The RPW in Private, Family Worship

Discussion in 'Worship' started by Tom Hart, Jun 7, 2019.

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  1. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I have seen or heard a few times that, as well as to the corporate worship of the church, the Regulative Principle applies to private worship and family worship. Recently, I listened to a sermon in which the preacher mentioned that psalms only are to be sung in private and family worship.

    I have never seen the arguments put forward for this view. Would anyone be prepared to elaborate?
  2. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would venture to say that it's a pretty simple argument. It's the Regulative Principle of Worship, no the Regulative Principle of Public Worship. The Lord abhors idols not just in his temple but in the homes of his people as well.

    The idea that the RPW only applies in public worship seems to arise from viewing the RPW as primarily, if not exclusively, an application of the doctrine of the liberty of the conscience and its limiting of church power, rather than also as an application of the second commandment. If will-worship is idolatry then there's no place for it anywhere.
  3. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Junior

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
  4. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    The question arises from a common confusion between the Regulative Principle of Worship and what the Scriptures actually teach about worship. The former is a prerequisite "We must only worship according to the Scriptures"; the latter (including a vast amount of exegesis) is necessary to determine what we should actually do in worship (in gathered or private worship). That's why there are RPW believing Christians who do and don't sing just the psalms. It flows (in some cases at least) from different exegetical analyses. In the same way, Christians who agree passionately about the inerrancy of the Scriptures may disagree about the millennial question. Their exegesis of the key passages varies (and obviously not all exegesis is as good as other exegesis).

    So you could believe in the RPW and think private worship has to be identical to gathered worship. But if you restrict leading of gathered worship to ordained men, that seems to make family worship impossible for most. Or you could believe that the Scriptures teach different goals and standards for family worship. Potentially, some could even believe that only the psalms are to be sung in gathered worship but a wider range of songs is possible in private (worship). If they believe in the RPW, they ought to be able to give you Biblical grounds for their view.

    In practice, most of our family worship is at least somewhat different from gathered worship. We may invite the kids to respond to questions or take part in other ways that we might feel inappropriate for gathered worship. Hopefully, the RPW acts as a caution and check which is constantly challenging us with the question, "Yes, but are you sure this is Biblical?" Until we are convinced in our own mind, we shouldn't feel comfortable about our worship.

    It might be a profitable thread to explore what the Scriptures actually teach distinctively about family worship. It's the sort of thing the Puritans would have loved to explore, and it might also be helpful to recommend Puritan works on the subject. Many people don't know that there is Westminster Directory of Family worship, for example.
  5. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    On the DfFW, this early became a part of the "Westminster Standards," informally via printers trying to outdo themselves with the mostest bestest fullest collection (this culminated in the edition by Lumisden and Robertson of Edinburgh's 1728 edition which set the favored two column format for the scripture proofs; when I still had my collection of WCFs, a 1736 version was my my favorite of all the printings; the collection is now at the PCAHC). The DfFW is one of the exclusively Scottish productions (thus there is no real "Westminster" dfFW), and according to Baillie, the drafted was by Robert Blair, though it is never mentioned in his autobiography and biography continued by his son. One also needs to understand some of the things are pretty history bound (the prohibition of multiple families gather for instance was fear of growth of sects).
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  6. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    I talked with my pastor about this before. His stance is that the RPW primarily has to do with the church coming together formally, as in the call to public gathering. All other worship is not as strictly regulated he would say, but we should be wise and use discretion to best honor God. In reality though, there isn't much of a difference in how it plays out in our family. But for example, if I wanted to dance before God privately he would say is okay, but not to do it in the public gathering.
  7. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I appreciate this broad argument, but it seems not to deal with some finer points.

    Are there not significant differences between corporate worship and private/family worship? For instance (as has been mentioned above), ordained ministers direct corporate worship while the same cannot be done in most families.

    Where such apparent differences exist, how are we to determine what principles apply to gathered worship and what to private/family worship?

    If singing man-made hymns, for example, is considered idolatry in public worship and family worship, then why is the absence of a minister OK in family worship?
  8. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Junior


    I have been wrestling through this as well as of late. Below is how I have been thinking it through from reading various articles and scriptures. When we transition from corporate worship to family (private) worship, then we do have freedom to rightly “subtract” certain things. For example: Formal calls, sacraments, preaching, benediction, etc. Mainly because those things are carried out by an ordained minister and were given to be done with the gathered body.

    However we are not given freedom to “add” things just because we are in our homes (think 2 commandment), otherwise we risk the dangers of “will-worship”. You and I as laymen have the freedom to pray, sing psalms (however you take our confession to mean the word), and read/admonish/encourage our families with the Bible.

    I hope that helps. At least that is where I have been as of late. That article I listed earlier, is written from an EP guy and handles the question wonderfully. He also mentions a psalm/hymn thought .
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
  9. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    My answer from a while back:

    In short, if I am getting technical, I would distinguish bewtween the Second Commandment (we ought only draw near to God to worship Him by means He has appointed) and the RPW (includes the Second Commandment but also concerned with regulating church power and liberty of conscience). However, if instead one defines the RPW so as to equate it with the Second Commandment, then the moral law applies at all times, places, and conditions; so the RPW also applies in private and family worship, i.e., in those contexts too we should worship God only as He has appointed.
  10. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    There has been debate on the PB as to whether we are necessarily worshipping any time we sing to God, or when we sing about God in an instructive, teaching way. My view is that it is an act of worship to do so, whether we are doing so publicly or privately. It’s what my conscience is comfortable with, at least. So singing those kinds of uninspired hymns when outside of public worship has dropped off for me. (I also pray in private the same way I would if I prayed aloud in church. Don’t know if that exactly pertains.)
  11. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Follow up; here is my 2005 research on the development of the traditional form of the Westminster Stardards, from the first issue of The Confessional Presbyterian journal.
  12. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I just don't know where this would end. Is all singing worship, or only songs whose subject matter is religious? If I were to sing Amazing Grace to my son before bed, would that be idolatrous? But then if I sang a sea shanty to him, no problem?
  13. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Tom, welcome to Puritanboard discussions on the RPW. Stumbling blocks galore.
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  14. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean.
  15. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I prefer to stay away from words like idolatrous. My position I explained is just what I’m comfortable with, as stated. I think everyone has to come to a position for themselves on this one. I don’t view those who sing uninspired hymns in family worship as being idolatrous, because I don’t know how God views it.
  16. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    As always, I appreciate your reply.
  17. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    The argument for the RPW is not equivalent to the argument over what God enjoins in worship--apart from answering the objection to the RPW that it is practically impossible. The argument establishing it is, in my view, simple, while the practical working out of it entails some difficulties and may give rise to some differences of application, as Rev. Duguid noted.

    We must recognize that all worship being regulated does not imply that all worship is identical. There is a biblical distinction to public, and private or family worship--I think that we all agree on that--and this being the case there are some things proper to one type that are not proper to others. Thus, when arguing over the elements of public worship we generally insist that the case be made not only that God commends or commands an act, but that he does so in the context of public worship. In the same way, we cannot argue directly from the elements of public worship to those of private--though there may be some analogy. With respect to your question, there is no principle of ordination to be found in scripture respecting private worship. Rather, household worship is described throughout all of the scriptures, whether led by the male head as with Abraham in Genesis 18:19, or, apparently, by the grandmother and mother in Timothy's case (2 Tim 1:5), perhaps due to a lack of male spiritual leadership in the home. It involves elements of reading the scriptures, teaching/catechizing, prayer, and singing (the Psalms, in our home). Unlike public worship, the Word is not preaching authoritatively and the sacraments are not administered.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
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  18. Ben Chomp

    Ben Chomp Puritan Board Freshman

    I would certainly agree that the Bible should regulate our worship at all times. It should regulate how we worship God publicly, with our families, and also privately. I don't believe that the Bible commands exclusive psalmody, however. It's important to note that not everyone who believes in the RPW holds to EP.
  19. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Call hymns and sea shanties anything you want. The simple warrant for what is to be sung in worship toward God is given in scripture.
  20. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    I actually agree with your thoughts, but do have a question: Not all acts of spiritual service and learning are "worship" (in the public, corporate or private sense). It seems especially pertinent in Timothy's case that the allusion to his mother and grandmother are broad, and seem to encompass the manner in which he was raised (sense of care, education, growing up in the faith, etc.). It certainly applies in part to them attending to the means of grace in his life, for which his later life and call into the ministry was evidenced fruit, but does not necessarily indicate anything about their private worship practices, particularly that which they partook in on the Lord's Day. Do you think some, when faced with this conflict of "translating" the RPW into private situations, perhaps conflate even the acts of worship for the Lord's Day as acts that we carry out in equal weight/manner the rest of the days of the week? (Like, do some people maybe teach/catechize or pray or read scriptures on Wednesday like they would on the Lord's Day, and not have a dividing line between what is worship and what may be more part of the Christian education or learning that might take a slightly different form/objective the rest of the week and that be a place of confusion in applying or thinking about these things?)
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