Exclusive psalmody and extemporaneous prayer - NOT debating

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by thbslawson, May 27, 2012.

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  1. thbslawson

    thbslawson Puritan Board Freshman

    Greetings. I do not wish to debate exclusive psalmody in this post. I'm settled in my own mind, and begrudge no one who is convinced from Scripture otherwise. But I do have have what I believe to be legitimate questions for those that hold to it.

    One of the common arguments from the EP position is that we are commanded to worship God as he has dictated (basically, the regulative principle) and that extends to the very contents of our songs that we sing. Therefore, if the song is not scripture itself (not merely scriptural) then it is not permissible in public worship.

    So why would this principle not apply to public prayers also? In churches that hold to EP, elders regularly offer extemporaneous "uninspired" prayers to God. On what Biblical basis would you say that it is okay for an elder to offer up an uninspired prayer in corporate worship?

    Following on the heals of that then, why would it be wrong for one to sing his uninspired prayer? Could one not justify the singing of some hymns on the basis that it is merely a prayer in sung form?

    Perhaps I'm being a bit too pragmatic. :D Again, please forgive me if this question sounds debate-ish. I seriously do not wish to repeat what's already be covered many times. :deadhorse: I sincerely want to know how one would explain what seems to be an inconsistent application of a particular principle. I will answer posts not with arguments against your position, but with questions for clarification.

    Thank you.
  2. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    Thomas, you might enjoy reading this debate between Rev Lane Keister and Dr. R. Scott Clark from approximately a year ago. Rev Keister takes a position that is sort of similar to what you seem to be getting at (at least if I understand you correctly). Unfortunately, Dr. Clark has deleted his blog, so we cannot view all of his complete responses. I do think that Rev Keister quotes and references Dr. Clark sufficiently in his posts that you will get the gist of Dr. Clark's arguments.

    Part 1 - I'm Just Wondering
    Part 2 - Response to Dr. Clark
    Part 3 - Response to Dr. Clark part 2
    Part 4 - Roundup Response
  3. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    You could say the same for "uninspired" sermons.

    There will be biblical evidence for uninspired prayer and uninspired sermons, where there isn't biblical evidence for substituting other songs for the Psalms.
  4. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Consider two other elements of worship: the reading and preaching of the Word. Reading of the Word must be Scripture only. Preaching the Word, however, is to be extemporaneous, not simply a repetition of Scripture. This is not because we feel like it but because there are numerous Scriptural commands and examples for extemporaneous preaching. Note that neither element is done in unison by the entire congregation.

    Now consider prayer and singing of praise. Prayer is done by one ordained man on behalf of the whole congregation. The words are not put into the lips of every individual, although by saying "amen" we may indicate our approval and acceptance of what is prayed on our behalf. As with the preaching of the Word by one man, there are numerous Scriptural commands and examples for extemporaneous prayer. Singing, however, requires a set form of words that everyone in the congregation must sing in unison. Unlike with prayer, there are no commands or examples to sing extemporaneously without the spirit of prophecy -- in fact, it is not even possible. A pre-written song is required.

    In the Old Testament, Moses, David, and specific families of Levites (mentioned numerous times in 1&2 Chronicles) were raised up to write these prophetic songs for the people of God. All Scriptural examples of sung praise are inspired. There are no commands or examples in Scripture that clearly indicate that an uninspired form of words should be written for the people of God to sing together. If God wanted new hymns after the coming of Christ, there were plenty of prophets in the Apostolic age who might have performed this function, but there is no hint of this. Instead, we are told to sing the spiritual songs already written. Never is it hinted in either Testament that uninspired songs should be written, and extemporaneous singing remains as impossible today as it was then.

    All that said, my main question would be this: If God gave us a perfect, inspired, Christocentric Hymnal with 150 songs that bear his stamp, why would we want a larger hymnal -- and one with uninspired songs that are subject to error? We hardly have time to get through God's Hymnal as it is.
  5. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    A follow-up point that I think is worth making concerns the difference between the purposes of prayer and sung praise. Prayer is "an offering up of our desires unto God" (WLC 178) and it includes "confession of our sins" (same WLC answer) -- not just sin in general but specific, daily sins. It concerns particular needs of the moment, and thus it is understandable why the Word commands us to pray in our own words. Singing of praise serves a different purpose. It proclaims the majesty of God, praising him for his attributes and works. Because a set form of words is required for this (which cannot change in response to momentary needs) -- and because God's attributes do not change throughout history -- God has provided a large hymnal sufficient for this task.
  6. louis_jp

    louis_jp Puritan Board Freshman

    The short answer is that praying and singing are distinct elements of worship, even if there are similarities.

    It would seem that one couldn't, without also holding that only the minister can sing them, unless you have a basis for distinguishing prayer and song for one purpose but not the other.
  7. wraezor

    wraezor Puritan Board Freshman

    This came up a couple of threads earlier. There is a good quote by Bushell that I think is pretty persuasive (if one embraces the RPW) http://www.puritanboard.com/f124/singing-vs-prayer-ordinance-74252/#post948504

    "The obligation to pray is not fulfilled by singing, even if singing has much in common with prayer, and the obligation to sing praise to God is not fulfilled by praying or preaching. We do not claim that these are three independent elements of worship, but we do claim that these are separately commanded and that because they are distinguishable from one another, they are distinct elements of worship. We therefore claim that a specific warrant as to content is demanded in each case."
  8. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    God appointed the Psalms to be sung. That means He regulates the content of singing, not merely the subject matter.

    God appointd prayer to be offered, without scripting it for us. That means that His regulation of prayer does not go to its content, but its subject matter.
  9. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    Well said. God explicitly commands us to sing the inspired Psalms (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13).
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