Would John Calvin Excommunicate John Frame?

by Reg Barrow

Introductory information:

In this short letter Reg Barrow replies to an inquirer asking for comments concerning John Frame's claim that the traditional Puritan view of the regulative principle is a "minimalist" view. Also noted in the this post was James Jordan's assertion that the classic view of the regulative principle is sectarian. This discussion, if you would like to see the actual post which kicked it off, took place on the Knox Ring email discussion group (KR960704).

Reg Barrow replies:

I've recently written a book review of Kevin Reed's _Canterbury Tales_
which dealt primarily with James Jordan and his heretical views concerning
worship. It is called "A Warning Against the False and Dangerous Views of
James Jordan Concerning Worship." From the quotes that I have seen here and
elsewhere, taken from Frame's new book, I would say that much of my warning
against Jordan would apply equally well to Frame. This book review may be
helpful and is posted on Still Waters Revival Books (SWRB) web page at:


I have also asked an author that I know (who has already read Frame's
entire book) to produce a review which will warn people of the subtle and
dangerous views that Frame is publicly putting forth.


Kevin Reed's _Canterbury Tales_, is also available (FREE of charge) on
SWRB's web page at:



Furthermore, Carlos Eire's book _War Against the Idols: The Reformation of
Worship from Erasmus to Calvin_ is  an indispensable aid in researching
this topic - especially since Eire does not have an axe to grind concerning
this issue. More information on Eire's scholarly work (published by
Cambridge University Press) is at:


I think that Eire's _War Against the Idols_ proves beyond a shadow of a
doubt that Calvin would have excommunicated both Frame and Jordan without a
second thought - given the idolatrous nature of their beliefs regarding
public worship.

I draw the same *general* conclusion at the end of my article "PSALM
SINGING IN SCRIPTURE & HISTORY" (in the section "Psalmody, Separation, and
the Lord's Supper). This newsletter can be viewed at:



A FREE copy of Calvin's _Necessity of Reforming the Church_, which is most
germane to this subject is also located at:



I would also note that those who introduce innovations into the public
worship of God (contrary to the second commandment) are the real
sectarians; for they destroy the unity of the body of Christ. This topic is
covered in its relation to exclusive Psalmody (in a book which I
republished) in two articles titled "The Catholicity of the Psalter" -
found in _The Psalms in Worship_ edited by John McNaugher (at:



Moreover, the following quote by Jeremiah Burroughs should always be kept
in mind when dealing with the subject of worship:

"The nearer a false worship approaches to a true one, the more dangerous it
is. Israel came nearer to the true worship of God than the heathens: now
the prophet saith not, Though the heathens be idolators, yet let not Judah
be so too; but, "Though Israel play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend."
There was more danger that Judah should be drawn aside by Israel, than that
they should be drawn aside by any of the heathen. And so there is more
danger that we, at this day, should be drawn aside by those that join with
us in many things that are right, than by papists, who are hateful to us,
and whose ways we see to be abominable. There is not so much danger,
especially for those that profess godliness, of being drawn aside by those
who grossly violate the laws of God, as by brethren that join with us in
many things that are right, and come very near to the true worship of
God... We must not approach places calculated to draw us into sin,
especially to false worship... It is dangerous to indulge curiosity in
visiting places of idolatry..."

("Comments on Hosea 4:15 by Jeremiah Burroughs [1599-1646]" cited in _The
Original Covenanter and Contending Witness_ magazine [vol. 1, #19, Sept.
10/93, pp. 416-417], Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Publishing, write:
P.O. Box 131, Pottstown, PA 19464 USA for a free sample issue).



_Biblical Worship_ by Kevin Reed
_Concerning Close Communion_ by W.J. McKnight
_Shunning the Unlawful Rights of the Ungodly_ by John Calvin
_Reformation Worship and Separation from Idolatry_ by Reg Barrow
_The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas_ by Brian Schwertly
_Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church_ by J.L. Girardeau
_The Songs of Zion: A Contemporary Case for Exclusive Psalmody_ by M. Bushell
_Foundation for Reformation: The Regulative Principle of Worship_ by Greg Price
_Making Shipwreck of the Faith: Evangelicals and Catholics Together_ by K. Reed
_The Badge of Popery: Musical Instruments in Public Worship_ by R.J. George
_Paleopresbyterianism Versus Neopresbyterianism_ by Michael Wagner
_A Dispute Against English Popish Ceremonies_ by George Gillespie
_Westminster Confession of Faith_ by the Westminster Divines
_Selected Writings of John Knox_ by John Knox
_Close Communion_ by R.J. George

All titles above available from Still Waters Revival Books at: http://www.swrb.com/pcopy/photoc.htm.


END KNOX RING (URL's in "Item #1" above have been updated from original posting)


All free resources noted below are at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/newslett.htm

For a look at the controversy that ensued following the publiction of the this letter on the Knox Ring, see:
Saul In the Cave of Adullam: A Testimony Against the Fashionable, Sub-Calvinism of Doug Wilson (Editor of Credenda/Agenda Magazine); and, For Classical Protestantism and the Attainments of the Second Reformation by Reg Barrow.

Free at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/Saul.htm

For more specific information concerning Calvin's view of the Lord's Supper and excommunication see:
Calvin, Close Communion and the Coming Reformation by Reg Barrow.

Free at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/CalvinCC.htm

See Kevin Reed's recent review of Frame's new book Worship in Spirit and Truth, titled
Presbyterian Worship: Old and New for a short (but detailed) look at the major differences between Frame and the older Reformers.

Free at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/FrameWor.htm

The book, The Canterbury Tales: An Extended Review and Commentary Based upon the Geneva Papers, critiquing James Jordan's views regarding worship, can be purchased from Still Waters Revival Books at the address listed below.

An electronic version is also available free of charge on our web page at:
The Canterbury Tales: An Extended Review and Commentary Based upon the Geneva Papers

Free at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/Canterbu.htm

Still Waters Revival Books, 4710-37A Ave., Edmonton, AB, Canada T6L 3T5
(Reformation resources at great discounts!)
E-mail: swrb@swrb.com
Home page at:


Reformation Worship Sale

Westminster Confession of Faith Super Sale

Steve Schlissel Versus Reformation Worship (Super Sale)

Puritan Bookshelf CD Series Super Sale

Reformed Presbytery (RPNA, Covenanters)
(reconstituted after 113 years) Super Sale

Covenanter Sale

Doctrinal Integrity: The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions and Adherence to Our Doctrinal Standards by Samuel Miller

The Covenanted Reformation Defended Against Contemporary Schismatics: A Response and Antidote Primarily to the Neopresbyterian Malignancy and Misrepresentations, and the Manufactured "Steelite" Controversy, Found in Richard Bacon's A Defense Departed; With a Refutation of Bacon's Independency, Popery, Arminianism, Anabaptism and Various Other Heresies (Including an Exhibition of His Opposition to Scripture and the Covenanted Reformation, in General; and His Opposition to John Calvin, John Knox, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland [Especially 1638-1649], Samuel Rutherford, George Gillespie, the Testimony of the Covenanter Martyrs, the Reformed Presbytery, the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton and a Host of Other Prominent Reformers from Past Generations, in Particular) -- With Copious Notes on Mr. Bacon's Backsliding and His Blackening of the Blue Banner; as Well as Various Replies to Other Modern Malignants by Greg Barrow (Greg Price, Reg Barrow, Larry Birger, et al.) (Though set in the context of a debate with one individual, this book addresses a number of specific problems which plague the Presbyterian and Reformed churches of our day in general. "It conclusively and irrefutably demonstrates that those churches which today call themselves Presbyterian [and even many which claim a more general Reformed heritage] have grievously departed from the Scriptural standards and principles of the previous Spirit led Reformations [of the 16th and 17th centuries]. This will become progressively [and painfully] clear as the reader witnesses evidence upon evidence of defection from biblically based Reformation attainments (Phil. 3:16) -- and the burying and/or removing of the ancient Reformation landmarks. Ultimately, when the testimony and evidence [presented in this book] is weighed in light of Scriptural verities, it is entirely safe to say that the original Reformers would not only have sought negative ecclesiastical sanctions against our modern pseudo-Reformers, but in many cases negative civil sanctions as well," writes Reg Barrow in the "Publisher's Preface." This book, of over 300 [8.5" X 11"] pages, is also offered as a cerlox bound photocopy [$14.98 US funds] or a Hardcover photocopy [$25.00 US funds]. It is also free on most of the CDs in both the REFORMATION BOOKSHELF CD set [30 CDs, http://www.swrb.com/Puritan/reformation-bookshelf-CDs.htm ] and the PURITAN BOOKSHELF CD set [32 CDs, http://www.swrb.com/Puritan/puritan-bookshelf-CDs.htm ])

All titles below available from Still Waters Revival Books at: http://www.swrb.com/pcopy/photoc.htm.



Reformation Worship and Separation from Idolatry
In two parts: 1. "The Regulative Principle of Worship in History" and 2. "Psalm Singing in Scripture and History." Part one explains, defends and chronicles the Reformation use of the regulative principle as the basis of all faithful public worship. Part two defends exclusive Psalmody, demonstrating that this position is nothing less than our Reformation heritage, based on the second commandment. It argues, on the foundation of a biblically close communion, that Christians should separate themselves ecclesiastically from those who do not practice exclusive Psalmody. Hard teaching, but faithful to Scriptures and the original intent of the Westminster Standards. Part two free at: http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualnls/crtpssing.htm.


A Warning Against the False and Dangerous Views of James Jordan Concerning Worship: A Book Review of Kevin Reed's Canterbury Tales
This book review demonstrates how James Jordan's views on worship are seriously flawed and how his writings "often show more charity toward Papists, than toward the Reformed faith" (p. 28, Canterbury Tales).


Necessity of Reforming the Church (1544)
C.H. Spurgeon once said, "[t]he longer I live the clearer does it appear that John Calvin's system is the nearest to perfection." (cited in Christian History magazine, Vol. 5, No. 4). Credenda Agenda reviewed this book stating, "the relevance of Calvin's book today is exceptional. Apart from the grace of God, the human heart never changes. Men have always loved external religion, and unless God saves them, they always will. But God demands heart religion... His writing is relevant because the church today is in dire need of a similar reformation and revival. Like Calvin, some few believers today see 'the present condition of the Church... to be very miserable, and almost desperate.' Our context is different in one key respect however. The church needing reformation in Calvin's day was the tradition-encrusted church of Rome. Shortly after the Reformation, for those leaving Rome behind, two streams became apparent. One was the stream of classical Protestant orthodoxy, represented today by a handful of Gideons in their desktop publishing winevats. The other was the left wing of the Reformation - the anabaptist movement. In the early years, the anabaptists were suffering outsiders. But today the anabaptist church is the Establishment - an establishment governed by a chaos of traditions instead of biblical worship. Everywhere we look we see Christians approaching God with observances in worship which Calvin calls 'the random offspring of their own brain.'" Though this work is not an elaborate systematic presentation of the foundations of Christianity, such as Calvin's Institutes, it has still been correctly acknowledged as one of the most important documents of the Reformation. Calvin here pleads the cause dearest to his heart before an assembly perhaps the most august that Europe could have furnished in that day. It has been said that the animated style used by Calvin in this work would not lose by comparison with any thing in the celebrated "Dedication" prefixed to his Institutes. To this day, The Necessity of Reforming the Church remains a powerful weapon, both defensive and offensive, to fight the contemporary battle for Protestantism - the everlasting gospel of truth. Here, in our modern setting, we find the answers to many of the vexing questions which continue to agitate the Church.


War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin

Eire shows that as the Reformation progressed the primary focus of the Reformers became upholding God's sovereign prerogative in worship -- what today is called the regulative principle of worship. Eire's _War Against the Idols_ demonstrates the extent of the Reformers clear condemnation of Arminianism in worship (i.e. will-worship [Col. 2:23]) in rejecting all elements of worship that did not have Scriptural warrant. In fact, Calvin was so intent on highlighting this point, concerning the centrality of worship (and the application of *Sola Scriptura* as exhibited in the regulative principle of worship), that he placed worship ahead of salvation in his list of the two most important elements of Biblical Christianity.

Regarding Calvin's On the Necessity of Reforming the Church Eire notes,

Calvin speaks about the nature of worship and about the seriousness of the sin of idolatry in his 1543 treatise, On the Necessity of Reforming the Church, where he concentrates on the significance of worship for the Christian religion. Calvin's argument, as indicated by the title of the treatise, is that the Church had reached such a corrupt state that its reform could wait no longer. The most significant aspect of corruption singled out by Calvin is the perversion of worship, and it is in explaining this issue that he set forth the basis for his attack on idolatry.

Calvin begins by studying the place that worship holds in the Christian faith, and he concludes that it is one of the two elements that define Christianity:

"If it be asked, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, viz., a knowledge first, of the right way to worship God; and secondly of the source from which salvation is to be sought. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name of Christians, our profession is empty and vain."

(War Against the Idols, p. 198 citing from Calvin's On the Necessity of Reforming the Church )

The scholarly translational work found in Eire's book also gives insights into the worship question not found in any other English history books (concerning Calvin, Knox, and a host of others) -- for it contains much from previously untranslated (into English that is) Reformation documents.

A large portion of this book centers on Calvin, but its major thrust is to reveal the single most burning issue confronting the Reformers: purity of worship! Furthermore, this book's teaching regarding the Reformers (and their view of the Scriptural law of worship) is as applicable today as it was in the days of the first Reformation -- for it demonstrates the time tested Biblical principles which guard against the errors, excesses, and idolatries of the Roman harlot, Eastern Orthodoxy and all liturgical innovators on one hand and the modern "evangelicals," Anabaptists and Charismatics on the other. This is, without a doubt, one of the best Reformation history books available -- stirring, scholarly, relevant and edifying!

As far as we know this book may be out of print in the near future, so those interested would be advised to obtain a copy as soon as possible.


A Warning Against Backsliding, False Worship and False Teachers
Exposes the subtlety of false worship and false teachers and counsels all Christians to remove themselves from under ministries that practice such things. Promotes family religion and house gatherings in times of great declension and apostasy (such as ours). Flavel (1627-1691) was a English Presbyterian (Puritan) who was ejected for nonconformity to the dictates of the forces of Antichrist in the "great ejection" of 1662.

KNOX, JOHN (Kevin Reed, editor)

Selected Writings of John Knox
This book sets forth the works of Knox with contemporary spelling, punctuation and grammar. It is possibly the most important publishing event of 1995! It has been over 100 years since Knox's Works were published in a collected edition. The editor has done a splendid job of including the writings of Knox that would most speak to our day. In fact, given the present state of religion in general, it is hard to imagine another (uninspired) author, living or dead, that should be considered as important as Knox.


Making Shipwreck of the Faith: Evangelicals and Roman Catholics Together (1995)
n 1994, a group of prominent evangelicals and Roman Catholics issued a statement of cooperation entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium (ECT). The document has provoked numerous articles and books assailing the evangelical signatories to the accord. To date, most critics of ECT have taken aim at areas where Rome is an easy target, while avoiding crucial aspects of doctrine and practice where modern evangelicals exhibit remarkable similarities to Rome. The accord and its aftermath reveal much about the present state of evangelicalism, demonstrating that most evangelicals have departed from the doctrines and practices of the Protestant Reformation. This essay seeks to give the reader a framework for assessing Roman Catholicism, contemporary evangelicalism, and the ECT document. It illustrates how both Romanists and evangelicals have rejected Scriptural teaching about: 1.) the essence of the gospel (especially regarding justification by faith alone and the sovereignty of God); 2.) divinely-instituted worship (in faithful obedience to the second commandment); and 3.) the marks of the true church. By corrupting the gospel, worship and the church, evangelicals and Roman Catholics together are making shipwreck of the Faith. This is, without a doubt, the best book on this topic yet to appear! Related item: CURE's 8-cassette clash with three prominent Romanists, What Still Divides Us? A Protestant Roman Catholic Debate ($39.96), clearly demonstrates that Rome has never repented of her Reformation denying heresies. It focuses on the two major disputes of the Reformation: 1.) the sufficiency of Scripture (sola Scriptura); 2.) justification by faith alone (sola Fide).


Family Worship (1996)
Family worship has always been a major component of all true revivals and reformations. In fact, where it is not practiced, love for God is, at best, shallow and superficial. Among the Old Testament people of God, in the days of the Apostles, during the great Reformations that took place in the 16th and 17th centuries, at the founding of the American colonies, and wherever there is a love for the Truth, daily family worship has been a sign of faithfulness to God. When it is practiced faithfully, daily family worship is one of the great blessings of covenant life; when it is ignored or set aside, it is a serious sin which has devastating consequences to the individual, the family, the church, and the state.


Terms of Communion: Presbyterian Worship and Government (2 cassettes)
Explains and defends the third term of communion, which is "That Presbyterial Church Government and manner of worship are alone of divine right and unalterable; and that the most perfect model of these as yet attained, is exhibited in the Form of Government and Directory for Worship, adopted by the Church of Scotland in the Second Reformation." "To many readers, the subject of church government will not seem terribly exciting. Judging from the lack of contemporary literature on the topic, one might conclude that church polity is not very important. Yet, if the truth were known, many of the practical problems facing the church are the result of an abandonment of scriptural church polity. The church is not a mere social club. The church is the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13), subject to his rule. In the Bible, the Lord has established an ecclesiastical government by which his people are to be ruled. Just as Christ has instituted civil government to ensure civil order, so he has established ecclesiastical government to preserve order in the church (1 Cor. 14:33). A man is not free to dispense with the church's government anymore than he is at liberty to disregard the (lawful--RB) civil authorities. We do not contend that the divine order for church government extends to every detail. Obviously, the Lord did not mandate how many times the elders of the church must meet each month; nor did he prescribe any particular attire for them to wear while performing their official duties. Such incidentals are adapted to the needs and exigencies of the time and place; according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed. Nevertheless, the scriptures do provide an overall plan of government which the church must follow if she is to remain faithful to her Lord. Therefore, it is important to examine biblical principles of church polity," writes Kevin Reed in his Biblical Church Government. Much the same could be said regarding worship. These tapes are an excellent introductory explanation of the fundamentals of Divine Right Presbyterian church government and Divine Right Presbyterian worship. They are jam-packed with Scripture, history and sound reasoning and should be very helpful to all those seeking the Lord's will concerning these two important subjects. Price distinguishes between the elements and circumstances of worship (contra John Frame's heretical innovations, wherein he rejects these distinctions), while the vital issues of unity and uniformity, separation from false worship and false man-made church governments are not forgotten. All this is set in the context of faithfully approaching the Lord's table. "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you" (1 Cor. 11:2). These, as well as hundreds of other cassettes, are at: http://www.swrb.com/music/cassets.htm.



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