The Regulative Principle

   We must synthetically place the issue of the worship within the vast perspective of the application of the regulative principle. This principle itself is the backbone of the accidental aspect of ecclesiology of the Westminster Standard. The semantic aspect of its ecclesiology is, needless to say, centered in the freedom of conscience and faith in view of the kingship of Christ within the context of its relationship with the state.

   I would like to contribute to the worship issue itself, too, but as the initial step, my concern is in the basic principle itself. In a sense, I would like to suggest a Judo style wrestling to the end even after the smart fencing style fight could not reach the end. Could you understand what I mean ?

   It will have advantage to establish the principle for our discussion not within the context of mere worship issue, but of wider issues. Then we can prevent any confusion in the worship issue from directly confusing the principle itself. We can separate modern confusions in the worship from the pure issue of the regulative principle, at least in an initial stage of the argument.

   I am now studying about the case for the regulative principle also at the class of KTH, since the need came from OPC missionary to the Kobe Reformed Seminary, Woody Lauer who is defending Biblical position concerning to the women ordination within the synod of the Reformed church in Japan. His point comes from his strong idea concerning to the regulative principle as Christ's authoritative order through the apostles even in the area of the church's ordinance.

   Though the matter of the present discussion at our committee is of the worship, but since the matter of the regulative principle in the Westminster standard has suggested as having a bit wider area of application, the committee must be aware of such fact. This is good to avoid too direct influence of the modern worship issue to the matter of the regulative principle itself. We maybe able to deal with the regulative principle matter, in a sense, a little separated from the issue of the worship, at first.

   Westminster Confession 21-1 has clear statement concerning to the regulative principle of the worship. But we have already had the idea of the regulative principle, in contrast to the idea of adiaphola, in Ch.20-2: "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship."(FPC old text) Carruthers, in his critical text of the Confession, calls ", matters of faith, or worship" as the error and corrected it as ";...if matters of faith or worship".
He says it is the error the most important in the whole Confession. He says "the divines' argument is this: men are free in all things directly contrary to God's word; but, in addition, if the question is one of faith or worship, they are free in matters not stated in the word." I think he is quite inconsistent in the context of thought here.

   RPC-OPC Modern Translation wisely put it as fitting to the trend of the context as follows: "left it(conscience) free from...which are in any way contrary to His Word, or which in matters of faith and worship go beyond His Word."

   The matter is not merely from differences of "in" or "if", nor ";" or ",", but Carruthers took the context too negative against the regulative principle.

   I think original meaning was:
"left the conscience free NOT TO conform to the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any way contrary to His Word, and also free NOT TO conform to the doctrines and commandments of men, which go beyond His Word, if they are the matters of faith and worship."

   Carruthers took it as:
"left the conscience free NOT TO conform to the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any way contrary to His Word, and also free TO conform to the doctrines and commandments of men, which go beyond His Word, if they are the matters of faith and worship."

   Then he says that here is the great doctrine concerning things indifferent in the ecclesiastical world.(adiaphola)

   But he took in the former part the context as "NOT TO" and in the latter as "TO". It seems inconsistent for me.

   I even think that here the Confession suggests that they are to do the things stated in God's word only as their free action. It is the regulative principle.

   Then the area of application is not only the matter of the worship, but also the matter of faith, as Ch.20-2 states. Then we indirectly sense the same principle at the conception of the purity of the church in Ch.26-4.

   The purity is according to the Doctrine of the Gospel, God's Ordinance to the church and the Public Worship.

   Here we see the areas of application of the regulative principle which are suggested as the areas of Christ's direct and authoritative lead to His church.

   In addition to above, Ch.1-6 states the clarity and sufficiency of the scripture and proceeds into the suggestion of possible "circumstances concerning to the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies." But here again the confession mentions that, while stating "to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence," circumstances of those two areas must be ruled "according to the general rules of the Word", and that such general Biblical rule is affirmed as "always to be observed". Such choices of words imply the presence of the regulative principle in mind.

   So my conclusion of above thought is this:

  1.    The regulative principle is widely established through the Bible as the principle given to the church by Christ through Christ's authority(Shariach) given to the apostles as His official representative.

  2.    Christ did not leave the church without rule. He gave the church clear basis for the forms of church life.

  3.    Christ ordered three areas namely for the purity of His church, and stated general rules for practice of such forms clearly through the Bible. The areas are forms of Doctrine, Ordinance/Government and Worship.

   At least above is the idea of the Confession as a whole. And we can find the same structure of the truth in the Bible, too. We must more carefully search the scripture concerning to these three areas of the forms in the church according to the principle of not written is forbidden, or only to do what Christ stated.

   Then the psalm singing will be well placed as much firmly established among the forms Christ stated to the church.

   We can eliminate unfitting area or idea from the application of the regulative principle by seeing whole picture. I think that to observe Tim McCracken's thesis in the light of such wider application of the principle, the inappropriateness of the direction of his discussion (out of the context of the church's form) has become sensed.

   We can even see from bird-eye the future direction of our denomination and in such perspective the psalmody is a starting point, not the end.

Sincerely in His service,
Shigeru Takiura