The Regulative Principle of the Church 17: Its Contemporary Objections (Part 2)

by | Aug 15, 2012 | Ecclesiology, Regulative Principle

The second contemporary objection to the regulative principle which I have isolated is as follows:

(2) It implies a different hermeneutic for the church than for other areas of life.

This objection and my answer to it constitutes a kind of footnote to the first issue.  I am uncertain who first opined that the regulative principle provides a different hermeneutic for worship than for the rest of life.  In my search online I found several persons using this terminology. They said things like:

Author/evangelist Mark Driscoll did a series of sermons on the topic of “Religion Saves and 9 Other Misconceptions.” The last sermon in that series had to do with the Regulative Principle, the hermeneutical approach that says that unless Scripture specifically authorizes something, that thing is prohibited.

I have two responses to this notion that the regulative principle is a different hermeneutic.  First, ignoring the rather odd use of the word, hermeneutic, I have made clear that I certainly do think that the regulative principle has a scope or application far narrower than the all of life and, in fact, was never intended traditionally or biblically to be applied to all of life.  My second response has to do, however, with the odd and, now I will say, inappropriate and misleading use of the term, hermeneutic, in this context.  A hermeneutic is a principle of interpretation.  The regulative principle is not primarily, if at all, a principle of interpretation.  It is not an interpretive principle, but a governing principle.

D. Scott Meadows provides my response to this terminology.

Some allege that the RPW presents a “different hermeneutic,” or “principle of interpretation,” for worship than for everything else, and therefore it is implausible on the face of it. Such critics argue that “all of life” is worship, and therefore, the Bible should not be applied any differently to the church’s worship than it is to our daily, mundane activities.

With the best of intentions, I am sure, even one advocate of the RPW asserts that “in point of fact, however, the regulative principle does provide a different hermeneutic,” but he adds, he finds “no cogency in this difficulty,” nor did he “find it a difficulty” to maintaining the RPW (T. David Gordon, “Some Answers About the Regulative Principle,” Westminster Theological Journal, 55:2 [Fall 1993]).

So one interprets the RPW as a “different hermeneutic” and rejects it, while the other allows that it is a “different hermeneutic” and accepts it. This “two hermeneutic theory” seems to me to fall short of a proper understanding both the Scriptures and the RPW as found in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith XXII.1. A much simpler and biblically-defensible way to think about this is that a single, sound hermeneutic recognizes that God has given us much more specific direction about worship proper than he has about other spheres of life, which we admit, in a very broad sense, may also be thought of as worship.1

1This quotation comes from a series of sermons by D. Scott Meadows posted online.  They are entitled, A Call to Pure Worship.  I am quoting from the third of these sermons.  The web address for the one I cite is http://ibrnb.com/articles1/?p=139.

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