You’ve just read an essay that tells you the purchase of cabbage is a profoundly moral act that either pleases or displeases God. The same essay – one that purports to uphold the regulative principle of worship – ends with the approval of drama in a worship service. And, between those two positions is a frank rejection of a section of the Westminster Confession of Faith which happens to be the confession of the author’s (John Frame’s) church.
If you’re like me, you might first say “huh?” Then you might re-read the essay like a “whodunit?” Well, let’s do this backwards and start with the answer: worldviewdunit. Now let’s look at what worldview did, and does.
First, the matter of the cabbage:
Is buying cabbage really adiaphoron, morally indifferent? I would say no. Buying cabbage, like all human actions, is a matter of concern to God.. . . If we buy cabbage to the glory of God, he is pleased; if we do not, he is not. The act is not morally indifferent or neutral; it is either good or bad, depending on its goal and motive.
You might have thought you were buying cabbage to go along with your corned beef. While strolling down the grocery aisle, you may have let your thoughts wander in the direction of your job, or whether you would be done with your shopping in time to watch the Celtics play the Lakers. In other words, you might have purchased that cabbage in the same state of mind that you brush your teeth, drive to work, and drink your morning coffee. You weren’t being reflective, self-conscious or terribly analytical. You were just living.
But just living isn’t up to the worldview standard, by which everything is important, and, moreover, seems to require a 24*7 analytic mode in which everything is mentally prefaced with pondering the glory of God, proof-texting our activities and ceaselessly scrutinizing the moral implications of every act. This all sounds lofty and spiritual, but, frankly, it doesn’t pass the reality sniff test. Certainly there are all kinds of occasions in life that require moral scrutiny and there a plenty of occasions to stop, reflect, and consider the glory of God. But we aren’t created to ceaselessly live that way, the created order doesn’t demand that we live that way, and it would take a kind of self-hypnosis for any of us to convince ourselves that we do live that way. So, first of all, this kind of worldview propulsion pushes us toward a denial of the reality of not only how we live but how we could live.
Fortunately, the Westminster Confession recognizes that we shouldn’t live that way:
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. WCF 20:2
So then there are some things that are “beside” the Bible. This doesn’t sit well with Frame:
the “eloquent semicolon” of WCF 20.2 is misplaced. I say this, not because I believe that the passage is too strict in its view of worship, but because I believe it not strict enough in its conception of how the commandments bear upon everyday life.
At least we can appreciate the frank admission that worldview is incompatible with the WCF. (And then, we also saw the WCF repetition of “light of nature”)
Clearly there’s considerable rigor in the worldview demand upon our everyday lives. But if rigor was the key to understanding Frame’s essay, we would also see it in worship. That’s what it looks like we’re going to get:
So, both in worship and in the rest of life, we should adopt RP1: “Whatever is not commanded is forbidden.” Whenever we are not carrying out (rightly applying) a biblical command, we are committing sin…
But then when it comes to worship, we read
the question is, “is drama a legitimate application of the biblical commands to preach the word?” Is drama a “mode” of preaching or an alternative to it? In my own mind, the former is the case…
If you’re examining the evidence, we’ve been told to be profound and morally scrupulous in our cabbage-buying but drama will be just fine for preaching, thank you. So then we’re looking for something that seems to raise up every aspect of our daily living but, in a desire for 24*7 consistency, actually lowers what happens in a worship service. And that, folks, is the telltale evidence of a particular suspect. Yes, indeed, worldviewdunit.