Problematic EP questions

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Ne Oublie, Jan 3, 2014.

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  1. Ne Oublie

    Ne Oublie Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am sure that this has been answered somewhat in some other thread at some other time, but sometimes it is just easier to ask the question than to sift through thousands of possibilities.(which I have done to an extent)

    Let me state that I am for singing Psalms, even exclusively, for they are God's Word. I am just trying to understand something that keeps coming to mind.

    Many Psalms mention instruments, to praise God with them. Psalm 33 for example. I think I understand the argument for the lack of instruments in worship now as that they were used, as in ceremonial purposes, which are fulfilled in Christ. And so, in Christ, ceremonial laws, which instruments were commanded under, are now abrogated.

    Why is it not problematic that Christ has fulfilled the ceremonial but yet we praise him as if he has not yet, as the words are used, but yet we know He fulfilled them?

    For instance, in LC #156, it says that not every one is allowed to read the Word in public, which cites the Pentateuch and Nehemiah as proofs, which state that it was given to the Levites to do so, which was ceremonial. This is confusing.
  2. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Is it problematic to read or preach from the Old Testament since it contains parts that Christ has fulfilled? What about the parts of the New Testament that have already come to pass?
  3. Ne Oublie

    Ne Oublie Puritan Board Sophomore

    Yes, but is it problematic to limit to only sing the psalms as would it be to only preach from the OT?
  4. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Only if there were a New Testament Psalter and an Old Testament Psalter and we chose to only sing from the OT one.
  5. R Harris

    R Harris Puritan Board Sophomore

    Precisely. I have been a psalm singer since 1990, having become a believer in 1981. So for 9 years being in Southern Baptist and PCA churches, I had no clue about psalm singing.

    But now holding to EP, I have the opposite problem as Mr. Lanier has pointed out and G.I. Williamson and scores of others have pointed out in the literature over the years. Where is the NT psalter? That is not to say that there are some difficulties to get through, but this premise must always be kept in the forefront.

    If the OT psalter truly was not sufficient for the NT age, would not God in His infinite wisdom have provided us with a new psalter? in my opinion, it is madness and arrogance to think that He would have allowed sinful men to alone construct new praises that would be appropriate and worthy for His worship.

    This is why the writer of Hebrews quotes Christ saying Psalm 22:22 "I will tell of your name to my brothers, in the midst of the congregation I will SING your praise."

    Where does Christ get his praise from? He tells us in verse 25: "From YOU comes my praise in the great congregation." (You, meaning the Father.)

    So only God alone is worthy and able to give us praise which can truly allow us to worship Him as He wants. Twenty three years ago, it didn't make complete sense to me, but now it does. And for me at least, Lord willing, there is no going back.
  6. Ne Oublie

    Ne Oublie Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hmm. Ok. That goes in a weird circle of nowhere for me, maybe I am not posing the question rightly.
  7. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    I think your mindset is wrong. You are looking at the Psalter as if it is missing something that must be filled. That is a dangerous mindset to have. How do you determine if something is worthy of filling that supposed void? Do we have the right to choose what fills that supposed void? The correct mindset is that the Psalter has been provided for our praise of God, God has not provided additions to the Psalter He provided in the book of Psalms, therefore God's songbook of praise is complete. It is not missing anything that we need to add nor is there some void that must be filled. Those that are not EP must regard the Psalter as inadequate or incomplete. Based on God's provision of the Psalter it would depend on Him to tell us if the Psalter is somehow now incomplete without man made compositions. God has not done so. Instead, we have every reason to believe from the Scriptures that the praise book of God is complete and is contained in the Book of Psalms.
  8. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    John, Robert is a psalm singer, even exclusively as he said and I think his heart is convinced, he's just trying to get his mind to follow.

    Robert, could you point to a few specific instances or are you referring to the references to instruments? Perhaps it is your formulation of the question that is confusing. I can't quite put my finger on what you are asking and I don't think John has either.

    Myself, I find the Psalms, even though looking forward to Christ often speak of the work of salvation in terms of its being accomplished, or singing about the coming of the Lord in judgment in Psalm 98. Sometimes it seems to me as though the Psalter must have been obscure for the original singers, it seems like it was almost meant for the New Testament!
  9. Ne Oublie

    Ne Oublie Puritan Board Sophomore

    Ok. In speaking for myself I would say that I do not think the Psalter is missing something that needs to be filled, I find some arguments for the reason of the abrogation of the use of instruments confusing or maybe not clear to me as of yet.

    I would like to hear from some others, I know there are quite a few EPers on PB, maybe even to help me flesh out the question? Especially when it comes to the ceremonial abrogation and even to the LC #156(from the OP) and how it fits with what I am trying to understand.
  10. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Yes. I was not intending to be unkind in my remarks. I was just trying to point out that maybe he can't get his mind to follow because the mindset of the oft used objection is wrong. It seems from his original question that he is seeking an answer to why we still sing about ceremonial aspects implying (at least in my mind) that perhaps the content of the Psalter was in some way inadequate for New Testament praise. I was attempting to alleviate his mind from this objection that is often raised. I meant no ill intent and apologize if such was thought to be in my post. Perhaps I should have worded my post differently.
  11. Ne Oublie

    Ne Oublie Puritan Board Sophomore

    Sorry, it is hard for me to articulate. I am more speaking to the arguments that are for the reasons of no instruments in worship. I am trying to understand how it works when singing Psalm 33, for instance, where it is commended to praise God with Harp, psaltery and an instrument of 12 strings. How is it that when I sing these words, that I am not commending them myself by singing them but then not really? Does that makes sense?

    And also, how is it that the same logis seemingly does not apply in regards to LC #156, which seems to say that what was commanded for the Levites to do continues until now, that only ministers of the Word are allowed to read the Word in public. Wasn't this also ceremonial law?

    Q. 156. Is the word of God to be read by all?
    A. Although all are not to be permitted to read the word publickly to the congregation,[v] yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves,[w] and with their families:[x] to which end, the holy scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar languages.[y]

    [v] Deut. 31:9,11-13. Neh. 8:2,3. Neh. 9:3-5.
    [w] Deut. 17:19. Rev. 1:3. John 5:39. Isa. 34:16.
    [x] Deut. 6:6-9. Gen. 18:17,19. Ps. 78:5-7.
    [y] 1 Cor. 14:6,9,11,12,15,16,24,27,28.
  12. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    Viewing the reasoning in the Form of Presbyterial Church Government might be helpful. At the very least, it gives a context for the use of these verses:

    "It belongs to his [the pastor's] office....

    To read the Scriptures publickly; for the proof of which, 1. That the priests and Levites in the Jewish church were trusted with the publick reading of the word is proved.12

    2. That the ministers of the gospel have as ample a charge and commission to dispense the word, as well as other ordinances, as the priests and Levites had under the law, proved, Isa. lxvi. 21. Matt. xxiii. 34. where our Saviour entitleth the officers of the New Testament, whom he will send forth, by the same names of the teachers of the Old.13

    Which propositions prove, that therefore (the duty being of a moral nature) it followeth by just consequence, that the publick reading of the scriptures belongeth to the pastor's office.

    12 Deut. 31:9,10,11. Neh. 8:1,2,3,13.
    13 Isa. 66:21. Matt. 23:34."

    There's more to the prescriptive use of OT passages in general, and OT passages in relation to church government in particular, but I don't feel competent enough to speak much further.
  13. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    I hope I understand the question, but you may find portions of this lecture helpful: Our Thoughts When Singing Psalms -

    It, If I recall correctly (and if not, then I got it from somewhere else!), mentions that when singing these things you are commending the truth they point to. These ceremonial shadows pointed to some truth, and that truth is what doesn't change. From what I understand, this would have been the same for an OT (believing) singer of these songs, though they might not have had the same clarity as we do (I'm not entirely sure on the details of this point; I tried starting a thread on the matter of interpreting psalms from an OT perspective as its primary interpretation, but it didn't take off much).

    Perhaps one could also note from the NT continued use of the ceremonial shadows to teach the truth that these shadows are especially appointed for teaching the truth and teach it better than any other signs might? If so, then if the question then becomes, "Why are we still singing these despite their fulfillment" the answer is that they are most fitted to convey the truth they point to.

    Perhaps it might also be worth noting the communal nature of the Psalms? We sing in our Head and Elder Brother (Heb. 2:12) as the leader and author of our song, which Head unites both the OT and NT Church into one body. It might then be expected that certain songs of praise will speak as though the fulfillment has not come yet, while the Church in the OT will have sung songs that speak as though the fulfillment had already come? And indeed, some of them speak as though the fulfillment is occurring in the present, like Psalm 22 or 69. I note also Psalm 66:6 so far as covenantal unity is concerned: "He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him." The singers identify as we even when those who sang that psalm were not personally there at the event. Might this covenantal unity work the other way too, as we sing of the history of redemption from the perspective of different temporal points during it?

    And perhaps also we might consider future looking psalms as having an ultimate look to the final accomplishment of redemption that we look forward to, noting again that our covenantal Head is identifying with His people, who look forward to the redemption of their bodies, and we in Him as we sing?

    I suppose a polemical answer to the question could be, "We would sing it in the same way that we sing about incense and sacrifice;" but it doesn't seem like that's what you are looking for.

    Having said all that, I don't know if that is the question you are asking, since that does not require one to hold to acapella EP to notice or affirm, and you speak of the same "logic" being seemingly applied in a different way and the "arguments" that are used to arrive at acapella singing. Are you trying to understand why in some cases, it is argued "whatever was commanded, continues until repealed" and in others (as is the case with instruments) "it was all repealed and remains so unless we see it has been commanded again"? Or are you trying to understand why psalms like Psalm 33 do not give the warrant for using instruments?
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  14. Ne Oublie

    Ne Oublie Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks, Raymond. Very helpful. I will look into this further.

    Your right, I do not find these type of arguments helpful.

    I am trying to understand both really, and you helped clarify greatly on the latter.
  15. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    The Psalter has many references to ceremonial worship. It references musical instruments, sacrifices, the temple, Jerusalem, Levites, etc. These things are to be sung with understanding. We should know that they have passed away, and that we have a greater revelation of the glorious realities that they pointed to.

    It is useful for ministers to explain a Psalm before it is sung. These things can all be sufficiently discussed beforehand.

    Also, we shouldn't take the "musical instruments" issue apart from the other parts of ceremonial worship mentioned in the Psalter. It is all part of one typical system of worship, which system has passed away, but still contains valuable pictures for us today.
  16. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior


    I was mulling over this a little today and here's a thought I had, I'll try to lay it out sequentially.

    God (through Paul) commands us to sing Psalms (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16).

    But the Psalms contain things like "go to the altar of God" (Ps 43:4), "bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar" (Ps 118:17), and "bow down toward Thy holy temple" (Ps 138:2).

    The apostle was certainly aware of these references, yet knew they had been fulfilled in Christ. Even so, they were commanded to be sung.

    If that is the case, then there shouldn't be a problem singing about instruments which have also been fulfilled in Christ.
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I'm not sure Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 command the singing of Psalms. They appear to me to simply assume it.

    Perhaps the problem isn't actually a problem. Like many blessings, the problem is in not seeing the proper function of such allusions. Fairtbairn once stated that the Psalms have a spiritualising effect on Israel's institutions. The book itself requires us to look beyond the mere action to the significance of it.
  18. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Not that it's really relevant to this discussion but unless there's some subtle distinction here I haven't caught, it seems like the commentators I consulted seem to think it is a command, admonition, exhortation, etc. not only to sing, but to sing Psalms. And that is how I have read it as well, I'm not sure how it could be otherwise.

    Col 3:16
    Trapp ...the apostle biddeth every saint to sing.
    Calvin ...[Paul] requires mutual teaching and becomes you to make use of hymns and songs that sound forth God's praise.
    Poole ... implying it is a peculiar ordinance of Christ for Christians to be exercised in holy singing, as James v. 13, with an audible voice musically.
    Henry ...Observe, Singing of psalms is a gospel ordinance.

    Eph 5:19
    Trapp in a sober sense, do you [you should] express your spiritual jollity in psalms, etc.
    Calvin ...Nor does he enjoin them to sing inwardly or alone.
    Henry ...The apostle...urges some other duties...: to sing unto the Lord...Observe here (1) The singing of psalms and hymns is a gospel ordinance: it is an ordinance of God, and appointed for his glory.
  19. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    There are a number of considerations from an exegetical point of view. The primary one is that the apostle is not addressing public worship but social activity in general. The principles drawn from the texts are relevant to public worship; hence the great variety of "inferences" which are drawn from them.
  20. nick

    nick Puritan Board Freshman

    23 years of singing the Psalms. Wow. Lord willing, I will be saying the same down the road. Praise God he reformed me to this wonderful truth while my children were very young. They will only remember singing the Psalms with the people of God.
  21. nick

    nick Puritan Board Freshman

    There are a couple sermons given by my pastor on the regulative principle and instrumental music. See here.

    Hope that helps.
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