When Praise Songs Defeated Psalms

1789 in Philadelphia (all about me, I was there this week):

For many years, only Psalms were sung throughout the Presbyterian Churches and the old “Rouse” versions were the standard. The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States convened at the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1789. One of the Presbyterian ministers of the time, a man by the name of Rev. Adam Rankin, rode horseback from his Kentucky parish to Philadelphia to plead with his fellow Presbyterians to reject the use of Watts ‘ hymns. He cautioned the Assembly Commissioners “to refuse to allow the great and pernicious error of adoption of the use of Watt’s hymns in public worship in preference to Rouse’s versifications of the Psalms of David.”

Rankin’s protests have fallen to the wayside, and Watts ‘ famous tunes live on.

(By the way, the image here includes the house — far right — where Charles Hodge lived as a boy.)


170 thoughts on “When Praise Songs Defeated Psalms

  1. Not familiar or don’t recognize Watts’ hymns, but the praise songs I hear today confuse me. They confuse because I’m not sure whom is receiving praise: those who sing or God. BTW, I’m not a Psalmist.


  2. Back in the day it was unheard of for a Reformed church not to sing the psalms. Now, people are shocked when they walk into a Reformed Presbyterian church and don’t see an overhead projector or a hymnal (plus no drums, not even a piano!).

    I was somewhat surprised to hear that those considering membership in the RPCNA that tend to have the strongest objections to exclusive psalm-singing are from the PCA, not those coming from Baptist churches or the OPC.

    I wonder why its the PCA folk that have such a problem with not singing hymns? I know some with backgrounds in the OPC (myself included) and the URCNA that don’t have the same strong opposition to singing the psalms.


  3. AB, I was raised evangelical. Escondido OPC was my first Reformed church. I still miss the saints there.


  4. I understand how psalm singing would be foreign to some but how could a Christian be opposed to singing them. My charismatic aunt upon hearing my little children singing Psalm 150b from the RP Psalter was like, “what was that, it was beautiful…” – the word of God auntie. I’ll never complain if someone wants to sing more Psalms, or even exclusively.


  5. Adam Rankin went back to Kentucky to write the first book ever printed in that state, in 1793. He was brought up on charges for defaming the ministers in his presbytery for the use of hymns; the 1793 book was his side of the story. He went on to lead most of the Presbyterians in Kentucky into the Associate Reformed Church.

    It was frequently pointed out by Reformed Presbyterians, Associate Presbyterians, Associate Reformed Presbyterians, and (later) United Presbyterians, that the “General Assembly” Presbyterians in the USA had a rather myopic, “parochial” view of things, in their preference for hymns over Psalms. The parent bodies in Scotland and Ireland, and even the Canadian Presbyterians, were very reluctant to introduce hymns, or even paraphrases of other portions of Scripture; and even after such introduction, the Psalms generally still had priority. Large portions of the paraphrase-allowing Church of Scotland were still believing in and practicing exclusive psalmody; and one of the terms of the merger that created the Presbyterian Church of Ireland was that only the Scottish Psalter be used in public worship. When referring to such debates between American Presbyterians, on the floor of the General Assembly at Belfast, Dr. Henry Cooke (one of the leading voices in the PCI) mockingly referred to “a set of namby-pamby hymn-books,” and referred to their contents as “whymns.” Entirely different from the situation in America.

    Do you think there might be a parallel between (all about you) American revisions of the Confession of Faith, the Directory of Worship, and the Songbook of the Church? “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you” (Job 12:2).


  6. CW,
    Instead of dealing with the issue at hand, all you can say is to sing the “international”? BTW, doesn’t Galatians 3:28 teach that Christians believe that they have an international?

    Also, those who jump at the chance to use slippery slope arguments would do that as a way of opposing Protestantism since Protestantism introduced a rebellion against authority that snowballed onto itself.


  7. Protestantism since Protestantism introduced a rebellion against authority that snowballed onto itself.

    Like the challenge to the Jewish leaders in the 1st century, so the Reformers challenged the Roman priests:

    We think of the Reformation. This was a moment in the history of the Church in which the question of authority was once more in the center of events. Luther, and consequently the whole Protestant world, broke away from the Roman Church and from 1500 years of Christian tradition when no agreement about the authority of the pope and the councils could be reached. Here, again, someone had arisen who spoke and acted with an authority the sources of which could not be determined by legal means. And here also we must ask, “Are the Catholic authorities who rejected him in the name of their established authority to be blamed for it?” But if we do not blame them, we can ask them, “Why do you blame the Jewish authorities who did exactly the same as you did when the people said of the Reformers that they spoke with authority and not like the priests and monks?” Is the same thing so different if it is done by the Jewish high priest and if it is done by the Roman high priest? And one may ask the present-day Protestant authorities in Europe and in this country, “Are you certain that the insistence on your authority, on your tradition, and on your experience does not suppress the kind of authority which Jesus had in mind?”


    There is something in the Christian message which is opposed to established authority. There is something in the Christian experience which revolts against subjection to even the greatest and holiest experiences of the past. And this something is indicated in the question of Jesus, “Was the baptism of John from God or man?” and in His refusal to give an answer! That which makes an answer impossible is the nature of an authority which is derived from God and not man. The place where God gives authority to a man cannot be circumscribed. It cannot be legally defined. It cannot be put into the fences of doctrines and rituals. It is here, and you do not know where it comes from. You cannot derive it. You must be grasped by it. You must participate in its power. This is the reason why the question of authority never can get an ultimate answer. Certainly there are many preliminary answers. There is no day in our lives in which we do not give, silently or openly, answers to the question of authority, saying mostly “yes” and sometimes “no.”source


  8. Well, this brought back some random memories. I’ve been on the grounds of Ebenezer Church’s property — the old meeting house and the cemetery. They’re not too far from Asbury College, where our Presbytery used to have our summer family conference.

    I grew up singing a mix of Psalms and hymns in the UPCUSA; my pastor had grown up UPCNA in Latrobe, PA.

    Watts’ hymns and imitations are rather jingoistic Brit productions by times. Look up the text for his “Psalm 67” for example.

    The people there at Ebenezer didn’t quite get it right on where the controversy lay. It wasn’t tunes, but texts. I’m not aware, actually, that Watts actually composed any tunes.


  9. Well, yeah of course DGH, the use of counterfeit psalms was standard feature of the revival. With the victory of the new side it wasn’t just a need for a conversion experience for covenant children that wrecked the Presbyterian Church.

    And in the 3rd and 4th generation after that, the PCUSA was apostate (cf. Ex 20:5). And just like the children of Israel, the one thing they would not give up is worshipping God on their own terms, and continued in the sin of Isaac Watts that made the church to sin.

    The point is that anyone subscribing to the WCF/LC/SC (even with the American revisions) that advocates and/or actually makes use of counterfeit psalms of human composition is necessarily defaming their fore-fathers in the church. Since only that which is commanded is permitted in worship then it follows that to rely solely on the 150 Psalms for the singing of praise is necessarily sinful, and the truly reformed should not tolerate exclusive Psalmody in their ranks. Remember the 2nd commandment requires the keeping pure and ENTIRE all such religious worship as God has appointed in his World. To omit counterfeit psalms is to not keep the worship of God pure and ENTIRE.

    They should have charged Rankin with a violation of the 2nd commandment for his failure to keep the worship of God pure and ENTIRE even though it took the church nearly two centuries to realize that exclusive Psalmody was sinful.


  10. So translations of the Scriptures are invalid? Prose translations for reading. Metrical for singing. Do you only read the scriptures in Greek & Hebrew? Because by your logic if you read a translation, you’ve not read your Bible. A big swing and miss.


  11. Andrew, you’re the one who raised human composition. Not that I favor Watts, but the metrical psalms we sing have to be doctored to come out right on meter and rhyme scheme. And it sounds like you’re okay with that kind of human composition. A selective kvetcher.


  12. Why do RP’s come out from under the rocks for “formalism and a certain church tradition” but never for the Gospel!


  13. 1- Psalms onlyism uses the same type of circular argument of KJV onlyism- show me with chapter and verse in the Bible where it specifically states only David’s Psalms can be sung in Christian New Covenant Public Worship.
    2- Psalms onlyism would have us still worshiping in the shadows and pictures and types of the Old Covenant by forbidding us to use the explicit language of fulfillment such as “the cross,” “Jesus” etc. To put it another way
    3- Psalms onlyism leads to thinking one has the “pure worship” just because one has the right form whereas Jesus and the NT puts the emphasis on heart-spirit worship.
    4- Psalms onlyism has been used as an occasion for a sense of sectarian superiority among the RP’s- just ask the hardcore RP’s who don’t think a man should be ordained in the RPCNA if he thinks it’s ok to sing New Covenant hymns.



  14. DGH raises an interesting point to a very complicated matter. I am not an EP/Exclusive Scripture advocate when it comes to the church’s worship. But, I am sympathetic to the arguments of those like Clark who do so advocate.

    I would be suspicious of any Reformed congregation that mindfully rejects the singing of Scripture in their worship. What is to be gained from rejecting especially the Psalms, which from the beginning have functioned as the prayers and hymns of the worshiping community? In what way does foregoing these Scriptures in lieu of other forms of prayer and praise actually enhance our worship of God?

    However, to those who totally reject hymnody outside of Scripture, I would ask whether or not such a position is necessitated in Scripture. Can’t the people of God worship Him in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in their own words, with music intelligible to their own cultures. The Psalms, reflect the linguistic and historical concerns of pre and post-exilic Israel, and we know from examples in Philippians 2, that the Church had begun to form their own hymns in the Apostolic era. While Scripture singing was most certainly predominant in the early church, the presence of extra-biblical hymns, creeds, and confessions were present from the earliest days of the church.

    I don’t know if I hold to a mediating position between EP/Scripture and non-inspired songs in worship or not. I certainly do think that Scripture should always be on our lips, whether in prayer or in praise, or in confession, and that whatever is not directly from Scripture should be saturated with an understanding of it, and in no way in opposition to it. I do think it is possible for the church to make such a use of non-Scriptural songs, prayers, and confessions that it can loose its Biblical moorings, and cease to worship in Spirit and in truth. However, I do not think that using our own words and music, in careful reflection on Scripture is antithetical to true worship. To those who in conscience simply cannot use non-Scriptural forms in worship, by all means, use Scripture exclusively. But, to those of us who would use both, we must be vigilant to ensure that we actually do worship God as he commands.

    In the end, I am not sure how satisfying this is to EP/Scripture advocates, but I have yet to be convinced that it is unbiblical or out of step with the RPW.


  15. When the Psalms tell us to sing psalms, NC that is a command.
    Has it been repealed, explicitly or implicitly?
    Have uninspired songs been added to the canonical songbook, (in so much as there is no NT counterpart to the Psalter)? Or do the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” of Eph.5 & Col. 3 open the door to mixing uninspired in with the inspired songs for that element of worship, instead of referring to different types of psalms?
    We at least know that the Westminster divines didn’t see any conflict between Eph.5,Col. 3 and psalmody, (WCF 21:5) which was the historic position of the P&R churches.
    Spirit and truth? That used to mean the 2nd and 3rd commandment. The external and internal worship of God, i.e. according to the Word/Law of God and from the heart/w.o hypocrisy.

    Likewise Jed, while we are told to preach and teach sound doctrine, we are not told to sing it per se. There is a difference between the purpose and audiences respectively for confessions/catechisms and songs.

    The name of Jesus?
    The apostles called him Lord.
    Perhaps we ought to also, not to mention the Psalms are one of the most quoted books in the NT. IOW the NT authors didn’t have any problem finding Christ in the Psalms.
    That the modern church does, is maybe, the modern church’s problem, not the Psalms.


  16. Gil,
    I’ll grant you that the gospel trumps gospel worship, but if the second mark of the church is the proper administration of only the sacraments that Christ commanded, the RPW flows from the same. We only do what Christ commands us to do in worship.
    It is, and was, one of the distinguishing marks of the reformed church, the other being jus divinum/divine right church govt. and discipline.

    As for the assertion that ‘the RPs only come out from hiding in defense of the church tradition of the RPW’, it remains exactly that.


  17. Bob S.

    Have uninspired songs been added to the canonical songbook, (in so much as there is no NT counterpart to the Psalter)? Or do the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” of Eph.5 & Col. 3 open the door to mixing uninspired in with the inspired songs for that element of worship, instead of referring to different types of psalms?

    I think you have captured the crux of the debate here. I am not intending on playing the postmodern card here and say both answers are right (there are more than two, but in the Reformed context there are two basic positions as I understand it). But, I am saying that in observing the debate for the 6 years I have belonged to Reformed congregations I have not come across an argument for either side that absolutely settles the matter. Scott Clark’s arguments in Recovering the Reformed Confession is the best affirming Scripture exclusively. However, I am not sure it settles the case beyond reasonable doubt. I wish I had time to comment more on my own understanding of these passages, but I am off to a family event.

    I’ll comment more on this as time allows, but I would simply say that any Reformed congregation that is adding more Scripture and Psalms in their worship, and is prayerfully considering what it means to worship God rightly is moving in the right direction. Those entrenched in modern P&W or refuse to add Scriptural songs to their hymns are missing the boat IMO, and should at least give thought to the arguments of EP/Scripture advocates, because I think they have much to give to the Reformed church at large.


  18. It may be argued that the divines intended exclusive psalmody. Notice I say argued, because I know some people thing it is a slam dunk. I don’t think it is. There is a lot of work you have to do in terms of the original intent. But, are they absolutely saying that? It is certainly arguable, and it is probably shades in the direction that they are. But, do the words of the standards clearly demand it? Some people would say they do. But, the church hasn’t read those words that way. And, of course, you could say, well, the church has been unfaithful. Well, that is certainly an argument, but whether it has or not, the church hasn’t read the confession generally as requiring exclusive psalmody, and so there has been some elasticity in the way the church has – and that is part of the animus imponentis – the way the church has interpreted that over time.



  19. A command to sing Psalms- explicit Bible
    A command to ONLY sing Psalms- unnecessary inference.

    Will there be only psalm singing in heaven/new heavens and new earth? No- read the book of Revelation. So if that is the purest worship possible, do exclusive psalmists think they have attained perfectly sanctification in worship because they only sing Psalms (oops, I meant paraphrased psalms that take much liberty and are set to uninspired melodies from hymns which they reject in worship) here and now?


  20. Jed, I think you’re on the right path here. Clark’s RRC is probably the most compelling argument that can be made. Still, there is a lingering sense that it’s ironically a form of QIRC or fundamentalism. His argument seems to suggest that all there can be is inspired words to sing or subjectivism, i.e. if we don’t sing inspired words exclusively then it’s a just a matter of time before we’re inundated by the worst of P&W. But is there no place for wisdom and discernment among elders, perhaps the kind that knows the Psalms are always superior to even the best of hymnody and that the latter has to work a lot harder to be fit for public worship? Sure, like avoiding all alcohol ensures one will never become inebriated, never employing uninspired verse ensures we’ll never let heresy worm its way into doxology, but isn’t that the sort of reasoning that can also set up for self-righteousness?


  21. New Covenanter, but at least with a Psalm if you don’t understand what you’re singing, you have to study the Word of God. With a hymn, why bother with Isaac Watts?


  22. Jed, I hear you. The funny thing about pro-hymn arguments is that they are akin to prayers prayed by the pastor — based on biblical truth but in “our own” words. But the irony is that most hymn writers we would never let near a Presbyterian pulpit to lead a congregation in prayer. What’s up with that?


  23. D.G.,
    Note the trend here. For example, when we discuss whether one can protest the government, some base their decision solely on whether such protesting can be found in the Bible or whether there is an explicit command to protest. So in singing in the Church, some believe that only the words used in the Scriptures can be sung. Isn’t such a demand for literalism legalistic? And doesn’t such legalism go against the grain of what Jesus said when he talked about worshipping God in spirit and in truth? And how does such legalism coincide with being by faith alone?


  24. D.G.,
    Does my bringing up faith alone surprise you? Maybe your expectations were off.

    As for Jesus only singing the Psalms, again, aren’t there some historical, contextual differences between the intertestamental times in which He lived and now? But the more important point is this fear to do anything but to imitate what was done in the First century, AD of course. That once one gets outside imitating, you seem to be saying that one is disobeying God. And that seems to challenge the notion of worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth as well as being saved by faith alone because such an emphasis on imitation appears to be legalism. In addition, what is missing is a use of reasoning and logic in understanding how the Scriptures apply today.


  25. Singing the Psalms “exclusively” does not mean RPW/Biblical Worship. After all the synagogues of satan still sing the psalms only, even some sections of Roman Catholicism have psalms only, hey, even the Plymouth brothers, etc.


  26. Gil, who said it did? And the tendency to equate worship with music (I say ‘worship’, you hear ‘music’) is indicative of misunderstanding and is a thoroughly modern error. Zwingli was wrong to eliminate music altogether, MLJ was right to warn against “the devil in the singing”, Calvin had the music type-tunes-text balance about right.


  27. Curt, not quite. In both cases, some are actually appealing to the category of wisdom to say what is fitting Christian worship (in the church) and life (in the realm). Is it really legalistic to say that verse which takes its cues from sentimentalism isn’t fit for worship and public behavior that undermines authority isn’t fitting life in the realm?


  28. Zrim,
    We need to watch the marketing practices here. To call the feelings and attitudes of those who are different ‘sentimentalism’ executes a preemptive judgment. In addition, when the apostles said to those who imprison them that it is better to ‘obey God than man,’ were they undermining authority? Weren’t the Reformers undermining authority? And after reading Augustine, couldn’t we say that those who pass and enforce unjust laws undermine authority?

    Let me ask this, if we allow preachers to preach sermons rather than restricting them to the reading of the Scriptures, why are some so in energetic in prohibiting the singing of spiritual songs? And certainly, the NT Scriptures indicate that the singing of other songs than the Psalms was a distinct possibility.


  29. I am ready to be corrected (and is there a better place to be corrected?) but I believe that the Presbyterians here in Ireland introduced/accepted hymns after the 1859 revival (and by implication as a result of).


  30. @ Gil, I’m an RPCNA-er and I have posted largely on gospel issues. I understand the sentiment, however, and agree — we must always put a priority on the gospel. Its hard to blame the RPers, though, because they are just about the only Reformed denomination in the US (that I know of) that consistently practices the historically Reformed form of worship, eg, singing psalms unaccompanied.

    @ New Covenanter — your list of objections largely misses the mark — exclusive psalmist have anticipated and answered them already. You don’t have to accept the answers, but those objections are really nothing new.


    As a recent member in the RPCNA, I have been very impressed with how my church has handled singing the psalms. Before each psalm is sung, the pastor gives a brief explanation regarding: 1) why this particular psalm was chosen, 2) what relevant typology is present in the psalm, and 3) how we as Christians can identify with the psalmist

    In many ways, I have found that psalm singing, especially when done in this manner, goes a long way to teaching the congregation 1) how to read the Psalms (in particular) and the Old Testament (in general), 2) how to identify and understand typology, and 3) the importance of the RPW. Singing the psalms is a divinely ordained education in seeing Christ in all of the Scripture.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind worshiping from all of Scripture (a la RS Clark), but I’ll take David or the sons of Korah over Wesley any Lord’s Day.


  31. Has anyone written on the relationship between exclusive psalmody and a Klinean view of the Mosaic covenant – ie whether the songs of the law for those living as servants in an age before the giving of the Spirit are appropriate for the New Testament worship of a Spirit-fillled community living as sons under grace ?

    It’s interesting that the Psalms are used in the NT primarily in relation to Christ, rather than believers – is it fair to say that they speak of his experience under law rather than ours under grace?

    PS Gil – Plymouth Brethren do not sing psalms exclusively – in fact, most hardly do at all.


  32. Curt, don’t do the flip side of legalism and fall into the ditch of subjectivism. And don’t do a Francis by asking who are we to judge. That’s part of the point–we have to have the ability and authority to discriminate and say “That’s sentimentalism, and it should be opposed.” And how is it to undermine human authority by discriminating and promoting God’s authority when the two clash?

    And preachers can’t just preach whatever they like. They are under constant scrutiny. So your analogy doesn’t really work as well as you might imagine. If wisdom, prudence, judgment, and discernment attend what a preacher preaches then the same is certainly true for what the congregation sings.


  33. Curt, what is surprising is that you’re tough on crime but not on worship. I’m a sinner if I shop at Walmart but if I sing praise songs — meh.

    First things alert!


  34. CW the whatever and The Mad Hungarian,

    I was in the RPCNA, and a student at their seminary, have attended their churches, heard it all.

    Right New Covenanter?


  35. Cg,

    I know Plymouth Churches that are EP and no music accompany.

    BTW, I am not against EP. I am against formalism, externals, tribalism, etc. a la RPCNA.


  36. D.G.,
    Maybe it’s that I don’t want to jump to conclusions regarding worship. One can see the result of individual and corporate crimes. Thus, judging them is not preemptive. But assuming that spiritual songs are inadequate for worship before hearing them is preemptive.

    And I’ll repeat whatI wrote before perhaps elsewhere. You seem to have greater political problems with my views than any other problem. Perhaps you have been joining the political and theological spheres more than you care to admit


  37. Gil, I am also ex-an RP seminary, but not in Pittsburgh. But Plymouth Brethren assemblies generally don’t sing psalms. They do sing a capella but traditionally from their own hymnbooks, which generally have a tiny number (if any) of psalms included. Could you post a link to the psalm singing brethren? Fascinated to learn of it.

    It’s instructive even to learn the meaning of “a cappella” – “after the fashion of the church,” apparently!


  38. So, when the music leader has a Fanny Crosby hymn scheduled or Maranatha music, can I use that time to go to the bathroom? How about just mentally check out till it’s over?


  39. Zrim,
    You’re rather free with the imperatives here. Another sign of legalism?

    Yes, sermons are under constant scrutiny but they are not judged before they are heard or read. And that is the point here. You’re judging the views of others prior to hearing the words in spiritual songs. So my analogy does fit here.

    And one of the things you accomplish by judging in that manner is to create more divisions in the Church with each new group claiming to be more pure than the previous ones. Does that remind you of any parables?

    See, my issue with your perspective isn’t found in the mere act of judging. It is when we should judge that is the issue. The insistence on the exclusive singing of the Psalms exercises that judgment preemptively. But more than that, there is a real fear of doing anything else in worship and life than to imitate what was done before. Both the preemptive judging and the OCD approach to imitation are prerequisites for legalism


  40. Curt, what’s wrong with pre-emptive judgment? Do we need to hear Oprah’s spiritual songs before we can determine it’s likely not fit for Christian worship? Maybe you think so, but who has the kind of time your reasoning suggests to scrutinize every.single.piece.of.verse out there? And we pre-oppose any Methodist or Baptist from preaching without hearing his particular sermonizing because that’s part of the point of being confessional.

    And what’s wrong with divisions? Paul says they must exist “in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

    But in case you’re not listening, I’m not making the EP case. I’m saying it’s a form of fundamentalism. You’re pushing back with subjectivism. The third way is wisdom.


  41. Cg,

    The Plymouth Brethren were in the Pasadena, CA area. I don know if they have a website. And singing a cappella or with no instruments like the Plymouth Brethren is still half of what EP folks want under the RPW, right?

    Interesting that you mention Meredith Kline and EP. I am aware that the drafters of the RPCNA 1980 Testimony consulted Meredith Kline. The RPCNA drafters did listen to Kline and rejected some of their views like Covenanting, the SL & C, the Establish Principal, etc. Notice I am not saying I agree with this.

    Sent from good old Scott-Irish Presbyterian Country, Pittsburgh, PA / Western PA (NOT!) – Home of many abandoned Presbyterian Churches, Sadly!


  42. Zrim,
    Examine your reasoning here. Because you can assess ahead of time the songs of someone whose theological views are far from ours, you can prejudge the songs of everybody?

    What about the Trinity hymnal? There is nothing there we can sing?

    And don’t have some key common beliefs with baptists and methodists so that it is quite possible, just as we could learn from their sermons? What is it that I quoted fro Martin Luther King Jr. about eh ‘Wester arrogance of feeling’ that moves us westerners, especially Americans, to think that we have nothing to learn from others while they have everything to learn from us?

    Now read what you are writing. By quoting Paul are you saying that only those Christians who are confessional and who stick to the singing of the Psalms are genuine? More and more you are acting like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. After all, didn’t they have their traditions and interpretations of the Scriptures that distinguished them from all others so that they see themselves as being superior and genuine while all others were below them. Like the Pharisees, you have your confessions which you have placed on a pedestal so high that from the ground, it is difficult to see which is higher, the Scriptures or the confessions.


  43. Curt, you’re not listening. I’m not saying only those “who stick to the singing of the Psalms are genuine.” I’m not making the case for EP, the TH is fine, we sing from it all the time. And it’s not a matter of judging who is “genuine,” it’s a matter of having those who confess what we confess in the pulpit. That’s how confessionalism works. Do sports franchises mix and match players or do they only employ in certain capacities those who have signed on to a particular team? It’s nothing to do with learning from those in other traditions or not. It’s a matter of playing by the formal boundaries we ourselves set.

    But keep on going with Pharisee stuff. Anti-judger, heal thyself.


  44. CW,

    “Just don’t bring your anger and venom and baggage in here”

    You mean like John Calvin in his time against the radicals and papist? Or the Apostle Paul against the Judiazers and formalist?

    “We are all about peace, love, understanding and bella unificazione around here”

    Which kind? The Fred Roger’s Presbyterian type? Mormon? Your own version?Can I see it?!?!


  45. Gil, I will defer to you on the RP — my own experience w/ the RP has been limited to my current church. I am thankful for my local RP — it was the only Reformed game in town when I arrived (I’m not going to count the Bayley-brother church, besides its not NAPARC anyway).

    If I had my druthers, I would attend a psalm-singing, a capella OPC — not sure if any exist though.

    When i was in the OPC (where we sang psalms and hymns w/ a piano) I thought then, as I do now, that singing scripture a capella is the biblical / RPW manner of worship. That doesn’t mean that I won’t go to a church that doesn’t practice this and I’m not gonna cause a ruckus about it either.

    Preaching the gospel, rightly administering the sacraments, and practicing church discipline are non-negotiables — I’m willing to agree to disagree re: hymns and instruments.

    But Old Life isn’t the church, so I don’t mind raising a bit of a ruckus here. But don’t blame me for my take on the RPW, blame Scott Clark and Godfrey — they got their hooks in me years ago and haven’t let go.


  46. Reading filters have taken a beating recently.

    @ Curt: Zrim’s not an EPer. See p. 1.

    @ Gil, CG: Plymouth Brethren were also an East Coast thing.


  47. Zrim,
    I think I’m listening to what you’re saying more than you are. And when you write the following:

    And what’s wrong with divisions? Paul says they must exist “in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

    See, divisions are caused by multiple factors. One is to distinguish who is genuine and who isn’t. The other has to do with our weaknesses and another has to do with our sins.

    Then read what else you wrote:

    And we pre-oppose any Methodist or Baptist from preaching without hearing his particular sermonizing because that’s part of the point of being confessional.

    Though I reversed the order of your statements, the commutative property applies regarding the effect. And yes, please watch the similarities between the pharisees and those who most strongly emphasize the confessional/nonconfessional division between Christians.

    The confessional label, like all other labels, employs an all-or-nothing mindset. Thus, it elevates the status of the confessions beyond where they should be. When we are not careful in how we esteem the confessionals, we will place them on the same level as the Scriptures in our understanding of theology rather than make them a part of a Christian anthropology–using a slightly modified model of thought from Geerhardus Vos, see pg 1 of his book, Biblical Theology.


  48. Ok, but what about my bathroom breaks? If you can zone out and whisper psalms to yourself while everyone else is singing about holding hands with Jesus in the garden, I should be able to schedule a bathroom break.


  49. Sean, that’s fine. When Ancient Words was sung in my previous church, I learned to grin and bear it. But scheduled bathroom breaks sounds like the kind of thing someone smarter more experienced than me came up with. I especially sund loudly the “help us cope” line:

    Holy words long preserved
    For our walk in this world
    They resound with God’s own heart
    Oh, let the ancient words impart

    Words of Life, words of Hope
    Give us strength, help us cope
    In this world, where e’er we roam
    Ancient words will guide us home

    Ancient words ever true
    Changing me and changing you
    We have come with open hearts
    Oh, let the ancient words impart

    Holy words of our Faith
    Handed down to this age
    Came to us through sacrifice
    Oh heed the faithful words of Christ

    Holy words long preserved
    For our walk in this world
    They resound with God’s own heart
    Oh let the ancient words impart

    Ancient words ever true
    Changing me and changing you
    We have come with open hearts
    Oh, let the ancient words impart


    Who’s next?


  50. AB,
    Are you D.G. only your initials have been changed to protect your identity?

    BTW, Current books being read now:

    1. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
    2. This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
    3. A People’s History Of The World by Chris Harman
    4. Politics According To The Bible by Wayne Grudem

    And just finished reading parts of J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity And Liberalism

    Might have to wait to pick up D.G.’s book.


  51. Curt, you post so much I fear you are doing harm to yourself. Maybe go take a walk if the weather’s nice, or take a trip on your eliptical machine.

    Go in peace man.


  52. AB,
    You didn’t answer my question. Are you D.G. only with your initials changed to protect your identity?

    Plus, if you didn’t post comments expressing concern about how much I post comments, I would be posting fewer comments in response.


  53. Curt, I don’t get the sense you’re trying to learn from someone with whom you disagree. More hubris and hypocrisy. But try not using mathematical principles to follow a human conversation and you might get a bit further. I get it, you want to be magnanimous and open-minded, but you’re sounding like the non-denomiationalist who doesn’t realize that by doing so he’s a denominationalist (because it’s inevitable). You’re trying too hard. We agree that straight-jacketing a certain element of doxology (song) is problematic. We disagree on how to correct it. I say with discernment, you say latitudinarianism.


  54. How about if we just trim the singing portion down by two songs. Trying to resolve the song choice dilemma is tantamount to herding feral cats(Jack Miller) or electing to have multiple root canals, so can we just do less of it?


  55. Sean, agreed. If music takes up more than 50% of the worship time something is wrong. Two hymns (one of which is often a Psalm), a Psalm and a short doxology is all we get and it’s enough.


  56. Zrim,
    Let me show you an example of your mathematical approach to this discussion.

    You wrote

    what’s wrong with pre-emptive judgment? Do we need to hear Oprah’s spiritual songs before we can determine it’s likely not fit for Christian worship?

    Notice how you defend preemptive judgment, you cite an example. But what is implied is a universal quantifier to preemptive judgment. Why? Because an existential one could never defend preemptive judgment in all cases. That is because an existential would say that sometimes preemptive judgement would be right but it could never say that it is wrong. The universal quantifier is also indicated by the example itself. The songs we in Church are well represented by Oprah’s ‘spiritual songs’? So if Oprah, despite the example, was picked randomly as a way to justify preemptive judgment, then what could be said about Oprah’s songs could be said about any song which we prejudge.

    The problem here is that with an uncountable set of songs from which to choose, one cannot logically defend prejudging material by example. That is a simple logical principle.

    The math is not with you here.

    Finally, you are prejudging again. I am not trying to be magnanimous. I am trying to avoid, as much as I can, being like the pharisee from the parable of the two men praying. In addition, I find, to a large extent, confessional-based divisions to be a sign that we are not balanced in our Christian lives. That we place too much emphasis on doctrine and are too quick to overlook the strengths of other Christians. That is a spiritual concern and a concern I have from the kind of socialism I accept.


  57. AB,

    Another problem is this line:

    “Oh, let the ancient words impart…”

    You see, even Isaac Watts knows that “impart” is a transitive verb and desperately wants an object. Impart what?

    Depart, on the other hand, is not transitive:

    “Oh let these modern words depart…”


  58. Curt, balance (like passion) is over-rated. But if the point is kumbaya and all the colors of Benetton then what exactly was Jesus’ own point when he said he didn’t come to bring peace but division?


  59. Zrim,
    Just think of your previous note. You claimed that I was not following mathematical principles in the discussion, and you were wrong. Now you say balance is overrated? That is a very ambiguous statement.

    Balance regarding what? Is it concerning the stereotype you associated with me–“kumbaya”? Note that when I was talking about balance in my last comment to you, I wasn’t referring to gathering diverse groups of people together. So what is with the “kumbaya” and “rainbow” rhetoric? When I referred to balance, I was referring to our individual Christian lives and how we, personally, look at people. Are we too quick to write them off? I would say that the more preemptive judgments we exercise, the more too quick we are. And if we do that citing the confessions as the reason, we could very well be the Church’s equivalence of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time who were so sure of themselves and so harsh on others.

    Certainly the confessions are important. But one indication of them being too important to us will be indicated by whether we are using them to put down those for whom Christ died.


  60. Curt, you said that confessionally based divisions are a sign that of imbalance. So what? That’s the point–to say this one set of confessions rise above the rest as a summary of biblical truths. It’s not a way of “putting down” anybody. Why is that so discomfiting? Oh, socialism. But when Trent not only writes off but condemns, that resonates more than the kind of strained cwaga you’re advancing.


  61. Zrim,
    Whether confessions cause divisions depends on how people use the confessions, it’s not just the confessions by themselves. When we use the confessions to look down on the spiritual gifts and character of fellow believers, then the divisions are a big deal. Then we have become the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

    See, it is one thing to use the confessions to show the understandable differences between fellow believers. But we can go too far in how we use the confessions to judge fellow believers. Seeing that ‘knowledge puffs up,’ divisions based on spiritual hierarchies based on the confessions are the works of the flesh.

    Even some socialists know from history and experience that you don’t ignore the views of fellow socialists who see things differently. If some socialists know this regarding sociallism, why doesn’t everybody who not only has a belief system, but has God’s Spirit understand what these socialists understand?


  62. Curt, none of which is going on the confessionalism promoted here. Some confessionalists here are EP and some aren’t (along with plenty of other differences) but for the most part none are looking down on or maligning the characters of the other. You’re swinging at shadows and humble-bragging.


  63. Let me ask this, if we allow preachers to preach sermons rather than restricting them to the reading of the Scriptures, why are some so in energetic in prohibiting the singing of spiritual songs? And certainly, the NT Scriptures indicate that the singing of other songs than the Psalms was a distinct possibility.

    Curt the mad poster, along with Gil who should know better.
    Read your confession before you start shilling for Marx and MLK.

    Scripture is read to the congregation/ the congregation praises God in the psalms (scripture).
    The minister expounds the Scripture to the congregation and prays to God for the congregation.

    The first two elements are restricted to Scripture.
    The second two elements are based on Scripture, but there is liberty in the application/supplication.

    That arguably in a nutshell, is the historic Westminster Confessional presbyterian paradigm.

    Yes, we know you don’t agree (what else is new), but if you can’t tell us what the confessional position is in the first place, you’re really not competent to the question, never mind discussion.
    Again nothing new. A lot of modern P&R aren’t.
    But while we all got to start somewhere, maybe before we start slagging the original position, it would behoove us to get up to speed.

    God gave his OT church an inspired canonical songbook.
    It is either sufficient for the NT or all bets are off and we are free to sing whatever we want to in NT worship because that’s what God has commanded explicitly or implicitly in the NT, whether by approved example or G&N consequence.

    NC, what happens in heaven according to Revelation is not our concern, unless we want to go the Roman or Anglican route and include crowns, robes, incense etc. in our worship in the not yet/now.
    The reformers understood that, which is why they purged the worship of the church through applying sola scriptura to the second mark of the church. i.e. the RPW.
    But if you don’t like the RPW, you are no longer reformed in the classic sense of the word.
    True, you got a lot of company these days, but original intent is not just a political thing.

    Hi Jed!


  64. AB (not DG, or even EC whatever CD thinks.)
    Dr. Strange needs to avail himself of the Minutes of the Assembly, whether the old incomplete version or the new critical reprint of Van Dixhoorn.

    On April 22, 1646, the Assembly replied to the House of Lords:

    That whereas on the 14th of November 1645, in obedience to an order of this Honourable House concerning the said Mr. Barton’s Psalms, we have already recommended to this Honourable House one translation of the Psalms in verse, made by Mr. Rouse, and perused and amended by the same learned gentleman, and the Committee of the Assembly, as conceiving it would be very useful for the edification of the Church in regard it is so exactly framed according to the original text: and whereas there are several other translations of the Psalms already extant: We humbly conceive that if liberty should be given to people to sing in churches, every one the translation which they desire, by that means several translations might come to be used, yea, in one and the same congregation at the same time, which would be a great distraction and hindrance to edification (Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652, 2011, Van Dixhoorn, V: 303).

    IOW something like the Trinity Hymnal was the furthest thing from their mind, however shocking that might be to modern American presbyterians, (who also don’t know that Calvin’s original four reforms of the church of Geneva included psalmsinging.)

    Rather the question before the house was which edition/translation of the psalter was most faithful and to be used exclusively in the worship of God. The rest of the story is that the Assembly’s rework of Rouse in turn was edited by the Scotch Church and became the Scotch Psalter 1650.


  65. (Addendum/3rd post)

    And if we are free to sing whatever we please in the NT – having cast off the strictures of the OT/Second Commandment/RPW – as DG asks, what’s with all the songs written by parties, presbyterians wouldn’t let in the pulpit to preach or pray?
    The Revival Principle of Worship?


  66. Bob,

    If Dr. Strange had his way, we’d have Opera instead of the TH.

    I kid. But here’s where I’m at:

    How “orthodox” is the WCF, and the divines who devised it?

    They were men of their times. Don’t get me wrong, I have no scruples in my ordination vow.

    But these things are a little more complex than a combox affords. Hence the rule of 3. Which served its purpose. So here we now are. Now what?


  67. Bob S,
    Not mad when I post. Nevertheless, I read something better than the confessions. I read the Scriptures. From them, I know on what to agree or disagree with everyone–that is if my understanding of the Scriptures are correct.

    And just perhaps, if Calvin read MLK before pursuing heretics and witches, there would have been less people burning at the stake in Geneva.

    Regarding the following:

    God gave his OT church an inspired canonical songbook.
    It is either sufficient for the NT or all bets are off and we are free to sing whatever we want to in NT worship because that’s what God has commanded explicitly or implicitly in the NT, whether by approved example or G&N consequence.

    The question isn’t whether it is sufficient, the question is can it be supplemented. Realize that the OT view of Christ was veiled. So how is it that we can’t supplement Psalm singing with spiritual songs that were written on the New Testament side of Christ and His passion? How can it be that when our worship is no longer restricted to specific locations, but has been liberated to worship in spirit and in truth, that we are unable to benefit from songs written more recently? And how is it that when we have been liberated as Paul describes in Galatians and are given new situations even today that we are limited to imitating what was done before in times and contexts so different from now?


  68. I once asked an RPCNA minister if it came down to choosing between singing psalms only but with dryness and coldness vs. singing hymns with a right heart, he told me it is better to use the right form. If that is not formalism, I don’t what it is. EP’s might think they have the purity of worship or the true worship, but God looks into your heart with blazing-fire omniscience and is not satisfied with simply the use of right words. Just as Jeremiah told the formalists of his day not to trust in deceptive words “the temple of the Lord,” “the temple of the Lord,” so too, EP’s should not trust in “Psalms only, Psalms only.”

    I don’t know about you, but I would rather sing fulfillment language such as “nothing but the blood of Jesus” than sing about offering burnt offerings (per Psalm 51) which was attached to the shadowy Old Covenant.

    By the way, which Psalter represents the purest worship? The Red one, the Blue one? Another one? Some RP’s chose to stick with the Red and some even think they shouldn’t use 18th and 19th century melodies with their psalter. Hmmm….


  69. D.G.,
    The validity of your statement depends on the truth of its premise. In addition, there are many kinds of socialists. And so I find myself disagreeing on a variety of points with other socialists. And many of those disagreements are based on my understanding of the Bible.

    But your comment here, along with past comments, makes me wonder if your nickname should be Confessional sniper


  70. @New Covenanter — you are begging the question (to channel Mr. Cross), if God commanded the church to sing psalms, then your question becomes: is it better to follow God’s commands even when we don’t feel like it, or do something else with joy and sincerity?

    You don’t have to agree w/ EP, but don’t fault those who do for being theologically consistent. The difference between hymns and psalms is not one of form — but of substance (they are two different things, not two different forms of the same thing).

    Your argument seems to sacrifice the RPW on the alter of sincerity; it sounds like you are saying “its not what we do, but how we do it.” The RPW is all about what we do in worship — the attitude we have in worship is another matter altogether.


  71. NC, the tyrannies of heart religion. Do you really want that “blazing-fire omniscience” peering in? And who has the audacity to say they pass when it does? But if you’d rather sing the fulfillment language, aren’t you answering the same way the so-called formalist does?


  72. Mudster’s been through the arguments a zillion times and settled on a diet of psalms & hymns.My eyebrow goes up if you do no psalms and my hearing goes off if you can’t get off your EP hobby horse. For those who aren’t sick of reading on the subject: http://www.the-highway.com/psalmody_Irons.html

    A practical problem with EP is the theological ignorance of most pew sitters. It takes some attention and years to get to a place where the psalms are properly understood. It would be nice if we had all our members from infancy through adulthood but people tend to be more transient than that. And, if psalms are sung without understanding, the singer can get some waaaay wrong ideas.


  73. Whatever its faults, I am indebted to my upbringing in a Dutch Reformed church that sang the old “Blue Psalter Hymnal” week in and week out, most of which was Psalm singing. It sure beats whatever modern “hymn” the metrosexual worship leader is crooning on a typical Sunday morning.


  74. in any case, thinking there has been more time debating here so far this week what should be sung to the Lord, than actual singing to the Lord.


  75. Muddy, but imagine the teaching opportunity — explaining how we are Israel without a literal king, literal holy land, literal holy war, and literal temple. You’re almost to 2k land.


  76. a, right on cue you have managed to interject your higher-life school marm piety even as you speak dismissively of something so important as the content and elements of worship. Well done, ma’am.


  77. I have to pitch one RPer’s book on the Psalms, after reading some of the negative RP posts. (I wrote a review there as well: http://www.amazon.com/Singing-Songs-Jesus-Revisiting-Psalms/dp/1845506006 )

    I think I realized that the RP arguments had some merit after reading a number of Evangelical commentaries that suggested that, in fact, “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” is actually referring to the canonical psalter. These commentators likely still sing hymns because they don’t ask about what God commanded, but what did God forbid. However, if you hold to the RPW, that’s a weighty argument.

    The Mad Hungarian, I’ll have to buy you a beer if you are ever here in Indianapolis.


  78. CW: a, right on cue

    thank you cw, didn’t want to miss a cue which I am sure you are purposely, affectionately giving just to me 

    and higher life= Matt 18:3

    a (with a ‘pious’, ‘sanctimonious’) .


  79. D.G.,
    Well, I am passionate about Fundamentalism as it was defined in the early 20th century to distinguish it from theological liberalism.

    In addition, I am sometimes an ill-alliterate.


  80. “but imagine the teaching opportunity…”

    I could imagine a very useful SS that explains the hymns of the morning. Of course, if SS only attracts 1/5 of the worship congregation it won’t be all that effective. Then I suppose you could provide introductions prior to singing each hymn, but that breaks up the liturgy a bit. Probably worth it.

    “You’re almost to 2k land.” But one wonders if the Scots are perpetually feisty because they don’t sing them that way.


  81. Has the new OPC/URCNA Psalter-Hymnal come out? When will it come out? We’d like an improved Psalter here in SA. We’d also prefer an ‘edited’ version without the English (I am NOT English!!!) hymns please.

    A friend remarked to me that the Presbyterian path to liberalism and outright heresy is paved by hymn-singing…which leads to accepting other foreign worship practices…which leads to non-confessionalism…which leads to … (you get the idea).

    I agree with him. Just sayin’.


  82. Teebs, haven’t you heard? It’s all about the heart! Now you sound like a formalist. Creativity, innovation, private interpretation and experience with X in the garden (alone) — what could go wrong?


  83. I though it was MORE than two hyperlinks that put a comment in moderation. Anyhow, TBR, look for my comment when it gets released.


  84. Muddy Gravel,

    Dr. Irons paper was wonderful to listen to, and was very helpful for this discussion.

    My sincere thanks.



  85. Curt, step into the 21st century. Don’t you know Machen was skeptical of “Fundamentalism” as it sounded to him like an unnecessary improvement upon confessionalism?


  86. Zrim (3 and I’m out), my understanding was Machen didn’t like fundamentalism because why would he want to add another ism to simply being a Christian. Confessionalism fails that test too. I looked for the quote in vain, but that’s my memory as it stands, without the help of igoogle or my dumbphone.


  87. Gong, I’m wrong, color us followers of Calvinism:

    I never call myself a “fundamentalist.” There is indeed, no inherent objection to the term; and if the disjunction is between Fundamentalism and Modernism, then I am willing to call myself a fundamentalist of the most pronounced type. But after all, what I prefer to call myself is not a “fundamentalist” but a “Calvinist”—that is, an adherent of the Reformed Faith.


  88. AB, who would ever need another -ism when something like Reformed confessionalism already does everything something like fundamentalism tried doing? Like Ragu, “it’s all in there.” Here’s to Curt’s fundamentalism flaming out.


  89. Joel — that might be sooner than you think. I’m down in Bloomington. Second round is on me.


  90. Where did God command the New Covenant church to only sing psalms and nothing else? Was that in the lost book of 1 Scottish Covenanter 5:1? Be careful of making your own interpretation of the RPW to trump exegesis. The mad Hungarian begs the question and is reductionistic indeed, but then again if one is stubbornly bent on compelling New Covenant Christians to worship like Old Covenant Jews, there is no arguing with them.

    For Christ’s Gospel and New Covenant! (my blue banner)


  91. Question: How do EP adherents and RPW adherents understand I Cor 14:26, which apparently presumes that when the house church in Corinth gathered to meet, that the expectation was that ALL congregants might come ready with something to contribute to the worship, without any apparent pre-filtering, or any pre-emptive judgments being made about alignment to confessional standards. “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”


  92. The New Covenanter — you are making an argument from silence when you ask where Scripture commands that we not sing hymns. Where does Scripture command that we not do liturgical dance? or bark like dogs?

    The RPW = we do in worship only what is commanded by God in Scripture. Psalm singing is commanded in several places — that really isn’t the debate.

    The Lutheran practice of worship = all things are permitted unless prohibited by Scripture.

    From your comment, you sound more Lutheran than Reformed / RPW — just sayin’

    Again, you don’t have to be EP to be RPW, but you should be RPW if you are Reformed.


  93. Pete, that verse does not commend the practices, but describes abuse and misuse. Calvin agrees:

    “He now shows the way in which they may remedy those evils. In the first place, each gift must have its place, but in order and in measure. Farther, the Church must not be taken up to no purpose with unprofitable exercises, but must, in whatever is done, have an eye to edification. He speaks, however, in the first place of edification in this way: “Let every one, according as he has been endowed with some particular gift, make it his aim to lay it out for the advantage of all.” For it is in this way that we must understand the word rendered every one — that no one may take it as implying universality, as though all to a man were endowed with some such gift.”



  94. Curt, not the particular beliefs but rather the very conception of an extra-confessional movement that thought it could do better than historic confessionalism. And what is Fundamentalism now? An embodiment of the very modernity it sought to oppose (i.e. moralism, experientialism, revivalism, anti-creed, anti-office, anti-form).


  95. Zrim,
    So he was worried about competition that was more inclusive than his pet group was?

    As for fundamentalism, it is like socialism. The words are used as pejoratives by people who want to vent. It isn’t the modernity you claim it to be. But in all the anti-stuff you list, you go back to the exclusivity of confessionalism– a term that is only used in small circles so it will not suffer the same fate that the word ‘fundamentalism’ has. BTW, your definition of what Fundamentalism originally fought is not historically accurate. Fundamentalism battled naturalism (a.k.a., theological liberalism). And some of those items you list as being against fundamentalism indicate that some feel that they only have things to teach liberals, they have nothing to learn from them. That attitude will help keep the confessional community small, however unnecessarily.


  96. CW – thanks for the link to the resource there. I understand what you/Calvin are trying to read into that text, but Paul didn’t qualify it that way. Whether what you/Calvin are reading into that text is a good-and-necessary inference from that text, could be another debate.

    Is it fair to say your/Calvin’s argument goes like this?
    – In corporate worship, only those deemed by the church to be gifted are to be allowed to share a psalm, or a teaching, et al
    – Man-created lyrics, de facto, do not involve teaching, and further,
    – The church has not deemed lyric writers to be ‘gifted’ to teach
    – Hence, the church should not sing man-made lyrics


  97. Curt, but with a handle like Flaming Fundamentalist, your circle is sure to be even smaller. And you know what they say about carrying pictures of Chairman Mao. (It’s a bit staggering what escapes you–theological liberalism is modernity. And you approve of and want to preserve a term that opposed liberalism, yet you also think there is something profitable about liberalism. Fundamentalism and liberalism are good in your book, but instead of being two sides of a skewed modern coin confessionalism is what’s suspect.)


  98. Pete, you’ve gone far beyond what I had in mind and accomplished a rare feat — making me look moderate and reasonable. I just don’t think “the expectation was that ALL congregants might come ready with something to contribute to the worship, without any apparent pre-filtering, or any pre-emptive judgments being made about alignment to confessional standards.” Would you want that at your church? Do you think Paul wanted it or approved of it? I mean, let’s just let everyone take turns bluetoothing their iTunes playlists to the church sound system. Damn.


  99. Zrim,
    My initial guess is that there are fewer Flaming Fundamentalist for Peace, you only used part of the name, than there are confessionalists. But then again, the Flaming Fundamentalists for peace is only the name of a blogsite, not a movement in the Church. So basically, I am just a fundamentalist who wants to draw attention to the fundamentals of the faith. And with a name like Flaming Fundamentalist, people will not be taken back for religious reasons, I guarantee it.

    BTW, who carries pictures of Mao?

    Also, yes, theological liberalism is modernity. But the core of that liberalism is naturalism. And it is to our shame when liberals are more moral and personable than we are. But why should we worry about morals? After all, we are saved by faith.

    In addition, it is theomatics when one’s reality is totally defined by a deductive approach to doctrine without regard to experience. And theomatics is the name of the game for authoritarian, deductive-oriented Calvinists. What we need is not all doctrine or all experience, but a Biblical mix. Otherwise, we will never listen to those to whom we are to share the Gospel. And all that is because some refuse to listen at all to those they oppose because they believe that they can never learn anything from them. Kind of self-exalting, isn’t it?


  100. That’s a good question, CG and DGH. There are only a couple of people I can think of who would have written about it (but not academically). I’ll check and get back to you.


  101. It looks like Muddy Gravel already found what I was thinking of:


    I would be interested to hear what DGH makes of Kline’s arguments in The Structure of Biblical Authority regarding the relationship between covenant and canon – or even intrusion ethics. If you don’t think he’s completely wrong about those things (and maybe you do), do you think they speak to the issue of exclusive pslamody?


  102. TBR:

    If your friend, with whom you agree, is correct, then how do we account for confessional Lutherans in 2015?


  103. ‘Legalism lacks the supreme sense of worship. It obeys but it does not adore.’ -Geerhardus Vos


  104. Curt, people who won’t make it with anyone anyhow (get it?). But who’s this “we”? If theomatics is “a combination of ‘Θεός (‘God’) and ‘mathematics,'” I thought you were the one above applying mathematical principles to a human conversation? But be sure to wear enough sun screen out there in left field.



  105. Zrim,
    You seem to look for things to criticize but struggle because of a lack of precision. Theomatics, as far as I define it, is the overapplication of mathematics to theology, not the application of logic to conversation. Those engaged in theomatics find no need to learn from the world because their approach to theology allows them to determine almost all of reality just by using their logic and the Scriptures. BTW, the logic isn’t the problem, it is the lack of input. And the lack of input is from a refusal to listen to others

    BTW, I am using a different definition for theomatics than wikipedia is. I defined that term before I knew wikipedia had a definition for it. And my definition has to do with logic, rather than numbers. The wikipedia definition has little to do with logic.


  106. Gil, how can you adore when you won’t obey?
    The way I heard it put one time was “‘I love my wife’ said the adulterer”.

    Protestants believe in sola scriptura.
    The difference is the P&R apply that to the worship and government of the church, which the rest of the prot gang consider adiaphora after the 5 spiritual laws.

    Yeah, deja vu Muddy. We all been here before.
    Irons one, fails to acknowledge what the original intent of the WS are re. reading, preaching and praising God in song and prayer.
    Two, claims that the redemptive historical pattern of Scripture means that new revelation/redemptive acts are always accompanied by new songs. Well, yeah, but in the OT they were new inspired songs.
    Which is why he argues for new uninspired songs in the NT. Go figure.

    Meanwhile Curt, is still bringing up the rear.
    Yes, the question is 1. are the Psalms sufficient for the NT church or 2. should they be supplemented by a. NT additions or b. uninspired material? (3. entirely replaced by 2a. or preferably 2b. is not on the table, unless you are a babdist fundamentalist or a liberal.)

    Dunno, but since Genesis, Deuteronomy and Isaiah, as well as the Psalms, are the most quoted OT books in the NT, maybe they need to be supplemented too.
    Oh wait, they are, if for example, Hebrews is the NT counterpart to Leviticus.
    Oh, you meant uninspired supplementation?
    But then you’re not even a fundamentalist at that point.

    Worship in spirit and truth?
    Pay attention please. This has already been addressed at least twice.
    Again, who, how – external and internal – and when.
    IOW the reformed big picture on the the thrust of the first table of the law.
    Worshiping in truth and spirit is what we are commanded to do in the 2nd and 3rd.
    Neither are Christ’s commands burdensome.

    AB, you can’t make progress if you don’t know where you’ve been.
    The Russian proverb is if the man with one eye on the past stumbles, the man with both eyes on the present is blind.
    It would be strange indeed if Dr. Strange thought modern Am.presbyterianism was ground zero or even that the Assembly’s animus impotentis was the American.



  107. Bob, good quote. I enjoy Fesko’s Theology of the Westminster Standards when I have the time. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, type stuff.

    But tonight was Batman with the missus, thanks to Curt. Via Amazon Prime, with Jack Nicholson. Will finish tomorrow.

    But that’s facebookish. G’night, and thanks.


  108. Bob,
    You kind of deliberately left out a key point I made in asking why shouldn’t we supplement Psalm singing with what we’ve learned from the New Testament. That point was that the Old Testament, and I am trusting that we are in agreement that the Psalms are in the Old Testament, has a veiled view of Christ. So why wouldn’t that point be important to you. In fact, I believe I heard one of my profs at WTS make that point and so I might be merely repeating it to you.

    And worship in spirit and in truth was addressed here? In other words, we are restricted to imitating the OT way of singing worship but since we are not in Jerusalem, we are worshipping in spirit and in truth. Did you miss the transition Jesus was bringing to worship by what He said?

    But what is the real bad part of your note is this assumed hierarchy you have ascended by your stance on Psalm singing. Assuming high places for oneself is not spoken well of in the Scriptures. I don’t care if you disagree, just discuss this issue as an equal for your benefit.


  109. Chris,

    We are simply not Lutherans…when we start acting like them, we lose not only our distinctiveness but our Christian identity… you completely missed the point, didn’t you?

    We have Church Order of Dort no. 69 and we should not pretend to be something we are not.


  110. Curt, why do you think I do what I do?

    Hey, it’s a great movie, but Robin isn’t in this particular one. I’ll answer your ? when you tell me the name of that galactic documentary you watch. A la “greg the cookie monster,” I’m once again swearing off any shows with lewd content (it’s me, not anyone else)(I can’t just FF the naught y scenes, they sneak up too fast). Although I don’t understand his boeuf with Anna and Elsa. Greg, you there?

    So yeah, robin, sure. Any other bright ideas, homie?



  111. AB,
    So a movie didn’t include him, but the historical documents I use to pour over when I was a boy always include him.

    The 6 part historical documentary on intergalactic history has no lewd content. However, a fantasy continuation of this 6 part documentary will be released by Disney. The 6 part historical documentary was released by 20th Century Fox.


  112. Curt, how could you deliberately leave out the key point like you did?
    Since when may we supplement inspired songs with uninspired?
    It’s kind of like Rome making Tradition and the Magisterium on par with Scripture.
    Guess what becomes more important than Scripture.

    But the harping away on hierarchy sounds kind of hollow, when before you couldn’t tell us anything about the 8th commandment vis a vis socialism and now ditto the 2nd and 3rd when it comes to worshipping in truth and spirit.
    IOW you may attend an OPC now and WTS in the past, but you don’t demonstrate much understanding of the reformed faith and its distinctives.
    Not to mention the pharisee and the publican humblebragging, when you aren’t quoting your favorite patron saints, Karl and MLK, is getting old.


  113. Bob,
    Let’s apply to the other parts of the service what you do to singing. The only prayers we would be allowed to pray are those that come from the Scriptures. And we will replace the sermons with readings from the Scriptures. In fact, since it was only the original autographs that were inspired, we will accommodate some but will only read from the original languages. Wouldn’t that be more consistent?

    What is the point of having God’s inspired Word? Is it so that we do nothing but imitate it? Because if that is the case, it will show a lack of understanding. And how do we gain from God’s inspired Word without understanding?

    For whatever reason, you are assuming that God’s inspired Word would have us only sing God’s inspired Word during worship services. So we sing about David’s victories but we neglect to sing directly about what Christ did on the cross and in His resurrection. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

    BTW, I don’t understand your contention about the 2nd and 3rd commandments when it comes to worshipping in spirit and in truth. Can you explain that?

    BTW, do you really know what socialism is or how the 8th commandment commands us to share? Note that socialism is first about redistributing power, not wealth, to the working class. Some versions include the peasants with the working class and others also include soldiers. If the Russia was socialist, it was a small time period before the October, 1917 revolution. Why? Because that was when the soviets were meeting. Lenin and the Bolsheviks dismantled many of the soviets in favor of centralizing control. That is why Anton Pannekoek like Rosa Luxemburg and explicitly stated that Lenin was no socialist.

    As for the 8th commandment, let me ask this question: How much of James Madison’s worth morally belonged to his slaves who worked the fields?

    BTW, it really doesn’t matter to me that you don’t think I understand the Reformed faith. That is your opinion and we’re equals. And I don’t remember quoting Karl. Can you find a place where I did quote him? And if you don’t like the MLK quotes, prove them to be wrong.


  114. Curt, would you please just use your jedi mind tricks on your interlocutors, and stop writing so much on Darryl’s blog.

    Do you have a man crush on him or something. Good grief.

    Do you not trust a man named Muddy Gravel to take care of these minor matters regarding worship.

    Notice my lack of a question mark. Please try using the force next time, let Kenneth Winsmann be your guide around here.



  115. Andrew,
    First, you write to me on this blog asking me not write on the blog. Then, the rest of your note is there to discourage me from writing on the blog. Do my comments offend you? And wasn’t my last note in response to Bob S. who wrote to me? In fact, why I wrote so much on one thread was because I was in a discussion with Zrim. In fact, you will find that I don’t comment on quite a number of blogposts here

    If something is disturbing you, then state it explicitly.


  116. Don’t know where you’ve been Curt, but here it is again.

    Scripture is read to the congregation/ the congregation praises God in the psalms (scripture).
    The minister expounds the Scripture to the congregation and prays to God for the congregation.

    The first two elements are restricted to Scripture.
    The second two elements are based on Scripture, but there is liberty in the application/supplication.

    That arguably in a nutshell, is the historic Westminster Confessional presbyterian paradigm.

    True, John Frame and his Worship Children would like to blenderize the four distinct and ordinary elements of worship – reading, preaching and the praise of God in song and prayer – into one mish mash of a mess with liberty all around, but ‘taint so according to the WS.


  117. BTW, I don’t understand your contention about the 2nd and 3rd commandments when it comes to worshipping in spirit and in truth. Can you explain that?

    Been there/done that a couple of times Curt, but the third times the charm.
    Again, the reformed understand the first table of the law to particularly, but not only, apply to worship.
    Who we are to worship, how – externally and internally – and when.

    We are not to worship God by means of images or idols – which include those idols of our own imagination and devising of how we are to worship God. IOW true worship is only in accord with God’s commandments, i.e. the 2nd.
    Neither are we to call upon God in a vain or idle way. IOW our worship is to be sincere and from the heart i.e. the 3rd.

    To return to the question/OP.
    God gave his church a songbook in the OT.
    In the NT, it is either sufficient, to be supplemented or to be superseded.

    To argue on the basis of John 4 and Christ’s discussion with the woman at the well about the coming demise of the temple worship due to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, that God’s previous strictures on worship are to be set aside; that the church will now “worship in spirit and truth” is to fail to distinguish the substance of worship from the ceremonial accidents. It is a non sequitur.

    Perhaps the OT songbook is not sufficient for NT worship, but that remains to be proven on other grounds than Jn. 4:24.

    As Dabney said in his review of Girardeau on musical instruments.

    God set up in the Hebrew Church two distinct forms of worship; the one moral, didactic, spiritual and universal, and therefore perpetual in all places and ages that of the synagogues; the other peculiar, local, typical, foreshadowing in outward forms the more spiritual dispensation, and therefore destined to be utterly abrogated by Christ’s coming.

    (Karl? That fraud and parasite of Engel’s capitalist factory and its profits, his whole life? I should think your infatuation plain from the record.
    Likewise the plagiarist and whoremonger MLK. Civil rights are one thing, socialism and affirmative action quite another, never mind religious liberalism. By his own standard, the color of his character, not his skin, he fails.

    Voluntary socialism is one thing, but it has to become coercive because there is no other way to have the “equality” that socialism is all about. The 8th commandment is the basis of private property and the socialist theorists will never be able to surmount that fact.)



  118. Curt, no beef with you. Just, like you and Bub, I a fellow Sculptor:

    With its wafting stench, excrement sculpting as an art form has found its way into theological discourse. For many there is no blush in vile blogging. If the 60’s mark a generation that resisted authority, many in this generation deny authority’s existence at all. On Planet Blog, such radical autonomy has found a home, where the writer operates with a sweeping sense of individual sovereignty. Put simply, the hermeneutical circle begins and ends with me. Blogging is the venue for radical writer expression and radical reader response. Hence, whatever I think, I can write. Whatever I feel, I can express. It’s all OK, after all, because these are merely words. I can curse, rant, and rave. I can bellyache, accuse, and malign. I can boggle, waggle and croon. Who are you to tell me otherwise? Who is anyone to tell me otherwise? This is Planet Blog, where even foul language, a caustic swipe at my employer, an ad hominem attack on my theological foe, and even outright dishonesty are acceptable. This is my blog, darn it, and I’ll write what I want. If I’ve been wronged, dissed, or in anyway marginalized, I will write and I will be heard.



  119. Bob S.,
    The trouble with what you are saying about worshipping in truth is direction. While you’re solely pointing back to the OT, Jesus is pointing forward to something else that now includes those who were not included before. What you want is more intense imitation. But imitation is prohibitive to including those who were weren’t there before. So you sit and look down on those who don’t imitate and thus provide a counterexample to what you are trying to prove. Besides, isn’t an overemphasis on imitation a behavioral version of making idols?

    In addition, how is it that I am going against the 2nd and 3rd commandment? How? Our focus is on Jesus because how we treat him is how we treat the Father.

    Finally, again, the OT spoke of Jesus in a veiled way. The NT lifts the veil. Shouldn’t our singing include the lifting of the veil?


  120. Andrew,
    Blogging is new part of society. And because it is, it can be included in the lives of those who belong to the Church. But it shouldn’t take long to figure that, just like all other permissible activities in society, how Christians blog should be different from how the world blogs. We have two necessary ingredients in our blogging: truth and love.


  121. Bob S.,
    Why is that you assume that any worship practice that is not imitating how people worshipped in the Old Testament either a worshipping of other Gods or a making of idols? Again, an overemphasis on imitation, especially in the light of the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament, can be behavioral way of breaking the 2nd and 3rd commandments. You make these assertions but you don’t prove them.

    And while you minimize Jesus’ statement about worshiping in Spirit and in Truth with regard to this issue, again, you need to realize the different directions being pursued. While you want to go back to the OT with a static application of the 2nd and 3rd commandments where the application was based on God’s people being a single nation, Jesus is taking us in a new direction that includes people who were not included before. And the kind of imitation you want is impedes that inclusion. And your condescending attitude to those who approach this subject differently than you shows your resistance to the inclusion of others.


  122. Come on, Curt. What’s with the adroit imitation of a troll or a tool in misconstruing the argument? Put away those Ray Charles reading glasses and examine your presuppositions.

    The woman at the well discussion is all about the coming change in religious geography; the ceremonial temple worship centered in Jerusalem will be fulfilled and done away with in Christ.
    Does that mean that now all bets are off and we can do as we please in the worship of God in the name of “spirit and truth”?

    Which is why Dabney also said that the RPW is the:

    vital truth which no Presbyterian can discard without a square desertion of our principles. The man who contests this first premise had better set out at once for Rome: God is to be worshipped only in the ways appointed in his word. Every act of public cultus not positively enjoined by him is thereby forbidden.

    Christ has been revealed in the NT and we can now worship him apart from the ceremonial shadows and types, if not the OT types and shadows are no longer types and shadows because we understand them in Christ. Sung with understanding, the argument is, the psalms do not need supplementation or replacement.

    Or if the OT has been supplemented and fulfilled by the NT, the OT hymnbook has been supplemented and fulfilled by what? The uninspired words of men? Are you sure about that?
    While we know the ceremonial has been abolished, it would be a real watershed to claim the same for the abiding moral and didactic worship of God.

    Condescension? Surely as the self designated publican on this site, you ought to be able to understand that those who cannot even give us the historic confessional reformed take on the question, are not competent to criticizing it profitably.



  123. Bob S.,
    So you know that Christ is veiled throughout the Old Testament. So, none of the OT books talk about Christ clearly, the NT does. So why are we restricted to just singing the Psalms though now we can sing with understanding? Why can’t we sing from the NT? There is a reason why you think so. It is called imitation. According to you, unless we imitate, we stray. And that is really the issue here. According to you, we are only allowed to imitate what was done in the past even though the NT Scriptures provide no such limitation.

    In addition, where is the exact liturgy commanded for NT worship? And where was it commanded? We have Paul listing what was done and in a way that does not support what you are saying, but we have no NT commands spelling out how we are to worship God and this especially important because we have the expansion of God’s people to include anyone in the world who believes. Note what happens in the churches of Galatia when the Judaizers want to enforce their beliefs onto the Christians there. After all, circumcision was practiced in the OT and was made THE CONTINGENCY for Abraham’s descendants for inheriting the promise that comes through him. Was ceremony really the only issue for why Paul looked what they were saying as a fatal addition?

    And isn’t our worship already filled with the uninspired words of men? Is that really the issue in our worship? Because, again, if uninspired words was the Biblical issue here, we wouldn’t have preaching, we would only read the Scriptures. And when we do read, we could only read from the original autographs in the original languages because, as you know, inspiration does not extend to translations. In fact, scribal errors show that inspiration does not extend to copies of the original autographs. But, my literalist friend, the NT does not raise that issue. So why is it your key objection?

    Thus, you have yet to show how the 2nd and 3rd commandments are violated by singing songs other than those from the Psalms. Idolatry involves, whether a physical or an object of our imagination, is being worshipped. Is there no difference for you between our fallible descriptions of God and idols? Think about it because don’t we all have fallible concepts of who God when we worship? If our words must be perfect to avoid worshipping false gods, mustn’t our concepts of God be without error as well? So how would singing “inspired” words save us from worshipping God as we conceive of him. Is it magic?

    And yes, you are condescending in how you talk with the names you through around like troll or your comments about Frame? Should I list what you have said about others? And see, what you fail to see is how it is our behavior and actions toward others which causes us to break the 3rd commandment (Romans 2:17-24, see https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+2%3A17-24&version=NIV ).

    And, pointing out how you are condescending is not a denial of my sinfulness. I can multitask here. You like to speak as an authoritarian despite the fact that you and I are equals. And the denial of equality was part of the pharisee’s sin in that parable. He thought of himself as being better than the publican. Is your worship of God superior to that of others because you sing the “inspired” words of the Psalms?

    You, the literalist, are pushing a legalism that is not supported in the New Testament.


  124. Ahem.
    FTR – not the broken one – the reformed confess the worship of God to be a command performance.
    We don’t get to do what we want or what feels good or even what we think we should be able to do.

    Further, God commanded the singing of the inspired psalms in the OT, not only implicitly by the presence of an inspired hymnbook, but also in the numerous times it exhorts us to actually “sing psalms”.

    In the NT, the argument is those inspired songs are still sufficient, because we realize – without having to explicitly say so – that for instance, Jesus is the good shepherd of Ps. 23.

    Others think for instance, that God commands us in Col. 3 and Eph. 5 to write uninspired songs to praise God. And while we mights disagree with somebody like Irons who holds the above, at least he’s got some idea of what the argument is for the original historic confessional position, even if he disagrees with it.

    IOW we is more likely to be able to have an intelligent and profitable discussion of the question with them than with others who haven’t made it to first base yet. Or who like to rant and rave about imitation, equality, condescension, fundamentalism, literalism etc.

    But not only do they know who they are, so does Santa Claus.

    Have a nice day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.