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Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by kevin.carroll, Jan 3, 2006.
Bushell, Songs of Zion, p. 131, 132.
Ibid., p. 141.
For a testimony to Psalm singing in history, I recommend PSALM SINGING IN SCRIPTURE & HISTORY.
The Early Church and Psalmody (from PSALM SINGING IN AND HISTORY)
I don't think that this has been just another EP thread. Its been very educational. Much thanks for all the efforts expended for our edification.
Jeff, Bushnell is simply incorrect on Calvin and the continental churches. Read the liturgies they used. Dort approved various non-psalm hymns (see the church order of Dort), and Calvin sang the Apostles Creed. See the liturgy comparison in Horton Davies The Worship of the English Puritans.
I agree, it's been a good discussion, though I note at the end there were several of the "we've always done it this way" variety of posts that I was hoping to avoid seeing.
In the end, I don't care what Chalcedon or some other council said. Councils err. To say that Chalcedon's pronoucments on Psalmody are on a par with its Christologic formulations is laughable.
Nor do I care a whit that it's what the Puritans did. My only concern is, what does the Bible teach? That was what I was hoping to see and there has been good discussion on it.
In the end I think we can all agree that the NT (which in this instance carries more clout than the Old) commands the singing of Psalms in Christian worship. What I continue to be unsure of, however, is whether the NT commands the singing of Psalms exclusively. Much hinges on what Paul meant by "songs, hymns, and spiritual songs."
Thanks for all the good debate guys.
Oh-oh! Now you did it. Now you're walkin' on the fightin' side o' me.
Actually, Kevin, that was just what I was looking for. Only, what I seek is a direct line of church submission to church rulings that explicitly decree something. Church history, such as Schaff's, is history, not theology. If theologians knew about theology what Schaff knew of history, we would not be lacking for good theologians ever. But citing what was the habit of the church at some point is only citing what was the habit of the church at some point. It does not make for an edict. And church Councils that ignore past councils, or overturn past Councils, need to be considered more carefully, for these do two things at once instead of just one. And church Councils that take personal errors of either the few or the many, the minority or the majority, upon themselves then make those errors the church's errors, and not just those of those people, whether they are a minority or a majority. In this way a church moves from having false teachers among them to being a false entity. That is how the Reformer viewed Rome, after the Council of Trent enshrined into Church Ordinance the errors of the status quo, thereby ceasing to be a true church. They had the witness of the Spirit directly before them and chose the path of error, searing their own consciences, and identifying the errors with the church formally.
For me it makes a great deal of difference.
First, the Church has never shrunk from the necessity of adding more carefully defined doctrines into the worship and witness of the Church. Decrees concerning the Trinity, of Jesus' nature, as man and as God, of the atonement, of salvation by faith, and so on, have been added, yet without adding to the Word. These are not inspired like Scripture is inspired, but are to be respected as the witness of the Spirit through the Church. We have added the pulpit, songbooks, a dress code in some instances, and various other traditions and incidentals, without breaking the commandment not to add to Scripture's commands, without doing what is forbidden.
It is for that reason that what a church council does not say is as important as what they do say. They may not enjoin what is forbidden, so great care must be taken.
So, second, it is not only important what Church councils have decided, but what exactly it is that they decided. Some say the Westminster Standards are EP, but that is actually putting words in their mouths. That is not what it says. They took care not to say more than they were entitled to, not what they themselves would have wanted to say. In adopted documents like the WCF the churches must ascertain that it is free of such additions as men's own decisions: it must show itself to be a Spirit-borne decision. So additional words that are not rooted in Scripture put into question an entire work, not just that section.
We are trying to understand what God wants, not what we want. Sure, I like Patrick's history better because it suits my views better, but there is also a sound reason for me to appreciate his summary. It is for reasons of finding out the intention of God's Word, not for justifying my own views. Just as a church council has to be careful to avoid man's additions, so also, to a lesser degree, are we called to do that of our own.
Thirdly, history gives us a keen insight into what the practices and regulations of the past were that people observed. The churches, at one time or another, may have followed a stricter EP; if so, why? Was it an edict of the church? Was it a tradition? Was it a correction to the abuses that has crept in and taken over? What exactly were they doing? And if there was a church decree, where is it? And why has it been left unheeded? And what are the grounds given by the church if it did decree? These are the most important questions, after we scour the Word of any direction. What it is that we do not understand, which the Spirit has revealed to the churches, either through the Word, through natural reason, or through the witness of His church's leadership? I'm not happy just to be spinning my own wheels.
Fourth, and last, which churches that obligated practiced EP did so as policy of regulation or as policy of doctrine? This is a vital question. If the recognized historic church has obligated the church to EP for one reason or another, then a matter of submission also comes into the picture. Are we thumbing our nose at authority? Or are we requesting the church to reconsider? This goes both ways in the discussion.
The sum of it is that it isn't just for my own information that I paid attention to this and other threads. If that were the case, then this has been interesting, but not of much consequence. I don't believe that my worship of God has been rejected because of my ignorance. If I am rejected it is because of my obstinacy. Personal knowledge is important. But even so, it pales to the importance of unity on the matter, even if we differ personally. The Bible does not pronounce a blessing on us if we are all the same, but if we are united, together. We will not know everything that we desire to know, nor what we think we need to know. But if we can dwell in unity while we earnestly differ, then the blessing is pronounced. And of such is the church propagated and blessed by God.
Even if we fill one little hole in the dike, we've done something positive. Even if we do not solve EP, we have learned to differ in love and respect; and that unifies and builds the church, not only the present, but the present with the past church which also was a true church of Christ.
Thanks for letting me bend your ear, Kevin.
Perhaps I was misunderstood, John. Like you, I see *great* value in Church history. Many of the errors the modern church struggles with have been definitively dealt with by our forefathers and we should not try to reinvent the wheel.
Obviously the creedal formulations that came out of the ecumenical councils have been inestimable in their worth to the church over the years. But let's keep the main thing the main thing. Chalcedon's primary focus was to articulate an orthodox position on the natures of Christ. This is something that is crucial in that it sets boundaries that define what is (or is not) a Christian. But to try to have Psalmody ride in on Chalcedon's coat-tails is the worst sort of positive ad hominem and leaves me thoroughly unimpressed.
Similarly, a blanket appeal to Puritan practices makes me say, "So?" Just because the Puritans did it, doesn't mean they were correct. Just because the Puritans said it, doesn't mean they were right.
Some will, no doubt, protest that the Puritans were expounding the clear teaching of Scripture and there is no need to rehash something that is settled. My reply is that if it so clear, why doesn't everyone see it? If it is settled, then why do so few (comparatively speaking) agree? Obviously the issue is neither clear nor settled or this thread would not be so long.
Finally, I appreciate your observation that EP'ers are putting words into the mouths of the Westminster divines. I was waiting for someone to say this. Some were EP, others were not. This underscores the reason why it is incumbent on each generation to hold to the scrutiny of the Scriptures what we are told is "correct." It is the Reformed thing to do. I vexes me deeply to see folks argue on and on about an interpretation of the WCF and not the Bible...and I think it would have vexed the divines too (see WCF 1.10 and think about it).
[Edited on 1-7-2006 by kevin.carroll]
Kevin, EP may not be sweeping the nation in our day but perhaps that is because neither are the 5 solas or Covenant Theology. Easy believism and dispensationalism rule the day. Maybe we are slowly waking out of a long slumber.
Like you, some things have vexed me as well. But we've both been patient, I think. And our protagonists ( and brothers in Christ, let us be clear about that ) have been patient with us as well.
What I stand up against is a present day penchant of assuming too much. For example, a minister or session may decide on their own that EP is the Biblical directive for worship in song. Some in the congregation may object, and take their concerns to session, and then to Presbytery, and perhaps to GA. The higher assemblies look at it and pronounce that EP does not violate the standards of faith. The minister or session takes that to mean that they are allowed to impose it as Scripture. This irks me. That was not the answer that was given.
It is one thing to proclaim that a person is not veering from the standard of faith in his opinions; it is quite another, because the one holding the opinion is an officer in the church, to impose those upon the congregation as Biblical teaching. To rule that a person has not veered from the standards of faith is not ruling that the Holy Spirit has revealed expanded doctrinal standards, and therefore new proclamations from the pulpit. That is an abuse of office.
Far too many today spend a great deal of time on certain subjects, such as eschatology or apologetics, making great discoveries for themselves, and then come to think that the entire church should believe as they themselves have come to believe. They impose their own surmisings upon Scripture, and pronounce judgments on others by it. And when it comes before GA, and all they do is look at the teaching, whether or not it is allowable as a personal belief, and approve it, these adherents believe thay have won the right to preach, teach, and impose their beliefs. But it is one thing to draw certain conclusions on matters of personal conscience, to believe that it is Biblical teaching, it is quite another to proclaim that as Biblical teaching. That takes a church to do. And to proclaim it as a personal liberty is not proclaiming it as doctrine.
This has to be kept in mind. EP could very well have been the best course taken by churches, and perhaps even thought to be Biblical teaching. But it takes more than that. In our time, I believe, we are sated with the abuses of music, and EP is likely the best answer at this time. Some are rankled by the icon status of the great organ and/or other instruments. Perhaps the simple piano, or accapella, is the best answer for them. But all these things do not make for Biblical directive as to song itself, but as to concord, decency, and order. These are separate matters.
I haven't yet written much on music, namely, on the creation mandate, the promotion of God-likeness ( i.e., the image of God ) in man, and composition, where these fall into the commandments of God. We are not to cast these things aside. This is not the same as "innovations of men". These fall under capturing the sins of men in order to correct and rebuild the image of God, which is part of the service of thanksgiving. These too fall under the rule of worship.
The subject is much wider than the simple command. There is more to "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" than a mere difinition of terms. There are a cultural and an evangelical mandate as well.
[Edited on 1-7-2006 by JohnV]
With regard to Westminster and EP, while I think it a stretch to impose a full blown EP theory onto the Assembly as a whole, there is no reason to believe, with all due respect to those who have published otherwise, that when the Divines wrote "psalm" (WCF 21.5; Directory, "Of Singing of Psalms"), that they meant anything other than the Psalms of David. I mean, after all, it is not Rouse's Hymns, the Assembly's Hymn book, or the 1650 Hymn book that we read about from that period. We read nowhere that I am aware of plans for a hymn book or discussions of the same during the Westminster Assembly. The Assembly was practical EP (i.e., as for as the content of worship song, they authorized the 150 Psalms). That's my
That is certainly a possibility. Your assessment of the American church is certainly right on the mark.
Agreed. Very thoughtful.
After my earlier post, I feel somewhat silly about debating an interpretation of the Confessions ( ) BUT, 21:5 says that those things mentioned in that paragraph are "parts of the ordinary religious worship of God." Does that, of necessity mean the Divines were promoting EP? If so, then most PCA ministers I know are not telling the truth when they say they have no exceptions to the Standards and yet are not EP...
PCA ministers with most American Presbyterians, well the conservative ones at least, hold to the American version of the Standards. The PCUSA essentially broadened the content of worship song with their Directory in 1788 (would that they had changed or augmented the WCF as the ARPs did). That it was originally understood that the WCF and standards were only talking about psalms is attested to by the fact that when hymns were later included officially all saw some need to change their standards some way. The PCA has complicated things by not adopting a directory with roots in the PCUSA tradition, while retaining the PCUSA understanding of WCF 21.5. But that is a different issue. Another
I would just go off the assumption that they wrote only what they intended, and intended no more than they wrote. In other words, what they themselves meant by the reference from their personal convictions could be seen by themselves as going futher than what they ought. So we don't delve into their writings to try to ascertain how they themselves felt about it, and impose that upon their words, for that may be doing more than they intended. I assume, then, that they would have written just what they meant to write, and no more; that they chose their words carefully, and also chose their extent carefully as well.
What happens or has happened in subsequent lesser Assemblies must not take precedence over this unless it rules on it first. And then whatever is subsequent must take its proper place in heirarchy of church rulings. That's the problem to day: we don't have sufficient ecclesisastical unity of authorities to make the kind of pronouncement that binds to the extent that the WCF binds, even with all the other Presbyterian documents that have fallen to us over the centuries. If we recognize the WCF and Catechisms as a unified and binding covenant, then it requires a succeeding assembly of like universal authority to add further definition than what is specifically written, smaller and lesser assemblies notwithstanding.
So, though your point is well taken, it requires also a recognition of the limitations of it. What we don't have is what we, as counterparts to the EP discussion, ought to work for. It is good that we are mutually convicted of our positions, and convicted personally from the Word.
I may be dense, but I have no idea about what you are talking.
No, Chris, its not you. I have a tendency to jump over some things.
One easier way to put it is to take another example, a clearer one. Some say that almost all, if not all, the commissioners at the Westminster Assembly were Postmillennialists. It is interesting, then, that instead of drawing postmillennial meanings from the WCF by imposing their leanings on the Confession, that they said no more than they did, and did so on purpose. They deliberately left of proclaiming their view of the millennium in the document as a standard for the churches. They knew they had no warrant to do that, and that if they did they would greatly undermine their credibility on everything else. A church covenant is no place to be imposing personal views, for it is a church document. Only those things that the Word enjoins may be ruled as binding, nothing more.
So instead of it being significant in a positive way that the commissioners were Postmillennial, it is rather significant in a negative way that they wer Postmillennial. That is, they were Postmillennial and did not bind anyone to it. That is very significant.
The same with EP. If they were all EP, and they did not bind anyone in the major documents, choosing carefully their words, then it is significant what they did say and what they did not say. We should not be putting words in their mouths, especially adding things that they were reluctant to add. They may have been convinced of EP, but they imposed no more than was right. We have to hold church rulings in their proper place if we are going to heed them as such.
I don't know if this makes any more sense. I am hoping for Andrew's work to come out, as this would hopefully help us to put things in their proper place, and hopefully help us to solve this riddle.
I have only briefly purused the above but I can't seem to find any scriptural support for EP exclusively. It seems to be a matter of opinion. Am I wrong or are there verses that support EP. I am not trying to be difficult I really want to know what the Scripture says on the subject not the confessions or opinion.
Why would so many reputable people adhere to and defend a doctrine of worship if it was a matter of opinion?
I guess. I think we have to be clear on what can and cannot be drawn from both the documents and supporting documents to the Assembly's productions. What I am saying, and I am not sure whether you agree or not, is that the Assembly authorized psalm singing; they did not authorize hymn singing, whether they were all in agreement on the reasons behind this or not (Ford's work on Psalm singing has statements that if I recall rightly imply expanding the content of worship song never came up in the Assembly; and Baillie strong condemns singing our own productions in worship). They in fact "took out" things that were traditionally included in Psalters from both countries (England and Scotland) so that "only" the psalms were included in the Psalter they produced. Now, why do that? is my question to those who want to say that their intent was not to be exclusive in what they were authorizing for the three kingdoms to sing? Now, what later assemblies do is another question; I am concerned about folks fudging the original intent to get around the hard work of simply changing their standards rather than broadening definitions beyond what pretty clearly the Assembly did not have in mind. in my opinion as always.
WrittenFromUtopia, it was not until I came on this board that I have heard about EP and was curious about the scriptural support for EP. What Scripture is it based upon is all I want to know.
I think its clear the Westminister divines intented scripture psalms by the word "psalms" in the confession and that most were EP (merely in practice or in practice and theory) however was it their intent to make EP a standard of the reformed faith by this one word? can such a distinction be made? do you think UH proponents that subscribe to the WCF must think of this as an exception?
To be non-EP is to take an exception to the WCF, yes. This can be proven easily by authorial intent.
Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith:
Frank J. Smith and David C. Lachman, ed., Worship in the Presence of God, p. 224:
G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith For Study Classes, p. 167:
Preface to the 1673 edition of the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter:
What I am saying is that I can agree fully with the statement that the WA meant the Psalms when they said "psalms". That still does not say that no hymns were allowed. For, you see, I believe that hymns are allowed; but if I were to make a ruling on the matter I would choose the very same words they did. I would not mandate nor rule out hymns. But I would mandate the Psalms, most assuredly. That does not mean that I forbid hymns, but just that I would assure Psalms their proper place in worship. For that is what Scripture demands, not just me.
If I were to make rulings as to forms of worship, I would say the same things as they did, even though I do not forbid hymns. That's because if we are going to praise God in song, then neglecting the Psalms is taking far too many liberties with song, and would err from what Scripture enjoins upon us. If we're going to sing, then we ought to sing the Psalms. That does not preclude singing hymns too.
As well, there are norms for formal and corporate worship. These need to regulated, to be sure. But that does not mean that we draw an arbitrary and artificial distinction between private worship and formal worship which we then ignore or neglect to observe on a broader scale. We draw the rules of government not only from the direct teaching of Scripture, but also from the example of Scripture, of the Apostles, and also from the witness we have of personal and corporate regulation that we find even in secular society. It is called 'the light of nature', or sound reason. The same dichotomous distinctions do not hold that we sometimes attach to that of formal and private worship. We need to be careful how we impose what we do, whether it is of order and decency ( which is discretionary ruling ) or of sound Biblical doctrine ( which is not discretionary. )
To rule, then, that the Psalms are to be sung may be a matter of order and decency, or it may be a matter of doctrine. We do not argue against the former, but question the latter. It is this that the WA did not rule on, though we can agree that it ruled on the imposition of Psalms in the area of the necessity of the Psalms and the order of the Church.
This whole area needs more exploration. Its not that its new territory; its just new to us.
That's just what I'm saying you may not do. Only the authors may do that. They may not impose their intent unless authorized by Scripture. Its not like they are a second line of Apostles, making new rules. It is significant that they did not say that hymns are ruled out in the Confession, their binding statement of doctrine.
OK, think of it this way. Let's say the WA concluded that hymns could be sung. Then the question we would be arguing over now would be which ones they allowed us to sing and which ones not; and whether going beyond what they agreed was acceptable was all right. In other words, they would have established another church song book besides the Psalms. I must say that as one who believes that we may sing hymns that this would cause me great concern. Does this mean we have another songbook added to Scripture? Does this sanction one songbook over all others, from that time on to eternity? I shudder at the thought, for there is no other songbook sanctioned by God other than the Psalms. But that does not negate His commands to submit to Him all our efforts and worship even in the talents of composition and music.
That makes all these things secular, just because we want to define as sacred only those things which God has written. Yes, He and only He is holy; but our worship is sanctified by the Spirit, and so is also holy. Our work-a-day life is also sanctified, as we work as in thankfulness, praise and worship to Him and to our Saviour. It is not formal worship, but yet we pray that it may be acceptable in His sight. And if we write songs as if our songs could never be presented before God, then that would curtail our sense of holiness in that calling to write songs. Are we called to write only secular songs? Are our songs never presentable to God as praise which can be sanctified? And is the difference between formal worship and private worship so great that God would turn the same song away which was acceptable worship before, simply because the setting has changed?
No church would authorize as standard imposition for all time a hymnbook. I too would oppose that. That would raise men's efforts to Scripture level. But that does not mean that hymns are ruled out of formal worship.
This is what I find unconvincing; the Westminster Assembly did not rule out hymns because "it didn't come up." They didn't entertain it. To say they would have allowed it is simply speculation. It is a later controversy and as such is to be dealt with by later synods, and was to one side or the other. in my opinion My For what it's worth.
But I am slipping here. We are looking for Scriptural proof for EP, and I'm starting to defend the singing of hymns. I don't want to do that. I'm only trying to show that what has been presented so far fails in several ways to satisfy the necessity that doctrinal EP calls for. I don't think that anyone is arguing against policy EP here.