Normative principle of worship

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The normative principle of worship is a Christian theological principle that teaches that worship in the Church can include those elements that are not prohibited by Scripture.[1] The normative principle teaches that whatever is not prohibited in Scripture is permitted in worship, as long as it is agreeable to the peace and unity of the Church. In short, there must be agreement with the general practice of the Church and no prohibition in Scripture for whatever is done in worship.

The normative principle is often contrasted with the regulative principle of worship, which teaches that only those practices or elements which are specifically commanded or modelled in Scripture are to be permitted in worship services.

An example of the difference between these two principles of worship (normative and regulative) can be illustrated by the example of announcing notices in church (i.e. news, upcoming events, and other information). The normative principle holds that since such activity is not prohibited in the New Testament, and since announcing notices may well be beneficial for the congregation and their involvement in the activities of the church, then this practice should be permitted. On the other hand, the regulative principle would ban such activity from taking place in the church service, because no example of announcing notices at the church gathering can be found in the New Testament.

Historically, the definition of the normative principle concerned replicating scriptural patterns, i.e. norms. Dr. Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle wrote an article on this subject [1] and explained that the historic distinction is different to the one above. Historically, regulative meant simply obeying direct instructions, whereas normative meant not just the requirements of the regulative principle, but also replicating patterns established by the scriptures. One example of this concerns congregationalist polity in respect of church government: - proponents of this polity point to the biblical norm of churches being individually autonomous.

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  1. ^ Smith, Christian (2011). "God-Honoring Worship". The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press. pp. 34–6. ISBN 978-1-58743-303-0. 

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