Public Intellectuals, Public Protestants

This piece is making the rounds, one about the sorts of public intellectuals that now sound off at TED talks and other such progressive forums. And it got me thinking about differences between Presbyterians and Princeton Seminary:

Early on, [Drezner] he makes a crucial distinction between old-fashioned “public intellectuals” and the now-trendy “thought leaders.” The latter model is one that sells itself less to an identifiable “public”—something that has become increasingly difficult to define in a society continually segmenting itself according to ever-more-narrow criteria—than to plutocratic patrons. Once upon a time, we relied on intellectuals to “speak truth to power,” as the saying goes. Of course, real life was never so simple. But the adversary culture that arose in the bohemia of Greenwich Village in the early 20th century and among the (mostly) Jewish intellectuals who founded the independent Partisan Review in the 1930s offered at least a basis from which both to critique capitalism and to imagine alternative systems that might one day replace it.

Today, our most famous purveyors of ideas sell themselves to the wealthy much like the courtiers of the Middle Ages. Drezner notes that these ideas are therefore shaped by the “aversion” that plutocrats share toward addressing the problems we face. Inequality? Global warming? Populist nihilism? An explosion of global refugees? From a Silicon Valley perspective, Drezner notes, such things are not a failure of our system but rather “a piece of faulty code that need[s] to be hacked.” Examining data from a survey of Silicon Valley corporate founders, Drezner notes their shared belief that “there’s no inherent conflict between major groups in society (workers vs. corporations, citizens vs. government, or America vs. other nations).”

So is Machen more like the old Jewish intellectuals who spoke truth to power, while Keller is more like the “famous purveyors of ideas”? Does that explain why Princeton repudiated Machen altogether but still made a place for Keller who still went there to speak about planting churches?

Just an obsession.

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143 thoughts on “Public Intellectuals, Public Protestants

  1. D.G.,
    So you are still obsessed with Keller. Tell me you with your 2KT, what truth to power are you speaking?

    And btw, from the left’s perspective, most intellectuals have been the courtiers of those with power since at least the 1920s. While those intellectuals who do speak truth to power have taken the role of the OT Prophets, in part that is, in challenging power. That division between the intellectuals would make them parallel the prophets during Old Testament times because the false prophets were the courtiers for the evil kings of Israel and Judah while the true prophets actually spoke truth to power as well as to everyone else.

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  2. D.G.,
    As if inspiration and idealism have nothing to contribute to us? As if Tim Keller never preaches the Gospel and has nothing to contribute to 2Kers? Is that your truth or, like the Pharisees, is it from your favorite traditions?

    You do know that to answer the questions above, you will have to mention specific sources of inspiration and ideals?

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  3. DGH – he avoided the PCUSA by not becoming an ordained minister in the PCUSA, thus not submitting to their power. I admire Machen, but using him as a foil to criticize Keller is ridiculous.

    And I play poker and blackjack, not slots. My wife plays slots, which I love, because they comp better than anything else.

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  4. D.G.,
    You kind of shortlisted my sources of inspiration. But with your sources, you believe that you have everything to teach Keller and nothing to learn from him?

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  5. vae vic, ridiculous or uncomfortable. Keller did teach at WTS and the PCA is one of those sectarian Presbyterian churches that PTS opposes. I see lots of connections and I study such connections for a living.

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  6. DGH – oh, I get it. John the Baptist spoke truth to power (Herod) and was beheaded for it, while Jesus was the “famous purveyor of ideas,” who, so far as we know, did not criticize Herod’s marriage.

    Seriously though, when you leave a seminary and effectively establish a rival seminary, you can’t expect an invitation to speak, much less an award. Keller never had such baggage. Besides, perhaps Keller’s purpose for going there was evangelistic – he cares for the lost. Had he lived long enough for things to settle down, who’s to say Machen wouldn’t have accepted a similar invitation later in life?

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  7. DGH – well, for the Kuyper Center wouldn’t Newbigin be more appropriate? Wouldn’t he be a bit more thoroughly Neo-Calvinist than Conn? (Seriously asking, not trying to make a point.)

    cw – I haven’t listened to his talk, but Keller always preaches the Gospel. Besides, this wasn’t a sermon, so I don’t know if “preach” is the right word anyway. I don’t know if Machen would have told them they have a different gospel, but so what if he would have? They are two different people with two different styles. By the way, I enjoyed our little Twitter discussion Sunday morning….

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  8. vae vic, Conn is more neo-Calvinist. Direct connection right through Van Til to Kuyper. Newbigin? Do you go through the Boer Wars?

    Plus, imagine the missed opportunity to educate one side about the other. But Keller — as always — goes third way, the Keller Way.

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  9. VV, me too. You brought up “preaching” — I never considered it a sermon. Not telling apostates they have no gospel versus honoring them with your presence and saying thoughtful, mildly corrective things about evangelicals AND mainliners is more than a stylistic difference, don’t you think? You should listen, it’s easy:

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  10. The difference between Machen’s view of the PCUSA and Keller’s would seem to be radically different. If Keller agrees with the take of Machen (who he claims to admire) he is doing a masterful job of hiding that fact.

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  11. If you’ve already adopted the meaning of the postmodern vocabulary and tried to shoehorn that meaning into traditional theological terms, categories and ecclesiastical structures(what church is for-see diaconal responsibilities) and efforts(local and foreign missions) how is that not the same thing as ceding the ‘high ground’ to the culture you are supposed to be confronting and then converting? You’re missing on both efforts and on the last, you’ve merely agreed with the progressives about which new idols(hate this category)should replace the old ones and you’ve converted them to it? Ummm, so, you’ve reheated prot liberalism. Congrats?

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  12. CW,
    Of course you are correct, but (as Curt will tell you) Keller is learning oh sooo much from the folks who embrace a false and “a different Gospel”, it is admitted to be such, but you see Keller sees great nuggets. You should too. So in that paradigm Keller’s approach is good, while yours is bad. This is the highest order of things. Oh, that and sharing society with others. Come on man, get with the program. Read Curt’s blog more , you will get up to speed.

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  13. The key to understanding Keller is the Third Way. It doesn’t always split the difference between two things, is not always a little of this and a little of that. It is often a wholly different approach. EB is probably onto something with the higher/highest concept. Comes off a bit gnostic now that I think about it.

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  14. E. Burns,
    Is there much we can learn from a medical doctor who is not even a Christian?

    One of the problems I’ve cited is this all-or-nothing thinking that has rooted itself in many a religiously conservative Christian–even the reformed kind. And believing that one or one’s group has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is evidence of such thinking.

    But if you are going criticize Keller for learning from those outside the faith, you might want to ask D.G. about what on can learn from H.L. Mencken. That is if you are consistent.

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  15. CW, EB, and DGH – isn’t the Keller Way also the Most Effective Way? Or at least the most effective way of anyone else at the moment?

    E. Burns – Keller’s approach is basically the approach Paul takes at the Areopagus. He tells the pagan Greeks their religiosity is great, their monuments and sculptures are great, and even quotes multiple Greek poets in defense of God. Then he tells them their error and leaps into the Gospel.

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  16. Vae vic,

    Not to hate on Keller, but when has Keller ever been as bold in a non-Christian setting as Paul was? “Homosexuality isn’t good for human flourishing” and “the Mainline is too focused on the horizontal” aren’t necessarily barn-burning, repent or receive God’s judgment kind of sentiments.

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  17. Vae Vic,

    I will grant you that is indeed part of Keller’s approach. I will think the best of his heart and I have heard him offer some good stuff, though generally speaking I too have issues with him. But this idea of overall “Effective way” should be fleshed out. I guess we need to define what that means and what exactly the results are that he’s getting from that so called more “effective” way. Many have rightly said here that the approach Keller and many others have is essentially a reheated version of protestant liberalism. I think that is an accurate criticism.

    Vic states…..”””Then he tells them their error and leaps into the Gospel.””” This is the point Vic. Did he do that at his much touted speaking engagement Princton scenario ? Does he really do it elswhere? I’m not so sure. But hey in fairness I don’t always either, I don’t stand for Christ the way I should, etc etc. The Lord is growing me as no doubt He is Keller. Difference is (as Dr. Hart rightly points out) Keller is not just on the national stage, but he’s look to as a ideal model to emulate in ministry for many.

    I think CW has a point when he says……
    “”But VV, Keller did not preach much gospel at PTS and, more importantly, did not flat-out tell them they have a different gospel. Machen could never, ever have gone there without doing that.”””

    But if Keller is just there to learn a lot from those who have “a different” and false gospel. That is the bigger thing here (in the paradigm of Curt and many others ), the more equitable thing. Where he then takes what he learned incorporating (smuggling/ synchronizing) so much into what the gospel (from these acknowledged false gospel leaders) is of no concern I guess. Again, social gospel folks have their higher order of things.
    Dr. Hart and many others would view that as synchronizing and watering down the gospel. Curt and many others would see this as a beautiful thing! We are learning a lot from one another and sharing society with others, so we got that going for us. **Although it is glaring how one sided the “learning from one another” is for social gospel types. **

    At its core defining the gospel is still The Paramount issue of our times and seems to still be what the struggle and challenge is on church and theological fronts. I can very much see and understand why guys like Curt defend Keller. They love this idea that we can “do or be the gospel”. They take a living and breathing, the definitions of it are influx (it is kind of gnostic) approach to what the gospel is. Call me the “gospel curmudgeon ” the “theological nit picker”, if one likes. However, that really is not what it is going on here, a bunch of nicpickers who won’t learn from others. It is not that I or others think we have it all figured out or have nothing to learn, rather it is the simple fact that in matters of the Gospel this all has already been figured out and already defined by God. We (me or anybody else) don’t need (in fact we don’t get) to reinvent the wheel on this one. Warnings against it are dark, Galatians 1.

    I am not trying to overly bust on Keller, and I think it is more his followers than him as the problem, the many copy cats pervasive in the PCA. However, as I look at his approach to things, best my mind is seeing through a glass dimly lit can see, Keller seems to really present a “we need to do, we need to be the gospel” kind of approach and central message. It is absolutely no surprise in that paradigm social gospel and liberation theology folks will rise to his defense. And they do, without question they do! Why? It’s not a stretch to connect the dots on this one.
    Of course if one thinks the PCA is in good shape, that it has been in a good trajectory for the last 30 years and currently still is, then of course one will read my comments and view me as a Pharisee, a nit picker, someone unwilling to hear new ideas, etc. etc.

    Sorry, but Keller’s approach ( as well as those like minded) in many ways is the complete opposite of the idea in this video (which I believe is the more Biblical) of what the gospel is.

    http://wscal.edu/resource-center/resource/what-is-the-gospel1

    ” What we win the with, we win them to. ”

    All the moral outrage social gospel troops and those on the Keller side have it easy. They have it easy because they claim ( like chameleons changing) Machen and orthodoxy, but then at the end of the day have a general ethos in ministry philosophy that is the complete opposite. Cake and eat it too, so it seems. At least CW, Dr. Hart and folks in that camp have the stones to be both intellectually and theologically honest, don’t you think?

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  18. Robert – could Keller be a bit bolder on some issues? Sure, I think even he has said as much. But I do believe Keller wants to be viewed (and by extension, Redeemer to be viewed) as Gospel-centered, not social issue-centered. Look, to some degree we all want our pastors to confront the world like Darth Vader in the last scene in Rogue One, but that’s rarely the best approach. Most times we need to approach the lost in a way they will hear us. Not hiding or softening the truth, but approaching it in a way that doesn’t make them recoil and tune us out before we tell them of the hope we have in Christ.

    Let’s be real: if Tim Keller railed against homosexuality and abortion every week he would earn a lot of applause in conservative Christian circles, but the typical New York liberal would immediately write him off and never take him seriously. By primarily criticizing behavior they can relate to (idolatry, greed, selfishness, etc) he gains their attention and he can preach the truth of the Gospel. Going back to the Areopagus example, Paul doesn’t go in guns blazing against idolatry. He tells the Greeks their religiosity and their search for the “unknown god” are admirable, but that the truth ultimately lies in the Resurrected Christ.

    At the end of the day, would you rather have a pastor who delivers hell fire and brimstone sermons on social issues but gain no converts, or a pastor who doesn’t speak often on social issues but has a massive impact for the Kingdom? The choice is obvious, is it not?

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  19. E. Burns – I was writing my last post at the same time you were writing yours, it seems. I don’t have time to respond in full now, but I agree with much of what you say. I’ll get back to you with a better response later.

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  20. vae vic, “massive impact”? I get that Keller is a celebrity. Joel Osteen is a bigger celebrity. Is Osteen’s influence “massive”? Or is this special pleading for New Life Presbyterians because he’s their celebrity?

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  21. Vae Vic,

    I look forward to your feedback. “Impact”, what kind are we talking about? Just numbers? Or perceived influence? Yeah, he is pretty impactful there I guess. However, If it is true that what we win them with we win them to, then one sees Dr. Hart’s criticisms of Keller in a different light. Not as nitpicking but as incredibly important to get a handle on. The church growth movement of the 1980’s and 90’s gave us the mega churches, influence and the numbers. It did not give us gospel or doctrinal fidelity. Not to mention a whole lot of false converts.

    How different is the liberal, hipster, downtown city church? In many ways can’t we see it’s just the same problem re- packaged with a bit different window dressing? Now it’s not the conservative glitzy businessman,TBN style mega church preacher, fire brimstone in the Cadillac. Now it is the City church hipster with Birkenstocks, supporter of the arts and the environment (New York liberals) talking about how to live and be the gospel and get behind this social cause or the next. Broad and perhaps a bit of an over simplification, but probably not by much. I say both get it wrong, very wrong. Curt, wants us to “learn” a lot from the Birkenstock crowd. (What he really wants is full adherence to the social gospel) I am not sure at times what Keller wants, but I know he dresses better than Curt.

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  22. I still haven’t figured out how urbanism became the gospel. Have you been to your gentrified downtown? Modern Beatnik is the Christ like character God is working in us, really? Who knew gospel centered, property taxes and foodie culture would equal postmodern christianity. You don’t have to step back very far to see the ridiculousness of it all.

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  23. DGH – by impact I’m not talking about popularity or celebrity. I’m not even talking about number of conversions, though those have undoubtedly been considerable through Keller’s teaching. Look at this way: New York City was a spiritual wasteland in the 1980s. There were basically no Reformed churches (unless you count the Mainline), and no new church plants of any kind. Tim Keller (reluctantly) planted Redeemer in 1989, and it grew rapidly to 5,000+ weekly attenders and 2000+ members in less than 20 years. This is a solidly Reformed PCA church we’re talking here, not some non-denominational hipster gathering. Then, largely through the efforts of Redeemer, the floodgates opened to Reformed and Calvinistic churches, and the number of solidly Reformed believers have grown by the tens of thousands. Yes, Redeemer wasn’t entirely alone: Times Square Church, a seeker-sensitive non-denominational mega-church, was planted around the same time as Redeemer, but the lion’s share of the credit for church and Christian growth in NYC goes to Redeemer, and all of the credit for the Reformed church presence.

    Now certainly there are many Keller wannabes in other cities who have botched things badly in terms of church planting and Gospel preaching (more on that below). On the other hand, there are also many who have done a magnificent job as a direct result of Redeemer and Keller’s influence. One such church is Pacific Crossroads in Los Angeles, a very solid PCA church that is leading the Reformed influence in city center (such that it is) LA. Without Redeemer, churches like that probably wouldn’t exist. A similar influence has been felt in the UK and Australia among other countries, including in the Middle East. That’s a global increase in solid Reformed churches and an increase of probably hundreds of thousands of Reformed Christians through the influence of Redeemer and Tim Keller (goes without saying ultimately through the work of the Holy Spirit). When has the Reformed movement ever had such massive global growth?

    I fully realized his influence when I was in the rural southeast recently. I was perusing the “Christian” section of a bookstore when a group of 20-something women came in looking for Keller’s book on marriage. I overheard one of them talking about how his other books had changed her life, made her rethink her beliefs, etc. Before that I remember an urban Catholic friend of ours mentioning that their Catholic Bible study was reading through Keller’s Counterfeit Gods. A Dutch Christian in Amsterdam told our family that Keller’s The Reason for God was the perfect book for reaching Europe’s secular culture, and was a great encouragement to the church there. So an urban Catholic and rural Baptist (probably) and secular Dutch were influenced by Keller. You can quibble about some of his finer theological points, but there is no denying Keller’s genuine impact for the Kingdom.

    E. Burns – I understand your general point in both posts and completely understand your perspective (and DGH’s and CW’s, etc). I think your main concern is that Keller has reached people, but by preaching a quasi-social Gospel that waters down – if not abandons altogether – traditional Reformed/Presbyterian beliefs. I understand the perception, but I don’t think it’s reality. It’s easy to lump Keller in with a Mark Driscoll type, or other pastors and churches of that urbane, urban, hipsterish ilk that appeal to social justice rather than holy living. I assure you Redeemer is anything but that – well, it is urban.

    However, it is anything but hipsterish and seeker-sensitive. Indeed, the worship is practically anachronistic. They play very traditional hymns with maybe some strings or a trumpet and organ, and the format is highly liturgical. There are no flashy lights, sound effects, props, or anything of the sort. The pastors wear suits and ties. Worship would be on the conservative side of PCA services.

    The congregation is far more yuppie than hipster (for better or worse). There are mostly finance/Wall Street/business people, or doctors, lawyers, actors, and grad students. The age skews younger, but most people are in their late 20s- 30s-40s. There are relatively high numbers of singles, and most families have younger kids. But if you envision a Birkenstock-wearing, granola-munching, skinny-jean-wearing crowd that checks their Tinder feed between worship songs led by a band under blue and green lights that think they are the Christian version of Nirvana, you’ve got the wrong perception. Frankly, it’s generally indistinguishable from your average PCA congregation, other than the relatively high number of singles.

    The sermons are expository, thoughtful, and invariably Christ-centered. There’s no social Gospel, no bleeding heart appeals, virtually never politics. The formula followed by Keller and the other pastors is to identify sin, immorality, faults in each of our lives, and then provide the solution, which is ultimately the blood of Christ. They take great care to avoid theological jargon, so you won’t hear something like “propitiation” very often, but you will hear the concept explained in lay terms. Redeemer is thoroughly every-square-inch Kuyperian, so if you don’t like that, I don’t know what to tell you – that’s a very big part of the church’s guiding philosophy. That said, I’ve never heard of anything along the lines of “do the Gospel” as such. Church community outside of Sunday worship is also a big point of emphasis.

    I know first hand of Keller devotees who have failed miserably in their efforts to become the Tim Keller of [Insert City]. They have tried to basically copy his approach, whatever they perceive that to be, rather than focus on the basic duties of a pastor and church. That’s hardly Keller’s fault, but I understand why people who see their failures attribute their mistakes to him. And you’re right about the dangers of liberation theology and social gospel proponents rising up to champion Keller, given how taking his thinking too far can lead to those errors. And Keller deserves some of the blame for not being clearer on some issues. One of his biggest faults is trying too hard to be culturally sensitive, especially in interviews. He is at his best in books or giving a prepared speech where he can be very precise in his message, but he often struggles to give a culturally sensitive answer that is also theologically correct in live interviews, which causes him to stumble and come across as wishy-washy. Sometimes it is better to simply state a theological truth or use theological jargon than shoe-horn a common language truism.

    I know I’ve written an epistle here, but the point is that while I understand your concerns, I believe they are more informed by perception than reality. We all know that no church and no pastor are anywhere near perfect, and I don’t want to paint Redeemer and Keller as such – both have their flaws. But if we are going to critique them let’s critique them based on what they are, not based on what we imagine them to be.

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  24. Vae,

    Let’s be real: if Tim Keller railed against homosexuality and abortion every week he would earn a lot of applause in conservative Christian circles, but the typical New York liberal would immediately write him off and never take him seriously. By primarily criticizing behavior they can relate to (idolatry, greed, selfishness, etc) he gains their attention and he can preach the truth of the Gospel. Going back to the Areopagus example, Paul doesn’t go in guns blazing against idolatry. He tells the Greeks their religiosity and their search for the “unknown god” are admirable, but that the truth ultimately lies in the Resurrected Christ.

    At the end of the day, would you rather have a pastor who delivers hell fire and brimstone sermons on social issues but gain no converts, or a pastor who doesn’t speak often on social issues but has a massive impact for the Kingdom? The choice is obvious, is it not?

    I actually don’t want hellfire and brimstone sermons on social issues; I just want some gospel clarity. When you are asked about homosexuality and all you can say is that “it’s not good for human flourishing,” that’s pretty weak. Justin Bieber’s music isn’t good for human flourishing, but it isn’t going to keep you out of the kingdom. I don’t want to hate on Keller only for this. Anyone can stumble. But I see a consistent pattern of wanting to put a “nice” face on Christianity. I’m all for not being a jerk, but when you’re invited to speak to Princeton and the worst criticism you have of them is that they focus too much on the horizontal, that’s awfully concerning.

    There is something to be said about the Areopagus approach, but does Keller do that? Paul knew talking about resurrection would be offensive. But in these public spaces where Keller has had a chance to speak with clarity on sin, does he? What I generally see is a guy just trying to put a nice face on Christianity.

    I’m not looking for hellfire sermons as a whole; I just want it to be preached when and where it is necessary. And telling unbelievers that there is a hell and that sin will put you there is essential to preaching the gospel. As far as impact, the question I still have is how much impact is Keller really having. Are secular New Yorkers really being converted under his preaching or is he just attracting New Yorkers with some kind of religious background? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Keller is big in PCA circles and NAPARC knows of him. You have some in the broader evangelical community that have heard of him, but I just don’t see where he is having a large impact beyond that. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m willing to be convinced.

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  25. Vae,

    As an addendum, is there something about Keller’s approach that leads in the long-term to theological liberalism? Obviously we can’t lay the blame on Keller for everything done by his proteges, but you’ve got City Church San Francisco, planted by a Keller aficionado, that has completely capitulated to the sexual revolution. Several Redeemer plants also look squishy at best when it comes to these issues. Scott Sauls, Keller’s former right-hand man, isn’t exactly a beacon of clarity on many of these issues. I could go on.

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  26. Zrim,

    Robert, not to hate on you or cheerlead Keller, but when has going Sunday and Graham ever been old-schooly?

    So it’s not Old School to call people to repent so that they escape the judgment to come? Sounds pretty biblical to me.

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  27. Robert, didn’t say that. Of course a call to repentance and faith to escape judgment is old-timey.

    But you seem to speak of “gospel clarity” as being “bold and clear” on a moral issue in a public space. Sorry, but saying something like homosexuality is contrary to nature (sufficiently bold and clear?) at Princeton isn’t preaching the gospel. Like someone just asked, when did sex become orthodoxy? I’m all for the critique of Keller as religious celebrity, but the antidote isn’t locusts and camel hair at Princeton. Maybe it’s taking a pass when Princeton calls.

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  28. Vae Vic,

    I will stand corrected on the specifics (Birkenstocks, etc) since you go there and know. But the complaint/ concerns raised by many here and elswhere about the theology/ trajectory/ celebrity , etc. of TKNY seems legit. Enough out there in the open to form an opinion on it.

    But again, I do want to be charitable and I have read and seen him be solid on things…..the ripple effects of the TKNY, now that is another story as rightly pointed out here by others.

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  29. Zrim,

    Sure. But he accepted the call and then fizzled out. If you are going to accept the call, at least preach the gospel. And sure saying homosexuality is contrary to nature or is sin is not in itself the gospel. But you have to be able to define what sin is to even get to the gospel. Keller dropped the ball big time on that one, whatever pros and cons his approach may have.

    Clarity on sin won’t necessarily get you the gospel, but you certainly won’t get the gospel if you aren’t clear on sin.

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  30. Robert, but only if you presume the problem of TKNY is preaching and not celebrity. I say it’s celebrity, and from over here critics who think it’s preaching come across as a tad gnat-strainy, looking for any imperfection to wallop. I bet plenty of more confessional preachers than TKNY invited to a public forum would get relatively squishy on certain specific moral questions without much clamor over it. One reason would be less celebrity (since more celebrity naturally invites more scrutiny). So I think critics have to sort out just what their beef is with TKNY. If it’s imperfections in preaching, then there’s a lot more work to be done since are others to go after since imperfection plagues all. If it’s celebrity, the work is more tailored in a one-size-fits-all sort of way since celebrity by definition entails just a few.

    By the way, the celebrity critique has to do with ecclesiastical concerns. Those who care more about a creedal and institutional faith look at TKNY as an example of how P&R have succumbed to the same thing that animates popery and broad evangelicalism–a cult of personality.

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  31. Zrim, and to tighten the point about celebrity and ecclesiology. When you are a celebrity you are no longer accountable to your church. Being Presbyterian means you give up your status as a presbyter. But when you’re a celebrity you have more than one vote.

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  32. E. Burns,
    If only you wouldn’t so easily group people into monolithic, pejorative categories, you would begin to understand the issues. One of the issues here is what the Scriptures say regarding how we should talk about each other with each other being those for whom Christ died. The Scriptures are neither silent or benign when referring to Christians who misrepresent or mistreat other Christians. But give someone a set of confessions to adhere to and a blogging voice, and see how the Scriptures can be ignored. Please don’t misrepresent others for whatever reason.

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  33. DGH – http://cities.barna.org/faith-in-new-york-since-9-11/
    http://www.thearda.com/rcms2010/r/c/36/rcms2010_36061_county_name_1990_ON.asp
    Keep in mind this data is for Manhattan only, not all 5 boroughs.

    Robert – “When you are asked about homosexuality and all you can say is that “it’s not good for human flourishing,” that’s pretty weak.”

    That’s weak to you and me, but not to a secular liberal. When we hear the “strong answer” that homosexuality is an abomination, is contrary to God’s creation order, offends His holy character, etc, we get it. It’s speaking our language and makes sense to us. But not to a secular New York liberal. All they hear is God hates gays, Christians hate gays, church is for bigots, etc. “Homosexuality is bad for human flourishing” seems soft to us, but not to his target audience. That’s something they can wrap their brains around, even if they disagree.

    “As an addendum, is there something about Keller’s approach that leads in the long-term to theological liberalism?”

    Is there something about “clarity” on these issues that leads people to fundamentalism? Pastors can’t be held responsible for their congregants’ extremist misinterpretations. White supremacists quote the Bible, after all.

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  34. You mean like insinuating that people are Pharisees just because they disagree with you Curt?? Whaa, whaa Whaa, call a whambulance!! Get some backbone would ya! Gross Misrepresentation is hardly what is happening here. Criticism is not something you or Keller get a free ride on, but that is what you want. The general analysis and opinions on Keller here by many (hardly just me, in fact very little from me) on the Keller ethos is hardly far off the mark. Once again, anyone who disagrees with you is put into your box of “does not know what they are talking about” “mean” “Pharisee”.

    Being a victim is a growth industry in America and Curt bought stocks in the initial public offering. Stay protesting my friend! The only ignoring of scripture here is you getting the gospel wrong on most every front. Ding ding ding!

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  35. DGH – not really: his first book was published in 1997. But to the extent that the growth of the PCA has slowed (it is still growing, after all), that slowed growth is probably due to Redeemer reaching maximum capacity, which is why they are so focused on dividing and planting new churches.

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  36. E. Burns,
    What is frustrating about conversing with you is that you often misrepresent what is said. You claimed to know about socialism but showed that you knew very little. You claimed that I am a liberal social gospel person but if you read my blog on the social gospel, you find that you were in error.

    As for the pharisse comment, that is temptation we are all vulnerable to. And applies when we speak down to others as if we have everything to teach and nothing to learn from them.

    You have at least a partial knowledge of the reformed faith. But it seems that your knowledge of other perspectives comes solely from reading the critics of those perspectives, not the original sources. And your knowledge is causing you to act arrogantly. I disagree with some of what D.G.writes but he has much to teach on Church history. And some of his posts make valid points. But like you, he struggles when he writes to attack others. Please read what Galatians 5 says about the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh. And please read I John has the Apostle telling us that if we belong to God, we have no choice but to love all believers.

    To use the blogs to try to show off, which occurs every time we choose to attack a person, not to question ideas, does not honor God. and the Gospel. Arrogance never honors God because it is an antonym to faith

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  37. The problem in conversing with Curt is that he wants to have his cake and eat it too. Wants to claim he is engaging with ideas but then accuses those who disagree with his ideas as being, “arrogant” “attackers” or “Pharisees” or calling into question their Christian love. Please read about Paul and Barnabas going their separate ways. Please pay attention to much of scripture and church history to observe the fact that Christians disagree and debate. That is not an automatic occasion to call their walk into question. The record shows that Curt is first to go down that road of insults then when he gets push back via rhetorical sparring cries “no fair!” Curt is the first one to throw out of the insinuation of “Pharisee” and to chide peoples intellect in terms of their understanding of concepts as well as their showing the fruit of the Spirit only because they don’t agree with his brand of social gospel. That is a stone cold fact well documented in the threads here at Old Life.

    And why are you talking about socialism again? The orbit you revolve around maybe?
    What is it that you want to hear? That Curt Day has so much to teach everyone here? Your good enough, your smart enough and darn it people like you? Also an orbit you revolve around? Got a hot tip for ya Curt, one who strikes the pose of humility is far from it.

    Last thing. Curt states: “”You claimed that I am a liberal social gospel person but if you read my blog on the social gospel, you find that you were in error.”” This does not even pass the giggle test, let alone the credibility test.
    Anyone can click on your name to hyper link your blog to learn what you think. Curt, you do have a lot to teach us.

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  38. Vae Vic,

    Thanks for the feedback. I have a question for you regarding this……

    Robert asked /stated – “When you are asked about homosexuality and all you can say is that “it’s not good for human flourishing,” that’s pretty weak.”

    Vae Vic responded– “””That’s weak to you and me, but not to a secular liberal. When we hear the “strong answer” that homosexuality is an abomination, is contrary to God’s creation order, offends His holy character, etc, we get it. It’s speaking our language and makes sense to us. But not to a secular New York liberal. All they hear is God hates gays, Christians hate gays, church is for bigots, etc. “Homosexuality is bad for human flourishing” seems soft to us, but not to his target audience. That’s something they can wrap their brains around, even if they disagree.””

    Here is my question> Do you really think Tim Keller and his ministry ethos is counter cultural?

    As I said before, I have read and heard Keller be spot on about some things, but I too think much of the TKNY ethos is off base or not a good trajectory, by way of solid Reformed theology anyway. I guess (best I can tell, I sure don’t have it all figured out) I am just not buying this whole idea (often assumed and touted about Keller) that he is ‘Oh so counter cultural.’ Really? Isn’t it more the case that the reason his church boomed was because he was very hip and on pace with the zeitgeist itself to a large degree? Indeed tapping into it?

    I am not saying he never speaks the truth or never stands for the truth, but is it not a fair point that the TKNY has used cultural relevant issues as its primary vehicle of growth? Now one might say, so what is wrong with that? OK, forget for a moment that the medium is the message and that what we win them with me with them to, that we ought to win them with Christ letting the Spirit be the Spirit, how about once they get inside the church? What is it like for those now in? Are they Learning a lot about historic Biblical truths and Reformed theology? Don’t know what you see boots on the ground right there so I am really asking? But as someone who use to attend a PCA church which modeled itself off the TKNY model, I can say that the trajectory was away (far and away) from being Reformed. Rather the trajectory at this former PCA church was in the direction of broader Evangelical charasmatic approach to worship where the RPW was non- existent and the impulse of the theology was in a social gospel / culture warrior / transformational / direction. The real essence of the person and work of Christ and Reformed Word and Sacrament ministry we’re not the thrust. The Regulative principle of worship was abandoned for cultural relevance.

    A reasonable observation of the “Redeemer model” reveals,…… Redeemer Arts Ministry, international arts fellowship, “renewing the city socially, spiritually and culturally,…. A church about the good of the city, urban renewal, transforming the city, etc. etc, just to name but a few. One can Digest their website (let alone Keller’s thoughts from which it all derives) and see a very clear message not different from urban Cause Celeb/ Oprah hipster, in step with the culture way more than they are Counter cultural.
    Keller’s Urban Center for Faith and Works is just essentially a community Co-Op where (as per the marketing for it) one can come to learn about advertising / marketing, architecture, business, design, education, entrepreneurship , fashion, finance, food, healthcare, legal issues, retail, science and more.

    How is that any different from the surfer church or the cowboy church? Broader maybe or more city/urban, but is that really counter cultural?

    I have seen Keller faithfully and accurately proclaim the gospel, good on him! (I also saw this at the PCA church I use to attend) But is the ethos of TKNY really more known for that or for the city center Co-Op ethos? Are people like myself outlandish for being concerned that the Cambridge Declaration is correct when it states…..”While the theology of the cross may be believed these movements are actually emptying it of its meaning” ? Are we outlandish in thinking this may apply to TKNY and the celeb movement it has indeed become? Are Dr. Hart and others really all wet in seeing that this model is not very historically Reformed?

    Seems to me the concerns and critiques of TKNY are legit. 🙂 Maybe a little obsessive here at Old Life, but legit. And probably a drum that needs beating. Not to mention in a world where the social gospel is high and lifted up, it is also a breath of fresh air.

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  39. Burns,
    Again, it isn’t those who disagree who I am comparing with the Pharisees, it is those who speak down to others. Read again what I just wrote:


    As for the pharisse comment, that is temptation we are all vulnerable to. And applies when we speak down to others as if we have everything to teach and nothing to learn from them

    And yet you insist on writing the following:


    Wants to claim he is engaging with ideas but then accuses those who disagree with his ideas as being, “arrogant” “attackers” or “Pharisees” or calling into question their Christian love

    I could comment on how accuse me of following the social gospel while claiming you have read my blog. And yet you seemed ot have missed my criticism of theologies like liberation theology when I said that their fault is that they reduce the Gospel to the Social Gospel.

    When you discipline yourself to opposing what I have actually said rather that grossly or deliberately misrepresenting it, then I will respond.

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  40. Curt,

    I did not say everything at your blog was wrong, I will acknowledge your comments about liberation theology. But over all it is negated in the other direction. Indeed your blog shows this. The overarching thrust of your process and worldview is in error. Here is one reason why. You have a functional Hagalian approach to what seems like almost everything. I am not saying that you believe all people are the incarnation of God, I said “functional Hagalian”. Since you are a Christian socialist and a self professed “Extreme Moderate” this is no surprise. You could be talking about the space shuttle, someone would remark “it is a beautiful space shuttle” and you might respond, “well actually before it was a space shuttle it was material parts, and before it became that it was an idea, let’s remember we can learn from those parts to, let us not pigeon hold the space shuttle ………..” It sounds real deep and thoughtful, “hey let’s learn from everyone”….. It strikes the pose of humility, but misses the mark by a long shot!

    Comes off like this constant hyper sensitive condescending drum beat of ……. “Well actually guys we have a lot we can learn from the liberation theologians and social gospel folks, hey guys Let’s not act like we know everything and they know nothing!”
    When in reality no one opposing you here thinks or said…”we know everything and they/ you know nothing.”
    The problem with your approach to theology and worldview is that your dialectical system functionally assumes truth is all about personal experience or hermeneutics. This is hard to swallow because two diametrically opposing and contrary ideas at times can be impossible to put together intelligently, let alone synchronize.
    This is not the same thing as thinking “our side has all the right answers.”

    Curt, you and I got off on wrong foot via some pretty good sparring. I have no delusions of grandeur we will ever see eye to eye. But I truly wish you no ill will. I tell you what how about if we just talk about something we both like from here on out ……Jazz.

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  41. E. Burns,
    Again, you misrepresent. Never said that you claimed everything I said was wrong. I did say that you misrepresented my views on the Social Gospel. Talking ‘pretty’ is not the issue either. The issue is accuracy.

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  42. Curt,

    Who am I kidding, you and I would argue about Jazz too. 🙂 Other than fellow socialist, many a reasonable person would dig into yor blog and come to similar conclusions.

    At your next rally protest with fellow “Extreme moderates” (you know the ones you learn so much from) put in the ear buds, dial in the Stones, turn it up, live it, love it and learn it……”You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might get what you need!”

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  43. DGH – to borrow a phrase from the orthosexy: it’s non-binary. It’s not either Tim Keller is great OR Redeemer is great, it’s they BOTH are. Dr. Keller is an excellent pastor, and Redeemer will continue to be a great church (or churches) without him serving as senior pastor.

    E. Burns – good, thoughtful comments. To answer your first and main question: yes, I believe Keller’s preaching and Redeemer’s ethos are counter-cultural. I will grant that they are not aggressively confrontational to the current culture, but they are counter to culture. My honest opinion is that Redeemer (and her progeny) have flourished for several reasons, but primarily because they answer the questions that New York (or urban) secular liberals ask, and they answer them in a very intellectual, reasonable way.

    For example, the first sermon I ever heard Tim Keller preach at Redeemer was on the Sabbath. He talked about the biblical basis for the Sabbath, of course, but then he quoted a New York Times editorial from a Jewish professional woman who started observing the Sabbath – even though she was not very religious – and how it helped her in her personal life and provided the rest and refreshment she needed from her busy professional life. Keller made the point that her story simply reflected God’s wisdom in designing the Sabbath for our general well-being and spiritual nourishment. He then tied it into the fact that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, should be the purpose of the Sabbath and our source of both practical and ultimate rest.

    Quoting from a secular Jewish writer in the NY Times editorial may not be important to people in rural Indiana, but it is to urban New Yorkers. By weaving in this anecdote he was able to capture the attention of his audience in a way that was both counter-cultural and yet culturally relevant at the same time: New Yorkers relate to crazy work hours and the need for rest on a practical level, but then by discussing observance of the Christian Sabbath and ultimate rest he elevated it to a very counter-cultural and solidly Reformed theology. In essence, he provided Reformed theology in the language of secular, liberal urban folk.

    To your second point, I would say Redeemer is strong on the RPW and personal growth within the church. They strongly emphasize personal time in the Word and prayer. They have a daily devotional via email that is sent out twice daily, morning and evening. These are not fluffy devotionals, but include common prayer, confessional prayer, a chapter from the NT, chapter from the OT and two Psalms, along with specific prayer requests for the day, and conclude with the Lord’s Prayer and a benediction. They strongly emphasize community groups that meet in homes for weekly Bible study. A huge number of people belong to these groups – far more than the average church.

    In keeping with its strong Kuyperian influence, there is emphasis on community service and “cultural renewal,” as well as how to integrate faith and work (hence the Center for Faith and Work). The purpose of this is less to learn specific skills or professions in co-op fashion, but mainly how to use the talents and abilities God has given each of us through work, ultimately to His honor and glory. I know an arts ministry at a church sounds superfluous and perhaps a bit twee to an outsider, but at Redeemer there are many artists of all types: dancers, actors, writers, painters, musicians, etc. For example, Max McLean, a Redeemer attender, is currently playing C.S. Lewis in a one-man play about Lewis’ conversion to Christianity. It is currently having a successful off-Broadway run. Sally Lloyd Jones, another Redeemer attender, wrote the Jesus Storybook Bible, far and away the most popular storybook Bible for children in the US, if not the world.

    The choir, when they have one, is likely to have a number of professional singers, whether in a Broadway musical, the opera, etc. We’re not talking about the housewife who happened to star in a high school musical once, we’re talking active, professional performers at the highest level. A Redeemer pastor once told me about an actor who was cast to play Romeo in a production Romeo and Juliet, and the director asked him (and the actress playing Juliet) to do a nude scene, though not explicitly sexual. The actor attended Redeemer and asked the pastoral staff for advice about how to handle it. Such questions are not uncommon in a New York (especially Manhattan) church, while they are probably rare everywhere else. Hence the very practical need for an arts ministry to shepherd people whose profession is in the arts.

    Finally, I would say again that the perception of Redeemer’s emphasis being on cultural renewal, faith/work integration and other such glossy ministries rather than Christ and Him crucified is more perception than reality. Redeemer is a highly Gospel-centered church – they fight hard against the tendency to take the focus off Christ and onto ancillary ministries. I agree that other churches can and have taken their eye off the ball, so to speak. And certainly Redeemer is not perfect, nor is it above criticism. I think your concerns (and DGH’s and others’) are valid. If Redeemer is so influential, their philosophy and methodology should be scrutinized. Criticism is good and should be embraced, but ensuring that such criticism is based on fact rather than perception is equally important.

    This is a good, edifying conversation – thank you for your engagement.

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  44. Vae Vic,

    Fair enough Amigo. While I remain skeptical of the Redeemer model, I won’t through the baby out with the bath water. Thanks for the feed back.

    Have you read Dr. R. Scott Clark’s book….”Recovering the Reformed Confessions”? How about Dr. Hart’s work on revivalism? Or any pieces by others regarding the more historic Presbyterian Regulative Principle of Worship? IE.. Singing God’s word Accapella, no instruments? If not I would encourage you to read these books and check out some resources on historic Reformed RPW.

    Thanks again!

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  45. Zrim,

    Well the problem with celebrity is the definition thereof. It is inevitable that some individuals are going to be more known and more flocked after than others. I’m not entirely sure how you dissuade that, and to be fair to Keller, I’m not sure he’s gone looking for it.

    I don’t like the celebrity culture either, but I don’t know how you stop it. If you are good at something, people are going to come to you for advice. If you give them advice, you’re on your way to becoming a celebrity. What’s the answer, tell them to go away?

    These are honest questions, and I don’t know if anyone has the answer for them. Maybe it would be more of a hesitation to do the conference/found your own parachurch thing?

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  46. Vae,

    That’s weak to you and me, but not to a secular liberal. When we hear the “strong answer” that homosexuality is an abomination, is contrary to God’s creation order, offends His holy character, etc, we get it. It’s speaking our language and makes sense to us.

    Sure.

    But not to a secular New York liberal. All they hear is God hates gays, Christians hate gays, church is for bigots, etc. “Homosexuality is bad for human flourishing” seems soft to us, but not to his target audience. That’s something they can wrap their brains around, even if they disagree.

    Where is the evidence, however, that the same New Yorkers don’t equate “bad for human flourishing” to bigotry, hatred, etc. The evidence I see in the media is that it doesn’t matter how nice and winsome you are on this issue and certain others, people still think you are a bigot and that Christianity is bad.

    Is there something about “clarity” on these issues that leads people to fundamentalism?

    I don’t know. Doesn’t seem to be, at least in the confessional camp.

    Pastors can’t be held responsible for their congregants’ extremist misinterpretations. White supremacists quote the Bible, after all.

    Sure.

    Honestly, I don’t want to hate on Keller. He has done some good things. I just wonder how sustainable his model is, and whether he’s done (inadvertantly to be sure) more harm than good. Ecclesiology matters.

    I also wonder about winsomeness. Sure you don’t have to be a jerk, but the best example of Keller’s approach we have is Acts 17, and Paul ends that encounter by proclaiming truths that he knows will be vehemently rejected (crucifixion and resurrection) by his audience. Do we have evidence of Keller doing something like that before a non-Christian audience?

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  47. Robert, there’s always the example of Jesus (#WWJD). With all those thronging masses, he came up against celebrity. He didn’t exactly become a darling, neither did the apostles. So at the very least, if you’re proclaiming in his name and presumably in line with the apostles and you become a darling, maybe you’re doing it wrong? That’s not to suggest becoming a pariah or to tell people to go away, but if Jesus is the one you’re proclaiming then do you really end up getting an award from Princeton and invited to CNN?

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  48. Zrim – with the caveat of the obvious cultural and and technological differences, yes, if not moreso. The high priests were concerned about Jesus because they feared His followers would lead an uprising that would only increase the Roman presence in Judea. I don’t think many leaders today are concerned about Tim Keller having enough celebrity to lead a political coup.

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  49. E. Burns – I haven’t read Scott Clark’s book, but I have read enough of his other work and followed his blog enough to know where he stands on things. I’m closer to Dr. Hart’s view of things than Dr. Clark’s. Clark is good as a historian, but his attempts to selectively restore a standard of what he considers Reformed piety and worship is misguided. He also has an inexplicably narrow view of what Reformed means in some contexts, but an overly broad view in others. Some of his concerns are valid, but restoring Reformed theology and practice to a specifically 17th century Confessional system is not the way to address those concerns.

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  50. VV, if TKNY continues on his track, crucifixion (or some variety of persecution) doesn’t seem natural or predictable. Even calculating for historical-cultural differences, Jesus was hardly esteemed the way TKNY is. If he was, it was fleeting and quickly turned into from famous to infamous. It would take quite a bit for TKNY to become infamous. How you think TKNY is emulating Jesus in this regard is…puzzling.

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  51. Zrim – I never said Tim Keller was attempting to emulate Jesus in terms of fame or infamy. But I reject your claim that celebrity among Christian leaders is inherently bad. Jesus was both admired and reviled, and both made him a celebrity.

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  52. VV, shouldn’t emulating Jesus be one approach for any pastor? Seems rather obvious. But if your point is to simply define celebrity (includes both admiration and reviling) and that Jesus fit the bill in some way, then it seems rather wooden. But also awkward: Jesus was a celebrity. Is that really how to think of him? Or is it a creative way to justify TKNY? But Jesus’ ministry ended in something closer to shame than celebration (like Machen’s). Will TKNY’s?

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  53. Vae Vic,

    I in no way want to seek to find some mythical golden age (did not exist) of Reformed theology, but I do find it more than interesting that so many will claim they or their church hold to a “Regulative Principle” of Worship, yet in reality are far from RPW in any true historic Reformed sense of the term. Now, to be clear it is not “traditionalism” in worship style I am seeking. The question is, why were the bulk of the early Reformed leaders so concerned about “will worship”? Was their concern Biblical? I don’t think it was unique to their times. Why was the RPW (no instruments and singing God’s Word) in virtually all Presbyterian churches 250 years ago so different than it is today? Have we really found a better way or is it that we have just caved to culture and become far more pragmatic? I think modern Reformed folks have essentially hijacked the term RPW, when in fact what we really practice is a Charismatic & Normative model. Practicing Soli Scriptura in what we sing for Corporate Worship sure makes a ton of sense. After all theology and worship are so closely tied together. Calvin and many many other Reformed fathers wrote on this. And it is some of their more important and often overlooked writings.

    At times Clark can insist on a narrow view of “Reformed”, but I also think R Scott Clark’s impulse is correct in that many other areas of Reformed theology have essentially been hijacked as well. He has made a solid stand against social gospel tendencies as well as against the Federal Vision.

    ” He is no schismatic who holds to the original beliefs while the original body departs from it. ”

    But hey, I of all people can understand having disagreements within the Reformed camp and I understand and appreciate that it is not all Monolithic. I disagree with the more strident views on the Sabbath often found in majority of NAPARC Reformed circles. I cannot fully embrace WCF 21:8 just as one example.

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  54. Zrim – you’re missing the point entirely. Fame should not be the goal of any pastor, but neither should revulsion or ineffectiveness or shame. Likewise, fame is not inherently wrong, just as shame (physical and otherwise) is not inherently a virtue. And Jesus was famous (i.e. a celebrity). I don’t know why that makes you uncomfortable, but He was. Again, pastors should not seek fame, just as they should not seek shame. Pastors – and really all Christians – should joyfully walk the path that God directs, whether that path leads to celebrity or relative obscurity.

    E. Burns – yes, the Presbyterians of 250 years ago may have opposed musical instruments, but why are they more important than the ancient Israelites, who most certainly did use instruments in worship? I don’t want to ninja the thread to an RPW debate, but my point is that we should focus on the elements of worship rather than the circumstances. Yes, I realize that is sort of the crux of the whole issue, but even R. Scott Clark admits that the real problem is circumstances of worship evolving to become elements. I do agree with him there: the musical accompaniment to worship has become more central than the content of the worship in many circles. Actually my personal preference for an ideal worship service is the liturgy of Catholic Mass, minus the major problems inherent in the celebration of the Eucharist. But I do believe, like John Calvin, that the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated every worship service, and should be equally important as the sermon. That’s incredibly rare in Reformed worship today.

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  55. Vae Vic,

    Totally agree with you about the neglect of the Supper in Reformed circles. What Presbyterians did 250 years ago is not more important, you are correct, and yes ancient Isrealites did use instruments. However, there is reasonable reference from Chronicles that those instruments were put down once the lamb was slain. Yes ancient Israelites used instruments but the early church did not. Why??

    Here is the bigger point….the reason Calvin and the bulk of our Reformed fathers only sang God’s Word (not man written songs) and used NO instruments was because they strongly believed they were types and shadows. They did it for sound theological reasons not for personal preference or tradition. Jesus sang the Psalms, without instruments, most reliable historical evidence of practice shows this to be the case. Everyone knows that the psalms were Jesus praise and worship book/vehicle.

    Also it is historically accurate that the early Christian Church likewise only sang Soli Scriptura (the Word) with no instrumental accompaniment, they did this for the same reason Calvin and the early reformers did. Because they believed it was a type and shadow and the better way (Christ) had come. The early church did this practice for nearly 600 years before the Roman Catholic Church introduced all manner of extras into worship including instruments. So if one wants to disagree with the practice of Jesus singing from His song book The psalms or the early church, or the practice of the early reformers doing the same with no instruments, fine make a case. But make no mistake, these were not done out of me or tradition or personal preference but rather for sound theological reasons. And obviously this topic has nothing to do with me girl versus city living either. 😉

    The modern reformed church is missing the boat on this one and it goes hand in glove with orthodoxy and theology.

    I would encourage more research on the subject.

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  56. VV, which is why I said my point isn’t to suggest becoming a pariah. It’s also why I pushed back way up top on Robert about the suggestion to “go Sunday” in the public arena. But by the same token, I don’t see any awareness on TKNY’s part on the dangers of religious celebrity. TKNY may not have *sought* fame, but that’s hardly a justification for going with it. A little more discernment, please. It’s the same for those that receive shame, which is to say hopefully not for being shameful. Is TKNY’s celebration because he gives what itching urban ears want to hear, or because he lays out Christ and him crucified? I’m not saying he doesn’t do the latter, but if there is a fair amount of the former it only undermines it.

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  57. DGH – does the NT command a call to worship? Recital of the creeds? Giving a public offering during worship? A benediction? Because all of those are elements of worship according to the OPC BCO. I’m having trouble finding them commanded in the NT though. Maybe you can help?

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  58. Vae Vic,

    How about these points……What about the fact that Jesus, the early NT Church and the bulk of the Reformers sang Sola Scriptura in Corporate Worship? And with no instruments to boot. Have we just matured past them on this topic? Or is it not in fact that we have declined to more pragmatism and “will worship” in even Reformed worship services?

    Again the reason I went down this road is because you claim Redeemer follows Reformed RPW, I want to challenge that, I don’t believe they do. Not in the historic sense of the term. If one want to disagree with the practice fine, but why hijack the term when in reality what one is really practicing is a Normative/ Charismatic model?

    That said, I am not picking on Reedemer here as this is a problem across NAPARC. Sadly the four modern sacraments of the church are as follows and in order of importance……

    1. Praise Band (instruments a must have) and man written lyrics.
    2. Community Small Groups (in fact this is more important than the time of Called Corporate Worship)
    3. Baptism (but let’s be clear, Baptist are for sure reformed too! We are told. Besides if one is PCA , one is pretty much a Baptist)
    4. The Lord’s Supper, but not a big deal and only after our other programs run their course, fine if we celebrate it once per quarter really.

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  59. E. Burns – the RPW is essentially that God should be worshiped only as He explicitly commands, and that includes prayer, Word (reading and preaching), and Sacrament. With that I agree wholeheartedly. But I also believe we have significant flexibility in terms of how we employ those elements. You mention Jesus sang inspired songs without instruments in His worship. If the particulars of Jesus’ worship habits are binding on us, then we should drink ONLY wine and eat ONLY actual bread when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and baptize people ONLY outside in rivers or lakes or seas. We should read ONLY from scrolls, since Jesus read only from scrolls. Do you see the problem? We have to apply ALL the details of Jesus’ worship if that is the standard we are going to use. But it isn’t, so cherry-picking details of Jesus’ worship without regard for time or culture is a poor way of defining our worship particulars today.

    As for the Reformers, while they made invaluable contributions, it must be remembered that one of their main concerns was to guard against the abuses of the Catholic Church. In some ways they went too far. For example, the reason Calvin’s church in Geneva did not celebrate the Lord’s Supper during every worship service is because the elders believed it was “too Catholic.” So today we have what I consider horrible neglect of a sacrament simply because the Reformers wanted to distance themselves from the Catholic Church. The same is true of music in worship, and a number of other things. I admire their theology in most ways, but I take the Reformers’ personal example with a big grain of salt.

    Look, here’s what I believe: God’s want us to pray. So however we pray, however long we pray, and to a certain extent the people who pray, are basically irrelevant as long as prayer fits the pattern of Scripture. God wants us to sing. So whether that music is accompanied by instruments, canned music, or a cappella, God’s wants us to sing according to the truth of His Word from the heart in a manner consistent with Scripture. God wants us to perform the sacraments, so as long as we baptize with a Trinitarian formula and celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a “worthy” manner for professing Christians only we are authentically and accurately performing the sacraments as He commands.

    That said, your concerns are valid and your four sacraments are, sadly, all too often true. As I mentioned earlier, R. Scott Clark’s concern that circumstances of worship evolve to become elements is valid. Too many churches – really most churches – worship worship itself rather than God. They don’t view instrumental accompaniment as an aid to singing, but part and parcel of an entire musical experience. They don’t view small groups as an supplement to corporate worship – and they can be very edifying – but as a replacement for corporate worship. And I share your concerns about the low regard for the actual sacraments as well.

    But is the solution to all of that a return to the Reformers’ application of the RPW that is, at best, inconsistent? My personal opinion is that the NAPARC – and perhaps a few other similar denominations as well – should form a council that writes a new de novo confession by examining Scriptures with historical insight – including the Reformers’ – used only sparingly. My guess is such a document would be highly similar to the Reformed Confessions in terms of core content, but would not be burdened by strictly adhering to uninspired documents nearly 500 years old. It would probably provide more clarity on some theological issues and address present day concerns (the role of science in exegesis, sex and gender issues, place of the church in a democracy, etc). Hopefully it would promulgate a vision of worship that is more aligned with Scripture than what we have today.

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  60. Vae Vic, sorry but you’re the one who ventured that the NT requires instruments in worship. I’m still waiting.

    Since the invocation and benediction are Scripture, wow, you’ve got a problem with them?

    Scripture does call us to confess our faith before men. Should that be before “persons”?

    I’m okay with moving the offering plate to the rear of the building for people to contribute as they leave.

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  61. …the reason Calvin’s church in Geneva did not celebrate the Lord’s Supper during every worship service is because the elders believed it was “too Catholic.”

    VV, the CC observed once a year at the time, so how was weekly “too Catholic”? You’re being anachronistic here–that’s one of the lame excuses infrequenters use today, which by the way is also the lame reasoning some Presbies use to avoid a greeting in favor of an invoking prayer (but yet retain the benediction…huh?).

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  62. Vae Vic,

    Yeah, but the OT did not practice RPW, not RPW in light of Christ’s fulfillment anyway. You are insisting on making the fact that Jesus, the NT church and the Reformers sang Sola Scriptura with NO instruments purely a matter of tradition and custom of their times. Your presupposition is entirely wrong, is what I’m suggesting. You are correct the ancient Israelites did use instruments, Why??? The early New Testament church did not , Why??? Jesus, the early NT Church and the Reformers practiced historic RPW (singing the Word Accappela ) because redemptive history led them there (not tradition or custom) , it led them there because the type and shadow was/is now here in Christ. Understanding it this way, one can see why it makes no more sense to have a guitar or a piano in the gathered Corporate Worship of God’s people any more than it would to slit a lambs throat down in front of the the pulpit. This is why the Early NT church practice the way they did.

    While it is true that one cannot point to a verse which states “thou shalt not use instruments “. As with many other doctrines there is good, reasonable and necessary consequences on this topic however.
    The ancient Israelites practice during the worship and sacrifice of lambs was to have the instruments playing and once the lamb was sacrificed the instruments were put down. Pretty strong type and shadow toward Christ I would say. It is finished! Christ has accomplished, hence the Instruments in Corporate Worship are put down.

    Of course playing for entertainment as a professional musician or weekend warrior is no qualms were talking about corporate worship here.

    Believe me I know this is radical for us moderns, but again Jesus, the early NT church and Reformers agreed on their practice here. Why?? Dig deeper and I think you will discover things on this that would be a shock to the Keller / PCA system. You want to get real counter cultural (maybe even crucified) start suggesting this historic NT practice of RPW and you will find out real fast the idols people’s diddy’s, poems and instruments have become. It is quite literally like this ….”Hey man I got something way cooler that wrote, dude it is way better than God’s Word” “You can’t stop me from expressing my………” And that my friend is what is ruling corporate worship today! Think about that, try to get around that? You can’t because it is right there in the air we breath.

    Also just on a very practical level (without engaging in pragmatism) I can tell you that I have never ever walked out of a presbyterian corporate worship service where only the Psalms were song Acappella and thought……” Wow you know what… it was really pathetic that we didn’t sing more man written songs, more rock band for Jesus , more sweet ballads in line with the Jesus is my boyfriend genre.”” But I (and many A Reformed folk) Will consistently walk out of the church that uses instruments and Man written songs with our conscience bothered saying to ourselves ….”wow there was a whole lotta will worship and emotional manipulation going on there.” Just saying man, if you really dig into what it means to be Reformed it’s pretty tough to argue with singing sola scriptura.

    And this is just one area where the Keller model may not be as “Reformed” as you think.

    But again in full disclosure none of us are I get that, but if the desire is Semper Reformada , that is why we are chatting. 🙂

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  63. DGH – I never said the NT requires instruments for worship as an element in and of themselves. Singing is an element of worship, and since God approved – and even commanded – musical instruments in the OT, it’s hard to see how He would disapprove of instruments as an aid to singing under the New Covenant. The call to worship is an OT priestly concept, and really so is the benediction – neither are found in the NT explicitly. So if we can’t use instruments as an aid to singing, how can we use a benediction or call to worship as an aid to the reading of the Word? The same is true of the offering – does that fall under Word, prayer, or Sacrament?

    The point is this: many of the Reformers (especially Calvin) and you and others who object to musical instruments in worship are highly inconsistent in your application of the RPW. Using instruments as a non-essential accompaniment to singing is wrong because they are not commanded in the NT, yet alms-giving and the creeds and other aspects of worship are acceptable even though they are not commanded in the NT. So what’s the guiding principle in 2017 – sensibly adhering to Scripture in a consistent way or aping John Calvin?

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  64. Zrim – that’s inaccurate. The Catholic Church celebrated Mass daily, and advocated weekly – if not daily – celebration of the Eucharist, but required only once yearly. It is true in practice it was celebrated less frequently by individuals during that time, but Eucharistic Mass was usually held every day. Hence the desire to appear less Catholic by celebrating quarterly.

    E. Burns – I’ve never heard the practice of Jesus/NT church used as proof that instruments should not be used in worship today. I haven’t read much on the historical use of instruments (or non-use) in the early church, but I’m happy to be educated.

    But really that is beside the point. We shouldn’t base our practice on what the early church did or what the Reformers did. Are they helpful and should we consider their beliefs and practices? Of course! But our guide is Scripture, and developing a systematic belief in alignment with the whole of God’s Word should inform our view of worship. I agree there is no command to use musical instruments in worship: it would be wrong for a pastor to break out his saxophone and go to town on Amazing Grace as an element of corporate worship. But is it wrong to have some form of instrumental accompaniment to singing? Again, if it’s not an element of worship I can’t see how it violates the RPW.

    Your argument about instruments being linked to sacrificial worship – and thus being obsolete under the New Covenant – is problematic for several reasons. First, God clearly ends sacrifices themselves, but says nothing about the use of instruments. There is no question that sacrifices are inappropriate in worship today, but the NT is silent on instruments. Second, if you are going to be consistent in your belief that everything tied to sacrifices is abolished under the New Covenant, then we would have to do away with ALL elements of sacrificial worship, including clothing, since that was specifically commanded as an element in the sacrificial system. I certainly hope you aren’t suggesting we attend church in the nude!

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  65. In general you are not being real or accurate about elements vs. circumstances. Using instruments in worship is not commanded in the New Testament therefore it’s not a. ” must have” element. But I would agree that there are going to always be inconsistencies with sinful human beings but again we’re talking about a little bit of purity and consistency within what is supposed to be “Reformed.” Circumstances of worship are those things determined by nature. As far as the prudent circumstances of nomenclature and wearing clothing this is certainly wise good and proper, don’t be silly. (Although demonstrably outlandish closing could be very distracting and worship)

    Your example of the pastor blowing his sax is in fact what your model allows. We are commanded to sing the Psalms, ( in fact the psalms hymns and spiritual songs are all referring to Psalms)

    Here you go, check this out.
    https://heidelblog.net/2013/05/on-elements-and-circumstances/

    “”When instruments were first re-introduced into Reformed worship, after the Reformation, they were not re-introduced as circumstances but rather for pragmatic reasons. The defense of musical instruments and uninspired songs as “circumstances” was created after the fact (ex post facto) in order to rationalize our departure from the original Reformed understanding of the second commandment.””

    Again, if you want to have a Normative model or a more charismatic model, fine make the case, it is the hijacking of “Reformed” which I think is the problem. And here is where Dr. Clark Clark spot on in his book “recovering the reformed confessions “. You and I don’t get to decide what reformed is.

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  66. Here is another way to look at this …..the ones that are most often being “traditionalist” on this subject in the church today are the ones who dogmatically insist on holding onto their will worship / non- inspired praise and worship songs and instruments.

    Do you want to take a stand for sola Scriptura and really be counter cultural, try introducing what I’m suggesting here.

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  67. Why, according to the traditional framing of the regulative principle, are we allowed to sing only Psalms but are free to use non-inspired prayers? Can someone point me to a resource that answers this question.

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  68. Peter Wallace has written some great stuff on the theology of worship. If you want the biblical basis for our pattern of worship such as the basis for the call to worship, offering, & benediction his work is a great place to start. I have found his historical contextualization off the RPW nuanced and enlightening. I’m no expert on this history, so if there are problems here I am all ears.

    A longer more detailed essay:
    http://www.peterwallace.org/old/essays/schliss.htm

    Shorter summary:
    https://opc.org/nh.html?article_id=513

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  69. @ EBurns

    Some friendly pushback here. I tried posting earlier with no success, so this is attempt #2.

    (1) EBurns: You are insisting on making the fact that Jesus, the NT church and the Reformers sang Sola Scriptura with NO instruments purely a matter of tradition and custom of their times.

    I don’t see why this is a fact. Jesus worshiped in synagogue and temple under the OT forms, so He naturally would have participating in worship with instruments. That’s neither here nor there for the purposes of our discussion; He also would have performed various rites commanded under the ceremonial law.

    The NT church may well have used instruments, or not. It isn’t recorded either way in Scripture, so we can at most say that the NT church was not specifically commanded to use instruments beyond what the OT requires.

    *Some* Reformers did not use instruments. Luther did. And while he isn’t as purely Reformed as Calvin, neither is he chopped liver.

    So I would say rather that the NT church was not specifically commanded to use instruments beyond what the OT requires; and that the more Calvinistic reformers did not use instruments.

    (2) And that brings us to Calvin’s argument against instruments. Here it is

    “To sing the praises of God upon the harp and psaltery,” says Calvin, “unquestionably formed a part of the training of the law and of the service of God under that dispensation of shadows and figures, but they are not now to be used in public thanksgiving.” He says again: “With respect to the tabret, harp, and psaltery, we have formerly observed, and will find it necessary afterwards to repeat the same remark, that the Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God; it having been his will to train his people, while they were yet tender and like children, by such rudiments until the coming of Christ. But now, when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time.” He further observes: “We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people as yet weak and rude in knowledge in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the gospel should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God’s ancient people as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative and terminated with the gospel.”

    — John Calvin, On the Psalms, cited by John L. Girardeau

    Keeping in mind that I am generally very impressed with Calvin’s exegesis, I have to say that this argument is long on assertion and short on supporting Scripture. Where Hebrews makes clear that sacrifices are done away, nowhere in the NT is it intimated that the Psalms have been modified so as no longer to be in force.

    Further, the argument places sincere, Reformed Christians in an untenable position: We should, it is supposed, sing the Psalms that enjoin praising God with “harp and lyre”, while yet purposing never to do so!

    (3) If we consider RS Clark’s citations of Ursinus and Owen, it is clear that playing instruments with music is well within the definition of circumstance.

    Ursinus: [circumstances] are the time, the place, the form and order of sermons, prayers, reading in the church, fasts, the manner of proceeding in the election of ministers, in collecting and distributing alms, and things of a similar nature

    Owen: Whatever is of circumstance in the manner of its performance, not capable of especial determination, as emerging or arising only occasionally, upon the doing of that which is appointed at this or that time, in this or that place, and the like, is left unto the rule of moral prudence, in whose observation their order doth consist. But the superaddition of ceremonies necessarily belonging neither to the institutions of worship nor unto those circumstances whose disposal falls under the rule of moral prudence, neither doth nor can add any thing unto the due order of gospel worship; so that they are altogether needless and useless in the worship of God.

    It is clear that accompanying singing with music is of circumstance in the manner of its performance, and not a superaddition of a ceremony; it is a question of the form, not the content.

    So from the perspective of an elder who seeks to uphold the regulative principle, I would ask how it is that the Psalms on their face do not require us to use instruments in worship? And why is Revelation 5.8 not a positive example of post-OT worship with instruments?

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  70. Jeff , Robert and Vae Vic,

    Very reasonable push back and I would concede valid points. I am admittedly newer (last few years) to turn a corner in personally seeing the rightness of the historic Reformed RPW (that R. Scott Clark subscribes too) but I make no claims to having it all figured out air tight. I don’t think that is possible on this issue. I am not as hardline on this as some. Jeff, correct on Jesus and OT Evironment He was in, but the Psalm are widely regarded as Christ’s song book.

    Here is one for you……..if we really believe in Sola Scriptura via RPW then why doesn’t the Pastor stand up and just read (not preach) from scripture? 🙂

    All that said I will stand by the thrust of my general points above. Are we really going to insist (and even most Reformed churches do) that our man written songs are better than God’s Word? We are commanded to sing the Psalms. How sadly common is it in Reformed churches to only sing the man written praise band song and walk out without even the lips of the congregation every (or rarely) singing God’s Word in praise to Him?

    Doctrinal innovation and worship innovation travel so often together. Calvin was right.
    Lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing). Whoever controls the liturgy (or the praise band) controls the future of theology. The Reformed world is seeing this come true before our very eyes.

    Good points gents!!! I would challenge and encourage you to listen to these audio lectures linked below as all your points are addressed. At the end you may still disagree but I think at the very least you will see it as a legit aspect of Reformed thinking and may even want to incorporate more singing of the Word where you Worship.

    http://www.rpcnh.net/resources/reformed-worship-series

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  71. E. and Jeff,

    One of the things in these discussions that we have to consider is who gets to define what the RPW is. I’m very sympathetic to Scott Clark’s project, but it is very possibly the case that while the principle of the RPW is sound, it has been misapplied in certain ways historically (ie, to forbid instruments). The confessions haven’t been monolithically applied or interpreted even from the get go.

    BTW, I think the RPW is sound, I’m just not sure how you end up using it to say instrumental music and hymns are bad without following through and at least saying that we can have no non-inspired prayers in worship.

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  72. E.,

    All that said I will stand by the thrust of my general points above. Are we really going to insist (and even most Reformed churches do) that our man written songs are better than God’s Word?

    I’m not sure anyone is insisting that, although it might be a deduction from the lack of psalms in our worship.

    I’d probably be more in favor of singing only God’s Word if the historic RPW people were also strongly advocating that we sing Phil. 2:5–11 and the other hymns given in the New Testament.

    We are commanded to sing the Psalms. How sadly common is it in Reformed churches to only sing the man written praise band song and walk out without even the lips of the congregation every (or rarely) singing God’s Word in praise to Him?

    This, indeed is very sad, especially if we’re talking about praise choruses. We should be singing more Psalms in worship, I just don’t know that that means exclusive psalmody.

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  73. Robert, the RPW surely can be misapplied. But is that where we are now? You really think the churches with praise bands and praise songs and testimonies are worrying about the RPW? Heck, we don’t even heed in Presbyterian circles what the larger catechism says about the laity reading Scripture in worship.

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  74. D. G. Hart says: Robert, maybe because the Bible doesn’t tell us to pray inspired prayers?

    Ephesians 6:18a With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit,
    Jude 1:20But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,

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  75. @Ali “praying at all times in the Spirit” does not make one’s prayers the Word of God. We aren’t restricted to praying the Lord’s Prayer or praying the Psalms.

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  76. @Robert
    I’m not persuaded by the arguments against the use of instruments or extra biblical lyrics in worship services as a general principle. That being said, I think we are very naive sociologically about where compromise on innovation in worship leads. Church services are by and large performances. This is not incidental – Rick Warren’s seeker sensitive model is intentional about this. But it leads to evangelical churches playing AC/DC’s Highway to Hell on Easter Sunday. This is a very large Baptist church in a very conservative state who’s stated beliefs would qualify it as “conservative”. When a pastor reads “It’s the Soldier” from the pulpit in a Patriotic Sunday service near the 4th of July (It’s the soldier, not the minister that has given us freedom of religion…), we ought to be asking ourselves how we got here. Of course, none of this is really new. This was the methodology of revivalists going back to the 18th century. Indeed, much of modern church music used in evangelical/conservative protestant churches in the US was developed in the context of revivalism. The tunes and lyrics were constructed in service to the “anxious bench”. I’m not so sure that has worked out so well for the church.

    I often hear from folks that while that may be true, it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no reason that singing songs written by fellow Christians or worshiping with instruments must necessarily transform a worship service into a performance, lead to emotionally manipulative tactics to secure professions, or inculcate idolatry. Just like there is no reason that communism must lead to death and suppression of the church. But it always seems to head that way. At some point, it seems to me that we should be willing to ask if we’re doing it wrong. Perhaps exclusive psalmody sung a cappella isn’t explicitly mandated by scripture, but I don’t see the harm. The outsized criticism its advocates receive strikes me as misdirected given the the unfortunate state of worship in so many putative orthodox congregations.

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  77. sdb say Perhaps exclusive psalmody sung a cappella isn’t explicitly mandated by scripture, but I don’t see the harm.

    sdb, The potential harm is the same harm as any potential boasting, pride, self-righteousness that can comes from human rules.
    ‘Inspire’ also can mean to influence, move, guide, spur on impel, motivate.
    All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.(Romans 8:14)

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  78. Darryl,

    Robert, maybe because the Bible doesn’t tell us to pray inspired prayers?

    Sure it does.

    “Pray then like this:

    “Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.[a]
    10 Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,[b]
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
    12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.[d]” (Matt. 6).

    Robert, the RPW surely can be misapplied. But is that where we are now? You really think the churches with praise bands and praise songs and testimonies are worrying about the RPW? Heck, we don’t even heed in Presbyterian circles what the larger catechism says about the laity reading Scripture in worship.

    No, that’s not where we are now. And I think there needs to be more clarity when we talk about it. For example, when Frame says he follows the regulative principle—really?

    But maybe if there had been more leeway in singing uninspired hymns, we’d have less of the nonsense in NAPARC churches that we do have.

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  79. SDB,

    I agree with the first paragraph in toto.

    I often hear from folks that while that may be true, it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no reason that singing songs written by fellow Christians or worshiping with instruments must necessarily transform a worship service into a performance, lead to emotionally manipulative tactics to secure professions, or inculcate idolatry. Just like there is no reason that communism must lead to death and suppression of the church. But it always seems to head that way. At some point, it seems to me that we should be willing to ask if we’re doing it wrong. Perhaps exclusive psalmody sung a cappella isn’t explicitly mandated by scripture, but I don’t see the harm. The outsized criticism its advocates receive strikes me as misdirected given the the unfortunate state of worship in so many putative orthodox congregations.

    Oh, I’m willing to ask. I think there needs to be distinctions made, however. Congregational singing of hymns without a praise team or something—is that really a performance? I don’t think so.

    The outsized criticism cuts both ways. A lot of the most strident traditional RPW folks aren’t very friendly to those who sing hymns congregationally without a praise team and the other accoutrements.

    It’s the attractional model that’s the problem, not the mere use of non-inspired hymns. Congregational singing of hymns was there long before revivalism in other Protestant traditions, and some of these traditions, interestingly, seem to have been less influenced by revivalism. I’m thinking specifically of Lutheranism, for example.

    And again, I think I would be more sympathetic toward the traditional RPW with respect to singing only inspired songs if they would be more consistent and include other inspired hymns from the Scriptures.

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  80. Robert and sdb,

    Robert states: “”I’m not sure anyone is insisting that, although it might be a deduction from the lack of psalms in our worship.”””

    Come on! It is more than a deduction, again it is in the very air we breath. The ethos of the church, sadly even the Reformed church on this subject, is in fact to ‘insist’ on man written song and the band above God’s Word being sung. This is a fact. At least in the vast majority of our churches.

    Again, I would challenge anyone if they really want to be countercultural, try pursuing just introducing a little bit more psalm singing into your worship service. Watch as many who cling to their special lyrics and their band start accusing you of being legalistic, etc etc. This is just sadly where we are today. We need a revival and reformation on the subject big time, because of the fact that doctrinal innovation and worship innovation travel so often together. I think Calvin had this issue right.

    Robert states: “But maybe if there had been more leeway in singing uninspired hymns, we’d have less of the nonsense in NAPARC churches that we do have.”” Huh? I am not getting this one.

    Robert and sdb , I am all for singing from the NT, not just Psalms. But, one must consider what from God’s Word was and what was not designed for singing? At least one purpose of the Psalms was indeed for singing. And again we are commanded to sing them. “Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”. This is not at all (contrary to popular views) referring to songs and hymns as we know them today. Rather all three are in fact the Psalms. That said, I would be all for NT being sung.

    Sdb states…..””Perhaps exclusive psalmody sung a cappella isn’t explicitly mandated by scripture, but I don’t see the harm. The outsized criticism its advocates receive strikes me as misdirected given the the unfortunate state of worship in so many putative orthodox congregations.”” Ding ding ding!!

    Here is where the reformed are really really missing the boat and there needs to be a paradigm shift back to the Historic Presbyterian aspects of this. Think about it, who is really binding conscience?? Is it really the church which sings God’s Word exclusively which is messing with conscience ? No way! No Christian could/ should object to singing the Word. In fact it is the many uninspired songs that bind or bothers & sisters conscience. The lack of historic RPW has been thrust upon us in our insistence that we the people sing our special (the ones we prefer) songs. All for sake of man pleasing pragmatism.

    Again those who are most seeking their own preference and to hold onto their own traditions are not most often the ones holding to historic Regulative principal, rather just the opposite. But, Robert has a valid point, it is wrong for historic RPW folks to be snobs or prideful about it.

    On the other hand it is pretty tough to be Reformed and dig heels in about NOT singing Sola Scriptura. Yet sadly that is what we are for all practical intents and purposes seeing. Maybe that (more than almost anything) points to why Dr. Hart’s books (on rivialism and historic church issues) are so spot on. Maybe that more than most other ecclesiastical issues clearly shows how Non-Reformed we really are.

    I don’t want to over make the case or act like this is the only ecclesiastical issue, no desire to make this the end all issue, please don’t hear me wrong. However, if it is true, if Calvin was correct (and I think it is true) that…. doctrinal innovation and worship innovation travel so often together. We got trouble right here in river city baby.

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  81. @Ali
    “sdb, The potential harm is the same harm as any potential boasting, pride, self-righteousness that can comes from human rules.”
    Right. That is true of absolutely everything we do. I assumed that was understood in the context of this conversation and that it was clear that it was harm relative to the alternatives. I apologize for my lack of clarity.

    “‘Inspire’ also can mean to influence, move, guide, spur on impel, motivate.
    All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.(Romans 8:14)”
    I agree that inspire can be used to mean influence, etc… in English though in the context of this discussion (singing God’s Word versus singing man made tunes::praying God’s word corporately as opposed to saying man made prayers). Was that not clear above? That being said, your snippet from Romans would not be an appropriate example of “God breathed”. While those who are adopted are led by the Holy Spirit, our actions and words are not His. We still sin (duh!). The Bible is God’s Word because it is quite literally breathed out by God. Because it is God’s breathed out Word and God cannot lie, it is thus impossible for it to fail.

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  82. @ EBurns:

    Thanks. I would love to hear Clark’s response if possible, because I think generally he has done a good job of “recovering the Reformed confessions.”

    EBurns: Doctrinal innovation and worship innovation travel so often together.

    This is a very good point, and as I am involved with the musical aspects of worship at our church, I can say that vetting music for doctrinal content is one of the hardest jobs we have. It’s not just praise songs that are the problem, but hymns also. Perhaps hymns more so, because there is a subconscious reflexive acceptance of hymns as being doctrinally sound.

    If you take a look at the various aspects of worship and faith that cut across denominational lines, hymns and praise songs top the list. I’ve even been in a Catholic church that was singing Wesley hymns. Go figure.

    It’s odd how the RPW works out. Prayers and sermons and creeds, along with membership vows, need not be straight Scripture, but must accurately and positively reflect Scriptural teaching. By contrast, readings are Scripture-only.

    Where should songs fit? The best argument for Psalms-only is that the congregation repeats to God the words He has given for His own praise. The best arguments against are that we are repeatedly told in the Psalms to “sing to the Lord a new song”; and that in Revelation, the elders and angels sing non-Psalms.

    Second on the list of cross-denom pollinators, btw, would be books by Christian celebrities.

    Cutting across denominational lines has potential for good, of course. It also has potential for a lot of badness. In particular, I think the current “TGC” approach to sanctification has the potential to rend the PCA.

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  83. DGH – I’m all for reverence and awe. I wish our Reformed worship today more closely resembled a Catholic or even Orthodox liturgy (you can never chant Kyrie eleison enough), and I’m no fan of trite show tunes in worship. I agree with E. Burns and you and R. Scott Clark, and probably everyone else here that worship in the evangelical world is borderline blasphemous and is certainly idolatrous, and that Reformed worship is only slightly better across the board. And I’m all for the RPW. We don’t disagree on any of that. What we disagree on – and the reason E. Burns and I got off on this tangent – is how the RPW is applied. My contention – and most Reformed pastors today would agree – is that musical instruments are a circumstance and can be used appropriately in worship. Are they frequently misused today? Of course they are. But that does not mean their use is per se outside the bounds of what the RPW permits. I also believe Scripture-based songs are to be sung and they don’t necessarily need to be inspired, though TEs and REs need to do a better job of oversight and theological scrutiny of the songs that are sung in worship. My biggest beef with the non-instrumentalists – starting with Calvin – is their haphazard and often sanctimonious appeal to the RPW. If we want to go by literal, explicit NT commands for worship to exclude instruments, then let’s go whole hog and get rid of alms-giving, creeds, etc.

    Jeff and Robert – good stuff. I agree, but I wouldn’t cite Revelation 5:8 in support of instruments. The harps are likely symbolic, since they are never said to have been played. But your other points are spot on.

    E. Burns – I’ve enjoyed the back and forth. I doubt you can convince me and I’m pretty sure I won’t convince you, but it’s always good to read opposing views and sharpen our own. As I said to Dr. Hart above, we agree that worship in the Reformed community is out of control. We need a return to the spirit of the RPW as DGH and R. Scott Clark suggest. But at the same time I don’t want to go overboard and restrict aspects of worship that need not be restricted. Tying it back to Redeemer, I actually think they do a very good job with corporate worship, relatively speaking. Perfect they are not, but far better than most NAPARC churches.

    I would also add that I don’t think we need to be counter-cultural for the sake of being counter-cultural. It seems you are suggesting we should exclude musical instruments and sing only inspired songs because that goes against the current of Reformed thinking. I don’t agree with that reasoning for anything, let alone worship.

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  84. Vae Vic,

    Thank you! I have enjoyed the conversation. To clarify, I do not believe in trying to be countercultural for the sake of being countercultural, just the opposite. I was using that term because so many in more of the Neo Calvinistic and “pragmatism Reformed” camp seem to use it a lot. That said I’ll standby this thought …… if one really wants to be countercultural (not just for the sake of being counter cultural) start singing God’s word acappella and see what happens. Non of those guys get invited to Princeton. 🙂

    Thank again!

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  85. Jeff, re best arguments against EP, don’t forget that it’s a form of fundamentalism. Clark makes about as compelling case as may exist, but one can’t fight that nagging sense that EP feels very similar to how fundies talk about beer—if we stay away from uninspired doxology (beer) then we are guaranteed not to fall into strange fire (inebriation). But in both cases, it actually requires the hard work of discernment and prudence.

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  86. Zrim,

    I sympathize with your concerns and your beer analogy, the potential for a hyper touch not , taste not kind of legalism. But we are not commanded to drink beer (Despite many of us wishing we were) :-), nor are we forbid to drink it. We are commanded to sing Psalms. We are not commanded to sing man written songs with instruments. So which should get the higher priority in our Corporate Worship? Which is getting the highest priority in our Corporate Worship now?

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  87. EB, I get it. The psalter is vastly superior than any hymnody (and not just because it’s inspired) and more would do well to employ it. But the suggestion that we are not commanded to sing man written songs with instruments falls as short as saying we aren’t commanded to preach or pray man written words with use of commentaries and examples. Huh? Some sermons and public prayers are bad enough to tempt one to reach for an argument that would have men simply read or pray the Bible, but contending with the foibles of the flesh is just part of this present life. Fundamentalism, in all its forms, is a way of circumventing that reality. I suspect EP is animated by that impulse.

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  88. Which is ironic, given that Clark’s book which contends for EP also makes the point about fundamentalism and how it’s an example of QIRC…

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  89. Zrim – good points. And whatever your response about the Medieval Catholic Eucharist, I am not arguing for less frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I actually believe it should be celebrated weekly, or really every time we worship.

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  90. @ Zrim re fundamentalism: A good point. Circumscribing the law. Trouble is, it’s a subjective call.

    @ VV re Revelation 5.8: Agreed, the harps are symbolic. But the point is that if they were idolatrous, if worshiping with instruments was truly a violation of the command, then elders in heaven wouldn’t be doing it with divine approval. Symbolic sin is still sin.

    @ DGH: You really think the churches with praise bands and praise songs and testimonies are worrying about the RPW?

    Some do, actually. Well, not the testimony part.

    Heck, we don’t even heed in Presbyterian circles what the larger catechism says about the laity reading Scripture in worship.

    Interesting. Meaning that WLC 156 forbids corporate reading aloud of Scripture?

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  91. VV, understood. But we frequenters should have our history right so the case isn’t undermined. Yearly requirement among the medievals was in response to widespread neglect:

    Strange to say, it was in the Middle Ages, “the Ages of Faith”, that Communion was less frequent than at any other period of the Church’s history. The Fourth Lateran Council compelled the faithful, under pain of excommunication, to receive at least once a year (c. Omnis utriusque sexus). The Poor Clares, by rule, communicated six times a year; the Dominicanesses, fifteen times; the Third Order of St. Dominic, four times. Even saints received rarely: St. Louis six times a year, St. Elizabeth only three times. The teaching of the great theologians, however, was all on the side of frequent, and to some extent daily, Communion [Peter Lombard, IV Sent., dist. xii, n. 8; St. Thomas, Summa Theol., III, Q. lxxx, a. 10; St. Bonaventure, In IV Sent., dist. xii, punct. ii, a. 2, q. 2; see Dalgairns, “The Holy Communion” (Dublin) part III, chap. i]. Various reformers, Tauler, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent Ferrer, and Savonarola, advocated, and in many instances brought about, a return to frequent reception.

    So, the “too Catholic” line to explain Geneva’s infrequency doesn’t make much sense. First because Catholicism wasn’t really marked by frequency but neglect. Second, there wasn’t the historical baggage of “too Catholic.” That’s now.

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  92. Zrim – there’s no point in arguing since we’re on the same side, but my point is that the Eucharist was celebrated by the Catholic Church every day whether or not there were many (if any) actual lay celebrants. There was a Eucharistic Mass daily if anyone wanted to partake. That is what Calvin’s church (and many others) were attempting to distance themselves from by celebrating quarterly. For what it’s worth, Calvin agreed with us that it should be celebrated at least weekly.

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  93. VV, but how would quarterly avoid the appearance of “too Catholic” if that’s what the Dominican Orders were doing?

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  94. Robert, great. So you only pray the Lord’s Prayer. It sure would make services shorter.

    More leeway? Are you kidding? American Presbyterians have been singing uninspired hymns since George Whitefield first landed. You really think we’re living in a world where praise band members have to keep low profiles?

    You seem to have been on a college campus lately.

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  95. Darryl, and you live longer and healthier without ingesting substances. Maybe, but gong. And if it’s preaching the gospel, we just read one of the synoptics? Who opposes the public reading of Matthew, but is that really preaching? The epistles may have been meant to be read in their entirety originally, but when’s the last time a Reformed church considered that alone a sermon?

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  96. Zrim, would you rather I try to figure out what the lyrics of a Wesley — WESLEY!!! — hymn mean or that I take a metrical psalm and spend some time in God’s word and commentaries? Hebrew poetry may be even more difficult than modernist poetry. Why not cultivate a taste for it by singing the Psalms?

    See how unfundie I can be (he typed as he took another swig on his bottle of IPA)?

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  97. Zrim,

    I understand and in large part agree with your concerns. There is danger of this issue becoming QIRC for some. You are spot on with the concerns about fundamentalism trying to deny by unfounded legalism the dealing with realities of contending with the flesh. However it seems you attempt a bridge too far with this……” I suspect EP is animated by that impulse too”.

    That is not generally speaking (though no doubt there will be error) the heart of what drives folks from this perspective.
    It genuinely is that the desire Soli Scriptura, God’s glory, some reasonable purity and yes avoiding as much as possible the will worship (though we know imperfect with us sinful humans involved) so often insnaring humans, who as Calivin put it have “hearts which are idol factories.” How is that helped/ hindered when we choose …..” Well now we are going to sing a song Jim wrote for us, I really think it will touch your heart”” or Issac Watts for that matter — over God’s Word? Just as plain and simple as possible…..the Worship of God through Jesus Christ. If that is Fundie/ pietist sign me up.

    Kind of like how you would prefer avoiding celebrity pragmatism in Reformed Pastors? Me too. That doesn’t mean we are ultra fundies/ pietist or this issue is in like substance of such thinking (don’t drink, dance, movies) It does not mean you think Keller is wrong simply because he is famous. It means we are attempting Reformed / Biblical discernment best we can. Likewise, on RPW, It means we really like and agree with Soli Scripura. I personally could sing with fellow believers singing from say trinity hymnal (not all of the songs, some I would not sing) or a song of sound theology, but there is never a question with God’s Word, no doubts, no conscience of fellow believers bound by man written ditty’s.

    Hey , I would be the first to cry foul when EP or historic RPW folks get pridful or ultra fundie over it, but my experience has been most just want to spend the 3-5 songs they sing in the precious time gathered for Corporate Worship wisely.

    I’m with you on your position of critique on the fundies and pietist, but this ain’t it. In general, my experience.

    You see at the end of the day it’s all about my personal experience, maybe I am a charasmatic pietist trapped in a RPW body. Would that be trans-liturgical? 🙂
    I kid, I kid!

    PS…. Preaching is commanded too, so that is why we don’t just have the pastor stand up and read the chapter.
    Hey , man I don’t make these commands up, I leave that to modern day praise song / hymn writers. 🙂

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  98. Darryl,

    Robert, great. So you only pray the Lord’s Prayer. It sure would make services shorter.

    If the Psalms-only camp would actually advocate for praying only inspired prayers, it would be a better argument. But nobody is making that argument and that’s my point. Maybe there’s a good reason and I’m unaware of it, but I haven’t seen it.

    More leeway? Are you kidding? American Presbyterians have been singing uninspired hymns since George Whitefield first landed. You really think we’re living in a world where praise band members have to keep low profiles?

    My point was that if that Calvin and others hadn’t gone as far as they did, maybe certain aspects of revivalism wouldn’t have taken hold the way they did. It’s just a supposition, not meant to be taken as an argument for hymns.

    I get the argument that “we should sing Psalms because they are inspired and therefore better than anything uninspired.” I don’t get the whole, “we should only sing Psalms because that is what God commands us only to do in His Word” unless we’re going to apply that across the board to prayers and maybe even preaching. But Scripture allows for non-inspired men to teach. By good and necessary consequence, I’m not sure why that should not be applied also to the use of non-inspired hymns, because hymns are also a vehicle for teaching. But maybe I’m wrong.

    In any case, I think we should be singing more psalms than we do in most modern Presbyterian churches, I just personally don’t see the biblical case for exclusive psalmody unless you carry it through to other aspects of worship.

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  99. Darryl, better you than me to figure out Wesley. And while you’re at it, please take a crack at Crosby (then Getty and Townend).

    But I’ve already conceded the superiority of the psalter and commended its employment. What I still don’t get is how this reasoning doesn’t leave us with just bare Bible reading in preaching and prayer. I get the problem of abuse and inferiority, but what is it about the one element of worship—song—that everything all of a sudden goes solo scriptura?

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  100. EB, “Preaching is commanded too, so that is why we don’t just have the pastor stand up and read the chapter.”

    Praise is commanded, so we stand up and sing only the psalter? See the problem? Both are elements of worship, but somehow when it comes to preaching there is leeway, but not when it comes to praise. Why?

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  101. Zrim, because Paul said preach the word and Jesus preached the word. We have examples of people not simply reading the Bible. Peter.

    Let’s not be mechanical about this. That’s your objection that EP is mechanical. I see that. But the objections border on the same. We can think and we can reject Wesley and Watts.

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  102. Darryl, sure. And this can come back to celebrity: when some anti-EPers gasp that EP would mean we can’t sing W&W, hello religious celebrity. Discernment cuts both ways. As much as it wonders about EP’s over-compensation, it also notices when some seem to assume W&W inspired, when they’re just as vulnerable to the chopping block of a local session. So still hard to see how those who esteem discernment can go in for either EP or “whatever is pre-19thC because, you know, old and nostalgia.”

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  103. Zrim,

    Ok, fair enough. We won’t change each other’s minds on this one and I am content for now being the odd ball in NAPARC circles on Sabbath issues, you got the RPW side covered. Carry on.

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  104. It is excruciatingly noticeable how with all the talk from the Reformed in NARARC about how we should sing the Psalms more often ( as they admit…”they are God’s Word and indeed better” ) and we should also celebrate the Lord’s Supper more often, at the end of the day it is just that, a whole lotta talk. Hey I got a great idea, lets form a committee! At the end of the day predominately we want more to just practice our own preferences, traditions and our own programs. We Reformed are just as pragmatism driven as Evangelicals, we just give it more “reformed” window dressing that’s all.

    “”When instruments were first re-introduced into Reformed worship, after the Reformation, they were not re-introduced as circumstances but rather for pragmatic reasons. The defense of musical instruments and uninspired songs as “circumstances” was created after the fact (ex post facto) in order to rationalize our departure from the original Reformed understanding of the second commandment.””

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  105. EB, sorry but you’re also in camp oddball on EP, at least in the west Michigan quarters of NAPARC where both psalms and hymns are employed. Though I feel your pain when we’re all trucked into “Gettys-burg” ad nauseum, or when I see one of those awful fundie hymnbooks (“Great Hymns of the Faith”) set alongside a psalter hymnal. What the…?

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  106. Ahhhh, Gettysburg , God, Lincoln, Jingoistic hymns….ain’t that America…..slapping em down…100, 200!

    “We tend to scoff at the ancients. But we can’t scoff at them personally, to their faces, and that is what annoys me.”
    –Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy

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  107. E Burns, not all talk. OPC and URC are producing a Psalter-Hymnal with a complete psalter and multiple settings for many Psalms.

    Keep up. Don’t be like Evan/Bobby.

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  108. True, there are the resources. Mine was a comment about using those resources, in general. True that many sing both.

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