Unrestricted Psalms Before Unaccompanied Psalms

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fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
The archives are legion on this subject, as you can see browsing the EP sub forum. Two recent threads from each side of the question are:
[URL]http://www.puritanboard.com/f1...ing-uninspired-song-use-public-worship-46680/[/url]
and
[URL]http://www.puritanboard.com/f1...onfine-song-public-worship-psalms-only-48481/[/url]

If there is any interest I can reopen either of these for posting.
Chris is right; this subject has been discussed more times that I care to count, but it is no different than many objections you hear from non-believers regarding the Gospel. Even though you have heard them 1000 times, it is assured that you will hear them 1001, 1002, and so on.


I hope that these three points are helpful.
I found them weak and tenuous the first 1000 times, and will continue to do so.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I'm convinced Randy, but while EP remains an extreme minority position amongst the confessionally reformed, I'm not sure how effective berating the majority for not "getting" the arguments is. Winsomeness goes a long way in the long term In my humble opinion.
The archives are legion on this subject, as you can see browsing the EP sub forum. Two recent threads from each side of the question are:
http://www.puritanboard.com/f124/th...ing-uninspired-song-use-public-worship-46680/
and
http://www.puritanboard.com/f124/wh...onfine-song-public-worship-psalms-only-48481/

If there is any interest I can reopen either of these for posting.
Chris is right; this subject has been discussed more times that I care to count, but it is no different than many objections you hear from non-believers regarding the Gospel. Even though you have heard them 1000 times, it is assured that you will hear them 1001, 1002, and so on.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
My question to the EPers is this: why restrict oneself to the Psalms and disallow other portions of Scripture that were clearly meant to be (and still are) sung? Is there a case against setting NT Scriptures to music for worship?

Another question that comes to mind is whether or not the wording of the Psalms ought to be changed for the sake of "Singability." Shouldn't we (under the RPW) write music to fit the psalm rather than reframing the song to fit our particular post-medieval western mode of song, which was unknown in previous ages? The metrical psalm listed above seems to have been altered so as to have a rhyme scheme not present in the original text. By any other name, rewriting a psalm is hymnwriting.
 

Augusta

Puritan Board Doctor
Philip, EP'ers would say we didn't restrict oneself to the Psalms, God did. He gave preserved for us an inspired, God-breathed songbook in the Scriptures. We can sing God's words back to him like an 'amen' to his words.

I don't understand these supposed portions of the scripture you say are "clearly" meant to be sung. When it is a song the verb sing would be there. If it is spoken, albiet poetic, then it is not a song but a poem.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Another question that comes to mind is whether or not the wording of the Psalms ought to be changed for the sake of "Singability." Shouldn't we (under the RPW) write music to fit the psalm rather than reframing the song to fit our particular post-medieval western mode of song, which was unknown in previous ages? The metrical psalm listed above seems to have been altered so as to have a rhyme scheme not present in the original text. By any other name, rewriting a psalm is hymnwriting.
I'm not sure what I am, but the above is not an objection to EP, only an objection to making psalms metrical. It is entirely possible to chant the psalms if a church is convinced it is Biblically necessary. And feel free to compare the above psalm and other metrical psalms with the original text. I think you will be surprised how well the original is preserved and still put into rhyme and meter.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Philip, EP'ers would say we didn't restrict oneself to the Psalms, God did. He gave preserved for us an inspired, God-breathed songbook in the Scriptures. We can sing God's words back to him like an 'amen' to his words.

I don't understand these supposed portions of the scripture you say are "clearly" meant to be sung. When it is a song the verb sing would be there. If it is spoken, albiet poetic, then it is not a song but a poem.
The ancient world knew no distinction between song and poetry--that's a later convention. Why cannot we sing God's words from other parts of Scripture as well? Why view only one book of poetry/song as prescribed for use in worship? It seems to me that it would be just as fitting to use poetic passages of Isaiah or the short hymns of Revelation.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The ancient world knew no distinction between song and poetry--that's a later convention. Why cannot we sing God's words from other parts of Scripture as well? Why view only one book of poetry/song as prescribed for use in worship? It seems to me that it would be just as fitting to use poetic passages of Isaiah or the short hymns of Revelation.
We are concerned with what the Bible teaches, not what the ancient world may or may not have known. In the Bible we meet with poetry intended to be read, i.e., highly stylised in order to assist reception, interpretation, and memorisation. Any work which examines the Bible as literature will draw attention to this point. The psalms are classified as lyric poetry (see J. A. Alexander's Introduction to his Commentary on the Psalms), i.e., poetry intended to be sung. They are classified as psalms and songs for that reason. They are not songs embedded in narrative, but individual compositions in their own right, and yet part of an homogeneous collection intended to serve a specific function within the canon of Scripture.

Nor may one insist that there is no genuine difference between speaking and singing. A clear distinction between praying and singing is made in 1 Corinthians 14 and James 5:13.
 

jcoggers

Puritan Board Freshman
The ancient world knew no distinction between song and poetry--that's a later convention. Why cannot we sing God's words from other parts of Scripture as well? Why view only one book of poetry/song as prescribed for use in worship? It seems to me that it would be just as fitting to use poetic passages of Isaiah or the short hymns of Revelation.
We are concerned with what the Bible teaches...[/QUOTE said:
I agree, we should be bound only by our spirit led conscience as it is captive to Scripture; and according to John 4:23,24 the true worshipper is offering true worship if he is 1/ Spirit led and 2/ singing words of truth, such as singing straight from the text of a God inspired song of Scripture like:

"I will praise you O LORD. Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away, and you have comforted me."


And yet E.P's would still say this is not true worship. Why? Because it's not a "Book of Psalms" psalm.

Philip, according to John 24:23,24, If you are "in spirit", and singing God's words of truth, you are such a worshipper the Father is seeking.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
And yet E.P's would still say this is not true worship. Why?
The context itself declares that the passage was to be recited at a specific point in redemptive history. Alexander comments, "shalt say in that day -- when the foregoing promise is accomplished." The very fact that such songs are cemented to specific historical situations and are embedded in strict narrative contexts which require indirect appropriation renders them unsuitable for singing God's glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages world without end.
 

Kaalvenist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi all. This is my first post; good to be here, (posting from Geelong, Australia).

Long story short: After coming out of the Pentecostal/Charasmatic church, I joined an exclusice psalms (e.p) church, where I was told the reasons for singing unaccompanied psalms. I thought it sounded nice and safe, and so I preached e.p whenever I had the opportunity, giving the Scriptural reasons which I had been told.

Having now wrestled in prayer and Scripture study myself, (something I should have done before), I am not convinced that, as New Covenant believers, God would restrict His worship to Old Covenant Theology songs, and that from only one book.

To never sing the name "Jesus Christ" in worship, (please don't give me the public vs. private worship thing) doesn't make sense to me. To never sing New Covenant reality (as opposed to O.T shadow) songs such as, "It's no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me" doesn't make sense to me.

Having said that, and more to the point of my title, I love the Psalms!! I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life composing music to the Psalms, Ministry of Psalms - Jason Coghill But my desire is to see more Christians sing them as they appear straight from the text, ( I use mainly NIV) without the restriction of rhyme and metre and in the language that my unsaved friends can understand; and utilising the God given blessing of musical instruments, (appropriately as I can).

I welcome any feedback.

Jason Coghill
Jason,

I remember when you were touring in the States for one of your new CDs (2005, I think)... I was unable to attend your performance at our church (Springs Reformed Church, RPCNA), but got to hear you teach the Sabbath School. I was just listening to one of your CDs last week.

I myself came from a non-psalmody background, and through study became convinced of the position. I hope that some of us here on the board (with similar histories) can help answer some of your questions.

I take it for granted that "the regulative principle of worship" (contained for substance in the Confession of Faith, 21.1; and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms' treatment of the second commandment) is not in question; and that all are agreed that we are to worship God only as He has appointed in His Word.

1. It is not (or rarely) disputed that God restricted His church under the Old Testament to the singing of the Book of Psalms, or at least to inspired songs. This restriction reflected His appointment of that book to serve in that capacity in His worship -- because those songs were particularly appointed, all other songs, lacking that appointment, were thereby excluded. This demonstrates that, under the Old Testament at least, particular songs required God's particular appointment for their use in worship. This is how the regulative principle applied to song in worship under that dispensation of the church.

The problem is, I don't see where this regulation has been relaxed, altered, etc. under the New Testament... where it is stated or implied that songs do not require God's particular appointment for their use in the church's worship. If that regulation is still in effect (and it is), then particular songs or songbooks still require God's particular appointment, for them to be used in His worship. This would automatically disqualify all uninspired hymns, since there has not been and will not be any revelation subsequent to Scripture giving approval of any such hymns (we are cessationists, after all). That automatically narrows the field of inquiry tremendously, to the question of the use of other songs contained in Scripture.

2. The mere appearance of a text in Scripture which seems vaguely poetic (the "Lucan canticles," the "Pauline hymns," etc.) does not constitute such approval. None of these texts are identified as psalms, hymns, or songs, and are never commanded (explicitly or implicitly) to be psalmed, hymned, or songed in worship.

3. To resolve the dilemma regarding singing the name of Jesus Christ, we ought to go to the regulative principle of worship. Are we commanded to sing the name of Jesus Christ? I know that we are to sing in the name of Jesus Christ, as we are to do all things in His name; but I know of no command that we are to sing the words "Jesus" and "Christ," making sure to pronounce those particular sounds. Many Psalms speak of "salvation" ("Yeshua") and the "anointed" ("Messiah" in Hebrew, "Christ" in the Greek Septuagint). But again, without a command to sing the name "Jesus" (and particularly in view of the employment of this "argument" to justify the composing and singing of uninspired or noncanonical songs containing the name "Jesus"), such is contrary to the regulative principle, and therefore forbidden.

4. Christ, who Himself inspired the Psalms by His Spirit, knew that they were to be used after His ascension, into the dispensation of the New Testament, and was more than capable of fitting the Psalms for the perpetual usage of His church. It is a non sequitur to argue from the fact that we have moved from the Old Testament to the New Testament, that we should now supplement the Old Testament inspired, canonical Book of Psalms with uninspired, noncanonical hymns. In the transition of dispensations, the Old Testament was not "supplemented" by uninspired compositions, but by the inspired New Testament, given by Christ for that purpose.

But the Psalter was given by Christ, by inspiration, as a part of the canon of Scripture, for the particular purpose of providing a perfect Songbook for His people to use. If this Songbook is to be supplemented under the present dispensation, it must be found in the New Testament canon, or else the argument from the progress of redemptive history breaks down. It would look something like this:

Canonical Old Testament ----Supplemented by----> Canonical New Testament
Ergo,
Canonical Psalter ----Supplemented by----> Noncanonical Hymns

There is no correlation between the two.

I hope that this may help to answer some of your questions.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
If God had wanted us to major on "New Covenant style" songs why didn't He give us a New Covenant Psalmody. As the Israel of God, God wants us to look at New Covenant realities through Old Covenant categories. E.g. see the Book of Revelation.

Any introduction of uninspired, inferior, man-made materials of praise into the public worship of God will involve setting aside and despising God's excellent Psalmbook, whereas it these inferior materials that should be kept to the periphery of worship.

The fact that many evangelicals say that they "Don't like the Psalms!", and that they give every impression that they would be happy to put the Psalm books in a box in the attic with the words "Not to be opened until the Eschaton!" on it, persuades me of the despite that is in our hearts towards God's Word even after we are converted. And of the need not to supplant the Psalms by hymns and worship songs.
 
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