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Question and Answer

The Doxology, Gloria Patri and the Regulative Principle of Worship

Question:

I have been in several different OPC church services over the years and wondered why the Doxology and the Gloria Patri as well as the historic creeds are sung/recited in corporate worship. I understand that the OPC subscribes to the Regulative Principle of Worship. How do these practices fit into this principle as they seem to be more of church tradition rather than commanded in the Scriptures? I am trying to understand the reasoning.

Answer:

Thanks for your question sent to the OPC website regarding the regulative principle and the use of some hymns and creeds.

Like many Reformed denominations, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is committed to the regulative principle of worship, which insists that God requires worship only according to what is expressly commanded in the Bible (Conf. of Faith 21.1ff, Deut. 12:32).

But, as you may know, what the regulative principle allows and disallows is a matter of controversy within the Reformed community. We pretty much all agree that God has commanded that the Church sing his praise and offer thanksgiving and that it concern itself with the whole counsel of God.

Insofar as the OPC views itself as the continuation of the Presbyterian Church in the USA as it existed in the 19th Century, its "traditions" (as you call them) reflect the view that hymns that conform to Scripture, though not specifically being Bible passages themselves, are consistent with the regulative principle, that is, with what God has commanded. The body of acceptable hymnody would include the Doxology and the Gloria Patri. You might be interested in reading the OPC General Assembly reports dealing with exclusive psalmody and related matters, Reports of the Committee on Song in Worship, which can be found here on the OPC website.

Likewise, our church finds no inconsistency in the use of confessional statements in worship in so far as they accurately present the teaching of God's Word. The OPC's Directory for the Public Worship of God (II.B.3.b) states, "It is...fitting that the congregation as one body confess its common faith, using creeds that are true to the word of God, such as the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed." These creeds are the historic faith of the Church and as such are instruments for teaching in public worship comparable to a sermon and are also means of addressing God. Just as prayer in general in worship can be either spontaneous or pre-prepared, so historical declarations of faith directed to the Lord are often prayerful, worshipful acts of commitment and renewal. 1 Timothy 3:16 leaves the impression that creeds were uttered in the worship of the early Church.

It should be noted that even within the OPC there is liberty for the local church not to use the creeds or any particular hymn. Many congregations regularly sing the Psalms, but not exclusively. Some congregations choose to sing only the Psalms without instrumental accompaniment.

I hope this brief answer provides a clearer understanding of the OPC's use of certain hymns and creeds.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

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You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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