

But maybe you think that was good and you are Theonomic and re-constructionist in those issues. ( ?) Postmill (?)

I have listed to all of Dr. White's debates on infant baptism and McArthur vs. Sproul, over the years, studying the issue; and the baptist view just always makes more sense with the Biblical data.

The position you take on musical instruments is just too extreme for me. Being a missionary helps, being exposed to different cultures and languages and poetry and emotions and traditions and art forms - seeing other cultures and experiencing their humanity and the image of God in them and the vestigages of creativity and art as coming from God's image helps us be more balanced also.

Some forms of dance are not sensual or sinful; and I have seen Jewish believers, African believers, Black American believers, Iranians who have come to Christ from Islam, and Arab believers and Kurdish beleivers apply a tasteful way of group/congregational dance (not the individual American ballerina type Charismatic stuff where everyone is watching one or several women up front - NO!; but the congregation doing a kind of sway or march kind of thing (for lack of better wording) I find I cannot condemn all of that outright; though I don't want that in our own worship services. I would prefer to be friendly and kind to them in their culture and not condemn. We Calvinists already have enough problems with our reputations of being cranky and persnickety and angry and lacking any emotion at all - many call us "cold ice bergs". I want to fight against that imbalance and be warm hearted and balanced in effective evangelism and apologetics.

Stay balanced my friend.

I have met some people who drive themselves mad and are unhealthy by being too extreme on these smaller issues.

I cry out for God's mercy and wisdom on staying balanced and Biblical.