James Jordan and the Simplistic View of the Regulative Principle

In an article of appreciation for James Jordan and his theology, Anthony Cowley quotes extensively from Jordan’s studies on worship. Among them, is a strong critique of the Puritan expression of the regulative principle:

The simplistic version of the regulative principle is hard to apply. First of all, no one is able to apply it without modifying it, because we find no Biblical command for church buildings, pews, etc. Second, in its simplistic form the principle is almost always applied dispensationally, as if only the New Testament were allowed to teach us about worship. Another problem, which is obvious when one reads the literature coming out of such circles, is that the principle often leads straight to a form of legalism. Instead of finding the large, overarching principles of worshipping Scripture and noting particulars in that context (as the Reformers did), we are enjoyed to find explicit detail statements to back up every little thing.

The “Puritan” approaches the bible with preconceived ideas of what constitutes evidence and what constitutes proof. He does not get his hermeneutics from the Bible, but from modern rationalism. If the Bible indicates something “indirectly,” or by way of example, this is not as good as if the Bible comes right out and says something “directly,” in terms of what modern man thinks is “direct.” Thus for traditional puritanism and Presbyterianism, the fact that the New Testament books nowhere explicitly command the use of musical instruments in worship, proves (for them) that it is forbidden to use musical instruments in worship. This is in spite of the overwhelming Biblical evidence in both Old and New Testaments that God wants musical instruments used in His worship. The point here is that the Puritan and Presbyterian traditions bring arbitrary and rationalistic canons of proof to the Word of God, and demand that the Bible submit to these modern notions of logic and proof.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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