Sunday, December 15, 2013

5. Apollo 13 and the Regulative Principle

Photo of the surface of the moon from the Apollo 13. Wikipedia
Westminster Confession of Faith 21:1 (WCF)
I. The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.
This section of the WCF describes the 'Regulative Principle': only what is permitted by Scripture ("through good and natural consequence") is allowable in public worship. As opposed to the 'Normative Principle', if Scripture doesn't prohibit something, then it's OK for public worship.

Presumably the good men of the Westminster Assembly didn't stop worshiping God as they departed the church building. So I'm following John Frame here who writes: “all human actions are ruled by divine commandments. There is no neutral area where God permits us to be our own lawgivers. There is no area of human life where God abdicates his rule, or where his word to us is silent.” ('Some Questions About the Regulative Principle,' Westminster Theological Journal,  54, 2 (Fall 1992), 362)

Scripture speaks to all of life comprehensively but not exhaustively. For example there was nothing in the Bible to help the astronauts of Apollo 13 fix their space ship, but plenty of principles for everything that they were experiencing. This next comment might sound naughty, but I mean it positively and creatively: the Bible speaks on nothing exhaustively, not even our salvation! We work that out with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), and when Jesus says "we'll go on to do greater things" (John 14:12), putting the cessationist debate to one side, He is probably pointing to the gigantic scope of the gospel across all His people through space and time.

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9    Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 
  • Mark 12:33    To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
  • Acts 17:24    The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth
  • Romans 12:1    Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31    So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.