Burden of Proof in Canonical Content in Sung Praise Discussion

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Glenn Ferrell, Apr 6, 2009.

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  1. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    The hiatus lifted, let me ask:

    For those committed to the Regulative Principle, is the burden of proof for their position on those holding to the pro exclusive canonical content in the sung praise of public worship, or those holding to the non exclusive canonical content in the sung praise of public worship?

    I’d appreciate it if we could limit the responses in this thread to answering this narrower question, without debating the larger issue, as this might determine how to frame future discussions.
  2. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    I would say that the burden is mixed. The initial burden is to show that the content of song is an element, and not just that singing is an element. Once it has been shown that the content of song is an element and not a circumstance, the burden is clearly on those who would introduce any content to show that such content is commanded.
  3. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    If sung praise is not an element of worship, is it a subset of prayer, or excluded entirely?
  4. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    No. The point is that there are two separate issues:

    1. Is the singing of praise an element?
    2. Is the content of that singing an element also?

    It is analogous to prayer or preaching.

    1. Is prayer an element? Is preaching of the Word an element?
    2. Is the content of prayer an element (thus restricted to what is commanded), or is it a circumstance (thus permissible according to Christian prudence and wisdom, guided by the dictates of Scripture)?

    One can maintain that song is not as prayer (or preaching), but one must also prove that the content is an element. If an element, it is restricted and required. If not, it is a circumstance.

    I'm not trying to convince anyone or trying to make a case, just answering the burden of proof question. I would think that an EPer would agree that content must be shown to be an element, but disagree with me as to the persuasiveness of that proof.
  5. DonP

    DonP Puritan Board Junior

    That is an excellent distinction. I wonder if it unnecessarily complicates what was simplistically stated in scripture.

    1 Cor 14:26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. NKJV

    This context seems certainly, in the church, how to behave in the church.

    Whereas the psalm, hymn spiritual song verses of Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19 could be referring to personal life outside public worship, thus speaking to yourself?
    Admonishing ONE another.

    Or am I now the one straining the gnat?

    Still leaving the possibility the p h ss are all 3 parts of the canonical psalms

    By this I mean of we are only instructed to sing Psalms in the worship, then it would not have to be dissected, as to content also or just singing.

    If we are to weigh scriptural example as part of RP we have no example of anything ever sung other than psalms and in the synagogue if we keep continuity as we do with govt, then it would stay psalms.

    Unless I missed something and you are going for critical text argument what if we find some old psalms not in the canon in Qumran or somewhere.
  6. Croghanite

    Croghanite Puritan Board Sophomore

    Most if not all agree that the Psalms were a prescribed element of worship in the OT and some believe that has changed in the NT.

    I say the burden of proof is on those that believe that the Psalms are now a circumstance and hold to the non exclusive canonical content in the sung praise of public worship.

    -----Added 4/6/2009 at 10:28:27 EST-----

    Maybe it would be productive to have a debate whereas the non EPer can show where the Psalms have been made to be a circumstance and the pro EPer can show how the Psalms are still an element. :2cents:
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    If we are arguing Westminster confessionally the burden is on proving the element is singing and not singing of psalms. I mean, Reading is not an element of worship, it is the Reading the word of God; singing is not the element of worship, but singing of psalms (WCF 21.5). If EPs are discussing with those holding to modified standards, they should assume the burden. I'm not sure why there must be a debate over whether there is one right answer to who bears the burden.:2cents:
  8. DonP

    DonP Puritan Board Junior

    The circumstance would be whether your Bible is Kivar or leather or which version you use, and whether you use a split leaf (proper) :) psalter or one with fixed tunes to each psalm.
  9. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    Seems confusing to speak of singing as an element and then the content, Psalms, as an additional element. We don’t speak of reading as an element and the content, scripture, as another element. The WCF prescribes the content in the name of two elements, Reading of Scripture and Singing of Psalms. Concerning Prayer and Preaching, the content is not prescribed or assumed beyond the general guidelines of being consistent with Scripture.

    The reason I ask regarding the burden of proof is that this seems to have some bearing on how the discussion takes place. In a debate on this issue at GPTS, I believe in their 03 Spring Conference, this issue was considered. The resolution was framed as: “Resolved: Hymns may be sung in public worship,” or something to that effect. I thought it should have been, “Resolved: Only Psalms (or canonical content) may be sung in public worship.” We know from Scripture, we are commanded to sing Psalms. It is not as clear we are warranted to sing non-canonical material. To prove the later, warrant must be demonstrated. Without such, the case is lost.

    That BTW is where the OPC Committee, which studied this issue and wrote the majority report, seems to have failed. The burden of showing warrant was theirs. Though they made a good effort, they didn’t do it.

    Taking an exclusive canonical content in sung praise position is certainly inconvenient. Sure would be easier to find a call and attract people to church if one was more flexible. Problem, without clear warrant for the singing of non canonical content, one is bound to the other position. The pragmatism (what’s convenient and what works), taste (what we like or favor), and tradition (what we’ve always done) are no help here.
  10. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Just for clarification, EPers do not consider 'cononical content' general an element, but the 150 Psalms specifically. Right?
  11. DonP

    DonP Puritan Board Junior

    Reading the scriptures, would be an element

    Singing the 150 and some will add canonical songs also would be an element.

    So if one would debate the content the 150 or canonical songs, then they are debating the element not the circumstance
  12. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    Correct. Hence the name exclusive psalmody
  13. DonP

    DonP Puritan Board Junior

    Adam if the reason to sing songs often promoted is they fit the RP by being truth, why not sing canonical songs which also are inspired and truth?
  14. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    My point was really only to answer the clarification. People convinced of exclusive psalmody believe that only the 150 psalms are given for use in singing praise. People who believe that any inspired material is acceptable (whatever the merit--or not--of their position) would have to choose a different name--like "exclusive inspired song singers" (EIS) :)

    The exclusive psalmody defenders will often argue that while it may be lawful in principle to sing other inspired songs there is nevertheless no clear indication that is what God has instructed us to do. I believe this is what Murray and Young argued in the minority report to the OPC. So, it is not plain from Scripture that the "Magnificat" was anything more than a prophetic utterance--nor that it should be ever after sung by the whole church.
  15. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    Though in practice churches adhering to the strictest interpretation of the RPW are in practice EP, they may not be in actual confession or constitution. For example, The Practice of the Free Church of Scotland (their constitutional document used by both the majority and continuing Free churches), contains an explicit explanation of their ordination formula in regard to worship, “Purity of worship as presently practiced in this Church as to uniformity in public worship going back to the year 1707; and that, in accordance with that legislation, it is the present practice of the Free Church to avoid the use in worship of uninspired materials of praise as also of instrumental music.” I’ve only experienced the singing of metrical Psalms in Free Church continuing congregations; but technically their position is inspired content of sung praise, and one could be ordained in either of those denominations holding that position, which is easier to get to than EP. The OPC minority report admits that, but then argues the warrant for the singing of Psalms is more certain. Thus, the title of this thread.
  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    re-opening this thread

    I'm reopening this thread but it and the new one are the only two that will be open for now under the trial reopen phase. The posts to this thread will go through the moderators same as the other until we lift moderation of posts to this subforum.
  17. DonP

    DonP Puritan Board Junior

    Not sure if this has a bearing on the question but,
    regarding the admoniton and exhortation in singing, rather than allowing new composing and going beyond just the words of scripture as with preaching, this could be understood as follows:

    We teach and admonish from the scriptures.
    Therefore we sing from the scriptures.

    One who preaches, preaches from the scriptures.
    He may go beyond reading them because that is the nature of preaching, to give the meaning of

    Not so with singing. We are affirming a truth. We are offering the praise of our lips.

    We are not all preachers, we are not gifted and called and ordained to exposit or exegete scripture.

    So we teach and admonish through singing in a similar way and same method we would through reading, only the scriptures.

    So if you want to say only an ordained minister could compose music that is extra canonical then you would have a possible question, but I have never heard anyone postulate this.

    So the clear distinctions remain between the church singing and reading, and one man or a few, preaching and teaching who are recognized by the church, ordained, and specially gifted for the purpose.
  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Given the regulative principle, divine right (jus divinum) is required for the introduction of all and any worship. Hence the burden rests with the person introducing the worship, whatever that may be.
  19. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    We know God commands the singing of Psalms in public worship. An individual or congregation which sings only Psalms knows they are not violating God’s will, unless there is a positive command to sing something other than and in addition to Psalms. Given Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 are not speaking directly to public worship, and may be talking of Psalms in all three references, this does not provide a clear and unambiguous command to sing anything other than Psalms in worship. So, where is the positive command to sing non-canonical material? The burden to provide a scriptural command, explicitly or by good and necessary consequence, belongs to those who would add uninspired songs. If such were ever provided, I’d be willing to revise my present position. Without such positive warrant, those holding another position are doing so because of preference, tradition, or pragmatic reasons, not because the Regulative Principle permits it.
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