What is a Regulative Principle of Worship? Visiting another Church

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Recently after visiting another church, I posted the following on my Facebook wall.

“Visited another church this morning. Immediately upon entering the building it looked like a scene from the movie Jaws. Then the sanctuary looked like the beach, even a surfboard, shorts, and guitars on the stage. I’ve come to accept that there’s no church nearby that practices the regulative principle of worship. But at times the Bible Belt looks too much like California. Can I find a psalm or hymn singing Church that’s Biblical and healthy, that believes in, and practices the inerrancy and immutability of the Scriptures? When did the south go south on us? Surfs up dude! No, I did not stay for the service. Re-visiting another church.”

Some of the emoticon reactions and comments inputted under the aforementioned post were interesting. Apparently, most did not catch my use of the words a “regulative principle of worship.” Others suggested that I did not understand that the beach scene was connected to their children’s ministry or their Vacation Bible School.

The answer’s yes, I did realize that. However, it is my goal to never complain about a problem without offering a solution to the problem. But the solution is what most overlooked, which is practicing a regulative principle of worship. Because if we practiced a regulative principle of worship, many of these contemporary problems would be eliminated.

However, one Facebook friend sent me a personal message about that post, asking me “Hey Bill! Can you send me resources you defer to that explain the regulative principle of worship? I want to know more.”

Bang, he got it! And Lord willing I hope I will always want to know more too.

And so, what is a regulative principle of worship? Below is what I messaged back to my Facebook friend.

A regulative principle of worship (aka RPW) is the opposite of a Normative Principle of Worship. Or as I’ve stated before, in summary, while gleaming from a dictionary, [1]

“We uphold and practice the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW), which means we do not have contemporary music, nor bands, nor anything that might be construed as entertainment, nor other practices outside the Scriptures. A RPW is “a principle stating that Scripture prescribes or “regulates” the permissible elements of public worship. In contrast to the “normative principle”… affirming that whatever Scripture does not prohibit is permissible, the regulative principle requires that elements of worship must be explicitly commanded, clearly exemplified or necessarily inferred from Scripture.”

Source: Kapic, K. M., & Vander Lugt, W. (2013). In Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition (p. 101). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

In closing.

For a closer examination of a RPW, here’s a position paper for you.

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