The Regulative Principle – Some Choruses, a Pep-talk, and an Offering, part 6 of 20

It’s called the “regulative principle”. In short, it means God says how He is to be worshiped; that He has said so in His Word; and that if it’s not found there, we don’t do it. It’s classically defined in the Westminster Confession. It reads:

The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. (Chapter 21, paragraph 1)

I know there are some “haths” and “doths” in there but for something written nearly 400 years ago, those “stuffy” Puritans sure got it right. But if being more biblical means being more “stuffy,” I want some more “stuffy”!

Why is the “regulative principle” viewed by most evangelicals as oppressive, constrictive, and “frozen-chosen-ish”? Could it be because we live in a very self-oriented culture where Sunday morning resembles more and more the drive-up window at Burger King? That you really can “have it your way”?

I can hear the pastor now, “I’m ready to take your order.” And the parishioner starts talking, “I’ll take some thump-in music—the kind I work out to in aerobics class. Let’s see, I’d like a dynamic, relevant, and entertaining message that will fix my problems—O, could you mix in some movie clips with that? And it is in power-point, isn’t it? You do have power-point, don’t you? A little ditty from the drama team would be nice, too. And I need all of this in an hour, please.”

Years ago, singer Helen Reddy bemoaned, “You’re so vain; you probably think this song is about you, don’t you?” Sadly, in sanctuaries across the land, her song has become descriptive: “You’re so vain; you probably think this worship service is about you, don’t you?” And the parishioner, who is surprised you’ve even asked, inquires back, “Your Starbuck’s cart is open during the service, isn’t it?”

We’ve got some regulating to do.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
November 11, 2010


obtain a copy of the Westminster Confession in PDF here

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