Why I am not a Methodist

Everyone expects me to say “Predestination” or something. But that’s so far down the list that I’ll forget to even mention it.

There are three things that prevent me from becoming a Methodist. (1) The entry and exit of “the light” (i.e. a child carrying a candle/snuffer contraption that walks down the aisle to light candles at the start of the service, and at the end, after snuffing, processes back up the aisle. (2) The “passing of the peace” (cupping your hands to receive the invisible stuff that your neighbor “pours in” which you then “pass on.”) (3) Greeting the people sitting next to you as a ritual part of the service.

I actually visited the local Methodist church Sunday before last, but told myself, “self, if they do any of those three things, we’re leaving.”

I left.

So I was gratified to see Garrison Keilor write,

There are basically two types of Americans and the first is the type that most of the world considers typical: the Americans who when the big smiley preacher stands in the pulpit and says, “How about everybody turn around and shake hands with the person behind you and give them a big howdy!” they all turn around and shake and say howdy and feel sort of uplifted by this. And then there are the Americans who would do anything to avoid this, including staying away from church entirely.

It is an aesthetic insight in the first place. But it points to a deep principle.

If God commands something that we find distasteful, we must of course do it. But not when man commands it.

Understanding this, is one entry into the Regulative Principle. Men are prohibited from commanding things in worship based merely on what they think is good.

The deeper insight is, that only God could possibly specify what pleases him in worship. Anything other than this is finally a denial of the Creator/creature distinction.

I submit that the Regulative Principle of Worship, not Predestination, is the rock-bottom fundament of the Reformed Church.

11 thoughts on “Why I am not a Methodist

  1. Perhaps each age has its own cultural milieu/besetting sin/focus of theological ignorance which necessitates bringing to the forefront a particular issue. For Luther it was justification by faith alone, for Calvin it was election. For our time, the regulative principle of worship.

  2. TJH

    Are the Methodists part of the HCC? If not, I would think that would be the main thing preventing you from joining their group. (I’m trying to get you to do your next HCC installment!)

    Also, at some point there must be room for adiaphora in worhship. How do we know what the limits and parameters are with such things indifferent. We pass around the “friendhip register” during worship at our PCA church, which I find to be annyoing, unnecessary, and downright distracting. But I feel more comfortable making a practial argument against that, rather than a RPW one. What do you think?

    Thanks much

  3. I’m not TJH, but I’m throwing in my thought on your question.
    The parts of worship are singing of psalms, reading and hearing of Scripture, preaching, prayer, the Lord’s Supper & baptism, and occasional fasting and vows and thanksgiving. The other stuff should be relegated to outside worship. Stuff “common to all societies” is the phrase that is supposed to cover the other. Matters like air conditioning, what you sit on, how you come in and out, whether kids are around or not are probably up for grabs. (The WCF doesn’t mention giving of alms except in the Directory following the Lord’s Supper). It can be handled technically outside the “worship service” in a locked box in the back of the room.

    The problem with practical arguments is that other people will not have a practical problem so it’s just you & your opinion against them and theirs. One person told me that saying the Apostles’ Creed (and other creeds and confessions)in worship was helpful to him, so he favored it. Well, that’s no help to figuring things out principially. What if it’s not to me? The idea of what’s good in God’s opinion is sometimes not even considered. (Does God have “opinions”?)

  4. Hey, that’s interesting. I never thought about the offering’s possibly being outside the RPW. Any other thoughts on that?

  5. I will answer myself. On the face of it, there does seem to be considerable OT and NT warrant for that.

  6. ElizaF,

    Thanks for your comments. I guess I should have mentioned that I don’t buy the Reg Principle of Worhsip. The reason I’m willing to make practical arguments about worship, is because once the RPW is found to be lacking scriptural justification (my position), then I’m not sure what you’re left with besides pracitial agruments.

    There are problems with practical arguments, for sure, but I believe there are a areas in life, in the abense of biblical guidance, where they are needed.

    I agree with Schlissel, that, “The RPW is a mistake, but if you have to make a mistake this is a very fine one.” Because I think it’s a fine mistake, I guess you could say I’m still a potential convert on the subject! I just have some questions about it. Perhaps I’ll share them over the course of this thread. Thanks again

  7. Wouldn’t the RPW be conceptually inescapable…the only question being who regulates it? It would seem a scary thing to think for a moment that anyone but God could be the proper regulator, and how could we possibly know what pleases him apart from the regulations he reveals in Scripture? Just my thoughts, and I’d love to hear more on this topic (from those on both sides).

  8. Eliza (#1) — in my reading of Calvin, the RPW is closely tied to the more general topic of the aseity and (thus) self-disclosure of God; if anything, Predestination is a consequence of that, rather than a starting point. (And Calvin took justification by faith as settled; he was driving deeper, as I’m sure you agree.) So I see RPW and its coupled doctrines as pervasive in the Institutes, right from the opening chapters; and the keystone to his theology.

    This is why (Joshua, #6) I think Schlissel misses something huge. To not see RPW taught (esp in OT but also NT) throughout Scripture is to miss the elephant in the living room. It is analogous to the mistake commonly made even by “evangelicals” who do not see creation ex nihilo taught in Gen 1 (e.g. Wenham, Waltke, Goldingay). To miss it is to confuse “syntactic possibility” with how to read a text as Word of the living and true God.

    But this reminds me that I promised Schlissel a long time ago to unpack this theme from Calvin, and never made good on the promise; so I think I will add this to the list of topics to cover.

    At this point, however, already the topic has gone way deeper than I intended by this post. Here, I was simply capitalizing on the thing I read in Garrison Keilor, which led to the reflection that an aesthetic intuition can be a pointer to something theologically profound. More later…

  9. Every time I see the regulative principle put to use I see some kind of argument from ignorance resulting as a means of someone trying to enforce their preferences. (Which is strangely ironic considering that the RP supposedly eliminates personal preferences.)

    Exclusive psalmody is a fine example. In this case, a dislike of hand-shaking.

  10. Well Keith, keep thinking. I know psalm-singers that would prefer to sing good-ole american tent revival hymns, but feel constrained by their understanding of the scripture and logic to require psalms only despite their subjective preference.

    Also, you should distinguish between the positive and negative thesis. There is a big difference between “I like X, therefore we should do X” and “I dislike X, therefore show me why we should have to do X.”

  11. Ah yes Keith,
    The argument of ingnorance attack on Exclusive Psalmody needs more defence than just your say so.I have read a good number of works on said subject and find them done very well to the point of me agreeing to them, i just need a little more of a push and i would be in the camp.
    That said, the “handshake” if we are dealing with the “pass the peace” or even a general greet your “neighbor” is a problem in that as people of Christ do we need the proding of gimmicks to do what we are already required to do? I think that is the bigger issue. I know when i attend churches that is one of the tests, that is i find an area in the open and just stand there drinking coffee or tea and wait for the myriads of people to say “hi”. Well sad to say even in churches where I have spent much time, this does not happen often. People talk in the little circle that is comfortable to them. So this faux relationship thing is an affront to the real and needed warmth of the body of Christ.
    Spend some time in Acts or the Epistles and ask yourself does my church do this well??
    In fact as i write this a little church comes to mind that we visit, they are Korean and some speak very little english. At the end of the service they have a meal time and we get greeted and fed like a king when there.They can’t speak well they try to be very polite and give me all the attention like i was the only one there. When i leave i thank God for the hospitality and desire to serve one such as i….btw i also bring the family and trust me we take up alot of room even in big churches …so we are hard to miss.
    s. hoffmeister

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