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

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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I would argue that the idea (highlighted in red above) that OT forms of worship are abrogated would be true for those forms that are not eternal.
This fails to understand the obvious distinction between moral and positive commandment. Moral is universal and binding while positive is based solely on the will of the commander. All forms of worship are positive institutions. All OT ceremonial worship has been abrogated, according to WCF 19.

Worship in heaven includes new songs, it is not EP, and it is perfect.
Revelation is symbolic of ideal forms, the worship depicted is the abrogated worship of the OT, and in one of the instances of "new songs" it is made clear that the words are to be taken figuratively. Yes, heaven is perfect, and earthly forms are shadows in comparison, which is why it is odd that a person would insist that the earthly OT mode of worship presented in Revelation is to be understood literally.

I do not take *any* English version of the scripture to be perfect, so perfection is not an argument for EP
This just means that the argument for an inspired "anything" is of no practical use to an idealist who cannot say with confidence where in the world he can find the revelation of God.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
The burden of proof is still upon those to show explicitly in Scripture that God wants people writing uninspired songs to be sung in His worship.

I have seen nowhere in this thread (maybe I missed it) that there is a passage somewhere in the NT that again explicitly lays out the qualifications for someone to write these hymns. Where are they?

I think we all know people who thought in their own minds that they were "gifted," when in reality they put pen to paper and produced very questionable doctrine. Again, where are the "checks and balances" in Scripture to ensure that what is written agrees with the Word of God?

If the hymnwriter says "well, if you disagree with my hymn, that is your interpretation" and then goes off to start another church, then schism and division have been created - something clearly not condoned in Scripture.

Therefore, only the Psalms are universal and can truly promote harmony. You simply cannot go wrong with them. If you say you are disagreeing with the words of the Psalm - well, now we are dealing with a different and much more serious matter.

Does no one find it odd that of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the NT, there is no explicit recognition of the gift of hymnwriting? While one could possibly claim the gift of "prophecy" as being inclusive of hymnwriting, it is definitely being speculative, as we have no clarity to that being the case. Again, Paul says to SING the inspired (gr., pneumatikais) psalms, hymns, and songs, not COMPOSE them.

So no, there is no explicit warrant to compose hymns/songs to be sung in the worship service. It simply isn't there.


I would point out again, if the standard is only that which is inspired, then it must be the original Hebrew and Greek. No translation is accepted by the standards as the final authority. There is no inspired translation, and the confession acknowledges it by stating that all matters of faith are to be finally appealed to the OT Hebrew, and NT Greek. That isn't to say that we have no good translations, nor does it diminish the call in the next breath for translations into vulgar tongues; it does say those translations are not inspired, and so a call for EP out of a call for inspired songs can only be logically a call for only singing in Hebrew and Greek. The confession is clear, perfectly clear, that inspiration is in the original languages only. Anyone with sufficient knowledge of translation in general would know this (ask any translator for putting the Bible into yet another language and they will tell you they don't get it perfectly done ever--at least if they are honest).

If we sing in English, we sing uninspired songs. If there is warrant for those that do not speak Hebrew to sing, then they will be singing uninspired songs. So either there is no singing of anything, or we sing uninspired songs.

So the only question is if we are to sing in worship at all. If that is answered in the affirmative, then so is the question of this thread.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
All OT ceremonial worship has been abrogated, according to WCF 19.
Last time I checked, the Book of Revelations was not the OT. So whatever worship that occurs in heaven is not OT (even if the OT prefigures what is the eternal). You miss the point that what is in heaven can never be abrogated.

Revelation is symbolic of ideal forms, the worship depicted is the abrogated worship of the OT, and in one of the instances of "new songs" it is made clear that the words are to be taken figuratively. Yes, heaven is perfect, and earthly forms are shadows in comparison, which is why it is odd that a person would insist that the earthly OT mode of worship presented in Revelation is to be understood literally.
The earthy forms are shadows, but shadows in that they are to mimic what is the true worship of God in heaven. It isn't that Revelation is symbolic of ideal forms -- it is the real forms themselves of which all earthly forms are symbolic. You seem to be using the same logic of those that said "if you swear by the alter, it means nothing, but if you swear by the gold on the alter, then you are bound". Worship in heaven is what we strive to mimic. It is not earthly OT mode of worship presented in the Revelation, but the Revelation shows that even OT worship was a reflection of the true worship of God that is eternal and in heaven.

I do not take *any* English version of the scripture to be perfect, so perfection is not an argument for EP
This just means that the argument for an inspired "anything" is of no practical use to an idealist who cannot say with confidence where in the world he can find the revelation of God.
No, the Hebrew and Greek are inspired, and if only inspired songs are to be sung, then they can only be sung in Hebrew and Greek. This is saying that regardless of anything else the pure and uncorrupted versions of the scripture is not in English (as the confession says) but in Hebrew and Greek. This has nothing to do with anything other than what the confession says is the inspired word, and why it says all questions of doctrine are appealed finally to those languages.

It seems clear that if one has not already decided the issue, the scripture does require more than EP. The bulk of evidence is in favor of uninspired songs rather than the other way around.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
All OT ceremonial worship has been abrogated, according to WCF 19.
Last time I checked, the Book of Revelations was not the OT. So whatever worship that occurs in heaven is not OT (even if the OT prefigures what is the eternal). You miss the point that what is in heaven can never be abrogated.
Revelation speaks of heavenly worship consisting in OT forms. OT forms of worship are abrogated under the NT. Therefore Revelation must be speaking of the ideal fulfilment of those forms rather than the forms themselves. The church in heaven is not a literal lampstand; the antichristian power is not a literal beast; the apostate church is not a literal woman; the glorified church is not a literal city. These are all earthly forms used to express idealised characteristics. There is no reason for taking the images of worship in any other way.

No, the Hebrew and Greek are inspired, and if only inspired songs are to be sung, then they can only be sung in Hebrew and Greek.
This is simply a repeat of your assertion. The translated Scriptures are the Word of God, WCF 1:8. The quality of inspiration does not wash out in the transition from one language to another. If it did, no person would be able to say what the Word of God is in English, and this discussion would be futile.
 
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chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
I would suggest that 1 Cor. 14:13-15 provides some biblical warrant for singing uninspired composition.

In the context, Paul is speaking of the extraordinary gift of tongues. Whether there are two sorts or one sort with two functions, the gift is broken into prayer and song. The key point for my argument is in v. 14, when Paul indicates that prayer in a tongue (and by extension, as v. 15 makes explicit, singing in a tongue) involves an unfruitful mind, i.e., that is the mind is not engaged -- it is bypassed altogether. Paul is not speaking of the recipient’s spirit here as praying in some non-intellective sense. That would be foreign to his anthropological use of spirit elsewhere (Rom 1:9; Rom 12:1ff). In fact, for Paul, spirit and mind seem to be interchangeable synonyms. So, while the natural reading of “pneuma mou” would be “my spirit”, we are forced to take it as “the Spirit, [given] to me” or as an instance of metonymy (Spirit for gift [of the spirit]) here. V. 14 describes a particular reception of the Spirit by the one speaking. And so, he contrasts a revelatory prayer with a non-revelatory prayer using the terms “with my spirit” and “with my mind” respectively. And the reason that speaks to the issue is that he parallels this with “I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” in v. 15.

Anticipating an objection, I would say that “singing with my mind” ought to be taken in the same sense as “praying with my mind.” Therefore, unless we want to limit prayers to the canon, I don’t think we can limit singing to that which is inspired either. In other words, Paul is speaking of the composition of prayer when he says “with my mind”, not merely the cognitive assent to the words of his prayer. And if that is the case with prayer, I don’t see how, in this close parallel context, we can take singing any other way.

Where am I mistaken?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Therefore, unless we want to limit prayers to the canon, I don’t think we can limit singing to that which is inspired either.
The "praying" Paul referred to was not a set form uttered by the congregation, but the Spirit-inspired extemporaneous praying of an individual; hence 1 Cor. 14 only serves as a precedent for Spirit-inspired extemporaneous singing of an individual, not congregational singing of a set form of words. And as ones who believe the former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people have now ceased (WCF 1:1), I am sure we can all agree that the extemporaneous Spirit-inspired phenomenon described in 1 Cor. 14 has no place in the "ordinary" worship of God.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
This is simply a repeat of your assertion. The translated Scriptures are the Word of God, WCF 1:8. The quality of inspiration does not wash out in the transition from one language to another. If it did, no person would be able to say what the Word of God is in English, and this discussion would be futile.
It is futile if one wishes to put the reach of songs used in worship to only those that are inspired. Inspired is God breathed, and "smallest letter, or least stroke of a pen" is not in the English, but the Hebrew/Greek. You cannot in one breath say the letters and parts of letters are important, then say the translation into a different language is inspired as well. Either it is inspired in the Hebrew/Greek as the confession states, or there is some "inspired message" in which the particulars aren't that important and even what language we use isn't that important. But then you are arguing against the confession.

The futility is in trying to say that God does not require songs that are not the inspired text. It is futile to argue the point because it fails so easily.

The WCF 1.8 does not state the translated text is inspired, but does say
But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.
This is not saying that the inspired text is what they have, they do have imperfect translation of the inspired text. And while the divines state "that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner ..." this does not mean the translation is inspired. That would be logically inconsistent with the prior sentence. If the translation is inspired, why have the immediately inspired text "in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them". The divines were not ignorant, nor did they state what is superfluous.

I do fully agree that the issue of debate on uninspired song is futile if the translation is not inspired. But that is exactly one of the points. Attempting to say that only inspired song be used is a futile position. The translations are not inerrant and infallible, the original text is. If we are to sing at all, then we must sing what is not the inspired songs of scripture. That we are to sing is without debate, so singing uninspired words is the only possible option.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
Therefore, unless we want to limit prayers to the canon, I don’t think we can limit singing to that which is inspired either.
The "praying" Paul referred to was not a set form uttered by the congregation, but the Spirit-inspired extemporaneous praying of an individual; hence 1 Cor. 14 only serves as a precedent for Spirit-inspired extemporaneous singing of an individual, not congregational singing of a set form of words. And as ones who believe the former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people have now ceased (WCF 1:1), I am sure we can all agree that the extemporaneous Spirit-inspired phenomenon described in 1 Cor. 14 has no place in the "ordinary" worship of God.
I understand your point. But Paul is distinguishing between the extaordinary phenomenon and the ordinary -- the with-my-mind phenomenon. The former belongs to the things that have ceased. I don't see how the latter does. And if the latter does not, then either we have to have extemporaneous singing by individuals, or we have to apply this more broadly. In other words, the contrast is precisely between inspired and uninspired. If Paul countenanced uninspired extemporaneous praying and singing by individuals (with my mind), I don't see how that would be restricted only to the individual.

Now for the sake of order and clarity, it makes sense that we would have a set form of words. But I think this passage at least points in the direction of uninspired song in public worship.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I do fully agree that the issue of debate on uninspired song is futile if the translation is not inspired.
So why continue with the same contention? If the translation does not retain the quality of inspiration, as you espouse, then your appeal to the Bible in English can carry no authority. Thus you have no basis for making a claim that the Bible warrants the use of other songs.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I understand your point. But Paul is distinguishing between the extaordinary phenomenon and the ordinary -- the with-my-mind phenomenon. The former belongs to the things that have ceased. I don't see how the latter does.
I accept your understanding of "spirit" and "mind," and it is clear from this understanding that for the "mind" to be fruitful then it must be "producing" the words which are sung or prayed; hence extemporaneous, individual song or prayer is the phenomenon described.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
I do fully agree that the issue of debate on uninspired song is futile if the translation is not inspired.
So why continue with the same contention? If the translation does not retain the quality of inspiration, as you espouse, then your appeal to the Bible in English can carry no authority. Thus you have no basis for making a claim that the Bible warrants the use of other songs.
For the same reason that you do not appeal exclusively to the Hebrew and Greek. While what we have is not inspired, it is not so clouded as to be without use. The point is that if you wanted to appeal to the Hebrew and Greek for refuting a point from the English translation, I would be obligated to examine the merit of the argument of erroneous translation. If on the other hand, the translation is *sufficiently* clear, then it does not require appeal to original text. Sufficiency of uninspired work is one thing, if it is required that the argument be only from the inspired, then the only text permitted would be the Hebrew/Greek.

I argue for the sufficiency (in many cases) of uninspired work as admissible not only for instruction, but also for worship. Reading of Hebrew/Greek scriptures in church worship would be reading of the immediately inspired word of God, but would be useless for all but seminary students. Singing of inspired songs would also be likewise useless for those that do not know Hebrew.

I argue that uninspired work is useful. You are the one saying that only inspired works may be used in worship. Just as I state that uninspired songs are useful and commanded in worship, I state uninspired translations are useful and commanded for those who do not know the original languages. For me, the logic is consistent in that I hold those things that are not immediately inspired by God are commanded by God for worship of Him within the church.

I find the position that the immediate inspiration of Hebrew/Greek to be valid, and the idea that only inspired songs be used in worship, yet the use of anything but the Hebrew/Greek version of those songs to be logically inconsistent. The logic that I employ is that the Hebrew/Greek is the immediate inspired word of God, that translation of the immediate inspired word is uninspired (conforming to the appeal of the WCF to have the H/G Bible as the final appeal) and so even the use of Psalms, if not in Hebrew, is the use of uninspired songs.

So breifly:
1) Hebrew/Greek is inspired, but not English
2) Even the Psalms in English are not inspired (see 1)
3) Singing songs in a comprehensible tongue is required; i.e, songs need to be in English (in my church)
4) Therefore, uninspired songs are required.

I sincerely hope that is clear enough to understand.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If on the other hand, the translation is *sufficiently* clear, then it does not require appeal to original text.
Then it only requires to be sufficiently clear to sing from a translation. Time to do away with your double standards.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
If on the other hand, the translation is *sufficiently* clear, then it does not require appeal to original text.
Then it only requires to be sufficiently clear to sing from a translation. Time to do away with your double standards.
Me double standard? Inspired is God breathed; I'm saying that uninspired songs are sufficient. I'm not the one that is saying that songs in worship must be inspired ... you are if I'm not mistaken.

Either that, or I just don't understand your position at all. If only inspired songs are to be used, then I would presume that you only sing in Hebrew and Greek. If that is not the case, then what you sing is not the inspired songs, but uninspired translations of the inspired songs.

The use of the Bible for doctrine is for us, not for God. Worship on the other hand has God as its definer and its primary end. If God required inspired songs, then we would be required to sing in Hebrew (and possibly Greek). To be consistent, I would think you would only sing Hebrew Psalms and any inspired Greek text songs.

My point is that the immediate inspired text is Hebrew and Greek. Anything else is not immediately inspired, so if you are singing anything else, you are sing uninspired songs. If you are singing uninspired songs in worship, then you only are expressing a preference that they be Psalms which would be inspired if they were in Hebrew.

I have no such position. I believe we are commanded to sing in a sensible (to the singer) language, and so we are commanded to sing uninspired songs. My position is consistent in the extreme.

Perhaps I am mistaken in your position. By what scripture do you require that only inspired songs are sung in worship? I see no such prescription in scripture, and never have. I've seen that we are to sing. I have seen no requirement to only sing in Hebrew (the only language in which the Psalms are inspired).
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Me double standard? Inspired is God breathed; I'm saying that uninspired songs are sufficient.
The thread asks the question, Is there Scriptural warrant for composing uninspired song for use in publc worship? The specific warrant required is that which can be established by the authority of God as revealed in His inspired Word. You have argued from what you think Scripture says in order to make your case for uninspired songs, and yet all the while you have only referred to what Scripture says in English. You have presumed, therefore, that the English conveys the inspired word of God. At the same time, you have denied to the exclusive psalmodist the belief that the English can convey the inspired word of God. These are double standards.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
John Girardeau (Discussions of Theological Questions):

Are translations inspired? The position is here taken that so far as a translation faithfully represents the original Scriptures, it is characterized by the same inspiration with them.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Moderator ruling:
Brian,
A faithful translation of God’s word is the very Word of God whether we read it, sing it or chant it. I think that has been Matthew's point. You don’t have to be EP to hold to that. Move on to other arguments if you wish, but this one is not a sound one.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
By that I mean arguments in keeping with the OP and the question. We'll have a thread to put the onus on EP soon enough.
Moderator ruling:
Brian,
A faithful translation of God’s word is the very Word of God whether we read it, sing it or chant it. I think that has been Matthew's point. You don’t have to be EP to hold to that. Move on to other arguments if you wish, but this one is not a sound one.
 
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SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
What about this Scripture verse being used as a warrant to compose a song and to use it for worship ("in the house of the LORD" or Temple in the case for King Hezekiah):


Isaiah 38:20

20The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.

Thanks.
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Reminder. This is a moderated forum and threads and posts are moderated for approval. No simple Amen, "can of worms" or "bump" posts. Some of the active posters to EP threads have taken a hiatus for now; meantime if someone else would like to take an informed stab at answering (or bolstering) the post above, feel free.
 

Augusta

Puritan Board Doctor
What about this Scripture verse being used as a warrant to compose a song and to use it for worship ("in the house of the LORD" or Temple in the case for King Hezekiah):


Isaiah 38:20

20The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.

Thanks.
I think that Hezekiah may have been speaking of Psalm 6 and owning it because it closely follows his experience and even his words from Isa. "the grave cannot praise thee." He may have even quoted it because he identified with it.
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
I'll take a stab....

The question at hand is, “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?”

While it is good to want to find explicit scriptural warrant to compose songs to be used in worship, we need to remember what the confession says about "good and necessary consequence," along with the fact that in that same section it talks about how "...there are some circumstances, concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed."

So, two points of contention:

1. What can we deduce about the writing of songs (verse, prose) to God for use in worship? In a simple answer which will be expounded in the following, we may deduce that there are circumstances in times of old, where the people of God composed words to be sung in worship, and were not commanded to do so. Although those words are now part of the canon of Scripture, and although it is implicit in the inspiration of the words that God willed them to be written, they were written without a prior express command of God to do so.

2. How does the light of nature and Christian prudence inform our use of these in the public worship of God? Again, in simple answer to be expounded, we may note that the light of nature and Christian prudence has allowed for the Church to corporately permit the singing of the entire congregation, in multiple voices and parts, whereas of old, this was not the case; and that in light of this, we should allow for the singing of uninspired (but biblical) words. Further, we also note that there is no difference between prayers, sermons, words of instructions, and songs in the public worship of God. All are dialogs with God, and if one allows for uninspired words, then the others should allow for this as well.

As to the first point, we can all clearly see that God induced His people to write songs of praise to use in His worship. And the one thing we can all agree on is that there is a special place for the Psalms. They are part of God's revelation to us and are wholly inspired of Him to be the rule of faith and life. Furthermore, we must also agree that these were inspired of the Holy Spirit through the minds and words of those writing them. They were not simply taking dictation, but putting God's revelation in their own words as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance.

A question arises: did they know that they were writing what would later be known as inspired or infallible words of truth? We can't know that for sure. But what we can know is that, although most of them were commanded, commissioned, and ordained to do what they did, they also had the skill and DESIRE to do so. When they penned words that exhorted the people to sing and make music in praise to God, they were encouraging people to enjoy God and worship Him, just as they were doing when they wrote it down. In other words, they encouraged the people to do that which God innately put within all of us, the desire to praise Him with music. As far as we know, Moses and Miriam, although part of the tribe of Levi, had not been commanded or commissioned to write their songs. They were inspired by the Holy Spirit, but there was no direct command, from what we can see, that they were told to do this. They were simply doing what God put within them.

It is much the same with David. He was not even of the tribe of Levi, but Judah. He wrote many of the Psalms, inspired though they were. However, he was not commanded or commissioned to do so. Furthermore, in the Revelation of John, there is no command to either the four living creatures or the twenty-four elders to pen a new song to the Lord; nor is there a command for them to sing the song of Moses. They are simply doing as God created them, to praise and worship, and enjoy Him forever.

It is our contention then, that God has built praise in song into His image in man, and therefore, man must praise God with the song of his heart, even if it is uninspired.

But should those songs, which are a part of the canon of Scripture, along with songs written today be used in public worship? By good and necessary consequence, we may deduce that: 1) since God has induced man to compose praise music innately, 2) since Miriam, Moses, and David were not commanded to write this music, 3) since the Church ancient, present, and eschatologically has used this music, which was not commanded, though inspired, therefore 4) there is latitude within the worship of God to sing such songs without explicit command.

So how does the light of nature and Christian prudence inform our use of these in the public worship of God? Notice that the confession does not say Jewish prudence, but Christian. What does this tell us? We may infer from the NT that, although Synagogue worship is clearly a pattern, which is carried on and developed in NT worship, the commanded liturgy of the OT is changed in the NT. The elements of the Word (being read and preached), the sacraments and prayer are definite liturgical points from the OT, but the priesthood and circumstances of worship have changed. Not that every believer, who is now priest may carry out the elements in the public worship of God, but every believer does now have access to the Father like they never did before. The worship of God is much simpler, and is promised to be filled with the Spirit, as long as it also accords with the truth, because our worship is in spirit and truth.

For instance, the light of nature and Christian prudence now allows the entire congregation to sing praise to God. In the OT, only the singers were allowed to praise God in public worship, and those singers were only men. Everyone can now sing to God. Was there an explicit command to allow this? The light of nature and Christian prudence now also allows polyphonic singing. We make music to God as it was probably not made before. We sing as many different voices and parts, whereas the singing of the OT was antiphonal in some cases, and most likely only in unison. We now also sing many notes and variations of tones, whereas their music likely did not include sharps, flats, augmentations, etc. Therefore, to say that Christian prudence does allow latitude in some areas (unordained persons being able to sing with different musical styles and complexity), but does not allow latitude in others (whether inspired psalms or uninspired songs) should cause us to look at the scope of the whole. To understand what we do with this, we need to take a step back.

What is music in worship? It is a way to speak back to God with the voice singing musical notes. As far as we know, no one has ever argued for inspired tunes, rhythms, etc, because we cannot know this. As such, the music is of secondary nature to the words being sung. To put it in confessional words, music is circumstantial, the words are elemental. This leads us is to the conclusion that all the words we say in worship, whether spoken or sung, are on the same plane. There is no difference between prayer and song, as both are intelligible words spoken in dialog with God from His people participating in His worship. Hopefully all of these words are spoken intelligently, intelligibly, and scripturally. In other words, we want all of the things we say to be God's Word back to Him and we want Him to be pleased with what we say. We want to speak to Him the truth.

That truth is what is at issue. The truth is definitely scriptural, but may that truth not be summarized? May it not be paraphrased? We use the WCF (or LBCF, for my Baptist brothers and sisters) as a summary of what the scriptures teach. It also serves as an authority on how we conduct our worship where it agrees (hopefully on all points) with Scripture.

So, we are using a summary to inform our worship. May we not also use a summary IN our worship? When we pray, do we not say God's words back to Him along with our own? When we preach, do we not say God's words back to Him along with our own explications? When we observe the sacraments, do we not appropriately address, in our own words along with the scriptures, the words of instruction and institution? And perhaps, most importantly, do we not come as guilty and polluted sinners, imperfect in every way, to lisp our praise back to Him?

We are to worship in spirit and truth. This truth spoken back to God is not truth that originates with us, nor can God hear anything that we say apart from His own Spirit, and Christ, our Savior, who is mediator between us and the Father. Our words are perfected by our Savior. He ensures that our worship is translated into heaven in ways we could never dream of here on earth. It is only because of Him that we could even say, as with those of old, "Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" It is only because of Him that the saints in glory could ever say, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." Neither of those sayings was commanded, yet they are perfected praise by our Lord on behalf of His servants.

Did those souls waving palm branches know they were speaking inspired words, perhaps, of the shortest hymn of the day? It is not likely. Did that truth originate from them? Did the truth of the four living creatures and twenty-four elders originate with themselves? Of course, we would say, that truth was informed by God through the Holy Spirit. But it was not commanded of them. They were free to choose their own words of praise in accordance with the truth. And we cannot dismiss the Holy Spirit in these utterances. Perhaps the perfected soul can operate outside of the Holy Spirit and utter truth without His aid. But without the Spirit while we are still this side of heaven, we know that no one can say that Jesus is Lord. Without the Holy Spirit, no one can speak the truth. We know that the Psalms themselves are the truth, but simply singing those words does not make it the truth. It is not made the truth by our cleansed hearts. It is not made the truth by a good singer. It is made the truth only by the Spirit, and it is only received as praise to God because of Christ who mediates. A Psalm sung by a heathen does not make it true. A Psalm sung by a saint does not make it true. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and that faith must have its object as Christ, and that Christ must intercede, and that Spirit must interpret.

So, what may we gather from all this? Is it unimportant to speak God’s words as recorded in the scriptures? May we just say whatever comes to mind hoping that the Lord will intercede on our behalf? Unfortunately, many in our world today have bought into this. We would never advocate speaking back to God anything that He has not first spoken through direct revelation, or in summary, or paraphrase. But just because the words to a hymn are not inspired, does not mean that they are not God’s words back to Him. There are a good number of great Hymns. There are a good number of poor Hymns. But, just because the lyrics of a song are not inspired, does not make them untrue. If we sing a song in our closet, which the Holy Spirit must intervene in order to be pleasing to God, then why is He unable to use that song in public worship? If He must validate every word we utter, even that Jesus is Lord, then how is He unable to take a summary or paraphrase of God’s words, works, and wonders and turn it into a pleasing sound in the Father’s ear? “Oh, For a thousand tongues to sing, my great Redeemer’s praise! The glories of my God and King, the triumph of His grace!” Is that true in my closet, but not true when I sing it with the church? Would that phrase be of acceptable use in the prayers of the church, but not when it is sung? In corporate worship, what elevates the purpose of song over prayer? Is that commanded anywhere in Scripture? Do not the scriptures regulate the prayer and the song?

One false assumption that must be addressed is this: if we allow uninspired songs in public worship, then every song ever written is fair game. We all have to acknowledge that one of the biggest reasons against uninspired hymnody is that it has been abused. It was abused in the Roman Church and continues to be abused today with the myriads of worship songs that exist. Therefore, we know at least 150 songs that have to be appropriate for the Church to sing. Let’s just leave it at that. I find that to be a cogent argument. One cannot go wrong with the singing of the Psalms. But it is also just as clear to note the many good Hymns of the Church militant, and that we may, with diligence to protect the truth, choose and sing those with simplicity and fervor. We can choose wisely those words we sing back to God, just as we choose wisely the words with which we pray. We do not have to let the Devil in the door just because we’ve expanded our song selections.

If the scriptures regulate the prayer and the song, alike, and if the Holy Spirit promises to bless the truth and translate our worship to the Father, and if the Savior continues to intercede and perfect our worship, then what have we to fear from using uninspired hymnody as well as uninspired prayers? What have we to fear in allowing the entire congregation to sing? What have we to fear in singing with multiple voices, parts, and instruments? If we fear that only the 150 Psalms are what God has commanded us to sing, we must also fear that we will displease the Lord in these other ways. But that leads us to the largest point of all this.

Why should we now fear that our worship will be made unacceptable in what we do by faith? In the end, God will either bless it, or cause it to rise against us at the last day. This writer cannot see how God would have the grace to allow us to worship Him in spirit and truth by faith, and then hold that worship in contempt because we sing words that are not inspired, yet pray and preach the same kinds of words, which He assured us He will not hold in contempt (where they agree with the Word of God). We are to come boldly before the throne of grace with our timid and useless words, why can we not sing these imperfect, yet scripturally based words?

In conclusion, to answer the question at hand, “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 say, yes there is clear and sufficient warrant; by good and necessary consequence, which is to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which we hope, are always observed. But in the end, we should desire mercy, not sacrifice. If this issue continues to divide the Church, how can we justify that division? If one Church, who imperfectly praises God, singing only the Psalms, is pitted against another Church, who also imperfectly praises God, singing Psalms and uninspired Hymns, are they not both seeking the blessings of God by faith? Are not both these Churches imperfect and mixed with error? Why would we hold each other in contempt? Satan and the world want us to lose our truth, and seek to destroy our comfort. But we each hold the Word of God in high esteem. We should humble ourselves and seek the Lord together and never let a debate like this divide the worship of God into haves and have not’s. May God grant us the mercy to resolve this difference and dissolve the divide.

In Christ,

KC
 
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