Question about the 'a capella' position

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Poimen, Jul 10, 2012.

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  1. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Question about the 'a cappella' position

    In my reading about this position I have seen frequent citation of 1 Corinthians 14:19: "in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousands words in a tongue" (not only has this verse been used to support the 'a capella' position recently but also in the past).

    However I don't see the connection between the two issues. The best I can do is to conclude that these authors believe that the organ (the preferred instrument of yesteryear) or the popular praise instruments of today are 'speaking' in an unknown tongue. It seems to me that this is not really the point of the text (which is obvious) but I assume I am also missing something (as is often my experience with arguments from scripture with which I am not acquainted). If someone can help me to see the bridge between this verse and the question of using instruments in worship, please do so.
    Last edited: May 24, 2013
  2. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    From what I've seen, the RPW camp is not monolithic; there is disagreement on this (and other) issues, so you might get a variety of answers here.
  3. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Yes, there are a variety of answers to the 'a capella' question in general but there would be, I presume, relatively few to the specific question of 'what does 1 Corinthians 14:19 have to do with the 'a capella' position?
  4. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thank you for the suggestion. However, having listened to all three sermons, I did not hear the question (as per the original post) being addressed.
  5. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    No, there were many helpful arguments he made that edified me. Besides, I try to listen to other pastors from time to time (as he himself mentions) so it was a beneficial exercise either way.

    I would still like the question I raised in the op addressed though.
  6. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Perhaps what the verse has to do with it is the fact that the organ player himself is not singing words with understanding, but just making sounds with an instrument.

    I haven't studied out what that verse has to do with the position, so I could be totally wrong. But that's what comes to mind.
  7. JoannaV

    JoannaV Puritan Board Sophomore

    The only thing I've seen in relation to this is what Erasmus said, which seemed to be focusing on how many different musical voices were in use. It does seem that the focus should be on the words we are singing rather than having a multitude of different instruments playing. But I like you would be interested in how this is evaluated to mean that the only voice should be the human singer, as it seems a bit of a stretch to apply this one verse to a different situation/issue. (Also I wonder how it relates to a capella when people are singing in harmony?? Off topic I know, maybe someone can link me to an answer.. :B )
  8. N. Eshelman

    N. Eshelman Puritan Board Senior

    Could you give us a couple of citations used that show how a cappella (two words, two "p"s, two "l"s) supporters have used the text to support the position? I do not remember ever using this text in primary, secondary, or tertiary argumentations on the historic presbyterian and reformed practice of a cappella worship.

    Thanks. :) I will try to answer your question once I get my little mind around it.
  9. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    From The Wonders of the Most High (by Abraham Van de Velde)

  10. rbcbob

    rbcbob Puritan Board Graduate

    I can se no plausible connection between the verse referenced and the position it is called upon to support. Even in the larger context of the chapter there is no point of reference which verse 19 can address the issue. Perhaps the gymnastics department can help here??
  11. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    John L. Girardeau cites the Erasmus as follows:
    [SIZE=+1]The great scholar, Erasmus, who never formally withdrew from the communion of the Church of Rome, thus forcibly expresses himself: "We have brought into our churches a certain operose and theatrical music; such a confused, disorderly chattering of some words, as I hardly think was ever heard in any of the Grecian or Roman theatres. The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them . . . . Men run to church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled. And for this end organ-makers are hired with great salaries, and a company of boys, who waste all their time in learning these whining tones [Ames translates, ‘this gibble-gabble.’] Pray now compute how many poor people, in great extremity, might be maintained by the salaries of those singers." [/SIZE][SIZE=+1]In 1 Cor. 14:19, cited by Peirce and Ames [Peirce, [/SIZE][SIZE=+1]A Vindication of the Dissenters; Ames, Church Ceremonies. I assume by the latter he means Fresh Suite against Human Ceremonies in God's Worship]. See here.[/SIZE]
    Girardeau also cites reference to this passage by Calvin in his comment on Psalm 33.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=+1]Calvin is very express in his condemnation of instrumental music in connection with the public worship of the Christian church. Besides the testimonies which have already been adduced to prove that he regarded it as one of the types of the Old Testament which is fulfilled in the New, other passages from his writings may be added. In his commentary on the thirty-third Psalm he says: "There is a distinction to be observed here, however, that we may not indiscriminately consider as applicable to ourselves everything which was formerly enjoined upon the Jews. I have no doubt that playing upon cymbals, touching the harp and viol, and all that kind of music, which is so frequently mentioned in the Psalms, was a part of the education—that is to say, the puerile instruction of the law. I speak of the stated service of the temple. For even now, if believers choose to cheer themselves with musical instruments, they should, I think, make it their object not to dissever their cheerfulness from the praises of God. But when they frequent their sacred assemblies, musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints, only in a known tongue (1 Cor. 14:16). The voice of man, although not understood by the generality, assuredly excels all inanimate instruments of music; and yet we see what Paul determines concerning speaking in an unknown tongue. What shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound? Does any one object that music is very useful for awakening the minds of men and moving their hearts? I own it; but we should always take care that no corruption creep in, which might both defile the pure worship of God, and involve men in superstition. Moreover, since the Holy Spirit expressly warns us of this danger by the mouth of Paul, to proceed beyond what we are there warranted by him is not only, I must say, unadvised zeal, but wicked and perverse obstinacy."[/SIZE][SIZE=+1]
  12. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Follow up to a previous question about "a cappella" scripture reference

    *Perhaps the moderators want to merge this thread with the previous one that is now closed*

    In the thread above I asked: "In my reading of [the a cappella] position I have seen [it] frequent[ly defended with a] citation of 1 Corinthians 14:19: 'in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousands words in a tongue' (not only has this verse been used to support the 'a capella' position recently but also in the past)." I then noted that I did not see the connection between the verse cited and the argument made.

    However, since then I came across an interesting point made by John Price in his book "Old Light on New Worship: Musical Instruments and the Worship of God" which sheds light on the argument made. He states:

    (emphasis mine) Page 92, footnote 113
    Last edited: May 24, 2013
  13. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    So merged; and reopened.
  14. DeniseM

    DeniseM Puritan Board Freshman

    Deleted for the sake of not promoting a schismatic.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013
  15. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I presume that this passage would suggest itself as relevant to a cappella EPers because it mentions musical instruments as being lifeless. Should public/specific worship be mediated through lifeless instruments?

    Also, if an instrument is playing without any vocal accompaniment what one takes from the music is purely subjective. The passages in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, don't deny the presence of subjective truth in sung worship, but emphasise propositional truth above subjective truth.

    We have no warrant for instruments playing without singing in the NT, and even some who support instruments in worship oppose this - especially if it is CCM (Cheesy Contemporary Music).

    Instruments do communicate to the human soul, e.g. sadness or poignancy, joy, but they don't communicate propositional, biblical, truth. They encourage a subjective attitude to worship, and also, eventually, to doctrine.
  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    FYI. John Price and Greg Price are different people; Greg Price is a schismatic and is to be avoided.
  17. DeniseM

    DeniseM Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for pointing that out, Chris. I didn't know about Greg Price's schismatic actions. I had just come across his sermons on instruments in worship through a search on sermon audio. I will keep that in mind, in the future.
  18. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    No problem Denise; I understand all is not immediately obvious about those we need to avoid, particularly since they can be articulate and right on some important but (in the scheme of things) lesser subjects. These folks ought to be avoided.
  19. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Graduate

    Dr. Clark recently brings up this verse in Is The Organ God’s Gift To Worship?

    It seems to me to be an argument from the greater to the lesser. If you should not use a foreign language in worship that is intelligible to no one in the room, how much more should should you refrain from using an instrument which is intelligible to no one in the world?

    As Richard said, instruments do communicate things like joy or sadness, but an unintelligible language can do that too. According to the Apostle, that level of communication does not edify and does not belong in public worship.
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