Exclusive Psalmody...

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by kceaster, Mar 8, 2004.

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  1. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    [quote:3157af1a70][i:3157af1a70]Originally posted by webmaster[/i:3157af1a70]
    [quote:3157af1a70]
    Now I have heard the LXX argument before, and while interesting, I don't buy it. I think that there is sufficient Classical Greek usage of hymnoi and odai (especially in the context of letters to the Greek and Gentile churches of Colosse and Ephesus) that they would not have been thought of first as "types of psalms."
    [/quote:3157af1a70]

    Right, exactly what I meant. The words are not the same such as "holy, holy, holy" or "truly, truly".


    [quote:3157af1a70]
    But having said all that, we need to be critical in our thinking. It really is insufficient to simply twist the words of the Confession because "everybody sings hymns." Kind of like the "living document" theory!
    [/quote:3157af1a70]

    We would have to say, then, if we are being honsest, that WE DO take exception to this in the Confession because the framers of the Confession meant one thing, and we take that same statement and meaning something other than that. There really would be no way to say anything other than that. [/quote:3157af1a70]

    EXACTLY!
     
  2. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think I know what Fred means. I was part of a denomination once that threw out part of the Confession on the grounds that the Bible taught equality of the sexes. Once that had been done, they could then open the offices to women without breaking the Confession, and original intent wasn't even a question anymore.

    I am trying to tread carefully here. I want to throw out some thoughts, and Kevin is throwing them out, but in another way. Good. That's how we think together. :biggrin:

    I think I should sharpen myself in defining what I don't mean. If God is pleased with our worship of Him, as, say Miriam after the crossing, or David in the fields as he watched the sheep, then it is not as though what we do is perfect, but that it is done in faith. It is a free, spontaneous response of expressed joy. In the Twenty-first century, and maybe it's my prejudices, but I just can't see Miriam and David jumping out and singing the old Genevan tunes. And if they do, I wouldn't expect them to be like anything we've ever heard before.

    But I can't see them grabbing an electric guitar and a set of drums either. I like to think of music as hijacked. It belongs to the Christian, and not to the world. We have a great deal of difficulty separating that anymore because it is so inundated with worldy trends and fashions.

    I'll tell you what put me onto this. Three things, really: I've always had this notion tickling my brains; I sometimes play guitar for a group of invalids, for whom music opens doors like nothing else will; and I've just finished reading a history on Country music. The last one kind of deflated a lot of ideas for me concerning the flow of the musical genre. So much of it is hype, almost the whole thing is money-oriented, and those who made it big were not the best, but those who could sell. They followed the biggest market possibilities. And if this is true of Country, how much more with the other popular genres. It's really out of control. And churches are eating it up as if the Spirit is OK-ing it all. But that would be like sanctifying idol worship in Jerusalem just because it's happening.

    That kind of gives you an idea of what I don't mean. If our praise needs to be perfect, or entirely Scriptural, music and lyrics, or if it has to be perfetly spiritual or perfectly true, then we may as well close our Psalters altogether. If it is an unruly sponteneity, we may as well go shopping instead (at least they know how to play fitting music ) As I see worship being perfected I also see music being perfected. But how do we recognized perfecting music?

    I'm not really making an argument for or against EP here; rather I think that EP might be the fall back position here until we can get a handle on what music really is to the worship of God. We can't just superimpose our modern music onto the OT and NT call to worship God with Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, not when the world owns the way it is expressed.

    I believe that it is not that it has to be perfect, but that it has to be done in faith, and that our desire for God is what pleases Him. What we actually do is sanctified if it is done in faith, and we shouldn't use it as a licence to do wrong.

    Really, when you think about it, we don't know very much about this. I think we should start learning. I don't mind using EP as a basis, if that's our goal. But I can't swallow the use of the RPW to sanction EP. It just doesn't fit with my idea of what music is. And neither does the carelessly sanctified use of whatever brings people in, as if worldly trends are neutral.
     
  3. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This will sound like a dumb question, I know - but what is the real difference between a hymn and a psalm? Is a psalm defined simply as anything that is in the book of Psalms? Or is it more broad than that? If it's more broad, what distinguishes it from a hymn? Growing up in the A/G, I've never been encouraged to even give notice to "petty specifics" like that, since any A/G-er knows that a song's good as long as it mentions God and stirs our emotions :lol:.

    Chris

    [Edited on 3-12-2004 by Me Died Blue]
     
  4. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior

    Chris...

    I may be way of base here, but a psalm is any metrical, poetical song in the canon of Scripture. That is how I would define it.

    That limits us to only those portions of Scripture that were sung either in the OT or the NT.

    In Christ,

    KC
     
  5. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Isn't it that the term "Psalms" refers to the 150 Psalms in the Bible? At least that's what the term "psalmody" refers to. Some churches have included with that the various songs found in the NT as well, such the Song of Mary, the Song of Zacharias, etc. They had eleven of them at first, as I recall. They called them "Gezangen", which is, roughly, the Dutch for "Hymns".

    I have been giving this some thought. And it seems to me that this question comes down to how far the development of music and instrumentation is acceptable in worship. It's not singing itself; it's not using instruments itself; and it's not so much a question of content either. On this much everyone is agreed.

    The problem seems to be likened almost to the way Mennonites take a stand on technological developement. For some reason they seem to feel that God is most happy with the the 1800's culture. That doesn't make sense. It is easy to see that they took an arbitrary stance here. And we could be seen as doing the same thing as far as music is concerned, as if there is something more holy about the music in Calvin's or the Westminster Assembly's generation than our own. But we give no reason for it. We certainly cannot find such a thing in Scripture.

    But that then would seem to open the doors to anything and everything. And that too is not right. We tend to please ourselves rather than to look to Scripture to see what God is pleased with.

    What exactly are those norms of praise and worship that are written for us? Even an insinuation toward only the 150 Psalms for worship is tenous at best. We have a much more elaborate song, like a Cantata, in the Song of Songs; we have numerous hymns by Paul, we have the most oft used refrain from the OT (also found in the Psalms: [i:64efc780f9]for His mercy endures forever[/i:64efc780f9]) ; we have all kinds of prophets' writings written as if in verse; we have songs early in the NT, and so on. The Bible seems to be full of music, and the people seem to be filled with songs when they are most worshipful and spiritually alive.

    But sincerity of heart for us is a subjective thing. How do we know when and if we are guided by faith alone? Is that the reason for a strict Psalmody? Some how there has to be a line for us between an overdone strictness and and underdone permissiveness. But where do we find such objective guidelines in Scripture?
     
  6. blhowes

    blhowes Puritan Board Professor

    I was wondering if somebody could clarify for me why a perspective Presbyterian pastor might be questioned about his stand on exclusive Psalmody?

    The reason I'm asking is because I was just poking around the OPC web site and saw the link to the Trinity Hymnal, which contains a number of my favorite hymns. That got me thinking back to the thread about EP.

    I thought the EP might just apply to the PCA, so I moved over to the PCA web site. The book of church order seemed to allow for the singing of hymns, though it is emphasized that care must be taken in their selection.

    Any thoughts?
    Bob
     
  7. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Bob:
    Here is how I understand it:

    In the OPC there is a wide variety of kinds of churches. We have anywhere from 'EP/no intruments' to non-ordained worship groups leading that part of the service. With this kind of variety you can see that it becomes necessary to ask a prospective pastor what his views are. Most pastors are willing to work within whatever setting they are in, within reason, but the contrast between the extremes is too great to ignore. So the question, officially, is asked out of deference, not as a qualification for the position. As I understand it, this may not be a qualification. But I could be wrong.
     
  8. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Sure you guys, discuss this subject while I'm out of town away from a computer :wink1:
    [quote:788304097f] [i:788304097f]Fred[/i:788304097f]
    You need to look at Davies' Worship of the English Puritans. You can also read any number of Puritans on the subject (Burrough's Gospel Worship for example). You will never find a divine or even for that fact very many puritans at all who sang hymns.

    Another good set of resources is the OPC report on Psalmody/Hymnody, as well as any of the online essays promoting exclusive psalmody. They are historically accurate. The "dirty little secret" of American Presbyterianism is that hymnody was not really introduced until a good while after the Confession was written, and even then it met with extreme opposition.

    Again, I'm not arguing that the Confession is right at this point - just for words meaning what they say. The same tactic is used with respect to the days of creation (ignoring the divines' original intent).[/quote:788304097f]
    Fred, thank you for your honesty on this issue, both in faitfhully portraying the historical position of the WA, American Presbyterianism, and in portraying the EP view. It's nice to get a fair presentation when much of the rhetoric out there against EP is nothing more than mere emotion. Like "why can't I sing Amazing Grace? It's a good song? How could you not let me sing that in church? It was even written by a reformed minister!"
    Davies book is an excellent historical resource on the subject, as well as his book on the [i:788304097f]Worship of the American Puritans.[/i:788304097f] As for the OPC report on singing, I think the it's arguments are weak, and John Murray in the Minority Report really hits that point. They try to treat singing like prayer and therefore are allowed some latitude in song just like prayer.

    Historically, the United Presbyterian Church still upheld Exclusive Psalmody until at least 1912 as is shown by their joint publishing with other reformed denominations of The Psalter. I believe the Southern Presbyterians held on a little longer. The OPC rejected EP in 1946 which instigated the forming of the Trinity Hymnal soon after.

    I think this is important to understand. Hymn singing, as we know it today, is a recent innovation in the reformed presbyterian churches, as I would argue it has been in most of church history. I understand your desire Kevin to keep the "hymns of the church" but I really question that characterization of the hymns we all know and enjoy. Most of the hymns we all know are only a couple hundred years old if that old at all. I don't think these would qualify as "hymns of the church" when only a small portion of the historical church has owned them. How many hymns exist today which have lasted the entire history of the church? Not many. I can't think of any at the moment. But the Psalms have always been there in one form or another, so if we wish to keep the hymns of the entire church then only the Psalms really fit the description.

    If I may have a litle liberty here to poke and prod the conscience, it seems to me that much objection to the EP position is really couched in the fact that we just don't know the Psalms anymore and we are so comfortable with our familiar hymns. There was a time when all these metrical Psalms were just as familiar to the common people as hymns are for us today. The Scottish Psalters were an integral part of even their Bibles for quite some time. The Psalms were readily familiar to all. It seems to me that many objections to EP are not really so much about the RPW for those who wish to sing hymns but simply about the fact that people don't want to learn new songs and simply wish to find a way to keep the hymns they are familiar with. These arguments based on emotion and human preference simply are not enough to build our worship practice on. The charge that the Puritans were being legalistic in restricting the Psalms is simply missing the whole point of their efforts. They were trying to get back to apostolic worship. Thus they rejected the innovations of men. This is not legalism guys. They were trying to reform the church back to it's original worship. Now, if you wish to argue they were mistaken in this area, then by all means do so. But at least give them some credit and don't right them off as "legalistic."

    Now for those who would like a valid argument for un-inspired hymnody within the RPW here you go:
    Scripture commands the element of [i:788304097f]singing[/i:788304097f] in worship, therefore we must sing. But Scripture doesn't specify the content of singing, therefore we have the liberty to arrange the content of song so long as it's done decently and in good order, and doesn't contradict the doctrines of Scripture. This was the alternate position of some of the Puritans including a few Westminster divines like Flavel, Baxter, and some Anglicans. They even wrote some hymns and used them in their own churches. (Read Iain Murray's booklet on Psalms Only for this info. It's a good defence of hymnody though he fails to take into account that the WA did in fact confessionalize EP.)

    The only difference then with EP is that EP holds the content of song is dictated by Scripture to be the Psalms though we would have liberty to arrange the content in such a way as to sing it in good order and with understanding (which requires translation of the text unless you're going to teach your congregation Hebrew!)

    I do hold to EP, but I recognize the concerns raised against it and would like to see some good discussion about it. But the arguments and points must be honest both historically and exegetically, not emotional attachments to our favorite hymns. I can really identify with the Puritans in their efforts to purify their worship, especially since I came from a charasmatic background with rampant will worship and basically had to start over just as the Puritans did. The RPW has given me much liberty in that respect.
     
  9. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    [quote:8776382128][i:8776382128]Originally posted by JohnV[/i:8776382128]
    What exactly are those norms of praise and worship that are written for us? Even an insinuation toward only the 150 Psalms for worship is tenous at best. We have a much more elaborate song, like a Cantata, in the Song of Songs; we have numerous hymns by Paul, we have the most oft used refrain from the OT (also found in the Psalms: [i:8776382128]for His mercy endures forever[/i:8776382128]) ; we have all kinds of prophets' writings written as if in verse; we have songs early in the NT, and so on. The Bible seems to be full of music, and the people seem to be filled with songs when they are most worshipful and spiritually alive.

    But sincerity of heart for us is a subjective thing. How do we know when and if we are guided by faith alone? Is that the reason for a strict Psalmody? Some how there has to be a line for us between an overdone strictness and and underdone permissiveness. But where do we find such objective guidelines in Scripture? [/quote:8776382128]
    John, faith is bound by the law. The HC summarizes this well:
    Q91: What are good works?
    A91: Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.

    Faith embraces the clear directions from God. But if you remove the boundary EP has, namely the Psalms only as the ordered content of song, then you are faced with the dilemma, "how far can I go without violating Scripture? And how do I know if I'm being too restrictive?" By removing the boundry of EP, there is no objective standard to measure the content of song, at least from Scripture. We could make a rule that we can only use songs which do not contradict the Scriptures in doctrine. But then I would ask, well where do you derive this rule from Scripture? How does such a rule fit in with the regulative principle? You could have the elders mandate hymn criteria for the congregation or presbytery, but this doesn't help the universal church at all. That's the beauty of the Psalms, and I think the EP position. Where ever you go in the world, what ever language, as long as the Scriptures are translated, you also have the required content of song available too. Don't know if this helps your concern directly or not.

    And I also see your concern about music in general. It's hard to discern a right path in something so subjective. Certainly we could use as a general rule, music which glorifies God and minimizes man. Most music in our culture today does the exact opposite. But then you are also left with the dilemma, what style of music glorifies God better and who decides?

    [Edited on 3-16-2004 by puritansailor]
     
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