An Email Debate Between Darryl Hart and John Frame

Note, 2006 (JF): In 1998, some students organized an email debate between Darryl Hart, then librarian at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and John Frame, then Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. The debate was carried on the Warfield list, moderated by Andrew J. Webb. I have edited the text by (1) removing the email arrows and deleting some lines relevant only to the email system, (2) introducing names and titles, so that readers can more easily understand who is talking at each point, (3) setting quotations in a more standard form, so that readers can see more easily where A is quoting B, rather than stating his own position, (4) rearranging the material somewhat, so that, e.g., Hart’s answer #1 immediately follows Frame’s question #1, etc. I have also added a few footnotes to bring readers up to date on developments since 1998. I have reproduced the text and posted it at www.frame-poythress.org with the permission of Darryl Hart.

 

Moderator

Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 00:06:35 -0500

To: Warfield List <bbwarfld@erols.com

From: “Andrew J. Webb” <ajwebb@erols.com

Subject: WARFIELD: THE DEBATE HAS FINALLY ARRIVED!

 

Hi all,

As of now (12:00AM 2/5/97), no emails from anyone other than John Frame or Darryl Hart will be processed by the list for the duration of the RPW debate. At the end of the debate you will have an opportunity to ask both gentlemen questions related to the topic. They have agreed to field a total of 20 questions from the audience. I will be vetting the questions, so it won’t necessarily be the first to arrive that get processed. PLEASE DO NOT BEGIN SENDING QUESTIONS TO THE LIST UNTIL I TELL YOU TO DO SO.

The Subject of the debate is:

—–

“How does one go about defining the Regulative Principle of Worship? The relationship of Scripture, our confessional history, and the contemporary audience.”

—–

The format is as follows:

1. INTRODUCTIONS (bios to follow)

2. INITIAL ARGUMENTS

3. INITIAL REPLIES

4. DIRECT QUESTIONING OF ONE ANOTHER (Frame to ask the first question, per coin toss (on a 1948 two shilling piece) — THIS PORTION OF THE DEBATE WILL NOT RUN MORE THAN 14 DAYS

5. CLOSING STATEMENTS

6. QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE  [20]

Are you all sitting comfortably? Good, then let’s get started.

Your Servant in Christ,

Andy Webb

 

Andrew & Joy Webb

300 Horsham Rd., Apt. E6

Hatboro, PA  19040

(215) 682-9373

“…there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what is nowadays called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.” - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

 

 

Introductions

 

Darryl Hart

Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 00:07:55 -0500

I am an ecclesiastical mongrel.  I grew up a dispensational-Scofield-Reference-Bible-toting, fundamentalist Baptist. (My folks went to Bob Jones University, all right?)  Since becoming Reformed under the early influence of Schaeffer and then WTS, my wife Ann and I have been members in the PCA, the CRC (where I served as elder), and now the OPC (where I also serve as elder — or in PCA lingo “ruling elder”).  Our reasons for changing denominations stemmed more from grad. school and job changes, than from dissatisfaction.  (Who me, defensive?)

Even though I hold down the position as librarian as WTS,1 my academic training is as a historian.  I studied as an undergrad at Temple University (as a film major — don’t ask), then WTS for an MAR, then on to Harvard Divinity School for an MTS and finally to Johns Hopkins for a Ph.D. in American history.

My favorite authors are J. Gresham Machen, Wendell Berry, H. L. Mencken and Joseph Epstein.

That’s more than you would get on a dust jacket, but a little less, I hope, than on late afternoon TV.

 

John Frame

Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 00:09:41 -0500

I was born (1939) and raised in the Pittsburgh area by a fairly affluent family. I came to trust Jesus as my savior during the teen years through the ministry of Beverly Heights U. P. Church. Through grade school and high school years I studied piano, organ, clarinet, harmony, counterpoint, improvisation, played in band and orchestra, sang in choirs, so music has always been a big thing with me. Worship, musical and otherwise, has been central to my Christian life.

I earned the A. B. from Princeton University in 1961, majoring in Philosophy. It was at college that I began to study the Bible in a serious way and, naturally, was drawn toward Reformed theology and apologetics. I earned the B. D. at WTS (which they now call an M. Div.) in 1964, then earned two more masters’ degrees at Yale, focusing on philosophical theology and contemporary theology. I did not finish my doctorate; finished all but the dissertation. So I am not “Dr. Frame.”2

In 1965-66 I interrupted my graduate program to work at my home church for a year. I was organist, choir director, pastoral visitor, occasional preacher and Bible teacher.

In 1968 I began teaching systematic theology and apologetics at WTS-Philadelphia. In 1980, I left there to teach at the new western WTS campus in Escondido, CA, where I now serve as professor of apologetics and systematic theology.3

I was ordained a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1968. In 1989 my local congregation switched from OPC to PCA and I went along with them. I am an associate pastor of New Life PCA, Escondido, where I lead worship from the piano.

I’ve published eight books on various topics: epistemology, ethics, apologetics, ecumenism, worship. My two books on the last topic are “Worship in Spirit and Truth” and “Contemporary Worship Music: a Biblical Defense.” These are both published by P&R.

In 1984 I married Mary Grace Cummings. OPC people know the family: her Dad ministered in the OPC for forty years or so. Three of her brothers are OPC ministers. We have three grown children by her previous marriage: Debbie (28), Doreen (26), and David, aka Skip (25). Mary and I have by our own marriage two boys, Justin (11) and Johnny (9). Mary home schools them. Actually they major in soccer, but we are trying to steer them into music. Justin has played cello since age 3, and Johnny violin since about 5. They both also study piano, but reluctantly.

 

Initial Arguments

 

Frame

Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 21:53:50 -0500

“How does one go about defining the Regulative Principle of Worship (hence RPW)? The relation of Scripture, our confessional history, and the contemporary audience.”

I am not asked to actually define the RPW, but rather to discuss how we should “go about defining” it. Our question is methodological rather than substantive.

We must begin with a distinction. Definitions of the RPW can be of two kinds: historical and normative. A historical definition will simply try to outline what people have meant by the phrase. The actual phrase seems to date from the early nineteenth century, but users of it have evidently used it to summarize the principle used by the early Reformed thinkers (say, 1520-1700) to determine what belongs in worship. Further, the phrase “RPW” generally refers more specifically to the formulations of the English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians of that period. I don’t, of course, want to go into the question of how much these traditions agreed with Reformed thought on the continent. But if I were engaging in research as to the historical meaning of the phrase “RPW,” my work would focus on the British theologians rather than the continental ones, because the former are the ones more often cited by those who use the term. Further, the most elaborate confessional expressions of the RPW are in the Westminster Confession of Faith, a product of Puritan and Scottish theology. Study, then, of this theological and confessional tradition would yield a historical definition of the RPW.

Search for a normative definition would overlap the above area of study, but in some respects it would be rather different. Reformed theology holds to the principle sola Scriptura [see my article on this subject in the most recent Westminster Theological Journal, edited by Darryl Hart],4 so the goal of a normative definition would be to discover how God in Scripture regulates human worship. At the outset, we should assume that such a normative definition may or may not agree with the historical definition of the term.

We do face here some strategic questions. One possibility is that the biblical teaching will be so different from the historical concept of the RPW that the very phrase “RPW” would be better abandoned. That is the alternative chosen by Ralph Gore, for example, in his dissertation “The Pursuit of Plainness.”5 My own view is that the biblical teaching about God’s regulation of worship is CLOSE to the Scottish-Puritan concept, but not identical with it. The Bible shares with the Scots and Puritans the central insight that we should include in worship only what pleases God, and what pleases God is defined by the Bible, sola Scriptura. Therefore, I am willing to describe the biblical view as the Bible’s “RPW.” But I believe some aspects of the Scottish-Puritan view go beyond the Scriptures, particularly (1) their attempt to define a RP that pertains to worship and not to the rest of life, and (2) the calculus of “elements” and ”circumstances” by which they tried in my view to make the RPW more precise than it is in Scripture.

So my short answer is: define RPW historically from the British Reformed theological/confessional tradition; define it normatively by the Scriptures.

A further complication, of course, is that for Presbyterians the Westminster Standards have a normative function. That is, what I have called the historical definition of the RPW is in some measure normative. Here it is important for us to recognize immediately that the confessions are “secondary” standards; they are not our “ultimate” norms. So our basic distinction still holds.

The other important consideration here is that the Westminster Divines did not put their entire theology of worship into their confessional standards. Some seem to think that the references to the RPW in the Confession in effect make the entire Puritan theology of worship (secondarily) normative in our churches.  I disagree. It is legitimate to consult the Puritan theologians occasionally for help in understanding the technical expressions in the Westminster Standards. It is not legitimate to conclude that the WCF’s reference to “circumstances” implies the normativity of all the definitions of circumstances found in the Puritan literature.

Does “the contemporary audience” play a role in our defining of the RPW? In a word, no. But of course we must know something about contemporary people if we are to communicate with them in their language. Worship is communication, among other things. So if we are properly to apply the RPW in planning actual worship services, we must know something about contemporary people.

 

Hart

Date: Sat, 7 Feb 1998 12:38:28 -0500

If I were an rational, autonomous self, the kind presupposed by the Enlightenment but said not to exist by Cornelius Van Til, I would define the regulative principle of worship by reasoning as follows: there is this being bigger and more powerful than I to whom I should show some respect and honor.  It only makes sense that I should ask him (I hope this isn’t a gender inclusive God) how he wants to be shown respect and honor.

Then, after hearing R. C. Sproul’s proofs for the existence of God, specifically the God of the Bible, and after reading Francis Schaeffer’s He Is There, He Is Not Silent, and realizing that this God has revealed himself in the Bible, I then figure I might as well go to that book, God’s word, to see how he wants to be worshiped.

But, of course, I am not an Enlightened, independent individual. I am actually quite situated.  I worship in a Presbyterian denomination, I work at a Reformed seminary, I order books for a theological library on the premise that I can tell the difference between Reformed and other kinds of theological literature.  This means that I come to the Bible not in a vacuum but as Presbyterians and Reformed folk before me have interpreted it.  So I go to texts like Mt 4:9-10; 15:9; Acts 17:25; Col 2:23; 1 Sam 15:22; Deut 12:32; 15:1-20; Ex 20:4-6 and see the scriptural basis, though of course contested by other Christians, for the regulative principle.

But it gets even worse.  Not only do I find myself situated in a theological tradition that shapes my understanding of the Bible and how I interpret it to arrive at a definition of the regulative principle, but I remember the solemn vows I have taken before God and his saints in the visible church.  One of those vows, of course, is “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scriptures?”  In this vow I not only locate myself explicitly within the Reformed tradition, but I put my own integrity on the line and identify myself, my word, my honor, with the statements and arguments of the Westminster Confession and Larger and Shorter Catechisms.  I do not want to be guilty of the same sort of subscription that occurred during the modernist-fundamentalist controversy (and for that matter still goes on in most mainline churches) where officers subscribe to the creedal standards of their communion but then deny and contradict, both implicitly and explicitly, what those standards teach, arguing that those creeds were true in their day but not in ours.

Dr. Machen (OK, his was only honorary!) called that kind of subscription, intellectual dishonesty.  So in my answers to questions like those before us in this debate I must give some attention to the Westminster Standards lest I be guilty of the same kind of dishonesty.

The Westminster Standards, therefore, become like a presupposition guiding my understanding, not only of worship but of the whole Christian religion.  And much to my relief, those standards have a very good, clear, and concise statement of the regulative principle.  The briefest statement comes from the Shorter Catechism, answer 51, which states that the second commandment forbids the worshiping of God by images or any other way not appointed in his word.  Other statements of this principle can also be found in answer 109 of the Larger Catechism and chapter 21, sect 1 of the Confession of Faith.  But the important point for me is that second half of the Shorter Catechism’s answer, that we may not worship God in any way not appointed in his word.  We may not worship God as we devise, as we prefer, or in a way that won’t give the unchurched offense.  Rather we must worship God only as he desires.  And given what Reformed folk believe about special revelation and its finality, the only place to go to see how God desires to be worshiped is in his word.

 

Initial Replies

 

Frame’s Initial Reply to Hart

Date: Sat, 7 Feb 1998 21:14:10 -0500

My chief problem with Hart’s opening statement is that he makes no distinction between what I called in my statement the historical and normative forms of the RPW. Indeed, that is his whole point. His argument is that we should never pit the biblical principles against the historical-confessional. We should rather read the Scriptures exactly as the tradition has done. So the historical and the normative RPWs are exactly the same. The alternative is autonomy, enlightenment rationalism, big-denomination modernism, etc. Here he cites his (and my) heroes Van Til and Machen.

First of all, Van Til was as Reformed as he could be, but for him ”autonomy” did not mean having a critical attitude toward one’s tradition. He did have a high regard for Reformed tradition, and he did tend to think that any deviation from the Reformed faith was a compromise with autonomy. But the compromise was not in questioning the tradition. It was in asserting one’s own metaphysical (libertarian free will) and/or epistemological (my mind over Scripture) independence from God. He never argued as Hart does that because we are “situated” in a particular tradition we must read the Bible exactly as that tradition has done. Indeed, although he subscribed to the Westminster Standards ex animo, he differed with parts of the Confession’s teaching on the Sabbath.

If it is “autonomous” to differ with one’s tradition, what about people who are “situated” in Arminian, or Roman Catholic, or Charismatic traditions? Are they, too, to be meekly submissive to their teachers and traditions? Or are they to be like the noble Bereans and search the Scriptures to determine if these things are so (Acts 17:11)?

In fact, Hart’s kind of argument is ironically and curiously anti-Reformed. For the Reformers were highly critical of their own received traditions, of Popes and Councils. They taught “sola Scriptura,” in which Scripture alone is the ultimate standard of truth. They gave the Bible to the layman, in the vernacular, and urged him to test all theological controversies by it. Unquestioning acceptance of tradition, such as Hart recommends to us, is much more like the Roman Catholic view of authority than like the Reformed. It is the Romanists who have regularly told us that we are situated in a tradition, that we should not even consider bringing arguments against it. It is they who have brought the charge of autonomy and individualism against Protestantism in general. On the contrary, the Westminster Confession, to which Hart and I subscribe, makes clear that Scripture alone is the ultimate authority (chap. 1, especially), even over against synods and councils (chap. 31:3).

I agree with Hart that Presbyterian churches are confessional bodies and that creedal subscription should not be tongue-in-cheek. But Hart fails to deal with the problem we have in using confessions that are 350 years old. Is it not likely that if the Spirit has continued to teach the church during those 350 years that we will have learned something new? And, if the confessions are not infallible documents (Hart doesn’t QUITE say that they are) is it not possible that we might not find them wrong about some things? Well, there are arguments between “strict” subscriptionists and others about how to handle that problem. But nobody, I think (or is Hart the exception?) wants to say that every officer must literally believe every statement in the Standards. Every Reformed denomination has some way of dealing with “exceptions,” such as Van Til’s exception on the Sabbath.

Further, if no exceptions may be taken (or if exceptions may be taken, but not taught, as some “strict” subscriptionists wish), then don’t the confessions become, for practical purposes, equal to Scripture? Certainly they become incorrigible, unreformable. They are no longer subject to the higher standard of Scripture.

Does Hart really wish to say that “The Westminster Standards, therefore, become like a presupposition guiding my understanding not only of worship but of the whole Christian religion”?  I gather he has Van Tillian presuppositions in mind here. But I must ask, what does it mean to say that the Standards are “like” a presupposition? Are they something less than ultimate presuppositions? That would, I think, favor my point rather than his. Or are they presuppositions in the same sense Scripture is? That view, I think, would be terribly dangerous. Then the Standards would become the very criteria of truth and rationality. They could never, even conceivably, be successfully challenged. Like traditional Roman Catholicism, then, we would be subject to two streams of authority, which are really one, equal in authority and mutually interpretative. That view is clearly contrary to the Westminster Confession itself, for it makes a particular council, the Westminster Assembly, a “rule of faith, or practice,” contrary to WCF 31:3.

So Hart and I are 180 degrees apart on the methodological question. Evidently he has rejected entirely the argument of my “Biblicism” paper that he published in the WTJ. And I reject just as vigorously what he appears to me to be saying here.

On the substantive question, we may not be as far apart. This statement of his is perfectly acceptable to me:

But the important point for me is that second half of the Shorter Catechism’s answer, that we may not worship God in any way not appointed in his word.  We may not worship God as we devise, as we prefer or in a way that won’t give the unchurched offense.  Rather we must worship God only as he desires.  And given what Reformed folk believe about special revelation and its finality, the only place to go to see how God desires to be worshiped is in his word.

And the Scripture texts he cites are mostly the central ones in my own thinking. I do think using Acts 17:25 to prove the RPW is a bit of a stretch. Matt. 4:9-10 tells us that God is the exclusive object of worship rather than that Scripture is the sole revelation concerning worship. It does deny to Satan the right to tell us what to do, but I trust that is not controversial among Christians. There is a connection between God as the object of worship and Scripture as the exclusive law of worship, but Matt. 4:9-10 doesn’t state that connection. And I assume Hart means to refer to Deut. 18:1-20 rather than 15:1-20. The rest are unquestionably important in establishing the doctrine. None of these, in my view, presents the Puritan distinction between elements and circumstances, nor does any of them differentiate between one rule for worship and another for the rest of life.

The irony is that this very Regulative Principle clearly excludes what Hart seems to be saying elsewhere about the incorrigible authority of tradition. The real RPW for him seems to be the authority of Scripture plus the Reformed tradition.

 

Hart’s Initial Reply to Frame

DATE:   2/9/98 7:27 PM

Sorry for the delay.  I wish I could blame it on Sabbath observance alone.

But it also follows from not knowing how to import a text file into a CompuServe “create mail” window.  So I’ve had to type this twice.  What a guy.

One of the reasons I was ambivalent about a debate on the RPW was that it would not really be about worship, but rather about hermeneutics, theological method, and ecclesiology.  Maybe that is what all debates about worship finally turn into, not whether we have praise bands or sing a capella psalms (isn’t this what happened in the CRC over whether to ordain women?).  Still, I am going to write more about hermeneutics and subscription than a definition of the RPW.

Prof. Frame’s initial statement accomplishes almost by a sleight of hand what some readers may miss because of wanting to understand the RPW.  In his rather common sensical approach to defining the RPW he distinguishes between historical (what I would call “descriptive”) and normative meanings.  Again, this should strike most of us as quite level headed, especially when he goes on to say that the RPW historically may mean one thing in Puritanism but another in the Bible.  Churches and the authors of creeds are not infallible and so their efforts will always fall short of the inerrant intentions of God’s word.  And as it turns out, the Puritans did err in their defintion of the RPW.  For Frame the biblical RPW applies to all of life but for the Puritan RPW it does not; and the biblical RPW is not so precise as the Puritan RPW when it distinguishes between circumstances and elements.

Now if we embark on a discussion of these differences between the Bible and the Puritans we will have missed Frame’s remarkable feat.  For what he has really done is not only to take issue with the Puritan RPW.   He has also set the Bible against the tradition to which he and I belong (as officersin the PCA and OPC, and as professors at Reformed seminaries).  And it is this antagonism or, at least tension, between the Bible and the Reformed tradition that bothers me and it is what bothered me about Prof. Frame’s book on worship, Worship In Spirit and Truth.
As I went through that book I read chapters first on the OT, the NT and then the RPW.  It all seemed so biblical, so sola-scriptura-like.  But what I ended up with was a view of worship that not only allowed for practices that Presbyterians in the past would have disapproved.  More important, I wound up with the conclusion that the Reformed tradition is at odds (in Frame’s words, “not identical”) with the Bible.
Now, of course, as an adherent of the Reformed Faith I don’t like hearing that my convictions are not biblical.  But my feelings are not at issue.

Rather, what is very disconcerting is the matter-of-fact way that Prof. Frame leads us to this conclusion.  I don’t sense any regret, hesitation, or any of the angst that plagued Luther as he took his stand against the tradition of the church.  Instead, as I read Prof. Frame I come away with a “ho-hum” expression that the Reformed tradition is not biblical on worship.

But I would think that the presuppositionalism of Van Til would make us very cautious and regretful about reaching such a conclusion.  For his apologetics tell us that because of our enmity against God, an enmity that still afflicts believers, we will not always interpret the Bible correctly, but in fact may be prone to distortion and make it say what we want it to.

What is more, because of the human tendency toward sin and unbelief, I would think that if my interpretation of the Bible conflicted with that of the Puritans or Calvin I would be cautious about going with my understanding.  Am I wiser than they were?  How could I be right and they be wrong?  Doesn’t their body of work stand up better than mine?  After all, will anybody be reading me in 400 years (for edification, that is, not for laughs)?

A related problem, though, is again the matter-of-factness of Frame’s assertion that there is the biblical RPW here and over there, not too faraway, is the Puritan RPW.  (By the way, you also see the RPW in the Belgic Confession, art. 32 and questions 96 to 98 in the Heidelberg Catechism, so it isn’t exclusively British.)  Could it be that what we really have is Frame’s RPW against the Puritan RPW?  In other words, is the Bible so easily interpreted and understood?  Again, if Van Til and Kuyper were right I think the answer to that question should be “no.”  And if that is the case wouldn’t we want the help of saints from the past and the present who have won reputations for their wise insights into Scripture and who are entrusted with the faith once delivered.

But the problem of the Bible against the Reformed tradition not only pertains to hermeneutics but also to subscription.  If there is a Puritan RPW taught in the Westminster Standards and I have taken a vow to upholdand defend and conform to those standards (TWICE, once at the seminary and once in the church), shouldn’t I be a little more timid about saying the Puritan RPW doesn’t conform to biblical teaching?  If I thought it did not conform at the time of taking my  vows then I shouldn’t have affirmed them. And if I came to this conviction since joining the WTS faculty and since ordination, then I should notify my session about the change of my views,and I should overture presbytery right away to initiate proceedings to revise the doctrinal standards of my communion and my school.

In other words, the matter-of-factness of Prof. Frame’s statement distorts just how serious the issues involved in it are.

I apologize for going over my suggested limit of 750 words, but I want to make one more point before ending.  It concerns Prof. Frame’s effort to extend the biblical RPW to all of life since the whole of the believer’s life, and not just worship, is rendered as service and praise to God.  This extension, though sounding devout, is a ready-made argument for theonomy.

By limiting the RPW to corporate worship, the Westminster Divines were putting limits upon church power and the power it has over individual consciences.  In public worship the session may bind the consciences of believers as long as they have scriptural warrant for all that is done (or have a good and necessary deduction from the Bible).  But by extending the RPW to all of life Prof. Frame appears to want to give the session power to bind the consciences of believers in all areas of their vocation and Christian walk.  Frankly, this is scary.  The church may have clear teaching that pornography is sin, but it has no legitimate authority to declare to me that John Updike’s book, Couples, is pornographic and therefore it is a sin if I read it.

 

Questions by Frame and Hart to One Another

 

Frame’s First Question

Date: Wed, 11 Feb 1998 19:20:58 -0500

I gather that Hart and I are now to spend about the next 14 days asking and responding to questions from one another. That would be from today, 2/11, to 2/25 (Ash Wednesday).

My first question:

Is it possible, on your view, for the Reformed confessional RPW to be wrong? If not, how do you distinguish your view of Scripture and tradition from the Roman Catholic? If so, and if such an error exists, how could we, granted your hermeneutic, discover the error and reform the confessions according to the Word of God?

 

Hart’s Answer to Frame’s First Question

Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 22:31:18 -0500

It is possible for my understanding of the RPW to be wrong.  It is also possible for the Westminster Standards to be wrong.  As the Confession of Faith says in ch. 31.iii, synods and councils “may err; and many have erred.”  The Standards, therefore, are not infallible.  The Bible is our primary standard, the Confession, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms secondary.

But such an admission does not really settle the matter because I have taken a vow which says that the Standards contain the system of doctrine taught in Scripture.  So if the Bible is infallible, one might think its system of doctrine also infallible, unless we argue, as some evangelicals do, that systematic theology diminishes the truth of the Bible.  This does not mean that the Westminster Standards contain that infallible system of doctrine taught in the Bible.  But they come close, and to my knowledge do not contain any errors.  That is why I took my ordination vows and subscribed to the Standards, ex animo, at Westminster.  My vows became my profession of faith.  If the Standards are wrong, then I am wrong.  As the Standards put it, (WCF 22.iii, a man may not “bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believes so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform” (such as saying that the WCF RPW is true).  For this reason, vows are “solemn” acts, and bind our consciences, even “to a man’s own hurt” (WCF 22.iv).  So if I have any reservations, I can’t subscribe to the Standards.

But what happens if my study of the Bible, the counsel of friends, a particularly good sermon, or even a ruling of the Supreme Court persuades me that the Standards are wrong?  Do we have any means to revise the Confession and catechisms?  The answer is OF COURSE.  But the way to revise is not simply in my own mind, or in consultation with my editor, or by testing my views in the publishing market.  The way to revise creeds is through the church, specifically through the Presbyterian system of graded courts.  So first I tell my session (as an elder) or my presbytery (as a minister) of my new views.  If they conclude that my views are outside the bounds of the Standards, then either I resign my office, or I write an overture to call for a revision of the Standards.  And then I try to persuade the church.  Should I fail in my effort I can either resign or force the church to try me for teaching views contrary to the Standards.

(The latter path lacks some of the drama of Luther’s courageous stand against Rome, thanks to the separation of church and state.)  In sum, lawful means exist for revising creedal standards and we find those means in the visible church. Still, as I study the Bible to see if the Standards are right, my vows do function as a kind of presupposition.  I don’t see why that is an objectionable conception of presuppositions (though I don’t claim Van Til’s endorsement.)  All I mean by this is that since we can’t ever come to the Bible neutrally, we must come with some kind of bias or point of view.  Why can’t a Reformed perspective be the bias that shapes my reading of the Bible?  In fact, if I have taken a vow that says the Westminster Standards are true, and if by my vow I have acknowledged that I may be judged” according to the truth or falsehood” (WCF 22.I) of what I have sworn, then why doesn’t the conviction that the Standards teach God’s truth involved in my ordination vow become a presupposition?  In other words, if Van Til is right about the absence of neutrality in our hermeneutics, I don’t see how the very intimate, personal, and basic act of subscribing to a creed is anything less than an indication of what I believe to be true, or the way I look at reality, or the way I approach the word of God.

 

Hart’s First Question to Frame

Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 22:32:55 -0500 

Liberal Presbyterians in the 1920s said that the Westminster Standards, as documents written almost three centuries before, were outdated on the vicarious atonement.  Today some Presbyterians, Prof. Frame among them, say that the Westminster Standards (now 350 years old) are dated on worship.

What is the difference between these two claims about the Standards?  Why is the latter acceptable and the former unacceptable?

 

Frame’s Answer to Hart’s First Question

Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 22:30:24 -0500

This comparison is disproportionate, to say the very least. A number of things should be said about it.

1. Liberalism was not just an assault on the vicarious atonement but also on the Virgin Birth, the miracles, the Resurrection, the Return of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, indeed everything supernatural in Christianity. Machen rightly called it a different religion from biblical Christianity. Now I realize that Hart is not claiming that my error is that bad, but he might have chosen an example less loathed in our circles–say, Frank Breisch trying to maintain a continental Sabbath position in the OPC. Hart chose, rather, to compare me to the 1920s modernists largely, I think, for shock value. But that shock value is entirely irrelevant to my position. I hope that the readers of the Warfield list, therefore, will be able to distinguish Hart’s substantive point from its rhetorical excess.

2. The liberal claim was not just that the vicarious atonement is”outdated,” but that it cannot be believed by modern man. On the contrary, I don’t care a fig what modern man thinks he can believe.

3. Even those who earnestly defend the Puritan elaborations of the Regulative Principle must admit that they are not as central to Christian tradition as is the vicarious atonement. The vicarious atonement is an ecumenical doctrine, confessed in the Nicene Creed (“and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate”). All branches of the church, even those who dissent from the Chalcedon Declaration, hold that the atonement was vicarious. But the Puritan RP distinctives are held only in the western church, only in the Reformed tradition, and not uniformly even there. (Anglicans who hold to the 39 articles reject them; many Presbyterians ignore them.)

4. Similarly, I think it is obvious that vicarious atonement is far more central to the biblical gospel than are the Puritan elaborations of the RPW, even granting the truth of the latter.

5. You may wonder at my phrase “Puritan elaborations.” That is important. Hart enormously exaggerates the matter when he attributes to me the view that the Standards are “dated on worship.” That makes it sound as though I object to everything the Standards say about worship. That is nonsense. In fact, I affirm the historic Reformed position on worship, including all the confessional statements of the RPW to which he and I have referred earlier in this debate. That includes WCF 20:2, concerning which my only complaint is that it doesn’t go far enough. I know that Hart rejects my account of 20:2, but he has not persuaded me that I am wrong about it.

6. Why is my claim “acceptable” while the liberals’ claim was not? It should be obvious why the liberals’ claim was unacceptable; Hart and I would not differ much on that score. Why is my view acceptable? Because itis Scriptural, and Scripture is the church’s primary standard. The liberals’ views were not.

7. Evidently, however, Hart is asking a narrower question: why should Frame’s view be acceptable in terms of the church polity of the PCA, in which he has taken ordination vows? (a) Because my view is not, in my own estimation, a dissent from the confessional documents. If others want to pursue the matter, they are free to do so.

(b) The PCA ordination vows require that “if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine [i.e. the system taught in Scripture, contained in the Confession and Catechisms], you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow.” Now PCA people have debated the meaning of “system of doctrine.”  But even a strict subscriptionist view of the “system” cannot overcome a certain looseness in the term “fundamentals.”

However that may be, I think I am right to categorize the Puritan elaborations of the RP, which in my view are not even stated in the Confessions, as something less than “fundamental” to the system of doctrine.

I think it is obvious that the liberal denial of the vicarious atonement could not be plausibly defended in this sort of way.

 

Frame’s Second Question to Hart

Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 22:31:59 -0500

I assure you that there is a question at the end of the following paragraphs. It’s just that that question will take a while to formulate.

I sense that Hart’s position has shifted somewhat.  In his earlier statements he seems to object to any theological conclusion differing from the Confessions, implying that the Confessions must dictate even our interpretation of Scripture. But in his answer to my first question, he concedes the sola Scriptura principle, agreeing that the Confessions can be wrong and that they can and should be corrected by Scripture. Now he argues a more qualified thesis: that the Reformed tradition can serve as a “bias:”

Why can’t a Reformed perspective be the bias that shapes my reading of the Bible?  In fact, if I have taken a vow that says the Westminster Standards are true, and if by my vow I have acknowledged that I may be judged “according to the truth or falsehood” (WCF 22.I) of what I have sworn, then why doesn’t the conviction that the Standards teach God’s truth involved in my ordination vow become a presupposition?  In other words, if Van Til is right about the absence of neutrality in our hermeneutics, I don’t see how the very intimate, personal, and basic act of subscribing to a creed is anything less than an indication of what I believe to be true, or the way I look at reality, or the way I approach the word of God.

I agree that the Reformed tradition can serve as a legitimate bias, though I would prefer not to call it a “presupposition,” since for Hart this bias is defeasible. But here is my question to Hart: should we not also have a bias in favor of the unity of the church, a bias in favor of breaking down, where possible, the barriers which separate the Reformed tradition from other branches of Christianity? Shouldn’t our bias include the proposition that God has, most likely, not given all the truth to one tradition or perfectly preserved any tradition from error? Shouldn’t we assume that if there are gifts of the Spirit in non-Reformed Christians, these brothers might have important things to teach us? And isn’t this bias in favor of the unity of the church also a historically Reformed emphasis?

 

Hart’s Answer to Frame’s Second Question

Date: Sun, 15 Feb 1998 01:36:05 -0500 

My point in talking about the Westminster Standards as a presupposition was never that they are infallible.  Rather it was that we are never objective in interpreting the Bible.  And if that is the case then something to which I have taken a subscription vow may in fact color my reading of the Bible, and mostly likely will.  It will also color how I define the RPW.  In which case, Prof. Frame’s distinction between the historical and normative definitions is not so easy to pull off, since the historical and the normative will naturally overlap.  The way I come to understand the normative will be affected by the historical if I have subscribed to it, and the way I come to subscribe to the historical will be affected by how I read the normative.  In other words, interpreting the Bible is a whole lot more complicated in a Calvinistic psychology than the distinction between the historical and normative senses of the RPW allows.

Now to Frame’s question about a bias in favor of unity?  It seems to me that Protestants have always had a bias toward truth over unity.  After all, ever since Protestantism began it meant (at least in Western Europe) that two churches were claiming to be the true one.  Presbyterians have also lived fairly comfortably with the divisions in Protestant ranks since at the get go there were Reformed, Lutherans, Anglicans and Anabaptists.

So it is rather late in the day to say that Presbyterians have a bias toward unity.  They have been sticklers for doctrine, and that has not always made them popular.  (And one of the reasons why Reformed have been so interested in truth has to do with liberty of conscience and Lordship of Christ.  Far better to be obedient to Christ than to submit to the human folly of a church council or pope.  And liberty of conscience is relevant here because it is so important to the RPW which strives hard to keep churches from binding illegally the consciences of worshipers.  I wonder that if Prof. Frame considered the importance of liberty of conscience more he might understand what’s at stake in the RPW and not be as worried about the organizational unity of the church.)  Of course, Frame may be right that the Reformed have not been sufficiently concerned for the unity of Christ’s body and therefore are unbiblical.  But the bias in the tradition has not been for unity at the expense of truth.  The bias has been just the other way around, unity only on the basis of truth.

Prof. Frame and I have different ideas about the way the truth of the gospel is embodied or takes shape in history.  Here two images might be helpful.  Frame seems to conceive of Christian truth as a hub with different spokes running out from it.  In the center is the Bible, and going out from the Bible are the different branches of the Christian church. Presbyterianism is just one spoke in the wheel.  I would use instead the image of a trunk and branches.  There is a tradition of truth growing up from the word of God, that has been articulated (simplifying things greatly) in  Augustine, Calvin, the Westminster Divines, Hodge, Warfield, Machen, etc.  This is the trunk of the tree of Christian truth.

From this trunk other branches may grow, but the farther out they go the less true they are and their excesses need to be pruned.  In some cases, (like in the parable of the sower) other churches will grow up close to the trunk of this tree but not be part of the real tree.  But in my view the Reformed faith is true, other traditions are more or less true.  I don’t say this smugly because at the heart of the Reformed faith is the confession, “not unto me but unto God’s name be all glory and honor.”  The Reformed faith is the most true because it makes sinners most humble and gives the most glory to God.

For that reason I don’t see what the Reformed have to learn from other traditions.  It may happen.  And in fact, some of the theologians I read today with the greatest profit, such Stanley Hauerwas, are not Reformed. But that doesn’t mean I want Hauerwas to become an OP minister.  Nor does it mean that the Reformed tradition needs help. It only means the Reformed tradition today, from my perspective, is not blessed with the most discerning social critics.

Having grown up in one of those non-Reformed churches I am not willing to grant Frame’s hypothesis that we have much to learn from them.  I love my parents and believe they are godly folks.  But they still have much to learn from the Reformed tradition.  And if they did they would be better for it.  I would be going backwards to try to learn from them.  If that sounds proud it is not meant to be.  It is only meant to express a recognition of the genuine comfort and guidance the Reformed tradition has provided to me.

 

Hart’s Second Question to Frame

Date: Sun, 15 Feb 1998 01:37:34 -0500

In comparing liberal Presbyterians on the atonement to today’s contemporary-worship tolerant Presbyterians, I was not doing so simply for effect.  I was trying to show how serious a thing it is to subscribe to something and then to say it is a dated document or doesn’t reflect changes over the last four centuries.  As much as Frame protests the comparison I think it is more accurate than whatever shock value it might possess.  On the one hand the Westminster Standards teach far more than just soteriology.  They also teach worship and a lot of theology that goes into the RPW.  On the other hand, worship is as important to Christian faith and practice as soteriology.  Calvin said that for the reform of the churches to occur worship and the doctrine of justifiication had to be addressed.

And if we read the Bible it seems that most of the troubles God’s people have stems from idolatrous and blasphemous worship.  (Which may explain why Calvinists have been so zealous about worship, as in the RPW.)  So to say that the theology of worship in our standards needs correction is a very serious thing.  It suggests we can have Puritan theology without Puritan practice of worship.  It also suggests that Puritan worship is wrong.

The other parallel that bears some notice is how much liberal Protestants appealed to the Bible to say that the Standards were outdated.  They weren’t appealing to Schleiermacher or Darwin or Hegel.  They were appealing to Jesus Christ and to a variety of interpretations of Scripture. They thought they were more biblical than the conservatives.  So just because someone appeals to the Bible as the primary standard doesn’t settle the question of whether they are more biblical.  Still the issue of subscription remains: what to do with someone who has vowed that a document is true but then doesn’t agree with the document in its entirety.

So my question is — what does it mean to be a Presbyterian?  Is it possible to be a Presbyterian in soteriology but not in worship?  And why does Prof. Frame claim to be a Presbyterian if he thinks he has so much to learn from other traditions?

 

Frame’s Answer to Hart’s Second Question

Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 20:25:12 -0500

Hart has prefaced his question as follows:

In comparing liberal Presbyterians on the atonement to today’s contemporary-worship tolerant Presbyterians, I was not doing so simply for effect.  I was trying to show how serious a thing it is to subscribe to something and then to say it is a dated document or doesn’t reflect changes over the last four centuries.  As much as Frame protests the comparison I think it is more accurate than whatever shock value it might possess.

Here Hart seems to say that it doesn’t matter much how serious or extensive are the exceptions to the standards; the problem is that there should be any exceptions at all. Any exception, he seems to say, is deadly serious, and seriously comparable to the modernist defections. In the first place, I have said that my own position is not in fact an exception to the standards. In the second place, I think Hart’s refusal to distinguish levels of seriousness among exceptions is quite incredible. John Murray took an exception to the Shorter Catechism statement in Q 31which states that the Holy Spirit was the author of effectual calling. Murray said no, the author is God the Father. Should we then reprobate Murray as a crypto-modernist? What about Van Til, who took an exception on the Sabbath, like his colleagues Stonehouse and Woolley?

Hart continues,

On the one hand the Westminster Standards teach far more than just soteriology.  They also teach worship and a lot of theology that goes into the RPW.  On the other hand, worship is as important to Christian faith and practice as soteriology.  Calvin said that for the reform of the churches to occur worship and the doctrine of justifiication had to be addressed.

And if we read the Bible it seems that most of the troubles God’s people have stems from idolatrous and blasphemous worship.  (Which may explain why Calvinists have been so zealous about worship, as in the RPW.)

I agree entirely.

So to say that the theology of worship in our standards needs correction is a very serious thing.

Again, Hart fails to distinguish any degrees of correction. In his mind it seems as if any difference with the view of the Standards is as bad as advocating the worship of idols.

It suggests we can have Puritan theology without Puritan practice of worship.  It also suggests that Puritan worship is wrong.

Well, what are we talking about here? Earlier, Hart was talking about subscription to the confessional documents. Here he is talking about our adherence to “Puritan theology.” In my mind, these are two very different things. I have never taken a vow to uphold Puritan theology as such. As a matter of fact, I like Puritan theology a great deal. But I don’t consider it infallible; in fact it has far less authority than the confessions. And I certainly am not willing at add around 100,000 pages to our doctrinal standards by making Puritan theology normative.

E.J. Young took no exceptions to the standards, to my knowledge, except perhaps on six-day creation. But he did dissent frequently to the exclusive Psalmody of the Scottish Presbyterian tradition. Would Hart say that Young “regarded Scottish Presbyterian worship as wrong?” Well, he thought it was a little bit wrong, at least. But if we refuse to distinguish between “a little bit” and “a lot,” then I guess we will have to include Young among the ranks of the crypto-modernists because he differed with his tradition.

Hart seems to allow no distinctions of degree. Even the smallest disagreement seems to amount to saying “that Puritan worship is wrong,” and that is considered to be devastating to one’s Reformed confession.  Is there no difference at all between some disagreements which are more serious and others which are less so?

The other parallel that bears some notice is how much liberal Protestants appealed to the Bible to say that the Standards were outdated.  They weren’t appealing to Schleiermacher or Darwin or Hegel.  They were appealing to Jesus Christ and to a variety of interpretations of Scripture. They thought they were more biblical than the conservatives.

That was one of their lines of defense. Of course Machen and Van Til saw through this, and so should we.

So just because someone appeals to the Bible as the primary standard doesn’t settle the question of whether they are more biblical.

Well, I wouldn’t say that the liberals appealed to the Bible “as the primary standard,” as we understand the phrase “primary standard.” It is certainly true that the fact that someone appeals to the Bible doesn’t settle the question of his orthodoxy.

Still the issue of subscription remains: what to do with someone who has vowed that a document is true but then doesn’t agree with the document in its entirety.

Again, Hart makes this an all or nothing issue. The smallest deviation is the moral equivalent of liberalism. Sorry, but I don’t buy it.

So my question is — what does it mean to be a Presbyterian?

A Presbyterian is a member or minister in good standing in a sound Presbyterian church. The term might also refer to people with distinctively Presbyterian convictions outside of the Presbyterian churches.

Is it possible to be a Presbyterian in soteriology but not in worship?

Well, there are many good-standing members of Presbyterian churches who don’t know much beyond the basics of either soteriology or worship, or who know much more about the one than about the other. But I guess Hart is talking about elders or theologians. In general I would say no. To be Presbyterian one must not only accept Presbyterian soteriology, but also the doctrine that worship is God-centered, by divine appointment, etc. However, in my view, it may be possible to differ in some details from the confessional statements in both soteriology and worship, and it is even more possible to differ with the historical practices of Puritan worship.

And why does Prof. Frame claim to be a Presbyterian if he thinks he has so much to learn from other traditions?

I still believe that the unity of the church is an important Reformed concern. I asked Hart about this, and he replied that the Reformed did not advocate unity at the expense of truth. That’s not what I asked about. Of course the Reformed do not advocate unity at the expense of truth. But they certainly have advocated unity. Calvin tried mightily to achieve unity with the Lutherans, to the point of signing the Augustana Variata. It was the Lutherans who balked. The Puritans wanted to purify the Church of England, not to start a new church. The WCF refers only to the invisible and visible forms of the universal church, not to any denominational organizations. John Murray sought various forms of cooperation between Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists. He, followed by Ed Clowney, opposed the concept of “pluriformity,” which says that denominations are God’s intended way of giving expression to the diversity of the church. In my Evangelical Reunion,6 I argue that denominational differences are always due to sin, on one side or both of the division.

Now WCF says that “particular Churches, which are members [of the catholic Church], are more or less pure…” (25:4) and that “The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error…” (25:5). That cautions us, certainly, against viewing the Reformed churches as virtually infallible. Early in the debate, Hart cautioned me against thinking that I was wiser than the great Reformers, a warning I have always tried to heed. Fallen creatures should always be aware of their proneness to error, especially when they become teachers (Jas. 3:1-12). But the same considerations caution us against uncritical adulation of our ecclesiastical-theological forefathers (Matt. 15:1-9).

And as long as we regard some non-Reformed churches as true churches, we may not at the same time assume we have nothing to learn from them. These are fellow-members of Christ’s body, called and gifted by God for ministry. In them is the teaching office. To divinely appointed teachers we should give heed, even when they speak to us from outside our tradition. That doesn’t mean that they are always right, any more than we are. But we should expect to learn from them. Such an attitude of humility is necessary if the church is ever to reunite. And in any case a teacher who is not teachable does not belong in the teaching office.

Hart implies that I think we need to learn much from non-Reformed sources; so do I interpret the “so much” in Hart’s “he [Frame] thinks he has so much to learn from other traditions.” Actually, I don’t expect to learn a huge amount from non-Reformed traditions. To be honest, I have a ”bias” in favor of the Reformed tradition just as Hart does. (No, I don’t think of the Reformed tradition as just one of the spokes of the wheel, of equal value to the others.) I usually expect it to be right. Maybe the difference between us is a difference in degree. He says he learns from Hauerwas, but he qualifies it,

Nor does it mean that the Reformed tradition needs help. It only means the Reformed tradition today, from my perspective, is not blessed with the most discerning social critics.

Huh? Sure sounds to me that he is admitting the Reformed tradition needs some help, here in the area of social criticism. But for some reason, Hart never seems to want to make his points in terms of degree. Everything has to be absolute, black and white, all or never. Yet his practical position seems to be that yes, you can differ from the Confession, as long as you go through proper channels (after a proper amount of agonizing), and yes, you can learn from the non-Reformed as long as you don’t admit that your tradition needs any help.

These are verbal games, it seems to me. I think it is clearer simply to say that except for divine inspiration none of us is infallible. The Reformed are best, but not perfect; the non-Reformed are less adequate generally, but may have some insight. So our bias ought to be complex, recognizing both the accomplishments and the fallibility of our tradition and others.

And I do think that our loyalty to Christ, to Scripture as his Word, and therefore to the universal church, should far transcend any bias we may have for or against any tradition. That is simply what sola Scriptura means.

How can I claim to be a Presbyterian? I am a minister in good standing in a sound Presbyterian church. I have honestly subscribed to Presbyterian doctrinal standards, with a few exceptions which my Presbytery knows and accepts as no barrier to my good standing. I have never vowed to learn nothing from non-Reformed traditions, so my interest in learning from them does not constitute any barrier to my confession of Presbyterianism.

Personally speaking, I have loved Reformed theology since college: not only soteriology, but also Reformed Worship and other aspects of Reformed teaching. I am less enthusiastic about the way this theology has been worked out practically in the life of the churches. But of course I have never taken a vow to admire the history of the Reformed movement above all others.

 

Frame’s Third Question to Hart

Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 20:27:11 -0500

When we talk about people disagreeing with (1) the standards or (2) the tradition, are all disagreements equal? In evaluating such a disagreement, are we forbidden to discuss how big, or how important a disagreement we are dealing with? Are all disagreements equally bad, equally destructive of one’s confession? Is ANY such disagreement the moral equivalent of Modernism?

In my last answer to Hart, I suggested that for him allegiance to Reformed creeds and the Reformed tradition is “all or nothing.” This is his opportunity to show that I have caricatured his position, if he wishes to do so.

 

Hart’s Answer to Frame’s Third Question

Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 22:51:09 -0500

Prof. Frame accuses me of an all or nothing approach to the Standards and the Reformed tradition.  For me everything is allegedly black or white.  Can’t I make any distinctions of degree or are all disagreements with the Standards equally bad?

First of all I think Prof. Frame might want to admit that he can also paint with only the colors of black and white.  For instance, he says that denominationalism is a sin, a rather black and white assertion compared to the idea of the pluriformity of the church.  He is also the one who thinks the Puritan RPW doesn’t go far enough; he wants to extend it to all of life, which to me sounds not only like the church has power over all areas of life (compared with only corporate worship in the Puritan RPW) but also that every decision I make has to be a biblical one, which means that the sources I decide to use in my historical writing has the weight and sanctions of God’s moral law attached to it.  So both sides can be accused of not making distinctions.

It is also important to note at the outset that when he and I subscribe to the Standards (and I still don’t think Prof. Frame has reckoned with the high view of vows articulated in the Confession) we subscribe not to the system of doctrine in them but we subscribe to them as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Bible.  This makes me very reluctant to begin to rank the doctrines taught in the Standards and then work my way up from the bottom to find disagreements I can tolerate.  The doctrines taught in the Standards, I believe, are truths revealed in the Bible.  And because of their biblical justification or warrant I am inclined to think the Standards are not negotiable even though I do think they are fallible (though why after 350 years have they not been revised except on the doctrine of the civil magistrate?).  Anyway, and this is not a dodge, it is not up to me except when I am serving as an elder whether at session, presbytery or General Assembly, to decide when a disagreement with the Standards is tolerable.  As a high church Presbyterian, I believe these are matters for the courts of the church to decide.  But in my own affairs I am particularly sensitive to anyone’s counsel that I have departed from the Standards and will either seek to bring my views into accord with the Standards or will register my exception with the proper authorities (e.g. my session).

But we are not talking here about a hypothetical situation.  We are debating worship specifically.  And even though Prof. Frame wants to put some distance between the Puritan theology of worship and the Westminster Standards, at other points in this debate and in his first worship book he has implied at least that the RPW as taught by the Standards reflects Puritan theology of worship (and I would add the Reformed tradition of worship).  What we have in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms on the second commandment, in the questions on the “outward and ordinary means,” and in chapter 21 on worship is a condensed but nonetheless full view of the Puritan theology of worship.  We may only do in worship what Scripture commands and that involves the elements discussed in chap. 21, sections iii to v.

Now I consider worship to be a big deal.  On simply a practical level corporate worship is simply the one thing the whole congregation does together each and every week.  It reflects our understanding of God and of ourselves, not to mention that God is zealous for his worship, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers, etc.”  So this debate is not about a disagreement that is minor.  This debate concerns a matter of vital importance to the church, so important that the Belgic Confession, art. 29, teaches that we can discern true and false churches on the basis of worship.  So even if Prof. Frame and I could come up with a list of tolerable exceptions to the Westminster Standards, worship would not be on mine.

Now, just to make our disagreement specific, I do not understand how the worship service that Prof. Frame describes at the end of Worship in Spirit and Truth can meaningfully be described as Presbyterian or Reformed.  Here I not only have in mind the use of praise songs that come out of the charismatic tradition, or the lack of an order of the elements that reflects Reformed teaching about what is fitting for a gathering of God with his people.  I also object to the atmosphere of such worship which Prof. Frame describes as “an informal service with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and contemporary styles in language and music” [84].  I think it is incredible that anyone would try to describe Reformed worship as friendly or welcoming considering what our theology professes concerning the holiness, righteousness and transcendence of God, what God expects of anyone who would approach him on his holy hill (Ps 24), and considering what our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, had to do in order to make it possible for us to enter into God’s presence.  In fact, the RPW was designed precisely to safeguard a God who is zealous for his worship.  A jealous God is not one whose presence is welcoming and friendly if it requires the sacrifice of his only begotten son to enter it.  A somber, serious, dignified service (no, that doesn’t mean incense, vestments, classical music, organs, choirs, or prayer books) is one that I would think more compatible with a God who could have the kind of exchange with Job recorded at the end of that book.  But the service Prof. Frame describes struck this reader as one that was void of any sense that God could be offended or that blasphemy might still exist.  So from my biased and sectarian perspective, the differences between what Prof. Frame advocates in worship and what I believe the Standards teach is profound, i.e. no where near slight.

Prof. Frame defines a Presbyterian as some one who is a member of good standing in a SOUND Presbyterian Church.  Sorry to be so disagreeable, but a church that has friendly and welcoming worship to my mind is not sound.  It is not only because it conveys a false sense of security to worshipers or attendees about who God is and their standing before him. It is also because it displeases God by not displaying the reverence and awe that the Bible requires and the Standards articulate.  Nor am I sure that I would always agree with Prof. Frame’s ideas about a sound church because he has argued that “Shine, Jesus Shine,” is a better hymn/chorus than “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”  This is where my comments about the lack of cultural discernment within the Reformed community might be applicable, though I will also concede that differing assessments of cultural expressions is preferable but not essential for being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

 

Hart’s Third Question to Frame

Date: Tue, 17 Feb 1998 22:52:38 -0500

Perhaps I have overly complicated the differences between Prof. Frame and me by trying to conceive of my ordination vows as a form of presupposition that shapes the way I define the RPW.  A better way to show my disagreement with Frame’s distinction between the historical and normative senses of the RPW is to show how they overlap in this particular case, and I would venture to argue, in all particular cases.

Imagine, for the moment, trying to define Unitarianism.  Would we go to the Bible for it?  Not likely, since it reveals God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though we might go to the Bible to account for how people come up with erroneous views of God.  So the Bible, not being a guide, we turn to the historical origins of Unitarianism in the early 19th century, particularly to the writings of William Ellery Channing and Jared Sparks. Since they were the first Protestants to identify themselves self-consciously as Unitarian, their historical writings, the documents that historians would go to to describe Unitarianism, are normative.  In this sense, the historical becomes normative.  And, I might add, this is the sort of blurring of the historical and normative by which we commonly live. A Republican believes X, not because the Bible says so but because Abraham Lincoln said Republicanism stands for X.  Or a Platonist believes Y not because the apostle Paul said so but because Plato believed Y.  We could never lecture about intellectual movements unless they cohered in this kind of fashion.  What this also means is that if we came to a Unitarian minister in the early twentieth century who believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God in the Nicean sense, we would conclude that he was no longer a Unitarian.  He might delude himself to thinks so.  But for all intents and purposes we conclude that he departed from the Unitarian fold, again, not because the Bible defines Unitarianism but because this deluded fellow no longer adheres to the teachings of Channing and Sparks.

A similar kind of blurring exists for our definition of the RPW.  The Reformers of the sixteenth century and the Puritans of the seventeenth elaborated an understanding of church power and worship that forbade doing anything in worship that the Bible did not command.  Bare permission was not good enough.  A direct biblical imperative, or a good and necessary consequence thereof, was necessary for any element of worship.  This resulted in a form of worship that was markedly different from the liturgies of Rome, Lutheranism, or Anglicanism.  And because worship was so important both to the Reformers and the Puritans, it is fair to conclude that the Reformed tradition became known for a particular kind of worship.

This, then, became the historical and normative standard for Reformed worship.  Because the Reformers and Puritans went first and did something self-consciously different from other Christians, they became the benchmark for determining whether a particular liturgy or worship practice is Reformed.  This doesn’t mean they were biblical.  It only means that they defined the tradition.

So when we come to a form of and rationale for worship that departs from the early tradition of the Reformed wing of the Reformation, we may legitimately conclude that this form or rationale is not Reformed, or Presbyterian or Puritan, assuming for the moment that those guys were united on worship.  Someone in a Presbyterian church may claim to be biblical, but if that person does not follow in the footsteps of the Reformed he has no right to claim to be Reformed, especially on something as important to the Reformed tradition as worship and the RPW.  Again, this is one of the bigger matters that separates the Reformed tradition from other Protestants (part of the reason why Frame may balk at the uniqueness of the Reformed tradition of worship is because of his bias in favor of unity.)  To depart from the historical RPW, for me, is akin to a professing Unitarian believing Jesus to be the second person of the Trinity.  At some point a certain intellectual and historical coherence has to kick in lest we lose the any ability to define terms and communicate with each other meaningfully.

So my question to Frame is what is wrong with this understanding of the Reformed tradition?  Perhaps a more pointed way of stating it is to ask if it is possible for a Pentecostal order of worship to be used by Presbyterians as an expression of Reformed theology?  What makes the order of worship at New Life Escondido Reformed, the fact that the worshipers claim to be Presbyterian or the degree to which the order conforms to historic understandings of what Reformed worship has looked like?  Another way of stating this is to ask if the order of worship that Calvin used in Geneva is more Reformed that what John Frame uses in Escondido?

 

Frame’s Answer to Hart’s Third Question

Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 21:50:02 -0500

Again, I will quote portions of Hart’s comments and intersperse my replies among those quotes.

Perhaps I have overly complicated the differences between Prof. Frame and me by trying to conceive of my ordination vows as a form of presupposition that shapes the way I define the RPW.  A better way to show my disagreement with Frame’s distinction between the historical and normative senses of the RPW is to show how they overlap in this particular case, and I would venture to argue, in all particular cases.

Imagine, for the moment, trying to define Unitarianism.  Would we go to the Bible for it? Not likely, since it reveals God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though we might go to the Bible to account for how people come up with erroneous views of God.  So the Bible, not being a guide, we turn to the historical origins of Unitarianism in the early 19th century, particularly to the writings of William Ellery Channing and Jared Sparks. Since they were the first Protestants to identify themselves self-consciously as Unitarian, their historical writings, the documents that historians would go to describe Unitarianism, are normative.  In this sense, the historical becomes normative.

“Unitarianism” is defined as a historical movement, and so the historical definition is normative, as normative as a definition can be. ”Regulative Principle of Worship” (henceforth RPW) is ambiguous. It is used to describe the worship principle of a particular historical movement, and it is also used to refer to the Biblical norm for worship. If it were used only for the first, then defining it would be as simple as defining Unitarianism. One would simply identify the historical meaning, and then that definition would be normative for any further discussion. But the phrase is also used for a biblical principle. Some people believe these meanings to be the same; others believe them to be somewhat different.

Now the term “norm” gets confusing here. The historical definition of RPW is normative for the historical discussion, as the historical definition of “Unitarian” is normative for the historical discussion of Unitarianism. But the biblical definition of RPW is normative in a higher sense: for the Biblical RPW will govern all the worship of God’s people. RPW in the historical sense will do that only to the extent that it agrees with the Biblical RPW. So we have two kinds of “norm” here: a norm for describing a historical concept, and a norm for the church’s worship.

The relevant logical difference between “Unitarian” and “RPW” is that there is no concept of Unitarianism in the Bible. But most of us would agree that there is an RPW in the Bible.

We could, of course, use the phrase “RPW” to refer only to the historical meaning and find some other phrase to refer to the biblical principle governing worship. But for most of us Presbyterians, the two are at least pretty much alike. So it is convenient to use one term for both, even if in some contexts we must make distinctions.

Here I’m snipping a few paragraphs from Hart’s question. Later he says that the RPW, historically defined, produced

a form of worship that was markedly different from the liturgies of Rome, Lutheranism, or Anglicanism.  And because worship was so important both to the Reformers and the Puritans, it is fair to conclude that the Reformed tradition became known for a particular kind of worship.

This, then, became the historical and normative standard for Reformed worship.  Because the Reformers and Puritans went first and did something self-consciously different from other Christians, they became the benchmark for determining whether a particular liturgy or worship practice is Reformed.  This doesn’t mean they were biblical.  It only means that they defined the tradition.

So when we come to a form of and rationale for worship that departs from the early tradition of the Reformed wing of the Reformation, we may legitimately conclude that this form or rationale is not Reformed, or Presbyterian or Puritan, assuming for the moment that those guys were united on worship.  Someone in a Presbyterian church may claim to be biblical, but if that person does not follow in the footsteps of the Reformed he has no right to claim to be Reformed, especially on something as important to the Reformed tradition as worship and the RPW.

What Hart seems to be saying here is that one must follow Reformed tradition in worship to fulfill the terms of the RPW. I reject this, because I believe that we are subject to the RPW in the Biblical, rather than the historical sense (granted the considerable overlap between them). Further, it seems to me very odd to invoke the RPW to justify a rigid traditionalism. As I’ve said before, the RPW is largely a weapon against the imposition of traditional forms upon the churches. That is one of the ways in which the historical and normative RPWs fully agree.

But now let us set the RPW aside for a moment and ask the question Hart really has in mind here: Can we depart from the Reformed tradition and still claim that our worship is Reformed? Here’s where I have to ask my previous question again: Departing by how much? Are there degrees of departure, or is this an all-or-nothing matter? Certainly the Reformed in various countries, and even within the same country, differed among themselves somewhat, so one would think that the label “Reformed” allows for some variation.

But perhaps Hart wants to say that however much variation there may be in “Reformed” worship, there are some barriers that absolutely cannot be crossed. So he asks,

if it is possible for a Pentecostal order of worship to be used by Presbyterians as an expression of Reformed theology?  What makes the order of worship at New Life Escondido Reformed, the fact that the worshipers claim to be Presbyterian or the degree to which the order conforms to historic understandings of what Reformed worship has looked like?  Another way of stating this is to ask if the order of worship that Calvin used in Geneva is more Reformed that what John Frame uses in Escondido?

Well, the worship at New Life does look rather unlike the Geneva liturgy (see the last chapter of my Worship in Spirit and Truth for a description). But I think there are reasons for calling our worship “Reformed,” such as the following:

1. The RPW, and therefore the Reformed Faith, does not require a slavish imitation of traditional forms. On the contrary, it opposes the imposition of such forms. Therefore, the difference in form as such cannot be urged against our claim to be Reformed in our worship.

2. There is no prescribed liturgy in the PCA, and we do not take vows to follow any such liturgy. So what we are doing is fully in line with our subscription to the Presbyterian confessions, i.e. to the Reformed Faith.

3. It is the most Reformed thing in the world to be concerned with communication in worship. The Reformers insisted on the use of the vernacular and on congregational participation. The Reformers understood that worship was to be edifying to the people as well as glorifying to God. Therefore, they encouraged later generations to seek new ways of communicating the Reformed faith in the worship context.

4. When I plan worship for New Life, I take great pains to choose hymns and songs which set forth the great truths of the Reformed faith: God’s majesty and holiness, our depravity, the Lordship of Christ, the graciousness of salvation from beginning to end. Our preaching, our prayers, and our sacraments show forth the same truths. So the message of our worship is unquestionably Reformed.

5. In his answer to my third question, Hart balks at a number of things in New Life worship, which brings some responses:

Here I not only have in mind the use of praise songs that come out of the charismatic tradition,

Again, Hart seems to be absolutizing Reformed tradition, even its traditional aesthetics. I reject entirely the notion that to conduct Reformed worship I can use aesthetic materials only from Reformed sources.

That seems to me to be sheer nonsense. Further, as I demonstrate in my Contemporary Worship Music,7 the praise songs, on the whole, are preoccupied with the majesty, holiness, and greatness of God, which are certainly Reformed themes.

or the lack of an order of the elements that reflects Reformed teaching about what is fitting for a gathering of God with his people.

Again, there is no prescribed liturgy in the Reformed standards to which I subscribe. And I question severely Hart’s notion that the New Life order does not reflect Reformed teaching about what is fitting. See below.

I also object to the atmosphere of such worship which Prof. Frame describes as “an informal service with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and contemporary styles in language and music” [84].  I think it is incredible that anyone would try to describe Reformed worship as friendly or welcoming considering what our theology professes concerning the holiness, righteousness and transcendence of God, what God expects of anyone who would approach him on his holy hill (Ps 24), and considering what our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, had to do in order to make it possible for us to enter into God’s presence.  In fact, the RPW was designed precisely to safeguard a God who is zealous for his worship.  A jealous God is not one whose presence is wecolming and friendly if it requires the sacrifice of his only begotten son to enter it.  A somber, serious, dignified service (no, that doesn’t mean incense, vestments, classical music, organs, choirs, or prayer books) is one that I would think more compatible with a God who could have the kind of exchange with Job recorded at the end of that book.

Hart here emphasizes God’s transcendence and holiness. I believe that New Life worship emphasizes these too, and the praise songs are a means to that. Hart has, to my knowledge, never worshiped at NL, nor does he know much of anything about praise songs. See my discussion of his views in my Contemporary Worship Music.

What Hart says nothing about is the other side of the Biblical teaching, also precious to Reformed people. God is not only transcendent, but also immanent. God is not only the judge of all the earth, but is also our loving Father for Jesus’ sake. At Christ’s death, the veil of the temple was torn in two, and the New Testament calls us to come boldly into the holiest place, the place that struck terror into the hearts of Old Testament worshipers. New Testament Christian worship is celebration of the Resurrection, so it is typically to be joyful. So God does welcome his people into his presence.

I believe that New Life worship reflects both sides of the worship encounter: a seriousness about approaching God’s presence, but also an ecstatic joy that God has welcomed us for the sake of Christ. Hart’s suggested alternative reflects only one aspect of the meeting. I reject the notion that Reformed teaching limits our worship only to this one aspect. To limit worship this way is unbiblical and therefore non-Reformed.

But the service Prof. Frame describes struck this reader as one that was void of any sense that God could be offended or that blasphemy might still exist.

WST says quite a lot about the great danger of offending God. I believe that New Life worship recognizes that, by emphasizing the greatness and holiness of God.

So from my biased and sectarian perspective, the differences between what Prof. Frame advocates in worship and what I believe the Standards teach is profound, i.e. no where near slight.

Where do the Standards teach a liturgy? Where do they forbid praise songs? Where do they forbid joy and celebration? I don’t get it.

Prof. Frame defines a Presbyterian as some one who is a member of good standing in a sound Presbyterian Church.  Sorry to be so disagreeable, but a church that has friendly and welcoming worship to my mind is not sound.

This is quite astonishing. Does Hart mean that to show welcome and love to visitors and fellow Christians is contrary to God’s Word? Does he mean to say that one cannot maintain proper reverence to God and at the same time show friendship to one another? Nonsense. The worship service is a meeting of God’s family. We love each other, and we express that love, along with our respect for God. Those who don’t show love for one another do not show reverence for God (1 Cor. 11:17-34, Jas. 2:1-7).

It is not only because it conveys a false sense of security to worshipers or attendees about who God is and their standing before him.

Our songs and preaching make it clear that access to God’s favor comes only through the redemptive work of Christ. Why should expressions of Christian love compromise this truth? Hart is tearing apart what Scripture has brought together.

It is also because it displeases God by not displaying the reverence and awe that the Bible requires and the Standards articulate.

Again, Hart has never worshiped in our church, so far as I know. This is a pretty harsh judgment to make against a congregation. It certainly does not follow from the description in WST. Again, the praise songs themselves display reverence and awe. If Hart is saying that the only way to express reverence and awe is through traditional liturgy, I would have to say that his cultural parochialism is pretty extreme.

Nor am I sure that I would always agree with Prof. Frame’s ideas about a sound church because he has argued that “Shine, Jesus Shine,” is a better hymn/chorus than “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”

I wish Hart would try to be more precise. My assessment was, rather, that neither of these is a perfect vehicle for worship and that in some situations, “Shine” would be a better choice. I never said that either song was “better” in some absolute way. Again, Hart seems able to think only in black and white. By the way, I am willing to defend my own black-and-white distinctions. Sometimes such distinctions are justified, sometimes not. But I’d better quit now.

 

Frame’s Fourth Question to Hart

Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 21:51:29 -0500

Maybe it will help for us to focus on a particular issue you seem to feel strongly about. What is there about the RPW or about Reformed worship generally that excludes the use of Maranatha Praise Songs? Or, if you don’t believe they should all be excluded, what criteria do you use to determine which we may use?

 

Hart’s Answer to Frame’s Fourth Question

Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 23:19:57 -0500

At the most basic or confessional level, I would have to answer Prof. Frame’s question about Maranatha praise songs in two ways.  First, he asks at one point where the Standards forbid praise songs?  The answer would come from chapter 21 which says that the “singing of psalms with grace in the heart” is one of “all the parts of the ordinary religious worship of God.”  Now, I have not so recently arrived from Mars to be unaware of the practice of hymn-singing in Presbyterian and Reformed churches, though Presbyterians and Reformed have worshiped more years by means of exclusive psalmody than not (the mid-nineteenth century saw Presbyterians and the twentieth saw the Reformed begin to supplement their singing with hymns).  I am not going to rehearse arguments I have already made in favor of exclusive psalmody (see the first two issues of the Nicotine Theological Journal).  But Prof. Frame did ask and I am answering. The Westminster Divines were exclusive psalmodists (the exegesis may not have been air tight but their wisdom rarely leaked) and chapter 21 in addition to the Psalter they produced are proof of that conviction (another hallmark of Reformed worship until 150 years ago).  So once again we stumble upon this matter of subscription, not only a problem for Frame but also for practically 98% of the Americans claiming to hold to the Westminster Standards.  (How could I the rigid traditionalist answer this question but by referring first to the Standards?)

The second part of my answer concerns the genre of music that by Frame’s own admission Praise Songs are.  In his Music book Prof. Frame says that this music comes primarily out of the soft rock tradition of the early 1970s.  (Frame has said that my going after rock music may indicate I have bitten off more than I can chew, though I wonder if with this music he has swallowed something the church will one day spit up.)  Now when it comes to rock I prefer the British Isle stuff; U2 is a band I still enjoy even if it makes me look like I can’t act my age and even though they have become increasingly commercial.  I was also in high school in the early 1970s and know a thing or two about popular music from that decade (you would have had to grow up on Mars not to).  One further personal remark is that I find it possible, at least in my own little brain, to separate music I enjoy during the week from music that is appropriate to sing corporately to God in prayer to God (maybe Frame finds this harder to do since he wants the RPW to extend beyond the Sabbath to every day of the week).  Which means that as much as I might enjoy Arvo Part on Monday or Bono on Tuesday, Louis Bourgeois will do just fine on the Lord’s Day.

In other words, I cannot believe that I would have to argue in this day that soft rock is not reverent.  Rock music cultivates a number of sensibilities, such as love (usually sensual), protest (often in ways that violate the fifth commandment) and one-world utopianism (which bears interesting resemblances to the Tower of Babel).  But as much as it might excite certain emotions or passions, it is not a fitting vehicle for expressing godly fear, godly joy, or godly sorrow.  I would argue that what is happening in evangelical worship, as Frame even admits, is part of a broader cultural phenomenon.  Diane West in an article for The Weekly Standard wrote about the trend of political conservatives who attempt to show that they are cool.  In 1970, for instance, when Elvis Presley met with President Richard Nixon, both men agreed that their session should be kept silent in order to preserve the rock star’s links to the anti-middle class culture of rock music and to protect the President’s identity as the defender of the silent majority.  Today, however, anti-bourgeois cultural forms have become the mainstream.  James Dean, the rebel without a cause of 1950s youth culture, has been memorialized with a stamp by perhaps the least rebellious of all institutions, the U.S. Postal Service.  J.C. Penney, the department store and catalog of choice for many thrifty and hard working Americans, now features “Bad to the Bone” vinyl biker jackets (with matching caps for dogs).  And, the city fathers of Cleveland, who in the 1960s compared offering rock concerts to teenagers with “feeding narcotics to kids,” have built a Hall of Fame for the rock music industry, concluding that rock ‘n roll not only contributed to but was the culture of the city.  West admits “an all-but-irresistible culture force pulls from Right to Left,” luring the middle-class into anti-middle-class guises. But this cultural drift cannot change the fundamental antithesis between bourgeois values, namely, “responsibility, fidelity, sobriety, and other badges of maturity,” and the “cumulative” message of rock culture – ”sexual and narcotic gratification, anarchism, self-pity, and other forms of infantilism.”

Now if West is right, and she is not the only one arguing this way about rock music, soft or otherwise, then we might reasonably pause in using its forms to communicate praise to God.  And this isn’t because we are hoping to preserve middle-class culture.  It is because music that expresses sexual and narcotic gratification, anarchism, self-pity, and other forms of infantilism is not a fitting form (more on forms below) for worship.  It cannot carry the weight that we want to put on it.  So my response to praise songs is that they are irreverent, no matter how much Prof. Frame insists they are.  Of course, we could do a better HE SAID, SHE SAID exhibition than the President and Monica are now giving us, and our imitation of the Miller Lite commercials, LESS REVERENT, MORE RIGID will not solve anything.  But I wonder if Prof. Frame has ever considered the subtler message conveyed by the music he uses in his service.  Again, as a good Van Tilian I would think he would see that nothing is neutral, even cultural forms.  And therefore, the cultural message of rock music is one that stands for something other than the virtues that Paul says are fitting sound doctrine in Titus 2 (sobriety, moderation, self-control).  Why should we exhibit these things in our lives (which may mean I should give up my U2), but not in our worship?  I also wonder if what is going on at New Life Escondido is the J. C. Pennification of American Presbyterianism — the effort of uptight, middle-class, white folk trying to be hip.  Prof. Frame is right.  I have never been to his church and so I should be cautious in what I say.  But I do not live in a bomb shelter.  Our CRC congregation went hip during my time on the consistory there, and at that time we lived close to Willow Creek, whose influence in the Chicago area was enormous (literally).  So I know a little more of what I speak that what Prof. Frame incautiously alleges in his book and in this debate.

Maybe the reason why Prof. Frame cannot see the problems of contemporary music is because of his understanding of what it means to be biblical.  It is an unhistorical, abstract, and largely individual notion.

In his response to me about Unitarianism and the normative nature of historical definitions Frame does not seem to be aware that non-Reformed folk also claim to be biblical.  That includes Unitarians.  Frame seems to say that being biblical only applies to the Reformed, as if they are the only ones who seek to make their RPW conform to the biblical RPW.  But it is not so simple.  The norm of the Bible is conditioned by historical circumstances, theological traditions, (all governed by Providence and guided by the Holy Spirit).  It does not drop out of the sky, becoming a dictionary for the RPW and other matters of the faith.  In other words, the Reformed approach the Bible in a certain way, have a certain hermeneutic, and a set of theological assumptions, derived from the Bible, but never so easily extricated from the give and take between Bible, church, and tradition that we can come to the Bible in Enlightenment fashion, as a so-called neutral and objective scientist does to the microscope.

So here we have two traditions, the Unitarians and the Reformed claiming to be biblical.  Is there a way to solve that debate?  Not really, not in a way that will satisfy both sides and allow them to claim that each party is biblical.  That is why in part they are in separate communions (the same would go for Lutherans and Reformed, or Pentecostals and Reformed — having denominations is a way to protect liberty of conscience, something so precious to the Westminster Divines that they devoted a whole chapter to it).  At that point, we have to allow for a diversity of views about what the Bible means (unless we have an Emperor or Pope to settle the debate for the church).

But in another case we have two sets of Presbyterians claiming to be biblical and also to be Reformed.   We won’t allow for a diversity of views about what it means to be Presbyterian.  If we were to do that then the word Presbyterian would cease to have a specific meaning, and the very act of communication would be impossible.  We cannot make up definitions of words as we go.  Words mean something historically.  And historically, Presbyterianism has meant something that includes the RPW taught in the Westminster Standards even if Lutherans, Anabaptists, and Pentecostals think it is not biblical and therefore not binding on them.  Nobody has to submit to that understanding of worship, but if you claim to be Presbyterian you must if you want the word to mean the same thing today that it did 300 years ago.

Furthermore, no one may come along and say that Presbyterianism means something beside the confessional standards of the tradition simply because he or she doesn’t agree with it.  If we insist on historical and fixed meanings for political and economic life (e.g. capitalism, communism, Democrat, Republican), then why not for theological terms?  This does not mean that traditions cannot be reformed, that is, made more consistent with their founding principles.  But it also means that there is a way of determining historically, not just biblically, when a reform is really out of character with a tradition, both according to the tradition’s founding principles and according to the application of those principles.  And in this case, I believe Prof. Frame tinkers substantially with a founding premise of the Reformed Tradition, namely the RPW, and you see where that tinkering leads, that is to a service that by his own admission looks ”rather unlike” the services in Calvin’s Geneva.  This is why I believe Frame’s books, despite his claims to the contrary, are an assault upon the Reformed tradition’s understanding of worship.  And to the extent that he still claims to be a Presbyterian in good standing, his saying one thing (i.e. subscription vow) and doing another (i.e. New Life Escondido) has, in my mind, interesting and troubling historical parallels.

Another way of making this point about the inadequacy of Frame’s biblicisim is to examine how he thinks the message of the Bible can seemingly take any number of forms.  (This is why the debates about music in worship are only the tip of the iceberg.  For what usually comes with the new music are not only new instruments — the soft rock band — but also skits [liturgical drama] and interpretive dance, activities that Frame condones in WST, 93 and 130 respectively; he also says, by the way, that juggling is not normally consistent with worship, 42; in contrast I would argue juggling is never appropriate in worship unless we hear a word from the Lord to the contrary).  Frame concedes that New Life Escondido uses a different liturgy than Calvin, but he says it is still Reformed.  He also argues that the praise songs they use at New Life communicate the biblical message of God’s transcendence, immanence, majesty and our reverence and awe.  But at this point I begin to scratch my head.  In Geneva we have metrical psalms being sung, with music written specifically for congregational singing. In Escondido we have texts being written in many cases by musicians in the charismatic movement whose musical genre comes out of soft rock.  In Geneva we have a service designed to reflect the biblical pattern of an assembly between God and his people.  In Escondido we have a service designed to reflect the biblical teaching that worship should be intelligible to outsiders (see the scriptural index to Frame’s WST to see how many times he refers to 1 Cor 14).  And yet, even though we have markedly different services, and even though by our historical lights we could say that the Geneva service was the one followed by Presbyterians and Reformed for many centuries, while the Escondido services suggests the strong influence of contemporary charismatic/blended worship, Frame concludes they are both Reformed because they both communicate the truths of the Bible.  (This may also explain the particular shape of Frame’s understanding of ecumenicity and denominationalism — the forms of the churches don’t matter as long as the message is the same.)  At this point, in my humble opinion, biblicism becomes relativism.

But it also reflects evangelical anti-formalism.  Ever since the advent of revivals, evangelicals have been telling us that it doesn’t matter what form the gospel takes.  As long as it brings people to Christ we may do it.  Thus Whitefield itinerated sometimes against the desires of local clergy, Finney gave us the new measures, all the way down to Billy Graham who now instead of featuring solos from George Beverly Shea has Christian Hip-Hop bands function as his warm up acts.  In a certain way this is pragmatism, which I believe is evident in contemporary worship since so much of it is designed to make the gospel accessible to the unchurched.  But in another way it is a kind of Donatism which tests everything on the basis of its conversionistic capacities.  If you do it they will convert.

But I would argue that forms matter.  One form upon which practically all conservative Presbyterians agree is that of human anatomy. We don’t ordain women, even though the message of female preachers may be just as good as the preaching of a man, because the Bible prescribes a physical form for ordination.  In worship I would also argue that the Bible prescribes the forms of prayer, the word read and preached, song, and the sacraments.  These are the forms Christians are to use in worship. Frame says the Standards do not prescribe a liturgy.  I would submit that he is wrong.  These are the elements prescribed by chapter 21 of the Confession. Granted, how we order them is left to the discretion of the session. But these forms do matter.  These are the only ones we may use.  No juggling EVER, no dance, no drama (except the drama of assembling in God’s presence).  And this is what the RPW is designed to protect.  Churches may only bind the consciences of individuals by using these elements.  The Bible may not forbid elements other than those in the Standards.  But unless there is a clear biblical warrant we are illegally binding or wounding the consciences of worshipers by doing things other than prayer, the word, song, and sacrament.

Now, of course, Frame will likely respond that these are the elements that New Life Escondido uses.  So what is the problem?  Well, they are also the forms that Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, and charismatics use.  But each tradition orders and carries them out differently.  After all, the Roman Catholic Mass does use the right forms, bread and wine (not Welch’s).  But it is not a stretch to say that Catholics package them differently.  So if we can make a distinction between form and content there in the case of the mass, we can also do so with other Christian traditions.  And I would argue that there is a Presbyterian way to structure the content of Christian worship, one that stems directly out of the RPW as taught in the Westminster Standards, and that reflects reverence and awe. This is where charismatic worship, I believe, falls woefully short. It is not reverent nor does it exhibit godly fear.  (New heavens, new earth worship will also express godly fear, if Revelation is any indication, something which argues against the kind of “ecstatic joy” that Frame thinks we should now display because of what Christ has accomplished.)  Frame and I can go back and forth, DOES TOO, DOES NOT until our microprocessors melt.  But his insistence that P&W music is reverent will not be convincing in the light of what I have said above about rock music (no matter how soft, and therefore bland and vanilla it is).  Even more important, however, in the context of the RPW is the consideration of all the consciences of God’s people in worship.  I think it should trouble Prof. Frame that there are critics of contemporary Christian music who are saying that it wounds or binds the consciences of believers.  Unless he can argue that the Bible commands this kind of music, then love for neighbor would force him to find music to which no one may possible object (see the recent article on the Charity and the RPW in the Nicotine Theological Journal), music that does not needlessly carry cultural baggage at odds with the very thing we are doing in worship.

And this I believe is one of the strongest arguments for exclusive psalmody.  It will not make anyone happy, but it will bring an end to the divisiveness that music has introduced by making everyone unhappy.  And more importantly, it will shift the debate from what people prefer, or what is intelligible to worshipers, to what is pleasing to God.  This is the criteria ideally that all of us should use in worship — what will please God.  And from my blinkered perspective it is hard to see how God could not be pleased by singing all of the psalms that he himself has inspired. Could men or women possible produce anything better?  Then why not offer to God the very best (no this doesn’t mean Mozart, Vivaldi, or even Bach — it has to be singable by the congregation — something which the syncopation of most contemporary music prohibits, unless of course you listen to Christian radio all week long).

So much for the 750 word limit.

 

Hart’s Fourth Question to Frame

Date: Sat, 21 Feb 1998 23:29:47 -0800

Prof. Frame in his book WST puts a lot of emphasis on intelligibility being one of the criteria by which we determine what biblical worship is.  I am not always sure what intelligibility means.

Last time I checked our churches were all using the vernacular tongue, not ecclesiastical Latin.  Last time I also checked I heard Billy Graham still using the King James Version — imagine the psychological dissonance of going from hearing DC Talk to listening to the thee’s and thou’s of the KJV.  Often it seems to me that intelligibility is simply a cover for doing whatever we think will appeal to the unchurched.  In other words, in the name of intelligibility we have turned worship into evangelism, and so made God’s people conform to the ways of God’s enemies.

I don’t see in Frame’s work a conscious recognition of the antithesis between the church and the world in worship.  If the unchurched are at enmity with God, if they hate him, as Van Til so well taught us, then how in the world would it be possible to design a worship service that would be welcoming to them?  It seems natural to me that God’s enemies would feel very uncomfortable in worship, sort of like the leaders of Moab who trembled and the inhabitants of Canaan who melted away when God delivered his people out of bondage in Egypt so they could worship him in his sanctuary on his mountain (Ex 15:14-17).

In fact, it seems to me that by the logic of intelligibility we have ended up trying to obey God’s word to evangelize (though the Great Commission is about discipleship and baptism more than witnessing) and in the process have disobeyed God’s word about how we ought to worship him.

A great illustration of this confusion of God’s commands and applying them to the wrong settings comes from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (thanks go to Bob Godfrey from mentioning the following passage in an Outlook article several years ago).  In chapter 10 Ishmael is writing about his pagan friend Queequeg, and his religious observances after a meal when he pulled out a pocket-sized  idol and began to pray to it, and also desired for Ishmael to join him.  He wrote,

I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church.  How then could I unite with this wild idolater in worshipping his piece of wood?  But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth – pagan and all included — can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood?  Impossible!  But what is worship? — to do the will of God — THAT is worship.  And what is the will of God?  – to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me — THAT is the will of God.  Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish this Queequeg would do to me?  Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship.  Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolater.  So I kindled the shavings; helpd [sic] prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salaamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our consciences and all the world.

Now some may object that this quotation from Melville raises the stakes way too high.  After all we are only talking about using charismatic forms in worship, hardly the stuff of idolatry.  Still, we have two separate ideas that become blurred in current worship debates.  They are 1) the introduction of charismatic worship; 2) to reach the unchurched. On point one I would argue that false worship is idolatrous; that’s what idolatry means.  Presbyterians have worshiped historically a certain way to please God, because to veer from that pattern is idolatry.  And for reasons I gave in my last answer about the nature of rock music (aside from the erroneous theology of the charismatic movement) Presbyterians should not worship as charismatics do.  (And I wish that people could see that as critical as I am of charismatic worship I am at least paying it the respect of trying to recognize it for what it is, that is, a tradition that has its own integrity and norms; far more disrespectful it seems to me is to recognize those differences and then say that there is really no difference between Presbyterians and charismatics, at least at worship; that strikes me as condescending).

But, by another sleight of hand Presbyterians are now worshiping like charismatics in order to attract the unchurched.  As Frame writes in WST, “we determined on a style of ministry that we believe was scriptural, but more intelligible (1 Cor 14, again!) [his exclamation not mine] to those we wanted to REACH WITH THE GOSPEL” [caps mine].  So the comparison with Queequeg is not all that much of a reach.  In order to reach outsiders we change our worship.  And as I have argued those changes in worship depart from Reformed teaching about and practice of worship.  And I believe such departures are serious because worship is serious.

Now I want to maintain that worship should be intelligible.  For me that means it is in a known tongue, not that it is necessarily easy to understand.  Here I am reminded of Warfield’s remark in a little essay on theological education: “the loving lisp of the name of Jesus by the lips of a child may carry far.  But that is no reason why we should man our pulpits with children lisping the name of Jesus.”  About as good an argument I can think of for continuing the Presbyterian pattern of worship that gives people meat rather than simplifying our worship so that it ends up being a steady diet of milk.  In fact, in Frame’s argument for intelligibility in both books I am not sure why he continues to use the Bible in worship since it is a book written many years ago and is hard to understand.  But if we can make an exception for the Bible, then we can also make exceptions for the word of God preached, for prayer, and for song (especially psalms).

I also want to make clear, however, that intelligibility only applies to God’s people since worship is for God’s people only (only they, in union with Christ, may ascend the holy hill).  In other words, intelligibility has to be understood in the context of the antithesis that exists between the church and the world at all times but especially in worship.  So by intelligibility I mean we need to do more instruction about worship so that people can participate in it more meaningfully.  We need to keep the standards high, smarten God’s people up so that they know what it means to “raise my Ebenezer” rather than dumbing down our worship by removing such references because they aren’t understood by all. Maturity in the faith, therefore, is a higher priority than intelligibility (as in reaching people where they are).  Our commitment to intelligibility should only mean  that we educate people about worship, how they do it, and what happens in it.

Still, intelligibility does not apply to the unchurched because worship is not evangelism.  We need to remember how evangelicals have stripped the Great Commission of all its force.  We are to disciple the nations by teaching EVERYTHING Christ has commanded.  This is a strong argument to me for continuing the worship practices of the Reformed tradition.  We believe our theology reflects the whole counsel of God. Our worship, that reflects our theology, should not be vulgarized in order to make it conform to what people already understand.  We need to disciple so that people will understand why worshiping the Reformed way is to follow our Lord’s commands.  In other words, the Great Commission isn’t a rationale for making worship seeker sensitive.  In fact, since corporate worship is the only time when the whole congregation gathers the argument should be that the service is necessarily geared to believers and toward their growth in grace, not as a device to attract outsiders. Evangelistic services are good and appropriate.  But they are not a substitute for worship.  And of course outsiders may come to worship but we should never expect them to feel comfortable nor should we design worship so they won’t feel out of place.  So again, the argument for intelligibility is used to do more than it really can.

SO HERE IS MY QUESTION — since intelligibility can’t govern everything (it doesn’t govern the unchurched’s ability to understand the Bible) how useful is this notion of intelligibility for understanding worship?  Why should it receive as much play as it does in Frame’s writing about worship?  By turning worship into evangelism don’t we misapply biblical texts and end up moving precisely in the direction of Ishmael and Queequeg?  (And I would ask that Prof. Frame go somewhere else in the Bible other than 1 Cor. 14, in part because vs 35 there suggests that worship was not intelligible to the wives who had to ask their husbands at home for clarification, and also because of the Reformed hermeneutic, taught in WCF 1.ix, that we go to clearer passages to interpret less clear ones.  Even though 1 Cor. 14 talks about worship, it is a much controverted passage and needs to be understood in the light of those passages, commonly cited in defense of the RPW, that teach much more clearly about worship.)

 

Frame’s Reply to Hart’s Fourth Question

Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 00:16:36 -0500

The length of these pieces has rather gotten out of hand. I do take some responsibility for that. The aptly named Mr. Webb told me that the ”initial arguments” were limited to 750 words. Therefore I have pretty much ignored the limit in my later statements. But Hart’s last posts have been even longer than my longest ones, and I have reached the point where I cannot reply in any kind of detail. I hope, therefore, that Warfield list members will understand the situation: my failure to address Hart’s specific points does not imply any concession to him on those points. I am just trying to make the best use of time and space.

Now we shall hear from Hart:

Prof. Frame in his book WST puts a lot of emphasis on intelligibility being one of the criteria by which we determine what biblical worship is.  I am not always sure what intelligibility means.

Last time I checked our churches were all using the vernacular tongue, Not ecclesiastical Latin.  Last time I also checked I heard Billy Graham Still using the King James Version — imagine the psychological dissonance of going from hearing DC Talk to listening to the thee’s and thou’s of the KJV.  Often it seems to me that intelligibility is simply a cover for Doing whatever we think will appeal to the unchurched.

Normally we expect one another to supply some evidence before publicly questioning the motives of fellow Christians. Hart supplies none here. In any case, I entirely disclaim the motive he attributes to me and to others who are concerned about the intelligibility of our proclamation.

In other words, in the name of intelligibility we have turned worship into evangelism, and so made God’s people conform to the ways of God’s enemies.

I have never advocated “turning worship into evangelism.” I have said that evangelism is a legitimate aspect of worship. This is implicit in the fact that the Great Commission defines the church’s task, and it is directly taught in 1 Cor. 14:24-25. As for the last clause of Hart’scomment, it is another serious criticism, offered with no evidence and less logic. Why should evangelism, which God commands, make us conform to the ways of God’s enemies? I’m really getting tired of these rhetorical bombshells, carelessly tossed at fellow believers. Please consider James 3:1-12.

I don’t see in Frame’s work a conscious recognition of the anti-thesis between the church and the world in worship.

See CWM, p. 96, and surrounding context.

If the unchurched are at enmity with God, if they hate him, as Van Til so well taught us, then how in the world would it be possible to design a worship service that would be welcoming to them?

Maybe Jesus’s example of welcoming publicans and sinners is instructive. I discuss this issue in detail in the section of CWM mentioned above. I do not advocate any de-emphasis on the reality of sin and Hell. I do not advocate welcoming anybody to the family of the saved apart from repentance and faith. But I do believe that we should be hospitable, that we should avoid unnecessary offense, that we should let visitors know that we are glad they have come. We should let them know that turning to Jesus will make them part of a joyful assembly.

It seems natural to me that God’s enemies would feel very uncomfortable in worship, sort of like the leaders of Moab who trembled and the inhabitants of Canaan who melted away when God delivered his people out of bondage in Egypt so they could worship him in his sanctuary on his mountain (Ex 15:14-17).

As I say in the above reference, that is ultimately what will happen if God does not send forth his grace. But let us trust the power of God’s Word to bring grace, rather than assuming that nothing will happen.

In fact, it seems to me that by the logic of intelligibility we have ended up trying to obey God’s word to evangelize (though the Great Commission is about discipleship and baptism more than witnessing) and in the process have disobeyed God’s word about how we ought to worship him.

God’s Word does not forbid evangelism in worship. On the contrary (above).

Then Hart cites Melville’s story of Ishmael joining in Queequeg’s idolatry, Ishmael using a dubious theological rationale. His application:

Now some may object that this quotation from Melville raises the stakes way too high.  After all we are only talking about using charismatic forms in worship, hardly the stuff of idolatry.  Still, we have two separate ideas that become blurred in current worship debates.  They are 1) the introduction of charismatic worship; 2) to reach the unchurched. On point one I would argue that false worship is idolatrous; that’s what idolatry means.

But surely Hart needs to argue the premise that using some (not all!) elements of charismatic worship constitutes idolatry. Here’s how he tries to do it:

Presbyterians have worshiped historically a certain way to please God and because to veer from that pattern is idolatry.

And I have given many reasons for rejecting the notion that any departure from Presbyterian tradition is idolatry. The notion that traditional Presbyterian liturgy is the only way to avoid idolatry seems to me to be the worst kind of sectarianism.

And for reasons I gave in my last answer about the nature of rock music (aside from the erroneous theology of the charismatic movement) Presbyterians should not worship as charismatics do.  (And I wish that people could see that as critical as I am of charismatic worship I am at least paying it the respect of trying to recognize it for what it is, that is, a tradition that has its own integrity and norms; far more disrespectful it seems to me is to recognize those differences and then say that there is really no difference between Presbyterians and charismatics, at least at worship; that strikes me as condescending).

Here, and in his answer to my fourth question, Hart does what I criticized Wells for doing in my Biblicism paper. In fact, Hart is a much better example of this tendency than Wells is. He identifies a historical movement (rock music) that has a lot of evil in it, and then concludes that anything genetically related to that movement (praise choruses) are sinful. That, of course, is what logicians call the “genetic fallacy.” It says that B is bad because it comes historically out of A which is bad.

Then Hart, like Wells, develops a Christian alternative, not by biblical exegesis, but (1) by postulating something opposite to the cultural movement of which he disapproves. This is theology by a via negativa. And also (2) by requiring us all to accept uncritically a historical tradition that he approves of. You see how dangerous it is for historians to write theology! Often, the best they can do is to point out historical movements they think are bad and contrast them with historical movements they think are good. But where does the Bible enter in? Sola Scriptura gets lost in the historical shuffle.

Now I did my duty in the CWM book by conceding that there is an element of “soft rock” in the historical ancestry of praise songs. (I also cited other elements.) But Hart’s argument is like saying that because one of my great-grandfathers was a horse thief, I must be one too.

To be honest, I never think of rock and roll when I hear most praise choruses (and I did listen to rock in the ’60s and ’70s). Think of ”Seek Ye First” or Kendrick’s “Amazing Love,” arranged as they are on the Maranatha disks. They have a modern feel about them, to be sure, but there is no heavy beat, and the words set forth God’s truth. If I heard these songs for the first time, even without the words, it would never occur to me that there was any “rock” in their ancestry, let alone in their actual nature.

Now people may differ on this. Bill Edgar says he cannot hear hymn arrangements of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” without thinking of Schiller’s pagan poem, which Beethoven used with the tune. Bill is probably more sensitive to cultural connections than I am. But I don’t think many people make that kind of connection, and I think even fewer of them take note of the rock connection with praise songs.

I really think it is wrong to make these decisions on the basis of broad generalities about cultural trends, rather than by looking at the specific songs. As I listen to “Amazing Love,” what I hear is a wonderful praise to God in Christ. Looking at that song, by itself, just as it is, I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with its use in worship. It measures up to all biblical standards: it is theologically right, musically excellent, and deeply moving. It’s a little “different,” because it uses some contemporary harmonies and rhythms. But hymnody has always used contemporary devices. Certainly I am not going to stop using the song because somebody finds a remote historical link with some bad cultural movement.

Just about every style of hymnody has been used in the secular world, and the secular counterparts express the sin of the fallen world. The four part harmony that we today consider “dignified” and “churchy” has in the past been used for bawdy songs, secular cantatas, operas, and so on. To find a musical form with mostly religious associations, we would have to go back to Gregorian Chant. But chanting of this sort is found in various religions other than Christianity, and today most people associate it with Roman Catholicism.

By the way, the original settings of Lutheran Chorales and “Geneva Jigs” were lively and rather jazzy.

But, by another sleight of hand Presbyterians are now worshiping like charismatics in order to attract the unchurched.  As Frame writes in WST, “we determined on a style of ministry that we believe was scriptural, but more intelligible (1 Cor 14, again!) [his exclamation not mine] to those we wanted to REACH WITH THE GOSPEL” [caps mine].

Sorry, but I still think that intelligibility is a central concern of 1 Cor. 14, which is the most extensive treatment of NT worship in Scripture. I don’t see what is so damnable about the statement Hart quotes.

So the comparison with Queequeg is not all that much of a reach.  In order to reach outsiders we change our worship.

Another example of Hart’s failure to make important qualifications. ”We change our worship” makes it sound as though we are violating everything the Bible says about worship. In fact, what I advocate are only accommodations of form in areas where Scripture allows them. Again, Scripture does not require us to do everything as the 17th century Puritans did.

And as I have argued those changes in worship depart from Reformed teaching about and practice of worship.  And I believe such departures are serious because worship is serious.

Again, Hart assumes some things I don’t assume about the authority of the historical tradition.

Now I want to maintain that worship should be intelligible.  For me that means it is in a known tongue, not that it is necessarily easy to understand.  Here I am reminded of Warfield’s remark in a little essay on theological education: “the loving lisp of the name of Jesus by the lips of a child may carry far.  But that is no reason why we should man our pulpits with children lisping the name of Jesus.”  About as good an argument I can think of for continuing the Presbyterian pattern of worship that gives people meat rather than simplifying our worship so that it ends up being a steady diet of milk.  In fact, in Frame’s argument for intelligibility in both books I am not sure why he continues to use the Bible in worship since it is a book written many years ago and is hard to understand.  But if we can make an exception for the Bible, then we can also make exceptions for the word of God preached, for prayer, and for song (especially psalms).

Notice that Hart criticizes my argument for intelligibility without once referring to 1 Cor. 14. He also ignores my qualifications on the principle of intelligibility. I do not say that everything in worship must be intelligible to everybody. In fact I deny that. I say, rather, that every service should include something genuinely edifying to everybody, whether they are unbelievers, children, or mature adults. See CWM, 17ff.

I also want to make clear, however, that intelligibility only applies to God’s people since worship is for God’s people only (only they, in union with Christ, may ascend the holy hill).

Only believers truly worship God, and certainly NT worship is primarily for believers. But 1 Cor. 14: 24f does speak of the possible presence of unbelievers in the worship service, and it commands the church to take that fact into account in their decisions about worship.

In other words, intelligibility has to be understood in the context of the antithesis that exists between the church and the world at all times but especially in worship.  So by intelligibility I mean we need to do more instruction about worship so that people can participate in it more meaningfully.  We need to keep the standards high, smarten God’s people up so that they know what it means to “raise my Ebenezer” rather than dumbing down our worship by removing such references because they aren’t understood by all. Maturity in the faith, therefore, is a higher priority than intelligibility (as in reaching people where they are).  Our commitment to intelligibility should only mean  that we educate people about worship, how they do it, and what happens in it.

What Scripture proof does Hart have of this principle? Certainly this is not Paul’s point in 1 Cor. 14. And we do have biblical examples of God reaching down to simple people to speak to them on their level. Think of Psalms 23, 117, and 131. Certainly there is no biblical principle that requires worship to be as intellectually demanding as possible. But that is what H. seems to be telling us.

Still, intelligibility does not apply to the unchurched because worship is not evangelism.

I have given reason to question this premise.

We need to remember how evangelicals have stripped the Great Commission of all its force.  We are to disciple the nations by teaching EVERYTHING Christ has commanded.  This is a strong argument to me for continuing the worship practices of the Reformed tradition.  We believe our theology reflects the whole counsel of God. Our worship, that reflects our theology, should not be vulgarized in order To make it conform to what people already understand.  We need to disciple So that people will understand why worshiping the Reformed way is to follow our Lord’s commands.  In other words, the Great Commission isn’t a rationale for making worship seeker sensitive.  In fact, since corporate worship is the only time when the whole congregation gathers the argument should be that the service is necessarily geared to believers and toward their growth in grace, not as a device to attract outsiders.

I agree that there should be something in worship to challenge mature believers. But I don’t think that everything in worship should be geared to them. Indeed, if we are going to “educate people about worship,” as Hart wishes, we will have to do our educating in a language that the students already know. But I have discussed all that in detail in the CWM book. Hart, here and elsewhere, just ignores all my detailed discussions and qualifications, and charges me with holding a simplistic position. That’s not fair debate.

Evangelistic services are good and appropriate.  But they are not a substitute for worship.  And of course outsiders may come to worship but we should never expect them to feel comfortable nor should we design worship so they won’t feel out of place.  So again, the argument for intelligibility is used to do more than it really can.

See above comments.

SO HERE IS MY QUESTION — since intelligibility can’t govern everything (it doesn’t govern the unchurched’s ability to understand the Bible)

Yes it does. In 1 Cor. 14:24-25.

how useful is this notion of intelligibility for understanding worship?  Why should it receive as much play as it does in Frame’s writing about worship?

Because, again, it is central to 1 Cor. 14, which is central to the NT doctrine of worship. Beyond that we can see through both testaments God’s willingness to lisp to us, to speak our language, to condescend to our weakness, to call the little ones to his arms. We can do no less with those who attend our services.

By turning worship into evangelism don’t we misapply biblical texts and end up moving precisely in the direction of Ishmael and Queequeg?

No. (See above.)

(And I would ask that Prof. Frame go somewhere else in the Bible other than 1 Cor. 14,

I have mentioned some other biblical considerations. But 1 Cor. 14 is important to NT worship, and I don’t see why I should avoid it.

in part because vs 35 there suggests that worship was not intelligible to the wives who had to ask their husbands at home for clarification,

I mention this on p. 17 of CWM. Again, Hart ignores my qualifications and assumes that I am teaching a more simplistic position than I do. Simplifying my position like this makes me easier to criticize, but it isn’t worthy of a serious discussion among Christians.

and also because of the Reformed hermeneutic, taught in WCF 1.ix, that we go to clearer passages to interpret less clear ones.  Even though 1 Cor. 14 talks about worship, it is a much controverted passage and needs to be understood in the light of those passages, commonly cited in defense of the RPW, that teach much more clearly about worship.)

I simply disagree. I don’t see how you can avoid the emphasis on intelligibility in 1 Cor. 14. In this respect, it IS a clear passage, the central one on NT worship. (I grant there are a few references that we don’t understand today.) It should therefore govern our interpretation of less clear passages. As for the “passages commonly cited in defense of the RPW,” I discussed those earlier in the debate and indicated my agreement with the RPW as expressed there. We should worship only according to God’s revealed will. I don’t see how this is inconsistent with my use of 1 Cor. 14. Hart and I are here debating what God’s revealed will says.

 

Frame’s Fifth Question to Hart

Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 00:19:35 -0500

My condolences and prayers go out to the families of the two students who were killed. May God fill them with the comforts of Jesus and the assurance of the Resurrection. These brothers are hearing the Lord’s ”Well done.”

My question to Hart:

Hart has said that the traditional Presbyterian “forms” are mandated by the RPW which, we agree, means that they are commanded by Scripture. Where does Scripture specifically command the use of Calvin’s liturgy?

Now Hart may want to claim here that Scripture does not specifically command Calvin’s liturgy, but that it does set forth a broader principle which requires us to use forms akin to Calvin’s, but not akin to typical Anglican, Baptist, or Charismatic forms. OK. Then where can we find this in the Bible?

 

Hart’s Answer to Frame’s Fifth Question

Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 21:16:43 -0500

Where do we find the Genevan liturgy in the Bible?  Since the latter was written some 1500 years prior to the former, I might, historically speaking, have a problem with this one.  That is, if I were a biblicist.

But if we look at Calvin’s liturgy, lo and behold, what we find are all of the elements that God has appointed in his word for corporate worship.  Those things are prayer, the word read and preached, song, and the sacraments.  But where do these parts of worship come from in the Bible?  Handy thing, the standards are, with those proof texts.  Phil 4:6 covers prayer, as does most of the Bible.  Acts 15:21 gives us the reading of the word; 2 Tim 4:2 preaching; Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19 singing; Acts 2:41 baptism; and Acts 2:42 the Lord’s Supper.  These are the regular  elements of Christian worship.  They are not distinctive to Presbyterians.  But the way Presbyterians practice them is different.  As I have said before, Rome did all of these things but the Reformers still thought worship with these elements could be idolatrous.  I do fear what they would make of dance, drama, and levity.

Once having arrived at the elements of worship we need to decide how to order them.  That could be done alphabetically, randomly or on the basis of patterns that seem to fit our theology.  Here I think Terry Johnson’s (see the next Westminster Theological Journal) suggestions about a cycle of praise, confession and pardon, means of grace, and thanksgiving fits well with our theology.  But the Reformed have historically shied away from a set liturgy required in all congregations (see the Westminster Directory as well as the CRC’s 1968 report on liturgy).  No set order is prescribed in the Bible and I doubt that even Prof. Frame’s method of Sola Scriptura will determine New Life Escondido’s order of service.  In fact, the Puritan RPW is partly responsible for giving sessions leeway to order their services, the selection of texts, psalms, prayers, and forms for the sacraments.  So Calvin’s order of service is biblical, I would argue, to the same degree that a sermon on John 1:-14 is faithful to God’s inspired word.  The Bible does not teach the outline preachers should follow in the construction of their sermons.  But we do have ways of discerning when an outline is more or less biblical.

Once we have the elements and the order we need to decide what forms we will use.  We will pray, but which prayer, the Lord’s, Mary’s, John Knox’s (he did write a book of common prayer, as I understand it), or one prepared by the pastor.  We will sing, but what song? And so on.  But as I have argued one very important piece of Presbyterian forms is reverence.  As I understand it, New Life Escondido and St. Peter’s Geneva differ very little when it comes to the elements, unless the former has begun to use dance or drama.  New Life, I would argue, with its use of so many songs is not as theologically rich as Calvin’s liturgy.  But I will readily concede that the service Prof. Frame describes at the end of WST has most of the elements of Christian worship.

But that is not saying a whole lot.  The mass and the services at Calvary Chapel have most of the same elements as well.  What the latter lacks, however, is reverence.  What the former lacks is simplicity (though the ornateness of the mass is in part an effort to display reverence).  So the way we conduct a service is very important for setting the tone, or determining whether our worship is reverent or irreverent.  Liturgical forms matter.  So we need to ask what forms fit the theology that we think is the “system of doctrine” taught by the Bible.  Will any Christian form do?  One from Rome, or Constantinople or Barrington, IL (the home of Willow Creek Community Church)?  Or might we Presbyterians have some brand loyalty?  Might we give the benefit of doubt to our forefathers in the faith and use their forms, their order of worship, and their stress upon the dignity, sobriety, and reverence of worship.  Here I should say what should not be necessary to say.  By using forms and an order of worship that reveals reverence we are in no way guaranteeing that the people in the pews will worship reverently.  But we are giving them a better chance than by using forms that connote informality, casualness and celebration (as our culture, whose morality most conservative Protestants lament, expresses celebration), connotations that I believe are blasphemous and therefore idolatrous.  The Shorter Catechism says that the preface to the Lord’s prayer teaches that we should draw near to God with holy reverence and confidence as children to a father.  Reverence and fear are not incompatible with joy or boldness, or with addressing our God as father, even though our culture regards such reverence and fear as forced, confining, uptight and lacking in joy.

What role does intelligibility play in our liturgy?  What role did it play in Calvin’s Geneva? I would argue very little beyond that the forms should be in a known language.  Frame says that I cannot ignore the importance of 1 Cor 14 or the example of Jesus welcoming publicans and sinners (though I am not sure the latter is a text describing or contemplating public worship, that is, the sacred assembly).  But I counter that he ignores our Lord’s example in John 6 where Jesus gives his disciples hard sayings that were difficult to hear, only to be followed a rebuke from the Lord and the numerical decline of his followers.  Nor does Frame seem to factor in such instruction as Paul’s in 1 Cor 3 about the distinction between meat and milk, with the clear implication that the former is preferable to the latter.  At the same time I am compelled by passages like Titus 2 with its stress upon moderation, reverence and discipline being the forms of living that are fitting sound doctrine, a passage with important implications for worship that is also fitting sound doctrine, that is, worship that shows a similar moderation, reverence and discipline (not the kind of virtues usually associated with rock music, soft or otherwise).  If Frame thinks I am simplistic he might ponder his habit of letting 1 Cor 14 trump most other worship texts (a passage, I will state again, that has a lack of intelligibility smack dab in the middle of it — verse 35).  That is why I say the Reformed method of interpreting Scripture (actually, not I but the Divines) is to let clear passages interpret less clear ones.  Which is only to suggest that Frame’s argument for intelligibility as a guiding principle of worship is not as simple as he lets on.  (I might also add that simple distinctions are by no means a vice, especially when in Prof. Frame’s hands, for example, an argument for drama comes from an argument for preaching [WST, 93] or an apparent prohibition of humor turns humor into a means for building “unity of the body of Christ” [WST, 83].)

 

Hart’s Fifth Question to Frame

Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 21:17:59 -0500

This is the last question of the debate between Prof. Frame and me.

Tomorrow marks fourteen days of questions and answers. As I understand it, after he responds to the following (I ask the last question because he asked the first) we will make closing statements and then field questions from the subscription list (sorry Andy if I have stepped on your moderatorial toes).

My two-part question is this: why not use Calvin’s liturgy?  If it is biblical, as I think it is, then why change?  Or more generally, if biblical truths transcend time and place, so should biblical worship.

What’s wrong with using 16th and 17th-century liturgies in the 20th century?  Are they defective?  Are they unbiblical?

The flip side of this question is where in the Bible do we find a text telling us that “soft rock” music is an appropriate form of song for singing in worship?  If the early church could detect idolatry in so many of the cultural forms of the Roman Empire, why is our culture (one that has legalized the slaughter of innocents as part of the sexual revolution for which rock music was an icon) not equally tainted with musical idioms that are inappropriate if not blasphemous in Christian worship?  And if we know from Jay Adams and the Nouthetic Counseling folk about all of the ways in which idolatry creeps into human behavior, thought, and emotions, why should we not think that idolatry is just as likely to surface in our worship or justifications for it?

 

Frame’s Answer to Hart’s Fifth Question

Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 16:34:53 -0500

My last answer; closing statement to follow.

My two-part question is this: why not use Calvin’s liturgy?  If it is biblical, as I think it is, then why change?  Or more generally, if biblical truths transcend time and place, so should biblical worship.

First, with regard to the “elements,” or the things done in worship, I think Calvin is pretty good. His liturgy in this respect is not much different from most of the liturgies in the history of the church, or, as Hart points out, from that of New Life Escondido.

In WST (56ff) my own list of worship activities contains some things that may be done in worship that are not found in Calvin’s liturgy: announcements of church discipline (1 Cor. 5:4-5) and expressions of fellowship (agape, holy kiss, acknowledgement of members who have made special contributions to the ministry, etc.). The former was probably done in Geneva, though not, of course, as a regular item. I don’t know about the latter.

As Hart indicates, I am willing to explore questions about dance and drama, though these are not part of worship at New Life. I do not consider these to be distinguishable “elements” of worship in the Puritan sense. If they are appropriate (and I am not actually settled on this question), they are ways of doing traditional things: drama is a form of teaching, dance a form of praise. Certainly these did not take place in Geneva, but dance as worship is mentioned a number of times in Scripture, and I believe we have to ask whether monologue (as opposed to such things as dialogue and drama) is a necessary form of preaching.

Why change at all? Because we want to keep exploring what Scripture requires in order to be true to the RPW, which is both Scriptural and traditional. If Scripture authorizes change, we’d better change. If Scripture allows various ways of doing certain things, then we ought to think about how we can use that freedom better to achieve the purposes of worship.

Second, with regard to the order of events: Traditional Reformed worship begins with confession of sin and assurance of pardon. This is an important aspect of worship, but I’m not convinced from Scripture that it must always be first. NT worship is celebration of the Resurrection, and therefore presupposes that in the most important sense our sins are already forgiven.

Further, I think that Scripture does not require us to use the same order every week. There are other orders which have a Scriptural logic to them, and which may bring out other biblical emphases. Doing it the same way every week may be wearisome to the congregation and therefore less edifying than varied orders.

Third, with regard to emphasis. The New Life service includes more singing than Calvin’s liturgy. I have felt that the congregation’s sense that we are gathered to praise God needs some time to sink in. That may be a cultural difference between our time and Calvin’s. But I see nothing in Scripture that requires me to limit singing to two or three hymns. I believe that long periods of praise can be highly edifying to God’s people, and when you consider the length of some of the Psalms, there is certainly biblical precedent for this.

Fourth, with regard to tone. Hart opposes my emphasis on ”celebration,” but it is plainly present in the Psalms, and it is implicit in the fact that NT worship memorializes the Resurrection. Certainly the elements of reverence and awe should also be there. Since Hart believes joy to be appropriate, both he and I must think about how joy and reverence are to be kept in balance. And, equally important, we must ask how that balance can be expressed, so that the congregation, not only the leaders, are reverently joyful. And, just as we must distinguish real joy from superficial smiles, we must distinguish reverence from sourpuss sanctimony.

In my opinion, if we simply reproduce Calvin’s service (in English, of course) in twentieth-century America, the joy of it will not be effectively communicated to the congregation as a whole (all maturity levels). I think extra efforts are necessary on the celebration-joyfulness side. That’s another reason for having longer periods for singing praise.

So another reason for change is that like all language, the ”language of worship” changes. We don’t usually read the King James Bible any more; certainly we do not preach in King James English. Symbols do lose meaning or change meanings over the years, and we must be alert to that in worship. The Reformers themselves insisted on the vernacular, so they knew the importance of an understandable language. Hart says that “biblical truths transcend time and place.” Sure, but the language needed to convey those truths changes a lot from generation to generation.

But of course words are not the only things in worship that have symbolic value and meaning. The order of events, as Calvin and Hart understand, carries meaning. So does the time allocated to song, preaching, prayer, etc. So we may have to change the order, or the emphasis, in order to convey the same meanings, and  the same quality of edification, that the Reformers conveyed in their time.

What’s wrong with using 16th and 17th-century liturgies in the 20th century?  Are they defective?  Are they unbiblical?

1. The activities specified in the liturgies are biblical.

2. But it is possible that there are other biblical worship activities not mentioned in these liturgies, which as biblical Christians we should be free to do.

3. And there are ways of performing the actions of the Reformed liturgies which were not done 350 years ago, but which are biblically legitimate.

4. And we should be doing some things differently because the language of edification has changed somewhat between the Reformation period and our own time.

The flip side of this question is where in the Bible do we find a text telling us that “soft rock” music is an appropriate form of song for singing in worship?  If the early church could detect idolatry in so many of the cultural forms of the Roman Empire, why is our culture (one that has legalized the slaughter of innocents as part of the sexual revolution for which rock music was an icon) not equally tainted with musical idioms that are inappropriate if not blasphemous in Christian worship?  And if we know from Jay Adams and the Nouthetic Counseling folk about all of the ways in which idolatry creeps into human behavior, thought, and emotions, why should we not think that idolatry is just as likely to surface in our worship or justifications for it?

Obviously there is no single text saying that “soft rock” is appropriate, any more than there is such a text for any other style of music. The biblical principle is simply that music should be appropriate for worship, and we have to make that judgment, based on our knowledge of Scripture and our knowledge of music.

We always have to be on the watch for idolatry. Idolatry takes many forms, among them an uncritical adulation of the past. The RPW in Scripture functions to set God’s people free from mere human tradition (Isa. 29:13, Matt. 15:8, 9). The Pharisees, by absolutizing their tradition over against God’s Word, were therefore guilty of violating the second commandment, guilty of idolatry.

I am certainly aware that idolatry can also exist in my own thinking about worship. If anybody can show me that one of the contemporary songs we sing is tainted by inappropriate or blasphemous musical idioms, I’m certainly willing to consider the argument, and, if I am persuaded, I will no longer use the song in worship. But that argument must be made with regard to particular songs. I will not accept the proposition that the whole genre of praise songs is tainted by the influence of secular music. That is genetic fallacy reasoning, as I indicated in my last exchange with Hart, and I will not allow that kind of argument to deprive me of a resource which God can use to edify my congregation.

In fact, I see very little taint in praise songs. Certainly no more than has historically attached to four-part hymnody. For more argument on this, please read my CWM book.

Hart’s Closing Statement

Date: Fri, 27 Feb 1998 17:11:16 -0500

I hope it is not a contested assertion to say that worship reflects theology.  Our understanding of the God in whose presence we assemble will color what we do in that sacred assembly.  Here I believe that Reformed worship best embodies the kind of encounter between God and man that we find at the end of the book of Job.  In its stress upon divine sovereignty and man’s utter dependence upon God, the Reformed tradition has captured best what God says to Job, “who then is he that can stand before me? Who has given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (41:10-11) and in return Job’s proper response to this great and mighty sovereign, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5-6).  Reformed theology is premised upon this radical gulf between a holy and transcendent God and man who stands at the apex of God’s good creation.

When Reformed believers have worshiped, then, they have been guided historically by the relationship between God and man such as that expressed in this encounter between God and Job.  There is an enormous gulf between God and his creatures, not simply because of sin, but because God is, in the language of the Shorter Catechism, a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.  Man is not on equal footing with God.  He comes before God as an inferior, wholly dependent, and utterly impotent.  The fitting way to approach God is in humility and godly fear.

The RPW, as defined by the Westminster Divines, is a good and necessary consequence of the Reformed tradition’s understanding of God and man, not to mention a Reformed hermeneutic.  Man cannot please God on his own.  He must go to the Bible to see how God desires to be worshiped.  And what this means is that there are certain elements that are regular parts of corporate worship and these elements must be conducted in a way that recognizes the gulf between God and man and what God has done to make it possible for man to enter God’s presence.  The RPW and Reformed theology are like the proverbial hand and glove.  If you give up one, you relinquish the other.  A different understanding of divine-human relations yields a different understanding of worship, while a different conception of worship means adopting a different conception of the relationship between God and man.

I believe that true worship, that is, Presbyterian worship (sorry to sound sectarian), is under attack in conservative Presbyterian circles on two fronts.  The first comes from church planting and home missions efforts that make worship serve as a form of outreach.  Once worship becomes (even slightly) a means by which we self-consciously recruit new members our understanding has shifted dramatically from that of Job in chapter 42.  This statement in no way denies that the preaching of the word becomes an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners.  But all of the literature on contemporary worship that I keep tabs on emphasizes music, a casual atmosphere, and such other diversions as drama, dance and rave masses as means to attract the unchurched.  The stress overwhelmingly is on intelligibility.  But there may be a biblical form of intelligibility that is unpleasant to unbelievers, that makes them feel uncomfortable, such as Jesus’ interaction with his disciples in John 6.  Our Lord in this passage was intelligible the disciples could understand his words, but the meaning and binding address of those words made them unacceptable.

The second form of attack comes from the common distinction in Presbyterian circles between form and content.  We have been so good (relatively) at keeping our theology pure and our Bibles inerrant that we have forgotten about the practice of the faith, especially the one sacred practice that orders our week, namely, corporate worship.  As I have tried to argue at several points in this debate, forms are not indifferent.  For instance, we cannot package the dramatic encounter between God and Job in a sit-com.  Nor can soft rock music appropriately carry the weight of the burning bush.  As the writer to the Hebrews says, our God is still a consuming fire, even in the wake of Jesus’ better covenant.  This means that our posture in worship should not be like Yul Brynner’s in The King and I, bare breasted, hands on hips, and feet apart in effect, saying “look at me.”  Nor should it be the casual pose of sitting in the barcalounger with feet up and Styrofoam cup of coffee in hand in effect saying “dude!” Instead, our posture should be like that of the angels and elders in Revelation 7 who “fell on their faces before the throne of God” (v. 11). This doesn’t mean that we may not enter confidently into the holy of holies.  Because of Christ we are able to go boldly where only Israel’s high priests went before.  But when we get there, we must know that our response will be one of self-abasement.  And again, I believe the RPW best preserves this reverential character of worship while also guarding and defending the proper elements of worship.  In other words, it preserves (but does not guarantee) worship that is acceptable to God.

A word also needs to be said about joy.  Prof. Frame emphasizes it, and I stress reverence, as if the two are mutually exclusive.  But I would argue that Prof. Frame’s emphasis is one-sided, and that even though he talks about reverence he hasn’t explained how the “rejoice” texts of the Bible he cites square with all of those biblical texts, like Psalm 2:11 that say we should rejoice with trembling.  In other words, there are reverent ways to express joy.  But by making joy and reverence two different things we might be tempted to think that the elders who fall face down before God in glory are unhappy, that is, not rejoicing.  I would argue instead that those elders are joyful and part of the way they are expressing their joy is through their utter self-abasement.  So saying that we need to rejoice in worship doesn’t solve the matter of what form our joy takes.

Prof. Frame is by no means guilty of all the excesses that go under the name “contemporary worship.”  But his books do open the door, in my opinion.  As he explains in the introduction to WST, he writes for those Presbyterians who worship with guilty consciences, who recognize that they are not worshiping as the Puritans worshiped but who still adhere to Puritan theology.  I don’t know how this separation is possible.  I have tried to argue that it is theologically, intellectually and historically impossible.  By saying that dance, drama and humor MAY be used in worship, Frame technically violates the heart of the RPW.  Either the Bible commands a specific element or practice, or it doesn’t.  According to the RPW, if it doesn’t we may not do it.  But aside from this technical reading of the RPW’s intent, even worse is the idea that I find implicit in Frame’s books, namely, that God will accept most of what we do as long as we are doing it with the right motives.  To me this nurtures the idea that God is not zealous for his worship and that we may be more casual in our observance.

God’s jealousy for his worship, I believe, is what the RPW protected so well.

In other words, I believe Frame wants it both ways.  He wants to worship like a charismatic (again, New Life Escondido sounds more like Calvary Chapel than Geneva) but wants the blessing of being a good Presbyterian.  Would he allow the same inconsistency in apologetics?  If R.C. Sproul practiced evidential apologetics but claimed to be a presuppositionalist would Frame let that claim go?  Yet, this analogy reveals a dynamic that has been lurking around our debate about worship. On the one hand, it suggests that there is a wrong (of false, as I learned it at WTS) way of doing apologetics, one that conflicts with our theology, with our confession of God’s sovereignty and human depravity.  On the other hand, the parallel I am making with apologetics also teaches that forms matter.  What Sproul is doing is apologetics; he is defending the faith.

But he is using the wrong form of argument, according to presuppositionalism, one that contradicts his Reformed profession.  This analogy, applied to worship, means that there can be false worship even when done by people with good theology.  It also suggests that if there are Reformed forms for apologetics (i.e. presuppositionalism) why not Reformed forms for worship?  In the same way that we need to recognize that what Sproul is doing is a form of Christian apologetics, we also need to recognize that the Roman Catholic mass, the charismatic P&W service and Reformed liturgy are all forms of Christian worship.  They all use the same elements (i.e. the word, sacraments, prayer, and song).  But just because someone uses a Christian form of worship doesn’t mean it is true worship, any more than someone who uses a Christian form of apologetics (one practiced by Christians throughout the ages) is necessarily using the true argument.

But why, someone might ask, is historic Reformed worship so difficult and so unappealing?  If one is starting a church plant, Reformed liturgy as practiced by Calvin and the Puritans is hardly something to bring in the crowds.  At the same time, believers who know little of Reformed theology may find little in Reformed worship that is immediately edifying.  Here we might want to learn a few things from the social and cultural critics.  Rather than regarding contemporary worship music (CWM) or the movements that produced them as the work of the Holy Spirit, that is, as revivals as Frame does (WST, 115ff; CWM 5ff) we might plausibly interpret them as the work of the spirit of the age.  The English sociologist, David Martin, argues in a book on contemporary Pentecostalism (Tongues of Fire) that Wesleyan Arminianism has defined the cultural ethos of the United States since 1800.  One way of seeing this is to observe how Americans insist on “sincerity and openness rather than on form and privacy.”  For this reason, he says that the “whole American style was, and is, Methodist’ in its emphases, whereas in England the culturally prestigious style remained Anglican.”  Of course, Martin is only a sociologist, not an inspired author of Holy Writ.  But if he is right, might not our expectations be for forms of worship that stress sincerity and openness to be more appealing to all Americans (Reformed or not) rather than the formal and reverent kind of Calvin’s Geneva?  In other words, David Wells, whom Frame too quickly dismisses, may be right to argue that contemporary evangelicalism reveals much more about modernity than it does about biblical religion.  Charismatic worship may be more appealing because it fits the cultural ethos more than because it demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit.  Which is why the work of historians, sociologists and cultural critics, the folks whom Wells reads and cites, is so valuable for the church in her work of testing the spirits.  Which is also why Frame’s defense of biblicism can produce a lack of discernment both about the culture and about how it shapes religious expression.  (Another argument on behalf of the impossibility of separating form and content, by the way.)

If I have been guilty of rhetorical excess in these debates it stems in part from how serious an issue I think worship is for the church and how much harm I believe Prof. Frame is doing in his books.  Practically every time God punished Israel it was for idolatry and blasphemy.  Also, though my tone has been provocative, I am not entirely sure it is fitting for Frame to claim he is a victim of unfair debating techniques or rhetorical bombshells when those whom he has criticized may think he is not above using them.  It would seem to me that the more everyone in the church recognizes that almost all ideas are contested then we won’t be surprised to hear that others disagree.  This recognition might also make us more cautious in what we say.  Finally, Prof. Frame’s penchant for citing his own arguments to illuminate a particular point can be a frustration because it is precisely his books that have, at least in my mind, raised questions and provoked objections.  Repeating the points of those books only raises the same questions and provokes the same objections.  It seems to me it would have been preferable for Frame to use this occasion to explain more fully what he meant in his books rather than appealing to them to settle debate.

Still, Prof. Frame and the “audience” may think I have been judgmental.  I would only say in response that judgment is integral to the existence of moral communities.  Moral communities, like churches or theological traditions always have to decide what is and what is not acceptable.  To neglect this task is to give up the possibility of saying defining anything.  Our Lord warned that we should not judge lest we be judged.  But I don’t think I am guilty of judging in this sense.  I want to be judged by the same standards by which I am judging Prof. Frame, that is, on the basis of a theological tradition that has stood the test of time and, more importantly, that has better than any other Christian tradition given all glory and honor to God.  I do so not simply because I want to be right, but also so that this generation and generations to come can say, as Dr. Machen did, “isn’t the Reformed Faith grand!”

Nevertheless, I am grateful to Prof. Frame for engaging in this debate.  I have learned several things through it.  I hope the readers have found it beneficial.  (Don’t worry Andrew; this is not goodbye.  I am sticking around for the questions.)

Frame’s Closing Statement

Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 16:37:11 -0500

We were asked how we would go about defining the Regulative Principle of Worship. I distinguished between two kinds of definition: confessional-historical and biblical-normative. The confessional-historical would be determined by a study of the Reformed confessions and the Reformed theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries. The biblical-normative definition would arise from Scripture alone.

Hart’s first statement of the matter seemed to deny this distinction altogether, to suggest that there could be no difference between the historical and the biblical definitions of the term. On further reflection, however, he agreed that the Reformed confessions and tradition could err, but we should never conclude such a thing without going through great agony, similar to the agony Luther went through when he found himself in conflict with the teaching of the Church of Rome. So horrifying is this prospect for Hart that throughout this dialogue he has, for practical purposes, assumed that both the confessions and the tradition contain no error at all, and that we must adhere to them in every detail. He evidently believes that an error in the tradition is so unlikely, and the very possibility so terrifying, that we must adopt a rhetoric that denies that possibility, even though he knows that possibility exists. Even when we go behind the tradition to look at Scripture, he says, we must have a “bias” which is almost a “presupposition” in favor of the tradition. On his view, we must read the Bible the way the tradition does, which of course practically insulates the tradition from any possible criticism. Any other methodology is, he thinks, the moral equivalent of modernism.

In my view this does only lip-service to sola Scriptura, which is just as fundamental to Reformed theology as the RPW. Indeed, the RPW is the principle of sola Scriptura, applied to worship. In Scripture, the RPW guards against the absolutization of tradition (Isa. 29:13, Matt. 15:8-9). Sola Scriptura, the RPW, and the example of the Reformers, call us to a respectful, but critical attitude toward tradition, testing it over and over again by our primary standard, God’s Word in Scripture.

Criticism of tradition by Scripture is the regular work of theology. It is not an act into which we are forced only in extreme emergency and with the greatest terror. It is rather what God expects of everyone who is called to teach in his church.

I am not horrified at the prospect of disagreeing with Calvin (or Knox, or Owen, or Gillespie) about something. Calvin, for example, was a great man of God, doubtless far greater than I. But he was a man and not an inspired writer of Scripture. Of course he made mistakes, in his life as in his doctrine. As with Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine, our task is not to accept Calvin’s teachings uncritically, but to test them by Scripture and to build on them.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do very much of that in Calvin’s case, as I see it. Luther was faced with the necessity of breaking with the Church’s very doctrine of salvation, and of rejecting the very authority structure of the church itself. No wonder he was horrified at the prospect! We don’t need to do anything near as radical as that. Maybe a few minor changes, a few different emphases here and there. Nothing to make us proud, certainly nothing to make us think that we outshine Calvin in any way. The fact that we live in a different time doesn’t make us better, though it may sometimes make us more knowledgeable or give us more perspective.

And since worship is communication, among other things, and since the language of communication changes from one century to the next, we need to reconsider our tradition also from that standpoint. We should expect to find that traditions need to change in order better to communicate God’s truth. That is a biblical principle (“intelligibility”) and a Reformational emphasis (“vernacular”). We should not change anything mandated by Scripture. But where Scripture allows liberty, we should choose forms that best communicate with people today, even if that means changing our traditions.

We also, of course, need to criticize our contemporary ideas of worship. But again I insist that this criticism proceed by means of the sola Scriptura principle. One may not invalidate some aspect of contemporary worship merely by showing it is nontraditional. Nor is it legitimate to reason in a historicist fashion, that a contemporary practice is bad because genetically linked to some historical movement we don’t like (the charismatic movement, rock music, etc.)

The leadership of the evangelical movement has to some extent passed from theologians, pastors, and apologists to church historians. The most prominent names among us today are people like Marsden, Noll, Wells, Muller, Horton, other ACE-minded folks, and so on. I’ve even heard the name of Darryl Hart listed among these worthies. I greatly admire the gifts of these men, but I do see some dangers in their ascendancy.

Their very ascendancy may have something to do with the fact that biblical inerrancy, today, is considered a total impossibility by the secular academic establishment. The secular establishment, therefore, will not give recognition to evangelicals who point to Scripture and say “thus saith the Lord.” There is no cultural prestige today in making Scriptural arguments. There is a place for biblical scholarship, but not for scholars who appeal to the Bible as an absolute norm. But evangelicals can get recognition from fashionable publishers and universities if they carry on their arguments in a historical fashion. After all, nobody can blame them if they happen to like the 17th century better than the 20th. So the situation generating the ascendancy of historically-minded scholars may itself presuppose an opposition between exegetical and historical modes of reasoning that should give us pause.

That, of course, is not in itself a criticism of the historians mentioned. In itself, a study of church history can be liberating. For some thinkers it gives perspective and breadth, helping us to see our tradition in the context of the broad movements of the universal church. The ideas of historians like Paul Woolley and D. Clair Davis often seemed to me to be a liberating breath of fresh air. They opened new possibilities for consideration and sent us scrambling back to the Scriptures to validate or invalidate them.

For others, the study of history seems to be narrowing. The thinker zeroes in on some movements he likes and others he doesn’t like. The movements he likes become paradigms of truth; the ones he doesn’t like become paradigms of error. The historian, then, formulates his doctrines historically rather than exegetically, making them agree with the movements he likes, and making them the opposite of the movements he doesn’t like. The results: (1) his theology becomes narrowly partisan and ideas from outside his tradition get summarily dismissed, (2) the nuances and depth of Scripture are lost in favor of the slogans of the historical movements, (3) we never learn anything new from God’s Word, (4) such theology imposes a bondage to tradition rather than liberation, (5) we lose the flexibility we need to communicate with our age. More on this in my “Biblicism” paper, mentioned earlier in the debate.

Hart, unfortunately, seems (in this particular debate) to be more the second type of historian than the first. But cheer up. There is no problem in Hart that a good, healthy dose of Sola Scriptura won’t cure. (That, and, of course, a bit more care in logic and in the interpretation of his opponents’ writings.)

 

Questions From the Warfield List

1. From Peter Leithart to John Frame

John,

Your arguments all seem to come from the New Testament.  What role do Old Testament concepts and patterns of worship play in your theology of liturgy?

Peter Leithart

Cambridge, UK

 

Frame’s Answer to Leithart

Early in the debate, Hart and I agreed, more or less, on a group of texts relevant to establishing the Regulative Principle, a number of which are from the OT. I also discuss OT concepts somewhat in my two books.

Obviously there is much to be derived from the OT about the nature of the God we worship, his covenant lordship, which entails our stance as servant-worshipers, our sinful condition, the necessity of worshiping on the basis of atonement, the centrality of forgiveness, the importance of God’s word, the variety of corporate musical responses (the Psalter). The OT also teaches us to worship Christocentrically, for it is focused on the promises of redemption to come. All of this is pretty standard Reformed theology, and I assume that Hart and I are agreed on these matters.

Perhaps your question, however, has to do with the ideas for which Hart has been criticizing me. Can my slightly unusual formulation of the RPW be justified from the OT?

Together with Steve Schlissel, I see a difference between the regulation of the Temple worship and that of the Synagogue. With regard to the Temple, there is a detailed architectural blueprint and much detail about the sacrificial system. We know very precisely what is to happen and when. With the Synagogue, there is almost nothing, except mention of “holy convocations” for God’s people on the Sabbath. Certainly we don’t find in the OT a “list of elements” specifically for inclusion in the Synagogue service. We can gain some general indicators of what God wants his people to do in his presence. Certainly it can be established from the OT that God approves of corporate prayer, teaching, praise, public reading of the Word.

But there are other things as well, like the ladies who danced and played the timbrela in Exodus 15; like the clapping of hands in Ps. 47:1. When I bring these up to my traditionalist friends, they tell me that, of course, these sorts of things are only occasional and are not prescribed for the regular worship of God’s people. But the trouble is that in regard to the Synagogue, nothing is prescribed specifically for its regular worship. Everything done in the Synagogue is based on theological inference, based on the general question, “What pleases God when his people assemble before him?” As an answer to this question, the argument for dancing and timbrels is just as strong as the argument for sermons expounding the Scriptures.

So I think I can appeal to the OT as well as the NT in support of an RPW based on broad theological inference rather than precise specification of “elements” for a particular service. Further, it does not seem to me that the OT limits the feasting of God’s people before the Lord to the feasts specified in Lev. 23. Scripture offers no criticism of the establishment of Purim (Esther). I would take it that the OT sets forth as a general principle that God delights in his people gathering to celebrate his deliverances; but the OT doesn’t teach that God must specify exactly what feasts are to be observed. And there seems to be flexibility, too, as to the time of their observance. (You’re not ceremonially clean to celebrate Passover at the required time? OK; celebrate it at another time, instead.)

So I see God in the OT as one who is zealous for true worship, to be sure (which in the final analysis is worship from a pure heart), and as one who reveals clearly what he delights in, but not as one who precisely describes a particular liturgy for the weekly worship of his people and who excludes everything that escapes that precise description.

So with regard to regulation as such, there isn’t much difference between the Testaments. The main differences have to do with (1) the accomplishment of the Atonement and Resurrection, memorialized in the change of Sabbath day from 7th to 1st, (2) the greater fullness of the Spirit on the NT people of God, (3) the greater boldness of NT worshipers in God’s presence, because of the rending of the veil, (4) the changing of the sacraments from bloody to unbloody ordinances.

There is OT evidence as well for my “intelligibility” emphasis:

(1) OT revelation is progressive. God reveals his plans bit by bit, from the protevangelion of Gen. 3:15 to the rich Christology of Isa. 53. There are many reasons for this, but one is surely pedagogical. The revelation moves from the simple to the complex.

(2) Much of God’s teaching is very simple, though of course profound in its implications. The Ten Commandments, Psms. 23, 117, 131, 133, Micah 6:8. Exciting stories about people like Noah, Samson, David. Repetition. Teaching from various perspectives.

(3) Much OT worship consists of visual symbols as well as word: the colors of the temple. The laver. The altars of burnt offering and incense. The showbread and show-wine. The actions performed in the sacrifices, etc. God accommodates all learning styles. His people hear, sense, watch, and do.

(4) Speech in unknown tongues is a curse against Israel. The blessing comes from language which is intelligible. The clarity of God’s word to Israel is prominent in Deut. 30, e.g. Thus a clear bridge to 1 Cor. 14 and my arguments from that. The Church in Corinth is to hear God’s word in prophecy, not uninterpreted tongues, for that is where God’s blessing (edification!) resides.

I’ve probably left out a lot that is important, but that’s what comes to mind.

 

2. From Jonathan Barlow to Darryl Hart

Date: Sat, 28 Feb 1998 01:19:06 -0500

Prof. Hart,

How is it not dispensational to only allow the singing of psalms and not the Colossians hymn or the hymn of the heavenly host in Revelation 4 and 5?  Why isn’t all scripture, that praises God, fair material for singing in a worship context?

Thanks,

Jonathan Barlow

 

Hart’s Answer to Barlow

Date: Sat, 28 Feb 1998 12:56:42 -0500

This may not be the place to enter an extended debate about exclusive psalmody.  Having grown up a dispensationalist I know that it is very un-dispensational to sing psalms.  Our hymnals seemed to prefer Fanny Crosby to David.  But I do understand the force of the question.

As I think I said in passing during the debate, I do not think the exegetical case for exclusive psalmody is air-tight.  And one of the reasons is that singing the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimitis, as Calvin’s church did, would not necessarily be included by some psalms-only folk.

But I highly approve of the idea of singing any divinely-inspired words of praise to God (or even metrical versions thereof).  Which is my major complaint not only against praise songs but also against hymnody.  It does seem that we must make qualitative assessments in thinking about worship. For me this means that the best songs to sing are the ones God has inspired.  That means all the songs and prayers of praise throughout all of the canon would be appropriate for corporate worship.  (How is that for biblicism?)  The words of Scripture are better than those of Wesley and Watts, and way better than those of Graham Kendrick or André Crouch.  In fact, my understanding of church history sees a decline in Protestant congregational singing from the 17th century to the present.  For a more extended discussion of psalmody and hymns I recommend the debate in the first two issues of the Nicotine Theological Journal.)

So no, I would not limit our words in song to the psalms, but I would limit them to the words of the Bible.  Though this is not an exegetical argument Instead, it stems from wisdom and prudence leavened by the Word of God and our theological and liturgical heritage.

 

3. From Scott Pryor to Frame and Hart

Date: Sat, 28 Feb 1998 13:06:21 -0500

As an attorney I would assess Frame’s and Hart’s relative regard for tradition vis-a-vis interpretation of the Bible in terms of differing burdens of proof. For Frame, the burden of proof on a proponent of change from patterns of traditional Presbyterian worship is low, analogous to the civil standard of a mere “preponderance of the evidence”.  Hart, on the other hand, asserts that such a proponent must prove his or her case something like “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

From both gentlemen, I ask the following:

1.   In light of the principle of sola scriptura, how do either of you justify the assignment of any weight to tradition?

2.   Assuming that you can provide such sola scriptura justification, how do each of you justify the varying weights of authority you assign to tradition?

 

Frame’s Answer to Pryor

I discuss this at some length in my CWM, 132-36. I know Hart doesn’t like me to refer to my books, but I obviously can’t reproduce these four pages here, and I think it might help readers to know where they can find my argument at greater length. I certainly don’t think that my books are the last word on any subject, and if anyone can give me a reason to rethink any of my published ideas, I will be happy to do so.

In general: Scripture tells us that God has given us, not only an inspired book, but also teachers in the church, a continuing teaching office. The teachers are not inspired as Scripture is, but they have an important role, that of teaching the biblical message to God’s people. Even in the NT period, some taught falsely, and we need therefore to be critical of these human teachers, and weigh their words by Scripture itself. But Scripture does tell us to respect our teachers, honor them, pay them for their labor, etc. In general, we should assume their rightness and therefore be in subjection. But they are not infallible. The balance between submission and respectful criticism is not easy, but we must pursue it.

Protestants historically took a position far more critical of tradition than the Roman Catholics. So critical that they spoke of sola Scriptura. But sola, of course, does not reject the idea ofsubordinate authorities. It only sets Scripture forth as the one ultimate authority.

As for the second question, I can’t argue for a particular weighting in quasi-quantitative terms. It varies a lot from issue to issue and from time to time. Illiterate people who are very young in the faith must give a lot more weight to tradition than mature Christians who are able to study the Bible for themselves. Those who are competent to do so, certainly, ought to test tradition by Scripture, in areas where the tradition may seem questionable.

Of course, in many areas there’s not much point in that. We have a tradition of starting church at 9:30 A. M. I have never searched the Scriptures to determine if the Bible contradicts this practice. I can’t imagine how it would. So often, maybe most of the time, it’s best to just go along with tradition. But where controversies arise, we must go to the Word to determine the answer.

Another area where Hart and I may disagree concerns the question of which tradition takes precedence. Hart believes that for Reformed people, particularly those who have subscribed to the Reformed confessions, the Reformed tradition takes precedence over all others and, perhaps, even governs the way we should read the Bible. Certainly, I believe that the Reformed tradition is the best among the many Christian traditions, and I have, like Hart, a certain level of bias in its favor. But I have a much greater bias toward the tradition of the entire church. My chief loyalty is to the body of Christ as such, not to any denominational section of it. So I am inclined to regard those doctrines held only by the Reformed tradition as somewhat more questionable than those held by the church universal, e.g. the doctrines of the Nicene Creed of 381.

I think, therefore, that we ought to look at non-Reformed traditions more sympathetically than we usually do, to seek insight from those who are, after all, our brothers and sisters in Christ and bearers of the wisdom of God’s Spirit. And I think we ought to see if we can reduce the barriers of misunderstanding caused, among other things, by too-heated polemical language. And the goal should be the reunification of the church. So I try to honor the Bible, the tradition of the universal church, and the Reformed tradition, in that order of authority and importance.

 

Hart’s Answer to Pryor

Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 17:41:40 -0500

Sorry, but these questions have produced a long answer, an answer that disagrees with the question’s premises, but that because of its length suggests they are very good and important questions.  Or else they touched a nerve.

Mr. Pryor’s questions connote that sola scriptura and tradition are at odds, as if tradition is a barrier to a proper understanding of the Bible.  This strikes me as a very modern and Enlightened understanding of tradition (which may explain why Protestants in America embraced the Enlightenment as much as they did.)  But there have been Protestants who did not see the two as antagonistic.  Zacharias Ursinus, one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, is said to have desired that his catechism be bound together with the Bible at the front, that church members would know how to interpret the Bible aright.  It also seems that in Presbyterian ordination vows we have a similar view of the Bible and tradition if we subscribe to the Westminster Standards as “the system of doctrine” taught in the Bible.  This suggests that the Bible teaches the Westminster Standards.  In other words, systematic theology is not a threat to the Bible but in fact a defense of it.  Creeds and catechisms, as Bavinck argued, were a way to protect the church from heresy and preserve the truth of God’s word.  So we can’t put the Bible and tradition in air tight compartments, opening the lid of the latter only after we have sealed the lid to the former.  For this reason, I believe Mr. Pryor’s questions beg another question about the relationship between the Bible and tradition.

To pose the Bible and tradition as rival authorities is to take a fairly individualistic and ahistorical view of the ways that individuals read the Bible.  We never come to the Bible in a vacuum, like we are deserted on some island and find a book that has on the binding, “Holy Bible.”  We are not like the abstract individuals of whom Locke and Hobbes conceived when talking about the origins of law and social contracts.  When we come to the Bible, if we are unbelievers, we come not only as God’s enemies, predisposed to hate what it says.  But we come situated in time and place, with assumptions about how to read (if we are literate, a big if in the overall sweep of human history), and how to interpret words, sentences, paragraphs, poetry, that are part of the culture in which we find ourselves.  In the same way, if we grow up as covenant children we are reared with a presumption in favor of the Bible, along with the ways of interpretation and theological constructions provided by parents, Sunday School teachers, and pastors.  And covenant children also carry around the baggage of their culture about words and how to interpret ancient texts and what to make of works claiming divine origin.

What we also need to remember is that we Americans live in a culture shaped in large measure by the Enlightenment.  That heritage is biased against tradition, creeds, and the dead hand of the past, and seeks liberation from all of those superstitious and bigoted barriers to truth.

In turn it is biased in favor of the rational, autonomous individual who looks at things without prejudice because guided by reason.  The Enlightenment not only bedeviled the Princeton theology’s apologetics, but more staggering was its effects on American evangelicals who established their own creed of “no creed but the Bible.”  It is amazing that in the context of the Enlightenment and America’s infatuation with science that Princetonians were as confessional as they turned out to be.  Conversely, if we want to see the effects of the Enlightenment hermeneutic on evangelicalism I recommend Nathan O. Hatch’s The Democratization of American Christianity, which documents the anti-creedalism, and anti-clericalism of Baptists, Methodists, Disciples, Mormons and African-Americans, all in the name of the Bible only, which is English for sola scriptura.

So in talking about the rival authorities of sola scripture and tradition we need to recognize that what we have here are two different traditions of reading the Bible, not simply the Reformed tradition and the Bible. The one tradition says we must read the Bible without any prejudice or presumption.  We must come to it clean and neutral.  As I understand it, that is the evangelical tradition leavened heavily by the Enlightenment and it is a remarkably naive view of human objectivity (both with regard to depravity and culture) and it is ironically a tradition.  Anyone who has grown up in evangelical or fundamentalist churches knows that these Bible only Christians have their own tradition of hermeneutics — the Scofield Reference Bible is one of the best examples.

The other tradition says that we have a hermeneutic (Reformed) and that the Bible teaches a system of doctrine.  It has ways of reading the Bible, patterns of worship, forms of government that have been around for at least 350 years.  These ways have been tested and tried.  And while new things may be learned about the Bible, challenges to the tradition’s confessional standards will always be examined to see if the argument stems exclusively from a candid reading of the Bible or from another theological or philosophical perspective hidden by the claim of “the Bible only.”

Let’s make this a little less abstract. Take the case of a new Christian who is reading the Bible through for the first time.  First, does he come to the Bible alone, really alone?  Has he merely picked the Bible up at the K-Mart and started reading and come to faith on his own?  Or more likely, has he come to the Bible under the influence of a group of Christians, whether in a local congregation, a national denomination, or a parachurch group.  (By the way, he comes to some translation, not the original Greek and Hebrew, so even the Bible he reads reflects some tradition of interpretation.  Isn’t that why the RSV is a problem?)  In which case the young Christian comes to the Bible with a tradition of biblical interpretation and a system of doctrine implicit in his understanding of Christianity.  Second, can this new convert decide the controversies of two millennia of church history on his own reading of the Bible?  Can he weigh in on Arianism, Pelagianism, justification, Arminianism, etc. on his own, sola Scriptura?  Or might he and his Christian group be relying (standing on the shoulders) of some of those debates in the past whether he knows it or not. Is he Trinitarian, is he Protestant, is he Anabaptist?  Won’t that affect his understanding of the Bible?  And shouldn’t it?  And as a church historian I would recommend that he study the history of the church and of his tradition to see where it comes from, while also looking at the way other traditions have interpreted Scripture.  The give and take of traditions will help him grow in his understanding of the Bible.  And even though some of those traditions will turn out to be more or less wrong, the study of tradition is a good thing because chances are none of us has an original interpretation of the Bible.

Let’s take another example, this time that of a Presbyterian minister.  Does he read the Bible free from tradition?  I have already argued that it is impossible for any of us to free our selves from tradition.  Even the language that we use has not been invented anew by every generation but depends on the uses of language through the ages.  But would it be a good thing for this minister to try to read the Bible apart from the Reformed tradition?  Not if we believe the Reformed tradition is true.  And not if this minister has fully considered the solemnity of his ordination vows.  If as the Westminster Confession teaches a person should swear to “nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth,” then why would we expect a Presbyterian minister to come to the Bible as if the Westminster Standards were up in the balance.  Can his deeply held convictions be turned on and off like a light so that he comes to the Bible without prejudice?  And isn’t it a good thing to have Presbyterian ministers who have firm and deep convictions about the truth of the Reformed faith?  Presbyterianism, I believe, is not just a form of government, plus the Westminster Standards.  It is a way of life, with a distinctive piety that orders not only the way we read the Bible and the way we worship God but also the way we order our week and live out our vocations.  Presbyterianism is an identity, not an opinion.  What is more, by the nature of his vows this minister is bound to read the Bible in certain ways, that is, ways that promote and defend the Westminster Standards.  He is bound to do this because in taking these vows his own integrity is at stake.  If he has sworn to the Standards and then disagrees with them without notifying the proper authorities he is in danger of losing his integrity.  (While I am at it, the kind of binding implied in adhering to traditions, it seems to me is a good thing.  Human nature being what it is, restraint of sinfulness and pride is valuable.  Of course, it is not valuable if it leads to false religion.  But liberty from tradition for the sake of not being narrow, sectarian or rigid sounds to me like the kind of liberty promoted by the Enlightenment, a liberty that presuppositionalism has taught us is a bad thing.)

This does not mean that there are no dangers in tradition.  As the Confession says in chapter one, controversies of religion are to be decided not by what Calvin, Warfield, or Machen taught, but on the basis of what Scripture teaches.  But in a church that requires subscription to the Standards the teachings of the Standards are not supposed to be controversial.  What may be controversial are the religious implications of scientific teachings, cultural developments, or some reading of Scripture that falls outside the Standards.  But the Standards themselves are not supposed to be controverted in a confessional church.  If they are, then the ministers seeking ordination who believe the tradition is controverted may want to look for another communion.  As one student recently said to me, if someone comes before presbytery and takes exception to infant baptism, even making a credible but not persuasive exegetical case, what is presbytery supposed to do, ordain him and change the Standards (a possibility) or show him the exegetical case, i.e. the Reformed interpretation of baptism as taught in the Bible?  In other words, individuals not convinced of the exegetical case that Reformed have made historically for their confessions should not seek ordination in Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

But if we recognize the dangers of excessive reliance on tradition, we should also recognize the dangers of the Enlightenment tradition’s quest for liberation from tradition, that is, the tradition of no tradition. This tradition exalts the individual and fosters the notion that the individual is autonomous.  Not only does this view conflict with God’s claims upon all his creatures, but it also flies in the face of human history.  As much as we try there is no escaping the past.  For that reason we had better be more discerning about the past to see which tradition is shaping us.

 

4. From Adam Brice to Frame

In WTJ 59/2 you quote Van Til favorably:  ”. . . [Scripture] speaks of everything either directly or indirectly.”  In the debate you fault the Puritans for “their attempt to define a RP that pertains to worship and not to the rest of life.”  Aren’t the Puritans simply saying with Van Til that Scripture regulates public worship more directly (and thus differently) than it regulates other areas of life?”

 

Frame’s Answer to Brice

Date: Sun, 1 Mar 1998 17:17:00 -0500

If you mean merely that Scripture speaks explicitly of worship, though it does not speak explicitly of airplanes, etc., then I agree that Scripture speaks of worship “more directly.” If that were all the Puritans meant by distinguishing two RPs, I would have no trouble agreeing with them.

Evidently, however, they did mean more than that. 20:2 of the Westminster Confession says that we are “free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to the Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship.” The idea seems to be that we are always free from anything contrary to the Word, but only in the faith-worship area are we free from anything “beside” the Word. So it is not just that Scripture addresses worship more directly than other things; rather the point is that there are two different RPs: one for faith-worship, the other for the rest of life.

I question the validity of that distinction. Scripture is sufficient for all of life. Not in that it gives specific directions for repairing cars, etc., but in that it gives us all the divine words that we need to glorify God in auto repairing or any other activity (1 Cor. 10:31). Since God’s commands cover all of human life, everything we do should be in obedience to a divine command. We are never to imagine that we are neutral, or that we can act on our own, without God’s wisdom.

Scripture gives us the ultimate norms for all activities, but of course we must apply those norms to specific situations. And to do that, of course, we must have knowledge of the situation, knowledge which is often found outside of Scripture.

Now is the situation any different for worship? Again, Scripture is sufficient for everything in worship, as for all the rest of life. Everything we do in worship is to be the application of a divine command. But, as in the rest of life, we must apply those commands to each specific worship setting. For example, the Word tells us to worship, but it doesn’t tell us where, or at what time of day.  We must decide the latter questions, based both on Scripture and upon our knowledge of the congregation, community, culture, etc.

When the Confession says that in worship we are free from anything ”beside” the Word, it does not mean to deny the necessity of making such applications. It is only saying that the Word alone supplies our ultimate norms for worship. We are free from anything “beside” the Word that claims such ultimacy. But we are not free from the necessity of gathering information beyond the Scriptures in order to apply the Scriptures to our situation.

But this is the same as in other areas of life. Scripture is our sufficient source of ultimate norms. Everything we do is obedience to a Scriptural principle. But we do need information beyond the Bible to apply its principles appropriately and wisely. So in both worship and in the rest of life God governs us the same way: (1) by sufficient Scriptural revelation, so that we are free from anything either contrary to it or beside it; (2) by natural revelation, by which we gain information we need to apply the biblical principles.

 

5. From Chris Coldwell to Hart and Frame

Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 17:57:37 -0500

Here is a question to both Dr. Hart and Professor Frame: ”Given your particular understanding of the RPW, how would you go about proving or disproving that a certain purported worship activity (dancing, sword-fights, fire-eating or whatever) is or is not approved by God.  Please demonstrate the exegetical approach you would use rather than simply describing it.”

 

Frame’s Answer to Chris Coldwell 

Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 23:35:49 -0500

Concerning purported worship activity A, I would ask these questions, in roughly this order:

1. Has God directly commanded A in Scripture? Then God approves of it.

2. Has God directly forbidden it in Scripture? Then God disapproves of it.

3. Are there biblical examples of A being done in worship, without any explicit or implicit criticism by the biblical writers?  If so, then God approves of it.

4. Is it possible to deduce the propriety of A by “good and necessary consequence?” (logical deduction) If so, then God approves.

5. If none of the above settle the issue: Does Scripture command an activity in worship which can best be carried out by doing A? If so, then God approves.

I take it that God approves of dancing generally in the light of #1, since there are biblical commands to praise him in the dance. He evidently does not require us to do this in every meeting with him, however, so he also approves of worship in which dancing does not take place.

Sword fights and fire eating fail all the tests, except, perhaps, as portions of dramas illustrating biblical truths. In some cases that could be justified by #5: the church makes a judgment that teaching a particular biblical truth can best be accomplished by that kind of drama.

 

Hart’s Answer to Chris Coldwell

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 00:06:40 -0500

[concerned that all the list members may not have received it.]

I think my answer will disappoint, so I apologize at the outset.  You see, my understanding of the RPW is not just an abstract one for how to determine what goes in worship but comes with a firm idea of what the acceptable elements of worship are.   For instance, the WCF 21.i not only defines the RPW but goes on in 21.iii-v to enumerate the particular elements of biblical worship.  For this reason the burden shifts to those who want to add to this list to make an exegetical case for them.   And by the way, I can’t for the life of me think of anyway to make an exegetical case for anything mentioned in the question except for dance.  But I would hope that those who run to the examples of dance in the OT will keep in mind to distinguish between dance done in the temple and dance performed in the courtyard, that is dance that was liturgical versus dance that was political (the latter would, of course, had religious dimensions since Israel was a theocracy, but it would not be an adequate rationale for the church whose worship is not civil).

Again, I apologize if this answer does not satisfy, or if it shows my inability to move beyond my Presbyterian ghetto.  But then again, I think most people would understand an Orthodox Jew’s refusal to make a case for eating pork from the Torah.

 

6. From Ginger Dykes, to Hart and/or Frame

Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 18:01:04 -0500

I have read most of the debate concerning P&W music in our worship services. I feel you both made some very good points. Our church does P&W every other week.  The youth of our church like it because they really feel they are able to praise God better when they like what is being sung. I can understand that thinking, but often wonder if some of the choices God would like.  That should be #1 in our choices.  It should always praise him, and not man’s activities.   It seems that it should be possible to put a more modern beat to the Psalms.  That way the words are what God intended, and the people’s response to the tune may keep their minds on what they are actually saying.

What do you think of that?

————————————————————————

Either or both can answer, because I truly am more conservative in my thinking now, but once thought strictly like our youth of today. Thanks for the thought provoking debate.

Ginger Dykes

 

Frame’s Answer to Ginger Dykes

Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 23:33:57 -0500

I have read most of the debate concerning P&W music in our worship services. I feel you both made some very good points.

Thanks!

Our church does P&W every other week.  The youth of our church like it because they really feel they are able to praise God better when they like what is being sung. I can understand that thinking, but often wonder if some of the choices God would like.  That should be #1 in our choices.  It should always praise him, and not man’s activities.

Right. And of course this is the most important consideration no matter what styles of song you are using. There are a lot of traditional style songs that God doesn’t like.

It seems that it should be possible to put a more modern beat to the Psalms.

Yes. Many contemporary praise songs are based on the Psalms. Some are settings of entire Psalms.

That way the words are what God intended,

I disagree with Darryl Hart’s exclusive Psalmody (actually an almost-exclusive biblical song view, if I caught all the qualifications). I think that there are extra-biblical hymns that are acceptable to God. I argue the point in chapter 11 of my Worship in Spirit and Truth.

and the people’s response to the tune may keep their minds on what they are actually saying. What do you think of that?

I think that’s great. I wouldn’t restrict the congregational song to Psalm versions, but I do think we should use some Psalms in worship, and I think that some of the contemporary arrangements are quite appropriate.

Either or both can answer, because I truly am more conservative in my thinking now, but once thought strictly like our youth of today. Thanks for the thought provoking debate.

You’re welcome.

 

Hart’s Answer to Ginger Dykes

Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 23:47:21 -0500

It is possible to put the psalms to a more lively beat.  But we don’t have to look to the twentieth century.  Calvin already did with the Genevan Psalter.  Prof. Frame already referred to some of those tunes, which won the nickname, Genevan Jigs.  Though the purpose of that music was not for dance, usually the aim of contemporary music.  Instead, it was to provide a tune that was singable and appropriate to biblical worship.

I do not object to music being composed today for congregational singing (though I might if the Westminster Divines had composed any — only kidding).  In fact, Leonard Payton, a musician at a PCA church in Austin, is doing so and has written thoughtfully about church music.  But I would firmly resist any reference in contemporary compositions to rock music, the worldly associations of which, I believe, are not fitting for Christian worship.

I do think the church needs to give far greater attention to music.  Few Christians are musically literate and if they are they tend to want the music they prefer, classical or jazz, in worship.  But our music should not be based on our preferences.  Instead it should be singable by the whole congregation and be appropriate to convey the congregation’s praise and prayer to God.

By the way, it sounds to me from your question that part of the problem may not be with music but with the friction that often comes between youth and adult culture.  I recommend highly a book by a group of Calvin College faculty on youth culture, entitled Dancing in the Dark, one of the most thoughtful books on popular culture I have read by Christians, aside from Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes.  Teaching teenagers to be discerning about their cultural tastes is hard work but important to their well-being and that of God’s people.

 

7. From Matt Irvine to Hart

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 00:33:04 -0500

Prof. Hart,

These questions refer to the “form/content” issue.  It is also my attempt to see how your argument re: the RPW would work itself out in realm of missiology/contextualization.

By claiming that the biblical forms of worship are mandated in addition to the content (and then equating those forms with those implemented historically in the Presbyterian church) isn’t there a danger that we are adding purely cultural items/interpretations to biblical content/truths?

Would/should  the “outward form” of  a “Presbyterian worship sevice” in a “Presbyterian church” (one which desires, of course, to follow the RPW) change–in ways other than mere language translation–for Presbyterian churches in 17th century Geneva, 18th century Scotland, 19th century USA, 1990 England, 1990 USA, 1990 India, 1990 Bolivia, 1990 Papua New Guinea?

If we try to use the result of the RPW being applied in other times and cultures as our model for creating worship services faithful to the RPW in our time or our culture–without going through the same process of directly applying the (biblical) RPW to our time or our culture–aren’t we in danger of committing some of the same mistakes which many of the 19th century missionaries made when they (often unknowingly) exported an admixure of biblical truth and cultural baggage?

Thanks,

Matt Irvine

 

Hart’s Answer to Irvine

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 22:26:05 -0500

The issue of baptizing a particular cultural form in the name of biblical truth is indeed a problem, one that has haunted Western Christian missionaries.  I am also anxious not to be misunderstood.

We need to make distinctions between elements, circumstances and forms. Elements are those regular parts of worship that the Confession talks about in chapter 21, the things that the Bible requires for Christian worship, such as the word, prayer and sacraments.

Circumstances concern those things that will allow these elements to take place corporately, as a body, such as when, where, how long we meet, whether to use lights, amplification, etc.  These things, as chapter 1 of the Confession says, are to be determined on the basis of Christian prudence and the general principles of Scripture.  In other words, the Bible doesn’t say we have to worship at 10:00 am on Sunday mornings but it does say we should gather together.  Setting a time for such a gathering helps us observe what the Bible requires.

Forms concern the content of the elements.  We are commanded to sing, but what do we sing, How Great Thou Art (ok), Psalm 1 (good), or Shine Jesus, Shine (inferior)?  We are commanded to pray, but what prayer do we use, one from Baird’s book of liturgies (fine), one written by the worship committee (ok as long as elders are in the majority), the spontaneous prayer of an elder (well?), or the Lord’s Prayer (good).  The Bible does not specify what we should do but has left it up to Christian prudence.

I am still not sure whether the music by which a congregation sings is a circumstance or a form.  From one angle it can be viewed as simply a device to allow the congregation to sing together.  But from another perspective it is a form of human expression that communicates something even if not propositional.  For that reason I tend to think of it as a form.  And here I believe that our forms should always cultivate reverence (again keeping in mind that I think rejoicing should also be done reverently).  Different cultures will express reverence in different ways.  So I am not a Western imperialist insisting that Reformed churches around the world use Irish and Welsh folk tunes.  But the fact that I am ignorant of other cultures does not mean that I am incapable of assessing the forms we use here in the US of A.  And for the life of me I cannot conceive of a way to say that rock music is reverent.  It is not a musical form designed to express reverence. So while American culture should not determine the forms used in other parts of the world, neither should the fact that other cultures are different relativize American cultural expressions. 

 

8.  From Daniel Lee to Hart and Frame

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 00:42:02 -0500

As a Presbyterian architect and artist, I am focused on how Christ and culture intersect.  Artistic styles and forms change in response to new ideas and changing worldviews.

The following question is for both gentlemen:

If there is a “correct” form for music used in worship, as Prof. Hart asserts, can we rightly assume that there must also be a correct form for the architecture, vestments, etc., used in Reformed worship.  Must we clinically mimic the forms used in Temple worship or Calvin’s Geneva, to glorify God?  If so, should we as believers encourage these “approved” artistic forms onto the culture around us as part of our effort to be salt and light to the earth? R.C.Sproul prefers gothic architecture; should churches we build in Japan be in the Gothic style?

Daniel Lee

 

Frame’s Answer to Daniel Lee 

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 22:03:21 -0500

If there is a “correct” form for music used in worship, as Prof. Hart asserts, can we rightly assume that there must also be a correct form for the architecture, vestments, etc., used in Reformed worship.

I don’t think there is “a correct form” of music or of architecture. That doesn’t mean anything goes. Certainly we must evaluate the possible forms with biblical standards in mind. But once that evaluation process is completed, I think we will usually wind up with a number of candidates, not just one, that pass biblical muster.

The evaluation process will ask questions such as (1) does the form involve anything plainly distasteful to God (e.g. graven images)? (2) does the form create confusion as to any biblical teaching? (3) does the form provide advantages in achieving the goals of worship? (4) if the form is otherwise unobjectionable (1, 2) and advantageous (3), we should ask about the likely response of unbelievers, seekers, visitors. Will the architectural form attract them to the services or turn them away?

Must we clinically mimic the forms used in Temple worship or Calvin’s Geneva, to glorify God?

Certainly not, though both may be instructive.

If so, should we as believers encourage these “approved” artistic forms onto The culture around us as part of our effort to be salt and light to the earth?

You mean encourage their use in houses and shops? Certainly that doesn’t follow. Forms ideal for worship will not necessarily be ideal, or even appropriate, for other purposes.

R.C.Sproul prefers gothic architecture; should churches we build in Japan be in the Gothic style?

I disagree with RC on this, assuming you have stated his view correctly. I love the cathedrals, but I would never advocate that for, say, a contemporary PCA. I think that church architecture should be primarily functional and economical, only secondarily symbolic.

I’d like to hope that fans of Gothic architecture would be wise enough to limit their preference to areas of western culture, where Gothic architecture has some recognizable symbolic meaning. Israel’s temple was far from Gothic, and that is the closest thing we have to a divinely inspired architectural model.

 

Hart’s Answer to Daniel Lee

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 22:27:27 -0500

I think that most of what I wrote in response to Mr. Irvine applies here.

The RPW gives us a great deal of freedom with circumstances and forms, as long as these follow the general teachings of the Bible and Christian prudence.  Though one of the hallmarks of Reformed worship has been simplicity or a lack of ornamentation — we don’t let anything take away from the Word, and spirituality — we worship in spirit, not with lots of externals (though we have to worship with some externals because we exist as embodied souls).  Evelyn Underhill’s description of Calvin’s and Puritan worship in his book Worship is provocative for thinking about the links between Reformed practice and theology of worship.  So churches have freedom in architecture and other circumstantial concerns, though ostentatious display should be avoided.  (One of the most attractive Presbyterian churches I have seen is Bethel, OPC in Wheaton which captures well Reformed simplicity while also being dignified.)

We also need to recognize that Old Testament worship is over.  This was what our Lord taught the Samaritan woman in John 4.  Israel worshiped on Mt. Zion but the day was coming when God’s people would no longer have to gather in Jerusalem to participate in true worship.  In the age of the Spirit, the church would worship in all nations and in all tongues.  So it seems to me a serious step backwards in redemptive history to try to replicate some of the forms that the Israelites used.  It also seems very selective to take some of those patterns from the OT but not all of them.

 

9. From Gabriel Nave to Frame

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 19:11:58 -0500

Re- Frame’s Closing Statement

Prof. Frame,

My question is somewhat off the topic of the RPW but, I believe, one which might be helpful for me in understanding where you are coming from. In your closing statement you wrote the following:

The leadership of the evangelical movement has to some extent passed from theologians, pastors, and apologists to church historians….

In a number of recent articles you have expressed this distaste for ”church historians” (though I don’t believe I’ve seen you make any such comments about those who sit on the faculty with you at WTSCA). There are two paradigmatic issues which I would like to propose and have you respond to, as I believe they will be helpful to all of us in understanding the present debate.

1.  You seem to use the term “church historians” to apply to a variety of people as a means to minimize the fact that the men (at least most of them) are historical theologians, who would see the Bible as normative and see their primary task to be that of analyzing the historical development and relative truth or various doctrines. Most importantly, they recognize that doctrines do not develop in a vacuum but in real historical movements of the church. Are you willing to grant that the job of the historical theologian really incorporates the work of the systematic and biblical theologian? If not, why would you insist that our dogmatics not be founded on the historical doctrines of the church?

2. My second question is similar but perhaps more personal. It seems to me that Dr. Hart (et al) are using the common grace means of historical  methodology to analyze movements within the church, with Scripture as their norm. You seem to find this wholly inappropriate. At the same  time, it seems to me that you are using the common grace means of philosophy (which you derive within the historical tradition of Van Til) to analyze doctrines of the church. Is this a fair analogy for one to make? If you deny it, what is it that allows your theological method to be more valid than theirs?

 

Frame’s Reply to Nave

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 22:06:35 -0500

You quote me,

The leadership of the evangelical movement has to some extent passed from theologians, pastors, and apologists to church historians….

Then you say,

In a number of recent articles you have expressed this distaste for  ”church historians” (though I don’t believe I’ve seen you make any such comments about those who sit on the faculty with you at WTSCA).

Now, wait a minute! You’re pulling a Hart on me, quoting a few words of mine and ignoring all the qualifications, disclaimers, etc. that I’ve put on them. So you state my view in a very misleading and unfair way. I have no “distaste for ‘church historians’.” Every time I have written on this subject, including the present debate, I have made clear that I greatly admire church historians, particularly the ones I criticize. I also mentioned in the debate my great admiration of Paul Woolley and Clair Davis. As for my colleagues at WTSC, I have a lot of admiration for them as well, plus a few disagreements, which I prefer now not to air in public.

I have made a few public criticisms of  Wells, Muller, Hart, and some others. But can’t I make those criticisms without somebody telling me that I dislike these men, or that I object to their efforts in some general way? I have said some very complimentary things about Wells and Muller specifically. They deserve their fame and their prominence, every ounce of it. I’m not even a little bit jealous of them. But can’t I admire people and also challenge them with a few criticisms? Iron sharpening iron, as Proverbs puts it?

Your approach is a symptom of the very problem I’m concerned about. That problem is that as our orientation becomes more historical in focus, and less exegetical, we seem to have a hard time making fine distinctions. We affiliate with one group or other and defend everything that happens in that movement. We disaffiliate with another group and thereafter find no good in what they do. This is partisanship.

So you assume that I am partisan too. I am, supposedly, anti-historians, because I have expressed a few criticisms of historians. You seem to think that if I liked historians I would never say anything critical about any of them. But I disclaim that kind of partisanship. My position is sola Scriptura. Therefore, I am not a partisan for or against any human movement. That is to say, I don’t agree with anybody 100% of the time, nor do I disagree with anybody 100% of the time. (To be honest, when I hear somebody say that he subscribes to  the WCF without exception, I take it as evidence that he hasn’t been thinking very hard.)

Rather, I try to love all my fellow Christians, support their labors in the Lord, and, when necessary, challenge them with biblical criticisms. My criticisms do not mean in the least that I am against them or have a “distaste” for them. Please choose your words more carefully.

I may seem overly sensitive about this, because I’ve been reading reviews of my Van Til book. Some have been favorable; some have made useful criticisms. But there have been a couple that have bawled me out simply because at some points I have dared to differ with Van Til’s conclusions. These writers evidently think that I have an obligation to agree with CVT 100% of the time, or else be totally against him.

In the book, I complained about the “movement mentality” among some Van Til disciples: people who expect us to be totally uncritical of their man.  I expected reviewers to tell me that there weren’t any such people, that my complaints merely expressed my paranoia. I worried that I might be charged with straw-men, caricature, etc. But, I kid you not– two reviewers were far worse than any caricature I might have drawn!

So come on, now, folks! We can help each other a lot more if we learn to criticize one another– and accept criticism– without totally rejecting one another’s work.

Sorry for this extended preface! Gabe, you touched a hot button! Now you say,

There are two paradigmatic issues which I would like to propose and have you respond to, as I believe they will be helpful to all of us in understanding the present debate.

1.  You seem to use the term “church historians” to apply to a variety of people as a means minimize the fact that the men (at least most of them) are historical theologians, who would see the Bible as normative and see their primary task to be that of analyzing the historical development and relative truth or various doctrines.

If you read my reply to Wells in the WTJ exchange, you will see that I warmly commend him for his allegiance to Scripture as the ultimate norm. Certainly you are right in identifying their primary task as they see it.

Most importantly, they recognize that doctrines do not develop in a vacuum but in real historical movements of the church.

I have never denied this. I don’t know what this has to do with anything we’re debating. Certainly a historical theologian must describe this process. And certainly if a historian attempts formulations of doctrine, he must formulate them in view of his own historical situation. (I call this the “situational perspective” in my *Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.*)

Are you willing to grant that the job of the historical theologian really incorporates the work of the systematic and biblical theologian?

Ideally, sure. But it’s hard to be expert in all of these disciplines. So a good historical theologian will be in conversation with those working in biblical and systematic fields.

If not, why would you insist that our dogmatics not be founded on the historical doctrines of the church?

I’m not sure what you’re asking here. Are you asking why I object to basing dogmatics on historical theology? Well, if historical theologians did their job perfectly well, there would be no problem. Historical theology would differ from biblical and systematics only in “perspective.” But as I say above, historical theology is never done perfectly, so we need to check the work of the historical theologian by a direct study of the Scriptures.

Or are you asking why I object to basing dogmatics on the historical doctrines– such as, presumably, the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, etc.? In fact I have no objection whatever to basing dogmatics on these, and I can’t imagine why you would think I do object.

Or are you asking why I object to basing doctrines on tradition alone (i.e. confessions and theologies), without testing them by the Bible? I do object to that, because doing so is Roman Catholic, not Protestant. This approach to doctrine violates sola Scriptura.

2. My second question is similar but perhaps more personal. It seems to me that Dr. Hart (et al) are using the common grace means of historical methodology to analyze movements within the church, with Scripture as their norm.

I really don’t understand what you mean by “common grace means of historical methodology.”

You seem to find this wholly inappropriate. At the same time, it seems to me that you are using the common grace means of philosophy (which you derive within the historical tradition of Van Til) to analyze doctrines of the church. Is this a fair analogy for one to make? If you deny it, what is it that allows your theological method to be more valid than theirs?

Oh. Well, evidently what you are saying is that Hart et al use extra-biblical information from history, and Frame uses extra-biblical information from philosophy, so why prefer the one to the other? Both justify the use of extra-biblical information by the principle of common grace.

My complaint against the historians is not that they make use of historical facts to apply biblical principles to situations. That is a perfectly good thing to do. Nor do I object to their using extra-biblical knowledge of logic, hermeneutics, etc. to understand Scripture. My complaint is that they sometimes attach themselves uncritically to certain theological and ecclesiastical movements without biblical warrant, and they sometimes set themselves against other movements in toto, again without biblical warrant.

So if you want to draw a parallel between them and me, you would have to show that I have attached myself uncritically to some non-Christian philosophical movement, or that I use some such movement as my paradigm of evil. I don’t think you’ll be able to show that.

If sola Scriptura were our rule, we would never be totally uncritical, or totally critical, of anybody in the church.

 

10. From Steven Johnson to Frame and Hart

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 22:12:04 -0500

A lot of people, myself included, are extremely distracted by poor artistry in church music.  Style is not the issue.  In the hands of the artistically gifted (e.g. Frame himself), almost any style, whether P&W, traditional hymns, blues, baroque, whatever, can be made to serve the worship purpose well instead of becoming an annoying distraction.  But artful use of these styles is the exception.  Distraction of the artistically sensitive is the rule.  I know culturally cutting edge artists who would rather die than set foot in a church.  It almost makes me wonder if it would be better to have utterly minimal artistic expression rather than feature an artistic emphasis that is loud, prominent, and bad.  The “top 40″ demographics that most of these church planting strategies are aiming at don’t mind, but cultural leaders do, and they are conspicuously absent from our churches.  (Remember, Las Vegas is more popular than Greenwich Village, but the latter is more influential.  Bob Dylan led society more than Burt Bacharach.)  I should think that if the music is kept both accessible and artful, we will alienate neither group, and then the leading artists of society would no longer be repulsed from our churches, and in due course would enter in and remedy the evangelical talent drain that decades of anti-cultural attitudes and repulsive subcultural music forms have produced.

So I’m pondering over two answers to the question, “How can we make the music serve the worship purpose and distract as few persons as possible from that purpose?”  The two answers are:

1) Minimize musical artistic expression so that it ceases to be an issue. (But, then again, is this really possible?)

2) Do the worship music as artfully as possible, allowing the most talented persons available to lead artistically, minimizing “taste wars” by doing the best of various styles well, with a view to focusing attention on Christ rather than on the music itself or the performance of it.

What do you think?  Which option is best?  Or would you suggest an alternative to these two?

 

Frame’s Answer to Steven Johnson

Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 00:45:40 -0500

Dear Steve,

Thanks for your kind words about my “artistic gifts.” Certainly poor artistry in the church is a turn-off for many– and not only for professional artists. In one sense (are you listening, Darryl?) I think that cultural artistic standards have gotten higher in our century, because of the growing availability of CDs, concerts on TV, radio, etc. People know what professional musicianship sounds like, and they expect that everywhere, including church.

That is a Scriptural concern. The temple singers and players in Israel were supposed to be “skillful” (Psm. 33:3, 1 Chr. 15:22, etc.). On the other hand, congregational singing is for all believers, even for those who have tin ears. We certainly can’t forbid people to sing praises to God because they are poor singers. At that point, at least, questions of musical quality have to take second place.

And of course there is the question of how people learn to become skillful. Certainly an instrumentalist should be pretty proficient before he/she is asked to play for worship. But even if the musician is a good player, he may be nervous in his first times of playing for a congregation. And there is no way to learn the nuances of hymn accompaniment (in any style) except actually doing it. So, just as we allow seminary students to practice their preaching before real congregations, so we must allow young musicians to practice their accompanying skills with real congregations.

Now I think that as a rule churches ought to use only “skillful” artists in worship. But skill is a matter of degree, and there will be some times when, either from necessity or as part of a training program, we need to use talents that are less than first rate.

I like Steve’s suggestion that when less skillful people are before the congregation they should keep the volume down somewhat. I would not favor singing less, but I would counsel beginning accompanists to be as self-effacing as the music permits them to be. (That may be a good rule for the more experienced as well!)

But no matter how wisely we deal with this issue, many churches will have to face the fact that even their most skillful artists are not comparable with the professionals on the CDs and TV. Then what? Or what do we say to a “cutting edge artist” who visits our church and announces he will never be back because of the quality of the music?

First, I’d probably suggest to him that he try a larger church, one that has a more professional music ministry. Even though I am somewhat musical myself, I don’t think I would ever refuse to attend a church for that sort of reason. But if he really feels that strongly about it, then he should go somewhere where that doesn’t become an issue, or where it cannot become an excuse.

But what if he says, “I won’t step inside the door of ANY church until you Christians get better music?” I’d say to him, in as nice a way as possible, that his values are all screwed up. Musical skill is of some importance, but it is far secondary to the fellowship of the body of Christ, including the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments. If he cannot bear the pain of some substandard music for the inestimable riches of Jesus Christ (and you can’t have Jesus without His Church), then he is no disciple of Jesus. If he is so very sensitive aesthetically, he should compare the choirs of Heaven with the screams of Hell.

So I think we should do the best we can to find skillful music leaders, and to make the less skillful ones less obtrusive. But when push comes to shove, the gospel has to take precedence over our aesthetic ideals.

Blessings,

JF

 

Hart’s Answer to Steven Johnson

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 22:24:40 -0500

My quick response is I prefer option 1.  We should have music that is simple, that does not draw attention to itself.  This fits with the simplicity emphasized historically by Reformed worship, that is, worship that does not distract worshipers from the word of God.  Option 2 would not only leave churches without gifted musicians out, but music performed well does draw attention to the performer, the composer, not to God, for whom we are singing in worship.  Which may explain why so many churches have begun to add applause as an element of worship.

Now, of course, people who are not used to simple music will be distracted by it (as will people not used to Reformed teaching and preaching).  But so too will people not used to congregational singing, which is most of American culture.  The only time that most Americans now sing together (that is, not in cars or showers when they sing along with the radio or CD player, or when they are at a rock concert singing along with Bono  [folks don't sing along with Luciano Pavorati at the Met]) is at a sporting event when they sing the Canadian National Anthem and/or the Star Spangled Banner.   This is another reason why using contemporary music does not necessarily make worship intelligible, since rarely do Americans gather to sing together.  (The situation is different in Wales, I have heard.)

I am leery (as you might predict by now), however, about worrying too much about how our worship affects the people gathered for worship.  God is the audience for worship and we should determine first whether it is pleasing to him, based on what we know from the Bible, Christian prudence and circumstances common to human actions and societies.  And as long as we can with good conscience use music that is pleasing to God, then we do not need to change to accommodate outsiders, or new believers.  What we must do with those who do not understand our music, and all parts of our worship for that matter, is instruct them what we are doing in congregational song (and in worship) and the biblical rationale for what our church sings (and the way it worships).

 

11. From Brian Nolder to Hart

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 22:35:11 -0500

Are there any instances of post-WWII hymnody that you consider worthy of RPW?

 

11A. From Brian Nolder to Frame

Doesn’t the fact that much CWM was originally written for the solo voice make it difficult for congregational singing, viz., the syncopation/phrasing of modern pop is often impossible for non-professional  singers to execute with precision?

 

Frame’s Answer to Brian Nolder

Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 23:37:31 -0500

Well, most CCM is written for solo voice or for singing “groups.” But most CWM– songs written mainly for worship– are written for congregations. There are, of course, some syncopations, but almost none of the ornamentation you find in pop recordings.  I think that contemporary congregations generally have an “ear” for the syncopations. It doesn’t bother them, because that’s the way popular music is typically written today. They don’t, of course, get it absolutely precisely. But in this type of music, precision isn’t a big deal.

Seriously, I just have never found this to be a problem in our congregation. They sing out, they sing accurately for the most part– certainly as accurately as they sing traditional hymns.

But to be honest, as an accompanist learning new songs, I often have a terrible time figuring out the syncopated note values!

 

Hart’s Answer to Brian Nolder

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 22:23:13 -0500

(Hi Brian)

Since Ralph Vaughn Williams lived until 1958 there is always a chance for good hymnody after World War II (by hymnody I mean the tunes by which hymns are sung, though a hymn, by definition consists of text and tune).  Vaughn Williams arrangements of the simple folk tunes, Kingsfold and Forest Green, for example, are among the loveliest tunes I know.   They are also simple, dignified, and singable.

But our sojourn in the CRC also exposed me to other good composers writing hymn tunes after World War II.  Fred Pratt Green is one name I remember. And the CRC’s own Emily Brink and Dale Grotenhuis have written good music appropriate for congregational singing.  The PCA’s Leonard Payton is another example of good music being written in the latter half of the twentieth century.  So while I have high regard for the Genevan Psalter and its music, I am not stuck in the 16th century.  (By the way, the Episcopal Church also has lots of good melodies of recent vintage in its 1982 hymnal.)

The problem comes, however, when we compare the music written for hymns against the music used in P&W services.  The former is designed for congregational singing and is generally dignified, though there are occasions when tune does not fit text.  P&W music, however, has often come out of a performance environment and been imported directly from the stage or CD to the congregation. (The magazine, Worship Leader, is a crass example of this.)  What is more, many of the post-WWII hymns were commissioned by churches for inclusion in their hymnals.  In contrast, the P&W songs being offered in various songbooks started on CD or on the radio, thereby creating a market, which music executives in Nashville and LA appealed to in the creation of songbooks for churches.  In other words, much of the P&W genre did not come out of structures accountable to the church.  Instead, it came out of market mechanisms.  So not only is the music different, but, to use a Marxist phrase, so are the means of production.  It may be a genetic fallacy to say that all music produced by the free market of the music industry is always suspect.  But it is naive to think that the origins (both economic and theological) of the music we sing are neutral.

 

12. From Seth Earl to Hart

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 22:53:31 -0500

In numerous posts you refer to the ccm songs as having a rock aura (for lack of a better word right now) in its composition.  We have praise and worship music in our church, none of whose tunes I would put on the Billboard Top Twenty.  :)  I was wondering if you could cite some examples of  CCM songs used in worship that you would disagree with?

Seth

 

Hart’s Answer to Seth Earl

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 22:21:27 -0500

I talked of the Rock origins of P&W in part because that is where Prof. Frame said much of it comes from.  Another giveaway is the instrumentation congregations use — drums,  and electric guitars.  But obviously, not all of the music that I deem inappropriate for corporate worship is soft rock. Some is schmaltzy like Barry Manilow.  Neither rock or schmaltz, I would argue, are fitting a God who is a consuming fire.

But since you asked for examples I will give a few examples.  The first, (and Prof. Frame won’t be surprised) is “Shine Jesus Shine” (I am never sure where the commas go).  The song is hard to sing with its syncopation and range.  Also the song doesn’t make sense.  What does “Blaze Spirit Blaze” mean?  And what is the river that is flowing?  Think of the flood and the Exodus and you might want to rephrase some of the verse.  What is more, how is that intelligible if people don’t know what the words mean?  And what about authorial intent (something we believe important for understanding the Bible)?  What does the charismatic Graham Kendrick mean by his words?

“Majesty” is another.  I don’t like the tune, period.  But what about the line, “worship his majesty.”  Since when do we worship God’s attributes instead of God himself?

“As the Deer Pants for Water” is objectionable because it uses the first verse of Psalm 42 and never looks back.

“I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord” never sings of his mercies but only of my singing them.  It is like the old hymn, “Tell Me the Old, Old Story.” It never tells the story.  After singing it you want to shout TELL ME, WOULD YOU?

So those are some of the songs I can think of off the top of my head.  But the point isn’t what I like as much as what is appropriate for God’s worship and what is the best we can sing to God.  These songs, I would argue again are nowhere near as good as the Psalms or metrical versions thereof.

 

13. From Nick Eitzen to Hart

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 22:56:40 -0500

Dr. Hart,

In the second chapter of Colossians, Paul instructs the church that not to be taken captive by the teachings of men rather than to Christ. (v. 8) He goes on to say later that no man is to be their judge in regards to festivals and Sabbaths. (v. 16) Obviously these passages are not meant to say that there are no commandments that the church is to follow, but rather that the Church is to make sure that it is submitting itself to Christ alone as the head of the Church, rather than submitting itself first to the ideas and traditions that were not instituted by the Head, but rather by man.

Throughout your responses and questions you have appealed to many human authorities and traditions, but rarely if ever have appealed to the Scriptures to prove that in worship we should submit to exclusive psalmody. Since you have often presented the case that it is offensive to Christ that hymns and chorus music are used in the context of worship, can you show from the Scriptures, and in so doing from Christ, that this is a problem?

Soli Deo Gloria,

Nick Eitzen

 

Hart’s Answer to Nick Eitzen

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 22:20:11 -0500

I need to make sure I have not been misunderstood.  I did not say that we may only sing psalms.  I did say that prudence would suggest that the best way of singing praise to God is to use the words he has inspired, which would include psalms, prayers and hymns from all of the canon.

But as one member of the “audience” has informed me, the argument for psalms is pretty simple and compelling on the basis of the RPW.  The OT priests sang psalms, Jesus and apostle sang psalms, and the NT tells us to sing psalms (Eph 5:18,19; Col 3:16; James 5:13).  Some translate these words as referring to hymns, but what evidence do we have that the church was composing hymns that would have been held up to the status of the psalms which were considered part of the canon, that is, inspired by God.

On the flip side, the case against psalmody can’t simply be that the exegetical case for psalms only does not convince.  Hymn singers also need to show, on the basis of the RPW, where the Bible commands the singing and writing of hymns.

But I confess, as Prof. Frame has pointed out, to being merely a church historian.  I haven’t studied Greek for 17 years.  So I need to rely on the wisdom of my fathers and brothers in the faith.  (TRADITION ALERT!!!)  I do believe the arguments of Calvin and Zwingli for psalms are far more complex than commonly given credit.  And the case for hymns never seems to imply the logical conclusion that the church had better commission some hymns quickly before God finds her delinquent.  What is more, the wise course seems to be to sing what is best.  The inspired words of God fit that criterion.

By the way, Herman Hanko has a very good article on behalf of exclusive psalmody in the Jan. 15, 1998 issue of the Standard Bearer.

 

14. From John Fesko to Frame

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 22:30:27 -0500

Do you think that contemporary praise music can adequately carry the weight of the lyrics and communicate doctrinal truth?  For example, an exaggerated one, if you sing ’Amazing Grace’ to the tune of Gilligan’s Island the lyrics lose their weight–it’s like dropping a high-performance racing engine into a Pinto–it might move, but “it don’t go.”  I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Thanks.

John V. Fesko

 

Frame’s Answer to Fesko

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 01:05:03 -0500

Actually, the Gilligan tune wouldn’t be bad at all if it hadn’t first been used by Gilligan! The problem, I think, is not the tune, but the associations. Of course that is Hart’s point, but he tries to make it globally. I think it has to be considered song by song. By the way, the Gilligan tune is by genre a sea chanty (i.e. an imitation of one), not rock, so it isn’t a very good illustration for Hart’s purposes.

On the broader question: As I point out in the CWM book, praise music has been somewhat limited in its doctrinal coverage: it has been hard to find CWM songs that fit certain biblical topics. That situation has changed somewhat. It used to be said that there were no contemporary songs about the “dark side” of the Christian life, the spiritual warfare, temptation, repentance, etc. But a whole sub-genre of these has sprung up in the last ten years. So now, I think there are pretty good CWM songs on divine attributes, God’s mighty acts, Jesus’s deity, the names of Jesus and of God the Father, the incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection, conversion, repentance, faith, holiness, sanctification, Christian warfare, the sacraments, etc., etc. There aren’t many good ones on justification or the authority of Scripture, and there are surprisingly few on the Return of Christ, though there are a few. But on the subject of love within the body of Christ, for example, there is a far better selection in CWM than in the traditional hymnody, in my opinion. Same for the theme of the Christian life as servanthood.

So CWM is getting more complex, more ambitious. There are CWM settings of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Gloria Patri, etc.,

I advocate “blended” worship, in which we use both traditional hymns-Psalms and modern praise music. This has been the trend recently among churches that have contemporary worship. Maranatha has been publishing combination praise song-hymnbooks for ten years now, and the latest big praise book (1997) includes 50 hymns. At our church, the songs follow the topic of the sermon, so I choose songs in both genres to reinforce the emphasis of the text. I have not found it difficult to find songs in a range of styles that complement the preaching and underscore its message. Can the CWM songs bear the weight of the heavier doctrines? I think so. Kendrik’s “Meekness and Majesty” is a fine treatment of the incarnation, as “Amazing Love” is of the atonement. Brent Chambers’ “Be Exalted, O God,” is a wonderful treatment of Psalm 108:3-5. The anonymous Maranatha version of “Create in Me a Clean Heart” (1997 big book, 100) is certainly as good a treatment of that text (and therefore the subject of repentance) as anything in the tradition. Kelly Willard’s “Make Me a Servant” is an excellent treatment of an important biblical theme that is hardly ever treated in  traditional hymnody.

I could give other examples, and doubtless others can give counter-examples. But I think we should be free to use both genres (and others), taking the best examples of each. As I keep saying, evaluate the songs individually, not as a class. If a CWM song can’t “bear the weight,” then don’t use it. But I think that many of them can, and they have the added advantage of being contemporary, i.e. contextualized to present-day congregations. I would, therefore, not want to be without them.

John Frame

 

15. From Matthew A. Morgan to Frame and Hart

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 22:32:44 -0500

General Questions to both professors…

First, for Dr. Hart — Would you say that your position is the in the majority within the OPC?  If not, why do you remain within the OPC, since it sounds like a major issue for you?  Why not move to the RPCNA or the PRC (John Murray’s ole denomination).  {Note: this is not meant to be disrespectful to these denominations.  I personally happen to agree with many aspects about them, but perhaps not ALL aspects!}

Second, for Frame — Much has been made regarding the “neutrality of forms/style” (or lack thereof, depending on who’s talking) in many recent works by Reformed writers.  To what extent to you agree or disagree with their assessment?  {Perhaps you cover it in CW — maybe I’m just not seeing it!}

For instance, many writers like Michael Horton have used texts like the episode of the Golden Calf to argue that what is at stake is NOT the first commandment but the second!  And from that, he concludes that ”forms” of worship are not neutral?  Can you pinpoint where the disagreement is between you and he?  Or to put it another way, what application do you think Golden Calf has on our worship today?

Lastly, for both Frame and Hart — Let’s suppose that there is a PCA/OPC church of around 200 people that is pretty well split down the middle with regards to “contemporary vs traditional” forms of worship.  How would you go about trying to bring unity to the body in this situation? Do we go to one contemporary service and one traditional service?  Do we go to the session and make a hard and fast choice here, thus leaving one of the groups “out to dry” (so to speak)?  Should we try and blend both traditional and contemporary into one service?  Or should we from the outset agree to part and go our seperate ways?

Regards,

Matthew Ashley Morgan – WTSCA

 

Frame’s Answer to Matthew Morgan

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 01:02:18 -0500

Second, for Frame — Much has been made regarding the “neutrality of forms/style” (or lack there of, depending on who’s talking) in many recent works by Reformed writers.  To what extent to you agree or disagree with their assessment?  {Perhaps you cover it in CW — maybe I’m just not seeing it!}

 

Well, of course, for us Van Tillians no human act is neutral. Certainly those acts by which forms are chosen are not neutral. Whatever we do should be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). But I don’t think this implies that we should write off the whole CWM movement. Consider:

1. CWM (Contemporary Worship Music, I should remind everybody) is not just one genre, but several. There are tunes influenced by rock, but also influences of Jewish music, black gospel, white gospel, some Latino, traditional protestant hymnody, etc. That diversity suggests we should not treat the whole movement as a lump.

2. As I’ve argued earlier, rock does not taint all the songs that are (perhaps very faintly in some instances) influenced by it. To claim that it does is genetic fallacy. So it may be that choosing music within this genre may sometimes be a godly thing to do. Not neutral, but godly.

3. So again, the question of form must be asked of individual songs, not of genres as such. Each song has its own form. That form may be influenced by various things, which may in turn be good or bad. But the question of influence is less important than the question of whether the actual tune is suitable. If the tune is appropriate to the text and appropriate for worship, that is sufficient ground for using it. Of course if its associations with rock (or Gilligan’s Island, as Mr. Fesko notes) are too close, that may influence our decision to find it inappropriate. So forms are not neutral; but individual forms are more important that genre forms.

For instance, many writers like Michael Horton have used texts like the episode of the Golden Calf to argue that what is at stake is NOT the first commandment but the second!  And from that, he concludes that ”forms” of worship are not neutral?  Can you pinpoint where the disagreement is between you and he?  Or to put it another way, what application do you think Golden Calf has on our worship today?

As you can see, I agree with Horton that the forms are not neutral. If the form of our worship cannot be justified from God’s revelation, then we should scuttle it. That says nothing about whether we should focus on forms in the abstract or in the concrete. I still say that concrete is best.

The calf-worship doesn’t say much to the question of musical style, in my view. God specifically commanded Israel not to bow down to graven images. Obviously, then, the “genre” of idolatry is inappropriate to worship, as well as all particular instances of that genre. But God has not given similar commands concerning music. In music, we have to look at the biblical purposes of worship and try to find tunes that are suitable to that purpose. The form-questions are important, but there is room for disagreement among believers about them. And if a worship leader makes a slight error in judgment in this area, I would hardly equate that with calf-worship.

But of course the golden calf passage is always relevant to worship. It tells us to worship only as God has ordained, sola Scriptura. It tells us to absolutize neither tradition, nor the trends of our time, nor our own bright ideas. We must keep going back to God’s Word, praying for assurance that what we are doing is really pleasing to God.

Lastly, for both Frame and Hart — Let’s suppose that there is a PCA/OPC church of around 200 people that is pretty well split down the middle with regards to “contemporary vs traditional” forms of worship.  How would you go about trying to bring unity to the body in this situation? Do we go to one contemporary service and one traditional service?  Do we go to the session and make a hard and fast choice here, thus leaving one of the groups “out to dry” (so to speak)?  Should we try and blend both traditional and contemporary into one service?  Or should we from the outset agree to part and go our seperate ways?

I think blending is the ideal solution, though that would require a lot of teaching and counseling of members who feel strongly on one side or the other. A 200- member church should not go to two services as a general rule, and even larger churches are better off if each group can learn the other’s music. We all need to learn to bend to one another in this area, rather than insisting on our own way. A church should not be divided by aesthetic tastes.

If people just will not be persuaded of this, then some other solution may be necessary, maybe two services, maybe a daughter congregation… But opponents of blending should be told in no uncertain terms that such solutions are accommodations to their spiritual immaturity. We hear a lot about the supposed immaturity of people who like praise songs, but we need to hear more about the immaturity of those on both sides of the fence who absolutize their own preferences even to the point of driving other believers away from the Body. Such people will have a lot to answer for, in my opinion.

Certainly the Session should not decree that only one style be used. They don’t have scriptural justification for that, and if they are wise, they will see the usefulness of both types of music.

John Frame

 

Hart’s Answer to Matthew Morgan

Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 11:16:45 -0500

I sense from the question that Mr. Morgan thinks I would be more at home in the RPCNA or the PRC because my views may be far from the mainstream of the OPC.  First, I have to say that I know of no PRC or RPCNA churches in my area and I am a localist, so I try to shop and worship locally.  What is more, the only reason why I might be more at home in those communions is because they only sing psalms.  But throughout the debate I have not said that we must only sing psalms.  I do revere them and continue to profit from singing the psalms.  But singing other prayers from the Bible is ok too.

As to the constituency of the OPC and whether it is a fitting place for me I have had to debate this on several occasions after the publication of John Muether’s and my history of the denomination, Fighting the Good Fight (1995).  In commenting on the composition of the OPC in the light of that book, Clair Davis, one of Prof. Frame’s favoriite church historians, thought that the OPC was 60% Old School Presbyterian and 40% New School, compared to the PCA which he thought was 20% Old School and 80% New School. If he is right then the OPC has its work cut out for it, in the estimation of this Old School Presbyterian.  Even after the exodus of many New Life churches from the OPC (bondage) to the PCA (freedom), the OPC still has a fair number of churches that fit the New Life/New School mode.  So my views are by no means those of the OPC at large, though I like to think that a majority in the church, no matter how slim, agrees with much of what I have written here.  Plus a church doesn’t have to be perfect for us to stay in it.

But in the end, numbers don’t matter.  Truth does.  I can still in good conscience affirm the truths I professed in my ordination vows in the OPC, I don’t need to cross my fingers.

 

Hart’s Answer to Morgan: Addendum

Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 22:11:23 -0500

Oops.  Once I saw the question to Prof. Frame I stopped reading.  So I apologize for not responding to the question about the Presbyterian Church with New Life and Old Life constituencies.  I would argue that the matter needs to be seen from the perspective of how worship binds consciences. In the case of New Life worship, since it does not in my judgment follow the RPW, it illegitimately binds the consciences of Old Life worshipers.  But Old Life worship, because it does follow the RPW also binds the consciences of New Life worshipers but does so legitimately because Christ, the word incarnate, is Lord of conscience, and so consciences bound by the word are really liberated by the yoke of the gospel.

For instance, I can see how singing Psalm 124 with the Louis Bourgeois tune, Old 124th, would not be the preference of New Life worshipers and that they may say their consciences are being bound to conform to something against their conscience.  But such binding of the conscience is legitimate since the Bible commands us to sings psalms (and hymns?).  In other words, the New Life members have no real grounds for complaint.  But if Old Life members object to singing Majesty because it conflicts with their understanding of biblical worship, session needs to make a biblical case to show that such binding of the Old Life conscience is legitimate.  If it cannot, or if it uses arguments that have more to do with evangelism or intelligibility than with worship, then they have put human wisdom above the clear teaching of the word.  So because Old Life worship, I believe, is biblical, it is ok if it binds the consciences of people who object to it.

Such binding is legitimate.

But this is not the whole answer.  As a conservative I believe that change should be gradual, not radical, even if it means principles have to be compromised for a time.  So in the case of a split congregation I would advocate changing the order of service gradually in the direction of Old Life worship while also providing a wide range of instruction about worship to teach New Life and Old Life members about the biblical basis of Old Life worship.  I think such a change would take at least a year.

Sorry again for missing the other part of the question.

 

16. From Lauence K. Wells to Hart

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 22:37:51 -0500

How would you compare the RPW to the Catholic concept of “lex orandi, lex credendi”?  Laurence K. Wells

 

Hart’s Answer to Wells

Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 11:15:30 -0500

This question has me stumped.  I am so provincial (SURPRISE!) that I don’t know the Catholic teaching alluded to in Mr. Wells question.  And my rusty Latin is not much help.  The best I can do is that of “the law spoken (taught) is the law believed (trusted).”  If that is anywhere near the idea I can see a certain affinity with the RPW.  What the Bible teaches we must do.  And what the Bible commands we must trust will be pleasing to God. The trust part is important because often it seems to me that innovations in worship come from not trusting God’s word.  He says that he will bless the reading and preaching of the word and will bring his people to him through the ordinary means of the word, sacraments and prayer.  And we have a difficult time believing this.  Wouldn’t it be better for us to devise something a little more attractive to the unchurched?  But God will bless the means of grace and has given the church the task of using those means.

So what the Bible speaks we must trust.

But I am probably way off  (the Catholic Encyclopedias were of no help!).

Forgive my Reformed provincialism, please, and explain your question further if you want.

 

17. From Joel J. Mathew to Hart

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 22:41:14 -0500

Dear Dr. Hart:

Pentecostals often cite King David’s little jig celebrating the return of the ark of the covenant as “proof” that dancing can be used as a legitmate expression of worship. And they would further chide us conservative Reformed folk for being more like David’s indignant wife, who, it appears, was punished for her condescending manner.

So my question is threefold: 1) Was David’s dance a praiseworthy act? 2)Does it make the act normative for all? and 3) Was there something sinister in what David did, calling attention to himself, maybe making what he did analogous to the Israelites dancing around the golden calf?

Thank you.

Joel

 

Hart’s Answer to Joel Mathew

Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 22:17:12 -0500

Was David’s dance sinister or praiseworthy?  On the basis of a Puritan reading of the RPW it is too close to call either way for the reason that this was not a worship setting.  The RPW regulates corporate worship, not all of life, contrary to Prof. Frame’s effort to extend it to all of life.

For me, and I think for others who stand in the tradition of the Puritan RPW, David’s dancing is akin to eating meat offered to idols that Paul mentions in 1 Cor 8.  For some it is praiseworthy, for others it is sinister.  But the point is that the church does not have the power to say.

My answer so far also points in the direction of how I would answer the middle of Mr. Mathew’s three questions, whether David’s dance is normative. Because it is not a worship setting and because God does not condemn David’s act I would say it is not normative for corporate worship.  It is not simply a question of what we may do.  If that were so then David might be a model.  But we must have a clear biblical warrant for what we do in worship.  Which means that David may be normative for dance outside of worship, but he may not as well.  After all we would not make David the norm for our understanding of marriage.  Here I have in mind not his adulterous affair but the number of wives he had.  The point being that when we interpret the Old Testament for Christian worship we need to keep in mind the kind of differences mentioned in the WCF, ch. 7 on changes in the administration of the covenant of grace from the OT to the NT.  If the OT says play a harp, we also need to remember that the OT commands sacrifice the pascal lamb.  So importing the liturgy of the OT into the NT can be dicey.

While I am at it this may be a place to respond to a point Prof. Frame made about synagogue worship in the OT.  The synagogue is not a violation of the RPW because the RPW only applied to Temple worship.  Which means that believers may gather in all sorts of ways for edification and growth in grace outside of worship called by the session.  But when they meet for corporate worship, that is, the kind of worship for which the church may discipline, then the RPW applies.

Hope this comes close to obsfuscating the questions if I haven’t answered them.

 

18. From Charles Kilmer to Hart

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 01:12:37 -0500

This is a question for professor Hart:

You said at the end of your closing remarks.

Reformed theology is premised upon this radical gulf between a holy and transcendent God and man who stands at the apex of God’s good creation.

Isn’t it Jesus who stands at the apex of God’s good creation so that we in Christ may have an unbroken intimacy with the Lord. Isn’t Christ at the apex of God’s creation so as to break the very intimacy with the Lord that the devil displayed in the book of Job?

The fitting way to approach God is in humility and godly fear.

You used the words “godly fear” in your closing remarks. Ideally people would understand godly fear and approach the sanctuary with the proper humility. However, people often do not. “There is no fear of God in their eyes.” For that, is it the job of the pastors to provoke or inspire godly fear in the congregation? And if so –what are appropriate ways for pastors to provoke godly fear in the congregation? And what are  ways that pastors slip up and provoke ungodly fear?

Please be specific.

Charlie Kilmer

 

Hart’s Answer to Kilmer

Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 22:14:09 -0500

First, I would have to disagree that Christ is at the apex of God’s good creation.  Christ is Lord of creation.  He is not created or made, but eternally begotten.  Yes, Christ became man but that does not change his divine status.

Second, Christ did open a way for us to enter into the holy of holies and enjoy the fellowship with God only enjoyed in the OT by the high priest. But that doesn’t mean that we do so without a sense of the gulf that separates us from God, whether as his creatures or saved sinners.  As we enter the holy of holies we would naturally be afraid but need not be so because we trust Christ has made us acceptable to go before God.  But that trust in Christ breeds humility, thanksgiving, awe and reverence.  And fear is not inappropriate as long as it is godly fear, that is fear that recognizes what would happen to us were it not for the work of Christ.  If Proverbs says fear is the beginning of wisdom I don’t see how our redeemed standing before God changes the necessity of fear in worship as long as it is godly fear.

Third, the way pastors prevent godly fear is by informality like saying ”Good Morning” almost like Dr. Nick on the Simpsons says “hello everybody, I’m Dr. Nick.”  They also do it by giving the announcements during the service, thus suggesting that worship is like high school homeroom.  They may also prevent godly fear by telling jokes or breeding levity in any way. There are not a whole lot of laughs in the Bible, despite Prof. Frame’s rendering of biblical humor (WST, 83), except when God laughs at the foolishness of the world.  Godly fear is also jeopardized by music that is irreverent, here I have in mind much of the P&W genre.  I know that Prof. Frame does not like my painting with such a broad brush, but I have not been persuaded by his defense.  And my own study of the P&W “hymnals” only confirms my conviction.  Other ways we can discourage godly fear is by presentations by missionaries — this is not a time for reports — this is a time for a holy dialog between God and his covenant people.  These are a few specific examples, I think.

 

19. From M. Bradley to Frame

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 17:39:55 -0500

Prof. Frame,

For the sake of being “relevant” have we caved into the old liberal heresy that “the world sets the agenda and the church follows” and for the sake of being “intelligible” are we really just catering to the sloth of the average American by making everything so easy and simple?

 

Frame’s Answer to M. Bradley

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 23:25:17 -0500

Mmmm…  Who’s “we?”

Seriously, I plead not guilty, as you might expect me to. Intelligibility is not just a dodge to make things easy and cater to sloth. Nor does it have anything to do with liberalism. It is a biblical principle, which I have expounded at great length in two books and in this debate. If you still don’t see that, I really don’t know what more I can say.

Again, I don’t say that everything in worship must be intelligible to everybody. There ought to be challenge, opportunities to stretch the mind and spirit. But can you honestly sit there and tell me that we should never make provision for Jesus’ little lambs? the four-year old children, the street people, the new believers, those for whom English is a second language, etc., etc.? Should we give NO thought to communicating with unbelieving visitors? Is there no place in all of this for the compassion of Jesus, who rebuked the respectable-traditional Pharisees and focused on the tax collectors and sinners? Jesus was not above telling stories, asking penetrating questions, expressing loving concern. Come on and grow up! The church is not an academy for gifted intellectuals, nor a chamber music society for aesthetic sophisticates. It is a place for all ages and all nations, rich and poor, to hear the good news and experience the welcoming love of Jesus.

 

20. From Moderator Andrew J. Webb for Hart and Frame

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 18:17:08 -0500

Hi all,

First, I’d like to heartily thank both Professor Frame and Dr. Hart for taking part in this debate, I hope it has been as enjoyable for you two as it has been informative for us.

Next, I’m going to take the moderator’s perogative to grab the last questions to both gentlemen:

Dr. Hart, you wrote in a recent post:

But our sojourn in the CRC also exposed me to other good composers writing hymn tunes after World War II. Fred Pratt Green is one name I remember. And the CRC’s own Emily Brink and Dale Grotenhuis have written good music appropriate for congregational singing.  The PCA’s Leonard Payton is another example of good music being written in the latter half of the twentieth century.

But the music Leonard Payton writes is primarily for choirs, and Payton has a choir at his church in Texas. Wouldn’t this style of music technically violate the RPW?

Dr. Frame, you wrote

Shouldn’t our bias include the proposition that God has, most likely, not given all the truth to one tradition or perfectly preserved any tradition from error? Shouldn’t we assume that if there are gifts of the Spirit in non-Reformed Christians, these brothers might have important things to teach us?

I’m wondering if you can cite a few examples of the important things (specifically doctrinal things, seeing that you used the words “important” and “gifts of the Spirit”)  that our brothers in non-Reformed traditions like Pentecostalism or Wesleyan Methodism might have to teach us?

Thanks again!

Your Servant in Christ,

Andy Webb

 

Frame’s Answer to Webb

Date: Fri, 6 Mar 1998 23:35:26 -0500

Dr. Frame, you wrote “Shouldn’t our bias include the proposition that God has, most likely, not given all the truth to one tradition or perfectly preserved any tradition from error? Shouldn’t we assume that if there are gifts of the Spirit in non-Reformed Christians, these brothers might have important things to teach us?”

I’m wondering if you can cite a few examples of the important things (specifically doctrinal things, seeing that you used the words “important” and “gifts of the Spirit”)  that our brothers in non-Reformed traditions like Pentecostalism or Wesleyan Methodism might have to teach us?

As I said to Hart, I somewhat share his bias in favor of the Reformed tradition. So I don’t expect to learn a whole LOT of things from non-Reformed people, but I do think it’s important to keep open and to be teachable.

By the way, I do not draw the equation implicit in your question between “important” and “doctrinal.” That is itself a kind of Reformed prejudice that I think should be challenged. Beliefs are not more important than actions from God’s perspective. Nor should we see the “gifts of the Spirit” as having primarily a doctrinal rather than a practical function. The teaching office teaches actions as well as beliefs.

But I will mention some issues that involve both beliefs and actions in varying mixes:

1. I do think that American conservative Reformed churches in recent years have not been very strong in evangelism. There has been all too little practice of it, and the theological reflection about it has been mainly negative: “don’t do what the Arminians do, especially Finney.” Jack Miller, PEF, and EE represent a few encouraging signs in this respect.

2. Reformed churches, in my experience, have done a very poor job of discipling adults who are new converts or who come from non-Reformed backgrounds. People like this typically have huge problems in their past, and often they haven’t a clue about how to study the Scriptures, raise their kids, develop godly habits. Often the big evangelical churches are better than we are at discipling, in my view.

3. I would also say that Reformed Christianity is rather narrow in its appeal today. We seem only to be able to reach people of the white middle-to-upper class, people with some college education. We have not reached minorities, the poor, the uneducated. That should be a special concern, because in Scripture the church is ethnically and socially universal, and it has a special concern for the poor. Again, there are a few exceptions to this general rule: CUTS in Philadelphia, books of George Grant and others. But I still don’t see us on the whole making much of an impact. Groups like the Salvation Army and Victory Outreach have much thinner messages than we, but they have done far more good in poor communities. We can learn from them.

4. For all our Kuyperian talk about bringing the Word to bear on all areas of human life, we have not addressed issues in our society very often or very effectively. The strongest Christian movements influencing public discussions in politics, ethics, etc. are Charismatic (Christian Coalition), Fundamentalist (Falwell, Dobson, Bauer, et al), Roman Catholic, Lutherans (Wurmbrand et al) and Anabaptist (Sider and others). These leaders are sometimes dependent on Reformed scholarship, but the Reformed haven’t followed up on their insights. One bright spot: World Magazine. We need to learn from Christians outside our tradition in the practical work of communicating our ideas to the public.

5. Part of the problem in all these areas is that Reformed Christianity has been too intellectual in its emphasis. Zwingli actually eliminated music from the worship service and turned the service exclusively into a teaching meeting. Other Reformers did not follow Zwingli’s lead in this connection, but they were all very scholarly people, and they put a great emphasis on learning as a necessity for pastors. So many Reformed people have taught the “primacy of the intellect,” the notion that God’s truth always enters (and should enter) us by the intellect, before it affects the will and the emotions. Van Til differed with Gordon Clark on this, and I follow VT’s lead. Not only does the intellect affect the will, but the reverse is also true: the will often directs the intellect, as when the unbeliever suppresses the truth. Among intellect, emotions and will, none is higher than the others. All of these fell together in Adam’s transgression; all are redeemed together in Christ. That is to say that our sin, salvation, decisions and knowledge pertain to the whole person, not to isolated faculties.

So I think we need to put much more emphasis on will and emotion in our preaching and worship. In these respects, we need to be much more like Scripture itself. In my view, the charismatics err on the other side, but we can learn from them. And we should be less shy about appealing to the will. Scripture calls on people to make commitments, decisions if you will. In Scripture, God pleads with sinners. We, however, tend to just state the truth and wait to see how people respond. Here I think the Arminians are actually closer to the truth than we are.

I think Reformed people greatly err when they criticize EE for emphasizing decisions. That criticism is hyper-Calvinistic, rather than Calvinistic. Man does have an important responsibility to respond to the Gospel. Demanding that response is part of the gospel. Such human responsibility is not at all antithetical to divine sovereignty. Man cannot respond apart from grace, certainly. But scriptural preaching of the gospel does not tell people to wait passively for God to do something. Rather, it tells them to repent, believe, and be baptized.

Reformed intellectualism can be countered as we open ourselves to listen to preachers like Billy Graham. Graham sometimes says Arminian things and worse; he also says Calvinistic things, sometimes. But he has a wonderful ability to speak with crystal clarity to people of all backgrounds. And yes, I believe that he preaches the gospel. I would not hesitate to take an inquirer to hear him. Graham might say some things I would disagree with, but I think he will usually communicate more truth to my unbelieving friend than would be communicated by the average Reformed preacher. Why can’t we teach ministerial students to preach like that?

Another remedy for hyper-intellectualism: coming to realize that at bottom it is a form of pride. The hyper-intellectualist looks down his nose at younger or less educated people and senses no obligation to minister to them.

6. And as you might guess I fault traditional Reformed worship (as practiced today) because it has an inadequate vocabulary (musical and otherwise) for expressing joy and for edifying  people of all sorts.

7. I think we do a fairly poor job at evaluating ministerial candidates and preparing them for the ministry. Our seminaries give them a good academic preparation: the intellectual area, again, is the Reformed strength. But most of Paul’s qualifications of elders are qualities of character, and the responsibilities of pastors require interpersonal and counseling skills of a high degree. We don’t have very good ways of evaluating men in the non-academic areas, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, helping them to grow. I’m inclined to think (1) we should not ordain any elders under thirty (maybe 35), (2) that everyone seeking ordination undergo assessment, such as PCA missions agencies (MTW and MNA) require of missionaries and church planters, (3) there should be a multi-year internship before ordination and supervised ministry for those newly ordained. Here we can learn from Episcopal churches, black churches, Reformed Baptist ministerial academies, Latin American “street seminaries,” etc.

8. I also think that the demand for doctrinal precision in conservative Reformed circles has become rather unbalanced, so that the matter of church unity gets short shrift. Earlier in this debate, when I spoke of unity, Hart berated me for advocating “unity at the expense of truth.” Of course I wasn’t advocating that. But that’s what tends to happen in our circles when the subject of unity comes up. Unity always gets trumped by a concern for doctrinal purity, with the implication that we shouldn’t ever seek unity.

And often our concern for doctrinal purity is distorted. Think of all the controversies among us in recent years that have divided congregations and presbyteries and created parties within the church, pitting us against one another: the incomprehensibility of God, apologetics, the millennium, preterism, Christian liberty, counseling, subscription, Psalmody, contemporary worship, redemptive-historical preaching, theonomy, Shepherd’s view of justification, six-day creation, cessationism, common grace and now (God help us!) the alleged necessity of subscribing to the Scottish national covenants. Only a few of these issues involve differences over the confession, but in all these areas there have been parties contending with one another, sometimes very ferociously, sometimes dividing churches and presbyteries, with people even trying to hinder ministries that hold the contrary view. We seem to have no conscience about calling one another terrible names, if they are on the other side from us of one of these ideological divides.

Some OPC people voted against union with the PCA because the two groups had different home missions practices, or because the PCA operates a denominational college.

I don’t object to people presenting their views in these areas and seeking to persuade others in the church. I do object, in most of the above issues, to making them tests of orthodoxy, reviling those on the other side, and denying encouragement to ministries on the other side. This constant battling embitters fellowship and weakens ministry in all areas of the church’s life. In the immortal words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?” We need to remind ourselves that love (not only the traditional three marks) is a mark of the church: John 13:35.

9. In our circles, pastors have almost no pastoral care. That can lead to shipwreck in the ministry. The idea of presbytery as the pastor’s local church becomes quite meaningless when presbytery meetings consist entirely of business, or, even worse, consist largely of partisan battles. We can learn from Baptist, charismatics, and others with association-type polities, where much time at ministers’ meetings is spent in prayer and edification, and where people do not look down their noses at touchy-feely emotional support.

10. I think that dispensational fundamentalists do a better job at teaching Scripture to their kids than Reformed churches do. In my view the teaching of Scripture should take precedence over the teaching of catechism.

I could say some more things, but I think I’ve given you a “few examples ,” probably too many. I do love  Reformed theology, but I don’t believe that Reformed churches have always been the best churches. We need to do a lot of growing, in many areas. That’s why I think the idea of making Reformed tradition normative (in addition to the confessions) is entirely wrongheaded.

Thanks for the soap box! My thanks to Darryl Hart, Andy Webb, and all the list participants. It’s been an interesting exchange.

Blessings in Christ,

John Frame

 

Hart’s Answer to Andrew Webb

Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 22:15:39 -0500

Yes, I think choirs do technically violate the principles of Reformed worship, which is too bad since I have sung in church choirs and believe there is a great repertoire of choral music for church choirs, especially by the Brits.  But that is the good thing about the RPW: if something is illegitimate in worship on the Lord’s Day I have six days to enjoy the products of human wisdom.

I am not entirely familiar with all that Mr. Payton writes.  Some of what I have seen I thought was written for congregational singing.  But in those cases where churches already have choirs and in the spirit of gradual, conservative reform, we do have creative ways of using choirs, such as having them sing before the invocation to assist in preparation for worship, or singing with the congregation a particularly difficult song, or singing antiphonally with the congregation, and also we need to keep in mind that concerts by church choirs on days other than the Lord’s are legitimate.  It wouldn’t be bad either for God’s people to gather during the week to sing choral music.

So while I agree with the assumption behind the question that choirs specifically and special music violates the RPW, I do think ways exist for using choirs that need not violate it.

 

Conclusion

Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 22:51:14 -0500

Hi all,

This message is to inform everyone that since all of the questions from the audience have been answered by Professors Frame and Hart the great RPW debate has ended.

Once again, please allow me to thank both Professors for graciously volunteering their valuable time to address this issue.

The text of the debate is going to be published in book form by the Westminster Bookstore.

If you signed on to the WARFIELD LIST only for the duration of the debate, and you do not wish to participate in further discussion or receive email from a very active Reformed mailing list, then you may unsubscribe using the following directions:

TO UNSUBSCRIBE:

Send an email message to BBWARFLD@EROLS.COM with the words ”unsubscribe Warfield List” (do not use quotation marks) in the *Subject Line* of the message.

Thank you for joining us, we hope to see you again soon.

On the other hand, if you are interested in sticking around, I will be sending out further administrative posts explaining the nature and purpose of the Warfield List and outlining the future of our little (OK, maybe ”little” is a tad inaccurate) discussion group.

 

 


1 As of 2003, Dr. Hart is Director of Honors Programs and Faculty Development at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington, Delaware.

2 In 2003, however, Belhaven College conferred on Mr. Frame the Doctor of Divinity.

3 In 2000 Frame left Westminster and now serves as Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL.

4 Frame here refers to his article, “In Defense of Something Close to Biblicism,” WTJ 59 (1997), 269-318, with replies by David Wells and Richard Muller, and a further reply by Frame. The same article, without the responses, was published in Frame’s Contemporary Worship Music (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1997) as an Appendix, under the title “Sola Scriptura in Theological Method.” The latter version, with Frame’s reply to Wells and Muller, is posted at www.frame-poythress.org.

5 Gore presented his argument more recently in his Covenantal Worship: Reconsidering the Puritan Regulative Principle (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002), with a Foreword by John Frame.

6 Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

7 Phillipsburg: P&R, 1997.