Do you prefer hymns over psalms?

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earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I have been challenged that I have not asked the above question to people. May I assure you I have to as many as 10-15 face to face. I will grant the obvious in that those I asked are not EP and many are reformed PCAers and OPCers. Also this does not include various posts on FB and other forums which is probably read by all of my immediate family and friends. The context of my question usually comes up with a discussion on the RPW and it is a natural for this inquiry to come up. The closest answer I have received is the “shake the head your crazy look” or the realization that the point stands about the uninspired hymn preference being king.

So for those here on the PB my challenge is to give me a good answer to why you rather sing hymns over psalms. I understand many will say that is what the leadership of the church chose and they trust their judgment. Though even if you trust the judgment of the leadership the question remains as follows…Would you rather sing a hymn they chose or a psalm instead?

PS. I ask this with as little rancor as possible from this sinner. :)
 

Jake

Puritan Board Junior
(moved my response to the other thread here)

As per my point that one ought to "exclude" hymns simply, because to sing them (hymns) shows a preference. :)
I've used a similar question before and got a good answer. Maybe this will help you think about it.

Do you prefer to pray prayers in Scriptures or to pray prayers composed by fallible men (your own prayers, praying with and assenting to your minister's prayer, etc.)?

I think of the finest prayer I know, the Lord's Prayer. Our Standards rightly summarize how it may be used:

WLC Q. 187. How is the Lord’s Prayer to be used?
A. The Lord’s Prayer is not only for direction, as a pattern, according to which we are to make other prayers; but may also be used as a prayer, so that it be done with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer.

So of course we can pray it, and we can say that it is a far superior prayer to any prayer we make based upon it as a pattern, but we are still commanded to pray "after [that] manner" and so we must also compose our own prayers.

The problem is that you are flipping from an argument based on what God commands us to do in worship to preference when you ask your question about songs. We can easily say that the words of Scripture are superior to the words of uninspired man, but there are commands to pray prayers and preach sermons in worship that are not directly out of Scripture but based on it. Those who are inclusive hymnodists in worship would argue that we are also commanded to use songs in worship outside of the Psalter, so they will do that even if these songs are not better to or equal to inspired Scripture.

I say start the conversation with what God has commanded so that you do not accidentally disparage parts of worship that are indeed commanded.
 

Miller

Puritan Board Freshman
Those who are inclusive hymnodists in worship would argue that we are also commanded to use songs in worship outside of the Psalter
Where in Scripture do these inclusive hymnodists find a command to use uninspired hymns?
 

Jake

Puritan Board Junior

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
The sufficiency of scripture itself, meets all the needs of the believer and Christ's bride. Is this a true statement?

Here is an excerpt from John MacArthur on the subject of 'sufficiency'. In the citation, personally, I believe MacArthur shoots himself in the proverbial toe when he says:

God’s Word is sufficient to meet every need of the human soul as David verifies frequently in his psalms. Psalm 19:7-14 is the most comprehensive statement regarding the sufficiency of Scripture. It is an inspired statement about Scripture as a qualified guide for every situation. Scripture is comprehensive, containing everything necessary for one’s spiritual life. Scripture is surer than a human experience that one may look to in proving God’s power and presence. Scripture contains divine principles that are the best guide for character and conduct. Scripture is lucid rather than mystifying so that it enlightens the eyes. Scripture is void of any flaws and therefore lasts forever. Scripture is true regarding all things that matter, making it capable of producing comprehensive righteousness. Because it meets every need in life, scripture is infinitely more precious than anything the world has to offer.
As u read through this quote, consider the psalter....why would anyone need anything more than God's songbook? It cannot be seen as less than inerrant and in light of what JM says here, one wonders why he doesn't sing the Psalms?
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
If I understand correctly, EP argues that the Psalms must be sung word for word, without additional refrains, in their entirety, without instruments or harmonization. Is this correct?

Whereas Hymns usually contain snippets of Scripture, but not word for word, with repetition (refrains), with instruments (at least one), with 4 part harmonization.

It is hard to compare and contrast the two if we don't have workable definitions.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
It cannot be seen as less than inerrant and in light of what JM says here, one wonders why he doesn't sing the Psalms?
But, some have said this argument should then extend to preaching as well. What is the EP rebuttal?
 

Joshua

Administrator
There are different elements of worship, and there are different commands as to how they should be carried out. We have positive examples of them being executed.

1. Prayer - In the Lord's Prayer we have both an approved form and a pattern of prayer provided, along with multiple approved examples of extemporaneous prayer, not dictated to be verbatim scripture.

2. Preaching - We have examples of extemporaneous preaching, not dictated to be verbatim scripture.

3. Praise - We have a body of songs ushered in during the era of David which are a book of praises, so-called, approved, and all given/ordered by David as a prophet. We have commands to sing those, all of which fall into categories of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. We do not have examples/commands of uninspired hymnody being commanded to be sung in the church. I acknowledge that this is the primary assertion of disagreement, but the fact that the psalms each fall under these categories as shown in the Septuagint , and the absence of approved examples of uninspired hymnody, I believe the evidence points to the psalmody-only position.​

And here is a distinction that needs to be made: The element of verbal praise is something enjoined upon the whole congregation, which cannot be gainsaid. While it is true that the elements of prayer and praise are extemporaneous, they are confined to the ministers in the worship service, who will give an account for what proceeds out of their mouths, and are things to which the congregation may give to or withhold from an Amen. Never is the congregation required/commanded to speak (again, beyond the corporate Amen) words of their own composition making. They are not required to discern the rightness/wrongness of a hymn and -instead- are commanded to sing the very words of God, with understanding, making melody in their hearts, and -in this- they teach and admonish one another by singing the word of God, the inerrant, infallible, and inspired word of God in unison.

With uninspired hymns, you judge the Words, in the Psalms, the words judge you, and you are tasked with reflecting upon them, singing with understanding, and receiving them by faith, regardless of how they may grate against your natural and corrupt sensibilities.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
I believe and our leadership believes Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs include all three categories, so we prefer all three. We sing Psalms and hymns every Lord's Day. As well, a lot of the hymns are based on the Psalms. In my opinion, they are all a blessing and to be preferred as long as the content is biblical and truthful.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
How would u define, 'spiritual' song?
Our pastor once preached on this and summed it up as spiritual songs fitting into the category of taking Scripture and making a song of it, like singing Mary's song or another portion of the Bible. Also, a song like How Firm a Foundation, it's taking a portion of Isaiah and setting it to music.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
summed it up as spiritual songs fitting into the category of taking Scripture and making a song of it, like singing Mary's song or another portion of the Bible
Ryan,
Please don't be offended, but do u see how silly that sounds, given that the scriptures provide us with 'spiritual songs' in the Psalter. It's like trying to fit a square peg...well, u know what I am saying. The mining for answers is never ending and one ends up with nothing more than fools gold.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
With uninspired hymns, you judge the Words, in the Psalms, the words judge you, and you are tasked with reflecting upon them, singing with understanding, and receiving them by faith, regardless of how they may grate against your natural and corrupt sensibilities.
My personal answer to the threads title: Do you prefer hymns over psalms? See if you can figure out my answer.

I sing the Psalms every day–early in the morning. They are a delight, and they cover all the emotions, desires, fears, sadness, the convistion of sin, and joy unspeakable any man can ever have. I have found them, as promised, to be "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." If you only once were aided by the Spirit in the singing of God's beautiful gifts and found the amen and abba Father rise in your heart towards heaven and cause a deep, deep love for and worship of the God who loves you so, you would never go back to the shoddy, incomplete, often theologically wrong songs of man. I no longer need accompanying music but instead often, nay usually find lovely Spirit taught melodies pour from my heart as I worship the Living One in Spirit and truth.

I have nothing of a critical spirit, nor am I so EP that I refuse to sing hymns. I search for gold wherever I can find it. In my church, I do my best to get through the hymns, but find myself continually weighing and analyzing them, sometimes changing the words on the fly. I find it a burdensome task that I am compelled to do to worship aright. Of course, there are hymns that I find so wanting that I don't even try to sing along, but turn to a Psalm as I worship with my fellow brothers and sisters. I have been spoiled, and there is no turning back for me.

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Freshman
I prefer Psalms over hymns. I grew up not even realizing that people sung the Psalms. Now that I have begun to sing the Psalms, I have realized that no man-made hymns come even close to touching them. They are sufficient, and they are lovely. No man-made hymn is as lovely as the Psalter. And doesn't this make sense? These are words composed by The WORD himself, set forth specifically for the praise of YHWH and the upbuilding of YHWH's people. Do we really think we can offer something better to God than that?
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
Proposition: when a pastor or song leader (or member) prefers inclusive psalmody over exclusive psalmody, he is stating a preference for hymns over psalms in a sense, because the time in worship that could have been given to singing a psalm is now given to singing an uninspired song. So in effect, the song leader or minister is saying “now for our third song this morning, I prefer to sing this Watts composition instead of a Psalm.” ?
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
I believe and our leadership believes Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs include all three categories, so we prefer all three.
I'm glad, at least, that your church includes psalms in worship. It is, after all, commanded. You're part of the way there, which is more than could be said for most churches today. But what do you mean by "all three [categories]"? Would you be prepared to give a definition of each? (I am aware you have already been asked about "spititual songs".)

I ask because, too often in these discussions, people force an interpretation into the biblical texts that cannot belong there. There are two verses in the New Testament that use this formula, "psalms, hymns and spititual songs". They are Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19.

Now, what was Paul thinking of as he was writing those words? Was is psalms, man-made hymns, and Hillsong? Now, it has been argued that hymns existed early in the church (some, without justification, even find them in the pages of the New Testament!) but as far as I can see it is not so.

Allow me to digress for a moment and explain my own experience. I grew up in Pentecostal and mildly charismatic churches and I never sang the psalms. The only "church music" I knew was the modern stuff by Chris Tomlin, or the stuff churned out by Hillsong or Jesus Culture (from Bethel Church in Redding).

I moved to Toronto, where I started going to a liberal Presbyterian church. They had an organ and, along with modern worship songs, they sang hymns. I had never experienced the like. I remember the first hymn I sang in church was "Crown Him with Many Crowns". My heart swelled (along with that organ) like never before. I developed a love for hymns and set out to memorize them, as, I thought, I had been deprived of my Christian heritage! (I still sang and loved many modern songs as well.) I have since gone through difficult times and have found some hymns to be a great comfort to me. I have wept singing "Amazing Grace" reflecting on God's goodness to me.

Now, some years later, I will not sing hymns or modern worship songs. (I might occasionally hum the former or play the tunes on the harmonica.) I did not arrive at this position easily. My love of man-made songs in worship was, in the end, defeated by Scripture. I know now that the organ, as well as other instrumentation, is used manipulatively and my enthusiasm was in part generated by it. And I know now that God commands no man-made songs. And I'm happier for it. For one thing, no longer must I test all the words that I sing. I know them to be true. And I know that I am singing with Christ, my Lord and God.

Modern Christians have a love of hymns and worship songs. A love of the psalms is certainly lacking. As I've said, I'm glad your church sings psalms. It's better than nothing; hopefully it gets the Lord's people to appreciate them more.

But let me be plain: "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" do not refer to modern categories. That is simply an anachronism forced on the texts by modern readers. "Psalms", "hymns" and "songs" are all headings in the Septuagint psalms. (The word "spiritual" means "of the Spirit" and can in these verses be taken to apply to all three categories.) Ask yourself: What would a first-century Greek-speaking Jewish or Gentile Christian think upon reading these words in a letter from Paul? (I can tell you it's not "Oceans".)

We sing Psalms and hymns every Lord's Day. As well, a lot of the hymns are based on the Psalms. In my opinion, they are all a blessing and to be preferred as long as the content is biblical and truthful.
Some hymns and worship songs are very nice, but that's not an argument for their inclusion in worship. At least not according to the Regulative Principle. I can't let my preferences to get in the way of God's worship.

My worship must conform to God's command. Sola Scriptura. If my doctrine or practice does not line up with what the Bible says, I need to stop and think carefully and payerfully.

Our pastor once preached on this and summed it up as spiritual songs fitting into the category of taking Scripture and making a song of it, like singing Mary's song or another portion of the Bible. Also, a song like How Firm a Foundation, it's taking a portion of Isaiah and setting it to music.
I can sort of appreciate the effort your pastor's going to, but let's be straightforward: there is no such command in Scripture. Moreover, isn't he just reading a modern view into the text? Again, what would a first-century audience have understood by that word "songs"?
 
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Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Proposition: when a pastor or song leader (or member) prefers inclusive psalmody over exclusive psalmody, he is stating a preference for hymns over psalms in a sense, because the time in worship that could have been given to singing a psalm is now given to singing an uninspired song. So in effect, the song leader or minister is saying “now for our third song this morning, I prefer to sing this Watts composition instead of a Psalm.” ?
I would say that is correct, even though it is not intentional. The singing of man-made hymns is always an impediment to the true worship of God. If you can sing the psalms, why would you sing anything else?
 
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G

Puritan Board Senior
But I will ask this again, since maybe Scott ignored me or read past me:candle::

Currently I am an EP advocate when it comes to Corporate worship (but still chewing). In seeking to learn here as well, how would a Spiritual Song and hymn differ from a Psalm within the Book of Psalms itself? In other words, since an EP advocate would claim that they both are inspired, what is the distinction made by someone who is EP?

Could someone who is anti-EP not also give a similar distinction in answer?
:detective:
 
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