Reformed Baptist Fellowship

The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Confessionalism Adrift Amid the Siren Cries for Relevancy – Part 3

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 18, 2009 at 10:57 am

Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies

Address – September 1, 2009 – Westminster Seminary, Escondido

Pastor Jeff Oliver

Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Placerville, CA

The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Confessionalism Adrift

Amid the Siren Cries for Relevancy – Part 3

The Solution

I have spent the greater amount of time in this address seeking to persuade you of my claim that even amongst those who claim to be reformed; we are drifting from our confessional roots and convictions; from our confessional standards as they are historically understood.  What is the solution?  In the time that is left, I will only be able to begin to sketch out the way forward.

Our reformed confessional standards are the only reasonable basis for a stable definition of reformed theology, piety and practice.  That’s why all those who are called to be ministers of word and sacraments in reformed churches need to be taught thoroughly the reformed faith and be able and ready to confess and proclaim and teach the faith once delivered to the saints.  This is the task of the ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

I am not seeking here to give an exhaustive exegesis of this text but to highlight the thrust of Paul’s words to young pastor Timothy.  Notice first of all that this is formal language; Paul’s words are in the style of a formal charge.  He is not passing on some casual advice during an informal intern meeting at Starbucks.  Rather it is as if he was saying, as it were, “Timothy, get on your feet; stand up straight and place your right hand in the air for I am about to charge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus with regard to what you are to do in the gospel ministry.”

So what was Timothy to do? He was to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). Paul is saying, “Timothy, preach the word!  In its application, you are to reprove, rebuke and exhort.  Now Timothy, not everyone is going to get it straight away so you are going to have to be patient and teach your hearers.  Timothy I don’t want you to be naïve, you also need to know, that the time is coming when some will not want to hear the Word, they will want teachers who will tell them what they want to hear, but Timothy, don’t change the message and don’t change the method.  Timothy, I know it is hard but don’t come and tell me that what you have been charged before God to do is not working and ask me for some alternative message and strategy that will be more relevant and popular. Timothy, no matter what others are doing, no matter what the people demand, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.”

Westminster Seminary California and the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.  They believe the historic Christian faith as summarized in the ecumenical creeds and the Reformed confessions and catechisms. They are dedicated to training men for the Reformed, pastoral ministry.  As students at these institutions you have a tremendous privilege and responsibility. Here at WSC and the IRBS, your calling, as students, is to study and prepare, in school, with pastors and scholars, to become pastor-scholars.  Many in our day want to undermine the necessity of the scholar component in pastor-scholars.  We need more pastors they cry but we don’t need trained scholars.  To be ready and able to “preach the word …reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching … fulfill your ministry” demands extensive study in the various theological disciplines. The Bible is not to be read in a vacuum; we read it with the church.  The Church has been thinking about and interpreting the Bible for a long time. So we need pastor-scholars who are not only trained to read God’s Word as it was written in the original languages, but who have been trained in the confessional reformed tradition. This is not something done quickly, easily, or cheaply.  Many of you have sacrificed to have this opportunity.  Many others sacrifice alongside you, as faithful donors, to give you this opportunity.  Maybe you think from time to time, “Is it worth all the sacrifice and labor?” It is worth it. You have an invaluable opportunity given to you; don’t waste it.

After Seminary

How does this work out when you leave seminary?  How should what you learn at self-consciously confessional, reformed institutions shape and impact any pastoral ministry to which God may call you in the future?  This is too large a topic with which for me to deal in any depth in the remaining time so let me rather suggest just one very practical application; the wording of ordination vows in reformed churches. The wording should reflect in detail that to which the minister is committing himself before God and the remedy the church has should he fail to keep his vow.

The following is the wording of the relevant vows I took at my ordination at Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Placerville with regard to my confessional subscription.  The particular phrasings were adapted from the Canons of Dort.

Do you sincerely and in good conscience before the Lord, declare your full subscription that you heartily believe and are persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine contained in the confessional standards of this church, do fully agree with the Word of God and do you promise therefore diligently to teach and faithfully to defend the aforesaid doctrine, without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same by your public preaching or writing.
By the grace of God, I do.

Do you declare, moreover, that you not only reject all errors that militate against this doctrine but that you are disposed to refute and contradict these and to exert yourself to keeping the Church free from such errors.

And if thereafter any difficulties or different sentiments respecting the aforesaid doctrines should arise in your mind, do you promise that you will neither publicly nor privately propose, teach, or defend these same, either by preaching or writing, until you have first revealed such sentiments to the other elders of this church, that the same may thereby be examined, being ready always to submit to the judgment of the elders of this church under penalty in case of refusal, of being by that very fact suspended from your office.

And further, if at any time the elders upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine of this church, may deem it proper to require of you a further explanation of your sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, do you hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisition, under the penalty above mentioned, reserving for yourself, however, the right of appeal in case you should believe yourself aggrieved by the sentence of the elders; and until a decision is made upon such an appeal, you will acquiesce in the determination and judgment already passed.

By the grace of God, I do.

If I were able to go back to my ordination, I would do one more thing, in addition to taking these vows.  I would have the church’s confession of faith, 2nd LBCF, set out on a table and I would sit down and sign it before the congregation.  Again this is not something that we can mandate for all ministers to do but it is a powerful, visible symbol of our commitment that we heartily believe and are persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine contained in the confessional standards of the church, do fully agree with the Word of God and that we promise diligently to teach and faithfully to defend this doctrine, without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same by our public preaching or writing.

Will these things, in and of themselves, guarantee the success of confessional reformed orthodoxy?  It would be extremely naive to claim such but what they do provide is a solid foundation for remedy when things begin to drift or go awry.  Churches may claim to be confessional and reformed but, in reality, are not.  Ministers may say they are reformed but judged against the confessional standards of the church, historically understood, it may turn out they are not.

This is where the value of confessionalism is proven. A confession provides clarity of definition with regard to our theological identity and it defines our relationships.  It brings together who we are and what we believe and provides the objective means to dialogue with those with whom we differ.  Our reformed confessions are the means for the public affirmation and defense of truth; the church is to “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13).  Our reformed confessions serve as a public standard of fellowship and discipline. The biblical model of the local church is not a union of those who have agreed to differ but a body marked by peace and unity. The church is to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).  And what is true of life within the local church is also true of fellowship between local churches and in particular, in Associations of Churches. What right thinking local church or association of churches, which values the preservation of its own doctrinal purity, as well as its own peace and unity, would seek fellowship with another body, knowing nothing of its stand on matters of truth and error?   Our reformed confessions also serve as a concise standard by which to evaluate ministers of the Word and sacraments.  The Minister of Word and sacraments is to be a “faithful man” (2 Timothy 2:2), who “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Tit. 1:9). Our reformed confessions contribute to a sense of historical continuity. Our confessions unite us to a precious heritage of faith received from the past and are a legacy by which we may pass on to succeeding generations the faith of their fathers.

What is the ultimate motivation to be faithful in holding fast the form of sound words?

What will keep us going in these difficult days, faithful to our confessional, reformed identity and convictions?  Personal popularity?  A guaranteed, large and appreciative congregation?  The outward success of culturally relevant programs? No, it is the conviction that God will reward our labor not our results.

1 Corinthians 3:6-8 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

This understanding of the minister’s work is sorely needed.  People are inclined to think far too often that the minister is responsible for the increase.  This thinking has practically turned our churches into business institu­tions, with the people as stockholders, committees as boards of directors and the minister as the chief executive officer. As far as the Bible is concerned, the pastor’s job is not to be successful as judged by outward results, but to be faithful in preaching the gospel.

If the minister functions in this way, God will reward him ‘according to his own labor’

Thank God it is our labor, not the results of it, that forms the basis for reward.

Benjamin B. Warfield writes, ‘What a consolation this is to the obscure workman to whom God has given much labor and few results…'[1]

May God help us to resist the siren calls of this day to slip our moorings from our confessional roots and convictions as they are expressed in our confessional standards as they are historically understood, as He did our reformed fore-fathers in their generation, and may He enable us to stand firm and hold to the traditions that we have been taught (2 Thess 2:15), looking to Him to give the growth and He sees fit.


[1] Geoffrey Wilson, 1 Corinthians: A Digest of Reformed Comment (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1978) 49

  1. Pastor Oliver,
    Thank you for this very timely and helpful address. Our church constitution requires our elders to present every year at our annual members meeting, written affirmation to our confession, the LBC 1689.

  2. My dear friend Jeff has truly laid out the position of full-subscriptionism for us. I am curious to know how many who are reading this blog actually believe the Pope is the Antichrist? Do you actually believe that the Pope is who Paul is referring to in the Thessalonian letters? If not can you call yourself a full subscriptionist ? Could you actually take the same vow Jeff took?

    Spurgeon did say ‘Arrest him on suspicion’ was that an admission of uncertainty, meaning CHS was not a full-subscriptionist, any insights? If he wasn’t do we say he was not a RB?

    This throws up the issue being espoused from IRBS and certain RB quarters that says the historical understanding of the Confession is the way to understand the Confession. This is only determinable of course by studying the writings of the authors of our Confession. Dr Renihan has done a lot of good work here. I believe that is a fair position to assert, proving what was meant however is not just as easy.

    However, does it follow that this then becomes the lens through which Scripture is understood? Surely exegetical theology must inform our systematics authoritatively and not historical theology? Historical theology is a helpmate but not an authority. Scripture alone is the authority we must submit to, exegesis is the tool to determine authoritative meaning surely? Where the Confession is not according to Scripture we cannot with good conscience subscribe to it. Does that make us unconfessional? or perhaps substantial subscriptionists ? I would appreciate discussion in a gracious and non-adversarial way.

  3. Hi Robert B,

    I believe the question you ask, regarding the Pope as the Antichrist, is answered very well in the ARBCA Constitution, Appendix 1, which is available on the ARBCA.com website. I think some of your other questions are answered there too. In that appendix the definition of full subscriptionism, as ARBCA Churches have voted to define it, is given. I would appreciate your comments on what Dr. Renihan wrote there.

    May God bless you.

    Steve

  4. Steve,

    Thanks for pointing us to the appendix in ARBCA’s Constitution. I’ve read Dr. Renihan’s explanation of full subscriptionism in the past. If I recall, it does not necessarily preclude scruples about the precise wording of the Confession. It does, however, expect one to affirm all the doctrines or teachings of the confession. Jeff Oliver’s address above raises two questions in my mind. I wonder whether you or someone else in ARBCA could answer them.

    First, must an ARBCA pastor affirm full adherence to the Confession because (quia) it is biblical? Or must a pastor affirm the Confession insofar as (quatenus) it is biblical? According to R. Scott Clark, both of these positions have been advocated by confessional Reformed churches though the latter apparently is more common (RRC, pp. 160-91). Which of these two approaches does ARBCA require? The quia or the quatenus? If I’m not mistaken, the latter would allow the subscriber to take minor exceptions. The former would not.

    Second, Pastor Oliver makes repeatedly makes reference to affirming the Confession “as [it is or was] historically understood.” Does this require that we note how the Puritans applied what they taught and follow their application in order to be truly Confessional? I ask this because I question whether our Puritan forefathers would have arrived at the same conclusions regarding the application of the Regulative Principle of Worship as did ARBCA’s theological committee in their position paper. In my reading of the Puritans and works about them (which is confessedly limited), I’ve developed the impression that they would not have approved of the use of multiple musical instruments in worship or what we today call special music (solos, duets, choirs, etc.). Yet, according to ARBCA’s position paper, the Puritan RPW does allow for the use of musical instruments (even more than one) and special music.

    Of course, it’s possible that I’ve relied on imprecise information regarding the Puritan’s views on musical instrumentation in worship and forms of “special music.” If so, I’d be happy for someone to show me that the Puritans didn’t have a problem with musical instrumentation or special music. But if I’m correct–if the Puritan divines who framed the 17th century confessions excluded the use of instruments from worship as well as things like choirs because they viewed such as inconsistent with the RPW, do you think the conclusions or applications in ARBCA’s position paper on the RPW are consistent with Pastor Oliver’s call to affirm the Confession “as [it is or was] historically understood”?

    Thanks in advance for your input.

    Bob Gonzales

  5. Hi Bob,

    A quick answer, so forgive me for not answering in a scholarly fashion, but in a practical way. Obviously the two parts of the Confession that are objected to most often are Pope as Antichrist and the salvation of infants and the mentally deficient. I sit on the Membership Committee which interviews the elders of the applying churches so I have discussed these issues with numerous pastors. Those exceptions are very common and almost expected, although those making the exceptions generally say they belive the pope is an antichrist and that the salvation of infants is simply a mystery to be left in the hand of God.

    When any other exceptions are brought forth we carefully interview the applicant to find out what the issues are. Suffice it to say that a red flag has been thrown up — further investigation is needed — and it is vital to us that no doctrine of the Confession is being called into question. If one is to say, “I believe the Bible and the Confession is wrong,” there is a problem. ARBCA, as an Assocation, is saying that our churches believe the Confession is an accurate distillation of what the Bible teaches.

    Regarding the Puritan view of RPW, your point is interesting and one I have thought about. However, Ch 22 is silent regarding instrumentation. A capella singing was practiced by many in that day, so they could have inserted a ban on single or multiple instruments had they desired to do so (even if the WCF or Savoy had not — our Confession came some 30 years later). However, since instrumentation is not commanded — or forbidden, in the 1689, one could use instrumentation or be exclusively a capella in their congegation and be confessional.

  6. Steve,

    Thanks for your reply. As to the first point, I wasn’t sure whether you answered it clearly. On the one hand, it seems that ARBCA might be willing to allow some minor exceptions. On the other hand, you write, “If one is to say, ‘I believe the Bible and the Confession is wrong,’ there is a problem.” I doubt anyone applying for membership in ARBCA would say the whole Confession is wrong. What they might say is that on some particular point in the Confession, they don’t believe the Confession is fully consistent with the witness of Scripture. They may not even say that the Confession is completely wrong but just imprecise, imbalanced, or ambiguous. In addition to the exceptions regarding the Pope as the Antichrist and the doctrine regarding elect infants, have there been other exceptions allowed of which you’re aware?

    With regard to the second point, you point to the Confession’s silence on musical instrumentation and special music. But the confession is not silent on prayer, preaching, the reading of Scripture, singing, and the sacraments. Why would they fail to mention musical instrumentation?

    Some would argue that they excluded musical instrumentation because they believed it had no place in the worship of God on account of the RPW. “The Puritans insisted in their worship on the divine mandate,” says Horton Davies

    and that every ordinance had to be plainly instituted or approved in the New Testament as the final Word of God. It was not enough that the Book of Psalms was ancient Israel’s anthology of praise unless it was also used and approved by Christ and his apostles, and therefore ratified as the continuing will of God. If there is no evidence of instrumental music in the gatherings of the early Christians, then it must be rejected by the seventeenth-century Christians too (The Worship of the American Puritans, 126).

    David Music remarks, “The Puritans adhered to the Calvinist belief that musical instruments and other ‘popish’ ornaments had no place in Christian worship” (Instruments in Church, 85).

    The observations of these historians are no doubt based on certain statements made by the Puritans themselves. William Perkins censures “consort in music” (i.e., musical accompaniment) as “will-worship” because it feeds the ears and does not edify the mind (A Golden Chain, 152). Henry Ainsworth notes that “Instruments of musicke were so annexed to the songs of the Temple, as incense to the prayers.” But, argues Ainsworth, “Such shadows are ceased, but the substance remaineth” (The Old Orthodox Foundation of Religion, 71-72). David Calderwood, who was apparently one of the contributors to the Directory of Worship, described the Puritan pastor as follows:

    The pastor loveth no music in the House of God but such as edifieth, and stoppeth his ear at instrumental music as serving the pedagogy of the outward Jews under the law, and being figurative of that spiritual joy whereunto our hearts should be opened under the Gospel.

    According to John Girardeau, the Directory of Worship doesn’t mention musical instruments because the Puritans were united in opposing their use in New Covenant worship (Instrumental Worship in the Public Worship of the Church, 132-33). George Gillespie sees musical instruments as part of Jewish worship but not Christian worship (The Presbyterian’s Armoury, 1:13). Samuel Rutherford includes the “organ” with altars, Jewish ephods, images, etc., which he labels “badges of Jewish and Popish religion” (Cited in David Fleming, The Reformation of Scotland, 310). Thomas Goodwin rejects the use of music instruments in NT worship (Works, 3:13). Thomas Ridgeley observes concerning OT worship, “We very often read of their praising God with the sound of the trumpet, psaltery, harp, organ, and other musical instruments. This,” writes Ridgeley, “is the principal argument brought for the use of musical instruments by those who defend it and conclude it an help to devotion.” “But,” he argues, “what may sufficiently determine the matter, is that we have no precept nor precedent for it in the New Testament, either from the practice of Christ, or his apostles” (A Body of Divinity, 435-37). And according to Matthew Henry, “The New Testament keeps up singing of psalms, but has not appointed church music” (Commentary on the Whole Bible, 2:875). Though Benjamin Keach defended singing in the church (against some Particular Baptists who viewed singing in corporate worship as a Popish invention), he rejected musical accompaniment: “There is now no other instrument to be used in singing but that of the tongue well tuned with grace…. singing is given forth afresh in the New Testament, and no instruments of music mentioned” (The Breach Repaired in God’s Worship, 54).

    If the citations above accurately represent the Puritan view of musical accompaniment, then wouldn’t it be correct to conclude that they omitted mention of musical instrumentation from the Confession’s chapter on worship because they actually believed the use of such was inappropriate and a violation of the 2nd commandment? If so, then it would appear that to affirm the 2LBCF “as [it is or was] historically understood” would require us to adopt their view of musical instruments and corporate worship. But this is not what the ARBCA position paper on the RPW does. It reads,

    The Psalms mention a wide variety of instruments, stringed, brass, percussion, etc. The Scripture does not specify what instruments are acceptable or not acceptable. Thus one must assume that an instrument is acceptable if it is played skillfully and in a manner fitting to worship.

    Of course, I could be wrong about the Puritans’ view of musical instrumentation in worship. Perhaps the samples I’ve given above only represent a portion and not the whole. Perhaps the historians who portray the Puritans as opposed to musical instrumentation in corporate worship are wrong. Can anyone provide evidence that at least some from our Puritan tradition would have arrived at the same conclusions regarding musical instrumentation in worship as those represented in the ARBCA position paper? I’d be happy if someone would correct my current impression because I actually appreciate the latitude of ARBCA’s position paper and find its conclusions as more consistent with the teaching of Scripture than the conclusions of some of the Puritans I’ve cited above. But I’m not yet convinced the ARBCA position paper represents an accurate portrayal of the historical intent of the original framers.

  7. Dean Gonzales,

    The limited amount of reading I’ve done on this topic seems to support your conclusions regarding Puritan worship. The book by Clark already mentioned in these posts and discussed in these comments (RRC) supports these conclusions on pages 244f.

    I am no scholar in this area, but I must admit that my basic reading of the WCF and especially our BCF 1689 leaves me somewhat dissatisfied with these conclusions. If the Assembly sought to endorse a capella psalmody, why didn’t they explicitly say so? They certainly were not shy about forcefully stating their positions. They endorse the singing of psalms, but are silent on instruments. As the Assembly was so perspicuous in so many areas, I tend to read significance into areas they were silent. Could it not be that there was not consensus on these matters, and so they simply went as far as consensus allowed, leaving the rest to individual conviction? That seems to be exactly what happened when the BCF 1689 was compiled and the sections on divorce were dropped (see A Modern Exposistion of the 1689 BCF, Waldron, page 301).

    To sum up this thought, it seems to me that ambiguity in the confession reflects liberty of practice rather than narrow restriction. The Assembly, Collins, etc., they were so detailed so often, I can’t help but read the confession as allowing some diversity where they did not give it clarity.

    I think that Schaff makes a similar point in his History of the Creeds, but I can’t remember where, and that book is way to big to search through on a Saturday morning. If my understanding of the confession is correct, then the ARBCA paper and the practice of so many of our Churches is not inconsistent with the confession, or the historically understood intent of the framers,at least not at this point.

  8. Nick,

    Thanks for your input. I’d love to be more certain that your explanation for the lack of reference to musical instrumentation in the WCF, Savoy, and LBCF is due to a lack of consensus and their decision, therefore, to leave this as a matter of conscience. Personally, I believe the Bible does allow for the use of musical instrumentation in New Covenant corporate worship. That’s why I appreciated the latitude in the ARBCA position paper.

    Nevertheless, I’ve yet to hear historical evidence that there really was a lack of consensus among the Puritans on this particular issue. The historians that address this issue and the Puritans I’ve read seem to view the introduction of musical instruments into New Covenant worship as unscriptural. This is a common argument advanced by those who advocate a capella praise. They argue that the RPW as historically understood precludes the use of musical instrumentation. See, for example, John Price’s recent Old Light on New Worship: Musical Instrumentation and the Worship, A Theological, Historical, and Psychological Study (Simpson Publishing Company, 2005).

    Once again, I’d be interested in any historical evidence that among those who framed and affirmed the WCF, Savoy, and/or LBCF there was a lack of consensus about the use of musical instruments in worship and an affirmation that the use of such is a matter of Christian liberty.

  9. I agree with you on the use of instrumentation, and about the ARBCA paper.

    I flipped through The Creeds of Christendom by Schaff, and found pages 772-772 interesting. It appears that the theory I’m throwing out about lack of consensus is exactly what the Assembly did in regards to Chapter III. To quote Schaff-

    “On this question, there was a difference of opinion among the divines… and this difference seems to have been left open by the framers of the constitution.”

    Obviously, that quote is in regards to God’s Decree, not instruments in worship, but I think it does establish some precedence for what I am saying.

    When I look at Chapter 22 in my 1689 BCF, I am struck by how detailed the sections are on prayer and the Lord’s Day, while section 5 simply presents a list of elements without delving to deeply into details. From the quotes you provided above dealing with instrumentation, I see that this was very much a concern of the day. Seeing that, it’s hard for me not to read significance into the silence of the confession at this point.

    I have to wonder whether an Assembly made up of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Independents would have had consensus on this issue. I honestly don’t know. As you said- it would be interesting if someone could support that one way or the other historically.

  10. Worship (as all of you already know, but I want to use a Latin phrase like Bob) was the *sine qua non* issue of English Puritanism. In a sense, it is fair to say, “No Regulative Principle of Worship = No Puritanism.” Because this put them in constant conflict with the Established Church under James I/II and Charles I/II, there is a nearly endless trove of writing from throughout the Puritan period, regarding the elements of worship, the RP of worship, etc. Bob has cited some of it, but you could probably read from now to the end of your life and not finish it all. And it certainly looks like the evidence is pretty overwhelming that there simply was no debate amongst non-Conformists on musical instruments in worship – they were out.

    I agree that the confessions might have been ambiguous on some matters (both supra and infra subscribed the WCC), where consensus could not be reached. But in the matter of worship, wasn’t the entire point of the RP, to the Puritans, that they did *not* have to enumerate what *wasn’t* allowed? After all, 22.5 doesn’t expressly forbid dancing while singing, or running up and down the aisles of the church while preaching, or leading in prayer while dressed as a clown. Does this mean there was a lack of consensus? Since the Confession doesn’t expressly ban them, can we either do or not do, and still be “Confessional?” And if so, wouldn’t this undermine the original argument from way up at the top, in which Oliver essentially said we had to interpret the confessions according to authorial intention?

    There *is* an interesting divide, however, between the WCC/Savoy groups, and the Particular Baptists, on the issue of song. The Presbys and Indies practiced exclusive psalmody. Pretty much no debate here (at least, at the time their confessions were adopted). But the Baptists, 30-40 years after WCC, were having a debate over whether congregational singing was an element of worship *at all*, as Bob mentions above. Those who did adopt singing appear to have embraced psalms + hymns from the very start. That doesn’t prove either position Biblical, it’s just kind of interesting.

    Regarding the ARBCA appendix, I have a question for Steve. Renihan seems to make a big point of the idea that full/strict subscription is to the “doctrines” of the confessions, and not necessarily to the exact “words” of the confession. Now, I hate to go all Gordon Clark on you, but it seems to me that this is an invalid distinction. The “words” of the confession are arranged into an order which *creates* the doctrinal propositions. Those propositions *are* the doctrines of the confession. Change the words, change the doctrine. Returning to the Pope of Rome, because I’m keeping the dream alive, the Confession says “neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”

    Now, the thing is, you can’t really change (or exclude) any words here without changing the doctrine. In fact, you can’t even change the word “that” without changing the doctrine. The doctrine is not that the Pope as “an antichrist”, as in “many antichrists have gone out into the world.” The doctrine is that the Pope is “that antichrist” – the specific one referred to in Revelation/Thessalonians. Furthermore, the “words” of the confession also require the belief in what is sometimes called the “institutional antichrist” view, by excluding any other view. That is, the confession does not say, “the Antichrist, *when* he comes someday, near the end, will be the Pope”; rather, it advocates the view that the Antichrist is right now, and will be until Christ returns, the Pope of Rome.

    Anyway, since you are dealing with this on the ground, and I am just speculating on the internet, perhaps you can you give us a real world example of this “words” vs. “doctrines” distinction, in which a person might subscribe the doctrine and not the words, without actually changing the doctrine?

    One more question for you that I haven’t seen discussed. It has periodically been debated amongst WCC people, whether subscribing includes the Scripture references also. That is, when you subscribe the Confession, are you binding yourself not merely to the doctrines, but also that every verse reference is accurately and correctly used in support of the stated doctrine? Anything on this in your association? Or yours, Bob?

    Thanks to all for a fascinating discussion. I get excited each time there’s a new reply, which may be a little sad, and probably suggests I need to get out more, but there it is.

  11. Nick,

    FYI, my last reply was not an intentional reply to your last reply – they seem to have posted at the same time. The issue you raise in your last two paragraphs deserves its own discussion, beyond what I just said above.

  12. Speaking of latitudes in the ARBCA position on the RPW, I think it’s good to point out that the latitude is not completely left for anyone to determine for themselves what worship is. As the ARBCA RPW paper notes that:

    Acceptable worship is not to be determined by individual experience or preference. Rather this paragraph teaches that the Scripture is sufficiently clear to reveal that which is acceptable worship to God. Chapters 9 and 10 point us to the Scripture to settle matters of dispute in worship. Scripture alone has authority to settle differences in worship over inferences, extra-biblical traditions, historical practices and cultural innovations.

    Worship is most definitely not to be designed to lure in unbelievers to church as it states against the following type of worship:

    The worship services of many so-called “seeker-sensitive” churches are designed to appeal to the unbeliever on his own terms, thus tending to give the worship services of those churches a very distinctive “entertainment” flair … long on music, loud, rhythm-driven music that is designed to stir the emotions …

    Unfortunately many of the modern worship churches are basically “seeker-sensitive” churches, where the worship is lacking in reverence and what appears to be a rock concert or a form of entertainment on the podium.

  13. I agree with Jade and ARBCA

  14. I love being “seeker sensitive” with Paul who said, “Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33), and I love to have my emotions stirred up with biblical themes and well-played music (including rhythm) along with the Psalmist:

    Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD. Psalm 150:1-6

    You guys really don’t believe the Devil’s in the beat, do you? 🙂

  15. David Cason,

    I very much appreciated your post, the comment about the clown gave me a chuckle, something that is in short supply on rainy Northwest afternoons. I also recognize, and agree, that someone with an agenda might use the argument of silence to justify all sorts of wackiness. I think I made my point a little better in my second post.

    I think I agree with Jade and ARBCA and Dean Gonzales. Perhaps I’m the one who lacks internal consensus. 🙂

  16. David Cason made a good point about the blurry line between affirming all the doctrines of the Confession while not being required to affirm all the wording of the confession. Usually, a caveat with a particular word is not related merely to stylistic preferences. The objector usually thinks the semantic range of a given word in the Confession is either too broad or too narrow. And when one changes a word that means one thing for another word that has a different semantic value, he’s effectively altered the doctrine set forth in the larger proposition, at least to some degree.

    Of course, some of us may have problems with some of the words in the 1689 because their semantic range has changed over time and may not carry the same connotations today as they may have carried in the 17th century. I’m rather fond of the terms “passion” and “passionate.” God, I like to think, is “passionate” for his own glory. But the Confession tells us that God has “no passions.” Perhaps this is an instance where one might take issue with the wording of the Confession. But then again, we’ve got to determine precisely what the Puritans did and did not mean.

  17. Hi Dr. Gonzales,
    it’s not a question of whether the Devil is in the beat, but when a church starts sounding like a disco tech or a rock concert, that’s no longer the worship of God. The main goal of that exercise is no longer the praises of God but to appeal to people’s senses in the same way entertainment does.

    1Cor 9-10 is not in reference to the worship of God, as some have already stated here before. The ARBCA also notes in reference to the passages you’ve referred to where it states:

    Frame [author of Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense] follows Worship in Spirit and in Truth with Contemporary Worship Music. This is a thought provoking analysis of contemporary worship music (CWM), claiming that much CWM is as appropriate for Christian worship as traditional hymnology. He challenges opponents of CWM to be more open to its use in worship, accusing them of ignorance about CWM and believing that 1 Corinthians 9:22 and 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 teaches that Christian worship should be culturally sensitive. However, the former passage has to do with Paul’s personal behavior in witnessing, not worship; the latter is an unbeliever’s conversion because of God’s Word fully prophesied, not because of culturally sensitive music.

    The worship of God is not to be governed to appeal to the unbelievers as clearly stated in the ARBCA paper. As stated before that the evangelism that comes out of the worship of God is in the preaching of his Word as it convicts sinners to repentance. Entertainment doesn’t convict, it appeals to the senses … and it does just that … entertain.

    Often times we seem to forget who is present among us when we gather in corporate worship. We forget that the One who is present and who the worship should be directed to is the same God who appeared in Isaiah 6, that such a vision caused Isaiah to fall down on his knees begging to be spared. What the churches lack today is that very reality in their worship. It is not to say that Christ has not made an entrance for believers to enter the Holy of Holies, but we should not treat this lightly. We should be coming before this Holy God with full REVERENCE, and I honestly have to say MANY churches lack this today. But isn’t this lack of reverence of God characteristic of our culture today? And yet we want to bring that type of culture in our churches so that we can be sensitive to the cultural changes?

    When we come before the Lord, we should be crying out as Isaiah said, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord God Almighty”! It’s not to say that Christ has not died for our sins, but many of us do not come confessing our sins when we come before this Holy God. We treat Him like He’s just a friend, and approach Him as if He is mere man and this is wrong. We should solidify that image of God as spoken of in Isaiah 6 in our minds when we come together for corporate worship. Our hearts should be in humbleness and reverence of such a meeting. It’s NOT to say that you do not do this. But let’s be truthful here … how many disco/rapper/rock concert music help us prepare our hearts in humbleness and reverence before a Holy God? None that I know of and none that I’ve witnessed in these modern churches. At most it has only been a distraction to what our hearts should be prepared for when we come before a Holy God … let’s face it, it’s entertainment. This is what our current culture thrives on.

    Music has been so blown out of proportion in our worship that we loose sight of what true worship is. Sometimes I think it’s better to just have a Scripture reading and quiet reflection on what was read and to quietly pray and confess our sins as preparation to the preaching of the Word, if that’s the only way we could have a humble heart before a Holy God. One church I had attended would do that (in addition to traditional worship) … and I really appreciated that.

    It’s not to say that we should not rejoice and praise the Lord with happy hearts as part of the worship, but very rarely do I find reverence in retrospect to the reality of who stands before us when we gather as God’s people.

  18. I must confess before you all. I have been convinced of seeker-friendly worship from the Bible (Jn. 4:23b).

    Rich B.

  19. Great discussion brothers, yet if I may pull it back to the original issues.

    The historical understanding of the Confession being authoritative is not unclear. I am persuaded it means our forefathers would not have countenanced musical instruments or choirs. I am not saying I agree with them , simply that this was their position and this is what they meant when they wrote the Confession.

    Sorry my ARBCA brothers. You cannot have your cake and eat it. Either the historical understanding of the Confession is binding us or it is not. Regarding the RPW I believe honest and fair evaluation of our 17th Century forefathers rules out instruments and choirs. Even Spurgeon would not allow it in the 1800’s.

    The ARBCA position paper is not consistent with the historical understanding of the Confession in terms of RPW. Please note that I am not arguing that the ARBCA paper is wrong simply that it is not consistent with the historically understood position of the 1689 on the RPW. It is the advocating of a different understanding.

    Regarding the ‘doctrines’ v ‘words’ issue that is an interesting one to mull over. What are we saying here? I would appreciate if there could be some examples cited where an acceptable changing of the words of the confession does not affect the doctrines and where that would be entirely acceptable to those holding a ‘full subscriptionist’ position.

    Jeff’s whole point was that the whole Confession must be adhered as it was historically understood.His position was so strongly stated that he wished he had even had it laid out on a table to sign it before the church.

    Brothers this is a plea for honesty in this debate. I will defend each man’s right to have his position but let us when confronted with the implications of the arguments not begin to move the goalposts. This is not a small issue amongst us and it affects our philosophy of ministry immensely and the whole spirit of ministry and churches. This is no small concern for us to wrestle with.

  20. Brother Jade,

    Thanks for the cautions you directed to me in brotherly love.

    You wrote,

    it’s not a question of whether the Devil is in the beat, but when a church starts sounding like a disco tech or a rock concert, that’s no longer the worship of God. The main goal of that exercise is no longer the praises of God but to appeal to people’s senses in the same way entertainment does.

    My response:
    I agree that the character and nature of a corporate worship meeting is different than that of a disco tech or rock concert. I didn’t think my citing of Psalm 150, which describes the corporate praise of God’s people with all sorts of musical accompaniment, would be interpreted that way. But I appreciate your caution and affirm that the goal of corporate worship is to praise God. Of course, I do believe that the genuine praise of God will involve the exercise of our senses. The beauty of God is “appealing” to the Christian (Psa. 27:4), and God has seen fit to reveal his beauty and encourages us to enjoy his beauty with musical accompaniment (Psa. 150).

    You wrote:
    1Cor 9-10 is not in reference to the worship of God, as some have already stated here before. The ARBCA also notes in reference to the passages you’ve referred to where it states: [John] Frame … challenges opponents of CWM to be more open to its use in worship, accusing them of ignorance about CWM and believing that 1 Corinthians 9:22 and 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 teaches that Christian worship should be culturally sensitive. However, the former passage has to do with Paul’s personal behavior in witnessing, not worship; the latter is an unbeliever’s conversion because of God’s Word fully prophesied, not because of culturally sensitive music.

    My response:
    While I’m happy that the authors of the ARBCA position paper refused to require a narrow application of the RPW (like many of the Puritans who forbade the use of instruments or limited the singing to the Psalms only), I was disappointed in their critique of Frame’s book. While I don’t agree with some of Frame’s applications, I found most of his exegesis and theological reflection to be on target. Moreover, I disagree with those who argue that the principle(s) of 1 Corinthians 9 have no application to corporate worship. The fact that the text is dealing with Paul’s witness more broadly (not confined to corporate worship) doesn’t nullify its application to the life, government, and worship of the church anymore than the fact Moses’s instruction regarding the muzzling of oxen is dealing with animals (Deut 25) nullifies its application to pastoral remuneration (1 Tim 5). Self-denying, biblical informed accommodation that has as its goal the good of men for the glory of God (1 Cor. 9:19-23; 10:31-11:1) is a principle that applies both inside and outside of the worship service. Paul’s application of this principle in 1 Corinthians 14 is a case in point. The Corinthians were to accommodate their communication of biblical truth to their target audience, which included both believers and unbelievers (vv. 1-25). And, since I believe musical genres are forms of communication, I believe we should become Jews to Jews and Greeks to Greeks even in corporate worship, barring, of course, anything that is (1) erroneous, (2) sinful, or (3) foolish.

    You wrote:
    Entertainment doesn’t convict, it appeals to the senses … and it does just that … entertain.

    My reply:
    I certainly agree that we shouldn’t design our worship service merely to “entertain” unbelievers. We’re concerned to communicate to them intelligibly the gospel of Christ with the hopes that they’ll fall under conviction and embrace Christ as Savior. On the other hand, I don’t think we should design our worship services so that the music is purposely lousy or grating or weird–just because we want to make sure that they don’t like it. After all, we wouldn’t dare want them to enjoy one single note. Common grace makes it possible for believers and believers to share an appreciation for a lot of the same styles of music. If a certain kind of music I enjoy happens to be the same kind of music my unregenerate neighbor enjoys and if that music fits appropriate with a set of doctrinally sound lyrics and is congregationally singable, then what biblical principle prohibits me from employing that music genre in worship? Must all and everything that might appeal to an unsaved person be off limits? Many unsaved people love classical music, like some of the pieces in Handel’s Messiah. Should such musical genres be excluded from God’s worship simply because some unsaved folks like it?

    You wrote:
    Often times we seem to forget who is present among us when we gather in corporate worship…. We should be coming before this Holy God with full REVERENCE, and I honestly have to say MANY churches lack this today. But isn’t this lack of reverence of God characteristic of our culture today? And yet we want to bring that type of culture in our churches so that we can be sensitive to the cultural changes?

    My response:
    Actually, a lack of reverence for God has characterized every culture. Just because the Medieval churches had breathtaking Gothic cathedrals and spoke in Latin and were full of “mystery” doesn’t mean they’re worship services were marked by genuine reverence. They may have drawn near to God with their lips but many were far from him. In many cases, the people and priests had a form of godliness but denied its power. So I’m not one of those folks who thinks that everything in our day is bad and everything in the “good ole” days was good. As I’ve said before, I’m not in favor of accommodating any part of our culture that’s erroneous, sinful, or foolish in worship. But what’s considered reverent in one culture may be considered irreverent in another. For example, Russian Christians (at least the ones I’ve met) stand while praying before a meal. They don’t feel comfortable sitting to pray. It doesn’t have the feel of reverence to them. If I were in Russia, I’d probably conform to their custom. At the same time, though, I’d seek to educate them that the virtue of reverence is primarily a heart-disposition and not a bodily posture. Body language may play a part in our devotion, but it is to some degree relative to different cultures. The main thing is the heart. For this reason, we need to beware of making judgments about whether others believers are reverent or irreverent based on such things as whether they lift their hands, clasp their hand, or clap their hands in worship. One may do any three of these bodily gestures and be either reverent or irreverent toward God. The heart is primary.

    You wrote:
    Let’s be truthful here … how many disco/rapper/rock concert music help us prepare our hearts in humbleness and reverence before a Holy God? None that I know of and none that I’ve witnessed in these modern churches. At most it has only been a distraction to what our hearts should be prepared for when we come before a Holy God … let’s face it, it’s entertainment. This is what our current culture thrives on.

    My response:
    Jade, I can’t deny your experience. I’ve never climbed inside of your head when you’ve been in these different contexts and felt what you’ve felt. But neither have you universally experienced the experiences of others. I can’t say much about disco music because I don’t particularly like it. But I have listed to a good deal of Christian and Reformed hip-hop and rock, and I have found it to be quite edifying. Curtis Allen’s Rap song “Unstoppable” has prompted me to glory in God’s sovereign grace.” Christ Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” has humbled me before God’s majesty. Much Sovereign Grace, Indelible Grace, and Getty music does the same. I don’t believe my reverence, devotion, love, humility, and zeal have diminished as a result of this music. When such graces are deficient in my heart, the cause is remaining sin, not a drum beat.

    You wrote:

    Music has been so blown out of proportion in our worship that we loose sight of what true worship is. Sometimes I think it’s better to just have a Scripture reading and quiet reflection on what was read and to quietly pray and confess our sins as preparation to the preaching of the Word, if that’s the only way we could have a humble heart before a Holy God. One church I had attended would do that (in addition to traditional worship) … and I really appreciated that.

    My response:
    I agree with you that music is often blown out of proportion. But I don’t think the only people guilty of this are those who appreciate some contemporary music. Those who are staunchly in favor of traditional music are often the ones spending great time and energy launching polemical missiles at their brothers. In other words, those of us who like a blended worship that incorporates old and new forms of praise to God just want to get on with our business and praise the Lord. But we’re constantly be attacked as “worldly” and “entertainers” and “seeker-sensitive.” Both sides out to thank God for the legitimate freedom he’s given to us and stop trying to rob each other of that freedom. As far as doing away with hymns–well, that’s what some early Particular Baptists decided to do. But such an approach would be both unbiblical and unconfessional.

    In closing, I genuinely appreciate your zeal for the glory of God. Many of the perspectives you now hold and promote, I used to hold and promote too. I was educated in a Fundamental college that labeled all sorts of stuff worldly. But as I’ve studied the biblical doctrines of godliness and worldliness, I’ve had to revise my former way of thinking. And it’s likely I still have a lot of growing and reforming to do. So let’s pray for each other. And may he who began a good work in us perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ!

    Your servant,
    Bob Gonzales

  21. Dear gentlemen,

    I want to make these remarks within the context of Ephesians

    5:19: “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”

    I realize there may be some who think this passage has a broader application than public worship. There may be some who do not think it applies to public worship. If some wonder why I should even raise these issues, please consider the verse’s context. That having been said, I am comfortable saying that the verse at least has application to public worship. I am not here to settle the exclusive psalmody issue. If anyone has a definitive word on that, please bring it so that vast numbers within the Reformed community can now be unified.

    Now where was I? The element of Ephesians 5:19 that I address are the two phrases “to one another” and “to the Lord.” The verse suggests that in doing something “to one another,” we are doing it “to the Lord.” This is similar to our Lord’s words in Matthew 25:40: “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” I was once worshiping with a family member who attends a church in another city. The church uses contemporary music. The guitars, drums, and music leaders were so loud that I the only way I could tell that the congregation was singing was to see that their lips were moving. In this situation, I do not believe that the portion of Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another,” was fully appreciated.

    Now comes the difficult part: the sermon following the music was astoundingly faithful to the text, and would have been accepted as destinctively Reformed in any Reformed Baptist church. Furthermore, this particular church has a depth and breadth to its ministries of evangelism to outsiders which is impressive. Furthermore, I have never heard of a church preaching the doctrines of grace (like this one does) which spends $80,000 per year on benevolence.

    As a former Reformed Baptist pastor, whose church no longer exists, I would be embarrased to criticize this other man’s ministry any more than I have done in this response. I drive a long way to worship. I worship with fine and loving people who have had to be a lot more tolerant of me than I them. But if my present church were not an option, and if I lived very close to that other church, what would I do? I haven’t had to make that decision.

    I came to the doctrines of grace 38 years ago. I accepted the 1689 Confession 26 years ago. I and my family have paid many a penalty for my convictions. But this is the final analysis for me: the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. And when we habitually associate ourselves with people who have so many axes to grind, when those axes finally are ground, some people are going to get hurt.

  22. George Seevers wrote, “The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.”

    Brother, I think you’re right. Much of what we often debate about concerning matters pertaining to the life and worship of the church pertains not to a denial off the elements of worship but rather to the circumstantial application or expression of those elements. The question of whether such worship is God-centered or worldly IN SUCH CASES is largely a matter of the heart and not primarily a matter of genre or style. This is not to deny that our choice of genre or musical instrumentation (including the level of volume) should be guided by general biblical principles and sanctified common sense. It does help us to remember, though, that worldliness is primarily a matter of the heart, especially when we’re talking about matters that aren’t explicitly condemned by Scripture.

    Brother, your humility is an example to us all. May the Lord bless and guide the remaining days of your pilgrimage!

    Your servant,
    Bob Gonzales

  23. “Speaking to one another”. We know Paul was writing to a church, in a Christian context. Can these verses be used to prove that our music should be pleasing/acceptable to the lost? Many of the Psalter selections we sing would certainly NOT be pleasing to the lost, especially those which speak of God’s judgment on His enemies. If we sing only of God’s love, it is likely that will not offend the lost.

    As far a music style, you can’t please everyone. Some hate country, some hate rap, some hate rock, there are literally dozens of broad genres of music and almost everyone (Christian and non-christian) has a comfort level and multiple dislike levels. The more one is “into” music, the stronger those likes and dislikes tend to be. Congregational music, because it is going out to a diverse group, will likely not be all that pleasing in style to everyone, unless you have a specific target audience — like “The Cowboy Church” for instance, and then all can twang away, but they should expect some resistance from the Punk Rockers.

    Handel’s Messiah was mentioned by someone earlier. I am not sure I would enjoy hearing the average congregation try to take on that piece in their worship service.

    As far as “seeker-friendly” this term certainly is not one that I would use, especially in the ecclesiastical context of our day. On the west coast here, you start talking about “seeker-friendly” and Rick Warren, et al come to mind.

    Many years ago a Reformed Baptist pastor was at a clergy gathering. They were talking about a city-wide mass evangelism crusade they were planning. When discussion time came up, the pastor stated, “It sounds a lot like easy-believism to me.” Another pastor immediately rose to his feet and said, “I am GLAD it was EASY to BELIEVE!” The presuppositions of each were easiliy discernible.

    Personally, I don’t want a lost man or woman to leave our worship services thinking, “You know, that was really nice. I feel so inspired and good. It felt like I really got close to God today.” I really don’t even want them to think that they worshipped, because they didn’t/couldn’t. In Corinthians we are told their response should be, “Truly, God is among them.” To me, it is important that we make the distinction, in the pulpit, between those that know God in saving truth, and those who do not. The lost man needs to know he is alienated from God. He can not be saved until he is lost.

    Now if by “seeker-friendly” we mean being friendly, showing concern, trying to make them as physically comfortable as we can –certainly there should be no disagreement. To do less is to sin against our neighbor. If we mean making our message more palitable to them…

    One more caveat. I mentioned earlier I was on the ARBCA Membership Committee. I do not want to leave a false impression on what that means. The MC serves at the pleasure of the AC, which serves at the pleasure of all the ARBCA churches. No church can join ARBCA without approval from the collective member churches. The first step is to have a sponsoring church that is already in ARBCA, and then the MC begins their process, using the prescribed guidelines that we have been given. Please understand that when I speak, in blog format or comments, in no way do I represent the official views of ARBCA. In fact, when I have stated ARBCA views, I have been careful to quote the Confession, Constitution and Position Papers and that is all I can do in good conscience. These are the official views of ARBCA as voted on by the churches. As for my views, they are my own, and we are simply one church in ARBCA.

    May God bless!

  24. I have benefited from monitoring this conversation, and have even participated a little bit. I have a number of questions that have come up in my mind. These are not debate points, they are honest questions about this. And I certainly appreciate and agree with Pastor Brigg’s comments, this is no small matter, so please understand that this is not just a theoretical discussion for me either.

    1. How is it anything less that historically faithful to the intent of the framers of the confession to order our practice according to the wording of the confession? To use this issue of instruments in worship as an example, I understand that the historical fact is that they did not allow them in their churches. Yet it is also a historical fact that they chose not to require that practice in the confession. I’m not sure why the one would trump the other. That seems backwards to me.

    2. What is an example, other that instruments in worship, of a place in the confession where our practice in RB churches doesn’t honor the “original intent” of the framers?

    3. If, in order to truly understand the confession, we must not just know the confession itself, but also know extensively the historical background and thinking of the men who wrote it, haven’t we undermined it’s practical usefulness as a public confession? (that was a serious run-on sentience, but I can’t figure out how to reword it.) Can the individual church member not really affirm the 1689 BCF unless they have studied the thought and practice of the 17th century Particular Baptists? Are we to make the individual church member dependent on extra-Biblical scholarship in order to in good faith agree with our confession? Or do we just insist that the Church members trusts those who have studied these issues extensively to explain to them what the confession REALLY means. I would like to be able to hand my confession to anyone who visits my Church and tell them that by reading it, they will understand what my Church believes. I did exactly that this very Lord’s Day, and I didn’t feel the need to tell the man that after he read it, I would need to explain to him what the original intent of the language used was.

    To any who might respond, please understand again, these are not debate points, I am trying to honestly understand the position being presented in these posts. I am, just for the record, very much convinced of the value of confessionalism, and am a 1689 man.

  25. Just a short note based on some reading this AM. “Baptist Confessions of Faith” by Lumpkin is very good reading on this and related subjects — esp. regarding the “singing controversies” that made their way in the Philadelphia Confession. BTW — somehow many sites on the internet say that our church confesses the Philadelphia — and we do not. Once an error is made on the internet, it has a tendency to perpetuate itself. In Lumpkin, pages 347-400 are fascinating reading to show how confessions are changed, why, and the results. The narrower question of singing is briefly referenced on pages 348-351

  26. I just pulled down Dr. Renihan’s doctoral thesis on PB’s 1675-1705 and re-read pages 298-312. Very very good on The Great Controversy: Singing Hymns. I think in both works cited one can see the ARBCA position paper, as written by the Theology Committee on the Regulative Principle, comes from serious historical study and practical application.

  27. Hi Dr. Gonzales,
    I guess it’s common to find mostly men participating here, but Jade is a female’s name.  :o)  So I guess that would make me a sister in Christ (as oppose to brother in Christ).  :o)  But no offense taken … I get that alot when debating online.  :o)  But I hope it’s alright with the rest that I’m a female believer that’s posting here….  :o)

    If I understand you correctly, you used the passages of 1Cor 9-10 as a prescription to corporate worship. You believe that the edification during church worship should be extended toward the senses of an unbelieving heart and hence the church should prescribe to these more modern and popular music that will appeal to the unsaved. But as I challenged you before Dr. Gonzales, how does an unbelieving heart be edified by the things of God unless their heart is regenerated? Scriptures tells us it can’t. You’re right when you said, “The beauty of God is “appealing” to the Christian (Psa. 27:4)”, but it is most certainly NOT true for the unsaved. The unsaved are not edified by the same things that Christians are. Rather the unsaved prefer to be entertained, which is not the purpose of church worship. So making the statement that we should turn to contemporary music for the sake of the unsaved is a theologically moot point. If you want to reach the unsaved, feed them the Scriptures. Period. The regenerated heart will respond to Scriptures ONLY… not music. It’s not the music that saves, it’s the Word of God that saves. I respectfully disagree with your assessment of 1 Cor 9-14. I honestly don’t believe that Paul was suggesting that church worship should be all things to all men so that they may be saved. Otherwise, we’re going to have to bring in the crucifix to make the catholics feel at home.

    I listen to contemporary music in my car or at home and most of my peers do as well. But time at church is not for my (nor anyone’s) carnal pleasure; though I will be spiritually edified. As a Christian and even as a young Christian, I didn’t come to church because the church played the most recent Christian rock/hip-hop/punk rock and they were current with the times. I came to church because I wanted to hear the Word. I came to church because I needed to hear the Word. As time went by, I came to learn the hymns. And as I grew in grace I came to love the hymns. I did not grow up in a Christian home such that I became ingrained in “church culture” growing up (I was converted during college). The point I’m making here is, you don’t need to turn contemporary to reach the unsaved. God’s Word alone suffices that. Take it from one who was saturated in this culture — we don’t go to church to find a church “like” the world and offers music that sounds like the world. The world already offers that. We come to church because we are seeking for something that the world CANNOT offer. I didn’t come to church for its music. No, I came mainly for the preaching and I can only assume that to be the case for all GOD seekers from what Scriptures tells me. I’ll be honest, initially I wasn’t thrilled about the hymns as a new believer (after having grown up with contemporary music) but I certainly wasn’t going to leave because I thought the music was archaic nor was I there to be entertained. If my reasons for leaving a church (barring the preaching and doctrine) was due primarily to the music, then I apparently went to church for the wrong reasons! By then I should seriously be examining my heart and my reasons for going to church.

    Now church worship should be for all ages. You may argue that singing hymns will only cater to the seniors (in age). Let’s just say the young are more susceptible to learning to like the hymns than the seniors adjusting to rock/rap/punk rock music in church. :o) Aside from the fact that the hymns does a much better job to quiet the mind in preparation to the preaching than rap ever would, as a young person I have come to love and cherish the hymns, mostly for its words. The hymns have far more theological depth than most Christian contemporary music will ever offer. Do I still listen/sing to some rock. Yes I do but outside of church worship. But here are reasons why rock/rap/punk are inappropriate for church worship:

    1) That type of music mostly drowns out the words that the instruments themselves becomes the element of the worship rather than the words, which defeats the whole purpose of worship.
    2) Rock/rap/punk is closely tied to entertainment. Our culture perceives that kind of music purely as entertainment and entertainment has no place in the church worship.

    Your sister in Christ,
    Jade

  28. I would like to add that we have to train our people to listen to expository messages. Such sermons are not what men naturally want to hear. The same principle applies for congregational singing. While novices may enter our worship services preferring music more associated with the world, we should not appeal to their worldly desires in music anymore than we appeal to their worldly desires in our preaching.

  29. Jade – you rock!

    🙂

  30. Jade,

    Sorry I confused your physiological gender.

    You and I have already debated the topic of what kind music genre is and is not appropriate in the church in other venues. I don’t think I’m going to change your mind, and I don’t think you’re going to change mine. Especially, for example, when you make incoherent comments like the following:

    I listen to contemporary music in my car or at home and most of my peers do as well. But time at church is not for my (nor anyone’s) carnal pleasure.

    So it’s okay to feed your “carnal pleasure” in your car or at home but not in the church?! If by “carnal” pleasure, you’re referring to sinful pleasure, then it’s never right. If by “carnal” pleasure, you’re referring to bodily pleasure, then I would remind you that Christianity is not Platonism. What pleases the eardrum is not inherently sinful or inappropriate for worship. If it were, then we’d have to exclude many of the beautiful hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “When I Survey,” “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” etc., because they not only inform the mind but when sung are pleasing to the eardrum.

    I would attempt to interact with several other statements you’ve made but I don’t think it would be worth my effort. You and I are obviously operating from different sets of presuppositions and life experiences. We’ll just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

    Blessings,
    Bob Gonzales

  31. […] September 24, 2009 by Reformed Joe The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Confessionalism Adrift Amid the Siren Cries for Relevancy – Pa… […]

  32. Brothers and sister Jade

    I am enjoying the discussion here. It is challenging at the level of all our hearts in terms of our own understanding and in some regards our own tastes.

    The issue of music does have too much prominence in the wider church scene than any of us as RB’s should be happy with in the light of scripture. However this issue tends to challenge us I am persuaded because we need to give it more consideration than perhaps we have.

    When I lived and pastored in N.Ireland, the ‘last bastion of Protestantism in the world’ according to some, I rarely thought about the music issue and only ever used the Trinity Hymnal. I had it all sorted out, I thought. The culture was largely traditional and most Christians still sang traditional pre 20th century hymns. I would have adamantly asserted that Scripture Alone had shaped in the music tastes of the church. Reverence marked our singing because the tunes were reverent.

    In coming to California I was faced with a very different situation. Little Ulster Scot heritage here, except amongst some Reformed churches, including of course the one I came to pastor, IBC. Good, that means my church is still reverent and biblical in its worship with our Trinity Hymnal. No, I have had to and continue to do a lot of rethinking on this.

    My thoughts on this began to be challenged during my visits to Wetzlar, Germany over a six year period, which ended just after I came to Ca. Efforts at church planting there had sought to translate the Trinity Hymnal into German and so give them a Reformed ‘Ulster Scot’ perhaps tradition to use in their worship of God. It caused huge challenges for the Russian Germans and less for the German Germans, but my posture was then, it is biblical so accept it.

    I am absolutely convinced now that the idea, and remember I am Scottish, and as fervent as William Wallace in being that (well almost), I am convinced now that the notion that the Ulster Scot genre of music for hymns is not THE reverent, biblical way but A way to sing praises to the Lord. It is not even something I thought about in living in N.Ireland, although I should have, expecially in going to Germany. I am forced to face myself now in California and consider it with humility and teachability.

    What is the outcome so far? I still love my Ulster Scot hymns, tunes etc, but recognise that my Hispanic brothers, my African American brothers, my Asian brothers and my increasing contact with Russians here have a very different set of taste buds from their cultures that are not inferior to mine or superior, they are simply different. The challenge ? Living out the gospel together in a New Covenant context. It is not the way of ChristI to say my cultural heritage is the biblical paradigm, submit. We must apply Ephesians 4 locally and that is a challenge, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling together. A guitar is no less holy than a piano, a violin is no more godly than a banjo. The issue is the heart brothers and understanding the principles of the gospel in forming our worship as a New Covenant community.

    Where you are all White Anglo Saxon Protestants it may not be an issue, as it was not for me in N.Ireland. In taking the gospel to the nations we are not called to take Ulster Scottish tastes too, even if I happen to think they are great 🙂

    Let us wrestle with this humbly and mortify our pride and realise that the kingdom of God is far, far, far bigger than us !

  33. Dr. Gonzales wrote
    So it’s okay to feed your “carnal pleasure” in your car or at home but not in the church?! If by “carnal” pleasure, you’re referring to sinful pleasure, then it’s never right. If by “carnal” pleasure, you’re referring to bodily pleasure, then I would remind you that Christianity is not Platonism.

    Hi Dr. Gonzales,
    When I referred to carnal pleasures, I was referring to the motive of going to church expecting to be entertained. There’s nothing wrong with listening to contemporary music (granted it isn’t debasing God or His Word) but as I’ve noted before that such music in our culture is associated with entertainment. Why would you want to associate the Worship of God with entertainment when our culture perceives it as that?! Ask yourself why do people go to rock/rap/soul/etc concerts? To be entertained. If I’m going to church just so I can hear the same rock music, then I’m going for my carnal pleasure to be entertained. There’s a time and place to be entertained, and it’s NOT in the church. We need to separate that. It’s NOT our time, but God’s time with us as a corporate people of God. We should be concerned with what God wants with our time with Him, not what other people want. Folks these days are only going to church for the soul purpose to be entertained (whether it be music or even in preaching)! Folks today do not even know what it means to worship God. Because of the modern churches, people are now equating the worship of God as entertainment.

    Dr. Gonzales, I don’t doubt your love for the Lord and your love for the lost. But I do believe that the elect can only be brought in by the Word of God alone. Not what appeals to this generation. As Christ said, my sheep will hear my voice (through His Word). So just preach God’s Word and God’s people will surely come. Maybe not to the large numbers that some would desire, but God alone determines those numbers since it is He alone who regenerates.

    And yes I agree with Mr. Seevers, Christians need to be trained to learn expository preaching (my pastor just finished 7 months on Hebrews). Because of the way the media conditions our mind, kids (and even adults) these days have such a short attention span that they can barely sit still to listen for an hour of preaching. We need to un-condition ourselves from the affects of what the world does to our mind. There’s certainly a lack of discipline in this generation. I’m sure most pastors here probably get an ear full if they let the service go over an hour! The next time the congregation complains about that, you should remind them that when Ezra read the Book of the Law, he started from daybreak until noon. And all there that were present to hear the reading of the law were all standing from the time the book was opened at daybreak, until Ezra finished reading it at noon! And here we are, sitting on the pew complaining when the service goes over an hour?! The regard of God’s Word is so lost in our generation. And here we are arguing over why we should bring in contemporary music to appeal to the unsaved? What happened to the appeal of God’s Word? Who’s going to stand up for that?! I mean why is it that I don’t here anyone promoting for a 5 hour (and even Ezra read longer than that!) service of reading God’s Word, but so much more energy is being put into the type of music? Do we really care about God and His Word, or do we only care what the appeals are of this generation so that we can keep the numbers attending the church up? I have to honestly say, compared to the old testament saints … we are wimps! We easily give in to our weaknesses and whinings. Sometimes I’d read about the OT and NT saints and how much suffering they were willing to do for the Glory of God and with so little. Then I look at our generation and often wonder if the Christians have become too comfortable with this world. Just remember, the churches mentioned in the book of Revelations were not rebuked for their lack of numbers. They were rebuked for their lack of faithfulness to God’s Word and having forgotten that first love.

    My intentions here is not to yell at everyone, nor to discourage anyone. 🙂 Maybe this is just a call for us to go back to our first love. I guess just thinking about God, His Word and our time with Him … it grieves me how much of that is lost in our generation. I guess we should all be asking ourselves that if God were to call us home today, would He find us faithful to what He has called us to?

  34. Jade’s comment reminds me of a recurring concern: as noted in another bog entry, many of us are in churches of less than 100 people. And yet I will on ocassion visit churches with good preaching ministries that have several hundred to over a thousand. As I consider those large churches, usually, the only difference is the electronic guitars, the drum set and the group of singers caressing hand-held michrophones. On the one hand, I consider whether it is good to make this accomodation to get that many under the preaching of the word. But I always wonder would happen if the preaching were to detereriorate doctrinally. Would the crowds keep coming, because a good rock concert is always well attended?

    Of course, there is a wide ranging scope of “contemporary Christian music.” But I would like to draw your attention to the value of such music as a stand alone ministry with regard to evangelism. In John Blanchard’s book, Pop Goes the Gospel, he reports on a survey of Christian leaders in Britain who were converted through contemporary Christian music. I may have my numbers slightly off; it’s been a while since I read the book, but as memory serves me, only one man had been “converted” under such circumstances, but he had since left the ministry in disgrace. If this is the result of using such music in isolation, why would we think that our worship services would benefit by incorporating it with good preaching?

    We need to carefully consider whether we really accomplished any eternal good by attempts to make our ministries and music more “contemporary” and “relevant.”

  35. Well, on a different note, how about this one? Is the Universal Church invisible? I do not believe that it is, based upon my understanding of Scripture. A couple of years ago I was asked to preach on the church at a conference designed to promote the 1689 BCF and provide instruction from it. And here I was in the very first message calling into question the confession’s teaching on the universal church! Needless to say, it caused a little stir, but I trust that it drove the people to study their Bibles more carefully.

    So what about this? Is the Univeral Church invisible? Professor John Murray didn’t think so. Was he therefore not a full subscriptionist?

  36. Well, Jim,

    If you are writing of the same Professor John Murray whom I am thinking of, then I believe that his having written a book supporting infant baptism assures us that he was indeed not a full subscriptionist with regard to the 1689 Confession. 🙂

  37. WCF
    1. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

    LBCF
    1. The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

    The LBCF changes the “is” to “(with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called”

  38. Wouldn’t it also matter how we are using the term “church”…just like not all Israel was truly Israel?

  39. Yes, George, Professor Murray was definitely NOT a full subscriptionist to the 1689 BCF. -)

    Yes, the wording of the 1689 BCF suggests that the writers were uncomfortable with the idea of an invisible UC. But did they go far enough? Does the Universal Church in fact consist of all the elect from all ages? Is this how ekklesia is used in the New Testament?

  40. Jim,

    I don’t read the 1689 as any discomfort with the idea of an invisible universal church. Am I missing something? Is the specific idea of the Church Universal addressed anywhere other than in paragraph one of chapter 26? And while the overwhelming number of New Testament references to ekklesia have to do with the local visible church, still, the concept of a universal church remains. The thief on the cross was a member of it, without being in any local visible congregation. Furthermore, my understanding of the covenants demands that the same principle be applied to the Old Testament period as well.

  41. 1689 says that the UC may be called invisible. On what basis, or in what sense?

    The church is the earthly segment of the people God between the two advents of Christ.

    The UC is the sum total of the local churches.

    The UC is not all the elect in all ages and therefore invisible.

    Not sure that the thief on the cross was in the UC. Without a doubt he was a true Chrtistian.

    Here we go. I can see that I’ve opened up Pandora’s Theological Box!

  42. It is a matter of context. The word in question literally means, “called out.” Was the nation of Israel in its entirity called out of Egypt? Yes, but they were not all saved. The entire nation was called out as a type. But on the other hand, Abraham, Moses, Joshua and the Old Testament saints of Hebrews chapter 12 were among the many who were called out an essentially the smae way that we have been.

  43. Jade wrote:
    Hi Dr. Gonzales, When I referred to carnal pleasures, I was referring to the motive of going to church expecting to be entertained.

    Bob replies:
    Then the real problem is with the motives of the person who goes to church, not necessarily with the style of preaching or genre of music or kinds of instrumental accompaniment used provided that these elements and circumstances are all in keeping with Biblical directives and principles. “Carnal,” therefore, as you’ve just defined it, is primarily a matter of the heart. Let’s be precise and not cloudy the waters.

    Jade writes:
    There’s nothing wrong with listening to contemporary music (granted it isn’t debasing God or His Word) but as I’ve noted before that such music in our culture is associated with entertainment.

    Bob replies:
    Jade, with all due respect, your line of reasoning remains incoherent. You speak of contemporary music as a form of music associated with entertainment. Such entertainment relates to “carnal” pleasure, that is, a longing for or experience of a kind of gratification that is divorced from God. My dear sister, such a pursuit is always wrong whether inside or outside of worship. Listen carefully to Paul: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do [including listening to music at home or in your car], do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). So if all entertainment is bad (an assumption I don’t necessarily share) and if all contemporary music is associated with in our culture with entertainment (another assumption that is lopsided and oversimplied), then listening to contemporary music in any place or situation would be sinful.

    Jade writes:
    Why would you want to associate the Worship of God with entertainment when our culture perceives it as that?!

    Bob replies:

    I’ve worshiped in churches that use traditional forms of music and I’ve worshiped in churches that use some contemporary forms of music. In both cases, the music was used to adorn the biblical messages conveyed by the lyrics. Such a combination is NOT mere entertainment. I have many unsaved relatives and friends. Not one of them would find Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” or Keith and Kristen Getty’s “In Christ Alone” entertaining. They would, in fact, feel quite out of place. As far as the music by itself–they might enjoy some of the modern music over some of the more traditional hymnody the forms of which are unfamiliar to them. But I feel no need to make an effort purposely and strategically to ensure that the music in our church is unattractive, strange, or even dull, simply because I want to make unsaved people feel uncomfortable. The lyrics of the song and the preaching of the gospel will make them feel uncomfortable in the right sense.

    Jade writes:
    Ask yourself why do people go to rock/rap/soul/etc concerts? To be entertained. If I’m going to church just so I can hear the same rock music, then I’m going for my carnal pleasure to be entertained. There’s a time and place to be entertained, and it’s NOT in the church. We need to separate that.

    Bob replies:
    Jade, once again, you’re confusing a heart problem with forms of music. Wherever I go and whatever I do I’m to do it to the glory of God, whether drinking orange juice, playing baseball, washing dishes, listening to a sermon, or singing praise to God and admonition to others. So if you go to rock/rap/soul concerns merely to have your carnal pleasure entertained, then shame on you. We should never drive any kind of wedge between worship as a way of life and corporate worship that allows for carnal pleasure seeking “out there” but demands holy desires “in the sanctuary.” That, dear sister, is nothing more than “Sunday Christianity” or a form of religious formalism.

    Jade writes:
    It’s NOT our time, but God’s time with us as a corporate people of God. We should be concerned with what God wants with our time with Him, not what other people want.

    Bob replies:
    Of course, Sunday is not our time. Nor are the other six days of the week “our time.” It all belongs to God. God wants us to worship him corporately on Sunday. And on that occasion, he wants us to praise him, edify others, and communicate clearly to the lost so that they might be convicted of their sin and flee to Christ (1 Cor. 14:1-26). During the other days of the week, God wants us to worship him in other ways. But it’s all his time. And we must never pursue our own pleasure apart from HIm.

    Jade writes:
    Folks these days are only going to church for the soul purpose to be entertained (whether it be music or even in preaching)! Folks today do not even know what it means to worship God. Because of the modern churches, people are now equating the worship of God as entertainment.

    Bob replies:
    Then the solution is to identify the problem, which is a sinful heart and not necessarily an acoustic guitar or, as you point out, preaching. Then we must address the problem biblically and admonish those who come to church to come for the right reasons. If, as you concede, even preaching can be viewed as entertainment by some foik, then the solution is not to ban preaching from our services. The solution is to instruct folk what preaching is about and how they are to respond to it.

    Jade writes:
    Dr. Gonzales, I don’t doubt your love for the Lord and your love for the lost. But I do believe that the elect can only be brought in by the Word of God alone. Not what appeals to this generation. As Christ said, my sheep will hear my voice (through His Word). So just preach God’s Word and God’s people will surely come. Maybe not to the large numbers that some would desire, but God alone determines those numbers since it is He alone who regenerates.

    Bob replies:
    When did I ever deny that God regenerates his elect through the Word alone?! “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Yes, I affirm the centrality of preaching. But I also believe in a certain kind of preaching–the kind that not only portrays the truth accurately but that communicates effectively. Like that in Acts 14:1 where we read that Paul and Barnabas preached “in such a manner” than many came to believe. Accordingly, our seminary offers courses on sermon preparation and delivery. Not because we deny the sovereignty of God in salvation but because we believe God normally works through human agents and because he ordains that such agents be “apt to teach.” Similarly, the Lord commands that God’s people sing about him and about his truth in a manner that’s intelligible (1 Cor. 14). Music accompaniment is also to be done skillfully (Ps. 33:3). This all contributes to the overall edification of the congregation and adornment of the gospel. Consider the following points I recently shared with some brothers concerning the place of music in worship:

    (1) Paul’s primary focus in 1 Corinthians 14 is the intelligibility of propositional truth.

    (2) I do not agree, however, that intelligible communication is the only “edification factor” Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 14.

    (3) Paul addresses two other factors that can either promote or hinder edification in the church: decency [or suitability] and order (vv. 26-40).

    (4) The qualities of suitability and orderliness do not merely have reference to linguistic propositions. They are qualifies that are to govern (a) the amount of people who are allowed to address the congregation, (b) the order in which such individuals address the congregation, and (c) the sex of those who are to address the congregation. These non-verbal factors can contribute to or hinder the edification of the church.

    (5) It follows, then, that edification in 1 Corinthians 14 is not just “a matter of cognitive and propositional truth.”

    (6) As a matter of fact, many appeal to the principles of “suitability” and “orderliness” in vv. 26-40 as that which should govern the kind of music we employ to accompany our lyrics.

    (7) Some argue that the music used for worship is for the purpose of keeping us “in tune and in time.” While I don’t agree this is the only purpose for music in worship, I do agree it is a purpose and that the principles of suitability and orderliness in 1 Cor. 14:26-40 highlight the contribution that keeping “in tune and in time” plays for congregational edification.

    (8) The principles of suitability and orderliness are applied specifically to activities other than music (e.g., the number, order, and gender of prophets speaking). Nevertheless, these principles extend beyond their immediate application and apply to other things in the worship service, such as the liturgy, music, decorum, etc.

    (9) Since the principles of suitability and orderliness are not limited to the specific activities Paul addresses, it is “special pleading” to limit the principle of “intelligibility” to “propositional truth” simply because that’s the activity Paul’s immediately addressing.

    (10) The Scriptures themselves draw a correlation between the aesthetic beauty of God revealed in his Shekinah glory and the moral beauty of God revealed in his Law (see Exodus 33:18-34:8).

    (11) In some respects, God’s aesthetic beauty and God’s moral beauty are comparable to God’s general revelation and special revelation. They are both equally authoritative. But the former is less clear than the latter.

    (12) Of course, neither is intended by God to be read in isolation from the other. General revelation is to be read in the light of special revelation and special revelation is to be read against the backdrop of general revelation.

    (13) Similarly, God has commanded that his glory be proclaimed in the form of praise that combines the display of both aesthetic beauty (music) and moral beauty (lyrics).

    (14) When sound lyrics (i.e., accurate gospel truth) are combined with suitable and orderly music (i.e., aesthetically beautiful), they combine to form that which is highly edifying for the believer.

    (15) Accordingly, when I spoke of being edified by the music in the worship service of another brother’s church, I do not believe I was introducing an unbiblical concept. The well-played music along with the biblical lyrics contributed to the overall intelligibility, suitability, and orderliness of the service, which in turn promoted my edification and that of many others.

    (16) It also follows that music in worship exists for a purpose that transcends merely tune and time. It serves, when done well, to reflect God’s aesthetic beauty and to complement God’s moral beauty, which is proclaimed through the proclamation of propositional truth (i.e., lyrics).

    In summary, one is quite free to worship God without instruments. And if he finds no beauty in music (whether played on human vocal chords or on a music instruments) but only sees it as some kind of utilitarian device to keep the soldiers marching in unison, that’s fine. I pity such a person. But I don’t despise him. I hope he or she will not despise me because I happen to see music as a gift from God and find that its aesthetic beauty serves to highlight and accentuate God’s moral beauty in the context of corporate worship.

    Jade writes:
    The regard of God’s Word is so lost in our generation. And here we are arguing over why we should bring in contemporary music to appeal to the unsaved? What happened to the appeal of God’s Word? Who’s going to stand up for that?!

    Bob replies:
    First, I’ve never argued that the church should use modern styles of music to accompany her doctrinal lyrics merely to “appeal” to the unsaved. I’m simply weary of hearing my brothers constantly bash those churches who do employ modern music styles as worldly or carnal when my brothers do so on the basis of tradition and not on the basis of sound biblical reasoning. That is pharisaic. Second, I don’t believe that all beautiful music that is appropriate to accompany the praises of God stopped being invented in the 19th or early 20th century. There are many beautiful tunes and musical genres being developed in our own day. If such music fits the lyrics, is orderly and singable, then I see no reason to ban it from worship. Third, while I don’t believe in using modern music simply to “appeal” to the lost, nor do I believe in using archaic and old-fashioned forms of music simply to repel the lost. I want them to hear good and solid preaching of the gospel. If that offends them, then so be it. If God is pleased to convert them, then praise be to Him. I’m all about the gospel. I’m not all about the music. But some traditional folks seem to find nothing better to do than to spend their time censuring everyone else who doesn’t strictly adhere to “the traditions.”

    Jade wrote:
    Just remember, the churches mentioned in the book of Revelations were not rebuked for their lack of numbers. They were rebuked for their lack of faithfulness to God’s Word and having forgotten that first love. My intentions here is not to yell at everyone, nor to discourage anyone. 🙂 Maybe this is just a call for us to go back to our first love.

    Bob replies:
    Once again, I’ve never advocated unfaithfulness to the whole counsel of God. I’m all about that. Indeed, one concern I’ve had about this series of posts is that there seems to be a greater concern about fidelity to man-made tradition than to the Scriptures alone. This may not be Pastor Oliver’s intent, but his version of Confessionalism opens the door, in my opinion, to the kind of traditionalism that, over time, morphed in Roman Catholicism. In keeping with the spirit of the Reformation and, more importantly, the Bible, I’m opposed to that kind of traditionalism.

    And by the way, the “losing of their first love” for which the church at Ephesus was rebuked was most likely (see the commentators) a loss of brotherly love in light of a preoccupation with orthodoxy. (I’ve not read a commentator who argues that Ephesus’s problem was a lack of love for the written or preached Word of God.) Of course, they both should go together. But some brothers become so preoccupied with doctrinal precision that they lose sight of the “new commandment,” namely, that we “love one another.” So as it turns out, those who continue bashing their brothers and sisters over the head with the “carnal pleasure” baseball bat should take heed to Jesus’s warning to the church.

    Jade wrote:
    I guess just thinking about God, His Word and our time with Him … it grieves me how much of that is lost in our generation. I guess we should all be asking ourselves that if God were to call us home today, would He find us faithful to what He has called us to?

    Bob replies:
    That’s great! We all should be thinking about God, His Word, and our time with him. Has anyone on the list advocated the opposite? Have I said God, His Word, and how we spend out time with him is unimportant? On the contrary, I’ve argued that God, His Word, and how we spend our time with him is vitally important every hour of the day and every day of the week! And yes, we should always be asking ourselves whether we would hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” if God were to call us home today. That is precisely what has motivated me in arguing that our Christianity whether at church or at home be governed by the Bible and not by the mere opinions of people, even Christian people, however well-meaning they may be.

    In closing, Jade, I don’t doubt your heart. I do, however, continue to have serious questions about your ability to think and articulate consistently a biblical view of the Christian life and of Christian worship. I don’t say this to be unkind. I would caution you, however, to beware of over-assessing you’re ability to teach God’s will on a public forum. Read Romans 12:3ff.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Bob Gonzales

  44. To Jade and others,

    One of the moderators of this blog wrote me an email and suggested that my final remarks to Jade come across a bit harsh and condescending. I didn’t intend them to be. Jade and I have debated the subject of music on a number of occasions already. Despite my attempts (and the attempts of others) to point out various ways in which her arguments are inconsistent and incoherent, she persists espousing her views and condemning the views of others.

    While I appreciate and share her concern to give the priority to preaching in worship and to maintain a climate of joyful reverence, I do not believe her argument for what does and does not qualify as such is cogent. And since she feels quite free to construe those of us who disagree with her as catering to “carnal pleasures,” I felt the need simply to caution her against entertaining too high an estimation of her “discernment” or her view of what does and does not constitute God-pleasing worship. I did not mean to be harsh or disrespectful.

    Nor do I pretend that my judgment is infallible or impeccable. My primary concern in addressing this topic when it arises is not to force everyone to adopt my preferences but to urge my RB brothers and sisters to desist from their continual censures of other RB brothers and sisters who have chosen not to remain bound to every traditional form of worship. God grants us a measure of liberty with respect to the circumstances of worship (and so does our Confession, 1.6), and I am jealous to protect that liberty against forms of legalism. Just as my non-conformist forefathers did not appreciate “the Lord Bishop” dictating to them how they had to worship, so I and many other RB brothers and sisters who love Jesus Christ don’t appreciate “the Lord Brethren” dictating to us how we may or may not worship. Christ alone is the Lord of our conscience.

    With that in view, I’m perfectly willing to let other RB churches maintain a “traditional only” approach to worship. And if they’re unwilling to update the language of the 1689, just like many of us have updated our Bibles, to make it more intelligible to our 21st century generation, then that’s between them and God. Such thinking, in my opinion, is not too different from the KJV Onlyism I’ve had to put up with in the Bible-belt. But I’ll let the Lord be their ultimate judge. I hope they’ll return the favor to me.

    In closing, let’s not lose sight of the Great Commission in our zeal to protect a 17th century confession, which, though a great summary of the Christian faith, is imperfect and, therefore, should always remain subordinate to the Bible.

    Humbly yours,
    Bob Gonzales

  45. I would like to affirm brother Bob’s concerns.

    May the Lord grant grace in all our lives to receive one another even in the midst of these debates. I do believe the blogosphere lends itself to a lot of un-necessary argument and wrongly pampers to the egalitarian spirit of our age. Anyone with an opinion irrespective of how ignorant it may be is allowed to stand toe to toe with other more experienced Christians and Pastors and think it perfectly acceptable to say things that wisdom should temper.

    Let us all indeed take Romans 12v3 to heart and strive to love one another and receive one another in the midst of our differences. Let us also remember that our own experience limits our perspectives and a lack of familiarity with other cultures and a myopic view of life informs our understanding of Scripture too.

    Our calling to take the gospel to the nations and see churches established is not a calling to take the Scottish Presbyterian/English Puritan model to the world, lock, stock and barrel, even if I happen to love it myself. This requires wisdom and consideration and to learn truly from the Lord and His apostle to the nations. I do believe as RB’s we need to think this through prayerfully, humbly and carefully.

    Warmly

    RB

  46. Brother Robert,

    While it is true that BLOG sites are liable to abuse and unnecessary debate, I do think that many of the issues that our churches face should have such an open forum for discussion.

    Additionally, I think it is a bit ironic when we pastors are concerned about a layperson challenging us, when there seems to be a willingness by some RB pastors to challenge (openly) our confession.

  47. Brothers,

    In the interest of promoting unity and defusing unnecessary debate that may only serve to hinder such unity, please allow me to attempt to affirm a number of important concerns that I believe I share in common with many on this list. My openness to new styles of music and desire to make “the things most surely believed among us” more intelligible to a 21st century audience may give some the impression that I’m urging a shift away from certain Reformed Baptist distinctives, which I still think are important for our witness to the world and to the larger evangelical church of our day. If I’ve given some that impression, it may be that I’ve sometimes overstated my concerns that largely relate to more circumstantial aspects of our worship and witness or failed to affirm clearly my commitments to elemental aspects of our worship and witness. So here’s my attempt to be a better communicator:

    (1) I’m committed to the centrality of the preaching and teaching of God’s word in corporate worship.

    (2) I’m committed to a kind of corporate praise where the lyrics are not only theologically sound but also where congregational participation is prominent. It’s not healthy worship when God’s people stop singing and just sit back and listen. Of course, I don’t think the grammatical construction of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 prohibits one group of the church occasionally singing to another (see also 1 Cor. 14:26). But all God’s people have the responsibility and privilege to praise the Lord and admonish one another. Therefore, the singing of the whole congregation is a vital component of healthy worship.

    (3) The music that accompanies congregational singing whether a capella or instrumental should be characterized by suitableness and orderliness (1 Cor. 14). It should fit the moods of the lyrics. Moreover, it should be singable. Some good contemporary music is fine for solos or duets, etc. But it’s not easy for congregations to sing. I would not, for this reason, label it worldly. I would, however, discourage its use in most congregations. (I suppose there might be some exceptions where congregations are made up largely of trained singers.)

    (4) Just as I question the use of only traditional styles or forms of worship, so I also question the wisdom of using only contemporary forms of worship–especially if we’re talking about what’s “cutting edge.” I favor an approach that attempts to take into consideration the make up of the church and the culture in which the church is situated. There are usually a good number of folks in our churches that are quite edified by the older hymns. Younger Christians have a responsibility to seek not merely their own interests but the interests of their older brothers in Christ (Phil. 2:1-4). Moreover, younger folks can develop an appreciation for the older hymns over time. That happened in my case. Nevertheless, I think the principle of mutual deference works both ways. The older folks who prefer traditional hymnody shouldn’t disregard the preferences of younger or newer Christians who prefer newer more contemporary hymnody. Keep in mind, I’m thinking of contemporary songs whose lyrics are solidly biblical, that focus on such themes as the majesty of God, the sinfulness of man, the sovereign grace of the gospel, etc.

    (5) While I do believe the Bible warrants the use of instruments in worship and while I’m open to more than a mere piano, I’m also committed to aim for a scenario where the instruments remain the servants of the praise, not the lords. In other words, I wouldn’t be in favor of music that was so loud it drowned out the singing. Nor am I in favor of music that distracts from the words. When done properly and tastefully, good music can complement and accentuate the lyrics in a way that serves to highlight and beautify the truths expressed.

    (6) In light of the commitments I’ve expressed above, there is probably much that goes on in many evangelical churches today that I could not endorse. I’m hesitant to judge the motives of the leaders or members in every case. Some may be well-meaning but mistaken and unwise. Others may be motivated wrongly. They may be, as Jade has suggested above, motivated by a desire for a kind of carnal entertainment, that is, pleasure apart from God. Interestingly, the first definition for “entertainment” on Dictionary.com refers to what is “agreeable occupation for the mind.” For the Christian, “agreeable occupation for the mind” should be “things above” (Col. 3:2). A worship that directs our minds away from God and Christ and the gospel is certainly not what the Bible commends. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that traditional forms of worship are the only forms suitable to set our minds and affections on things above. I do believe there is a growing number of modern songs that are singable, suited to the lyrics, and aesthetically beautiful. Of course, such commendable contemporary hymnody when compared with all the contemporary music out there today may still be in the minority. But there are some good modern hymns that I’ve heard RB congregations sing, which, at least for me and many others, are edifying and honoring to God. That doesn’t mean that my favorites have to be loved equally by all. God is a God of diversity, and I think he’s created us each with capacities to appreciate different facets of beauty.

    (7) And, to get back on topic, I’m in favor of a confessional form of Christianity. The “no creed but the Bible” position has historically opened the door to all sorts of false notions. Moreover, I think the 17th century Puritan confessions are some of the finest creeds every written. I’m a Reformed Baptist because I think the 1689, as a historical creed, follows the contours of Scripture better than other major creeds I’m aware of. Of course, there may be some more modern creeds I’m not aware of. But as far as it goes, it’s hard to surpass the 1689. I am concerned, however, that we not become such enthusiastic devotees of a man-made creed, which is, after all, a product of its time, that we’re unwilling to update its language or restate its doctrine using modern language that’s more intelligible. Furthermore, I think there are some important doctrines not adequately addressed in the 1689. Some have suggested that such omissions can be adequately addressed in the constitutions of individual churches. That may be the case for more peripheral issues. But there are a few centrally important issues that deserve higher, confessional status. Thus, in my mind, a desire to update the language of our confession or restate its theology in modern language to enhance intelligibility and a desire to address vital issues of doctrine and practice not presently addressed by the 1689 is not a movement away from confessionalism. It’s confessionalism at its best.

    I offer these comments in an attempt to identify certain areas of common ground with the burden of this series of posts and with the many comments on this list. I do so in the hopes of fostering a better understanding so that future discussion can be more productive and edifying. I appreciate the patience of those who’ve taken the time to read my comments.

    Gratefully yours,
    Bob Gonzales

  48. David

    I fail to see the irony. It is not an apples to apples comparison in any way.

    Sheep challenging pastors,and pastors discussing and debating the Confession is not the same at all.

    Scripture should govern us all and in every way. I am all for our sheep engaging us and discussing things and giving us their perspectives but it must be done with respect and due consideration to Christ’s rule and His word and not merely be open season for incoherent and flawed reasoning. Pride and arrogance are sins we all must deal with and in younger Christians they are not lacking.

    The issue of debating our confession as pastors and how we should hold it and use it is not the same at all. It is a very different issue.

    Warmest regards

    RB

  49. I’m glad that Dr. Gonzales has taken the time to affirm his rootedness to those who might have been worried that he was straying into some vaguely “liberal” subculture of Reformed life. Of course, playing these games with labels is about as useful as the Presbyterian critique that we are all here proto-Gnostics because, as Baptists, we reject the notion of Christ’s “Real Presence” (as they define it) in the Supper. The kindest way to put it is that such labels simply beg the whole question at issue.

    I do not think Dr. Gonzales was being too harsh, though his message could easily be taken as condescending. That is a judgment call but I think he desires, like all good pastors, to be more self-controlled and above reproach and I hope Jade doesn’t take too much offense.

    One question I have is whether the Reformers, and even the Puritans, would have advocated the use of their own confessions as strict standards in the way that their words have been taken and wielded by so many today. Of course, the attitudes and teachings of the Puritans are not the ultimate definition of what it is to be “Reformed” (anymore than being “Reformed” is the whole point of being Biblical), but I think these men would have strongly resisted the efforts of strict subscriptionists to create a standard of judgment out of their merely confessed opinions which they offered for the purpose of ecumenism and an appeal against persecution.

    If they did not think that their opinions were a perfect expression of Biblical truth and that there probably existed errors in their thinking even where they could not discern them, then strict subscriptionism is apparently self-refuting because it runs afoul of the historic intention of the confession, taken as a whole, and its general purpose. Of course there are a number of places where the 1689 is simply wrong, including concepts that spring primarily from the outmoded philosophical categories of the time and place in which it was written. The argument which the authors make use of in chapter one, subsection five, represents an unbiblical tradition of apologetics that was common in their day. That does not make them untrustworthy guides, simply fallible, but it is one of many excellent reasons one might give to explain the immaturity of strict subscriptionism, as though we need an uninspired mediator for the Scriptures… Or have not the Scriptures themselves already spoken of their plain sufficiency? Doesn’t strict subscription suggest not merely that the confession has not erred but that it cannot err, that anyone in future who finds an error must be wrong by default?

    That is not Biblical fidelity. It is faithless fear, and an attitude that totally misunderstands the needs of the Church. It is one thing to use the confession as a helpful guide, as Spurgeon himself encouraged us to use it. It is quite another to slavishly disparage even the slightest deviation from the thought of nearly four centuries ago… an attitude that hardly encourages us to be continually and boldly reforming, as the best of the past would have.

  50. Robert,

    This is a public Christian forum. When you, Bob or me, post something, it is open to question and challenge.

    Also, this site does NOT exist to challenge our confession. Here, the 2LBC does have more weight then any individual publicly posting.

    Hope this helps

  51. Benjamin,

    I think you should be careful with the use of the first person plural, your write this in your first paragraph,

    I’m glad that Dr. Gonzales has taken the time to affirm his rootedness to those who might have been worried that he was straying into some vaguely “liberal” subculture of Reformed life. Of course, playing these games with labels is about as useful as the Presbyterian critique that we are all here proto-Gnostics because, as Baptists, we reject the notion of Christ’s “Real Presence” (as they define it) in the Supper. The kindest way to put it is that such labels simply beg the whole question at issue.

    If I understand the writings of the early Baptists and the Confession of Faith, they understood the Lord’s Supper in exactly the same way as the Presbyterians i.e. in keeping with Calvin’s understanding as espoused in the Institutes – a real spiritual presence.

    Thus BCF 30:7

    “7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible Elements in this Ordinance, do then
    also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally, and corporally, but spiritually receive,
    and feed upon Christ crucified all the benefits of his death: the Body and Blood of Christ,
    being then not corporally, or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of Believers, in that
    Ordinance, as the Elements themselves are to their outward senses.”

    Compared with Westminster 29:7

    “VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

    The only difference is in the first use of the word sacrament.

    Likewise in Keach’s catechism,

    “Q. 107. What is the Lord’s Supper?

    A. The Lord’s Supper is a holy ordinance, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, His death is showed forth, and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporeal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of His body and blood, with all His benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace. (1 Cor. 11:23-26; 10:16)”

    So whether you accept this or not, please do not assume that you speak for all Baptists and Reformed Baptists when you make the statement above cited.

    Regards

    Paul Wallace
    Magherafelt Reformed Baptist Church
    Northern Ireland

  52. Mr. Wallace, I appreciate your generous attempt to offer correction on a sensitive issue, one for which many in the past have been willing to be martyred. I’m not sure how far to pursue this with you as it seems to take us away from the central subject of this thread, however indirectly. In any case, I hope the moderators will be lenient. I encourage you then to consider how we might best interpret the meaning of the BCF (or perhaps Mr. Keach) in that paragraph you quoted, given the following question. Does the BCF mean, as Calvin expressly said, that in the Supper we are taken up to heaven by the Holy Spirit to ingest Christ’s actual physical flesh and blood by spiritual means, through faith? Or does it rather mean that Christ’s flesh and blood and the atoning sacrifice He made, as well as the benefits of that sacrifice, are spiritually present and spiritually imbibed as we take the Supper in faith?

    Though you may see it clearly, I believe too often other Reformed Christians confuse the two. Horton has complained, for instance, that many Reformed churches are confused on this issue and, while accepting the latter definition I offered above, claim to hold Calvin’s view of the Supper.

    At any rate, if you do hold strictly to Calvin’s view (and not merely because it is Calvin’s or because it bears the stamp of “Reformed”), then you must be willing to embrace the absurdity he was willing to embrace at the heart of it. When trying to resolve, ecumenically, the differences between Zwingli’s and Luther’s perspectives on the Supper, he offered what he took to be an acceptable middle ground. He did not want to dip into the heretical view of the Lutheran’s which confused the two natures of Christ nor to go as far as Zwingli in spiritualizing the Supper. However, at the very point where Calvin was supposed to resolve the problems of the Lutheran view while retaining what he saw as its advantages, his own view crumbled into ineffable “mysteries.” He could not even begin to explain how we might literally eat on the real, physical flesh and blood of Christ through a spiritual ingestion. So, he threw up his hands and did what anyone with an absurd and unfalsifiable theory does: he cried “mystery.”

    This should not surprise us as we (and I think I’m safer using the plural here) do not embrace Calvin’s view of the remaining “sacrament” of baptism. His mystical view of that ordinance and the benefits accrued to infants we take to be in error. What I mean to say in all of this is simply that we cannot afford to so strictly subscribe to confessions that we cease to be truly Sola Scriptura. Say all we like, with the confession, that the Scriptures are the sole infallible authority we have but we will be as guilty as Roman Catholics of stripping that doctrine of all life when we place a magisterial authority over the Word and interpret it continually through that lens, as though it were itself infallible.

    When any person begins to think that anything “Reformed” must be Biblical a priori, he or she becomes no longer Scriptural as much as confessional. While it is true that those two positions are at times equatable (confessions can echo Scripture), no confession is without sin and error free, even if you or I cannot see where the wickedness lies. Or have we ceased to be Calvinists while seeking to be Reformed?

  53. Benjamin,

    You don’t need to pursue it at all, nor will I be pursuing it with you, I was merely pointing out that the the assumption you made; that the common understanding of the real presence in the Supper of Baptists is different from the common understanding of the real presence of Presbyterians, is not correct.

    For those who are confessional (either WCF or BCF) that assumption is incorrect because confessionally both are aligned. Whether they are strictly in line with all of Calvin’s thought is a different conversation and, as you note, not the main issue of this thread. However both receive Calvin’s teaching in broad terms on the real spiritual presence.

    [Confessional] Baptists therefore do not “reject the notion of Christ’s “Real Presence” (as [Presbyterians] define it) in the Supper”.

  54. Alright, well, if your intention was not merely to pick on an illustration and distract from my main point, then I assume the subject of a proper interpretation of the BCF is really important enough to discuss. If not then I’ll just agree to disagree with your idea of what is “common” among Baptists.

  55. To be honest my intention was merely to correct the assumption of your illustration which I believe was incorrect. I think that is a legitimate comment on its own. I will not be entering into a discussion of the other items in this thread.

  56. Wow, alot has happened here since I last looked. 🙂 This has got to be a record of posts on this blog!

    I don’t think I will be able to answer all the questions here, but will cover as much.

    Dr. Gonzales, please don’t take my mentioned of ‘carnal pleasures’ as in reference to sinfulness. Maybe that was a poor choice of words. My intention there was to challenge our motives of why we go to church. If I go to church with the expectation of being entertained, then I go with the wrong motive and I had associated my wrong motives as ‘carnal pleasure’. It seemed to have brushed people the wrong way in saying that. So I guess I”ll stick with the term “wrong motives” instead. I hope this clarifies by what I mean by this and if I have offended you in anyway by reference to ‘carnal pleasures’, please forgive me. My intentions here is only to challenge some of the things you’ve said that does trouble me.Is that wrong? I had not perceive my statements as “teaching”. But it was my understanding that if I didn’t find something consistent with Scriptures, that I was welcomed to ask and show where I’m not logically following you. We may never agree on this topic of worship but I really hope we can continue to sharpen each other. I’ll try to be more thoughtful of my words when trying to get a point across since apparently you have taken offense of it. And again, I am most sincerely sorry for it and for anyone else here that I might have offended.
    My utmost concern here is God’s glory as I know you are. Your motive here is not being questioned. As I’ve said before I believe whole heartily that your motives are pure. But we must argue our methodology from first principles of Scriptures of why we go to church, what church worship means and what church worship should be for all, including unbelievers who may walk into our churches. We come to the presence of God on God’s terms, not ours or anyone’s preference, in the same way the Gospel is based on God’s terms and not ours. Of course at the heart of the debate is, what is God’s terms? I can say what it’s not — It’s not entertainment/concert. I’ll address more on this below.

    In addressing the worship topic, you have putout that what one of the motives to consider contemporary music is to draw the unsaved. Was I wrong on this? I’m particularly troubled by your statement that church worship should be guided by the principle that it should be “all things to all men” so that they may be saved. It seems that many here will disagree with that principle as a prescription to church worship. Clearly Paul is speaking in the context of the conscience of the unsaved in 1Cor9, but what would the unsaved know of the worship of God if they have not been converted nor know of the Scriptures? If churches are to use 1Cor 9 as a guideline for worship, then it wouldn’t surprise me if worship becomes entertainment because entertainment does draw the unsaved (if you don’t believe me, just look at the money being poured into that business!). And yet you have agreed with me that church service should not be entertainment. Do you see where I’m confused and troubled by your statements? It is disconcerting when God’s worship is being conditioned by popular appeal. And when that happens, we are no longer the salt of this earth. It’s not to say that these churches won’t be full — they will most certainly be because this is what appeals the secular world and that’s what’s drawing the people. But in doing so these churches will drive believers out of their churches, because they are hungering for a spiritual nature that clearly doesn’t appeal to the unbeliever.
    I whole heartily agree with you that evangelism should be at the forefront of our ministries. But in how we go about doing this, we must seriously need to ask ourselves this — Do we truly believe that God’s word is sufficient to save? The direction some of our churches are taking is that they don’t believe this is the case. If they did, then they wouldn’t need to seek out what appeals to this generation. God Himself has already told us the manner of how the elect will come when Jesus tells us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” He didn’t say the music or entertainment or gimmicks or programs or men’s ingenuity will draw men to the Son. He said, the Father will draw — through the empowerment of His Word. As Scriptures reminds us, the Word of God will not go void but will accomplish the very purpose by which He sends it. So all these other things adds nothing to the saving of souls.

    Our business is NOT to draw the world into church; our business is to call out those whom God elected since the beginning of time, to repentance. Now you may call me a hyper-Calvinist for singling out the elect, but that is the theological and spiritual bottom line and that is what we are called to do. This should be reflected by our church service, that we don’t cater to entertain this world but rather to proclaim the unadulterated message of the Gospel to those who truly seek God. I’m not implying that we are selecting those who are the elect. But we know from Scriptures that they will be drawn in by the Word of God alone, not entertainment, gimmicks or men’s ingenuity.

    Dr. Gonzales wrote:
    So if you go to rock/rap/soul concerns merely to have your carnal pleasure entertained, then shame on you. We should never drive any kind of wedge between worship as a way of life and corporate worship that allows for carnal pleasure seeking “out there” but demands holy desires “in the sanctuary.” That, dear sister, is nothing more than “Sunday Christianity” or a form of religious formalism.

    Again, it seems that my use of carnal pleasure is being misinterpreted. I’m speaking here of a motive that’s not necessarily evil, but neutral. OK, let me put out an example here. When I go to see my young niece’s first recital, I’m going to a concert. Is that for my own pleasure? Yes. It’s a joy to see my niece perform in a concert. Would I consider it entertainment? Sure. Is it sinful. No. Now you may say, ‘well Jade going to church should be for our pleasure too’. I agree. But is our pleasure masked by the incentive to be entertained? That’s at the heart of my statement — what is the incentive? What is the incentive we give to folks to why one would prefer to attend our church vs some other church? I’m not trying to encourage competition between churches but only to point out that what goes on during church services adds to their incentive.

    Now speaking of church services, my concern here is the sanctity and purity of God’s Worship, that it is NOT to be mistaken as entertainment. I’m not promoting for a particular worship here, nor am I arguing for a particular instrument to be ban and I’m not saying that all contemporary music is evil. Again, I have put out the example of a rock concert as an example. Would you call these concerts purely church worship because the words they are singing is in reference to the Christian faith? Would you deny that folks who attend these gatherings is not attending these events with the expectation to be entertained? I”m not suggesting that their expectation is wrong or not. I’m just drawing clear distinction in the incentive. I understand that you can’t perceive people’s expectations but there’s a reason why one calls an event a “concert” vs “worship”. The problem I have is, those two words are no longer discerned as distinct words in many churches. My concern here is perception and what we are teaching everyone who walks thru the church doors about the worship of God. The world by nature doesn’t know what the worship of God is. It’s the churches’ duty to show to the world how to recognize what the worship of God is. If we put out entertainment, then they will equate God’s worship as that. Not only does the church service personify what the Worship of God is but we also supply the incentive for people to attend. I just hope it’s not entertainment.
    The nature of entertainment these days in the realm of music is the emphasis on the singer, the instruments and the beat/melody. The contents of the words is not what sells but the beat or melody. Some of the words of the latest contemporary Christian music are nonsense and yet it’s on the top 10 hits because the melody and beat is what sells. I’m not suggesting that a certain beat or melody is evil, but church worship music should not be characterized by the nature of entertainment. What sells in entertainment should not become the element of church worship. We need to make a clear distinction in what our culture perceives as entertainment (to not only the unconverted but the converted as well) from what the Worship of God should be. And yet there are many churches giving into this marketing because they see the numbers dwindling. It has been stated that this is being done for their love for the brethren. If you really love them, then give them God’s Word straight up, not candy-coat it in a medium that appeals to the natural man (which only distracts the message).

    It would not surprise me the large number of pastors out there today who are pressured by others or circumstances, to change their music worship to a more contemporary style because of dwindling numbers of attenders. But here’s a challenge to all churches that have contemporary style in their music worship — for three months put out only hymns. Monitor your church attendance. This will show the effect the music has on the people that attend church and it really would not surprise me if it drops. There is something really wrong with a church that only exists because of the music they play during worship. Music should not be the reason that folks attend church, nor should music drive the Worship of God. The Word and Glory of God should be what drives the worship. The medium (music or preacher!) by which it is delivered, should not be the center piece. This is all I’m arguing for.

    I wish that my zeal for God’s glory is not necessarily interpreted as a lack of love for my brethren. My allegiance is first and foremost to the Glory of God and next is love for my brethren. This is the order by which the Decalogue were given. But I don’t believe that the first two necessarily annihilates each other. I believe that if we appeal to God’s glory rather than what appeal’s to men, men are benefited from this spiritually and hence forth I have acted in love toward my brethren.

    Dr. Gonzales wrote:
    Of course, Sunday is not our time. Nor are the other six days of the week “our time.” It all belongs to God. God wants us to worship him corporately on Sunday. And on that occasion, he wants us to praise him, edify others, and communicate clearly to the lost so that they might be convicted of their sin and flee to Christ (1 Cor. 14:1-26).

    Yes all the days of our lives belongs to the Lord, but it is my understand that Reformed Baptists marks the Sabbath/Sunday worship to be a day distinct than the other days of the week. Is this not true? I have only alluded to that God’s worship is not to be governed to be all things to all men. It should only be distinctly for the Glory of God.

    Just for the record, my allegiance is not to the 2nd LBCF but to Scriptures alone. For those that know me, know that I’m still working out the 1689. It’s one of the best confessions, but I do still struggle with parts of it and continue to test it with Scriptures. So the motive of my defense is not based on any confession but only on Scriptures. I’ve done a bit of evangelism on my college campus and I still continue to do so with friends that I make at work. I’ve seen what works in the long term and what doesn’t. And I’m more convinced now than ever of the power of the Word of God alone, when it is given to them straight, rather than in gimmicks or in a medium that appeals to the natural man. This is why I think the preaching of God’s Word should be the center piece in a church service. Not the music. My prayer is that the churches are not known for the type of music they play during worship, but rather by their faithfulness to the preaching and living of the Word of God. I hope that is the impression that is left with folks who attend these churches and becomes the very incentive for them to visit your church again.

    I apologize for the long post, in my effort to clarify my statements. My weakness is that I’m not short on words. 🙂 I’ll try to curb that next time!

    Blessings,
    Jade

  57. Hi Dr. Gonzales,
    I had an after thought of your comment below that I’d like to add.

    you stated:
    So if you go to rock/rap/soul concerns merely to have your carnal pleasure entertained, then shame on you. We should never drive any kind of wedge between worship as a way of life and corporate worship that allows for carnal pleasure seeking “out there” but demands holy desires “in the sanctuary.” That, dear sister, is nothing more than “Sunday Christianity” or a form of religious formalism.

    I think we need to be clear here about entertainment and pleasure. I am troubled by your wording “to have your carnal pleasure entertained”. That’s not at all what I have meant by my statements. There are some things that I don’t think we should mark as evil because one takes pleasure in it. There’s nothing wrong with going to a concert to be entertained and drawing pleasure from it. Concerts by nature is to put out entertainment, does it not? So does that mean a Christian should never attend a concert of any sort, because it is by nature entertainment and find pleasure in it? No and I hope that’s not what you’re suggesting. And it doesn’t mean that every concert we should attend should exclusively be about God. Otherwise, I’d be condemned for attending my little niece’s violin concert at the secular school.

    I’m not trying to drive a wedge between worship as a way of life to what corporate worship is. Our lives should reflect the Scriptures. There’s a time and place for entertainment and entertainment by itself is not necessarily evil. But entertainment should not be in the church and it should not be what draws people to church. You have agreed with me on this point. There’s a sanctity in the corporate worship of God that should separate it from the other (non-sinful) pleasures we may have. It’s not to say that we don’t find pleasure in the worship of God, but it should not be the same kind of pleasure that one would draw from a concert. The fact is, concerts are entertainment and we should not make the worship of God to be like that. We should be treating the corporate worship of God as something sacred compared to everyday activities because it isn’t like our daily activities. God is present among us when we gather and the preaching of the Word is presented. The worship of God should be set apart.

    And I’m not at all suggesting that when we go outside the church doors that it gives us license to live like the heathens either. If I did that, I wouldn’t be a Christian, would I?

  58. I understand and that’s fine, Paul. Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate it.

  59. Mr. Briggs wrote:
    Sheep challenging pastors,and pastors discussing and debating the Confession is not the same at all.

    Pastor Briggs are you suggesting that I should be ban from participating? Is it because I’m a woman? And also that I”m a sheep? Don’t get me wrong but I believe in ordered headship and my pastor and elders at my church seem to be inline with my stance on church worship. But it wasn’t my understanding that I wasn’t allowed to participate, question and debate some of the comments here. I did not at all perceive my postings as teaching. I have merely pointed out where I’m not following some of the statements made and my understanding of what Scriptures states and teaches.

    All I’m arguing for is that the Worship of God should be considered sacred/set apart. I certainly don’t think I’m alone in my stance on the issues of worship. There are certainly pastors here who would agree with me…. such as those who hold to the ARBCA’s paper on the RP.

    And Benjamin, I did somewhat find Dr. Gonzales’ comments condescending initially. I realized that it was triggered by my weakness for better articulating what I meant and so I have tried not to take it to heart, and I have asked for his forgiveness in this (as well as in others who took offense) and I hope to be reconciled with him on this offense.

  60. For the record: this is a public Christian forum and not a church. All (layman, pastor) are welcome to post. Our sisters should not feel any reserve in asking questions or making their thoughts known.

  61. David,

    I agree! I also am not certain that anyone is saying we shouldn’t! I’m just backing off because the conversation is getting so long, and I think to some extent we may have reached its ending point (agreeing to disagree on these issues).

    Jade,

    I appreciate your zeal for the Scriptures and desiring for them to be central in worship. And I also believe that our other brothers here hold that same conviction! I don’t believe that anyone here is saying that we should bring in entertainment and carnality (which, if I’m not mistaken, always has a negative connotation in Scripture). I can tell you that I now have a greater appreciation for those brethren who may have more contemporary singing (which actually is not spoken of much in the NT- and when it is, it’s talking about encouraging and admonishing one another! If I am jailed for my faith one day, and I hear someone in the other cell singing “Shout to the Lord” I don’t think I’m going to be muttering “Stinkin’ praise chorus!” under my breath…). The Scriptures don’t speak of what instruments to use, how many to use, how old our hymns should be, etc. The thing that most concerns me is that we don’t let our arguments over music lead us to judge our brethren as carnal or man-pleasers or less than Gospel-centered.

    Have a great Lord’s Day, all!!! May Christ be worshiped in Spirit and in truth, and may God be exalted, His people be fed, and the lost saved!

  62. BTW, I wouldn’t have a problem with singing Shout to the Lord in public worship 🙂

  63. Hi Marie,
    I really struggled with the perception that the worship presented at the chapel at SBTS that we both had attended once, is not entertainment. I’ve been to Christian concerts which looked just like that and these concerts were perceived as entertainment. And I’m not the only one who perceived that. My friend who accompanied us at that chapel, had also asked me about it later on and asked if this was normal in the churches here in America. Again, I think we are putting out the wrong message on what the Worship of God is. Christian concerts are not wrong or evil, but there’s a time and place for it. But I do believe that the corporate worship of God should be set apart, in the same way that Reformed Baptists have set the Sabbath/Sunday as a day separate from the rest of the week.

    Blessings,
    Jade

  64. Sister Jade, I have been following this thread and I would like to reassure you that your argument regarding the difference between unsinful entertainment and entertainment in church made perfect sense to me. There are some songs, that I am entertained by, that I think would be entirely inappropriate for corporate Sunday worship, because the song was not designed to focus my mind with my fellow believers on God’s glory as revealed through His word (incidently, the style of the music fitted the purpose of the song well). By the same token, as far as I am aware, a soccer game was not designed to do this either. However, one can reflect on the goodness of God during and after the game that when He created us He gave us many good things to enjoy, soccer included.

  65. I wonder if you brothers and sisters have read this article.
    It is a hundred years old and written by a colleague of Spurgeon. I read it in the Banner of Truth mag a month or so ago. It seems strangely relevant to the discussion.

    http://www.tbaptist.com/aab/devilsmissionamusement.htm

    Blessings to all,

    Steve Owen

  66. I recognize and commend the position advocated by those who would rather not see the churches of professed believers descend into a maelstrom of fleshly pursuits, idle pasttimes and sensual delights. Nevertheless, I’m concerned that a misunderstanding may have developed. If we put aside for a moment the controversies that have burdened us personally, it should be plain that this was never the real subject of debate. No one here advocated a church focused upon entertainment. Dr. Gonzales merely brought up an example meant to test the mettle of the claim that every proposition in the LBCF should be embraced according to the original intention of its authors. He demonstrated what this might imply about the rejected use of instrumentation in the church. If he stepped into a different controversy, that is his concern but not truly the focus of this discussion. Spurgeon preached against entertainment driven “worship” and so, I think, would anyone here… but if a historically interpreted LBCF requires that we interpret a church’s use of a piano as “entertainment,” then we are no longer thinking coherently, Biblically. We are instead chasing Pharisees down a rabbit hole of human traditions and commandments, and stories like this always lead to some of the silliest charges played out in the absurd little courtrooms of our hearts.

  67. I know this has been a thread that’s been long gone and time has been quite limiting for me lately, but I thought this is a great article for those to ponder over.

    It’s been said that we should not purposely put out “poor” music in our worship. What’s consider “poor” is a relative term. Poor in what sense? Poor to the average 21st century ear? Or poor in its contents? If the emphasis in our worship is the words that is sung, then I’d say the hymnals win by a long shot compared to the contemporary Christian music. How many of you would actually call the hymnals “poor” music if the worship music is to be judged for its words? But if our choice of music is determined by the sound, melody/beat of the music itself and not the words sung, then it’s clear what carries clout in one’s worship!

    I have to say that that article referenced above suggests a very interesting proposition to just sing acapella for a time, even if some of us can’t hold a note for our life (suggestion would be to play the starting chord on the piano just to start us off to the right key)! It might try the patience of some (ears!) and would put new meaning to “bearing with one another in Christian love”. 😀 Let us truly stoked the fires of worship by the words of the music we sing and not how or what instrument is being played. Go acapella!

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