Prescriptive Psalmody

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by JohnV, Aug 1, 2008.

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  1. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    What I'm trying to do is to get around this "I don't agree with you; here's my side" impasse. Some of us aren't buying what you're saying. And it's just because of the RPW, the very same one you just quoted: "what is not commanded is forbidden". Getting the real one to come to the top is one of the aims. I'm willing to let mine stand the test.
  2. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    If the real RPW is not "whatever is not commanded is forbidden," then what is it and who has the liberty to define it? The Confession is very clear, 20.2, 21.1. All worship beside the Word is a violation of liberty of conscience and the acceptable way of worshipping God is limited by His own revealed will. The Catechisms couldn't explain it any clearer. They speak of God "appointing" and "instituting" His worship in His Word and that man's duty is simply to receive it, observe it, and keep it pure and entire. I know of no other RPW than what has faithfully been taught in these standards.
  3. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I didn't say it wasn't. I was quoting the exact same one you were. Some of us aren't buying certain conclusions. I'm trying to get around that so we can talk about the underlying principles that cause us to differ. That's why the presupposition in the OP.
  4. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    So do you agree the RPW teaches that whatever is not commanded is forbidden? If so, what do you mean when you write that some of you don't buy what I'm saying about "permissible" elements?
  5. Bygracealone

    Bygracealone Puritan Board Sophomore

    John, I think this approach is destined to fail from the outset. You note that you're willing to let yours stand the test, but the test stands at the front door. There's no basis for going any further until we've defined what the regulating principle will be for the discussion. As Rev. Winzer has stated, you need to first of all take a position on how to define the RPW; that must be the principle that guides the rest of the discussion and there's only one definition that is true to the teaching of Scripture.

    I applaud your desire, I just think a thread like this will lead to nothing but opinions and preferences if we lay aside the RPW as taught held by the Reformed and taught in the Westminster standards...
  6. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Thank you for approving of my effort. If you think it will fail because it is wrong, then if it is wrong failing is just my aim. If it is right then not failing is my aim. That's the idea of testing a premise. If its going to fail, then let it fail and we'll all benefit. JD made a proposition which he is eager to test. He's actually asking for input. I think this is the right way to go about it.
  7. Bygracealone

    Bygracealone Puritan Board Sophomore

    Fair enough brother...

    By the way, I hope my previous comment wasn't taken as being facetious; that wasn't my intention...
  8. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    It was taken as was given, as if by grace alone.
  9. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Let's take this to the next level, JD.

    What does Prescription say about music itself? Tim has a very interesting post, #14 I think. He talks about music. God wants us to include music in worship. Without getting into whether its the Psalms or not, what do the Psalms say about music itself in the way of prescription?

    I've got a few preliminary thoughts on this. When I told my kids, when they were young (and even now still from time to time) something like, "We're going to the zoo today." they would get all excited and happy, and they would start singing, "We're going to the zoo today, zoo today, zoo today", etc. On the way we would sing "Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow." etc. On the way back we wouldn't sing so much. What I mean is their joy and expectation got them to expressing it in song.

    In the same way, endorsing singing is just another way to say, "My son, give me your heart." That is, "Express the joy of the Lord in your heart, and let your singing out." That would be a possible prescription, it seems to me. It would seem implied in the command to sing praises, assuming of course that God approves of more songs than the Psalms.

    What do you say?
  10. RTaron

    RTaron The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)

    I noticed JD was suggesting that Music was an element of Worship.

    What is music?

    mu·sic –noun
    1. an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.
    2. the tones or sounds employed, occurring in single line (melody) or multiple lines (harmony), and sounded or to be sounded by one or more voices or instruments, or both.
    3. musical work or compositions for singing or playing.
    4. the written or printed score of a musical composition.
    5. such scores collectively.
    6. any sweet, pleasing, or harmonious sounds or sound: the music of the waves.
    7. appreciation of or responsiveness to musical sounds or harmonies: Music was in his very soul.

    JD, I can see where you are going with this idea wanting Music to be the defining mark of Prescription, the definition will allow voices only,or instruments only or both together. :think: :p
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2008
  11. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    I concur and am glad that you acknowledge that the Psalms are to be sung, but they are commanded in the NT to be more than sung. They are a guidebook for NT worship in spirit and truth understood in the fullness of the NT revelation. I am surprised you don't support the authority of the Psalms, since we have no more complete guide in terms of worship orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

    And on this we have no quarrel, since singing and making melody have been retained and was not a component of the ceremonial Law of Moses, anyway, nor is there a requirement for exclusively inspired song in worship, since the Psalms themselves do not place that restriction.

    Your hermeneutic, while interesting, is incomplete. You create a sui generis (to borrow your term) where none is imposed. The Psalms certainly contain elements of prophesy, but you know as well as anyone that their content and context span the continuum of human experience and praise of God. We are directed to be guided by the Psalms in terms of our musical worship before the Lord (at the very least) and since they establish new song as allowable, we may then correlate music to preaching and prayer, which utilize the inspired writings to guide and regulate their practice while simultaneously retaining "newness" in compositional structure.

    Again, non sequitur and category error. The Scriptures are written on paper, just as the scrolls were written on papyrus or lambskin. Would you ban the lifeless material that contains and facilitates the reading and proclamation of God's Word? How about a psalter? The argument does not hold water.
  12. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    Except I do not believe warrant exists for instruments alone without voice present. :)

    BTW - I don't want music to be an element of worship - it is. :D
  13. etexas

    etexas Puritan Board Doctor

  14. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    Music is the "language" of emotion, that much is supported by objective evidence. The Psalms express the range of human emotion, joy being prescribed inasmuch as we "count it all joy." :)

    So, in those terms, I agree with your premise if I have understood it correctly, but I also say that as much as the NT believer has in common with the psalmists, we have an even greater reason to praise in that we have had the true joy of the Lord revealed to us. Thus the prescription for new song - celebrate the joy obscured and prophesied, but sing new songs of the Name above all names!
  15. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    "In Spirit and truth" is contrasted by the Lord Jesus to worshipping "in Jerusalem." The Psalms are undoubtedly prescriptive for internal worship; they teach us how to love, fear, praise, and call upon the Lord, to mention but a few elements of worshipping from the heart. But the external worship context of the Psalms is an earthly Jerusalem pre-figuring the heavenly Jerusalem. All external prescriptions are relative to the Jerusalem context; they are subsequently fulfilled by Christ as the Chief Musician, Melchizedekian High Priest and Kingly David of His people. They are no longer prescriptive of the external worship to be offered on earth for the simple reason that this worship is now consummated in heaven.

    There is no sui generis here. The Psalms themselves must be used to delineate the "new songs" they prescribe. And what is the fundamental characteristic of them? They are given by God. Ps. 40:3, To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David: "He put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." Moreover, the new song is the result of the unfolding mystery of God in the bringing in of the Gentiles. Ps. 96:1, 2, "O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day." Eph. 3:5, 6 specifically limits the special revelation of this mystery to "holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." The "new songs" are, by definition of the Psalms themselves, special revelation. Any attempt to impose "new songs" on the church is nothing less than an introduction of new revelations of the Spirit.

    I simply note in passing that you continue to play your favourite tune of correlating music to preaching and prayer without any exegetical basis in Scripture.

    The Scriptures are written on paper and read to the congregation, but the paper is not lifted up as an element of worship as it is in present day Jewish practice. Mechanical instruments, however, when urged as an element of worship prescribed by God, are offered to God.

    The categories of thought belong to the words of inspiration. The Holy Spirit calls the ceremonies of the OT an element of the world and carnal ordinances, and the same Holy Spirit describes musical instruments as lifeless objects. I know for certain that the Holy Spirit does not make categorical errors.
  16. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    If we say that non-inspired text are prescriptive and instruments are prescriptive then must we conclude that a church cannot worship correctly without a composer and a musician? So an office of musician is required or a musical skill is required of all officers or else the church cannot follow God's prescription?

    Whereas if it is not prescriptive then ordained elders can be sent to congregants and all they need is their vocal chords (for preaching, reading, praying and singing) along with the inspired text to lead the people in proper worship unto God.
  17. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    Do you have to have a local composer to sing Psalms? Who composed the tunes in the Psalter?

    So, any ordained elder can just stand up and start leading the congregation in any old melody, regardless of suitableness and singability?

    Just as in leading in preaching and praying, there must be preparation and capability. Instruments aid in the decent and orderly composition and exercise of singing and making melody in and for worship.
  18. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    The Psalms can be chanted, in fact at one time that was more the norm.

    There are those in the church who are gifted in musical areas, and thus we have composed tunes we can use; however, I don't think we can say that such is required. I believe prescriptive is too strong of a term or else we must require ministers to be music majors as well as mighty in the scriptures.
  19. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    That might stand if the Apostle did not tell us to be taught by the Psalms and the Psalms teach us to sing new songs. Even as Jesus fulfilled the High Priestly aspects, He has set us to be a holy priesthood - now and in eternity come. And just as David was not the only Psalmic scribe, we are spiritually enabled as children and friends of Our Saviour to compose new song in praise and honor of the revealed Name.

    This is specious reasoning, at best - the Psalms advise us to do as the Lord Himself commands - preach, pray and sing the revealed Christ and His salvation to the entire world. The "unfolding mystery" of the Psalms are Christ Himself.

    Good attempt at a red herring - I have established that music is regulated by the Psalms - the Psalms allow new songs, therefore, I correlate the component of "uninspired" content also present in preaching and prayer.

    Sorry - again, instruments are an aid in communicating the song, not offered up in themselves as an offering. Music is the element.

    The category error is that you continue to try and establish is that instruments reside in a different category than other "lifeless" aids in worship. They do not, thus your premise is flawed, which leads to your flawed conclusion.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2008
  20. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    I simply note in passing that you continue to play your favourite tune of correlating music to preaching and prayer without any exegetical basis in Scripture.

    The apostle Paul provided all the exegetical base needed for correlating music to preaching and prayer when he subsumed sung praise within the category of "teaching and admonishing" the word of God in Col. 3:16. If we may teach the word of God using more than citing Scripture verses to do so, it cannot be proven by GNC that we are limited to the Psalms in our sung worship.
  21. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    Chanting is sufficient and easy in the event no musician or composer is present in a particular church. Consider the following:

  22. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    Norm for whom? :) Chanting, in that sense, is a human invention of infinite regression.

    Who says that there should not be mighty men in music as well as Scriptures, whose compositions are a help for lesser lights? Just as the great teachers\preachers of Scripture are.

    BTW - I believe there should be a least SOME training in music for a minister of the Gospel. Not just because I am a musician ;) - how can one properly administrate worship without an understanding of all its elements?
  23. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    First, if it be true that the apostle here authorised every one in the congregation to teach and admonish, the result would be that every individual should have scope to do so; then what need was there that he and Barnabas be set aside for the ministry and Timothy have the laying on of the hands of the presbytery? It is clear, however, that the apostle limits this congregational or "one another" teaching and admonishing to the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The congregational or "one another" teaching is one action and the preaching of the Word by lawfully ordained ministers is a different action.

    Secondly, all the correlation of preaching and singing could possibly prove by good and necessary consequence is that each individual is authorised to bring their own composition and sing it before the congregation, whilst the rest of the congregation sits silently and judges what they hear to determine if it be consonant to the word of God.

    Thirdly, since the apostle limits congregational or "one another" teaching to the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, we are bound to examine what would be meant by those terms in the historical context of the apostle Paul. Having so determined, we are obliged to set apart some time in the congregation for the performance of this duty. Having done so, it will be apparent to all and sundry that the singing of praise to God by the congregation is an altogether distinct action from the preaching of the Word by an individual who has been ordained for the purpose.
  24. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I pass over the "new songs" aspect of this conversation as you have failed to provide a rationale for the "new revelation" characteristic of the new songs.

    The mechanical instruments are either prescribed or they are not. If they are prescribed, they are used in obedience to God. That which is done in obedience to God is an act of worship. If mechanical instruments are used in obedience to God then the use of the mechanical instrument is an act of worship to God. It is not a mere circumstance like other lifeless aids.

    Sir, the more you seek to justify your position the more you evidence that you are not operating within the bounds of the regulative principle of worship, which is, that whatever is not commanded in scripture is forbidden. Speaking as a moderator, you have been given ample scope to make your argument, but there comes a time when you must be called back to the guidelines of the board, and those guidelines uphold the regulative principle of worship as taught in the confessional documents.
  25. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    That's fine, Matthew - I figured this is where we were headed. You do understand that by exercising this right, you tacitly proclaim everyone not adhering to Exclusive Psalmody\Non-Instruments as unconfessional?

    That being said - I bow out of this thread under duress.

    JohnV, thanks for the opportunity :)
  26. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    That is not correct. I have seen many arguments for non exclusive psalmody and instruments as a circumstance of worship which follow the guidelines of the regulative principle of worship. I obviously do not personally consider the arguments are convincing, but I can respect them as arguments which seek to honour the regulative principle. All that you are being encouraged to do is to present your arguments within the same framework and desist from inventing new categories which contradict the principle that what is not commanded is forbidden. Blessings!
  27. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    For the record:

  28. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Not so fast, please, JD. I'm surprised you're not jumping on the opportunies given you by the arguments.

    I was thinking about this all night while I was working, about whether it was fair at all to say that the original assumption of this thread was being violated. I wanted only to "regulate", not cut off discussion. It's not really a violation by your standard of "prescriptive". Nor is it fair to the EP side to use it as a disqualifer. So in feeling the weight of some arguments against you you're actually seeing the main structure of your premise standing even more firmly. But that's just my observation.

    In a way it is my fault that you feel frustrated, JD. I shouldn't have put you on the spot like that. Though I apologize for that, I'm not sorry at some of the fruits that I've seen here. I understand what you're saying much better. But the same thing that has allowed me to spend a little time on the PB has now also become a restriction for me, and so I've not been on top of things like I wanted to be. So please accept my apologies.
  29. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Oh yes, by the way: you're right. This thread has served its purpose. It's now done. Thanks JD.
  30. RTaron

    RTaron The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)

    JohnV, I'm glad you started the thread. It was a blessing as it occasioned some more pithy wisdom to fall from Australia concerning the most important acts that we will do on earth. We can not under estimate the importance worshipping God in spirit and in truth. Thanks for persevering in the discussion Mathew.

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