Confession, the Psalms and Hymns

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Christopher88

Puritan Board Sophomore
Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter XXI.
Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day
[emphasis added]
....
II. Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to Him alone;[3] not to angels, saints, or any other creature:[4] and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.[5]

III. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship,[6] is by God required of all men:[7] and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son,[8] by the help of His Spirit,[9] according to His will,[10] with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love and perseverance;[11] and, if vocal, in a known tongue.[12]

IV. Prayer is to be made for things lawful;[13] and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter:[14] but not for the dead,[15] nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.[16]

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear,[17] the sound preaching[18] and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence,[19] singing of psalms with grace in the heart;[20] as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:[21] beside religious oaths,[22] vows,[23] solemn fastings,[24] and thanksgivings upon special occasions,[25] which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.[26]
I have a question and a sincere comment.

Why do subscribers of the confession (Westminster) allow hymns in public worship? If the writers of the confessions wrote out "psalms are to be used in public worship" and we subscribe to it; I ask again why do elders allow the singing of hymns and spiritual songs in worship?

As with hymns my question part 2 goes with this; are hymns allowed in private and family worship?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
To answer the first part of the question; most those I can think of in the US that agree with singing hymns subscribe to Ameican versions of the Confession and standards that allow it. There is no vow to the unamended original in other words.
 
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jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
To answer question two. Since the confession is refering to public worship here than yes hymns are okay for private and family worship, since those worships fall under liberty of conscience.
 

MLCOPE2

Puritan Board Junior
As with hymns my question part 2 goes with this; are hymns allowed in private and family worship?
In my humble opinion, the answer to that one is a little harder to nail down. It really depends upon whether or not the RPW extends to private and family times of worship or if it is only relegated to corporate worship. I tend to lean towards the former while many EPer's I know lean towards the latter. While I don't have a solid conviction, yet, regarding the RPW's extension to private and family worship, it follows practically, in that we (my family) still sing the psalms exclusively during those times as it helps us to continue to learn and grow in our understanding of them and be better able to minister by them when we come to corporate worship.
 

jfhutson

Puritan Board Freshman
most those I can think of in the US that agree with singing hymns subscribe to Ameican versions of the Confession and standards that allow it.
I didn't know there was a revised version on this point. Here is the PCA version, I don't see any change.

PCA: COF Chapter XXI - XXV

Parenthetically, I think there should be a change to the PCA version both because I think it's been demonstrated that EP is what the framers meant and because the Confession should state plainly what the church believes.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
The PCUSA chose to modify their practice with their Directory for Worship rather than changing the text of the confession. The PCA comes from that tradition as far as "adopting intent". I agree it would be better to amend the confession. But that's the history of the matter for what it is worth.
most those I can think of in the US that agree with singing hymns subscribe to Ameican versions of the Confession and standards that allow it.
I didn't know there was a revised version on this point. Here is the PCA version, I don't see any change.

PCA: COF Chapter XXI - XXV

Parenthetically, I think there should be a change to the PCA version both because I think it's been demonstrated that EP is what the framers meant and because the Confession should state plainly what the church believes.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
The PCUSA chose to modify their practice with their Directory for Worship rather than changing the text of the confession. The PCA comes from that tradition as far as "adopting intent". I agree it would be better to amend the confession. But that's the history of the matter for what it is worth.
most those I can think of in the US that agree with singing hymns subscribe to Ameican versions of the Confession and standards that allow it.
I didn't know there was a revised version on this point. Here is the PCA version, I don't see any change.

PCA: COF Chapter XXI - XXV

Parenthetically, I think there should be a change to the PCA version both because I think it's been demonstrated that EP is what the framers meant and because the Confession should state plainly what the church believes.
Is this just an area where they allow exceptions or do they even bring that up at liscentures?

---------- Post added at 11:51 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:50 AM ----------

The PCA I mean. Also how does the OPC view this? They seem to be more exact than "adopting intent" but I could be wrong.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Most do not bring it up I expect. I believe Fred Greco has said he has taken exception at 21.5, and I don't have a problem with that given it is a bit murky. It could be argued though that one need not given the adopting intent of the PCUSA, of which the PCA is the offspring. Perhaps Alan Strange can weigh in here since he's written on the animas imponentis (adopting intent) and it's role in confessional subscription.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Most do not bring it up I expect. I believe Fred Greco has said he has taken exception at 21.5, and I don't have a problem with that given it is a bit murky. It could be argued though that one need not given the adopting intent of the PCUSA, of which the PCA is the offspring. Perhaps Alan Strange can weigh in here since he's written on the animas imponentis (adopting intent) and it's role in confessional subscription.
Thanks.
 

Christopher88

Puritan Board Sophomore
I didn't know there was a revised version on this point. Here is the PCA version, I don't see any change.

PCA: COF Chapter XXI - XXV
So why do we have PCA churches that do not hold to the strictness of this document? Would this require laymen to approach their elders if a PCA church is not following the words of confession by law?

Does the OPC take a more strict stance of the confession in regards to worship?
 

jfhutson

Puritan Board Freshman
The PCUSA chose to modify their practice with their Directory for Worship rather than changing the text of the confession.
Thanks for the clarification, I didn't read where you said "Confession and standards." Also, thanks for mentioning animus imponentis, which I had never heard of and clears some things up in my head.

However, the DfW hasn't been fully adopted by the PCA except BCO 56, 57, and 58, none of which deal with hymns, and so the part about hymns is just an "approved guide." I think the "approved guide" makes it very clear what the PCA believes on the matter, but just as much as the prevalence of the practice and the lack of judicial action over time would suggest.

I skimmed through an article by Dr. Strange on animus imponentis, which cleared up some things. Here's some quotes from it.

...animus imponentis, rightly understood and employed, means simply that the church as a whole in its integrity interprets its own constitution and that such interpretation, and not those of private individuals or lesser judicatories, is decisive...

When the church comes to believe that the Scriptures teach something other than what she has confessed the Scriptures to teach, integrity demands she amend her
constitution in the manner that the constitution itself prescribes for its own amendment.
I guess the question becomes, is the church's reading of the Confession that hymns are allowable? I suspect that many in the PCA would agree the Confession teaches EP even though they don't think it scriptural (the same goes for strict Sabbath observance). I don't think based on the animas imponentis principle that those individuals have to be EP themselves or file complaints against their session, but if the mind of the PCA itself believed the Confession taught EP they would be bound to change the Confession or enforce EP.

Would this require laymen to approach their elders if a PCA church is not following the words of confession by law?
No, you give the church the benefit of the doubt that they are reading the Confession differently than you and submit. If you find yourself on a church court, you voice your opinion on what the Confession says.
 

Goodcheer68

Puritan Board Sophomore
Called worship is worship is worship. Whether it's privately, in the family, or corporately, we still may only worship God in the way that He has commanded, and if one of those commands is that praise sung to Him must be only the Psalms, then it's always only the Psalms.
I am still learning, so this is a sincere question. When you say "worship is worship is worship", how does that fit in with David dancing before the Lord? Could I not jump and rejoice giving thanks to the Lord in a similar manner privately or is that a violation? If it is not a violation, could I shout and give thanks with melody? If that is ok then why not a song with Biblical lyrics. I am trying to figure out where the line is with private worship, as many times it hits me how good God is and I stop and praise Him. Is that wrong?

Thanks,

Patrick
 

beej6

Puritan Board Sophomore
I didn't know there was a revised version on this point. Here is the PCA version, I don't see any change.

PCA: COF Chapter XXI - XXV
So why do we have PCA churches that do not hold to the strictness of this document? Would this require laymen to approach their elders if a PCA church is not following the words of confession by law?

Does the OPC take a more strict stance of the confession in regards to worship?
With regards to psalms only, most OPCs allow hymns, again rising not of confessional revision but the church's interpretation of the confession via General Assembly. You can read those documents at their website.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
With regards to psalms only, most OPCs allow hymns, again rising not of confessional revision but the church's interpretation of the confession via General Assembly. You can read those documents at their website.
This would be the case for our OPC church. The understanding is that Psalms are to be sung, but not necessarily exclusively, so at our church we sing both. With that said, I personally do think that the singing of hymns is an exception to WCF 21.5. When I was being interviewed by my session for nomination as an elder, I was asked if I had any exceptions to the WCF and I mentioned my only exception was 21.5. My session of course didn't really view my exception as an exception, but I still felt I needed to mention it and I would do the same before my presbytery if I were ever to seek ordination.
 

Backwoods Presbyterian

Puritanboard Amanuensis
In 1946 when the ARP stopped being an Exclusive Psalmody denomination (for the same reasons everyone always does, for the children) the ARP Westminster Confession of Faith was modified to include an annotation to WCF 21:5 that says

Relating to Chapter XXI, paragraph 5-"To confirm with the more recent practice of the Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, as approved in the year 1946, the validity of suitable evangelical hymns was recognized and their use permitted in those congregations electing to do so."
 
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