Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Old, Grumpy, and (Actually) Reformed

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 24, 2009 at 12:21 am

Dan Borvan confesses that he is not in the Neo-Calvinist category.

Read it here

  1. That was a great read!

  2. You realize he would probably lump Reformed Baptists into the group of not-really-Reformed folks… Reformed types of that sort generally discount people who will not accept infant baptism.

  3. I don’t think this is very helpful at all.

  4. I wasn’t too impressed. I don’t think the author of the post gives a really fair critique of Young, Restless, and Reformed. First, the so-called Neo-Calvinists today are not rejecting the Reformed theological tradition wholesale. While it’s true they may not subscribe fully to one of the 16th or 17th century Reformed/Puritan creeds, they do, in most cases, affirm substantial agreement. Indeed, I would venture to say that most of them would affirm that most of what they believe and practice today is not novel but finds its roots in orthodox and especially Reformed tradition.

    Second, the author seems to think “serious” worship automatically precludes rock bands, dancing, and waving hands. Yet the Bible describes acts of authentic, God-honoring worship that include multiple instrumental accompaniment (including strings and percussion), dance (see the case of David), and the waving and clapping of hands. Moreover, the Bible provides no warrant for limited corporate praise to paraphrases of the Psalms. That’s a man-made invention and a violation of the very RPW it professes to uphold. Such a restrictive view of worship may be “grumpy,” but it’s not biblical. Besides, the “restlessness” of the Neo-Calvinists has nothing to do with “bodily movement” or “exuberance” in worship. It has to do, rather, with their discomfort with shoddy preaching and a lack of gravity and majesty in worship. In that sense, the Neo-Calvinist are longing for the Big God of Calvin, Owen, and Edwards.

    Third, the author appears to follow the same line of reasoning as does R. Scott Clark in his Recovering the Reformed Confession. To be “actually” Reformed, we must define and apply the term in exactly the same way in which it was allegedly understood in the 16th and 17th centuries. Underlying this argument is the outmoded philosophy of “prescriptive linguistics,” a viewpoint rejected by most linguists today. The lexicographer’s primary role is first to describe how lexemes (words) are used in a given grammatical and historical context. These descriptions end up being “definitions” and serve to inform us of the semantic range of terms within any given literary or historical context. This is called “descriptive linguistics.” By way of example, the expression “Lutheran” (or something similar) was originally applied to many who were sympathetic to the Reformation–even to those who didn’t share all of Luther’s theology. Later, however, the terminology was applied more narrowly to churches adhering to the Augsburg Confession and/or the Formula of Concord. Similarly, the term “Reformed” may have had a narrow usage in the 16th and 17th century than it does today. The undeniable fact is that the term is used in a broader sense today. Usually, those who apply the term to individuals or churches that in some ways depart from the Three Forms of Unity or Westminster Confession of Faith usually add qualifiers like “Reformed Baptists” or “Reformed Continuationists” or “Reformed in his soteriology.” There is nothing unbiblical or unethical about that. If there were, then the moderators of this blog would be obliged to take “Reformed” out of its name.

    For a more positive assessment of Neo-Calvinism and Young, Restless, Reformed, see Young, Restless, Reformed: “Hip, Hip, Hurrah!” or “Bah Humbug!”? For a defense and application of “descriptive linguistics” as opposed to “prescriptive linguistics,” see Yes, We May Be Passionate.

  5. Robert Gonzales, perhaps I am reading you wrong, but are you now saying that dance and rock bands in congregational worship is appropriate? Is this your own personal view or is it the view of RBS as well?

    BTW this is a serious question. Perhaps I am way out of touch, but none of the RB churches that I am familiar with, would have dance or rock bands as a part of their public worship. I realize as Dean of the RB seminary, you have a wider contact with our churches, and it is possible that there has been a change and I am just ignorant. Thanks in advance for the help!

  6. Chris,

    I am quite sure that the brother who wrote the original post would not consider RB’s Reformed, but neither would Calvin or Luther. In addition, the Southern Baptist Convention would not consider your church Reformed either, yet we all read Calvin and benefit greatly from him and you continue to associate with the SBC. I hope most of us can wade through differences we have with other Christians and yet find benefits from them.

  7. David, the answer to your questions depends partly on what you mean by dance and rock bands. David danced before the ark of the covenant with reverence and awe (and joy). The Bible condones the use of musical accompaniment, using a wide range of instrumentation (e.g., Psalm 150).

    How might this look in a modern day Reformed Baptist church? Well, I attended a church in the Dominican Republic where the congregation clapped their hands and shifted the weight of their body from one foot to the other as they exuberantly sang “Blessed Be Your Name.” That kind of congregational dancing and clapping did not, in my mind though perhaps it may have in Michal’s, undermine the sanctity of corporate worship. As one RB pastors has put it (and I’m paraphrasing), “Failure to express joy in worship may itself indicate a lack of reverence toward God.”

    I’ve also attended churches and engaged in worship where instruments other than a piano were employed. I find nothing in the Scripture that precludes the employment of guitars (acoustic or electric) or drums in the musical accompaniment of congregational praise. Many think “rock band” the moment they see such instruments employed in corporate worship. Very well. One may call it what he likes. But the bottom line whether or not there is Scriptural warrant for a practice, not whether or not the Puritans did it.

  8. Hi Bob,
    I appreciate your willingness to step out and to be willing to take some shots from brethren who disagree. I have lost any hope that our churches will come to any consensus on the issue of music. I am hopeful that it will not drive wedges of affections or fellowship between our churches. May I give a humble disagreement on the use of Psalm 150? The psalm does not condone the use of these instruments…it commands them. That is my problem with the use of the psalms in seeking to come to an understanding of NC worship. Psalm 149 is very similar but it adds..Psalm 149:6-9 6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; 7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; 8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; 9 To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.
    Why take dancing and timbrels but not the sword and Obama being executed? I am being a bit tongue in cheek…but we all, all, all, cut and paste here when we use the psalms as our standard.
    I think we get off the point too much in our musical discussions, if I may say. The emphasis, as I see it, should be on truth, the smile of God, and the challenge and edification of the saints.
    Just some thoughts…slug away if you would like, I’ll even stick my chin my out! I would put a smiley face here, but I just can’t bring myself to do it…

  9. Jim,

    Thanks for this post. While I have almost no interest in what a particular church may use by way of instrumentation, it does seem that we should all be concerned with how our local church worships. Or, maybe not.

    As I read Bob (and others), the entire scope of the Bible is open to be applied in NC worship. Therefore, if David danced, we should dance. If Israel shouted with a loud voice, we should all shout with a loud voice. Whatever was done in the temple should be done in the church. To many, it is that simple.

    Much of what it means to be Reformed comes from the books written from pastors of large churches, and then disseminated at large conferences where hands are waved, drums are pounded and laughter sets the ethos of all that is proclaimed.

    Perhaps it is time that we face the fact – the worship war was fought and the small traditional church lost without getting to fire a shot. What the charismatic error could not do by means of didactic, it has succeeded in doing with the help of Les Paul and Pearl.

    Maybe those of us who believe that joy in worshipping the Father Son and Holy is best had by way of reverence are in the way and need to move over.

    Perhaps it is time to get a tat, crank up the jams and stop being so, well, Puritan.

  10. Speaking of descriptive and prescriptive, as these terms relate to public worship, are we to look at the Bible’s description of Old Covenant public worship as prescriptive for New Covenant public worhsip? Owen would say, “No.” I think all of us would, too. The Psalms are not prescriptive for the elements of New Covenant worship. If we want to use the Psalms (and I think we should), we need to be careful that we do so redemptive-historically. Me thinks that we must be very careful when using the Psalms to argue for the use of certain instruments, as if God were prescribing those for New Covenant public worship. My present understanding of instrumental accompaniment in the public worhip of God is that it is adiaphora. I do not think believers who worship in caves have to have trumpets, harps, cymbals, etc. in order for their worship to be “biblical.” On the other hand, I have been at GCC (MacArthur) where these instruments (or ones like them) were used and I think quite appropriately, in light of the lyrics, size of the congregation, and type of musical genre being employed. Things indifferent can be used, though they do not have to be used. And, all things indifferent are not equally suited to assist congregations in public worship.

  11. Jim, David, and Charles,

    A few thoughts.

    (1) I believe that both the Old and the New Testaments are the only rule to direct us how to glorify and enjoy God whether worshiping privately, corporately, or as a way of life. I do not believe the normative standard for NC worship is the NT canon. If that’s what Owen teaches, I strongly disagree.

    (2) I believe that the teaching of the OC vis-a-vis NC worship must now be interpreted and applied taking into account the fulfilled realities of the NC. Accordingly, since the theocracy and the shadows of OC worship have passed away, we don’t need to bring our swords or animal sacrifices to worship. The NT clearly tells us that animal sacrifices, the Levitical priesthood, and the physical Temple have passed away. The NT says nothing, however, about the passing away or abolition of musical accompaniment in corporate worship. That is an unwarranted inference.

    (3) Because I approach the RPW in a way different than some of the so-called “truly Reformed” folk today, I don’t need to fear that the introduction of musical instruments into corporate worship is the introduction of some unauthorized element into worship. Musical accompaniment in congregational praise preceded temple worship (see Exodus 15:20). Therefore, I tend to view instruments as circumstances of worship even in relationship to the Temple. Yes, God commanded those circumstances. But I question whether the Scripture demands we treat them as elements.

    (4) The real ELEMENT of worship is the gospel of Jesus Christ, whether in the shadowy forms of the OC or the clearer fulfillment forms of the NC. That’s why God gave specific directives concerning sacrifices, priesthood, and temple–they were shadows of the gospel. Violations of the RPW in NC worship are primarily getting the gospel wrong–not the use of guitars or drums. Those who believe the use of a guitar or drum to accompany corporate praise is ipso facto in every place and on every occasion a violation of the RPW are just plain “out to lunch.”

    (5) David writes, “The worship war was fought and the small traditional church lost without getting to fire a shot.” I would suggest that it has largely been the small traditional churches who have been doing most if not all the shooting. If small traditional churches want to limit their worship to the Psalter or blue Trinity hymnbook and preclude the use of any musical instruments, then that’s their prerogative. But why don’t they stop taking swipes at the rest of us who are weary of being told that we’re breaking the 2nd commandment and the so-called RPW. The beauty of the 1689 is that it doesn’t prohibit the use of instruments, including guitars and drums (see the ARBCA position paper). So I wish my 1689 brothers would stop complaining about other churches that have bands or that raise hands. For crying out loud, the NT speaks of worshipers raising hands (1 Tim. 2:8)! Let individual congregations decide for themselves and stop trying to enact a “Puritan” version of The Act of Uniformity on other 1689 churches.

    Now that I said my piece, I’ll put a smiley face so that you guys will know that I still love you 🙂

  12. Oops. I meant to address the above to “Jim, David, and Rich.”

  13. Bob,

    Much of what you write here is excellent. In particular, you nail it by writing, “The real ELEMENT of worship is the gospel of Jesus Christ” Amen a thousand times over!

    I must however raise a complaint. Earlier you defend rock bands and dancing. This then is reduced to “shifted the weight of their body from one foot to the other” and simply using guitars and drums. Perhaps it is the weakness of the medium, or the difference of our experiences, but it seems to me that by doing this you are wrongfully representing those of us who do not have rock music and dance in worship.

    Certainly, very few of our churches would reject out of hand the use of an guitar! Nor are there any “swaying police” in our services.

    But, as I wrote before, as dean of the Reformed Baptist Seminary, I am sure you have a better hand on what is going on in our churches.

  14. David,

    Thanks for your remarks. I knew you’d appreciate the importance of keeping the gospel as the center-piece of our worship.

    The debate over music genres, instrumentation, and body gestures in worship often goes no where because everyone brings to the debate his own experiences and preconceived ideas of what constitutes a “rock band” or what counts as “dance.” The blog to which you direct your reader contrasts “rock bands,” “dance” and the “waving of hands” with “sing[ing] Psalms and recit[ing] creeds.” The former presumably characterize the worship of NeoCalvinist churches and the latter the worship of “Actually Reformed” churches.

    I’ve attended, have friends who are members of, and have watched videos of the worship in some of these NeoCalvinist churches. Some of them use guitars and drums to accompany the singing. And in some of them, the congregation clap or raise their hands. As for dancing, I’m not sure what he’s talking about except for the suggestion I offered. But I’ve not been in or heard of so-called NeoCalvinst churches where AC/DC was invited to lead worship or where Brittney Spears danced around on the stage. So I find Mr. Borvan’s argument to be much of the same broad-brush, overkill reaction from traditionalists who don’t like the fact that some Reformed folk are trying to contextualize evangelism and worship because the Bible (and our own Confession) mandates such contextualization. (For a sermon from a 1689 RB pastor who addresses the need for “contextualization,” click here.)

    Of course, I don’t think every church needs to use the same instruments or employ the same body language in worship. It depends a lot on the place and culture in which you’re ministering. I just think we need to allow for more diversity among Reformed churches and not expect every 1689 congregation to look like a Siamese twin.

    These are just my thoughts. I certainly don’t want to come across as if I’m trying to impose a certain style of worship on every other RB church. I guess I’d prefer to see 1689 churches focusing their energies on trying to reach the lost and build up the brethren in the whole counsel of God rather than spending too much of their time lobbing “your-not-Reformed” bombs at our NeoCalvinist brothers. There are more serious errors that need to be addressed than NeoCalvinism.

  15. An important principle in worship is to distinguish between the sacred and the profane (Lev 10:10; Ezek 22:26; 44:23 ). Worship must above all be reverent and my experience of rock bands in church is not good. I would love to see more emotion in our worship- we’re a dry-eyed lot sometimes- but there is a lot of difference between genuine love for the Lord bursting forth in praise, joy and tears, and the music of the world being brought into church to work up feelings that aren’t really there and give us all a good time.

    Yes, David danced before the Lord, but firstly, no one ever danced in the Temple, and secondly, before David’s 1Chron 15 experience came the 1Chron 13 debacle. David had to learn that God will have the things relating to His holiness done in His way.

  16. Martin,

    Thanks for your input. Can you help me with the following?

    (1) What do you mean by “the music of the world”? In one sense, all music has been produced by people who live “in the world.” Do you mean “worldly” in the sense of “sinful” (1 John 2:15-17)? If so, in what ways do you think rock music with Christian lyrics is sinful?

    (2) The temple was not the only place where public and corporate worship was conducted. David’s worship was public. Israel’s worship after crossing the Red Sea including dancing (Exod. 15). What point are you trying to make by pointing to the 1 Chronicles 13 debacle. That passage teaches us that there are consequences for violating the clear teaching of Scripture. How does that relate to the use of the rock genre as a medium for praise? Is there a passage of Scripture or a good and necessary inference from Scripture that precludes the use of guitars, drums, and a genre like rock?

  17. (1) I’m suggesting that there may be things which, though they may be suitable in the world, are not suitable in the churches of Christ. We are not to be like the world, we are to be utterly different.

    (2) I continue to suggest that there is a difference between what Christians do outside of church and what they do inside. In church, ‘Let all things be done decently and in order’ (1Cor 14:40 ).

  18. Martin,

    Thanks for the clarification, though you really didn’t answer my second point above, i.e., what does the 1 Chronicles 13 debacle have to do with rock music.

    You assert that “there’s a difference between what Christians do outside of worship and what they do inside.” I’m not certain that 1 Corinthians 14:40 is the best proof text to prove that point since it articulates a principle that applies to all of life and not just to corporate worship. In any case, I don’t completely disagree with your assertion. But I’m sure you would agree that there are somethings we do in God’s house that we also do outside of God’s house. We love God. We love our neighbor. We read the word of God. We listen to the word of God. We pray. We fellowship with brothers. We sing. Etc. All these things may be done inside and outside of corporate worship.

    It remains for you, therefore, to prove from the Bible and the Confession that music genres employed outside of worship, say, rock and/or hip-hop, are inappropriate in corporate worship. In order to make your task easier, let me suggest you listen to and analyze the three following songs. Then clearly articulate and cogently argue why these songs would be unbiblical and unfit for corporate worship in any and every cultural setting.

    Style: Rock
    Song and artist: Let Your Kingdom Come: Sovereign Grace

    Style: Rock
    Song and artist: God of Wonders: Caedmon’s Call and Third Day

    Style: Hip-Hop
    Song artist: Unstoppable: Curtis Allen (alias “Voice”)

    I look forward to your thoughts.

  19. I said: “Speaking of descriptive and prescriptive, as these terms relate to public worship, are we to look at the Bible’s description of Old Covenant public worship as prescriptive for New Covenant public worhsip? Owen would say, “No.” I think all of us would, too.”

    To which, Bob replied: “(1) I believe that both the Old and the New Testaments are the only rule to direct us how to glorify and enjoy God whether worshiping privately, corporately, or as a way of life. I do not believe the normative standard for NC worship is the NT canon. If that’s what Owen teaches, I strongly disagree.”

    I meant the elements. Are we to view the elements of Old Covenant worship as prescriptive for New Covenant worship? Are the elements of OC worship the elements of NC worship simply becasue they are in the Bible? For instance, animal sacrifices. OC worship was typological and abrogated via fulfillment in Christ. All OC positive law is just that – OC positive law. The positive laws of the NC are found in the NT – for instance, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The moral law of God is one and the same from creation to consummation and is functioning as such under all hisotrical covenants. Positive law, however, is dynamic and conditioned by redemtpive/covenantal history. I think Owen would say that each covenant shares moral law, due to our status as creatures, and each covenant has its own positive laws. That is not to say that there is never over-lap in terms of positive law – sacrifices both predates the OC and are included in the OC. But that is to say that we do not assume continuity with all positive law.

  20. 1Chron 13 has, of course, nothing to do with rock music in itself, but it has a great deal to do with not deciding for ourselves how we shall deal with the things of God.

    Mr Gonzales is right that we should look to the NT rather than the OT for the way to do our worship. I think that view is much older than Owen; if I’m not mistaken it goes back to Martin Bucer. If you want to see OT practices brought into the Church, you ought to attend ‘worship’ in one of the great English Cathedrals and ask yourself if you want that in your church. God forbid!

    The point about Rock muic is that it is fundamentally a performance. I listened to the three pieces of music that you linked and they are OK, though the writers aren’t exactly Isaac Watts or Anne Steele. If you want to lisen to the on your CD player or IPOD as you might Handell’s Messiah, that is fine. If you want to go to a concert and listen to the bands, that is fine too. It might be possible to arrange the first two pieces to be sung in church, but as they are played in the links you gave, they are a performance, an entertainment, and I see no prescription in the NT for either us or God to be entertained as part of worship in church.

    The real question is whether there should be musical accompaniment in church at all. Spurgeon didn’t have it. But if we are to have it, then it nust be simply to keep us in tune and tempo, not for us to be entertained or to work up emotions.

  21. Correction on my last post. I meant to write that Dr Barcellos is right hat e should look at the NT rather than the OT for the way to do our worship.


  22. Dear brethren,

    While I agree with the problems of holding to the doctrines of grace without actually being Reformed, I think that many of us need to be honest about our roots. For instance, it would be informative for Reformed Baptist or Reformed Presbyterian pastors to ask for a Sunday morning show of hands as to how many of their communicants were converted within the context of a consistently Reformed ministry.
    I for one was saved in a Methodist church. I walked out of the choir loft to respond to an altar call. Four years later I was baptized by a SBC pastor, who several months later led me to the doctrines of grace. About eleven years later I was ordained as an elder in a Reformed Baptist church which subscribed to the 1689 Confession.

    We need to realize that many of these “Neo-Calvinists” are in transition, just as many of us have been. And let us all remember that none of us have arrived; none of us have attained. We would be far better off to consider ourselves as being in “Reforming” churches, rather than Reformed. None of us are as we were five years ago, and by the grace of God, we are not as we shall be five years from now.

  23. I don’t the guy’s heart who wanted to spend more of our time figuring out which of us deserve the precious moniker of being reformed enough. But I think that article appears to embody one of the great reasons why so many people have a hard time accepting the Reformed faith. i.e. Reformed Christians. They are afraid that if they do they will become like the other reformed people they know…argumentative and grumpy. I think we should spend more time adorning our doctrines with humility, joy, and patience for other believers than celebrating the fact that people perceive us as grumpy. George’s comment is on the bulls eye!

  24. Gentlemen,

    I would like to make one comment with regard to music in worship: we are instructed to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to
    the Lord. There is a horizontal element as well as a vertical element to the command. We sing to one another, but this activity is pleaing to the Lord. It is related to the concept, “If you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to Me.” I was recently in a church whose ministry I greatly respect. However, the music includes electronic instruments and contemporary music. The performers were so loud that the only way that I could tell that the congregation was singing was that I could see their lips moving. Under those circumstances, I do not believe it was possible to obey the command that we sing to one another. Lay aside for a moment the question of whether instruments should be used in worship. But anytime the instrumentation interferes with the command that we sing to one another — well, that is a problem. In addition, beware of adding an instrument that prohibits the musician from singing. And by the way, I am not an exclusive psalmodist. However, think of how many churches never use the psalms.

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