The Regulative Principle Redefined

I finished up Leithart’s From Silence to Song yesterday and found his writing illuminating as always. He discusses the Reformed “Regulative Principle” and recasts it in a very different light (a much better one). The Regulative Principle is usually held to mean that anything God hasn’t expressly commanded in worship is forbidden, you’ll often see it trumpeted in modern times by nuts like the Still Waters Revival folks who hold to no instruments in music and exclusive Psalmody.

Leithart contrasts this with the canonical example of David’s instructions for Temple and Tabernacle worship. He writes:

A strict regulativist living at the time of David would syllogize thus:

Major premise: Whatever is not commanded is forbidden.

Minor premise: Singing is not commanded in the Levitical Law.

Conclusion: Therefore, singing in worship is forbidden.

David appears to have reasoned by analogy:

Major premise: The Law governs worship.

Minor premise #1: The Law prescribes that trumpets be played over the public ascensions, in public worship.

Minor premise #2: The trumpet is a musical instrument.

Conclusion: Analogously, song and other music are a legitimate part of worship.

In place of a “regulation-by-explicit command” principle, David operated according to a “regulation-by-analogy” principle.

He qualifies this by showing that not all analogies are valid – pigs can’t be offered in sacrifice because cows are, so Scripture controls the application. Once again, Leithart’s writings are some of the best theological insights you can find today on a host of subjects.

Links

Still Waters Revival Books

From Silence to Song

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

I found this in an old issue of Notes and Queries and thought I would pass it along:

There is a curious tradition existing in Mansfield, Woodhouse, Bulwell, and several other villages near Sherwood Forest, as to the origin of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The inhabitants of any of these villages will inform the questioner that when the Danes got to Linby all the Saxon men of the neighboring villages ran off into the Forest, and the Danes took the Saxon women to keep house for them. This happened just before Lent, and the Saxon women, encouraged by their fugitive lords, resolved to massacre their Danish masters on Ash Wednesday. Every woman who agreed to do this was to bake pancakes for their meal on Shrove Tuesday as a kind of pledge to fulfill her vow. This was done, and that the massacre of the Danes did take place on Ash Wednesday is a well-known historical fact.

Notes and Queries, June 4, 1859

Is Conversion the Answer?

Rod Dreher makes several salient points about converts to Rome and Orthodoxy:

Yes, but in my personal experience, the Catholic Church in America has only a facade of unity. Every Catholic parish I’ve been a part of has been basically Protestant, insofar as most of the people seemed to believe that they had a right to believe whatever they wanted. The unity was fairly superficial. Mind you, I’m in no position to say to what extent the Orthodox Church in this country is any different, because my experience is relatively short and limited almost entirely to my own parish. But I would be surprised to learn that we Orthodox on the whole were much different in that regard.

I’ve said the same thing myself: Catholicism in the USA is just Protestantism with a different name. You have gay Jesuits, hardcore Trad Opus Dei types, the First Things crowd, EWTN, liberals like the Kennedys, and on and on. There is no unified, glorious Church. It’s an illusion in the mind of the convert who lives in the world of ideas. Dreher continues:

I keep telling Protestants I know who want to convert to Catholicism that I don’t want to get in the way of their decision — though I would like them to consider Orthodoxy — but that they should realize that they’re probably not going to find an escape from modernism in their local parish. The church of Pope Benedict and First Things magazine, and your favorite conservative Catholic bloggers, is not the church you’re likely to encounter down the street. If you’re convinced of the case for Catholicism, then you almost certainly have to become Catholic — but go in with your eyes open. Similarly with Orthodoxy, we have, like Catholicism, the institutional and historical tools for resisting modernism, but if the pastors and the people remain indifferent or hostile to them, Protestants searching for solid ground to stand on may be unpleasantly surprised.

Again, this is not an argument against becoming Catholic or Orthodox. But it is a warning that it’s impossible to escape modernity and its challenges to tradition and traditional faith. When Father Dwight says that the fissiparous nature of individualist modernist faith will eventually give way to disbelief, because it’s not anchored in communal experience, I agree with him in principle, but would ask him what his prediction is for Catholic parishes that are populated by individualists in religion? (N.B., Father Dwight recognizes in his post that modernist Catholic priests shouldn’t be surprised when people quit coming to mass.) Similarly, I am aware of several Protestant congregations who are far, far more unified in belief than any Catholic parish I’ve been a part of, no doubt because those Protestants who don’t share the core convictions of that congregation found another congregation to attend. Mind you, without a Magisterium (Catholic) or a high view of the authority of Tradition (Orthodox) to hold on to, I don’t know how those congregations over time will remain grounded in their particular judgments. But having the theological mechanism for stability, as the Catholics and the Orthodox do, is no guarantee either.

This makes lots of sense. Because Protestant churches in our day are usually based on shared convictions such as worship style or theology, we have much more unity (at the micro level) than Catholics do.

I have a friend who left the Greek Orthodox church to which he belonged, because he was desperate for a spiritual encounter with the living God, as opposed to the empty formalism of his home parish, which, as he puts it, was more interested in worshiping Greekness than in worshiping God. He became a born-again Evangelical. Despite all the legitimate criticism that can be leveled at American Evangelicalism re: its lack of stability and susceptibility to cultural trends, is it really the case that children raised in a traditional church that has valid sacraments but is spiritually dead are going to have a better chance of living as Christians there than they would in an Evangelical church that has all the trappings of modernity, and an essentially modernist, individualist theology, but that for whatever reason has chosen a theologically traditional set of principles around which to organize, and lives it out in a vigorous, vibrant way?

This is the rub. Tradition and liturgy are life to me and those like me who seek to escape the modern church wasteland, but they were death to my Mom who wanted relationship with God and wasn’t taught that in the Lutheran Church of her day (though she could have had it, had they rightly understood their own past). We can’t re-pristinate the past and create some perfect model that never existed. We can meld the best liturgy and tradition with our modern condition, all the while being bathed in the Scripture as the ultimate norm.

Americans hate ritual

Reviewing a book by Lori Branch in Touchstone magazine, Peter Leithart writes:

English Protestants attacked the ceremonies of the Catholic Church and the remnants of ceremony in Prayer Book liturgies because they thought these ceremonies lacked biblical support but also because they believed that set liturgical forms were, in themselves, inimical to religious sincerity. This had the effect of detaching believers from communal actions. Medieval Christians were participants in rituals; after the Reformation, Christians began to see themselves as detached individual selves, desperately ginning up religious passion.
For many Protestants, sacramental rites could not accurately represent or effectively communicate the grace of God. Faced with this “crisis of representation,” Christians looked inward to find a place of communion with God. Not just any experience would do, however. Sincere religious expression had to be the product of the Spirit working on the human soul. Genuine prayer arose from agony, pressed, in Bunyan’s phrasing, from the solitary soul as “blood is forced out of flesh.”

Coronation Vows

It is astounding to see the explicitly Christian language used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It’s hard to believe that it will be repeated in our day.

Archbishop: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel?

Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?

Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?

And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?

Queen: All this I promise to do.

Then the Queen arising out of her Chair, supported as before, the Sword of State being carried before her, shall go to the Altar, and make her solemn Oath in the sight of

[The Bible to be brought.]

all the people to observe the premisses: laying her right hand upon the Holy Gospel in the great Bible (which was before carried in the procession and is now brought from the altar by the Archbishop, and tendered to her as she kneels upon the steps), and saying these words:

The things which I have here promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God.

Then the Queen shall kiss the Book and sign the Oath.

The Queen having thus taken her Oath, shall return again to her Chair, and the Bible shall be delivered to the Dean of Westminster.

V. The Presenting of the Holy Bible

When the Queen is again seated, the Archbishop shall go to her Chair; and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, receiving the Bible from the Dean of Westminster, shall bring it to the Queen and present it to her, the Archbishop saying these words:

Our gracious Queen:

to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God

as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes,

we present you with this Book,

the most valuable thing that this world affords.

And the Moderator shall continue:

Here is Wisdom;

This is the royal Law;

These are the lively Oracles of God.

Can you be charismatic without modern worship music?

These days when you think about the charismatic movement, you often think about worship style. And to be honest, in most “charismatic” churches that I’ve been to recently there is no sign of the gifts being active. Granted, I don’t go to a lot of in-your-face charismatic churches, but this is my impression of most [on-paper] charismatic churches like the Vineyard, Calvary Chapel and Sovereign Grace.

What many high-church or Baptist folks mean when they decry charismatic churches is simply ‘happy-clappy’ worship. So from within the charismatic churches and without, the identification of a ‘charismatic’ church is via its style of worship music. But this seems utterly wrong. For one thing, this style of soft-rock worship music now dominates almost every church, from Missouri Synod Lutherans to Southern Baptist mega-churches to Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard.

The 1st century Church wasn’t worshiping with guitars and drum-kits, and yet they had regular outpourings of the Holy Spirit. You can trace the presence of the gifts throughout Church history on and off through the ages. None of these time periods used our style of worship music either (obviously). So there is no causal relationship between the charismatic gifts and singing Hillsong music in church.

I don’t know of any churches today that have Gregorian chant and speaking in tongues. Generally, the more outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit that you see, the wilder the music is. But I can’t see any objective Biblical reason for this to be necessary.

The Church is the Temple

James Jordan expounds on the origins of the Church:

I think a watershed in our  understanding of the Epistles is what kind of context we put them into. To  be crass about it (I intend no insult; I just want to get on with it): Either

1. The apostolic church started from scratch after the OT order  was cancelled, as a bunch of believers (new converts with no background)  sitting around in various houses and gradually coming up with new orders  that had no continuity with the OT orders; or,

2. The apostolic church was made up 99% of converted Jews and  God-fearers who were fully at home in the OT order and simply transformed  it, who used various homes as temples, who used temple worship in these homes on those occasions, and who very rapidly set up separate houses of worship when they could.

In my circles, this comes down to whether the Church “grew out of” the synagogue or the Temple.

For my money, it’s obviously the latter. The NT does not say that  the Church is the new synagogue, but the new Temple. Her worship consists  of living sacrifices and sacrifices of praise. All of the language about the Church is taken from the OT Tabernacle/Temple order. (The synagogue was never anything but a partial extension of the Temple anyway.) Unlike the synagogue, the church has two major temple elements: song with musical instruments and the breaking of bread as a covenant-renewal. ( Gasp!

Breaking bread at places other then the Jerusalem Temple! Hey, Josiah put people to death for that! So did Paul. But this only shows that these churches were TEMPLES!! If they’d just been synagogues there’d have been no scandal.)

The word kohen in the OT simply means “palace servant,” and is used occasionally of secular servants of David’s palace, but 99% of the time of the servants of the Temple (= Palace in Hebrew). Everything in the NT epistles sets a context in which there would be such special servants in the new Christian Temple. And that’s what we find.

When Paul and Peter tell these Christian Jews that they are a Temple of God offering sacrifices, he does not need to spell out to them that their meals should be supervised and initiated by Temple servants (Christian kohanim), nor that such must be men.

More, for a very long time protestants (at least) have ignored the “apocalyptic” context of the NT revelation. (I reject “apocalyptic” since the symbolism of such literature is actually “liturgical” and entirely comes from the Temple and sacrifices.) If this context were better known, however, we would know that all Jews knew that the Temple was an image of heaven, that the shoeless wing-dressed priests were angels, that the objects in the Temple stood in the place of worshippers, and that the entire liturgy took place “in the heavenlies.” Now in Rev. 2-3, the pastors of the churches are called angels. This is not some Brand New Idea, but is completely in continuity with the Temple/priestly tradition. Unlike, however, the Old order, where only such angelic priests might enter the Temple heavens and the rest of the believers were located there only symbolically in the various items of furniture, now in the fullness of time the symbolic furniture is gone and believers are able to enter the Temple heavens along with their “angelic” palace-servant special-priests.

Rev. 2-3 are not letters to churches. They are letters to the priest-pastor-angels of the churches. Jesus threatens THEM. If you want to understand this, read Numbers 18. The people will be punished for their sins, yes, but the Levites will be punished if they fail to warn them.

I submit that if the NT epistles are read in their actual Biblical and historical context, then it will be very clear that Apostolic worship looked a whole more like liturgical and even Eastern orthodox (sans icons) worship, and not in the least like Puritan, Anabaptist, or Brethren worship.

And bringing all this back to Wright, while I don’t know what on earth Wright would say to this, the fact is that he is part of a movement to recover the so-called apocalyptic and Jewish context of the NT writings. The more this context is recovered, the more it will be clear that this “Church came from the synagogue” stuff is nonsense, that this “believers sitting around in homes” stuff is nonsense, and that the epistles mean something very concrete and liturgical when they refer to the Church as temple, worship as sacrifice, leaders as men (women could be everything else in the OT, so saying men-only MEANS “priest”), etc.

Or do we continue the sad rationalism of the last few centuries, and see “temple” and “sacrifice” as mere theological ideas, and not whole-life liturgical matters? There’s about 90% of the trouble, you see. All of these “Levitical” matters are taken as nothing but snapshots of Jesus’ coming work. They are that, but they are also ritual processes that take place in time, means of worship. This is why the Church continues to “move” in a “sacrificial” manner. In Leviticus 1-3, the worshipper Ascends (ch. 1), with Tribute (ch. 2), and then sits down for Communion (ch. 3). This is what the Church also does: Enters, has Offertory, and then Communion. This is not some speculation on my part. It is what the epistles mean when they refer to offering ourselves as living sacrifices. This and nothing else is what the first hearers of these epistles would have understood.

But this is set aside. What WE hear is that these Levitical rituals were just ideas, just pictures of Jesus. And now our worship consists of sitting around and thinking and talking about it. That is NOT what the 1st century hearers and readers of the epistles would have taken from them. I promise you. Believe me. (Trust me!) They would have heard something quite different.

And this is why the Church, as soon as she was able, built Temples for worship, and instituted what to many of us is quite ritualized and liturgical forms of worship. This was no “fall.” It was simply the Church filling out in practice what the epistles teach.

This is NOT to say that anyone TODAY “has it right” or that the Reformers “had it right.” But it is to say that the epistles need to be read in context.

I’ll give one more example. When Jesus broke bread and said “Do this for My memorial,” the apostles knew exactly what that meant. It was the new form of Leviticus 2, something they were very familiar with since it happened every morning and every evening. But how many people today think of that? Precious few. Why? Because they do not put themselves into the shoes of being Jews of the 1st century listening to what Jesus said. They hear this completely out of historical context.

It would not have occurred to anyone in the 1st century that Jesus said, “Do this in memory of Me,” to remind yourselves about Me. Not after 1500 years of bread broken as memorial, as something done to call upon God, to remind God, and to ask Him to come to us! “Do this in memory of Me” is utter nonsense. “In death there is no remembrance of Thee” says the psalmist? No way. “In death there is no performance of Memorial to Thee” is what he said. Memorializing is by RITUAL LITURGICAL ACTION. Don’t believe me? Look up the relevant Greek and Hebrew words. “Cornelius, your  prayers

have come up before God as a Memorial.”

We need to stop reading the epistles as if they dropped out of  heaven onto a blank-slate, and read them in the whole-life liturgical context into which they were written. They look rather different when we do so.

Lutheran Prayer

From the 1958 Service Book and Hymnal (Lutheran Church):


Let us pray.
Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: We give you praise and hearty thanks for all your goodness and tender mercies. We bless you for the love which has created and does sustain us from day to day. We praise you for the gift of your Son, our Savior, through whom you have made known your will and grace. We thank you for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; and for your holy Church, for the Means of Grace, for the lives of all faithful and godly men, and for the hope of the life to come. Help us to treasure in our hearts all that our Lord has done for us; and enable us to show our thankfulness by lives that are given wholly to your service;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Saved and defend your Church Universal, purchased with the precious Blood of Christ. Give it pastors and ministers according to your Spirit, and strengthen it through the Word and the holy Sacraments. Make it perfect in love and in all good works, and establish it in the faith delivered to the saints. Sanctify and unite your people in all the world, that the one holy Church may bear witness to you, the God and Father of all;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Upon all in any holy office in your Church bestow your wisdom and heavenly grace, and enable them to fulfill their duties in your fear and in purity of heart. Let your gracious benediction rest upon our clergy and people, and upon all who are set over us in the Lord; that faith may abound, and your kingdom increase;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Send forth your light and your truth into all the earth, O Lord. Raise up, we pray you, faithful servants of Christ to labor in the Gospel at home and in distant lands;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
According to your merciful goodness, O God, extend your saving health and strength to the younger Churches. Grant that they may rejoice in a rich harvest of souls for your kingdom. Support them in times of trial and weakness, and make them stedfast, abounding in the work of the Lord.
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Preserve our Nation in righteousness and honor, and continue your blessings to us as a people, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty. Grant health and favor to all who bear office in our land (especially to the President and the Congress, the Governor and Legislature of this State), and help them to acknowledge and obey your holy will;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Give to all men the mind of Christ, and dispose our days in your peace, O God. Take from us all hatred and prejudice, and whatever may hinder unity of spirit and concord. Prosper the labors of those who take counsel for the nations of the world, that mutual understanding and common endeavor may be increased among all peoples;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Bless, we pray you, the schools of the Church, universities and centers of research, all institutions of learning, and those who exercise the care of souls therein. Withhold not, we pray you, your Word and Wisdom, but bestow it in such measure that men may serve you in Church and State, and our common life be brought under the rule of your truth and righteousness;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
We pray you especially heavenly Father, to sanctify our homes with your light and joy. Keep our children in the covenant of their baptism, and enable their parents to rear them in a life of faith and godliness. By the spirit of affection and service unite the members of all Christian families, that they may show forth your praise in our land and in all the world.
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
God of mercies, we pray you to comfort with the grace of your Holy Spirit all who are in sorrow or need, sickness or adversity. Remember those who suffer persecution for the faith. Have mercy upon those to whom draws near. Bring consolation to those in sorrow or mourning. And to all grant a measure of your love, taking them into your tender care;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Let your blessing rest upon the seed-time and harvest, the commerce and industry, the leisure and rest, and the arts and culture of our people. Take under your special protection those whose toil is difficult or dangerous, and be with all who lay their hands to any useful task. Give them just rewards for their labor, and the knowledge that all their work is good in your sight, who are the Maker and Sustainer of all things;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
We remember with thanksgiving those who have loved and served you in your Church on earth, who now rest from their labors (especially those most dear to us, whom we name in our hearts before You). Keep us in fellowship with all your saints, and bring us at length to the joy of your heavenly kingdom;
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
Here special supplications, intercessions and thanksgivings may be made.
All these things, and whatever else you see that we need, grant us, O Father, for his sake who died and rose again, and now lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.
Amen.

ESV BCP Daily Office Lectionary

How’s that for acronyms? The English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible has a fantastic tool for performing the daily office of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The ESV compiles the daily Bible readings: Psalms, OT, NT, Gospel – click this link. Not only that, if you use an RSS reader of some kind (I use Google Reader), you can subscribe to the RSS feed for this service and have it automatically show up every day! And that’s still not all! In Google Reader, the audio for the feed also shows up automatically, so I can click play and listen to the all of the day’s readings. I think this is way cool and I suggest it to you as a tool. The ESV site also has other reading plans if you’re not down with the BCP.