Archive: Nov 26, 2012, 12:00 AM

Christian Worship: the Regulative Principle

The Regulative Principle was defined by John Calvin as follows: “God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word.” (from the tract, ‘The Necessity of Reforming the Church’ in John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Vol. 1, p. 128).

In elaborating this principle, however, Calvin and his successors are much clearer on the negative than they are on the positive.  Their focus falls on what is not prescribed or authorised and is therefore forbidden.  Calvin’s own personal concern is not with the questions which troubled later Puritanism (e.g., vestments, psalms/hymns), but with the abuses of Roman Catholic worship: for example, the use of images, the worship of saints, appeal to the mediation of angels, the adoration of relics and the sacrifice of the Mass.  It is worth noting here that such practices are not only not sanctioned by scripture but are forbidden by it.  In application and practice, the Regulative Principle may not differ hugely from the Lutheran/Anglican principle that what is not forbidden is permitted.

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Traditional Gaelic Singing?

first time.  The experiment was well worthwhile, and will itself, we hope, become part of the Mod tradition.  But at the same time there were lessons to be learned.

It’s hard to understand, for example, why each singer had to sing two songs in quick succession, leaving them with no time to get the first out of their system before venturing on the second.  The rush certainly contributed to things going pear-shaped.  Two singers got the pitch horribly wrong, and three others forgot their words: every singer’s worst nightmares in the space of ten minutes, leaving excellent young performers who had trained for months wishing the ground would swallow them up.

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