Is there Scriptural Warrant for Composing Uninspired song for use in public worship

Status
Not open for further replies.

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
For the latest reopening of the exclusive psalmody sub forum, I’m simply going to throw out the debate question designed for the EP debate that never happened on the PB debate forum.

Is there clear and sufficient warrant given in Scripture for the composition of uninspired writings for use as song in the public worship of the Church?

Feel free to post and submit your arguments bearing in mind the stipulations for the reopening of the forum; see the “sticky” note at the head of the forum thread listing.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I would sight the two passages we are mostly familiar with.

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
(Eph 5:18)

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
(Eph 5:19)

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
(Eph 5:20)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
(Col 3:16)

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
(Col 3:17)
Prayer, Thanksgiving, and other forms of worship are acceptable and commanded in the scriptures. Are we only commanded to pray inspired prayers also. Are we only to be called upon to offer thanksgiving by inspired text also? There are set forms for such as in the Lord's prayer. I do believe that responsive regulated singing that is theologically sound are commanded just as our uninspired prayers are.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Col 3:16" teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,"

I believe this is a direct command to interpret Scripture as a preacher would and put music to it. If a person is just singing the Psalms word for word, then that person is not teaching. They are only reading what the other could read. It would be like a preacher getting up and reading a text of Scripture and not teaching on that text. Teaching means to explain not just read. Now I enter into a phase of discussion which is my own opinion: Preaching = explained spoken words.....Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs = explain spoken words put to music. There needed to be different words to define the two different actions of teaching in order to implement both into worship. I'm not sure the word "Psalms" in Col 3:16 is pointing to the Book of Psalm but instead I think is pointing to a type of teaching.
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
There is no direct command to compose songs for worship.
There is no mention of anyone doing this in the NT or even after the Psalms were collected and collated.
All other songs were of personal use only and never re-sung by anyone.

This is the example of scripture. Therefore if we can not find a clear answer to whether Psalms, hymns and Spiritual (Pneumatikos) Songs were only the 3 categories of the book of Psalms we should go with the positive example of the scripture singing psalms, and the absence of an example of anything else being done.

Lastly why would we want to allow an unnecessary practice that has resulted in poor or false doctrinal songs being used in worship; when we are clearly commanded to worship in Spirit and truth.

Again to restate the issue of what is prescribed in worship that is unique:
God requires us to worship Him as He has directed. He has killed people in the visible covenant for coming up with their own ideas, showing the vital importance of this.

Also note the distinction as to why preaching and praying are allowed to be done by individuals without prescribed content, whereas the singing and reading do have a prescribed component that must be adhered to:

We are commanded to:
Read the scriptures - 66 books only
Sing the Psalms
But we are also to
Preach
Pray
These last two do not have a limited prescribed book for them.
If the command was to
Preach the book of Sermons then only those could be preached
If we were told to
Pray the Book of Prayers then we could only pray those.

But we are given liberty in these other areas. one reason for this is:
The preaching is done by an individual and we are told to check the scriptures to be sure it is correct.
Whereas in singing We all are to sing together which is affirming what is said to be true in direct worship to God.
If we all are to do this we need to know what we will be affirming.
We do not all affirm and direct to God as worship the words of the preacher, except by an individual shout of Amen. We go away and consider them.
So we need to know ahead of time from a book, the words we will offer corporately and recite to God, so the need for a canon of them.

To be consistent the only corporate prayers, ones all would speak together, would not just be out of a common book of prayers, but from scripture like the Lord's Prayer to assure purity.

This is why our fathers explained this as a Regulative Principle, special to the stated or called worship of the church, distinct from other occasions.

This psalm singing was the practice of the synagogue and unless we were told to change something in the NT we continue in worship as believers had. If Christ or the inspired Apostles did not change or correct a practice in the worship then it continues. So we see the sign of admission to the visible covenant is changed and the Supper instituted to replace Passover by Christ, whereas plurality of elders, and the presbytery form of Govt., mutual submission to one another and courts continues.
 
Last edited:

uberkermit

Puritan Board Freshman
Martin, you raise a point which is similar to one (I think) that was being raised yesterday, namely, that certain men whom our Lord has called to preach, do so without using inspired words. So if they are commanded to preach without just reading the Bible, but actually come up with their own thoughts, then why is it that when we are commanded to sing, that we cannot do so without coming up with new songs?

I have been thinking about both of these, and what is common both to uninspired sermons and uninspired prayers is that they are both spoken by one person; they do not require that everyone say them at the same time. Whereas singing generally is done in the congregation as a whole. In this way, there is need for a set group of songs that everyone can know, and subsequently sing together. This makes sense. How could Paul and Silas sing together in the the prison if they did not each know the song? Now it is conceivable that Paul taught Silas the song, or perhaps the other way around, but I do not think it is a stretch that both men knew the song already. My point is this, that there is a sense where praying and preaching are different from congregational singing in that praying and preaching by nature do not require that everyone say the same thing (i.e., vocally) at the same time, whereas singing can (and should) be participated in by all.

Because of these things, I think we can see that there is no need for a set of sermons or a prayer book. These can be done in the moment (though I am not saying the minister or whoever might be praying ought not prepare what to speak or pray beforehand), because one person is preaching or praying out loud. Singing on the other hand requires a collection of songs which can be learned.

So then, to return to the original question, Is there clear and sufficient warrant given in Scripture for the composition of uninspired writings for use as song in the public worship of the Church?, I am not sure if your argument is sufficient. I say this because there seems to be a fundamental difference in the nature of singing vs. preaching and praying.
 

Honor

de-cool
Doesn't the Lord say to "sing a new song"? and just by looking at the world around us we can see that God loves variaty and diversification. He made lots of different types of trees, types of flowers. He even made lots of different and beautiful skin types. He loves when we sing to Him when we use the creativity that He endowed us with to open our hearts and sing and write songs that praise and glorify Him. I think that David was a very gifted song writer. but if that is all that we are allowed to sing why would he give others like Issac Newton and that other guy to write such wonderful songs like Well with my soul and Amazing Grace and all the others? I think to say that THIS IS RULE when the Bible says no such thing is a bit harsh. I wound like a dying cow when I sing (really, I have made numerous children cry and dogs howl) but I love to make up songs through out the day and sing them for my Lord. I think He really likes that.
 

Glenn Ferrell

Puritan Board Junior
I think that David was a very gifted song writer. but if that is all that we are allowed to sing why would he give others like Issac Newton and that other guy to write such wonderful songs like Well with my soul and Amazing Grace and all the others? I think to say that THIS IS RULE when the Bible says no such thing is a bit harsh. I wound like a dying cow when I sing (really, I have made numerous children cry and dogs howl) but I love to make up songs through out the day and sing them for my Lord. I think He really likes that.
There is nothing wrong with religious verse set to music to be sung to God’s glory and the edification of ourselves and others. This is not warrant for the singing of such compositions in public worship. Individuals holding to Exclusive Psalmody, or exclusive canonical content, may have no objections to Christian songs, even contemporary Christian music, but require scriptural authority for their incorporation as part of the sung praise of worship.

We also have the liberty to write prose or poetry, or other edifying words, even posts for PB. However, hopefully, none of us would suggest these be read in the place of scripture, or added to the reading of scripture in public worship, unless an authorized preacher chose to quote our composition as part of a sermon. Likewise, he might include a religious verse, even one set to music and sometimes sung, to illustrate a point. This is very different than the element of worship described by the WCF as the “singing of psalms with grace in the heart.” We need divine authorization to include the compositions of men in the public worship of God.

Scripture clearly commands in multiple places, “Sing Psalms” in the worship of God. Where is the unambiguous command to sing the non-canonical compositions of men in worship?
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
Doesn't the Lord say to "sing a new song"? and just by looking at the world around us we can see that God loves variaty and diversification. He made lots of different types of trees, types of flowers. He even made lots of different and beautiful skin types. He loves when we sing to Him when we use the creativity that He endowed us with to open our hearts and sing and write songs that praise and glorify Him. I think that David was a very gifted song writer. but if that is all that we are allowed to sing why would he give others like Issac Newton and that other guy to write such wonderful songs like Well with my soul and Amazing Grace and all the others? I think to say that THIS IS RULE when the Bible says no such thing is a bit harsh. I wound like a dying cow when I sing (really, I have made numerous children cry and dogs howl) but I love to make up songs through out the day and sing them for my Lord. I think He really likes that.
Awesome you have liberty for that. No one disagrees. They just do not become canonical therefore not to be sung and agreed to as doctrinally correct by others without Consent and by force.

No one of us can know for absolute certainty if what we write is truth. The scriptures are the only thing for sure to be true, though we may not understand them, the words as written are true.

As for new song, I have only ever understood this to be, from a new heart.

The song is the same old one, but with newness of heart let us sing unto the Lord.

Is this not your understanding of the verse?
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
Col 3:16" teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,"

If a person is just singing the Psalms word for word, then that person is not teaching. They are only reading what the other could read. It would be like a preacher getting up and reading a text of Scripture and not teaching on that text. .
Don't you learn when you read the scripture?

then reading to a person could teach them something.

So singing causes them to learn, if nothing else they learn the scripture.

One of the best things about an EP worship is it teaches the kids the word of God. They memorize much of the book of psalms. A most useful learning.
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I would agree that we cannot teach all that is in scripture by using only the Psalms. There is a lot of doctrine that is not found in the psalms.

This past Sunday, we sang the story of Abraham and a good chunk of the song came right out of Genesis 22. The song tied in the story of Abraham with Christ's sacrifice for us. How can that be taught out of the psalms? The song went along with the sermon, and folks were able to go home and sing what had been preached.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
If a person is just singing the Psalms word for word, then that person is not teaching.
"Maschil."


Maschil

instructing, occurs in the title of thirteen Psalms (32, 42, 44, etc.). It denotes a song enforcing some lesson of wisdom or piety, a didactic song. In Ps. 47:7 it is rendered, Authorized Version, "with understanding;" Revised Version, marg., "in a skilful psalm."
Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary

Just thought you might want to know.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I would agree that we cannot teach all that is in scripture by using only the Psalms. There is a lot of doctrine that is not found in the psalms.

This past Sunday, we sang the story of Abraham and a good chunk of the song came right out of Genesis 22. The song tied in the story of Abraham with Christ's sacrifice for us. How can that be taught out of the psalms? The song went along with the sermon, and folks were able to go home and sing what had been preached.
This "experience" simply begs the question as to whether a congregation ought to be singing about the sacrifice of Isaac. By virtue of the fact that specific Old Testament lessons are not in the book of Psalms it might be argued that the Lord did not see any reason for the Old Testament church to sing them, and therefore no argument should be made from divine necessity for singing such in the New Testament church. As for the sacrifice of Christ, the Psalms not only contain teaching to that effect, but the New Testament itself appeals to the Psalms to enforce its eschatological emphasis, e.g. Heb. 10 quoting Ps. 40 -- an emphasis sadly lacking in the fallible compositions of men, which tend rather to so identify the sacrifice of Christ with His cross-work that His whole life of principled obedience is obscured.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Just for clarification I would appreciate it if someone could post a brief reference on what defines psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs from both sides of the table.
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
I would agree that we cannot teach all that is in scripture by using only the Psalms. There is a lot of doctrine that is not found in the psalms.
I don't think the point of singing is to teach all of what there is to know.

What does this have to do with what we are permitted to sing in worship to God?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

ww

Puritan Board Senior
I value and treasure the Singing of the Psalms. It brings great joy to my heart and I can honestly say I do prefer them over uninspired songs however with that said I am not convinced that Scripture prohibits the singing of Praise in the form of Scripturally sound expressions from His Children and am even convinced that He commands us to do so based on the Ephesians and Colossians passages mentioned above.
 

markkoller

Puritan Board Freshman
Is there clear and sufficient warrant given in Scripture for the composition of uninspired writings for use as song in the public worship of the Church?
No.

In my own journey into Psalmody it was helpful to remember that praise is to be directed upward toward God. God does not change. His attributes and praiseworthiness are the same today as they have always been. There is therefore, no need of composing new songs in the first place. The fact is that God decides how we are to worship Him and it is God who has given us the words to approach Him with in worship. Why do we think that God cares about our creativity in worship?

Even if we desired to compose songs for worship, without Scriptural warrant, we are not up to the task:

John McNaugher, from The Psalms in Worship, "Properly to celebrate the character and perfections and glorious works of the Triune God requires a knowledge of Him and His ways that men could not possess without having such knowledge brought to them by special revelation."​

Another helpful thought regarding the composition of worship songs:

Again from McNaugher, "The singing of the gospel, helpful though it may be in its place, is not the nature of praise, for the gospel is addressed to man, not to God. In seeking to make an impression upon men the singing of the gospel may be usurping the place of that which is due to God. That which terminates on ourselves or others may be a means of grace, but only that which terminates on God is praise."​
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I would agree that we cannot teach all that is in scripture by using only the Psalms. There is a lot of doctrine that is not found in the psalms.
I don't think the point of singing is to teach all of what there is to know.

What does this have to do with what we are permitted to sing in worship to God?
It is prescribed to admonish and teach according to the passage we get this prescription from. What does this imply or prescribe? What is a Psalm, Hymn, or Spiritual Song? I want to hear from both sides on this issue. Define what a Psalm is. Define what a Hymn is. Define what a Spiritual Song is. Then lets examine if this is prescription for corporate worship or does it have general application.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
The passage also states to let the Word of Christ dwell in us. That also encompasses more.
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
Why are our experiences not allowed to be turned into song for worship, as the Psalms were?
I get that the Psalms were inspired, but since the closing of the canon, not one experience, not even Christ's birth, death, resurrection, nor the partaking of the Lord's Table, nor the baptism of the Saints is allowed to be sung to the Lord in a worship service?
Let alone the individual testimonies to God's goodness, such as with Newton's Amazing Grace.

Why would we be only permitted/required to sing of another's experience (the Psalmist's) and never anyone else in the history of the church? If God is still working, why would the testimonies of those ways be forbidden as far as worshipping the Lord?

Predicting a rebuttal: I do not mean to say that the Psalms are not about what God has done when I call it "another's experience." I know that all of scripture is centered on what God has done. However, we cannot deny that the Psalms are worshipful responses to specific situations that the specific Psalm writer experienced. My question is why do we not allow praises to be sung as worship for ways that God has rescued his saints in the last 2000 years? Why is the only allowable testimony to be that of Israelites and not the Church?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Define what a Psalm is. Define what a Hymn is. Define what a Spiritual Song is.
That is problematic seeing as there are some ten different "schemes" for distinguishing these things, so that most reserved exegetes simply accept that they are all referring to religious compositions sung in worship to God, even though we cannot pinpoint the specific nuances each word must have had to the original reader. The words themselves are often used interchangeably in the Psalter. I think the point which needs to be made again (sorry for having to repeat the point) is that the prescription of Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 simply presupposes that such compositions already exist. They do not require the reader to become a religious muse. Overall, it is akin to telling a Jew to meditate on the laws, precepts, and testimonies of YHWH. The Jew might sense a certain difference in the three terms, but he would know they all related to the same thing, and would certainly not derive the idea that he needed to create what he was only told to meditate upon.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Is there clear and sufficient warrant given in Scripture for the composition of uninspired writings for use as song in the public worship of the Church?
Certainly: Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly! (Psalm 149:1)

Psalm 147:1 says that ...a song of praise is fitting without qualifying it to the Book of Psalms only.

And, of course, the New Testament's "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."

(Psalm 149 even endorses praising God with dancing (verse 3) but I'm not going to go there! :D )
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Why are our experiences not allowed to be turned into song for worship, as the Psalms were?
An individual could turn his experiences into worship for him to sing, but such songs would only reflect his experience. Not very many Christians would understand themselves to be a "wretch" in the same sense as John Newton understood himself to be a wretch, because not too many converts have had to weep over the rape and molestation of slaves. Words written in time and space have specific meanings. We ought not to deconstruct and reconstruct those meanings to suit our own experience. Only a representative man like David could have experiences which would be relevant to the whole congregation of God's people. His typical expression of the sufferings and glories of the Messiah are relevant to each and every believer. These things happened unto him for an ensample, and were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come. This cannot be said of the experiences of private Christians who write fallible and biased words of devotion.
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
Only a representative man like David could have experiences which would be relevant to the whole congregation of God's people.
I understand that Adam was my representative and I understand that Jesus was my representative, but how was David my representative?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Only a representative man like David could have experiences which would be relevant to the whole congregation of God's people.
I understand that Adam was my representative and I understand that Jesus was my representative, but how was David my representative?
The question equivocates on the word "representative." There are only two representative men in the sense that their actions control the destiny of those whom they represent. David was a representative man in the sense of 2 Sam 23:1, that he was "the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet Psalmist of Israel;" of Acts 2:30, 31, that he represents the public office of Christ, so that what he spoke of himself was specifically related to Jesus, the seed of David; and of Hebrews 2:12 compared to the alternation of "I" and "we" in the Psalms, which indicate that what David sang in the midst of the congregation is the praise of Christ, our Elder Brother, prophetically leading the theocratic congregation in singing the praises of God.
 

Idelette

Puritan Board Graduate
I would agree that we cannot teach all that is in scripture by using only the Psalms. There is a lot of doctrine that is not found in the psalms.

This past Sunday, we sang the story of Abraham and a good chunk of the song came right out of Genesis 22. The song tied in the story of Abraham with Christ's sacrifice for us. How can that be taught out of the psalms? The song went along with the sermon, and folks were able to go home and sing what had been preached.
Actually Psalm 22 points to Christ's sacrifice for us, and there are many other Messianic Psalms as well.

messianic psalms
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
Answering the 3 words

John Murray writes,

Why does the word pneumatikos [spiritual] qualify odais and not psalmois and hymnois? A reasonable answer to this question is that pneumatikais qualifies all three datives and that its gender (fem.) is due to attraction to the gender of the noun that is closest to it. Another distinct possibility, made particularly plausible by the omission of the copulative in Colossians 3:16, is that ‘Spiritual songs’ are the genus of which ‘psalms’ and ‘hymns’ are the species. This is the view of Meyer, for example. On either of these assumptions the psalms, hymns, and songs are all ‘Spiritual’ and therefore all inspired by the Holy Spirit. The bearing of this upon the question at issue is perfectly apparent. Uninspired hymns are immediately excluded.

If one wants to argue that spiritual does not apply to psalms and hymns, then one must answer two pertinent questions. First, why would Paul insist on divine inspiration for songs, yet permit uninspired hymns? We can safely assume that Paul was not irrational. Second, given the fact that psalms refers to divinely inspired songs, it would be unscriptural not to apply spiritual to that term. Furthermore, since we have already established that the phrase “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refers to the divinely inspired book of Psalms, it is only natural to apply spiritual to all three terms. Since the book of Psalms is composed of divinely inspired (or spiritual) psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we obey God only when we praise Him using the biblical Psalter. Uninspired hymns do not meet the scriptural criteria for authorized praise.

Another question that needs to be considered regarding these passages is: “Do these passages refer to formal public worship services or to informal Christian gatherings?” Since Paul is discussing the mutual edification of believers by singing inspired songs in private worship situations, it would be inconsistent on his part to allow uninspired songs in the more formal public worship settings. “What is proper or improper to be sung in one instance must be seen as proper or improper to be sung in the other. Worship is still worship, whatever its circumstances and regardless of the number of people involved. ” “If psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are the limits of the material of songs in praise of God in less formal acts of worship, how much more are they the limits in more formal acts of worship?”
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Col 3:16" teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,"

If a person is just singing the Psalms word for word, then that person is not teaching. They are only reading what the other could read. It would be like a preacher getting up and reading a text of Scripture and not teaching on that text. .
Don't you learn when you read the scripture?

then reading to a person could teach them something.

So singing causes them to learn, if nothing else they learn the scripture.

One of the best things about an EP worship is it teaches the kids the word of God. They memorize much of the book of psalms. A most useful learning.
If I could learn the Scriptures without the help of my pastor......then I wouldn't need my pastor. I learn further while reading Scripture, but it's based upon what I've learned from others in the past. Same can be said of songs. Someone could write a song about justification and keep it doctrinally sound which would teach others and admonishing others.
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBaldwin
I would agree that we cannot teach all that is in scripture by using only the Psalms. There is a lot of doctrine that is not found in the psalms.

I don't think the point of singing is to teach all of what there is to know.

What does this have to do with what we are permitted to sing in worship to God?
I was refering back to a comment that we were to teach and admonish. Colossians specifically says that we are teach and admonish. I don't know how we can teach and admonish the Word of Christ in all wisdom without drawing from all of the revealed word of Christ.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
(Col 3:16)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top