John Frame's View of the RPW

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Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
I have been in conversation with my pastor about the RPW. He's been very welcoming, knowing that I hold to a strict view of the RPW, and he's said that he's happy to talk about it with me.

He has told me that he "agrees with" the RPW, although it appears to me that his perspective is practically indistinguishable from a normative principle, or at least unrecognizable as the regulative principle. Basically, he has said that we are free to worship in such a way that God is the focus, so, for example, musical instruments should not be too loud and should fit the mood.

My pastor seems to be getting a lot from John Frame. He sent me this link, to Frame's "Fresh Look at the Regulative Principle".

https://frame-poythress.org/a-fresh-look-at-the-regulative-principle-a-broader-view/

At least some of what Frame says seems off. Here are a couple of things.

"The regulative principle for worship is the same as the regulative principle for all of human life."

This seems odd to me. Why does he think that, because all of one's life is worship, that it is regulated the same way? I do not know of anyone else (Reformed, holding to the RPW) who has said this.


He also rejects some specific terms as unscriptural:

"Reformed thinkers have labored over concepts like elements, parts, substance, essence, accident, forms, expressions, and circumstances (further subdivided into circumstances with and without religious significance, and those necessary and unnecessary to the orderly conduct of worship). In my opinion, these concepts are not helpful, and using them to add further restrictions to the broad regulative principle is not scriptural."

That's quite a statement to make. He goes on to say that the foundation of much of this lies in Aristotelian philosophy and is in fact not supported by Scripture.

Frame also says that the WCF doesn't specifically address things such as elements and consequences. However, WCF Chapter I.VI does seem to have something to say about that, and especially also Chapter XXI, even if the exact terms are not used. (He does not refer to other parts of the Standards.)


I recognize that among Reformed Christians there are differences about how to define the RPW. But it seems to me that Frame's view lies outside any historic Reformed understanding. I find it misleading and confusing that he refers to his view as "RPW" when in key areas he appears to clearly depart from it.

I would appreciate others' thoughts on this. What is right or wrong about Frame's view of the RPW? I do not wish to be unfair to John Frame (or to my pastor) and maybe I am merely misunderstanding.
 
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greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Most here on the board would agree that Frame's position, while saying that he upholds the RPW, doesn't wind up upholding the RPW. Functionally, I think you are correct that his position is basically the normative principle.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I'm not going to guess as far as what Frame says is right about the RPW; he undermines his standing to speak to the subject by dishonestly redefining it. Your pastor is ignoring or is ignorant of this apparently. This was pointed out 18 years ago by many. See Smith and Lachman's review of Frame and Gore which is posted in full at The Confessional Presbyterian site. http://www.cpjournal.com/articles-2...frank-j-smith-phd-dd-and-david-c-lachman-phd/
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
I'm not going to guess as far as what Frame says is right about the RPW; he undermines his standing to speak to the subject by dishonestly redefining it. Your pastor is ignoring or is ignorant of this apparently. This was pointed out 18 years ago by many. See Smith and Lachman's review of Frame and Gore which is posted in full at The Confessional Presbyterian site. http://www.cpjournal.com/articles-2...frank-j-smith-phd-dd-and-david-c-lachman-phd/

This is brilliant, thanks.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
This is brilliant, thanks.
Welcome. When I edited this for publication back in 2005 (N.B., the intro on the RPW is mine so any fault there is with me and not David or Frank), I thought it was too harsh sounding and toned it down. I have long since repented of thinking that given the ongoing damage like with your pastor the misrepresentation by Frame has done.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Welcome. When I edited this for publication back in 2005 (N.B., the intro on the RPW is mine so any fault there is with me and not David or Frank), I thought it was too harsh sounding and toned it down. I have long since repented of thinking that given the ongoing damage like with your pastor the misrepresentation by Frame has done.

The introduction is great. The quotations are immensely helpful.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Junior
"The regulative principle for worship is the same as the regulative principle for all of human life."
This, I believe, is where it all starts to break down. The "All of Life is Worship" crowd, though sounding pious in their statement, are really saying "The solemn assembly of God's people on His day to worship Him corporately as He has commanded has the same rules as a backyard pig roast and hoedown"
Well, it hasn't. Many and many things, both of work and play that are good and legitimate on the other six days, are forbidden during God's worship. That's why we call it the Regulative Principle of Worship, not of all life.
And while I must honor God in all that I do every day, my day job is not worship: it is not regulated by the same rules. Nor is my family life worship: there are duties there that would be completely inappropriate in the assembly of God's people.
Rant over. May God help you as you talk to your pastor.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
"The solemn assembly of God's people on His day to worship Him corporately as He has commanded has the same rules as a backyard pig roast and hoedown"

I can worship God just as good with a beer can on a deer stand.

(Wow. That kind of rhymed and I just made it up on the top of my head.)
 

SlaveofChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
I have read much of Frame's writings including his ethics and book on worship. I also attended RPTS in Pittsburgh where they sing Psalms exclusively and only a cappella. I truly need someone to help me understand. What else guides RPW more than the regulative principle? How is it dishonest of Frame to redefine RPW as fundamentally guided by the regulative principle? What else can be added to RPW beyond the regulative principle without it being called human tradition?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I don't understand the question; the rpw is the regulative principle. On Frame's redefining the RPW to the normative principle, see the linked article by Smith and Lachman above. See also McGraw's review that sums things up, and see this 2005 PB thread. Some links in that thread are bad. Bogue's review is here. Pipa's review is still good here.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
I have read much of Frame's writings including his ethics and book on worship. I also attended RPTS in Pittsburgh where they sing Psalms exclusively and only a cappella. I truly need someone to help me understand. What else guides RPW more than the regulative principle? How is it dishonest of Frame to redefine RPW as fundamentally guided by the regulative principle? What else can be added to RPW beyond the regulative principle without it being called human tradition?
Matthew,
Are you aware that RPW stands for regulative principle of worship, and that regulative principle is just shorthand for regulative principle of worship? I think recognizing that may clear some things up.

If I've misunderstood you, let me know.
 

SlaveofChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
I see that helps lol. I thought that RPW meant 'Reformed Presbyterian Worship" So the accusation against Frame is that he has redefined the regulative principle in the larger rubric of the "normative perspective" in his triperspectival philosophy?
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
So the accusation against Frame is that he has redefined the regulative principle in the larger rubric of the "normative perspective" in his triperspectival philosophy?

The charge is that Frame completely redefines the RPW, without meaningfully engaging the historic meaning of it. The result is that "Frame's RPW" is not the RPW at all; in practice it is indistinguishable from the normative principle.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I don't recall the full context (see the reviews), but yes, the basic complaint/critique for 20 years has been Frame moves the goal post and makes the RPW into the NPW.
I see that helps lol. I thought that RPW meant 'Reformed Presbyterian Worship" So the accusation against Frame is that he has redefined the regulative principle in the larger rubric of the "normative perspective" in his triperspectival philosophy?
 

SlaveofChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
I see. So it is not about triperspectivalism but just normative principle of worship not the normative perspective of his epistemology and ethics. I will read the reviews above. Thanks for the help
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
May God help you as you talk to your pastor.

Thanks. So far it seems he is saying I am just being uncharitable with Frame.

I'm beginning to get the impression that my pastor offered to talk about these things in order to convert me to his side.

I will be praying that God would make these conversations fruitful. Indeed, I have had the opportunity to refine my own understandings of the RPW, so for me at least it has been beneficial.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I see. So it is not about triperspectivalism but just normative principle of worship not the normative perspective of his epistemology and ethics. I will read the reviews above. Thanks for the help

Right. While they might go hand in hand, one doesn't entail the other. Very few Anglicans or Lutherans, who are NPW, hold to triperspectivalism. On the other hand Greg Bahnsen did hold to tri-perspectivalism but most, covenanters excepted, thought he held to the RPW
 
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