Should someone who is Exclusive Psalmodist, sing hymns in public worship for pragmatic reasons?

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by NaphtaliPress, Jul 11, 2019.

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  1. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I asked this in a thread earlier this week and it has come up once again and reminded me to post a thread on it. It may have been a topic before but don't remember. I don't understand how one can justifying singing other than psalms in public worship if one is convinced of the exclusive psalmodist position, because whatever pragmatic reasons there may be for a minister or member to do so, it is a sin against conscience on top of whatever else. Are the similar things that one wouldn't do or would do on this basis (to look for a consistent principle; and it should be a principle of something dictating this sin against conscience).
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  2. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Part of believing in exclusive psalmody requires one to believe that singing uninspired hymns is a breach of the second commandment. It is never right for one to break the second commandment. Ergo, it is a sin against conscience for an exclusive psalmist to sing something that he believes to be a violation of the second commandment.

    I have stood in silence for four years during the singing of uninspired hymns. It is a far from an ideal situation, but if I were to sing uninspired hymns I would be basically telling everyone else that the issue is not important and would be making a mockery of my own principles. Strangely, I have come across EP people who criticise me for going to a church that sings hymns, but, if the very same people were to attend, would actually sing the hymns themselves. Go figure.
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  3. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior


    At the very least, it is a sin against conscience, which, to quote one hymn-singer, "is neither right nor safe."
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  4. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    If something is a violation of the RPW within the four walls of an EP church, then it is also a violation of the RPW in the wider church. Again, I have known people who would literally start a riot if someone tried to introduce an uninspired hymn to their EP congregation, but then they have no problem singing the same hymns in a non-EP congregation. The whole thing is ludicrous and holds the EP position up to scorn.
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  5. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Ever since studying out EP I've providentially been to only one service in a year and a half where songs other than Psalms were sung. Didn't sing.
  6. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Holding to EP is one and the same with refraining from singing uninspired songs. It took me a minute to get to that point- but at last, I just couldn’t do it again and the struggle was over.
  7. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    So, in other words, you keep the exclusive in exclusive psalmody. The modifier exclusive is a bit of a give away. :)
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  8. Henry Hall

    Henry Hall Puritan Board Freshman

    I sing a Psalm at low volume, while others are singing the uninspired hymn, and keep silent during the congregational reading of the Confession of Faith.
  9. BG

    BG Puritan Board Junior

    It is a sin to sing Uninspired man made songs to God in worship
  10. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Occasions when one has to remain silent, or not participate in something because it violates his conscience, should "normally" be only extraordinary occasions. When one is worshipping regularly in a church where one has to remain silent that is something quite different. And I know you get that because you said that in your circumstances there are no churches which are EP (I think that's what you're saying?). However even in this situation it's not particularly good to have to do that and I don't think we would want to promote the idea that such an approach was just a normal outworking of the Second Commandment (i.e. being a member of a church where one can't participate in the sung praise).

    It's not an ideal situation to have members of a congregation who cannot fully participate in the worship. It's divisive. I'm not saying you, personally, are divisive or are intending to be so but the practice of non-participation is de facto divisive. Elders do not have the authority to bind consciences in contradiction to the Word of God, but they are given authority to maintain peace and order within the church and to regulate the public worship in accordance with Scripture. I think a session would be within its rights to discipline a member who persisted in non-participation in the sung praise if they believed such conduct was injurious to the peace of the church. If you have a session which is happy for you to follow this course then that's fine but, again, it's clearly not ideal.
  11. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Sophomore

    My church sings no Psalms for the record.
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  12. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I probably don't understand the EP conviction as well as I should, but wouldn't you have to be convinced that the words of the hymn are 'uninspired'? That is a tall order in my mind. How can English words be 'inspired' anyway?

    "The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them."
  13. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Not quite sure where you're headed with this. The psalms, though, are as inspired as the rest of the Bible. Because they are translated, we say they are "mediately inspired". Nothing of the sort can be said of man-made songs.
  14. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I agree completely.

    The congegation of which I am a part is quite a medley. It's an English-speaking crowd, so there are members from all over the world and of various backgrounds. I and my wife are the only members of a Reformed persuasion. We mostly keep our opinions to ourselves, or else we'll be told psalmodt and sabbath-keeping (and a lot besides) are legalistic.
  15. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    EPers use the phrase 'uninspired hymns' which implies that what they sing are 'inspired Psalms'. However, EPers sing 'mediately inspired Psalms.' On top of that, they don't sing the mediately inspired translations of the ESV--or other big name version--but a metrical translation of a mediately inspired translation.

    My question is, how far away from the original Hebrew does a metrical translation have to travel before it passes from a metrically translation of a mediately translated Psalm into an 'uninspired hymn'?

    More importantly, is the individual congregant burdened with the decision that a particular lyric is mediately translated enough for singing?

    I am not advocating for pragmatism, but clarity of responsibility.
  16. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    As far as I am aware, most Psalters for singing are translations from the Hebrew not metrical versions of English translations.

    An honest attempt to translate the Hebrew is sufficient for me, just as it is with prose translations. Someone said to me a while back "Ah, but the Scottish Metrical Version is not as good as other translations, so it must be a violation of the RPW to sing it." Since the person was a fellow Anglican, I told him to sing the psalms out of the Book of Common Prayer if he was such a Puritan. ;):stirpot:
  17. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Closing for this to rest and catch up. While not unrelated this has hijaccked the specific question of the OP (if I do say so myself). Someone start a thread on the question. i.e. Where in scripture is it prescribed that one must 100% agree with all worship practices of a church or one should not stay or that church must force him out the door if he is otherwise submissive and not making trouble? Or whomever starts it can phrase it how they think best. I'll reopen this thread when someone starts the new one so one can refer to the other.
  18. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  19. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I am questioning this assumption as it relates to any specific song.

    How closely does the English metrical translation have to follow the Hebrew for it to be acceptable? How far do the words have to deviate from the Hebrew to no longer be acceptable? Is it possible that an 'uninspired hymn' might follow the Hebrew close enough to be acceptable? Who determines what is acceptable, the elders or the lay-person?

    It seems too great a burden for the lay-person to discern how closely or remotely the words of a song follow the original Hebrew. At some point we all have to trust our elders that they are providing us with acceptable means of worship.
  20. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not sure what you are getting at here. Uninspired hymn simply means a song that is not part of the canon of scripture. I don't see how any non-canonical song could follow the Hebrew of any portion of the Bible, much less the Psalms.

    As for what is acceptable and what is not, there are different levels of responsibility in these things, the highest being with the general assembly/synod, then the elders, then the individual heads of households, then the individual members of each household. For example, if a synod decides to create a metrical psalter and they absolutely butcher it and the songs are not even closely representative of the psalms, that is a sin of leadership first and foremost which filters down to the laypeople.

    Is an individual believer guilty too? That's a tough question and at best I think it may be so, just like we are all guilty in Adam, even though we did not individually plunge the human race into sin like He did (our transgression was not "like Adam's").
  21. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    see Izaak. The OP concerns the simple case of an EP singing a hymn rather than from the psalms. The question of when a psalm is a psalm and when not is another question.
  22. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    What about this?

  23. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    This is not quite correct. Any psalter worth its psalt refers directly to the Hebrew. See the little text under the title on the first page of the Scottish Psalter of 1650 (which I use daily):
    Translated and diligently compared
    with The Original Text and
    Former Translations
    This is a good question. Any translation is a tricky business, and translation into metre is doubtless an even trickier one.

    There was a thread on this not too long ago. A very worthwhile topic, in my opinion.

    In my private worship, I sometimes compare the psalter's lyrics to my Bible. It matches up well. Sometimes the psalter is awkward, I admit, but at other times it brings out a meaning more clearly.

    I am no Hebrew scholar, though, and trust the translations in my hands. I think I have good reason to.
    I appreciate these questions. Psalm-singers should be asking them, not taking psalmody, or our modes of psalmody, for granted.
  24. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    What about it?
  25. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    This is the crux of the matter when it comes to the binding of one's conscience isn't it? If an EPer sings a song and it is not a Psalm their conscience is grieved. There are plenty of 'hymns' that follow Psalm verses fairly closely. How does the average church goer decide whether the words are 'close enough' or not in order to have their conscience bound?
  26. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    An EPer wouldn't sing to begin with.
    I can't think of any time it's been hard to tell. Man-made hymns and songs don't sound like psalms.
  27. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    This question was about those who are committed to the principle of exclusive psalmody singing a hymn (spec. the case of a minister was raised on the prior thread that started this). Why don't you ask your question on a new thread?
  28. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    To be blunt, you are asking if it OK to sin for pragmatic reasons. This is so if one says they hold to EP and sing hymns.
  29. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    It seems so, which is one reason I asked the question as I can't grasp justifying it, if one is really EP. If they are something else, like psalms strongly preferred, I could understand it.
  30. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    If a person is EP, and a corollary of that position is that they believe hymns are a violation of the RP, then there is no way they can sing hymns in worship, the way I see it. The horizontal aspects of worship cannot impinge on the vertical, by which I mean that any supposed consideration for those around us (which is usually a good thing) cannot impinge on the foremost relation in worship, which is what we are doing to serve God. Whether uninspired hymns fit the category of a violation of the RP is indeed a distinct, though related question.
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