The Regulative Principle of the Church 18: Its Contemporary Objections (Part 3)

by | Aug 22, 2012 | Ecclesiology, Regulative Principle

A third common objection nowadays to the regulative principle is this.

(3) It involves the acceptance of extreme practices like exclusive psalmody and non-instrumentalism.

The implication is often present in materials that argue for the rejection of the regulative principle to the acceptance of extreme practices like exclusive psalmody and non-instrumentalism.1 It cannot be denied that these practices have frequently been associated with the regulative principle in history.  Neither can it be denied that those who hold these views are disposed to press the regulative principle in support of their views.  Nevertheless, it appears to me that several cogent responses can be made to this argument.

First, it is guilty of a logical fallacy.  The frequent association of two ideas does not prove that they are logically related by good and necessary consequence.  For instance, the doctrine of original sin is closely associated with the doctrine of infant baptism historically, but this does not prove (at least to any Reformed Baptists) nor should it prove that the doctrine of original sin leads to infant baptism.

Second, it is forgetful of the fact that the issue at stake is the regulative principle of the church and its worship not the regulative applications.  While it may be the case that regulativists have often held to exclusive psalmody and non-instrumentalism, the fact is that regulativists have often not held to these views as well.  Relevant to this point is the indisputable fact that the Confessions which clearly articulate the regulative principle never teach either exclusive psalmody or non-instrumentalism.

Third, I personally believe that the views of the regulativists who argue for exclusive psalmody and non-instrumentalism are fatally flawed.  I shall argue later in my discussion of the church’s worship or corporate devotion that there are sound arguments based on the regulative principle of the church to practice both the singing of songs not given us explicitly in the inspired Scripture and the accompaniment of that singing by musical instruments.

1Derek Thomas in Give Praise to God, 91-92, refers to this objection and provides some citational evidence for it.  Interestingly enough for we Reformed Baptists, he states the objection this way:  “There is one more issue to consider briefly: the charge that consistency will make us all either exclusive psalm singers or Reformed Baptists.”

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