What should the URCNA do? Are they practicing tyranny? R.S. Clark thinks so.

Status
Not open for further replies.

RTaron

The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)
Is the URCNA practicing tyranny in ignorance?
R. Scott Clark asks :

“Do we have authority from God’s Word to impose upon the congregation, in public worship, songs of response to God’s Word other than God’s Word itself?”

Read more here...

Do you think the URC should continue to push un-inspired singing with the new song book?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Hi Rick,

I am concerned about what's happening. I'm not sure that it's reached the level of tyranny yet. Presently, under the CO, non-canonical songs are permitted but not required.

Synod has said that congregations "will" by the new PH. If they mean "shall" and if it becomes a matter of discipline for those who do not purchase the new PH (or of those of us who sing only God's Word) then that would become an unjust binding of the conscience.
 

discipulo

Puritan Board Junior
Is the URCNA practicing tyranny in ignorance?
R. Scott Clark asks :

“Do we have authority from God’s Word to impose upon the congregation, in public worship, songs of response to God’s Word other than God’s Word itself?”

Read more here...

Do you think the URC should continue to push un-inspired singing with the new song book?
I guess the responses you'll have here will be according to how each one sees the application of the RPW.

Psalms / plus including Inspired Texts / plus including Biblical grounded & theological sound non-inspired Hymns. :2cents:

---------- Post added at 09:52 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:37 PM ----------

I just read 2 very interesting articles, one by Dominic A. Aquila (for those who don't know, is the President of New Geneva Theological Seminary)

RPW and Redemptive History - one of the essays in Hope Fulfilled, the festschrift honouring Dr. Palmer Robertson (bthw get the book, great articles) and he clearly defends the use of Hymns well routed on Biblical Doctrine, as an accepted element in worship.

The second article on this topic in the same book is by Jospeh Pipa (GPTS)

Exodus 20:4-6 and the Regulative Principle of Worship, and while he thoroughly defends the RPW, he still finds acceptable the use of un-inspired Hymns.

I had heard Derek Thomas on an interview saying more or less the same, although Christ is present in the Psalter, we can still have non inspired songs.

Pretty much as we have non inspired prophecy in New Covenant preaching, as long as it is in accord with what is Revealed in Scripture, and particularly to declare the finished work of Christ and His second glorious coming.

These theologians, Aquila, Pipa or Thomas, would not advocate at all the confusion brought by John Frame's revisionism between elemnents and circumstances, they both susbcribe the RPW in a Confessional way, but none the less they defend the use of un-inspired hymns.

Do I agree with them? I tend to think that a consistent RPW implies singing exclusively Inspired Texts, the Psalter and some Old Testament and New Testament Doxologies like the Song of Simeon.

But certainly I don't think that Synodical Decisions should be binding Consistories that have a firm conviction that the RPW only allows Worship with inspired texts of Scripture, to start, against their conviction, using un-inspired hymns in Worship.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Cesar,

There are three parties in the contemporary discussion:

1) Those who essentially reject the RPW (progressives)
2) Those who profess adherence to the RPW but who reject the historic understanding. I call these folks "conservatives." They want to conserve aspects of the modern settlement. It's interesting that my old friend Joey Pipa (with whom I served at WSC) insists on 6/24 creation as a mark of orthodoxy but defends hymns.
3) Confessionalists - those who want the church to return to the original understanding of the RPW.

Take a look at the chapter in RRC on this. I address several representatives of both of the other two points of view.

I deal with this problem
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
As an exclusive psalm singer who aspires to ministry in the URCNA one day (D.V.), I am very interested in this matter. Historically, the use of uninspired materials in song was one of the reasons for the separate existence of the old Christian Reformed Church in North America, as well as the Afscheiding in the Netherlands. I don't think that this is widely known today, however.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
I just wrote a member of our consistory about this item (the song book). I am still at a loss to figure out why we need a new song book in the first place. As posted by Prof Clark, we could simply borrow what has been done by brothers in other denominations (and return to the RPW to boot!) Instead, it seems we want to make a URC 'distinctive' out of it, and waste time and money on re-inventing the wheel. :doh:
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
“Do we have authority from God’s Word to impose upon the congregation, in public worship, songs of response to God’s Word other than God’s Word itself?”
Indeed; and a follow up question well worthy of consideration is,

“Do we have authority from God’s Word to impose upon the congregation, in public worship, songs of response to God’s Word other than songs from God’s Word itself?”

And this might be followed by an equally pertinent question,

“Do we have authority from God’s Word to impose upon the congregation, in public worship, songs of response to God’s Word other than songs appointed by God from God’s Word itself?”
 

discipulo

Puritan Board Junior
he clearly defends the use of Hymns well routed on Biblical Doctrine
are you talking about the use of un-inspired songs in public worship as an ordinance of God?
Rick, the authors mentioned, Pipa, Aquila or Thomas subscribe and defend both the RPW and the Confessional distinction between Elements and Circumstances.

So they oppose the Normative Principle of Worship, NPW meaning that any element not expressly prohibited by God is allowed in Worship.

An example would be drama as a form of Gospel presentation, the authors mentioned wouldn’t accept that at all!

What they say is that in Worship only Elements commanded by God in Scripture are allowed.

It is in this point that Redemptive History, in their view, introduces a discontinuity, in the OT Prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit and they spoke God’s Word. Hebrews 1:1.
In the New Covenant, Ministers preach Law and Gospel by reading, exposing and explaining God’s Revelation. While they pray for illumination for them and their congregation, what they say, apart from the reading of Special Revelation recorded in Canonical Scripture, is, of course, un-inspired.

And that is an Element (we agree that that is not a Circumstance, like would be the clothing of the Minister or the length of his preaching).

So being the content of our singing in Worship also an Element, must it be Inspired, or is it enough that it is faithful to Scripture? That in my opinion is the question.

So I quote from Dominic A. Aquila - RPW and Redemptive History

(one of the essays in Hope Fulfilled, the festschrift honoring Dr. Palmer Robertson, page 265)

Singing is also part of our worship. What is appropriate music or hymnody for our worship? Here is a working principle for worship: we should sing only what is acceptable to preach. That is the texts of hymns and songs should express biblical truth in the same way that sermons are to express biblical truth. We can speak truth (sermons) and we can sing the truth (psalms, sings and spiritual songs, Ephesians 5:19)

Do I agree with them? No. But see that the exegesis of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 is crucial here.

Actually it was since I read Dr. Scott Clark’s Recovering the Reformed Confession that I realized that the exegesis of these passages as meaning singing Inspired Texts, makes all the difference to RPW.

Since then I find it, as I wrote above, a much more consistent understanding of the RPW to sing only inspired texts, Psalms and Portions of Scripture.

But, I never the less think that Joseph Pipa, Dominiq Aquila or Derek Thomas, amongst others, are very solid, confessional, reformed theologians who affirm peremptorily the Regulative Principle of Worship, and can’t just be dismissed lightly in their interpretation.

I think a good principle for this particular interpretation of the RPW, was given by Abraham Kuyper in Onze Eeredienst (our Worship), I don’t have the book here in the U.S. but I will write more or less what he meant:

The Worship should have first of all the Psalms and as much as possible complete Psalms and not just portions.

Psalms always lead the congregation in reverence and piety, so Psalms should always have the preeminence in Worship.

Every time the Church started to sing more un-inspired hymns in detriment of the Psalms there was a decadence in the piety of the people.
 
Last edited:

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Since Dr. Clark is an office bearer in the URCNA, I'm wondering if this presentation is suitable for a blog post and whether he has utilized the means outlined in the Church Order regarding alleged wrongs done by one assembly to another. See CO 29, 30, and 31. What is the position of his consistory and/or classis? How is the peace and purity of the Church being considered in this matter?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Tom,

Are you suggesting that I cannot exercise my teaching office as a pastor and a historian to point out flaws in contemporary theory or practice without first taking ecclesiastical action?

Why is it inappropriate to try to teach before taking ecclesiastical action? My perception is that most people are either unaware of the confession, history, and practice of the churches.

How am I disturbing the peace and purity of the churches by calling Reformed folk to consider the original sense of HC 96 and the original CO of Dort?
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Clark is certainly within his rights to speak out publicly on the issue (within the bounds of responsible argumentation, of course) .

If the nub of his argument is "the URCs need to repent of an unbiblical position on hymnody", then it would seem he also has a responsibility to seek a remedy through readily available ecclesiastical means.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Clark,

So, in this regard you admit you are acting in an official capacity as an office bearer within the Church. My questions were legitimate. What steps have you taken within you consistory/classis to address this issue? Does being an office bearer permit you free reign to express any and all opinions, especially in a non-ecclesiastical forum like a blog posting? (In the past on other matters you have claimed your blog is a personal thing, not a ecclesiastical organ, so which is it?) To take off after a decision of the URCNA in this sort of forum seems a bit out of place.

I believe this is serious considering that at least one person has read your words as accusing the URCNA of “practicing tyranny.”
 

torstar

Puritan Board Sophomore
I would never think of my beloved Pastor, who is chairing the committee, as practicing tyranny.

:D
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Dr. Clark,

So, in this regard you admit you are acting in an official capacity as an office bearer within the Church. My questions were legitimate. What steps have you taken within you consistory/classis to address this issue? Does being an office bearer permit you free reign to express any and all opinions, especially in a non-ecclesiastical forum like a blog posting? (In the past on other matters you have claimed your blog is a personal thing, not a ecclesiastical organ, so which is it?) To take off after a decision of the URCNA in this sort of forum seems a bit out of place.

I believe this is serious considering that at least one person has read your words as accusing the URCNA of “practicing tyranny.”
Tom,

The stuff I've written on the HB and here is nothing more than what I've published in Recovering the Reformed Confession. My consistory is well aware of that book. I've discussed this matter with them extensively and so far they have not issued a gag order.

My view is that this is a time for teaching. Many of the URC congregations came out of the CRC infected with broad evangelicalism and fundamentalism. So, the first thing is to diagnose those two diseases and to prescribe a treatment. That's what the book tried to do.

It took us almost a century to get to this point and it's going to take some time to get back to where we were, prior to 1934, but it has to start somewhere. I doubt that the church assemblies are the place to begin simply because there's so much ignorance about what we confess regarding worship. I had a very senior minister say to me (about 10 years ago) that "The regulative principle is a Presbyterian idea. We don't believe it." Well, he couldn't have been more wrong. Calvin taught it (see the essay in the Tributes to John Calvin collection) and so did Zacharias Ursinus (see RRC) but what's fascinating is that a fellow who had his theological training in 1940s was taught a completely wrongheaded notion of the history of Reformed worship.

The only way to correct that so that we can begin to have a serious discussion is begin to face the issues. Now is a good time for that. Good psalters are appearing all around us and our committee seems to have hit something of an impasse.

As I've already said, I'm not accusing anyone of tyranny yet. It does strike me as a little imperious for synod to decree (if that's what it did) that every consistory has to buy a psalter-hymnal. Really? On what basis? This from a synod that can't publish a magazine for fear of "synodical tyranny" or have a synodical missions committee for fear of "synodical tyranny." Really?

What would you say about the conference on church planting held in Colorado last week? Were they guilty of disturbing the peace and purity of the churches? From what I hear some of the presenters used some pretty strong language about the failure of the URCs to pursue missions. Have you read Brian Lee's piece in the recent Christian Renewal? Is he disturbing the peace and purity of the churches?

Concerns about "synodical tyranny" were at the foundation of the URCNA so I don't think I'm talking out of school or raising a potential problem that has never been considered.

We have at least two exclusive psalm-singing congregations in the URCs. Is Synod really telling them that the MUST buy a collection of songs to which they are opposed or that they will not use?

The doctrine of the freedom of the Christian man was foundational to the Reformation. Reminding people of that fact is not disturbing the peace and purity of the churches.

The HB is not an ecclesiastical organ. It can't be. The churches have no official publishing organ or I would be writing there. The HB has no more or less standing than the Christian Renewal or the Outlook. Are you suggesting that ecclesiastical matters should never be addressed there or in the co-URC group? If so, that will be fairly radical policy and in the absence of any federation magazine/newspaper/organ will effectively silence all discussion. That hardly seems profitable.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
On the question of whether we ought to sing portions of Scripture other than the psalms I provide links to Mr Murray's minority report to the OPC and the text of the church order form the Synod of Dort (with some explanation).
Here is the conclusion of the minority report:

If the argument drawn from the expansion of revelation is applied within the limits of Scripture authorization, then the utmost that can be established is the use of New Testament songs or of New Testament materials adapted to singing. Principially the minority is not jealous to insist that New Testament songs may not be used in the worship of God. What we are most jealous to maintain is that Scripture does authorize the use of inspired songs, that is, Scripture songs, and that the singing of other than Scripture songs in the worship of God has no warrant from the Word of God and is therefore forbidden.
As a minority report it aims to safeguard against the extreme innovation of the majority. There is no case made for inspired songs or inspired material other than the psalms.

If the regulative principle of worship were strictly applied, the biblical requirement to sing "songs" means that a specific form of inspired materials is to form the matter of praise, which necessarily rules out the "inspired material" position. Further, the biblical requirement is to sing "psalms, hymns, and songs spiritual," which means that the "inspired songs" are likewise restricted to compositions classified as "psalms and hymns," thereby ruling out the "inspired songs" position. Finally, the biblical requirement is to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, which means the "psalms, hymns, and songs spiritual" are to be Messianic, that is, the songs of the anointed one, 2 Sam. 23:1. There is only one corpus of song which fits this description, and that belongs exclusively to the compositions which constitute the Old Testament book of Psalms.

The regulative principle does not teach that the church may worship God in ways it can find permissible in Scripture. It specifically restricts and limits worship to what God Himself has instituted in His Word. It is not that a warrant must be found from the Word for worship practices; the warrant must be found in the Word, and must be proven to be by divine right. In the absence of this warrant, the practice is forbidden in public worship.
 

markkoller

Puritan Board Freshman
We have at least two exclusive psalm-singing congregations in the URCs. Is Synod really telling them that the MUST buy a collection of songs to which they are opposed or that they will not use?
Dr. Clark,

Can you identify the two congregations for us? In regards to missions, are there any EP ministers working on church plants in the URCNA?
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
Hmmmm.

Paraphrases are a starter drug. First it’s paraphrases of the Psalms and then, before long, once solid Dutch Reformed and Scots-Irish Presbyterians are singing “Shine! Jesus, Shine.
RSC doesn't like the modern classic: "Shine! Jesus, Shine"?!?

Since my sojourn on the PB began, I have learned never to dismiss anything that RSC says about historical theology without checking it out first. Similarly, Lane Keister is a very reliable and solid person. Well, I guess it is time to go back to the books. [Sigh]
 

ddharr

Puritan Board Freshman
On the question of whether we ought to sing portions of Scripture other than the psalms I provide links to Mr Murray's minority report to the OPC and the text of the church order form the Synod of Dort (with some explanation).
Its good to see references made to this reoprt. In fact, the majority report was very helpful in my conversion to exclusive psalmody . My understanding of the OPC majority report on songs in worship was to once and for all establish a position and prove a command to sing uninspired hymns. I believe they spent approximately two years working on this reoprt. Interestingly , they admit in their report they could not find such a command. http:Reports of the Committee on Song in Worship

My wife and I had the privilege of worshipping with Mr William Young co author of the minority report.
 
Last edited:

RTaron

The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)
he clearly defends the use of Hymns well routed on Biblical Doctrine
Sorry Cesar, I misunderstood what you were saying. I thought you were saying that these men had clearly defended by well grounded Biblical Doctrine that uninspired song is acceptable to God in public worship. This of course can not be done.

I believe your point is that some prominent men are on the other side of the argument. This is a sad condition, but the tide can be turned. Be valiant for truth then my friend. This is not a gray issue as many would like to have you believe.

G.I. Williamson wrote somewhere, that, in his experience after many years defending EP, he found that the bottom-line-practical belief of most if not all hymn singers is that "the psalms are insufficient".

I have found the same to be true. However most will not say it out loud.
 

ChariotsofFire

Puritan Board Sophomore
If Paul says in Eph 5:19 to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, then to only sing psalms would be in violation of the regulative principle -- not doing something that God's Word commands. Solo-pslam singers can bind the conscience as well.

Now I realize the meaning of Eph 5:19 would be disputed by the solo-psalm singers, but if you accept the premise (that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are not just the old testament psalms), then the conclusion that we must sing both hymns and psalms is very logical.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Now I realize the meaning of Eph 5:19 would be disputed by the solo-psalm singers, but if you accept the premise (that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are not just the old testament psalms), then the conclusion that we must sing both hymns and psalms is very logical.
One point is certain, the text says to sing, not compose. Another point is certain, there was a man raised up in the Old Testament to compose psalms; there is no office provided for composing hymns in the New Testament. A third point refutes all supposition of new hymns, and that is the fact that without the gift of inspiration it is impossible to create songs which are entitled to the description of spiritual according to the way that word is usually used in the New Testament.
 

Zenas

Snow Miser
Paraphrases are a starter drug. First it’s paraphrases of the Psalms and then, before long, once solid Dutch Reformed and Scots-Irish Presbyterians are singing “Shine! Jesus, Shine.
This song was sung at our church during a Wednesday night. It only happened once. Once. I threw up a little.
 

AThornquist

Puritan Board Doctor
This song was sung at our church during a Wednesday night. It only happened once. Once. I threw up a little.
I don't mind "Shine, Jesus, Shine!" all that much, though I don't prefer it. There are some lines worth doing a little revising, but not every song has to be thick with doctrine; it is fitting to at times have songs of worship of simply great exultation with the presupposition of our God and His works. For example, Psalms 148, 150, etc. :)
 

torstar

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm not comfortable with the URCNA's business being put out in this manner.

And I am not sure what advice is useful from people who are not members. Or why people would chime in.
 

ChariotsofFire

Puritan Board Sophomore
Now I realize the meaning of Eph 5:19 would be disputed by the solo-psalm singers, but if you accept the premise (that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are not just the old testament psalms), then the conclusion that we must sing both hymns and psalms is very logical.
One point is certain, the text says to sing, not compose. Another point is certain, there was a man raised up in the Old Testament to compose psalms; there is no office provided for composing hymns in the New Testament. A third point refutes all supposition of new hymns, and that is the fact that without the gift of inspiration it is impossible to create songs which are entitled to the description of spiritual according to the way that word is usually used in the New Testament.
You are arguing against the premise, but the point of my post was once the premise is accepted the conclusion makes a lot of sense.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
You are arguing against the premise, but the point of my post was once the premise is accepted the conclusion makes a lot of sense.
The threefold argument demonstrates that your premise does not lead to your conclusion. Even granting that the other two terms might refer to something other than psalms, the command is to sing, not compose; there is no office for composing; and without inspiration the composition could not gain the status of "spiritual." Your premise creates a warrant to sing other compositions, if you could force the words to refer to other compositions, but there is no warrant to compose, so it fails to establish your conclusion.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top