Director of Reformation Charlotte and Senior Editor of Pulpit and Pen, Jeff Maples, broke the story last week of Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man’s apostasy into the Greek Orthodox Church. Since Pulpit and Pen, and other news sources, have picked up this story a wave of controversy has broken out among Evangelicals. Some are outraged, demanding Hank be fired by the Christian Research Institution. Others are not quite sure this even counts as apostasy. Some have even praised Hank’s “humility”.
As I watch the conversations unfold, I have seen a trending misunderstanding. Some have argued that when it comes to the issue of icons, rosaries, and other Catholic/Greek Orthodox forms of worship deserve a valid place in the principle of worship debate.
There are two principles of worship that Christians argue about. They are the regulative principle and the normative principle. GotQuestions.org gives a good summary of what those principles are:
The regulative principle of worship maintains that Scripture gives specific guidelines for conducting corporate worship services and that churches must not add anything to those guidelines. For example, churches following the regulative principle in worship often do not use musical instruments, since there is no New Testament command or example that would warrant their use in the church. The normative principle is the idea that anything not expressly forbidden by Scripture can be used in corporate worship. One of the foundational differences is that the former considers the Bible’s instructions as a strict code of conduct while the latter sees them as principles to follow. Both hold to the truth of God’s Word, but they differ on whether or not it clearly establishes an unalterable blueprint for corporate worship.
For the sake of this article, I will not engage in the debate of which is correct. Reformed Churches hold to the regulative principle. Often Reformed Churches are treated like theological legalist who are just trying to spoil the fun. Some suggest that the regulative principle is oppressive and doesn’t leave room for different cultures or for the Holy Spirit to move.
“You Calvinist care so much for your theology rather than experiencing God,” is an accusation I have heard all too often. However, I want to point out that both the regulative principle and the normative principle both reject forms of worship that are condemned by scripture.
The use of icons or praying the rosary are unacceptable among other various unbiblical forms of worship. One cannot worship God in a way he has condemned. Worshiping God through the use of icons are condemned by the second commandment (Exodus 20:4-5). Praying the rosary is condemned by both Isaiah 8:19 and Matthew 6:7-8.
Biblical liturgy matters. We need to make sure we worship in spirit and truth. We need to make sure we do not commit the folly of Aarons sons, adding strange fire in worship that God did not command (Leviticus 10:1-2).
Keep Mr. Hanegraaff in your prayers. That God will show him his error, and bring him back to proper worship and doctrine.
Grace and Peace.