06 August, 2007

Casual Thoughts on Formal Worship

When I first began studying the issue of worship, about 8 years ago, I was amazed at how much of the Scriptures speak of regulation according to God's Word. This, of course, seems to lead to some sort of bondage to the will of God alone. How can a sinful human submit to the will of a divine being that does not allow me to do whatever I want in worship?

True confession: For the first couple of years in my Christian life, I worshiped in evangelical and even some charismatic churches. These churches are quite innovative in worship and do many things that they do in an attempt to please the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the way in which I learned to worship, as those around me did.

The more that I studied, the more I felt liberated from the will of men as well as the 'worship wars' that are so common in today's churches. There is a lot of good things in evangelical churches; but there is also a lot of doing what is right in their own eyes.

The freedom that a simple, biblical, and reformed worship service brings is quite pleasing to the senses after-all. Acapella singing, God's songs as the text, simple exposition of the Word, and prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Who could ask for more, besides these and the waters of baptism and the wine and bread of the eucharist?

The more I read, the more I loved the heritage in which I dwell. The more I submitted to what God desires in worship, the more I was able to cultivate a relationship with the Son. The studying of worship has been the single most liberating doctrine to my Christian experience. What has been your experience?

The more we do sanctify His name, the more we will fall in love with worship.
Jeremiah Burroughs


DROLLORD said...

What a convenient coincidence, Nate. I posted a quote from Ames entailing the Regulative Principle yesterday: http://greenswizzle.blogspot.com
He cites Deut. 12. We can't argue against it. The RPW is there in Scripture.

drollord said...

I think it odd that I'm the only one who commented on this one and I used it to plug my own website. I'm scum...

MarkPele said...

Hi. I'm responding here because I can't leave anonymous posts on "Green Swizzle".

Maybe I'm off base here, but putting things in worship because they increase faith or must be performed properly seems to be an ill-conceived notion.

I'll rant a bit on the "Regulative Principle" because I think that, in fact, it is used for legalism, not to purify God's worship.

Ames here commits the same folly. In the same breath, it seems, he lists out a bunch of "acceptable things in worship" and then rails against those who add to worship without warrant.

So, okay, where is the warrant in:
Baptism in worship
Inducting into Church Membership in worship
Election and Ordination in worship
Discipline in worship

Ames says, "All of these means, therefore, ought to be observed ... because they are appointed by God." In all of these cases, we see no appointment, no command and no example, yet we assume we can add all these things to worship. Why? For the very reason that Ames argues against: because they are "conserving and not corrupting".

So, here, in fact, Ames points his finger and doesn't realize the three fingers pointing back at him.

Mark said...

Just to back Mark up here a bit, I think he's entirely right that the RPW can be used legalistically. Unfortunately, many (not necessarily present company) reduce it to a simple "if it's not commanded, it's forbidden", which would gut even the staunchest conservative's liturgy - after all, Paul never says to sing psalms in worship, we're not told to recite the creeds, etc. Unless I'm wrong, we only have the Lord's Supper in worship because of the NT church's example, and not because of an explicit command. (And if we're going on example, well, they do use harps in heaven. Not that I have an issue with acapella singing, obviously, but it's worth noting.) In short, I think the RPW allows for quite a bit while guarding against the man-centered megachurch concerts.

What I do appreciate about your take on worship, Nate, is your focus on the heart. It's something that's all too often lacking, and it's great to see a genuine passion for Christ driving your views. And just to be clear to anybody just stumbling across this, I'm most emphatically not calling Nate or Droll legalists.

nleshelman said...

There is some liberty within the guidelines of the RPW. Some things are done because the light of nature shows that they are necessary and good for worship. Not all that SURROUNDS worship is commanded or needs to be.
-As for some things that are done IN worship: we need to reevaluate according to the Scriptures. If we cannot find biblical warrant for things like reciting creeds, collecting offerings, etc. we need to remove them.
The Reformed are always reforming (according to the Scriptures).

nleshelman said...

Also, a NT example may be Biblical warrant since the NT examples are canonized. Of course, there is always Corinth which is the antitype of the RPW.

Andrew Duggan said...

Perhaps there are fringe elements that reduce the RPW to simple terms, but those who really try to follow it do so in full understanding and application of the what the WCF teaches in WCF1:6

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. [Emphasis mine]

The WCF 21 lists the ordinary elements of worship. As for Psalms, See Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19 as well as many of the Psalms themselves. As for the "induction of new members", meaning making a public profession of faith, that is properly in worship, because Christ said that those who confess Him before men, He will confess before His Father in Heaven (c.f. Matt 10:32)

The RPW is not about legalism, its about glorifying and enjoying God, which can only really be done in accordance to His will, as Jesus said in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." It's about loving God, in Christ, because only when we do that in accord with His revealed will can we really truly approach our chief end.

I find that most who bring up legalism WRT the RPW are those that would prefer meet God on their own terms rather than on the terms of Him that loved us enough to give His life for us.

Let's not forget the the Scriptures are the Word of God, and let's not forget that Jesus is the Word of God. Regulating not only worship, but all of our lives according the Scriptures is the same thing as being conformed to the image of Christ. Seems to me that if we can't even endeavor after new obedience in the area of worship then we're not really likely to be putting our whole heart (c.f. Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37, Mk 12:20, Lk 10:27) into it either.

Mark said...

I completely agree that the RPW is a good thing. I further agree that we need to apply God's law to all of life, and that a lot of folks who rail about the RPW and legalism are simply being antinomian.

That said, there are always ditches on both sides of the road, and there some who use it in a legalistic way. This says more about them than it does about the RPW, IMHO.

I think Nate hit it on the head about liberty, and I'm guessing in the long run we all agree about a lot more than we disagree. Now that's a blessing.

steveandjanna said...

I think it's important for the church to teach RPW and why it's important. This is something that many RPW churches fail to do. How many RPCNA members say they believe in RPW but don't have the foggiest idea why and don't know why the elements of their worship are in place, for example they don't understand why they sing psalms and use no musical instruments.

I also think it's important that we re-examine the elements of our own church worship to make sure it's in accordance with scripture. Simply because a denomination or church has been doing something for generations or centuries does not mean that it is correct. For example, what Biblical basis does our ARP church have for reciting the Apostles Creed out loud during worship?

To often pastors shy away from these issues because, especially in RP churches, everyone generally agrees. But it's important for these issues to be discussed and passed on to the next generation. The last thing we want is for the next generation to not understand these important concepts and shrug their shoulders when the church eliminates them as requirements.

nleshelman said...


I agree that the RPW needs to be taught to the people. The whole counsel of God needs to be preached!

As for the RPCNA and the teaching of the RPW, as far as I understand, this is the last BIG distinctive that is held to and is taught in the churches.

The denomination put out a nice position paper on "A Reformed Theology of Worship" that was intended to be circulated to the congregations. It can be found: http://reformedpresbyterian.org/download/worship.pdf

Maybe some of the RP readers can say whether they feel they were taught this in their congregations.

Andrew Duggan said...

It was my experience 20+ years ago (so maybe things are better now), that many of the RPs at Geneva College that I discussed worship with really didn't have (and had not be taught) a good grasp of why Psalms acappella. Furthermore I saw time and time again that when in non-RP churches that RP members had no trouble in joining in with less than reformed worship.

For those who did know, the RPW was mostly an RPFPW (Regulative Principle of Formal Public Worship).

steveandjanna said...

Back when I was in the RPCNA, Brian Schwertley was the only pastor talking about musical instruments in worship. No one else was touching it and from all accounts not a whole lot has changed. There are plenty of RP's who don't have the slightest idea why they don't use musical instruments, it's little more than a RP tradition for most folks. Like with head coverings in the mid 20th century, lack of musical instruments will go by the wayside if preachers don't teach their congregation the Biblical reasons why we don't use them.

steveandjanna said...

On another note, position papers issued by synod or presbyteries don't reach the people. Pastors may read them and theology junkies may parouse them but the people that really need to understand these issues don't read them. It's up to pastors to preach these issues to their congregation. If pastors fail to do as such, in a generation the new leaders of the church will be less likely to continue with rpw (or any issue) and the position paper won't have amounted to squat.

nleshelman said...

Maybe you can work towards change when you are, once again, in the RPCNA. :)

We all can work towards reformation where the Lord has placed us.

MarkPele said...

Andrew, I think that you did the very thing I despise. You took a verse out of context that had nothing to do with worship and used it as a prooftext for professions of faith in worship. If you're going to use a prooftext, at least use Psalm 40:9, which says "I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation", but then you have to explain why this "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God" isn't appropriate.

What I typically do is twist the hermeneutic that is used and show why it is improper. Your hermeneutic is to take "before men" and apply that to a merely a worship experience. In that way, you get two results, first that this is not a command to openly confess Christ before non-Christians, and that other verses that use "before men" are specifically referring to worship. Neither really works out.

My problems is that good and necessary means good and necessary by the interpretation of scripture. Circumcision was to be done on the eighth day, which shows that it was not associated with corporate worship. Baptism replaced circumcision, and while we see no wooden commandment to do it on the eighth day, we see it performed in households and individually by the ordained of the church. The TEMPLE is not symbolic of corporate worship. The temple and its shadows were done away with, so circumcision in the temple by the priest does not equate with baptism in the worship service by the pastor.

Having an opinion and then prooftexting does not make the opinion right. The Bible demands more careful study and worship is much more of a system than a list of do's and don'ts.

I practice exclusive psalmody and a capella singing not because of two verses, or some principle that I think cannot be defended, but because the entire system of the Bible shows that our sung praise to God in corporate worship needs to be Spiritually inspired, and that instruments were a shadow in the Temple that demonstrated God's righteous judgment for our sins.

steveandjanna said...

Well Nate, as you know I voted against our move to the RPCNA because it's a denomination that in a generation will either have fallen away from RPW and/or will be close to falling away from it because no one has the slightest idea why they are scripturally obligated to follow it. This is a denomination that tossed out the one pastor working towards a church wide understanding of this doctrine, especially on the issue of musical instruments. There are no other voices on the subject and because of that in a generation you'll see problems creep in.

nleshelman said...

You are right that Pastor Schwertley was the one who has written on the issue, but if you look at 'Reformed Voice' there are a number of ministers that preach on it.

As for the RP kicking Brian out, it is my understanding that he left to start a new church.

steveandjanna said...

That is the RP version, he'll tell you something else.

MarkPele said...

Okay, now on to other things. Nathan, I didn't mean to detract from your post. I am amazed by the simplicity and purity of Reformed worship. I actually find it a struggle because it is so word-based and I'm a visual person, but I love hearing the scriptures explained and applied, not in a legalistic do and don't rut like I tend to do myself, but straight to the heart and attitude, which I need.

Also, to the other comments, I've been in the church since birth, and probably have only heard our denominational distinctives taught from the pulpit a few times. Mostly at conferences and a token sermon here and there at Geneva.

On the other hand, it's been taught in the Sabbath Schools somewhat.

I've not seen that paper other than having heard of its existence through the grapevine, and I think that Synod is already rethinking it because the new Directory for Worship has a different tone.

MarkPele said...

If you want to discuss the issue then you have an obligation to talk with the SRPC session. From what I've seen, you bring the issue up and when anyone tells you any of the facts surrounding the issue that you didn't hear from Brian, you clam up and don't want to hear it.

I'm okay with not bringing him up, but you need to do your part, too, otherwise you open it up for discussion.

steveandjanna said...

I don't have an obligation to talk to anyone, especially the weasels running Southfield.

As for the topic of this post, MarkPele points out perfectly the problem that will be facing the RPCNA in the coming years. Namely that no one preaches on the subject of RPW other than the occasional token sermon at a conference and the casual study of it at some Sunday school classes. Because of the denomination wide failure to adequate teach on the subject, we're going to see a day when new leadership takes over and dumps it. It's happened at so many other churches, it would be arrogantly naive to think it couldn't happen at the RPCNA.

Mark said...

Steve paints a terrifying picture of a church where not all the ladies wear hats, and they sing with a piano. Take heed, lest ye too fall!

nleshelman said...

Southfield does not use a piano.

Rob Somers said...

steveandjanna wrote:

Well Nate, as you know I voted against our move to the RPCNA because it's a denomination that in a generation will either have fallen away from RPW and/or will be close to falling away from it because no one has the slightest idea why they are scripturally obligated to follow it. This is a denomination that tossed out the one pastor working towards a church wide understanding of this doctrine, especially on the issue of musical instruments. There are no other voices on the subject and because of that in a generation you'll see problems creep in.

Your view of what is taught/understood in the RP churches is deficient. I attend a church in the St. Lawrence Presbytery, and I can say that there are more than a few congregations where the RPW is not just a token doctrine, but one that is rightly understood and adhered to as well.

MarkPele said...

Steve, you've talked to one man about what happened, and that one man gave you one side of the story. You've libelled pretty much everyone who's still at the church, from the "liberals" who didn't vote for or support him to the "weasels" who led the church, and the corrupt presbytery who couldn't stand his Biblical views and the others who did nothing while this all transpired.

You've purposefully cut yourself off. Proverbs 18:17 says, "The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him." By refusing to cross-examine Brian's words, you're also violating Deuteronomy 19:15:"One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established" and "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses." - 1 Tim 5:19 in accepting the words of one man against our church and its leadership. I hope that you prayerfully consider the seriousness of your actions here.

As to the RPW, we are always a generation away from falling away from it. However, there have been a lot of very fine, very Godly, students coming out of the seminary that are also very committed to the distinctives. No one in our church will be sustained without adhering to the RPW. I doubt even my stance would pass the session (i.e. that the distinctive worship practices can be supported on their own weight without the need of an overarching "whatever is not commanded is forbidden" clause in the RPW).

I think I could count on one hand the churches that do not support the RPW. There are probably a greater proportion of churches (perhaps the majority) that support the RPW out of a simple resistance to change, rather.

With regard to headcoverings, I've always found one question to be a stumper. "Did Eve wear a cloth headcovering, or was her hair good enough?" You see, it's a catch-22. We know that Eve was naked, therefore uncovered, and we know that Genesis made a special point that God Himself walked in the Garden, so we have primitive corporate worship. Brian, in his paper, rightly argues that headcoverings are a creation ordinance (through Paul's claim to "nature") and yet doesn't answer this obvious question. But no one I've read does.

Andrew Duggan said...


Glad to be despised (Well, maybe not me, personally, but that which I do)! Perhaps you might really think that Scripture is really divided into sections that talk about only a, b or c in any one passage or verse. If that's how you like to read the Scriptures, I guess, well, that's your loss.

That of course is not to say that Scripture is not topical at all, but that's where you need to make sure that you can correctly exercise godly wisdom and discernment to be able to (as I quoted from WCF) make conclusions from good and necessary consequence.

Since I don't know whether or not you receive the Westminster Standards (WCF, WLC, WSC) as your statement of faith or not, perhaps this will not help, but...

While the WCF is not authoritative like scripture (c.f. WLC 3, WSC 2) WCF 21:5 includes the following: "religious oaths, vows" when covering worship. So now, exactly what do think a profession of faith is and the vows one normally takes at that time in Reformed and Presbyterian Churches?

Exactly how often are there public Christian gatherings of the Church whereby one might profess Christ? There are lots of Scriptural teaching about gathering together as the Church on the first day of the week. Hopefully you agree?

So in order to be obedient to Christ and to profess him before men (in public) you have a few choices.
1) You can conclude that is a part of worship because you conclude that it is a good and necessary consequence of Matt 10:32 and the other parts of Scripture that teach about gathering as the Church or
2) You can require other church sessions whereby public professions of faith may be made or
3) You can require some generalized public profession of faith -- maybe they take an ad out on TV, Radio or maybe a classified ad in the newspaper or one of those (new fangled Internet sites?) Like posting a comment on Presbyterian Thoughts?
4) Some way only known to Markpele?

One thing I really find humorous is persons that love to express what they despise, and are seemingly quick to judge when often the subject is not just as simple as they might think.

It's not just about the proof text of Matt 10:32, it requires that one can apply godly wisdom and draw those conclusions of good and necessary consequence (not on the force of one verse, but in the light of that passage together with the rest of the teaching of scripture). Perhaps you might want to slow down a bit...

Andrew Duggan said...


In conclusion Markpele, did you read my second comment and the remark I made about the RPFPW? See the RPW doesn't just apply to formal public worship it really applies to all worship. Just because circumcision was performed on the eighth day doesn't mean it wasn't worship. It might not have been public and corporate, but that doesn't mean it's not worship.

Do you think that the RPW applies only for about one hour (since most RP churches near me only have one worship service) or maybe two hours a week?

I think at it's almost impossible to sing Amazing Grace, or other songs of its class without sinning, since most people don't have the self discipline to do so without falling into a worship mode. It doesn't matter if it's Wednesday afternoon or Lord's Day morning.

All worship at all times belongs to the one True God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to Him alone, and it must always (when ever it is done) be done in accord with his commands. For He is jealous and will only visit the iniquity of this sin to the third and fourth generations. (No we're not always one generation sometimes its two or three) If you ever wonder why you don't see a lot of multi-generational families in churches today, you might try looking at the reason annexed to the second commandment, but hey then that's probably proof-texting again ;-)

steveandjanna said...

MarkPele you make the drastic assumption that I just discovered and began investigation on the issue of Brian Schwertley last week.

As for RPW and the RPCNA, the fact that you claim a majority of the RP churches support RPW simply because they don't like change is disturbing. It suggests that RPW isn't really an important doctrine and certainly isn't really understood by church members. It's simply a Scottish or RP tradition that some churches aren't ready to dump yet. That suggests to me that belief in RPW is pretty weak in the RPCNA, which is something I tried to warn my church about. I'm here to tell you that in a generation a capella psalm singing will be on its way out in the RPCNA.

MarkPele said...

Yes, Andrew, what you've just described is called taking a verse out of context. The passage may have more than one application, but when you take one verse and reinterpret in a way that divorces it from the context, then it doesn't mean anything. Arminians do the same thing with "For God so loved the world..." - Doesn't that mean that God loves everyone? You see that if you take the verse out of context and reinterpret it then it says something completely different. This is precisely the hermeneutic you use, you take something from the general to the specific. Just as "world" becomes "unbelievers", you say that "men" becomes "men, specifically in the worship service." Again, if that's the hermeneutic, I can take Proverbs 5:18-19, "Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love." Maybe I should apply THAT to the worship service. Perhaps it would catch on and we could have "holy breast fondling" in worship!

As to the RPW being beyond just formal corporate worship, I disagree. You see, all of life is to give worship to God. So, the fact that I program computers brings praise to God. Now, the Bible does not "prescribe" computer programming as "worship" (WCF 21:1), so are modern occupations all forbidden? Also, the tone of WCF 21 is specifically corporate worship, as can be discerned in WCF 21:5, which talks about the administration of the sacraments in worship. It also qualifies oaths, vows and other things by saying "beside". In other words, here are the parts of worship, and her are other things that are religious, but not worship proper. If you continue to 21:7, you see it says, "As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God..." that directly conflicts with your understanding of "worship" in the WCF. Thus the WCF is talking specifically about what the church does in corporate worship, and separates that from other religious duties. In chapter 22, I agree that the WCF ties oaths to corporate worship, and I would have to respectfully disagree with it there, because in light of 21:1, I find that it is not prescribed as an aspect of corporate worship. It is in the same category as fasting - something that the church can require, is worshipful, and yet is outside the formal worship service.

Back to Matt 10:32, I will suggest that this is parallel to Mark 8:38 - "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." You see that in the parallel passage there is no specific "confession" required, but more of an attitude. If we openly profess Christ by not being ashamed to talk about him before men then He also is not ashamed to profess us before the Father. Again, you seem to be taking a general passage and saying that it requires some point of time confession. Then, I've checked that off and can go to Heaven. I agree that there ought to be professions of faith, but that can (and does!) happen at session meetings. In fact, what happens at the worship service is a mere formality because the session has ALREADY required vows of membership and welcomed the member in.

I agree with your point about worship mode. At Geneva we had Chapels - formal worship and Convocations - not worship. Yet, because the Convocations were close to worship, there was significant blurring as the students didn't understand the RPW, the formality and fell into worship mode, especially those for whom what was done WAS what they expected in worship.

And, yes, I do seem to go fast, but that's mainly because I don't think in prooftexts. I think generalities, so I pull verses from here and there to show the generalities (which seems to fast to most). So, what I'm merely saying is that your argument doesn't work in the general sense. Not that you're way off or anything. The Bible is infallible, both word for word and as a system. I tend to understand it mainly from the second point of view rather than the first. So, in short, not only are your beliefs important, but how you arrived at your beliefs is also important. I find a lot of times, I agree with the conclusion, but not the argument.

MarkPele said...

Steve, I do not make the assumption that you heard about it last week, since, obviously, we've debated it many times over the last year. I make the assumption that you only allowed yourself to hear one side, and then prejudiced yourself against the other side without allowing yourself to cross-examing your witnesses.

And, I can deal with that, except that you state you prejudiced opinion as if you had thoroughly researched the issue. That's why I say, talk to our elders. I guarantee you have not heard the whole story. I have not heard the whole story, either, but I saw things on both sides. I've actually seen some of the facts - real documents.

Our congregation has put the issue behind us, for better or worse. I've gone to session meetings saying I disagreed with how they handled the matter, but it's over now.

What's not over is the fact that you are sinfully accusing our members and our courts of wrongdoing. As they say, "put up or shut up." If you think the sin is not dealt with, it is your duty to Christ to raise it to the proper courts. Matthew 18 is not optional, it's mandatory. So, either drop it or take it to the church courts, but don't just harang our institutions from your armchair.

For the direction of the church, I speak from experience. I've been a baptized member of three churches in the RPCNA, a communicant member in two, and have spent a month or more continually in an additional three churches, as well as having visited probably ten or fifteen more since I graduated college. I also stay up on the presbytery and synod discussions and papers.

So, what I say is that we have been weak on the RPW, and there are significant numbers of elders and pastors who seem to hold to the RPW out of tradition and not theological conviction - judging from reports of synod discussions. Yet, there are a significant number of strong pastors and elders throughout the denomination that are very strong on the RPW. That teaching in my experience doesn't come as much from the pulpit, since there are only a few passages of scripture that really can be used to drive that home. It does, however come in other fora, such as personal discussions, sabbath school and position papers. We just spent a year studying "With Reverence and Awe", which is NOT RPCNA, but the book was dealt with faithfully - pointing out the weakness of the hymn singing argument and how many times they praised the psalms as a good example, yet didn't take the next step.

Your church (and again, I know this from experience) is joining the MOST CONSERVATIVE PRESBYTERY IN THE RPCNA. While I know that not every elder in our presbytery is committed to the RPW, the presbytery on a whole is very committed, and many (almost all?) of the men who have come out of seminary in recent years have come from our presbytery, and again are very committed to our distinctives. As one of our elders is on the Candidates and Credentials committee, he ought to know.

So, pragmatically speaking here, we're not going to be ditching psalms any time soon. There are other distinctives that I think will come under the gun, but I think, based on recent discussion at the synod level, worship is being dealt with in a very good way.

steveandjanna said...

MarkPele, I'm not debating this issue with you or anyone else. I stand behind my comments and if the session of Southfield doesn't like it that's just tough for them. I've heard both sides, I think one side is clearly in the right. It ended six or seven years ago and is only relevant in pointing out that what's in the record isn't always what happened. Furthermore, for the purposes of this post, the name Brian Schwertley was only brought up as an example of someone in the RPCNA that did speak a lot about RPW but he's no longer there. Why he left is only offhand important.

MarkPele said...

To your point, just because Brian supported the RPW and found the RPCNA to not be his style of church does not mean that the RPW was the issue. In fact it was definitely not the issue behind the split. Until our website was redesigned a few months ago, we still had his papers on the Regulative Principle and musical instruments on our front page.

I'm not debating the issue either, I'm debating whether you have the right to make legal accusations against a party, with whom you refuse to talk about the specific matter you accuse them of sinning in. Who, specifically, did you talk to on the "other side"? I don't count, since I was not privy to the session discussions. I was primarily an interested third party. Since the only people left who can authoritatively discuss "the other side" are the "weasels" you refuse to talk to, then I can only assume that you have not talked to "the other side".

It grieves me that again and again, you get up on your soapbox and belt out your accusations against my elders, and when you are confronted with anything, you send a parting shot and crawl back into your turtle shell.

I stand by my statement. You haven't talked to both sides, you've prejudiced yourself so much against the other side that you refuse to see any evidence, and you continue to sow discord at every opportunity. As far as my church and presbytery are concerned, the issue is over, and we've been instructed to put the issue behind us and seek reconciliation where possible.

You may need to strongly consider that as your church is working towards joining the very same presbytery, your demonstrated actions thus far have been against the instruction of the presbytery.

The official record states the following:
1) While the call was overturned, the commission report specifically recommended (IIRC) that there be a period of time where the congregation could become more familiar Brian before we try to call him again. There was absolutely no hint in the report of wrongdoing on Brian's part, and it was the session (of which Brian was not a member and thus not culpable) that was called to task for their actions in forcing Brian on the congregation.
2) The presbytery commission ruling was not appealed to the presbytery or any higher court.
3) Brian requested to be removed from the membership roll of at SRPC, and the session did that as requested.

Thus, it is a complete fabrication to say that Brian was forced out of our church or denomination. If you can offer one shred of evidence to the contrary, be my guest.

steveandjanna said...

One wonders how you've put this issue behind you considering you continue to bring it up and continue to want to go over the gory details. Must this issue really be rehashed again and again. We disagree, I don't support our move to the RPCNA and I have little to no respect for the Southfield session. This isn't news, it isn't a surprise and it isn't that big a deal. If you don't like my position then as soon as our church joins the RPCNA then have your presbytery prepare to excommunicate me for daring to oppose them. Go ahead, I really don't care.

Something perhaps our church might understand, as I understand it Ray technically resigned at Cuttlerville when in reality I think it was clear he was fired. The record shows a resignation, the record really isn't correct. We can apply the same here.

MarkPele said...

It apparently has to be hashed and rehashed again as you bring in new evidence yourself. Outside our specific congregation, I am not aware of any issues with Brian in our denomination.

So, leaving the issue of our specific congregation, and I agree that it is an issue, but let's table it, there were many people that liked his writing. He was still candidating at a number of churches within the RPCNA, which seems to mean (and this is to the best of my knowledge) that he wasn't somehow being "blacklisted". I know that Ray Joseph was a huge fan of Brian and was not silent in the least about promoting him.

In the same way, and I have nothing to go on other than what you said, Ray resigning from one church does not mean that the entire denomination is corrupt. I know of many circumstances where pastors resigned on not so good terms, but in all the cases, it was an issue between the church and the pastor, not the presbytery/denomination.

And I'll definitely consider the church discipline route. My problem is not your position - you're entitled to it, but it's the fact that you broadcast either lies or half-truths about the situation in an effort to promote division. If you really meant to bring unity and peace (remember, blessed are the peacemakers), it seems that you would be striving first to understand all of the issues from all sides, and second to bring the matter to the church for church discipline where it is needed. I have no problem with you bring charges against my elders. Maybe you know something that I (and my church) don't in the matter. What is unacceptable to me, and why I am beating the same drum is that you sit back and sling fiery darts at your brothers in Christ. In that, you are merely a tool of Satan to do exactly what he wants, promote strife and discord in the church. As your brother in Christ, I ask you to choose to do the thing you know is right in your heart. Seek the peace of Jerusalem.

steveandjanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steveandjanna said...

Like I said, I couldn't give two hoots is if the RPCNA excommunicates me for disagreeing with their slimeball moves from 7-8 years ago. If you want to start a pointless war rehashing issues from 7 years ago, you go right ahead and do it. I won't partake and the RPCNA can excommunicate me in my absence. This isn't an issue that I brought up, to debate Schwertley's firing is meaningless and pointless. We disagree, get over it. e.

puritanismtoday said...

Dear Nathan,

My experience is very similar.

By the way (For Markpele).

Baptism is an act of worship.

Oaths and vows are extraordinary acts of worship. Thus the oath of Church membership and in an ordination; as also marriage vows and national covenants, etc.

Elections and discipline are acts of Church government and not worship; so should be done outside worship, or in an interval in the case of an election. For the immediate purity of the Table an act of government takes place at communions.

There are essentially three places from which we gain warrants for the parts and content of worship - explicate commands, approved examples, and things deduced by 'good and necessary consequence'. Thus there is often a warrant for those things which people hastily conclude are without warrant.

Some things are necessary in order to conduct Public worship - places and times for meeting, lighting to read the Scriptures and the Psalm books, Psalm books, etc.


Nate said...

Okay boys,

I think that is enough. You can continue this conversation either over email, the phone, or during a presbytery meeting if you are going to excommunicate each other.

There are lessons from this:
1. We all love Reformed worship and think that it is important.
2. Sometimes we disagree on the acts of the courts of the church and we need to either petition the court or prayerfully seek peace, knowing that the Lord will make all things right in his time.
3. All churches are able to lose their candlestick and cease to become churches of Christ.
4. We should all pray for the peace of Zion and seek peace with all men.
5. No denomination is perfect, but has mixture of error and faithfulness.
6. Again, pray for Zion's walls to be rebuilt so that she may again be a city on a hill.

Andrew Duggan said...


I have to say I'm not surprised your in the everything is worship "camp". That's exactly where I thought you were. I think if you actually read the WCF you'll find that it teaches that life, that is, glorifying and enjoying God is not the same as worship.

Care to answer the WCF 21:5 regarding religious oaths and vows?

In case you missed it, I referred to WCF 21 (which includes oaths and vows) before I brought up Matt 10:32, which is going from a general (oaths and vows) to a specific required oath. Talk about context, see you were supposed to see and understand the context of WCF 21 regarding oaths and vows when you read my statement the the word "because" in it. Talk about being "contextually challenged!"

Perhaps you deny that Matt 10:32 requires that we profess Christ before men? [Hint look at the next verse, since there is a very big consequence for the opposite]

Matt 10:32 doesn't proof text oaths in general, but it does proof text that Christ requires us to make a public oath regarding Him. [Too bad you hate proof texts, because as soon as you say that some passage teaches a particular doctrine, you'll find that that passage has just become a proof-text for that doctrine.]

I had hoped you would have been at least somewhat familiar with WCF, considering the title of the blog in question. I guess I was wrong ;-)

But then I bet (if I were a bettin' man) if we press a little harder, we'll find out that you're not too fond of systematics as general rule, despite your claims to the opposite, or maybe it's just the system in the WCF, WLC and WSC to which you object?

So man, since you've already admitted to taking exception to the oaths and vows section of WCF 21 (your first comment) and think that all life is worship, want to come a little cleaner with what else you take exception to, since there is probably a whole lot more...

Do you think that Matt 5:22 teaches that we should be careful with labeling words and actions as folly? I wouldn't be surprised if your defense is that you only said Ames was committing folly, and you didn't actually call him a fool. If so, that would come across (at least to me) as pretty legalistic -- something that you seem like to rant against, not actually do, so...

It's really interesting that you started off your rant with accusing Ames with folly. At a minimum you think Ames was foolish in his writing on the RPW -- your wisdom on the subject is credentialed exactly where?

You couldn't even start the discussion without an ad-hominem attack, surely a mark of a thoughtful man.

Andrew Duggan said...

Sorry, Mr. Eshelman, I was writing my previous comment, while you posted your last, and didn't see it, until afterwards

MarkPele said...

Nathan, I believe I have one final right to respond, without bringing new evidence in. I have no other way to contact Andrew, so if you prefer, you can delete the comment and forward it to him with my e-mail.

1) Charging someone with an error in their argumentation is not ad hominem. An ad hominem attack is calling the argument into question based on some characteristic of the person. "Bush is such a warmonger that he can't speak properly about peace" is ad hominem. Our views may be different, but I don't take that personally.

2) While I am in the everything is worship camp, I think that the WCF is specifically talking about corporate worship. I said, "As to the RPW being beyond just formal corporate worship, I disagree." Maybe I misread you, but you seemed to indicate that vows were part of worship because they were in chapter 21. I was trying to explain that they were set apart in 21:5 from the elements of worship through the use of the word "beside".

3) As to the rest, if you're going to charge me with all sorts of horrible errors, it would be nice if you re-read my post a few times.

Andrew Duggan said...

I reply because the preceding makes an error in fact.

What the preceding comment describes is a direct ad-hominem attack. What was actually done was an indirect ad-hominem, by way of innuendo. Notice the leading with the accusation of committing folly, there is no substantive interaction with what Ames wrote prior to saying Ames committed folly.

I think it unwise to allow those who engage in such things the privilege of definitions, or framing the argument.

MarkPele said...

Please read this:

You may feel personally affronted that I called your method of argument into question, but that does not prove ad hominem which is a formal fallacy of argumentation.

steveandjanna said...

Who, oh who will be able to swing the last word?

Joy said...

See how they love one another!

nleshelman said...

For real enough.

Listen to Joy... how do other readers see you representing Christ?

Steven and Crystal Carr said...

zWell that was a rousing argument. Reminds me of my former days. I hope somebody learned something out of this (although I highly doubt it).

I love Reformed Worship. Ever since I moved from Rev. Lanning's Church I have felt a deep void. My Church in Hinckley sings maybe one psalm a week (at most). Without the Psalms worship seems to be something less. I think many can relate to this. If one element is missing worship is less. I know many people who attend church were there is no Reformed Expository Preaching, and they know something is missing, but often they cannot put their finger on what it is, they just know something is missing. This is the beauty of Reformed worship, it is filling.