The relevance of the meaning of "Psalms, Hymns, Songs" for the debate...

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Afterthought, Jul 23, 2013.

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  1. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I notice from this thread http://www.puritanboard.com/f124/high-scriptural-warrant-exclusive-psalmody-77227/#post981033 that my precise understanding of their role may need further clarification.

    (1) So, what role, exactly, do the passages in Ephesians and Colossians play in the EP debate?

    (2) Is the EP position necessarily tied to the particular interpretation that EPers usually have of them? Why or why not?

    (3) If the context of the passages do not in themselves distinguish between a public and private context, then how do we determine what context in which the psalms, hymns, and songs are to be sung in (e.g., what other passages are used, if any?)? If they do not refer to public worship, where do we get our command to sing in public worship? Or is it simply that because no distinction is made, they are to be sung in all contexts?

    (4) If any of the debated words means something other than a psalm, does that necessarily mean that hymns of human composition are commanded to be sung? Why or why not? If any of the debated words means something other than a psalm, does that at least imply that something other than a psalm is commanded to be sung?

    (5) Is a distinction between meaning and referent taken for granted here, so that whatever the terms mean, the concern is actually with what they refer to, and then to short-cut our language we say we are concerned with what the terms mean? (A famous philosophical example of meaning vs referent: "evening star" and "morning star" mean different things but refer to the same object. Perhaps a biblical example could be "Scripture" meaning one thing but referring to a particular collection of writings; or "law" meaning something but referring to Moses' law.)

    Edit: When I speak of the "usual interpretation", I am actually referring to the class of interpretations that views the terms as exclusively referring to the Book of Psalms in one way or another, since there are actually a few different and sometimes overlapping interpretations the EPer can have of these terms.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  2. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    A significant role considering how often the passages come up in the relevant literature (from both sides). Obviously if "hymns and spiritual songs" refer to anything other than Psalms this significantly weakens the EP position if not destroys it. If, on the other hand, "hymns and spiritual songs" refers to the books of Psalms then the hymnodist loses a strong argument (and text) in favor of their position.

    For myself, this passage 'kept' me from exclusive psalmody for years. Once I had a proper understanding of it (having been exposed to the exegesis of the EP position) I saw that I had misinterpreted them. In both cases, however, these texts were pivotal in holding to one position over the other.

    I would say so. The typical explanation for "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" in EP literature is a reference to the book of Psalms. The only other way to 'get around' the text would be to deny that it is speaking of public worship (as per your next question).

    The context indicates that they are normative for Christian life and practice (Ephesians 5:17 & Colossians 3:17) which, at least, gives 'credibility' to whatever these words refer. For myself I am satisfied that they imply worship in terms of the manner in which they are to sing, namely "to one another."

    There are other commands or examples of singing in scripture: many time in the psalms, 1 Corinthians 14:15 & Hebrews 2:12.

    No, not necessarily. They might refer to songs that are inspired but are not included in the book of Psalms (Exodus 15, Judges 5 etc.). It would be difficult to prove that Paul meant to refer to songs other than the Psalms and if he did, why speak of hymns AND spiritual songs (as opposed to just psalms and other songs). After all, it would be unnatural for Paul to include the inspired word of God in the same category as the uninspired words of men (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).

    No, I don't think it implies something other than a psalm. See Psalm Titles in the Septuagint & http://www.reformedprescambridge.com/articles/Psalms_in_worship_final_version.pdf

    If I understand you correctly I would say yes, the meaning of a particular word can be broader than the particular referent in a particular context. These words must be determined by context and use elsewhere (usually called semantic range). For example:

    Today the word 'hymn' as used in English, is (in my opinion) a different word than that used by Paul.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
  3. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you, Mr. Kok. That is, more or less, what I was thinking. It would be interesting if someone chimed in here who thought otherwise. I suppose one other way for the words to refer to something else would be for them to mean one thing but refer to another, e.g., hymn meaning a song of praise (a category of a song, though technically, a hymn need not be a song) but referring specifically to the Psalms. However, it seems that this meaning vs. referent is already taken into account via the semantic range that you mentioned. Though I don't know if meaning vs referent is exactly parallel to that; I'd have to look into it/think about it some more.

    Just to clarify the ambiguous "it" on (4) (I'll edit the OP): the question I should have asked was "If any of the debated words means something other than a psalm, does that at least imply that something other than a psalm is commanded to be sung?"
     
  4. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you, Dr. Clark and Austin. Just to clarify for anyone reading this thread, I hold to EP. This thread is more of a "meta-EP" question because sometimes it is helpful to grant things by way of concession when one speaks with someone on these topics and because one's understanding of this debate can almost always be more sharpened, which sharpening can make one better at handling the arguments as well as clarifying one's understanding of the many related topics that are implicitly involved.


    Dr. Clark: That is an excellent, brief explanation of "psalms, hymns, and songs." I hadn't picked up on the "wisdom" part yet; that is useful to know. I had learned a while ago about "maschil", which is also present, and also the similar phraseology concerning teaching in all wisdom that is used earlier in Colossians ("wisdom" and "knowledge" and the teaching of it seems to be a theme that runs throughout the letter). I had also heard (since I don't know Hebrew, I cannot know for sure) that the book of Psalms in Hebrew could only really be known by the names it gives its own compositions, since the title of the book uses "praises" not "psalms."

    Austin: On the first level, I would agree that such frees one from being tied down to the usual EP interpretation. But on the second level, the EPer must still interpret those verses in one way or another. Must the EPer interpret it in the usual manner in order to hold that position? If so, then it would seem to me the case is still tied down to the usual interpretation of those passages. (And as an aside, those who support hymns of human composition would think they have their examples, and you probably know which ones I am talking about, but I guess that's a bit of a digression since I'm not sure that affects the "first level" of the interpretation that you mentioned.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
  5. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Ah. You have caught another thing to be clarified! It is good to work on precision. By "usual interpretation", I am referring to the class of interpretations that views the terms as exclusively referring to the book of Psalms in one way or another. (I personally lean towards the view you have mentioned, but perhaps if I were trained in Greek exegesis, I might find the Septuagint argument just as appealing too.)

    And yes, it is good to always continue to press the real point of dispute in this debate (that we still need that direct warrant for uninspired compositions and that these terms do not in themselves necessarily refer to them; and what our default position should be until the doubt is cleared).

    Well, we both know some of them believe they have their approved examples. And some will give a "theological" (for lack of a better word) justification. But yes, some very good points to remember; it seems that the EP argument being negative in form gives rise or at least contributes to giving rise to those points you have raised.
     
  6. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Noticed and replied! It seems we both have a rather intriguing habit of thinking of things we wished we had added to our posts and then editing our posts with them while another is replying to them. :)

    So I guess that class of interpretations may still be necessarily tied to the EP argument (though not in a "EP hinges on these two verses" sort of way, as you have noted in that last added paragraph)? (On the second level, anyway.)
     
  7. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    This is a topic where I am a little bit out of my level. I know what I believe and why I believe it, but haven't done the in and out research to really engage much in the current level of discussion. That being said, after talking to the Pastor of the church I attend this summer about Psalmody he made me think a lot about these passages and these questions so I'll briefly reply at a surface level.

    I think they play a central role because, as the Pastor I talked to pointed out, if this means hymns and spiritual songs we have a positive command to sing hymns and spiritual songs in our worship. Not only does EP become untenable, it means that to sing only the Psalms neglects the positive command to sing hymns and spiritual songs.
     
  8. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Well, I'm not sure what happened, but it seems it may not be bad to see a distinction between the EP argument and EP interpretation. On the first level, the EP argument is more broad and not narrowly focused on those two verses. On the second level, those passages need to be interpreted somehow (perhaps in response to those who do not hold to EP), and hence the EP interpretation. Nevertheless, those verses do enter the EP argument insofar as we need some sort of command to sing the Psalms, and that is what those passages provide.

    Thanks for adding in your opinion! It seems most do see the passages as important to the debate, though they may not play a fundamental role in the argument on the first level. It still seems to me though that the EP argument is tied to those verses insofar as if they are not interpreted in the usual EP manner (or the other manner Rev. Kok mentioned), it seems there is positive command to sing whatever the hymns and songs are. (Though if the terms are generic rather than specific, it would seem there is no specific command to sing anything in particular, though there is command to sing something that meets their definition in general.)
     
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The history of interpretation suggests that the reformation practice of singing Psalms is not tied to a specific interpretation of these texts. By far the greatest weight is given to the arguments based on canonical hymnody (God has given us a hymn book and has made no provision for supplanting or supplementing it), the superiority and infallibility of inspired praise (one cannot do better than the Holy Spirit and one is safeguarded, at least on one level, from doctrinal and devotional error), and Messianic focus (these are the songs of the Christ). At the least these texts, properly interpreted, show that corporate singing of praise songs was not tied to the Old Testament ceremonies but was mandated and practised as a part of New Testament worship. The argument that "psalms, hymns and songs" refers to the different terms which comprise the Old Testament Tehillim or Praise-Book (commonly called the Book of Psalms) has a firm grammatico-historical basis. But one finds this argument comes naturally to the fore as a counter-argument against those who appeal to these texts as providing support for other compositions. Stronger still is the argument from the "spiritual" nature of the songs required to be offered in worship. Taken in conjunction with the New Testament usage of this word it demands the use of Spirit-given songs in Spirit-filled congregational worship. At the same time, we must guard against the idea that these texts provide simple proof-texts. It is obvious, in contrast to "the coming together of the church" in 1 Cor. 11-14, that the exhortations in the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians are a part of a series which addressed the life of the church in general.
     
  10. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you, Mr. Winzer. That is very helpful. I know that in my own experience, once the emotional hurdle was gone over, those arguments that were given the most weight did most of the pulling on my reason (well, most of them; I didn't learn about one of them until later). To make sure I understand...

    It seems the argument for exclusive psalmody would rely on the weightier arguments and spend most of its time there. These texts would then function to show that congregational singing is not ceremonial, and their interpretation would serve as a counter-argument to those who wish to introduce other songs as well as showing that the psalms are commanded to be sung under the NT and that the content of song is an element of worship (but the usual EP interpretation of these texts are not necessary for showing that the psalms are commanded to be sung under the NT or that the content of song is an element of worship?). But we cannot look at these texts as simple proof-texts because the exhortations do not directly address congregational worship. By that, I understand you to mean that any command related to public worship is implicit. So there is still something relevant about public worship concerning these texts. That raises a few questions to my mind.

    (1) If the texts are relevant on the implicit level to congregational worship, then if any of those terms referred to something other than a psalm, then does that mean something other than a psalm is commanded to be sung? Thus, while the argument for exclusive psalmody isn't entirely tied to the interpretation of these texts, the argument still requires those terms to refer to the Psalms.

    (2) Could you explain how the texts are relevant for congregational worship? So far as I can see, a speaking and teaching is commanded for life outside of "the coming together." I'm not sure how a command to sing these compositions in congregational worship is coming from the text. (And I do remember that some did historically use these texts directly and simply against those who saw no warrant for singing in worship at all, because the teaching and speaking to one another could only be done out loud; but the context may have been polemical rather than stating the author's actual view of the passages, so I'd have to re-look at those.) Actually, perhaps to save you some time, I found a thread where you already explained this. If you still stand by that more or less, my question here would then be: How does one know that the heart condition referred to in this text is the same one as when they congregationally sung these compositions? One might say they are singing in their heart at all times, rather than the singing in the heart referring specifically to the public worship; and even then, the public worship song might not necessarily be congregational singing.

    I realize my second question is more of an exegetical one than a "meta" one (though I suppose it touches on it insofar as the texts are used as proof that the content of song is an element of worship and that public worship song is congregationally done). If you simply do not have the time for that right now, I think the first question is more in keeping with this thread (though I guess it too is a bit exegetical in nature).
     
  11. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    First, as noted, we still have the strong grammatical and historical case for accepting these terms as referring to the compositions which comprise the canonical book which we call the Book of Psalms.

    Secondly, there is no warrant to compose; only to sing. Given the precise meaning of the word "spiritual," the high spiritual psalmody of the Old Testament church, the inspired phenomenon of singing in 1 Cor 14, and the lack of any gift of psalmody or embodiment of NT psalmodic material, our congregational situation is bound to the Psalms.

    The linked post summarises my own view of the passage and how I understand it to relate to the issue of congregational praise. There is no doubt in my mind that the apostle is exhorting these churches to make their normal worship practice and especially the devotional spirit of it a dominant influence in the way they interrelate with one another.

    As we have discussed before, what an individual might do and what a congregation should do can be two different things. The application we draw from these texts to a congregational setting should not become the rule for all settings. A congregation by default must sing a set form in order to sing in unison, and it must be such a form as allows each and every individual person to sing with faith. There is also the limitation of church power to be considered. An individual is not bound to a form and he is bound to his own conscience. So they constitute two different types of application.
     
  12. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Great point!
     
  13. Tyrese

    Tyrese Puritan Board Sophomore

    Yeah but it's assumed that we have warrant to compose worship songs. It's interesting that my Presbyterian friends need a absolute command for something's and not others. That's not very consistent.
     
  14. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    However Tyrese the key word in your comment is 'assumed' I don't believe the RPW permits any of us, Presbyterian or otherwise to assume anything. ever, and certainly not in relation to the elements and circumstances of divine worship. We may however legitimately build a case on what is "necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture;" (BCF) or which we can extrapolate on the basis of 'good and necessary conequence', but neither of those is the same as an assumption.

    An assumption is something we take for granted, whereas a consequence grows out of other facts etc. In relation to worship if we were to build on doctrine on assumptions on the basis of what is not said, just think where we would be. I might assume and take for granted that since we don't read of sacrifices taking place in New Covenant worship that such are not to be engaged in, which may be a good assumption (indeed is), but it is nowhere near as secure as observing that Christ came to fufill the law, is the temple, was the sacrifice prefigured all of which are necessary consequences of the full thrust of the OT prophecies and the NT revelations.

    It would also do to note that John is not Presbyterian, nor is the nature of the argument here restricted to Presbyterians. I would also suggest that if we analysed ourselves and our theology we all require absolutes for somethings and not for others.

    Furthermore specifically in connection with worship the BCF is as clear as the WCF that

    1. The light of Nature shews that there is a God, who hath Lordship, and Soveraigntye over all; is just, good, and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the Heart, and all the Soul, 360and with all the Might. But the acceptable way of Worshipping the true God, is 361instituted by himself; and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be Worshipped according to the imaginations, and devices of Men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or 362any other way, not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.

    Prescription (which includes necessary inclusions not just explicit statements) is the guide here, not assumption. So de facto, assumptions are never the way to proceed. Thus if we are to sing hymns we must show that by good and necessary inference or on the basis of a necessary teaching that there is also a command to write such.
     
  15. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you. I think I see what you are saying now. Since there is only warrant to sing in the passage, at the very least the passage does not speak to the issue of composition, and the terms could mean all sorts of things and not necessarily harm the exclusive psalmody position, e.g., one term could refer to the inspired psalmody of 1 Cor 14 but since we are now in an ordinary situation we are bound to the Psalms. And though it has been a while since I investigated the possible meanings of these terms, I seem to recall that the terms always had something to do with the end product (the category of song itself) and not something to do with the composition of the songs (how the songs were made). So at the very least, the issue of composition cannot be determined from this place and so the passage does not settle the question of uninspired vs inspired hymnody. But as you pointed out, among other considerations the term "spiritual" describes the songs, so the passage at best does settle the question of composition in favor of inspired hymnody. Because of the strong argument for the terms referring to the Psalms, one can still appeal to this passage (as our Confession does) for direct Scriptural warrant for singing the Psalms (I suppose the other way would be to prove we are to sing in the NT, and then in asking "What are we to sing?" one can show the Psalms are appointed for public worship and not limited to the ceremonial system).

    I suppose one remaining problem could occur if one of the terms referred to another Scripture song, since then another Scripture song (which could be sung without having to compose it) would be commanded to be sung. But it would seem to me such a term would need to be generic (?) in order to refer to them, and once the term is generic we are still left with the question of what we are to sing. And once that question is asked, we can only find the Psalms as songs appointed for singing.

    That seems to me to be the only way for the EP position to not be bound to interpreting the terms as referring to the Psalms, since one could always argue that though the other songs were not appointed to be sung initially nor--in the case of the OT--sung as part of the psalmody, these songs are now finally receiving appointment to be sung in the words Paul uses and by the progressive nature of revelation, any songs recorded in the NT are also receiving appointment. Or perhaps more accurately, these songs are being sung in the churches already, and progressive revelation then allows any future NT songs. Thoughts on this? I suppose if one understood the passage as not speaking of any particular context in which the songs were sung in then that would be another way for the position to not be tied to a particular interpretation of those verses (which I guess was the post that spawned this thread).

    To make sure I understand: Are you viewing the texts as implicitly assuming the normal congregational worship, or are you applying these texts to the congregational worship setting? If the former, I'm still a little lost on how one can tell that not only public worship but congregational worship is what is implicitly assumed. How can one tell? If the latter, then how can these passages be used to prove we have warrant for congregational singing or that the Psalms are commanded to be sung in it?

    Also, I have sometimes seen this passage used to show that we are to sing with grace in the heart (and so implicitly shows that mechanical instruments are not to be used). Does this interpretation allow for demonstrating that? If so, how? Edit: Actually, I think I figured that out. The devotional spirit is the same in both the setting of the singing and the speaking. The devotional spirit is described as "with grace in the heart." Hence, the singing is also to be "with grace in the heart," as our Confession interprets it. And probably the same can be said for "making melody in one's heart."


    I hope these questions don't take too much of your time (and though I've addressed these questions to Mr. Winzer, anyone else feel free to answer if you have one!). I've always thought that these passages were speaking directly of public worship practice, so it's taking me a bit to get a handle on this understanding (which understanding seems to me to resonate quite well with the passage and gives a wonderful teaching). If you have more time sometime, I'd love to continue that discussion about the differences between private devotion and public worship (or perhaps you or another may have some work in mind that discusses it?), as I'm not sure if I've put all the pieces together rightly.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2013
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    It is suggested by some commentators that that is the case. The obvious reply is that they are not "songs" per se, but prose or poetry containing reports of songs. A song is something written to be sung, not simply read. Ps. 18 compared with 2 Sam. 22 exhibits clear differences in this regard.

    Both. Implicit in the apostle's exhortation is the fact that these churches were engaged in singing praise as a part of the ordinary gatherings and identified the content of their songs by this threefold term. At the same time, we are interpreting the text and applying its positive teaching to instituted congregational worship under the governance of the regulative principle.

    Our reformed definition of the visible church means that public worship and congregational worship are synonymous; otherwise the church would be nothing more than a social club or a religious cult.

    How can we tell? It is there in the text. The explicit is found in the action of speaking, teaching, admonishing. The implicit is found in the corpus of praise-song connected with singing and making melody in the heart (singing with grace in the heart) and identified in a threefold term which was obviously known to the experience of the readers.

    Warrant? Approved example, as with the Bereans searching the Scriptures.

    Is there a warrant to compose? Does the warrant to read the Scriptures provide a warrant to compose Scripture? Certainly not. Then a warrant to sing a specific corpus of song provides no warrant to compose the corpus of song. Translation into the vulgar language is warranted, but not composition of something entirely new.

    It is employed for the purpose of showing the absence, non-necessity, and superficiality of mechanical instruments. That these were tied to the OT sacrificial worship, and that worship has now been fulfilled and abrogated by Christ, is the fundamental argument against their use in NT worship.

    I hope that is helpful. Please let me know if anything I have said has been confusing in any way.
     
  17. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    There is no basis for the assumption. The apostle's use of the word "spiritual" connected with the material to be sung shows the Spirit-given quality of what is to be sung. There is no office for composing hymns, Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4, as there was in the Old Testament. The assumption that the duty to sing includes a warrant to compose therefore leads to the diminution of the quality of song to be sung and the presumptuous introduction of an office into the New Testament church which has no governance or guidance under Christ the Head.
     
  18. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you for the response. That was helpful, and I think I've almost got it or at least am getting there, but I'm still a little confused on a couple matters.

    This makes sense, but couldn't someone say that though they are not songs in themselves, they are now being authorized to be sung as songs, especially since some of these are labeled by the same words used in these letters? That is, that the word "song" used by Paul specifically has reference to these reports of songs, and so these reports of songs are now to be sung? I can see the reply that they are not songs in themselves being sufficient if the term "song" used by Paul is something generic (cause then there is no proof that these reports of songs were in mind and the generic nature of the term would exclude looking for reports of songs), but if the term "song" specifically refers to these because they are also called "songs" and have a hymnic nature, I'm not sure whether that reply would still function appropriately.

    As for the rest, I think what you are saying is that the congregational singing of these songs is implicit in the passage. What is explicit is the private teaching and admonishing. We then apply what this passage is telling us about teaching and admonishing being founded on these songs to note that when those songs were sung in the public assembly, the brethren were teaching and admonishing one another. The warrant for congregationally singing Psalms in public worship is by approved example from the implicit teaching that these songs were ordinarily sung congregationally (As I'll expound on a bit later, my remaining confusion is seeing how it is shown that the songs were sung in public worship and sung congregationally.).

    It seem that the "positive teaching" drawn from this passage for worship practice is that (1) Psalms are approved and so appointed for worship and (2) teaching occurs when the Psalms are sung in worship. If it were demonstrated that these Psalms were congregationally sung (whether in this passage or elsewhere), then we could also note that (3) the brethren mutually teach and admonish each other when they sing the Psalms in worship. (And if congregational singing were demonstrated from this passage, we'd also have (4) singing is ordinarilly to be congregationally done)

    I guess my confusion on this particular matter of congregational singing (as opposed to one singing and the others listening; or to the singing being a private singing outside the worship assembly) is that this passage is often used to show congregational singing is warranted by noting that the teaching is to "one another" and all are to do it (hence, all must sing at once; though come to think of it, I'm not sure that is a fair inference, so I might have forgotten something important); however, if the teaching is in the context of everyday Christian speech, then I'm not sure how the "one another" part of the prescription must necessarily be applied to song in public worship, unless one has already demonstrated elsewhere or by other means that the songs in public worship were congregationally sung. From your reply, it seems you view the teaching and admonishing to one another to demonstrate both that the worship was public and the songs were congregationally sung. How is that demonstrated or how is this passage able to be applied to demonstrate that, since the teaching and admonishing is private? I think figuring out the particular point in this paragraph is the main point I'm still a bit confused on.

    Could you elaborate a bit on that last part? Though I guess by now, it is obvious that I misused my words and had intended on distinguishing between public worship and congregational singing, and also distinguishing between private singing and public worship. My apologies for being unclear.
     
  19. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    Rev. Matthew Winzer,
    Thank you so much for all of your above comments. I have found them all very helpful. Will you please elaborate on your point about other Scripture songs not being songs per se? I am EP but find the argument for "canonical songs" very strong/convincing (much more so than hymns of human composition)
     
  20. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I'll go ahead and respond once (since the question was not directed to me) so as to get some practice answering this sort of question. Unlike the Psalms, these other songs are not presented as songs for singing. No doubt, they were sung once, but they are not given in the Scriptures as songs but rather as recordings of the songs when they were sung. The recording of these songs are put into and become part of the historical narrative, and indeed, (as comparing Psalm 18 with 2 Samuel 22 will show, for example) these songs are put in such a manner so as to specially suit the narrative. Unlike the Psalms, they are not written in such a manner as to be the praise of the church in all ages, but are instead limited to their particular place in the narrative.

    I suppose an analogy would be the difference between recording characters singing so as to tell the tale of a larger narrative and writing a song for living people to sing. I think one sees this incorporation of song into a narrative in certain books, and that may provide an analogy for this. After all, none would ever think that the recording of characters in a book singing a song means that the author intends to write that song as a song for you to sing, but rather, the author intends for you to read that song. And indeed, if such a song is incorporated into the narrative rightly, it would be very strange to sing it.
     
  21. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Raymond, sorry to chop into your sentences but I find it easier to focus my replies on specific points, and I trust you are seeking very specific answers.

    Who authorises them as such? If the command is to sing "songs," i.e., inspired matter given to be sung, then the warrant only extends thus far, no farther.

    The "speaking, teaching, admonishing" is the explicit exhortation and applies to fellowship in general, but this is followed by "singing," which comes in at the end of the exhortation as something understood to be a part of the ordinary experience of these churches. The activity of one individual to another is the focus of the first part but the "singing" is additional and general. No doubt there were examples of individuals prophesying in song, as 1 Cor. 14 shows, but this is predicated on the extraordinary gift of the Spirit, which is understood by cessationists to be no longer active. Being bound in to the ordinary gifts of the Spirit, we must apply the text accordingly.

    Sorry for misunderstanding the point.

    To elaborate, WCF 25 teaches the particularisation of the visible church comes by means of the ordinances being established in a particular place for the gathering and edifying of the elect. Unlike a social club, there is no meeting merely for the purpose of serving some common interest which only concerns specific people. Unlike a religious cult, there is no secret rite of passage only for a select few. Everything is done openly and accessibly before all men. There should be a place for the unbeliever to witness what is done, and everything should be done decently and in order.
     
  22. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Raymond has responded well. Basically, the canon of Scripture is given for various reasons, and it contains a great variety of "genre" (for want of a better word). We are to sing songs; there is canonical book of songs called Tehillim, Praises, or the Book of Psalms. They were penned and canonised for the express purpose of singing and are the heritage of all the saints. The other so-called songs were not penned for this purpose but functioned in a redemptive-historical context and were peculiarly appropriate for a specific people, place, and time. They are the heritage of the saints as writings to be read, not specifically as songs to be sung.

    The grammatical and syntactical differences between Ps. 18 and 2 Sam. 22 illustrate this point. Another example is Deborah's song. It suits the period of the Judges. Psalm 83, on the other hand, utilises aspects of the history and universalises it for the use of God's people in all places.

    Another way of reinforcing this is to look specifically at the Messianic focus of the Psalter. Other so-called songs might point forward to Christ in a typological way, or speak of Christ in a prophetic way, but the Psalms are Christ's own words uttered self-consciously as the Anointed of the Lord, Heb. 2:12. When we sing the Psalms we not only sing about Christ, but Christ Himself is the One who sings through and in the midst of the congregation. This high view of church-praise demands, of course, an inspired hymnody. Not simply something that is inspired which is turned into an hymn, but something which is inspired to serve as an hymn as the sung declaration of Christ in the midst His people.
     
  23. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    No problem in chopping them up. It is helpful since they're a bit lengthy.

    Thanks, I see what you are getting at now. The only way the command can refer to these other songs is generically (that is, "sing inspired songs" rather than "sing all the songs that were sung in Scripture at one point or another"), and so the other "songs" not being given as songs, the command cannot refer to them. I suppose that would leave the Song of Solomon and the prayer of Habakkuk if the term was generic. For those, it seems plain that the Song of Solomon was not given as a song to sing but as highly stylized poetry to be read, and that Habakkuk's song functions in a particular prophetic way within the book so that it too isn't a song in itself (it is at least clear that the prayer seems to have been simply the way Habakkuk gave his prophecy on that occasion, and that the song does not seem to be given to the Church to sing, but since someone could always say this song is being newly authorized to sing, such uniqueness seems to not be a sufficient response). Is this correct, or is that not sufficient? If it is correct, I can finally see how the exclusive psalmody position is not tied to a particular interpretation of those verses.

    I think I may get it. The singing refers to something general and so one cannot tell what context the singing was done in (or better, the singing refers to no context in particular)--whether it be private or public (and we have warrant elsewhere for singing in public worship). However, one can tell that the singing was that of worship song, so one can see that this singing is an approved example of worship. From there, we can seek to apply this passage to public worship. We then see that since the singing of these worship songs must clearly be an element of worship (what else can it be?), they are to be sung in public worship too (does this follow?). Warrant for singing needing to be done congregationally when in public worship comes from elsewhere, but it can also be deduced from noting that since we are in ordinary times, there is no warrant for only one to sing while the rest remain silent. Since Levitical choirs are also done with, that would leave the remaining possibility that all must sing (or one could note the different ways that song had been used in public worship, and find that congregational singing is the only way remaining in our ordinary times).

    I suppose two other (though maybe less conclusive) ways of applying the passage to public worship would be (1) if one took the terms to refer to the Psalms, one could see then that these are especially fit for public worship and so the singing of them must have occurred at the very least in that setting or (2) that worship in the technical sense of the term can only occur in the public assembly, which suggests that the most "technical" (or perhaps better, "complete") setting for such singing to take place is in public worship (that is, that all "private worship" is an analogy of public worship, so if it was done as "private worship", it must occur as an analogy of something done in public worship).

    Would the above be correct? In any case, it seems that one cannot use these passages directly to defend congregational singing, but rather one must get warrant for that elsewhere (e.g., by noting that soloist and choir singing is not for our ordinary NT times) and then apply these passages to the public worship setting.
     
  24. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Raymond, everything looks right. I just hope I haven't confused you at all. The main points are (1) there are weightier arguments, (2) these texts have an explicit reference to brotherly fellowship in general, (3) their implicit teaching still brings us to the conclusion that "singing of psalms with grace in the heart" is a part of the ordinary worship of God, and (4) they serve well as counter-arguments to those who try to use them to justify modern practice and terminology.
     
  25. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you, Mr. Winzer for all that help and especially in caring to ensure that I would not be confused, even working to chase down a couple of rabbit holes! I appreciate your kindness and patience in answering my questions even in things that should be obvious or clear, and I hope to better emulate such in my own behavior towards others. I certainly have a much better understanding now of not only the place of these passages in the debate but the debate and the passages themselves too. If I find something else that confuses me that I haven't thought of yet, I'll be sure to post again (though perhaps in a different thread)!
     
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