Is EXCLUSIVE psalm singing Biblical????

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Tyrese

Puritan Board Sophomore
In light of Ephesians 5:19, whats the Biblical basis for only singing psalms? At every Reformed Baptist church Ive been to we've song psalms and hymns out of the Trinity Hymnal. Again is there a Biblical case for this, not inferences drawn from the Old Testament. Now I wholeheartedly agree that we should sing songs that are Word driven. But again I don't find any command for exclusive psalm singing in the NT(Nor the OT). Please keep in mind that I love singing psalms, but there are hundreds of theologically sound hymns that are good also. Please give me a scriptural basis for this as I am open to being wrong.
 

kodos

Puritan Board Junior
You may want to look at the Exclusive Psalmody section of our forums to get a good survey of the arguments for and against. While I personally love singing the psalms I am not an EP person. That said there are some good biblical arguments given by our brothers and sisters who are EP.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Tyrese,

You said this, "Again is there a Biblical case for this, not inferences drawn from the Old Testament."

Inferential doctrines derived from the Bible are not un-Biblical; otherwise, the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union would be un-Biblical, as would the "Five Points."

That said, God's worship, according to the tenor of the Second Commandment, is that we may only worship God acceptably, as He Himself has been pleased to command us.

God does not command us to sing uninspired compositions, no matter how doctrinally sound they appear to us. God's command, in other words, supercedes all pious intentions in worshippers or composers of uninspired hymns.

The terms "Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs," does not include "hymns" that were written by Isaac Watts, or Charles Wesley. Rather, it includes the canonic hymns of Scripture, as well as the canonic spiritual songs, as well as the canonic Psalms. That we refer to the 150 inspired compositions in the Psalter as the "Psalms" does not mean that this is what Paul had in mind.

For example, the following refer to "Psalms": Pss. 81:2, 95:2, 98:5 and 105:2.

Some of the Psalms titles refer to them as "hymns".

Here is Gill on point:

Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,.... By psalms are meant the Psalms of David, and others which compose the book that goes by that name, for other psalms there are none; and by "hymns" we are to understand, not such as are made by good men, without the inspiration of the Spirit of God; since they are placed between psalms and spiritual songs, made by men inspired by the Holy Ghost; and are put upon a level with them, and to be sung along with them, to the edification of churches; but these are only another name for the Book of Psalms, the running title of which may as well be the Book of Hymns, as it is rendered by Ainsworth; and the psalm which our Lord sung with his disciples after the supper, is called an hymn; and so are the psalms in general called hymns, by Philo the Jew (n); and songs and hymns by Josephus (o); and , "songs and praises", or "hymns", in the Talmud (p): and by "spiritual songs" are meant the same Psalms of David, Asaph, &c. and the titles of many of them are songs, and sometimes a psalm and song, and song and psalm, a song of degrees; together with all other Scriptural songs, written by inspired men; and which are called "spiritual", because they are indited by the Spirit of God, consist of spiritual matter, and are designed for spiritual edification; and are opposed to all profane, loose, and wanton songs: these three words answer to the several titles of David's Psalms; from whence it seems to be the intention of the apostle, that these should be sting in Gospel churches.
For a more thorough defense, you may like to pick up Bushell's "Songs of Zion."

Cheers,
 

Tyrese

Puritan Board Sophomore
@ Adam. I'm not saying we cant ever draw inferences. My question is is it appropriate to draw inferences on this topic. The Trinity and and the five points can be backed up with scripture. Can you back this up with scripture?
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Can you back this up with scripture?
How about a different question? Can you back up the singing of uninspired hymns or songs in public worship by either a) an explicit command that such are to be used, or even written and/or b) an inference drawn from a biblical example of their use by the Church (OT or NT) and/or c) an inference drawn from any other text of Scripture where uninspired material is used in song.

You should also note that Eph 5:19 and the Col 3:16 do not, at least necessarily, support the use of hymns and spiritual songs as commonly defined today i.e uninspired hymns and songs. The meaning of words in Scripture should be established not by how we use them today but, if at all possible by determining how they were used by the author and/or understood by the those he was writing to. Likewise the 'spiritual' has been ably shown by B.B. Warfield to almost certainly mean in association with the Holy Spirit, i.e. authored by Him....and not merely of a spiritual nature v. carnal or secular nature.

My recommendation is to read Bushell's book before discussing the subject further as virtually if not every text and question is dealt with there-in. I am always amazed at how many people argue and discuss this subject, but have not taken the time to read some of the fullest resources available on the subject - the argument so often comes down to soundbites and modern preconceptions without recourse to the historic and excellent writings of previous generations, and in the case of Bushell the current generation. Regardless of where one ends up on the subject it demands a detailed reading of what is available.
 

Tyrese

Puritan Board Sophomore
@ Pastor Paul. Well that's my point. The Bible doesn't command neither position (That is the added details of each position). The verse simply says, "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." Maybe you can help me because this goes back to my original question. Give me biblical basis for this as I desire to understand were psalm only brethren are coming from. I don't want a list of books to read as I already have enough. Books are not working as I run into inference after inference. And some are even adding to scripture. I like your point, "if at all possible by determining how they were used by the author and/or understood by the those he was writing to." But its still not enough evidence to say we should sing only psalms. Also I would like to ask the question, "can God be pleased with songs and poems written by men?" Please give me an honest answer.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Before understanding the argument either way on what is appropriate to sing in worship, one needs to understand the general principle governing the worship of God which is generally called the regulative principle of worship. If you are already well familiar great, but if not, I would say you will have difficulty following the arguments pro and con on this subject if you have not first become will familiar with the general principle both sides already are agreed upon.
 

Tyrese

Puritan Board Sophomore
@ Naphtali. Yes I understand the regulative principle of worship very well. So being that we should worship God only in the way He has commanded, where does God command us to sing only psalms in public worship?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
We sing what God tells us to sing; that is what we look for as far as authorization. We don't look for a scripture that says, "sing only this." That is a fundamental misunderstanding if the RPW.
 

Tyrese

Puritan Board Sophomore
@ Naphtali. I agree with that. But where's the authorization coming from. Or where did God tell you what and how to sing? I'm asking out of genuine curiosity, as I do try and at least understand why some Reformed Brethren sing only psalms. And as of right now, its a Little confusing.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
EP folks sing psalms because they find prescription for that in scripture; they don't sing things outside the 150 psalms because they do not see such a clear warrant to do so. So, you will need to understand how EP adherents view the passages normally considered as addressing the question of content of song for public worship. These, and that understanding, have already been alluded to above as far as the key passages that come up in this discussion.
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
You may want to look at the Exclusive Psalmody section of our forums to get a good survey of the arguments for and against. While I personally love singing the psalms I am not an EP person. That said there are some good biblical arguments given by our brothers and sisters who are EP.
And there are also good arguments out there by our brothers and sisters in favor of hymnody too.
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
What does it matter what my honest answer is to your question? If I say yes - then your present position will be affirmed - no progress in your own certainly however! If I say no - you will probably disagree and ask me for reasons - i.e. not worth answering with a yes or no, or even a rather long series of interrogations.

Better for you to do a principled, detailed prayerful study of the subject using whatever resources you can get your hands on. Obviously this is bothering you - why the hesitancy to invest some time and money in a couple of books? If you don't want to that's fine, but your conscience and understanding will almost certainly not be settled by a forum discussion. In regards to books; if you have not read Macnaughter, The Psalm in Worship or Bushell 'Song of Zion' you have not read the right books! :)

Or browse this site Exclusive Psalmody | For the Encouragement and Preservation of Biblical Worship many questions will be answered there.

My position is that there is no clear specific verse that commands the exclusive singing of psalms in public worship. However no such command is required.

That said, there is I believe sufficient evidence that on the balance of all evidence, exegetical, theological and historical, that we ought to sing psalms exclusively.

Exegetical: For instance in both Hezekiah's reformation and after the return from exile the Holy Spirit makes it very clear and reinforces it multiple times that the worship re-instituted was using the instruments designed by David the prophet and using the songs written under inspiration by David and the other inspired song writers. For a NT exegetical argument consider Col 3:16 ' the Word of Christ' what has best claim to that title? 'Spritual' what does that mean?

Theological: what is the most consistent application of the RPW? Based on the 2nd commandment - ought we not to err on the side of caution even if certainty cannot be established?

Historical: Were there hymns of human composition in the early church? What evidence is there of their existence? If little or none - why? What was the general consensus of the post-apostolic church in relation to this matter? Can it be determined? What is the historic position/s of the Church in history? What opinions had the Reformers on this subject? Post-Reformers? When did hymns come into widespread use? What was the context?

When one/a church has honestly weighed up all this evidence then one is in a position to determine a position.
 

gordo

Puritan Board Freshman
Sure it's biblical. Biblical in the sense that there is nothing wrong with it and it is totally acceptable. But of course a nice hymn is biblical too. So enjoy whatever you like. :)
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
In light of Ephesians 5:19, whats the Biblical basis for only singing psalms? At every Reformed Baptist church Ive been to we've song psalms and hymns out of the Trinity Hymnal. Again is there a Biblical case for this, not inferences drawn from the Old Testament. Now I wholeheartedly agree that we should sing songs that are Word driven. But again I don't find any command for exclusive psalm singing in the NT(Nor the OT). Please keep in mind that I love singing psalms, but there are hundreds of theologically sound hymns that are good also. Please give me a scriptural basis for this as I am open to being wrong.
Agreed. It seems odd that Paul would add "hymns and spiritual songs" if all he wanted the Ephesians to sing was "psalms only."
 

gordo

Puritan Board Freshman
In light of Ephesians 5:19, whats the Biblical basis for only singing psalms? At every Reformed Baptist church Ive been to we've song psalms and hymns out of the Trinity Hymnal. Again is there a Biblical case for this, not inferences drawn from the Old Testament. Now I wholeheartedly agree that we should sing songs that are Word driven. But again I don't find any command for exclusive psalm singing in the NT(Nor the OT). Please keep in mind that I love singing psalms, but there are hundreds of theologically sound hymns that are good also. Please give me a scriptural basis for this as I am open to being wrong.
Agreed. It seems odd that Paul would add "hymns and spiritual songs" if all he wanted the Ephesians to sing was "psalms only."
Good point!
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
Sure it's biblical. Biblical in the sense that there is nothing wrong with it and it is totally acceptable. But of course a nice hymn is biblical too. So enjoy whatever you like.
The Reformed
Agreed. It seems odd that Paul would add "hymns and spiritual songs" if all he wanted the Ephesians to sing was "psalms only."
The standard argument in reply is that Paul was a Jew thus used Jewish litteray techniques of repetition to make a point. Other examples include ''amen amen'' by Jesus; ''holy holy holy''' etc. If we accept that koine greek is different that classical thus words that are related are often used as synonyms (like in John 20; apape, philo), than this is example of Paul demanding the singing of all of the Psalter because the psalter is not 1 genre of songs. This is the problem is many psalters... they don't have tunes that reflect often the genre of song. A poem is a poem, but not all poetry is the same. Poe sounds radically different than Yeats and different from Frost, who is different than Nelligan (a French Québec poet), yet there are different names for their styles, but generally considered poems. Thus by Paul using 3 words he would be referring to the notion of the complete Psalter, not just aspects.

If I was going to make an argument for exclusive psalmody, that would be the most convincing for me. As for musical instruments.... I do not think you can make that argument biblically, but the argument comes down to circumstances and elements. In some contexts instruments may be not wise (persecution from the state, old people home, house churches in areas with noise restrictions, etc.). But the point is that the NT puts the emphesis on corporate singing, not concerts. The NT has no concept of a praise band or worship leaders or worship pastors, which did exist under the administration of the Temple.
 

Unoriginalname

Puritan Board Junior
If we accept that koine greek is different that classical thus words that are related are often used as synonyms (like in John 20; apape, philo), than this is example of Paul demanding the singing of all of the Psalter because the psalter is not 1 genre of songs.
Would that be similar to when laws statutes and commandments are lumped together?
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Agreed. It seems odd that Paul would add "hymns and spiritual songs" if all he wanted the Ephesians to sing was "psalms only."
Good point!
Wow...why didn't I think about that? Gentlemen, with respect, if that is the best we're going to get - this thread like so many others is not going to go anywhere.
 

GulfCoast Presbyterian

Puritan Board Junior
Agreed. It seems odd that Paul would add "hymns and spiritual songs" if all he wanted the Ephesians to sing was "psalms only."
Good point!
Wow...why didn't I think about that? Gentlemen, with respect, if that is the best we're going to get - this thread like so many others is not going to go anywhere.
With respect, many might say the same with regard to your response, as well.
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
With respect, many might say the same with regard to your response above, as well.
Which one Mark?

The first one where I suggested resources, and challenged the OP to look at the subject from a different perspective?

The second one where I set out in three points the areas that needed study and gave more details on resources?

Or just the third one where I expressed frustration that people seem unwilling to actually interact with any of these things, but rather are content to ask questions and make points that are superficial at best? As I stated above the best way to deal with the matter is to prayerfully read and study the issue not play with throwaway comments. For that reason I will not be taking further part in the thread.

Before my time on the board the EP Forum was closed - I think I can understand why.
 

GulfCoast Presbyterian

Puritan Board Junior
The third. You may see it as expressing frusteration, where others may equally read this as a condescending comment towards someone who was attempting to engage in a conversation..A conversation or comment which you now catagorize as "superficial." My point, consider if others with no position might think the response to what you percieve as a "superficial at best" or "throw away" comment was equally superficial, i.e. "wow, why didn't I think of that....if that's the best were going to get....." Do you honestly believe such a response is truly the best way to get someone to "prayerfully read and study the issue?"
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Mark

On its own - it would be superficial - on the back of what else was written it is not. However - I also will stop the superficial comments, I have pointed to the resources, whoever wishes can partake, or not.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
This issue boils down to a burden of proof, and to authority. It isn't enough not to be 100% sure whether God intended to restrict corporate worship song to psalms only. That's understandable, and that's fine. But singing is done by the whole congregation in unison. Everybody has to sing the same song. Everybody has to take the same words before God and offer them to him as incense. The elders of the Church do not have the authority to decide that uninspired songs may be placed into the mouth of every believer in the worship assembly if God himself has not clearly authorized it.

But maybe he has done so in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16? The fact of the matter is that before Ephesians and Colossians were penned, there is not a single instance of uninspired worship song being offered to God in the entire Bible, anywhere, ever. If the Holy Spirit is referring to uninspired songs in any of the three terms in Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19, he is doing so for the very first time in Scripture, and for the only times in Scripture. He is also doing so by the mere use of the words humnois and odais. But these words have both been used, both in the New Testament and in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (not just in the Psalm superscriptions), to refer to psalms. In Chronicles, for instance, the psalms are called "the hymns of David and Asaph." At no point have they ever been used to refer to a hymn to the true God that is not inspired. These verses do not contain a clear reference to uninspired songs. They do the opposite when they qualify the terms with the adjective "spiritual."

It is completely understandable to be uncertain or confused about this subject, but when we are talking about the worship of God, the burden of proof falls to the innovation. There is no clear evidence of uninspired worship song being required in Scripture. We may like them, and there may, perhaps, be some use for them outside the stated assembly, but we are not commanded to use uninspired songs in corporate worship, and the elders of a Reformed Church have no authority from the Bible to require them to be sung.

The sad thing is that while uninspired hymnodists (including myself when I was one) are usually very careful to state that they love the Psalms and think that they should be used more, the practical reality is that the Psalms must necessarily be neglected when uninspired hymnody is the norm. It is hard enough to sing all 150 psalms regularly when they are all one is singing. When uninspired songs are introduced as well, the bulk of the expansive, thoroughly Christological Hymnal God gave to the Church inevitably lies neglected. This is a tragedy because the tremendous benefit of singing (and memorizing) the praise songs of the Holy Spirit is being missed. No wonder the Reformed church is in such disunity and doctrinal confusion. If we return to the Psalter, we may find a strong basis for unity and uniformity of worship and doctrine, as the Three Kingdoms did when the Westminster Standards were penned. Until then, our witness to the world and to the increasingly antinomian American and Western church remains weaker than it might be, because Reformed denominations remain just as divided on worship styles and songs as our evangelical brethren.
 
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jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
Would that be similar to when laws statutes and commandments are lumped together?
Maybe, it would, of course, depend on the context. I personally don't buy into that argument, but I do see some degree of merit in it. But if I was a defender of such an interpretation, that could potentially be something to look into.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Triadic expressions are all over the place in Scripture. "Statutes and commandments and judgments," "iniquity and transgression and sin," "with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might," "signs and wonders and mighty deeds," "psalms, hymns, and songs spiritual": These barely scratch the surface.

However, I think it's important to remember that exclusive psalm-singers do not need to prove any particular interpretation of the way the three terms are being used (triadic repetition, psalm categories, both, or something else) -- it is only necessary for there to be a lack of clear warrant for uninspired hymns.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Sure it's biblical. Biblical in the sense that there is nothing wrong with it [exclusive psalmody] and it is totally acceptable. But of course a nice hymn is biblical too. So enjoy whatever you like.
No. I believe you are articulating your own position incorrectly. If you hold to the RPW, and sing man-composed hymns, then you MUST believe that they are commanded. And if you believe they are commanded, then those who hold to the exclusive psalmody position are NEGLIGENT because they fail to include what God has commanded.

The only way that your statement would be correct is if you believe there is absolutely no distinction between the 150 Psalms of the Bible and man-composed songs for worship. Would this be your contention?
 
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