Keller and Princeton – Another Perspective

Protoprotestant is a fellow who — I think — once commented here and had some brush with the NAPARC world. He blogs at The Pilgrim Underground and The Pilgrim Path/Proto-Protestantism. I’m not sure I can locate his outlook, but he is usually worth reading. Certainly not predictable.

Recently he commented on the dance performance at Redeemer NYC in ways agreeable to many confessional Presbyterians. But before going there, ProtoProtestant’s memories of and reflections on Princeton Seminary are useful for situating his Presbyterian convictions. After a recent visit to Princeton he reflected on his own spiritual pilgrimage over a twenty-year period after his first visit to the seminary town:

Standing in front of Charles Hodge’s house I couldn’t help but think of his approach to Systematic Theology and his struggles to combat Darwinism. While the latter was indeed admirable and right, his unwitting embrace of Enlightenment categories had all but fettered his own hands. I see him as a tragic figure, trying to hold something together and yet incapable, not even fully understanding what is happening.

When I think of his son AA Hodge I cannot help but recall the rationalist nature of his theology and the great lack of wisdom and insight with regard to society and Christianity. An advocate of what I would identify as imperialist missionary work and the kind of Sacralist doctrine at odds with the New Testament, AA Hodge is a breath of fresh air to Dominionists and the Theonomists who still haunt the halls of American Presbyterianism. At one time his name was hallowed to me. Today, even though a volume or two of his writings remain on my shelf, he is not one that I would esteem.

Of course BB Warfield was the ‘Lion of Princeton’, the great defender of Calvinistic Orthodoxy in the late 19th and early 20th century. An author of many fine works Warfield was nevertheless inept when it came to defending Scripture in the face of Modernism. This statement will astonish many for they view him as ‘the great defender’ of Scripture in the face of Modernism. But they say this failing to understand his capitulation and compromise. Unwittingly, Warfield laid the groundwork for today’s Evangelical laxity with regard to Scripture and the collapse of Biblical authority.

. . . Princeton, so hampered by faulty philosophically dependent Evidentialist Apologetics proved weak and began to collapse in the face of Higher Criticism and the Scientific Revolution. Warfield was himself weak on the question of evolution.

Though not buried there I could not help but think of J Gresham Machen, the founder of Westminster Seminary and the figure most associated with the genesis of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). I was once a member of that denomination and would certainly never have anything to do with it again. That said, I cannot but to a certain extent admire Machen and (to a degree) those that went with him. His work on Christianity and Liberalism still holds a place of honour on the shelf. Though authored almost a century ago, the fundamental issues have not changed in the least. It is still a relevant and worthwhile book.

Some merit here, but clearly not an Old Life perspective.

So consider how Tim Keller looks to Protestants like this fellow:

So much for the Regulative Principle….so much for the Sufficiency of Scripture…. these doctrines aren’t even on the horizon for most ‘Reformed’ people anymore. They pay lip service to them but in actuality reject them. Keller, the PCA’s celebrity pastor has led the charge. A Dominionist cut from modern cloth, he’s a man very much at home with the world. When you believe that heaven will look something like Manhattan (investment bankers and all)… then the filth of Broadway, the Theatre District and Lincoln Centre will also be part of it.

In fact Keller’s Church, ‘Redeemer’ PCA is apropos. He believes that all of culture can be redeemed. To put it differently, all of culture can be sanctified and made holy. You must understand this if you wish to grasp why men in tights are dancing around during a worship service. Ballet is being made holy… this is (to Keller) a foretaste of heaven.

Of course this is in addition to the jazz or reggae services they host. It’s a big package. In reality it’s the same worldly gospel of the Prosperity folks but less tacky. It’s for the refined and sophisticated people of the Upper West Side.

Keller is a big deal in Reformed circles and he’s done rather well for himself. I abandoned the Reformed label years ago but even then I realised, if Keller, Piper, Mohler et al. are the Reformed ‘stalwarts’ of the 21st century then the 20th century Calvinist revival will be short lived indeed.

Old Lifers and Old School Presbyterians are not the only ones who see.

The optics!

Advertisements

69 thoughts on “Keller and Princeton – Another Perspective

  1. “In reality it’s the same worldly gospel of the Prosperity folks but less tacky.”
    Ding! Ding!
    Even Baptists can see, sometimes.

    Like

  2. D.G.,,
    Again, you need a TKA support group. And what points your need for such a support group out is how you suggest that views expressed by a Tim Keller critic are his. When will you realize that how we criticize fellow believers can become serious sin?

    And, btw, the regulative principle, even the way Frame approaches it, unnecessarily allows some Reformed people to seemingly forever live in a small world after all and that interferes with carrying out the Great Commission. And that principle is unnecessary considering that Jesus did not follow that principle while here on earth. And His teaching that now is the time when the Father is worshiped in spirit and in truth rather than in the place specified in the Old Testament.

    And who says that Keller doesn’t believe in the sufficiency of the Scriptures? Probably those who confuse indications with implications as they look at Keller’s ministry and how he accommodates where people are in order to teach the Scriptures.

    Finally, calling Keller a dominionist stretches the definition of the term beyond what is recognizable. And that is unfortunate. For it indicates that you believe that there are no spiritual ramifications to compulsively criticizing fellow Christians.

    Like

  3. “And, btw, the regulative principle, even the way Frame approaches it, unnecessarily allows some Reformed people to seemingly forever live in a small world after all and that interferes with carrying out the Great Commission.” — there it is. Following the Bible’s instructions for worship hinders evangelism. No, it hinders man-centered revivalist abominations. Good call, Red Revivalist.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As wrong as Curt is about the RPW (see cw’s comment above), he is right that calling Tim Keller a Dominionist is just absurd. That undermines the author’s credibility from the get-go, but then we read that he has a problem with evolution and that any form of culture and entertainment in the heart of NYC is “filth.” Sounds like a barrel o’ laughs, this guy. Oh, and he misspelled realized, honor, center, and theater. And you quote him approvingly, DGH?

    I will give him credit for pointing out the problem with the dancing in the video: that it is a violation of the RPW. I agree with him there. Then again, in the actual post he says it “smacks of the sodomite revolution,” which makes me wonder if it’s not Tim Bayly in disguise…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Curt, “you believe that there are no spiritual ramifications to compulsively criticizing fellow Christians.”

    “When will you realize that how we criticize fellow believers can become serious sin?”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. And then there was another “Princeton man”—-“Many pious men admit that the Christian must have a part in human culture. But they regard such activity as a necessary evil—a dangerous and unworthy task necessary to be gone through with under a stern sense of duty in order that thereby the higher ends of the gospel may be attained. Such men can never engage in the arts and Such men can never engage in the arts and sciences with anything like enthusiasm—such enthusiasm they would regard as disloyalty to the gospel..But the Bible contains poetry that exhibits no lack of enthusiasm, no lack of a keen appreciation of beauty…

    Machen–“It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be OURS TO CREATE, so far as we can, with the help of God, THOSE FAVORABLE CONDITIONS for the reception of the gospel. False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if WE PERMIT THE WHOLE COLLECTIVE THOUGHT OF THE NATION OR OF THE WORLD TO BE CONTROLLED BY IDEAS WHICH PREVENT CHRISTIANITY FROM BEING REGARDED AS ANYTHING MORE THAN A HARMLESS DELUSION.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=2Co5AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA166&lpg=PA166&dq=whole+collective+thought+of+the+nation+to+be+controlle+by+ideas+which+prevent+Christianity&source=bl&ots=LQERUcnBvr&sig=y4t3FlbGpHex9QDWjHjTKPOa_Bo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwij-4ivmLnVAhXF5oMKHQ9zAfgQ6AEINzAF#v=onepage&q=whole%20collective%20thought%20of%20the%20nation%20to%20be%20controlle%20by%20ideas%20which%20prevent%20Christianity&f=false

    Tim Keller has more influence in the larger culture because Tim Keller does not get into doctrine about Christ having only died for the elect. Even though apologetic influence is not the same as God’s supernatural power in the new birth, God normally gives grace by means of the church and the efficacy of the sacrament is not necessarily limited in a Trinitarian institution where Roman Catholics and “Keller evangelicals” are still super-naturalists.

    sarcasm mode begins–

    It is still up to us if we who live in Geneva (or America) are going to “permit” at least the idea of “natural theistic morality” to be deleted from our common culture. In order to gain credibility and be tolerated in the present age which is so threatened by “secularism”. the Princeton apologetic must not tolerate “confessional detail about election and atonement”

    Sure, marriage may not last into the next age, but you are not going to tell me that already in this age God has narrowed the covenant down to where God has not even promised Christians the very same things God promised Abraham. Since God promised Abraham that one of His children would be the Messiah, God has promised our children that they begin inside the covenant, even before any regeneration. And who is to say that our children are not already regenerate?

    “Princeton man” Charles Hodge—That the Church is a visible society, consisting of the professors of the true religion, as distinguished from the body of true believers, known only to God, is plain, they say, because under the old dispensation it was such a society, embracing all the descendants of Abraham who professed the true religion, and received the sign of circumcision… The Church exists as an external society now as it did then; what once belonged to the commonwealth of Israel, now belongs to the visible Church. As union with the commonwealth of Israel was necessary to salvation then, so union with the visible Church was necessary to salvation now. And as subjection to the priesthood was necessary to union with Israel then, so submission to the regular ministry, is necessary to union with the Church now…. The fallacy of this argument lies in the false assumption that the external Israel was the true Church… The attributes, promises, prerogatives of the one, were not those of the other. If it were true, we would need to say that the true Church rejected and crucified Christ; for Christ was rejected by the Sanhedrin

    Luke 4: 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.

    Like

  7. VV,
    Are you really, honestly making a serious point about the author’s spelling, as though this questions whether others should take him seriously? His supposedly misspelled words are actually all spelt absolutely correct – in British English. I am sure you know this; methinks you are a bit of a trouble maker, despite your intellectual firepower and rhetorical flourish.
    There is still some of us in this still very arrogant but metaphorically sinking pip squeak socialist little island who treasure our idiosyncratic language enough to defend it against the universal tide of American English.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Vae Victis,
    No, I am correct on RPW. It is has seriously hampered our hermeneutics and how we apply the Scriptures. And again, it is not principle followed by Jesus or the people in Jesus’s day. In addition, we don’t see RPW preached in the NT, do we?

    Like

  9. Paul – yes, I know the “alternative” spelling. But I pegged the author – whoever he/she is – as an American based on their intimate knowledge of Princeton and American theologians, their previous membership in the OPC, and their desire never to go back to the OPC. An American using the non-North American spelling of words is painfully pretentious.

    Curt – I disagree with you completely. Now, I will admit to taking a more “expansive” view of what the RPW allows than DGH and others, but Jesus, who kept the Law perfectly, absolutely followed the RPW. The RPW during His life consisted of the regulations for worship found primarily in the Pentateuch. Are you saying Jesus failed to follow those perfectly?

    Like

  10. VV,
    Thanks for that reply. There are a few Brits. who know Princeton and most of the Reformed folks I know have a decent knowledge of American theologians. Believe it or not, we do respect them as the UK has little influence today in Reformed theology so we look to our US cousins for good books and help. I tremendously value the input of our American friends I have experienced quite closely. The desire to see confessional Presbyterian churches here has a greatly helped by USA input. We need more teaching though on the history of Presbyterian practise and it’s value for today.

    If Protoprotestant reads any of this, your writing is rich, informed and makes an excellent read. However, the question in my mind is why having been so thrilled with Reformed practise did you make such a significant reversal? I know there are some creepy stuff which oddly became embedded in Reformed circles, most of all Dominion/Reconstruction garbage along with Manichean presuppositional teaching. But the good far outweighs the bad which, let’s face it, will always be lurking around. I look forward to reading more of your fulsome website.

    Like

  11. vv, “An American using the non-North American spelling of words is painfully pretentious.”

    What about someone born in Allentown acting like NYC is native land?

    Like

  12. UK Paul, if you go to ProtoProtestant’s blogs, you may find some hints. My sense is — and I have this streak in me — is he is anti-establishment and thinks the churches have been too cozy with the state and the economy.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. VV,
    That’s quite a statement considering you know nothing about the person. I would say that you have nothing to offer regarding this topic if you’re reduced to attacking someone’s credibility over their spelling. Correct spelling that you just happen to dislike.
    In future you might do better to avoid wading into deep waters when you don’t know how to swim.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Vae Victiis,
    It seems that you are taking a deductive approach to the question of whether Jesus followed the RPW. We know Jesus did not sin. But assuming that the RPW provides part of the definition of what it means to fall short of God’s law, begs the question. Go through the Gospel accounts and see where Jesus did not follow the RPW. In other words, take an inductive approach to the question.

    Like

  15. crawfordcalvinist – the comment about spelling was a joke – of course I was/am well aware there are multiple spellings for certain words. See my comment to Paul above.

    Curt – what’s your point exactly? That we shouldn’t sing because the NT never says specifically that Jesus sang in worship? I’m not following your reasoning.

    Like

  16. Vae,
    I think you have it backwards since I disagree with the RPW. I am saying that use of the RP has hurt how we interpret and apply the scriptures because it has made us be too literal and not abstract enough in our reading of and applying the Scriptures.

    Like

  17. Jeff Cagle says: And anyway, Matt 26.30 moots the objection.

    amen. also His people have for centuries counted on, and still count on His singing
    Psalm 32:7You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

    Like

  18. Jeff – you’re right. I was thinking specifically of corporate worship in a synagogue, but of course your point stands.

    Curt – in that case our disagreement goes far beyond the RPW. It is extremely unwise, and frankly dangerous, to worship God in any manner other than how He literally tells us. The entire purpose of salvation is true worship – nothing “abstract” about that.

    Like

  19. Vae,
    IN the OT, yes. IN the NT, the Father wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. And remember that Jesus did not follow the RPW. It is there in the Gospels.

    Like

  20. Vae,
    The purpose of redemption is to serve God including worship. What is so deficient about the NPW especially when we are told to worsihp God in spirit and in truth and we are told that Jesus did not follow the RPW in the Gospels.

    Like

  21. Jesus: John 8: 29b I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.

    HEB 10 A New and Living Way
    19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

    Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, ]acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

    Like

  22. just to reiterate
    HEB 10 A New and Living Way
    19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of JESUS 20 by a new and living way which He (JESUS)inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His (JESUS’s) flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God (ie JESUS), 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart (to JESUS) in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He (JESUS, the Father, Holy Spirit) who promised is faithful;

    NOT

    Old Life @oldlife “When we reach out to our Lady, she helps us to open our hearts to God’s loving graces so that we can grow in holiness”
    Old Life @oldlife “when we unite our will with Mary’s, we unite with God’s will.”
    Old Life @oldlife “As our faithful Advocate and Mediatrix, Mary strengthens our connection to Heaven by her intercession and as the dispenser of God’s graces”
    Old Life @oldlife Sanctifying our lives without our Lady’s help is difficult to imagine. http://www.catholicstand.com/mary-assists-rise-holiness/ … Easy to imagine if she’s human and deceased.

    Like

  23. Vae,
    You can read it in the Gospels. In addition, it was Jesus who said that the time is coming when those who worship God will do so in spirit and in truth. Note the context of the statement.

    Like

  24. Bah, post got swallowed.

    Curt: In addition, it was Jesus who said that the time is coming when those who worship God will do so in spirit and in truth. Note the context of the statement.

    Context:

    “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

    “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

    The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

    Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

    — John 4

    In this discourse, the Samaritan seeks to deflect Jesus’ questions about her personal life by bringing up an issue disputed between Samaritans and Jews. Jesus replies by

    (1) Affirming that Jews are better informed about worship than the Samaritans,
    (2) Affirming that worship must be according to two criteria: In the Spirit — that is, by faith — and in truth — that is, according to God’s truth.

    If anything, this passage greatly strengthens the RPW by affirming that worship must be in truth, and by contrasting worship according to knowledge with worship done in ignorance.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Jeff,
    If you beg the question, then you have the answer you wanted in the first place. That begging of the question comes when you equate RPW with God’s Truth. Now while you have been careful to layout the context of Jesus’s statement, you neglected to layout the context for the prescriptive way Jews were told to worship in the OT. And it is rather analogous to the prescriptive dietary laws which were done away with in the NT. They were burdened with the details of the Law because, they didn’t have fulness of God’s revelation who is Jesus. IN addition, those details of the law distinguished God’s people, who were, for the most part, equated with the covenant nation of Israel.

    But we have neither condition today. We have God’s Spirit in full because of Jesus and we are no longer a covenant nation. Instead, we are to go out into all the nations and make disciples. So God’s way is no longer solely associated with a covenant nation.

    When Jeus talks about worship in Spirit and in truth with the woman at the well, He is contrasting that with the prescriptive way of worship so laid out in the OT. THat is why you have the the issue of where God was to be worshiped. For the prescriptive way dictated that God be worshiped in Jerusalem. Jesus is breaking with that.

    In addition, what is Jesus doing participating in the Feast of the Dedication of Jerusalem, which is in John 10, or in synaagogue worship, which is elsewhere in the Gospels? Nowhere is such taught in the OT. You might argue context with the synagogue worship or both, and that is exactly the point. The prescriptive way of worship so laid out in detail was set in a context that no longer exists. RPW carries over the practice as if it were sans context, a universal principle. But many of those alleged universals in the OT were not carried over to the NT. Think about circumcision being the sign of the covenant and being necessary:to be considered to be an heir of Abraham. Galatians 3 states that the true heirs of Abraham are those that join Abraham in believing the promise.

    But what might be even more problematic than that is that the NT provides no prescriptive way by which we must worship God. Yes, there is a list, but that list is based on observation, not an ordered way of worship. Why? Again, God’s people have the full revelation of God in Jesus and they are not restricted to a specific locale. In addtion, we have Acts 15:10. That the laws prescribed in the OT are described as an overwhelming burden for both OT and NT believers. We should note how some of what Jesus says in terms of reconciliation are not repeated in the Epistles.

    Also, no one has answered the question as to why NPW is not sufficient to safeguard true worship.

    The two weaknesses in the RPW argument is 1) to ignore the context in which God so strictly prescribed worship in the OT; and 2) RPWers beg the question as to the existence of the relationship with Truth and RPW.

    Like

  26. Robert,
    I would think that people so familiar with the Gospels would not have to ask. However, I just gave one of the locations in the Gospels in my note to Jeff.

    Like

  27. Curt,

    Thanks. Your analysis needs a little more precision. You wrote, That begging of the question comes when you equate RPW with God’s Truth.

    But what I said was,][Jesus affirms] that worship must be according to two criteria: In the Spirit — that is, by faith — and in truth — that is, according to God’s truth.

    There are two separate claims here. First, that Jesus stipulates that worship must be according to truth. This is indisputable, and it articulates some kind of regulative principle. Second, that the “truth” Jesus refers to is in fact God’s Word. That’s an exegetical claim, and you’re welcome to contest it by supplying another possible meaning of “truth” to which Jesus is referring.

    But that Jesus is stipulating a regulative principle — truth regulates our worship — is plain in the text.

    CD: When Jeus talks about worship in Spirit and in truth with the woman at the well, He is contrasting that with the prescriptive way of worship so laid out in the OT.

    This is overly broad. Surely you would not assert that the prescription in the first commandment is being set aside by Jesus here? Especially since Jesus quotes it to Satan.

    We agree, you and I, that there is some kind of contrast. But identifying that contrast (so that we worship in truth!) needs care.

    CD: Also, no one has answered the question as to why NPW is not sufficient to safeguard true worship.

    I’m sorry, I’ve never seen you ask it. Two reasons, one theological and one historical.

    Theologically, the NPW allows the church to lay commands of men upon the shoulders of worshipers as religious obligations. Lenten observance as a church-wide “during these 40 days, we are doing this” is a good example.

    Historically, the NPW has created havoc within the church by creating a default presumption of innocence on worship innovations. Hence, the full burden of proof falls upon dissenters to show why X innovation is contrary to Scripture, so that to simply worship according to conscience, they have to raise a stink.

    In short, the NPW undoes liberty of conscience.

    By contrast, the RPW preserves liberty of conscience by restricting what the church may command in worship; this is roughly analogous to the 1st Amendment, which preserves freedom of religion by restricting what the government may regulate with respect to worship.

    Like

  28. Jeff,
    But you assumed that RPW was part of God’s eternal truth rather than considering whether it was contextually determined. So, yes, you were begging the question. And that question can be begged since Jesus participated in worship that was not stipulated in the OT. And i have already mentioned more specifics on that as well as a specific passage.

    Again, you are begging the question of RPW being part of God’s eternal truth rather than considering whether it was contextually stipulated–like the dietary laws were stiputlated. In addition, Jesus’s statement about worship in spirit and in truth counters the RPW stipulation that worship occurs in Jerusalem. Why is the worship of God to be in spirit and in truth rather than located around the place stipulated by what would be considered RPW–Jerusalem. It is precisely because God is going to call the Gentiles. And with calling the Gentiles, the law is no longer placed on the shoulders of those who could not bear it in the first place (Acts 15:10).

    Like

  29. Curt,

    Your response doesn’t make sense to me. That may well be my fault, but I can’t draw any connection between what I said and what you said in response.

    Can we agree that Jesus said that worship must be in truth?

    If so, then what truth must it be in?

    Like

  30. Jeff,
    If my response does not make sense to you, it is because of the assumptions you make about RPW and its connection to the Truth. While you see Jesus implying RPW to be the case when He says that those who worship the Father will do so in Spirit and in Truth, I see RPW represented by what the woman said when she said that the Jews say that those who worship the Father, must worship Him in Jerusalem.

    You see RPW as being a universal principle and thus as having no need for context and is thus always true. My point is that RPW was true for a certain time period and context.And the story of the woman at the well and her encounter with Jesus, the fact that Jesus Himself did not follow RPW, the absence of any NT directive that teaches RPW as well as how preaching to the Gentile reaures a loosening of the prescriptiveness of the OT all point to the temporary nature of RPW.

    Certainly we can agree that we must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. We do disagree on what belongs to that truth. What is in that Truth? Jesus is. So the subject of that truth is well-defined, but the methods of worship are not. However, we need to realize that how we worship can easily be transformed into a self-worship of one’s own culture.

    Like

  31. -2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
    -liberty-Jesus- John 8:29b I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.

    Like

  32. Curt,
    Do you understand thr RPW to be particular rules about how to worship or principles guiding how we arrive at such standards. Your comments seem to suggest the former, though I have always understood the rpw to be an exegetical stance: we can only approach God in the ways he has prescribed for us, thus we should study scripture to learn how to worship Him in a way that pleases him. The alternative view is that we can worship him anyway we please as long as it isn’t forbidden. Is that how you understand what the RPW entails?

    Like

  33. sdb,
    Again, the OT is very prescriptive not just in how to worship, but how to live and eat and so on. The NT isn’t that way. Why? The reason is redemptive history. The reason is that the Gospel irradicates the necessity of many of the OT’s laws especially the prescriptive ones. The reason is that the call to the Gospel is expanded.

    Yes, we can only approach God the way He has told us to: that is through Christ. The problem here goes to us letting our theology dictate to us what the Scriptures don’t. Nowhere is RPW taught in the NT. In fact, and no apologist for RPW has addressed this, Jesus did not follow RPW. There was no synagogue worship prescribed in the OT. Neither was there the Feast of the Dedication as reported in the Gospel of John. And yet, didn’t Jesus attend both?

    There are no specific practices for how to worship God by coming to Him through Jesus. How is it that we are not worshiping God has He commands when we come to Him through Jesus?

    Like

  34. Curt: While you see Jesus implying RPW to be the case when He says that those who worship the Father will do so in Spirit and in Truth, I see RPW represented by what the woman said when she said that the Jews say that those who worship the Father, must worship Him in Jerusalem … My point is that RPW was true for a certain time period and context…

    Certainly we can agree that we must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. We do disagree on what belongs to that truth. What is in that Truth? Jesus is. So the subject of that truth is well-defined, but the methods of worship are not.

    Thanks, that helps clarify your position.

    And certainly, I’m partial to a Christocentric exegesis! So, I appreciate that approach.

    Still and all, we can agree, I hope, that you are making an assumption when you see the RPW as being represented by what the woman said. It *is* rather a leap to jump from “Jesus affirms that worship must be according to Himself” to “Jesus discards Scripture as the sufficient norm for worship.” Even if I grant, for the sake of argument, that “in truth” refers to “in Me”, I still don’t get to “… so the RPW is done away with.” Jesus did after all say, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” — so that worshiping in Christ cannot mean setting aside His word. (I know that you aren’t arguing for that, but your argument is trying to drive a wedge between Christ and His word).

    You mentioned to sdb, Nowhere is RPW taught in the NT. In fact, and no apologist for RPW has addressed this, Jesus did not follow RPW.

    None of those three statements is true. RPW is taught, inter alia, in Colossians 2 and also by Jesus in Matt 15.9. This fact is picked up by many “apologists for RPW”, including Calvin, Hodge, and GI Williamson.

    I strongly encourage a reading of Calvin’s Institutes 4.10 as background material for understanding how the RPW is guard against legalism and a protection for the liberty of the worshiper.

    Curt: However, we need to realize that how we worship can easily be transformed into a self-worship of one’s own culture.

    Absolutely it can be. How does NPW help the situation? Seems like the NPW would open the door wide for those who desire to import their own culture into worship. Certainly, I see the language of “current”, “modern”, and “relevant” used much more frequently by NPWers.

    I think we agree on a goal: We want worship to be Christ-centered. Colossians seems to be clear. Worshiping Christ truly must necessarily contrast with worshiping Christ according to man-made rules. Yes?

    Like

  35. Jefff,
    What is the difference between worshiping Christ truly vs worshiping Christ with man-made rules? Again, it is who we are worshiping that is the key. We are to worsihp the Christ who is, not the CHrist who isn’t. But other than that, what worship rules do we have? In fact, that is what colossians 2 is about. Matthew 15 is not about worship but about how one lives their life. For if one isn’t following God, then their worship is in vain–a standard message from the OT prophets as well.

    So what is in your note that prescribes worship as Moses did? Nothing. In the OT, you have detailed prescriptions because of the symbolism involved. But that symbolism disappears as Christ comes as the full revelation of God appears in Christ..In fact, the Matthew 15 passage talks about not letting traditions substitute for the Word of God. And isn’t that what we have here? RPW for NT times is defined by our writings and confessions. Don’t forget that our Conessions are to us what the traditions of the Pharisees were to them. They were used to interpret God’s Word.

    THus, so far, you have not shown any NT RPW. We worship Christ as He revelaed himself to be and we live lives that follow God. THat pertains to our prep before worship and the content of our preaching and singing. I see no RPW unlike what can be seen in what Moses wrote.

    Like

  36. Curt – RPW/NPW debate aside, if your main point is that we should worship Christ in spirit and truth, how does that justify a dance performance in CORPORATE worship? A performance like that is not something we can do corporately, which means at very best I am simply watching other people worship. Do you really believe that is the “spirit” of worship, or the truth of how we ought to worship?

    Like

  37. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: a dance performance in CORPORATE worship? A performance like that is not something we can do corporately, which means at very best I am simply watching other people worship. Do you really believe that is the “spirit” of worship, or the truth of how we ought to worship?

    2 Samuel 6:14 And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.
    21a So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD… I will celebrate before the LORD.

    Like

  38. Ali – David’s dancing wasn’t a performance – it included “all the house of Israel” (v 15) in worship. I actually believe the RPW allows dancing as an accompaniment to corporate singing (as musical instruments are similarly allowed), but not as a performance, as was the case in this instance at Redeemer.

    Like

  39. vv, they were all together, but only David was dancing? that’s how I read it.
    You don’t think that (redeemer) ‘performance’ was pleasing to the Lord? Was He frowning about it?

    Like

  40. Ali – I read it as a giant celebration where everyone was singing, dancing, playing instruments, etc. David’s dancing is pointed out (along with his attire) because of the criticism he receives from Michal as being unfit for a king.

    As for Redeemer’s dance performance, I can’t see how anyone or anything taking the place of God as the center of worship is pleasing to him. I assume the men in those performances were genuinely worshiping, but the people in the audience were not corporately worshiping – they were watching the performance. Do you think the focus of the congregation’s attention was on God or on the dancing?

    Like

  41. vv says Do you think the focus of the congregation’s attention was on God or on the dancing?

    Good question -the same difficult one for all of us, 24/7, I guess.

    1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    If you read that link – do you agree with “The overarching goal of corporate worship is “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ

    have a great day.

    Like

  42. Curt,
    Just trying to understand where you are coming from.

    “Yes, we can only approach God the way He has told us to: that is through Christ.”
    Agreed.

    “The problem here goes to us letting our theology dictate to us what the Scriptures don’t.”
    Agreed.

    “Nowhere is RPW taught in the NT.”
    That’s a pretty strong statement. I see that Paul has provided regulations for worship in 1 Cor 14 as one obvious example. Now I can see how one might disagree about the scope of how our worship is to be regulated, but I don’t think we can say that there are no regulations at all.

    “In fact, and no apologist for RPW has addressed this, Jesus did not follow RPW. There was no synagogue worship prescribed in the OT. Neither was there the Feast of the Dedication as reported in the Gospel of John. And yet, didn’t Jesus attend both?”
    Hmmmm… it seems to me that this has been addressed. Perhaps you mean that you don’t find the way that it is addressed convincing. I would say a few things… first, he does in fact criticize man-made traditions and notes that we can only be bound by God’s word. Second, the fact that something is not to be used in corporate worship does not mean it can’t be used privately (1 Cor 14 again). Perhaps there was nothing wrong with the extra feasts – it was requiring them that’s the problem. It is like prayer in public schools. Even if the kids aren’t forced to participate, there is undue pressure. There may not be anything wrong with having a public prayer at the park, but when participation in an event is compulsory, what you do at the even has to rise above a high bar. Same with Sunday worship – Christians have to go and participate – what you “force” people to do where they have to be should be required by God. What you do on Wednesday night is something else entirely… The Saturday potluck does not violate the RPW… couldn’t one say the same about the Feast of dedication or synagogue?

    “There are no specific practices for how to worship God by coming to Him through Jesus. How is it that we are not worshiping God has He commands when we come to Him through Jesus?”
    I don’t think that is true at all. The pastoral epistles (in addition to 1Cor) are filled with admonitions about things we should and shouldn’t do in worship as well as limits on what we may require others to do. It seems to me that this theme is connected to something revealed about God’s character in the OT law – a principle underlying the particulars we should pay close attention to even if the particulars have been done away with.

    Of course, once we agree that there are proper standards for worship, that doesn’t get us all the way to the RPW described by some reformers (is there a singular RPW?).

    Like

  43. Ali – that passage from Ephesians 4 describes the overarching goal of the church, not the overarching goal of corporate worship. The main objectives of corporate worship are primarily to ascribe to God the glory and honor due His name, and secondarily to catechize the congregation.

    Like

  44. Curt: What is the difference between worshiping Christ truly vs worshiping Christ with man-made rules? Again, it is who we are worshiping that is the key. We are to worsihp the Christ who is, not the CHrist who isn’t.

    That sounds noble, but it ends at Stations of the Cross, anxious benches, and offering bowls of milk to Sophia the Holy Spirit. Every time. The only purpose for rejecting the RPW in favor of the NPW is to make room for innovations.

    I don’t see anything in your post that is responsive to Inst 4.10. Did you read it?

    Curt: So what is in your note that prescribes worship as Moses did? Nothing. In the OT, you have detailed prescriptions because of the symbolism involved. But that symbolism disappears as Christ comes as the full revelation of God appears in Christ..

    I think you may be confusing two different concepts.

    Old Testament worship is worship according to the strictures laid down by Moses and subsequent prophets. As you note, it contains many symbolic elements that pass away when they are fulfilled by Christ.

    The RPW is a simple principle: Scripture is a sufficient norm for worship. In other words, we have enough in the Scripture to norm worship without needing to resort to the innovations of man. This has nothing to do with resurrecting OT worship; in fact, such is forbidden in Hebrews.

    So an RPWer is necessarily not an OT worshiper because of Hebrews.

    Curt: In fact, the Matthew 15 passage talks about not letting traditions substitute for the Word of God. And isn’t that what we have here? RPW for NT times is defined by our writings and confessions.

    I think you are confused about this also. The RPW principle is not that our writings and confessions norm worship, but that Scripture does so. Any person within the PCA has standing to ask a session how X worship practice is taught in Scripture (not a confession).

    Curt: Don’t forget that our Confessions are to us what the traditions of the Pharisees were to them. They were used to interpret God’s Word.

    That one similarity is not sufficient for your equation. Consider the criticism of Jesus concerning the traditions of the Pharisees:

    15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,”[a] 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word[b] of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

    8 “‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
    9 in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

    — Matthew 15.

    It is clear here that the elders had introduced two different traditions, the washing of hands and the practice of Corban, that were not the result of Scriptural interpretation (contrast the discussion with the Saduccees over the resurrection), but were simply an oral tradition, the first to “fence” the law and prevent violation thereof, and the second to create an additional good work not found in Scripture.

    If you examine the history of the Misnah, you will see that it is not an attempt to interpret Scripture per se — although Scriptural interpretation is included — but is rather a collection of oral traditions that attempt to fill holes not addressed by Scripture. It is fact a document that operates by the Normative Principle, not the Regulative: traditions are accepted so long as they do not contradict Scripture.

    A couple of times here, you have attempted to equate the Confession with the teachings of the Pharisees. That comparison is an unjust one, because (1) it does not account for the different goals of those two different bodies of tradition, and (2) accordingly imagines confessional Presbyterians as treating the confession as inviolable and on par with Scripture — which they do not.

    Curt: THus, so far, you have not shown any NT RPW.

    What I have shown is that Jesus and Paul reject the traditions of men for binding the conscience. That’s the RPW in a nutshell.

    Like

  45. thanks vv.

    “(Another weakness) It can also place worship in a category saved only for corporate settings, rather than encourage it as a daily practice.”
    -vv, do you agree with the above.
    -do you think the above is part of Jesus’s point here: John 421 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    Also, why do you think a father enjoys gathering his family together regularly?

    Like

  46. Ali – sure, people misunderstand and incorrectly apply correct theology all the time. See sdb’s post above: there is a very high standard for mandatory (corporate) worship compared to informal Christian gatherings. Both can be worship, but the mandatory worship should strictly conform to only what is Scriptural, both to accurately worship God (truth) and authentically worship God (spirit).

    Like

  47. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says:Ali – sure, people misunderstand and incorrectly apply correct theology all the time.

    Ok vv. That’s an interesting response. Misunderstanding man’s chief end (WCF Q1), that is continual worship, would not be just another misunderstanding, – it would be THE misunderstanding.

    Romans 12:1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

    Like

  48. Ali – there are different kinds of worship. As you point out there is all of life worship, along with individual worship, family worship, and corporate worship. In this thread we’re focusing on corporate worship. The RPW must be adhered to very carefully in corporate worship so as to obey God and to avoid binding anyone’s conscience to something that is not Scriptural. I may prostrate myself in private, or pray with my arms raised, or even – if I were so inclined (I’m not) – dance out of joy to the Lord. But none of these things are commanded by Scripture and therefore it would be wrong to impose those practices on a congregation as a whole.

    Which brings us back to why a dance performance in corporate worship is wrong. Watching others dance is not commanded by God as a part of worship, and therefore should not be imposed on the congregation. The dancers may be worshiping, and in the context of a ballet performance at Lincoln Center I can glorify God for their abilities, but it should not be a part of corporate worship.

    Like

  49. Ok vv. But no one is fooled (especially nonbelievers) (most especially, the Lord) by selective apparent devotion to “corporate worship” while ignoring or minimizing, in large part, the devotion of continual worship. That was an additional point.

    The Lord desires truth in the innermost being. As He said “rightly did Isaiah prophesy of hypocrites, this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me”. An hour is now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

    Like

  50. Jeff,
    You are assuming that rejecting the traditions of men meant that He was endorsing RPW. First, which of those specific traditions that Jesus rejected dealt with worship?

    Second, Jesus rejected those traditions that contradicted God’s Word. Such rejections can fit both in NPW and RPW.

    Third, you have not dealt with either synagogue worship or the feast of dedication of Jerusalem, neither of which was stipulated in the OT.

    Fourth, we don’t have a prescribed worship liturgy or manner in which our houses of worship are to be constructed in the NT. We have a snapshot of observations by Paul regarding how worship was currently taking place.

    Fifth, again, Jesus moves worship away from the temple in Jerusalem where it was to take place and moves to involve anywhere in the world.

    Sixth, your argument begs the question of the RPW in the NT especially when you so tightly associate RPW with the Truth. I can see an argument to be made for RPW in OT times but it wasn’t followed when Jesus was conducting His ministry.

    Like

  51. Thanks Curt,

    Your third point is very interesting, and I’ll take it last so that we can focus on it. To the others:

    (1) CD: You are assuming that rejecting the traditions of men meant that He was endorsing RPW. First, which of those specific traditions that Jesus rejected dealt with worship?

    An inference, not an assumption. Jesus’ criticism, echoing Isaiah’s, was of those who were

    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matt 15.9)

    From this, I infer — not assume — that it is not lawful to teach as doctrine the commandments of men.

    From this, it follows that it is not lawful to teach others to worship, a subset of teaching as doctrine, the commandments of men.

    So your question “which of those specific traditions … dealt with worship?” is not relevant. Jesus goes to the root and rejects all teachings, whether about worship or otherwise, that are commandments of men taught as doctrine.

    (2) CD: Jesus rejected those traditions that contradicted God’s Word.

    Not only those. Yes, he rejected those traditions that contradicted God’s Word. But He also rejected traditions that did not contradict God’s Word, but were mere commandments of men. In fact, one such tradition is found in Matthew 15: The command to wash hands before eating.

    There’s nothing contradictory to God’s Word about washing hands. From a sanitation standpoint, I certainly hope that it is not a sin to wash hands before eating!

    Nevertheless, Jesus rejected this tradition as an example of teaching as doctrine the commands of men.

    So your assertion that Jesus rejected those traditions that contradicted God’s Word — implying that He rejected only those traditions — is actually seen to be false by the passage in question.

    We should also consider parallel passages in Paul. I’ve previously pointed out Colossians 2.16 – 23. It is impossible to read that passage without concluding that Paul is rejecting all “human precepts and teaching” (v 22) that would be imposed on the worshiper.

    (4) CD: Fourth, we don’t have a prescribed worship liturgy or manner in which our houses of worship are to be constructed in the NT. We have a snapshot of observations by Paul regarding how worship was currently taking place.

    This is true. The RPW is not applicable to order or location, but only to the actions that may be commanded for worship, commonly called elements of worship.

    (5) CD: Fifth, again, Jesus moves worship away from the temple in Jerusalem where it was to take place and moves to involve anywhere in the world.

    I think you might be confusing worship with sacrifice, understandable because the Samaritan woman herself makes the same mistake. It was commanded that sacrifices be made in Jerusalem (Deut 12; compare 1 Kings 12.15ff). But not all worship is sacrifice. Worship includes prayer, singing, and teaching the Word, all of which were to be done in places outside the temple. Indeed, during the Babylonian Captivity, those actions were taken outside of Israel altogether.

    So there’s something much larger at stake than “RPW” happening in John 4. The reason that sacrifices will no longer be offered in Jerusalem .. is that sacrifices will no longer be offered at all.

    (6) CD: Sixth, your argument begs the question of the RPW in the NT especially when you so tightly associate RPW with the Truth.

    I don’t see where I said “Because the RPW is true, therefore Jesus’ words ‘in truth’ mean ‘according to God’s word'”

    Rather, I said that Jesus’ words “in truth” mean “according to God’s word” unless you would like to propose another possible meaning. The reason for this is that “truth” is frequently applied to God’s word in Scripture, by Jesus no less (John 17.17). It’s not question-begging to use common Scriptural usage as the basis for exegesis.

    Now, you’ve proposed that “in truth” could mean “in Christ”, and I’m open to discussing that. But even if so, it is not at all clear that your proposal would somehow show the falsity of the RPW. If your argument is successful, that would merely remove John 4 from the list of proof-texts for the RPW.

    CD: I can see an argument to be made for RPW in OT times …

    Earlier you asserted positively that RPW was the rule for OT times, but now you seem less certain. Would you say that RPW for OT times is certain or possible?

    CD: …but it wasn’t followed when Jesus was conducting His ministry.

    You’re speaking as if this assertion were already proved, but it hasn’t been yet. I take it that your confidence rests on point (3), that Jesus Himself acts contrary to the RPW by his presence at the Feast of Dedication (John 10.22ff) and by His presence in the synagogue. I’ll address that below.

    If you have additional evidence that Jesus did not follow the RPW in His ministry, this is a good time to play those cards.

    Like

  52. To point (3), which is very interesting. You observe that

    CD: In addition, what is Jesus doing participating in the Feast of the Dedication of Jerusalem, which is in John 10, or in synagogue worship, which is elsewhere in the Gospels? Nowhere is such taught in the OT.

    As mentioned before, the RPW does not pertain to location, but to elements. Sacrifices were commanded to be in the temple in Jerusalem only, but singing, teaching, and prayer were all permitted outside the temple in any location. So worship in the synagogue was no problem for an RPW-observant Jew.

    But observing the feast of dedication was another matter. That feast (now Hannukah) was instituted during or after the time of the Maccabees. So if Jesus observed it, that would demonstrate that

    [filling in the details of your argument]

    (1) Jesus observed the feast of dedication,
    (2) Which is not in Scripture,
    (3) And Jesus did not sin,
    (4) So that by approved example, it is acceptable to observe a feast not found in Scripture,
    (5) Which is a contradiction of the RPW
    (6) So that the RPW is false.

    Before I respond to this argument, tell me — is this a fair summary?

    Like

  53. Jeff Cagle says… that sacrifices will no longer be offered at all.

    Ephesians 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

    1 Peter 2:5you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

    1 Cor 5:7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    John 4:23-24 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

    Like

  54. I guess it makes sense to give focus to the ‘outward’, because the reality of true acceptable worship is humbling – really thankful for Jesus

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s