In my last post, I began a discussion of a few points about diversity (ultimately, about diversity in worship music) that built a bit of framework before we consider Bob Kauflin’s arguments. The first point that I made is that diversity is a proximate, not ultimate, good.
I had said previously that I had three points; the second of the three, however, rolled into the first; I will therefore suggest only one more.
2. The value of diversity, considered within the context of corporate worship, is even more limited.
I am committed to the regulative principle of worship. Because others have written more careful and substantial descriptions and defenses of the regulative principle, I will not attempt anything profound here. The short form of the RP is this: in the context of corporate worship, the church is permitted to do only what Scripture commands it to do.
If the RP is true, there are hosts of good things that the church is simply not permitted to insist that people do in the gathered worship. (If you understand the concept of the RP, you will recognize that, among other things, it protects the liberty of the believer’s conscience.) So, for instance, I noted in a previous post that different cultures have different kinds of greeting rituals. I also contended that these greeting rituals do not all say the same thing; they communicate in different ways, and in so doing, sometimes communicate different messages.
We are commanded in the context of the gathered church to greet one another. While high fives and small talk are not evil (they can, on the contrary, be very good), neither are fair equivalents (in our culture) of the holy kiss (in the NT church); to insist that these elements become part of the gathered worship is, therefore, to violate the RP.
It seems to me that those elements of worship which include the direct participation of the congregation ought to be even more thoughtful about the implications of the RP, as one of its chief purposes is to protect the believer’s conscience. Can we, for instance, rightly insist that the believer sing in church? On the authority of Scripture? I believe that we can.
Can we rightly insist on singing with instruments? Or singing songs of non-inspired composition? Again, I think we can, and that we have Scriptural reasons for saying so. Those who would scoff at such questions demonstrate that they do not take the authority of Scripture in gathered worship seriously enough. Contentious debate has, at various times in church history, surrounded each of these questions; to consider such questions foolish is to engage in a sort of chronological snobbery.
The point of all of this is that the regulative principle, rightly understood, adds constraints to the value of diversity. We may not import elements into corporate worship merely on the basis of our own justification; they must be authorized by our one final rule for faith and practice.