New RHB book examining Richard Baxter's theology of family worship.

Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
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"Baxter saw a call for family worship woven throughout Scripture. He did not believe it was a topic dealt with infrequently, with only a few supporting verses sprinkled throughout the Bible. Instead, Baxter understood that the Word of God provides a robust defense of family worship, championing this discipline time and time again. He was driven by his conviction that the Bible not only commanded it but also offered numerous examples of families practicing such in their homes.

The blessings of family worship are clearly and frequently presented in the Scriptures. Baxter’s practical theology of family worship was therefore well-founded on a host of Scriptures, and he presented these systematically as an apologetic for worship in the home. Baxter unfolded his encouragement for this discipline in the form of several propositions consisting of more than thirty arguments. Each argument served to emphasize God’s heart for the home as presented in the Bible." – Jonathan Williams

Dr. Beeke writes, “Any substantive work on the all-important spiritual discipline of family worship is more than welcome in our day when the vast bulk of professing Christians neglect it nearly altogether. Jonathan Williams’s book adds an exciting dimension to what has already been written on this critical subject by looking at Richard Baxter’s teaching on and promotion of family worship. By combining both a historical study with practical implementation through the eyes of Baxter and then adding contemporary implications for our own day, this book makes for an informative, stirring, and hopefully life-changing read for many families. I pray that thousands of husbands and fathers, together with their wives, may be persuaded to take up daily family worship as a non-negotiable spiritual discipline in their home. Buy, read, and implement this book, and let it transform the way you do family worship, for then it will also, by the Spirit’s grace, transform your family for good.”

 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm intrigued. Have you actually read this book? I ask because I'm generally wary of Baxter leaning toward legalism, functionally even if not formally, and because family worship is one of those areas where parents can very quickly feel condemned and easily become functional legalists even without someone telling them what they have to do to be godly parents—which only makes it worse. At the same time, the discipline of family worship is woefully neglected in our day, so that parents do need to be encouraged to practice it.

So if you've read it, what is your take? Does this book remain winsome? How does it negotiate the tricky territory of advocating for an important spiritual discipline without creating legalists?
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
I'm kind of intrigued to learn more about his thoughts, but I guess not interested enough to buy the book and read it. If family worship is as biblically clear as the promo seems to imply, I wonder why the majority of Christians are so unacquainted with the practice.

If families are neglecting learning the Word together and praying together, this is clearly going against the Bible's teaching, but family worship the way us reformed people propose it, isn't patterned in the Bible. At the church we are now members at, our pastor said that when checking up on us his questions wouldn't be if we are regularly doing family worship, but if I am raising my children in the Lord, if I am washing my wife in the Word, etc. So basically he would hold us accountable to the Bible and not a man-made system.

We used to do formal feeling structured worship everyday, now it is much more organic and free-flowing. At breakfast we pray and then we read a verse and talk about it for a few minutes while eating. Before I leave for work each day, I tell everyone that I love them and God loves them too. At night before bed we do a devotional time, and it doesn't always look the same. Sometimes it's a video, other times reading a passage, other times just talking about life lessons. We pray, and sometimes sing when we feel like it.

I used to try to make it very methodological and liturgical, now it's just natural. I'm kind of interested to know Baxter's take.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I'm kind of intrigued to learn more about his thoughts, but I guess not interested enough to buy the book and read it. If family worship is as biblically clear as the promo seems to imply, I wonder why the majority of Christians are so unacquainted with the practice.

If families are neglecting learning the Word together and praying together, this is clearly going against the Bible's teaching, but family worship the way us reformed people propose it, isn't patterned in the Bible. At the church we are now members at, our pastor said that when checking up on us his questions wouldn't be if we are regularly doing family worship, but if I am raising my children in the Lord, if I am washing my wife in the Word, etc. So basically he would hold us accountable to the Bible and not a man-made system.

We used to do formal feeling structured worship everyday, now it is much more organic and free-flowing. At breakfast we pray and then we read a verse and talk about it for a few minutes while eating. Before I leave for work each day, I tell everyone that I love them and God loves them too. At night before bed we do a devotional time, and it doesn't always look the same. Sometimes it's a video, other times reading a passage, other times just talking about life lessons. We pray, and sometimes sing when we feel like it.

I used to try to make it very methodological and liturgical, now it's just natural. I'm kind of interested to know Baxter's take.
Family worship doesn't have to follow some ideal liturgy, nor does it need to be the same for your family as what works for other families. If someone has given you the idea that you aren't doing it the proper Reformed way if you don't do it their way, then you have been misled.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
I'm intrigued. Have you actually read this book? I ask because I'm generally wary of Baxter leaning toward legalism, functionally even if not formally, and because family worship is one of those areas where parents can very quickly feel condemned and easily become functional legalists even without someone telling them what they have to do to be godly parents—which only makes it worse.
Very much on point. I had a family move here from a different state. The husband confessed to me, confidentially, that his family had missed devotions twice the preceding week. He was very concerned that he was falling short.

We talked over his motives and what it was that was making him feel guilty. He acknowledged that he was going at it through a checklist approach but homework was starting to eat up time.

His biggest concern was he had stepped on some sort of crack and would face discipline or other reprisal. I had to shake my head. He and his wife spend a lot of time every day shepherding his children. They are a delightful family.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
I'm kind of intrigued to learn more about his thoughts, but I guess not interested enough to buy the book and read it. If family worship is as biblically clear as the promo seems to imply, I wonder why the majority of Christians are so unacquainted with the practice.

If families are neglecting learning the Word together and praying together, this is clearly going against the Bible's teaching, but family worship the way us reformed people propose it, isn't patterned in the Bible. At the church we are now members at, our pastor said that when checking up on us his questions wouldn't be if we are regularly doing family worship, but if I am raising my children in the Lord, if I am washing my wife in the Word, etc. So basically he would hold us accountable to the Bible and not a man-made system.

We used to do formal feeling structured worship everyday, now it is much more organic and free-flowing. At breakfast we pray and then we read a verse and talk about it for a few minutes while eating. Before I leave for work each day, I tell everyone that I love them and God loves them too. At night before bed we do a devotional time, and it doesn't always look the same. Sometimes it's a video, other times reading a passage, other times just talking about life lessons. We pray, and sometimes sing when we feel like it.

I used to try to make it very methodological and liturgical, now it's just natural. I'm kind of interested to know Baxter's take.

If my minister asked husbands if they were "washing their wife in the Word" I would be quite disturbed. Please, what does "washing one's wife in the Word" look like? This is done, I assume, in a "spiritual bathtub", with the "sponge of Truth"?
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
What is so complicated about morning and evening family worship? Pray, sing a psalm, read a portion of Scripture, pray. Simple. If fathers can't manage that then there is a big problem.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
What is so complicated about morning and evening family worship? Pray, sing a psalm, read a portion of Scripture, pray. Simple. If fathers can't manage that then there is a big problem.
Morning AND evening? Do you find that you are to do that regularly with your family. I’m up 515 or earlier and out the door sometimes before everyone or often anyone is up. My wife does bible teaching as part of homeschooling and we do family worship in evenings that I lead if I’m home.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
If my minister asked husbands if they were "washing their wife in the Word" I would be quite disturbed. Please, what does "washing one's wife in the Word" look like? This is done, I assume, in a "spiritual bathtub", with the "sponge of Truth"?
From Bibleref.

"Ephesians 5:26, ESV: "that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,"

The practical reasons husbands are to love their wives are offered in verses 26 and 27. To "sanctify" means to set apart or make holy. A godly husband who shows love for his wife helps her grow spiritually. Also mentioned is the idea of cleansing via a study of Scripture. This appears to include the idea of helping a wife with spiritual growth by mutual discipleship.

What Christian husband would not want his wife to grow spiritually? The desire is there, but the cost is great. To help a wife grow in holy living and biblical understanding involves a level of personal growth. It requires both love for one's wife and a serious commitment to helping her. And, of course, it requires a husband to be personally committed to serious study of the faith, himself. Many applications exist, but the principle is clear: a wife's spiritual growth can best be enhanced by a godly husband who shows love to her."

We can only hold people accountable to the Bible, not man-made instructions. Is family worship the way Presbyterians practice it good and sensible? Yes. Is it a mandate from God? No. Therefore we can't burden people like the Pharisees were doing. I get it, it is a system that we can feel superior in and can become prideful about, but that doesn't mean we should judge anyone negatively for practicing differently when God hasn't.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Let us not overcomplicate things. Plus, we all benefit from the discipline of having a routine.
Yes, routines are usually helpful for most families. Certainly, my family benefits from having a routine that includes family worship, and from having more routines for conducting that time. I recommend having routines.

At the same time (no longer responding to Daniel, who didn't say any of this), it is usually not helpful to feel as if your family's routine must measure up to some supposed Reformed standard, or to get scolded if there are times the routine gets set aside, or to be told it ought to be easy for you. Even the simplest spiritual disciplines encounter attack, so that they seldom feel easy for very long—especially if they are working. One of the devil's ploys is to make parents feel like losers if their kids are resistant or if the devotional time doesn't seem robust enough. We should be content enough with departure from routine that we don't fall into that trap.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
From Bibleref.

"Ephesians 5:26, ESV: "that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,"

The practical reasons husbands are to love their wives are offered in verses 26 and 27. To "sanctify" means to set apart or make holy. A godly husband who shows love for his wife helps her grow spiritually. Also mentioned is the idea of cleansing via a study of Scripture. This appears to include the idea of helping a wife with spiritual growth by mutual discipleship.

What Christian husband would not want his wife to grow spiritually? The desire is there, but the cost is great. To help a wife grow in holy living and biblical understanding involves a level of personal growth. It requires both love for one's wife and a serious commitment to helping her. And, of course, it requires a husband to be personally committed to serious study of the faith, himself. Many applications exist, but the principle is clear: a wife's spiritual growth can best be enhanced by a godly husband who shows love to her."

We can only hold people accountable to the Bible, not man-made instructions. Is family worship the way Presbyterians practice it good and sensible? Yes. Is it a mandate from God? No. Therefore we can't burden people like the Pharisees were doing. I get it, it is a system that we can feel superior in and can become prideful about, but that doesn't mean we should judge anyone negatively for practicing differently when God hasn't.

That verse refers to Christ's work, not the husband's. The husband is to follow Christ's example in His love for the church, and Paul shows how Christ exhibited that love in particulars. The husband is not to sanctify the wife. He cannot sanctify the wife. I find it strange that simple, orderly family worship that needn't take up much time is considered somehow a burden or legalistic, but fanciful, vague notions such as "washing one's wife in the Word" are somehow easier to put into practice. A vague phrase to cover vague work for which one cannot be held accountable it seems to me, unlike regular, orderly, simple, Biblical worship.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
I see what you're saying. I do see how it is biblical for a husband to be held accountable in taking part in his wife's sanctification. I think that's exactly what the passage in Ephesians is getting at. I don't however think it is biblical to hold somebody accountable to what the Bible doesn't, which would entail how to worship God as a family, when to do it, etc.

I once sent a Joel Beeke clip on family worship to some of my old pastors. They dismissed it. That's not something they are required to do with their families in my opinion, though I thought it would have been very helpful for them.
 

Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
Sorry to do a hit and run, everyone. I will do my best to respond when I can.

My little bit of free time has dwindled even more with a newborn.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
From Bibleref.

"Ephesians 5:26, ESV: "that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,"

The practical reasons husbands are to love their wives are offered in verses 26 and 27. To "sanctify" means to set apart or make holy. A godly husband who shows love for his wife helps her grow spiritually. Also mentioned is the idea of cleansing via a study of Scripture. This appears to include the idea of helping a wife with spiritual growth by mutual discipleship.

What Christian husband would not want his wife to grow spiritually? The desire is there, but the cost is great. To help a wife grow in holy living and biblical understanding involves a level of personal growth. It requires both love for one's wife and a serious commitment to helping her. And, of course, it requires a husband to be personally committed to serious study of the faith, himself. Many applications exist, but the principle is clear: a wife's spiritual growth can best be enhanced by a godly husband who shows love to her."

We can only hold people accountable to the Bible, not man-made instructions. Is family worship the way Presbyterians practice it good and sensible? Yes. Is it a mandate from God? No. Therefore we can't burden people like the Pharisees were doing. I get it, it is a system that we can feel superior in and can become prideful about, but that doesn't mean we should judge anyone negatively for practicing differently when God hasn't.

It seems you're judging me or Presbyterian Churches which require family worship from their people, reading our hearts and ascribing pride to us. From the very first day of Creation there was a morning and evening pattern established. Are we to suppose Adam worshipped only on the Sabbath day? I think the Scriptural example of daily worship within the family, and not restricted to the sabbath day, is pretty clear. It is also a good and necessary consequence of the Christian life.

You quote favourably that exposition of Ephesians and yet it contains no actual practical instruction on how to achieve the principles it extols. The idea that regular family worship is somehow not even a part of what that commentary is talking about is bizarre, as is the notion that it is a burden. It's very easy to talk big talk about helping one's wife grow spiritually, and studying the Word, but if a family can't even find 15-20 minutes twice a day to actually worship God then there's not much spiritual growth or studying the Word happening. But then it's much harder to hold someone to account on their "serious commitment to helping" his wife than it is to regular times of family worship.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
Yes, routines are usually helpful for most families. Certainly, my family benefits from having a routine that includes family worship, and from having more routines for conducting that time. I recommend having routines.

At the same time (no longer responding to Daniel, who didn't say any of this), it is usually not helpful to feel as if your family's routine must measure up to some supposed Reformed standard, or to get scolded if there are times the routine gets set aside, or to be told it ought to be easy for you. Even the simplest spiritual disciplines encounter attack, so that they seldom feel easy for very long—especially if they are working. One of the devil's ploys is to make parents feel like losers if their kids are resistant or if the devotional time doesn't seem robust enough. We should be content enough with departure from routine that we don't fall into that trap.
That's all very well and true but who is pushing burdensome routine on Christians? Yes routines can be put aside because of an extreme exigency. Who denies this? Yes sometimes family worship can be hard but is that a reason to forego because the kids are complaining or you're tired? Would you not pray one day because you're tired or you feel dead inside? Sounds like the perfect time to pray. If a family can manage to have breakfast and dinner every day they can have a short, simple period of family worship. We make sure we get our physical feeding but our spiritual feeding is more important and indeed we are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these things shall be added unto us.

Yes the spiritual life can be hard. But when it is hard that is when it's most important to keep in the path of duty, which is the safest place for the Christian. We are commanded to worship God.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
It seems you're judging me or Presbyterian Churches which require family worship from their people, reading our hearts and ascribing pride to us. From the very first day of Creation there was a morning and evening pattern established. Are we to suppose Adam worshipped only on the Sabbath day? I think the Scriptural example of daily worship within the family, and not restricted to the sabbath day, is pretty clear. It is also a good and necessary consequence of the Christian life.

You quote favourably that exposition of Ephesians and yet it contains no actual practical instruction on how to achieve the principles it extols. The idea that regular family worship is somehow not even a part of what that commentary is talking about is bizarre, as is the notion that it is a burden. It's very easy to talk big talk about helping one's wife grow spiritually, and studying the Word, but if a family can't even find 15-20 minutes twice a day to actually worship God then there's not much spiritual growth or studying the Word happening. But then it's much harder to hold someone to account on their "serious commitment to helping" his wife than it is to regular times of family worship.
I primarily speak of myself, because I used to be there and the way I treated theological matters actually turned some Christians away from me. I used to be very prideful about my doctrines, and I've been around quite a few friends that have done the same.

Are you able to show me where Adam and Eve worshiped God morning and evening from the beginning of creation? Can you show me a Bible passage where God commands his people to do formal worship everyday, twice a day?

My point is that people should not be held to a standard that is not biblical. You are right, that passage in Ephesians is pretty vague, and that is okay. There is no one size fits all for this stuff. It's the principle that really matters, and each individual circumstance is different. An elder has every right to ask a husband if he is teaching his children the things of God, and if he is praying with his wife, and if she is being loved, etc. He doesn't need to be micromanaged, as this typically is not a good form of oversight. In my opinion, an elder does not have authority to enforce a certain way of discipline towards children, or a certain time and liturgy of worship, or anything else that God has given us freedom in. This is the exact problem that the Pharisees had. We do what is biblical, and we cannot bind anyone past that.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
That's all very well and true but who is pushing burdensome routine on Christians? Yes routines can be put aside because of an extreme exigency. Who denies this? Yes sometimes family worship can be hard but is that a reason to forego because the kids are complaining or you're tired? Would you not pray one day because you're tired or you feel dead inside? Sounds like the perfect time to pray. If a family can manage to have breakfast and dinner every day they can have a short, simple period of family worship. We make sure we get our physical feeding but our spiritual feeding is more important and indeed we are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these things shall be added unto us.

Yes the spiritual life can be hard. But when it is hard that is when it's most important to keep in the path of duty, which is the safest place for the Christian. We are commanded to worship God.
I agree that the times you don't feel like it tend to be the times you most need to push ahead and keep to your routine. That's true of any of the disciplines.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
I primarily speak of myself, because I used to be there and the way I treated theological matters actually turned some Christians away from me. I used to be very prideful about my doctrines, and I've been around quite a few friends that have done the same.

Are you able to show me where Adam and Eve worshiped God morning and evening from the beginning of creation? Can you show me a Bible passage where God commands his people to do formal worship everyday, twice a day?

My point is that people should not be held to a standard that is not biblical. You are right, that passage in Ephesians is pretty vague, and that is okay. There is no one size fits all for this stuff. It's the principle that really matters, and each individual circumstance is different. An elder has every right to ask a husband if he is teaching his children the things of God, and if he is praying with his wife, and if she is being loved, etc. He doesn't need to be micromanaged, as this typically is not a good form of oversight. In my opinion, an elder does not have authority to enforce a certain way of discipline towards children, or a certain time and liturgy of worship, or anything else that God has given us freedom in. This is the exact problem that the Pharisees had. We do what is biblical, and we cannot bind anyone past that.

A good place to start would be WCF 21:6 and the proof texts given for daily family worship: Deut 6:6-7; 2 Sam 6:18, 20; Job 1:5; Jer 10:25; Acts 10:2; 1 Pet 3:7. Mat 6:11.

But I would argue the very nature of the Christian life requires daily set apart times of worship whether one has a family or lives alone. And I would also warn you against always seeking a specific bible verse to support every single action or point of doctrine. People who do this think they are upholding Scripture but they are actually undermining it. The Bible is not a textbook, or a directory of Questions and Answers. Daily family worship has been held as an essential element of Christian piety for a very long time. We see throughout Scripture the reality of distinctive individual religion, family religion and communal/state religion.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
I personally think you make good points, and I do faithfully lead my family to the throne of grace multiple times a day.

But I don't think the proof texts do the topic justice at all. I think they just support the idea that families should pursue the things of God together, and it's up to them how they actually do that ;)
 
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