The Regulative Principle of the Gospel? What's Up With That?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Regulative Principle of the Gospel? What's Up With That?


Recently, I came across an article entitled The Regulative Principle of the Gospel." It comes from the website Outside the Camp, a humorous but sad site which seems to point to the fact that the editor himself is actually "Outside the Camp." At least that's where I see him, mainly because he has isolated himself from the rest of his reformed brothers and sisters in Christ. He has isolated himself because men like John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, J. I. Packer, A. W. Pink, John Murray, Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, Thomas Boston, Louis Berkhof, Lorraine Boettner, Horatius Bonar and others are not reformed enough for him. All of these men he includes in his Heterodoxy Hall of Shame. That's a cryin' shame.

In the article on the regulative principle of the gospel, the author makes the following statement in closing: "We regulate our worship according to Scripture because we know that this points to the Ultimate Regulative Principle - the ONE WAY of salvation and fellowship with God through the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ ALONE, without any contribution from the sinner."

Is this good hermeneutics and exegesis? Clearly the gospel can be explicitly derived from the pages of Scripture. What to believe is clearly stated, as well as how to believe it. But can our worship of God be explicitly derived from the pages of Scripture? To be sure, there is much that the author states as true. God must be worshiped as He Himself prescribes, and not as we desire. The NT seems to make clear the pattern for New Covenant worship: "Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

So is it hermeneutically, exegetically, and theologically correct to derive the way we worship from the gospel? Absolutely. Our worship must be in the spirit and truth of the gospel. But that's not what the author of this article is stating. He is arguing for a particular method or theology of understanding of worship based on the theology of the gospel. In his mind, if there is only one gospel, there is only one way to worship God, his way, using the regulative principle. That's too bad and so sad. That's terrible logic and he ought to be ashamed of his hyper-reformed self.

What he unwittingly does is turn the worship of God back into prescription as it was in OT days. The gospel has freed us from this through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He has met all prescriptions because we could not. His method also removes Jesus Christ as our mediating worship. Jesus Christ IS our worship to God. He is our means to God and our method. We come to the Father by Him and not by our prescribed regulations. There is much more to say on this, but you get the point. This is a typical example of what I've come to call "Ugly Calvinism," because it taints and discolors the roots of Calvinism in the all-sufficient mercy and grace of God through Christ alone.

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