Traveling Thru Here

April 10, 2011

Catechesis Versus Cultus: Dr. R. Scott Clark on the Regulative Principal of Worship [Please, See Comments for Dr. Clark’s Explanation for How I Misunderstood Him]

Filed under: Uncategorized — j.hansen @ 6:58 PM

There is an interesting discussion taking place, regarding the Regulative Principal of Worship, between Dr. R. Scott Clark here and Rev. Lane Keister here.

In his most recent post, Clark makes a distinction between Christian instruction (catechesis) and praise/adoration (cultus). With this distinction I take it that Clark means to say that it is appropriate to impose congregational readings of paraphrases of Biblical truth (e.g., questions and answers from a catechism) in Lord’s Day worship when the main goal is didactic, but where the main goal is doxological, paraphrases of Biblical truth are forbidden. Imposition of paraphrases for teaching, and straight-up Bible-words only for doxology, stems from Clark’s understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture? If so, then is Clark saying that Scripture is sufficient to achieve doxological goals, but not to achieve didactic ones?

Then there is the trickier part of the liturgy: confession of sins. Is confession of sins more doxological or more didactic? Isn’t it on the basis of this the distinction that Clark determines whether to impose paraphrases or the ipsissima verba of Scripture alone? Even if we accept this distinction as the basis of the determination, aren’t some hymns more didactic than doxological?


  1. Hi,

    That’s not what I’m saying! Scripture is PERFECTLY sufficient for didactic purposes. The question is one of office and function. The question is whether the congregation is called to exercise a teaching office in worship or whether Christ has ordained a teaching office. The latter is clearly the case. the congregation’s chief function is to reply to God’s Word with his Word.

    Comment by R. Scott Clark — April 10, 2011 @ 10:16 PM

  2. Hi, Dr. Clark. I am honored that you stopped by to comment and am sincerely sorry for getting you wrong. I’m with you on Christ having ordained a teaching office. Yet, I don’t see how congregational readings of a catechism differs from congregational singing of a non-canonical hymn, assuming that both were vetted, selected, and incorporated into the liturgy at the direction of an ordained teaching officer (from among materials authorized for use in holy Lord’s Day worship by the relevant ecclesiastical body). Both items are paraphrases. Both are non-canonical. Both are uttered aloud by non-clergy. Besides the fact that one is sung and the other is read, is there any other difference between the two besides the distinction you made already (catechesis & cultus)? Or do you consider the RPW as mandating catechetical readings to be performed strictly by a teaching officer while the congregation remain silent (in order to preserve the office and function distinction you mentioned)?

    Comment by j.hansen — April 11, 2011 @ 2:46 AM

    • Hi,

      Take a look at Recovering the Reformed Confession, chapter 7. See also the series of posts on this at the HB. Take a look also at the Directory for Publick Worship. The divines assumed that there are two distinct offices with two distinct functions in worship. Today’s post addresses why we have such trouble with this distinction.

      Comment by R. Scott Clark — April 11, 2011 @ 3:27 PM

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