Psalm Singing in Calvin and the Puritans

The Outlook has posted two articles by Joel Beeke called, Psalm Singing in Calvin and the Puritans:

Part 1

Part 2

These comprise a single chapter of the forthcoming book, Sing a New Song, a book about Psalm singing with additional contributions from Robert Godfrey, Terry Johnson, D. G. Hart, Derek Thomas, and John V. Fesko.

Good guys. Should be interesting.

So, are you an EP? Are you against EP? Let’s chat.

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86 Responses to Psalm Singing in Calvin and the Puritans

  1. 1. I do the Mattins and Evensong of the 1662 Book of Comon Prayer daily. About 10-14 Psalms per day.

    2. Fed up with non-Prayer Book Anglicans who do not sing/say the Psalms daily.

    3. Press on Reformed brethren. It is a different piety that shapes Psalm-singers.

    From a Psalm-singing, BCP, Calvinist brother (am in exile).
    Veitch

  2. RubeRad says:

    Sing a new Song” as the title of a book on Psalmody? That’s pretty funny.

    I’m anti-EP, but pro-P (and I don’t think RSC’s EC is much of a compromise).

    Go here for a debate if you’re interested…

  3. John Harutunian says:

    Rick -you (and probably all the other bloggers as well) know my convictions on this issue; and I’ve no particular wish to rehash all the details again. I’ll confine myself to a few comments:

    “Following Jewish synagogue practices, the early church sang psalms.” Right off the bat, Beeke, though literally correct, is wrong in his implications:
    Jewish synagogue practice involved _chanting_ prayers (as in “cantor”). There is NO New Testament evidence that the early Christians abandoned this practice. What is a chanted, i.e., sung, prayer? A hymn.
    To those still unconvinced: Has God commanded that prayers be sung? Yes! What are the Psalms? Check Psalm 72:20 -“The _prayers_ of David the son of Jesse are ended.” Where is the New Testament command to replace sung prayers with spoken prayers? (I’m assuming a Regulative Principle stance here.)

    “For nearly a millennium church choirs sang hymns, usually in Latin, with difficult tunes;”

    Beeke is referring to chants. Anybody know “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”? This is a [Hebrew] chant. What’s so difficult about it? Sure, it takes effort -but doesn’t all of worship? If not, it should!

    “Since music should help us receive the Word, Calvin says, it should be “weighty, dignified, majestic, and modest”—fitting attitudes for sinful creatures in the presence of God.”
    I can’t argue with the last phrase. But one could just as well say that church music should be exuberant and ornate -fitting postures for God’s people who are engaged in celebrating and praising His redemptive acts in Jesus Christ.

    Conclusion: Singing Psalms in worship is fine. Forbidding Christian hymns in worship is a serious error; ironically, a man-made tradition which has prevailed in parts of the Church.

  4. todd says:

    I’m with John

  5. Rick says:

    Rube “Sing a New Song” is from the Psalms.

    John, I agree with your conclusion.

    I wouldn’t stand with Beeke here. I would heavily favor singing mostly Psalms in corporate worship – but that’s only because there is little else canonical that has been produced.

    I think the Church should be singing God’s Word – whether it be versification or close interpretation.

  6. David R. says:

    I’m EP for all intents and purposes. I don’t think John Murray’s minority report on song in worship has been successfully refuted (though I’ve read many attempts, some by people I greatly respect). That being said, I’m probably very close to the scripture-only position and I have a lot of sympathy for the mostly-psalms position.

    Since I’m in a non-EP church, my practice is to bring my Psalter along to worship and match tunes and/or settings from the Psalter with whatever the Trinity Hymnal selections are for that day (unless of course a psalm has been selected). That way I can quietly sing psalms (which I find far preferable to remaining silent).

  7. John Harutunian says:

    David, here are a couple of passages refuting Murray.

    “Nor can it be argued that what is right and proper in one area of worship (i.e. prayer and preaching) is sin in another (i.e. singing). Yet this is what EPS proponents assert without proving the point. What needs to be proven in support of the EPS position is that there is a clear line of demarcation between spoken and sung speech acts in the Scriptures; that what is said of one cannot be applied to the other. Certainly that demarcation cannot be established by an appeal to the Psalms for they are BOTH singing acts and speaking acts. Psalm 72:20 for example states: “The prayers of David, the Son of Jesse are ended.” The Scripture does not have a line of demarcation between what is spoken in prayer and what is sung. Are we to assume that one must exclusively sing the Psalms but not exclusively pray them? If we are not bound to exclusively pray the Psalms how then can we be bound to exclusively sing them? The proponent of EPS needs to prove the distinction between speech acts and singing acts, not assume it.”

    “Spiritual Worship: An additional consideration which I find compelling is the necessity of moving toward externalism in worship if exclusive Psalmody is used, especially if we also forbid musical instruments. Assuming that we use all the Psalms, we may find on occasion that we are singing a passage such as “Praise God in his sanctuary…. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet; praise him with the psaltery and harp….” (Psalm 100). But, of course, we cannot do that, if we are committed to EPS. Therefore, we must not even think of doing it, for to think something that is forbidden is sinful. The Scriptures must, therefore, become a snare to us if we even think of praising God in his sanctuary with a trumpet or a stringed instrument. We must constantly be making allowances and going through external motions, without giving true assent to these things in our hearts and spirits. In this matter we cannot worship God in spiritual worship (as opposed to meaningless ceremonies). What can be more meaningless than to sing of praising God with a trumpet in his sanctuary, but not being allowed to do so? ”

    The entire article may be found on the internet, “Is Hymn Singing in Church a Sin?” by Ron Potter.

  8. David R. says:

    John, yeah, I know. I just don’t find that in the least compelling, but then again, I also think there *is* “a clear line of demarcation between spoken and sung speech acts in the Scriptures.”

  9. todd says:

    I would go as far as to say it is problematic singing many of the Psalms in worship. We are not Israel.

  10. David R. says:

    Todd, almost no one holds your position. I take it then, that you would take issue with the URC Church Order, when it says that “The 150 Psalms shall have the principal place in the singing of the churches”? (I do realize you’re OPC.)

  11. todd says:

    Yes, I realize my position is not held fondly in the Reformed world, but oh well. Though you can can explain in rowrship each time before you sing how the Psalm is fulfilled in the new covenant, that now we do not hate our enemies, we are not saved for our righteousness, etc…especially for the the visitor, or my guess for most who are members, they still do not really understand in what senses the Psalms are fulfilled when we sing them. I wouldn’t put many of the Proverbs, Eccl, etc… to music for hymnody for the same reasons. Why not sing the fulfillment clearly?

  12. David R. says:

    Todd, believe me, I hear you, but I tend to think the solution is educating the congregation. That way, not only will the psalms make sense, but so will the rest of the Old Testament. I think church members should be learning how to sing the psalms, just as they should be learning how to read the bible, and in my personal experience, the two are mutually reinforcing.

    Of course, this is all easy for me to say, since I’m not a pastor. I do realize that many church members seem intent on remaining ignorant (sigh).

  13. todd says:

    David,

    Yes, we try to educate our congregations in redemptive history, but that doesn’t help the visitors who have no time to process it all. And the nature of singing and its emotional impact calls for the necessity to sing words with clear meaning without requiring people to do on the spot biblical theology as they try to sing.

  14. David R. says:

    Todd, I guess I would answer, first of all, I don’t think worship should be dumbed down for the visitors. (But if you want, I suppose you could put some sort of explanatory note in the bulletin, I don’t know.)

    Secondly, I think the meaning of the psalms is crystal clear to anyone who has some rudimentary training in the language of the bible, i.e., typological idiom, which I don’t think is beyond the average church member. If the congregation is constantly singing the psalms, they’ll be forced to have to think through these things (with the help of their pastor of course) and it will be second nature in no time. At least that is my take on the issue.

    But on the other hand, if you, as pastor, think that it’s best to omit a few of the psalms from congregational singing (at least until the congregation has enough knowledge to be edified by singing them), I really don’t have a problem with that.

    I’m speaking theoretically of course because the reality is that the vast majority of OP churches (I’m an OP church member) limit their psalm singing (if they sing them at all) to the truncated versions in the Trinity Hymnal, which I’m pretty sure leave out all the sticky stuff that you’re concerned about.

  15. todd says:

    David,

    I appreciate the dialogue, but I don’t think it is “dumbing down” to sing clearly any more than it is dumbing down to explain uncommon theological words from the pulpit each time we use them. Visitors especially need to hear clear, understandable truth in the hymns as well as in the sermons. We often have only one shot with them.

    I don’t see why there is a need to sing “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting to those that remember his commandments to do them” (Psalm 103:18) when it is much clearer in light of redemptive history to sing:

    “Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin; Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within. Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee, Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.”

  16. David R. says:

    Todd, I completely agree with you that “Visitors especially need to hear clear, understandable truth” but that is a different thing than saying that *everything* spoken or sung in worship has to be clear and understandable to visitors, which I don’t agree with.

    So while I can’t argue with your point that Psalm 103:18 is not as immediately clear as your explanatory quote from “Not What My Hands Have Done,” I don’t think the need for clarity is the be all and end all that perhaps you think it is.

    But I have to admit now I’m not sure whether you’re arguing against singing *some* psalms (e.g., the imprecatory ones and the ones that appear to teach works righteousness), as you seemed to be at first–or whether you’re actually arguing against singing psalms altogether, as you sort of seem to be in your last post.

  17. Lacie says:

    Todd & David: How do you educate about the songs from the Trinity Hymnal like “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Be There” or “We are God’s People” if there are visitors. Do you tell the unbelievers not to sing? Seriously. I’ve never heard of a Reformed Church that does so.

  18. todd says:

    David,

    No, some Psalms do not require such a mental jump from Israel to us so are better for singing in public worship

  19. todd says:

    Lacie,

    I don’t necessarily have in mind unbelievers when I speak of visitors. With most believers not familiar with covenant theology, new to Reformed thinking, checking out this new church, it is reassuring for them to know we are singing about the same Jesus and Christian truth. And yes, if there are confusing lyrics in a hymn I explain them first before singing(Here I raise my Ebenezer). If unbelievers do not know the gospel there would be as much confusion about the hymnody as the theology in a sermon, so that is natural and expected.

  20. David R. says:

    Okay, thanks for clarifying.

  21. David R. says:

    Lacie, if I were in charge, we wouldn’t sing those.

  22. Lacie says:

    David: I never sing those. I only sing Scripture, mostly Psalms. I do not like the arrangement of Psalms in the Trinity Hymnal since you don’t actually know what verse of the Psalm you are actually singing. The metrical versions, such as the Scottish Psalter is far better.

  23. David R. says:

    Lacie, totally agreed. Also, there are 44 Psalms missing from the TH, and of the 106 the editors included, 38 are more like Psalm fragments. (I counted once.)

  24. John Harutunian says:

    Here’s a Psalm/Hymn Singing question for ALL of us to think about: If the subject matter which is sung is God’s redeeming grace, which musical style is better suited to it? A spare, severe and plain style? Or: a style which (though not exceeding the musical capacities of the congregation) is rich, lavish and ornate?

    (I said ALL of us and I meant it -but OK, my question is directed _primarily_ at EPers.)

  25. David R. says:

    John, I’m curious as to why you’re asking EPers primarily, since the question is completely outside the concerns that drive EP.

    Speaking personally, I’ve got no horse in this race, but to give an opinion anyway, I’d say, in general, your latter option appears more appropriate, at least at first glance. But since so many of the psalms are couched from the vantage point of the godly sufferer, I can see advantages to your former option too.

  26. John Harutunian says:

    “since so many of the psalms are couched from the vantage point of the godly sufferer, I can see advantages to your former option too.”

    But if the _subject matter_ is God’s free redemption rather than the believer’s suffering, an exuberant, even lavish, style is surely more appropriate?

    “the question is completely outside the concerns that drive EP.”

    Theoretically, maybe. But in practice, can you point me to a single EP church which, having forbidden instruments (which they all do), nevertheless allows for an ornate and lavish musical style in singing the Psalms? Surely, the general feeling seems to be that such music draws undue attention to itself, and away from the Word.

  27. David R. says:

    John, I can sympathize with the notion that the focus should be on the text rather than the tune. I’ll leave it at that since I’ve already said all I know how to say on this subject.

  28. John Harutunian says:

    David, I appreciate your humility. (And I don’t want to come across as argumentative.) But do you at least see my point? Sometimes, a proper emphasis on expressing the text _necessitates_ a richly lavish, perhaps even ornate, tune! (Again, within the musical capacity of the congregation.)
    Don’t you think this makes sense?

  29. Lacie says:

    The Scottish Metrical Psalter is unique (I think) in listing “Classes” of tunes in the index. Classes include: plaintive, prayerful, restful, didactic, cheerful, jubilant, & majestic. Sure, the tune could overwhelm a psalm in theory, but I think to try to make a rule about *that* would be awfully legalistic. In reality Psalm-singing without instruments can easily tend to the funereal. Personally I don’t agree with the *no instrument* rule, provided the piano, organ, whatever, does not itself overwhelm the singing of the words.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the info, Lacie. It’s good to hear that there’s at least one EP source that recognizes the expressive power (if not the spiritual power) of music.

  31. John Harutunian says:

    I’m the writer of the above comment. (Didn’t intend to remain anonymous -just forgot to fill in my name box.

  32. John Harutunian says:

    “I tend to think the solution is educating the congregation.”

    One fundamental thing a congregation should learn is that when Christ uttered the cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”, He uttered it on behalf of, indeed in the stead of, His covenant people. (Sound Reformed theology there.) In addition Hebrews 13:6 reads “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”
    When David uttered those words of “God-forsakenness” in Psalm 22:1 he was expressing his heart cry of the moment. No one can trust God and say those words at the same time.
    The idea that God has *commanded* His children to say -or sing- such a thing to Him in worship is outlandish.

  33. Anonymous says:

    John,

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything except your last two sentences (of course). I would agree with those also if I agreed with your apparent assumption that the psalms should be interpreted woodenly. However, it helps to remember that *none* of the psalms are first and foremost about us.

    If we instead read and sing the psalms Christocentrically and redemptive-historically, we’ll understand that they first had meaning in the context of the original author. Secondly, their meaning is tranformed in the life and liturgy of Israel. Third, they find their fulfillment in the life of Christ, the true Israel (which of course Christ’s utterance of Psalm 22:1 teaches us). And finally, we, the NT church, sing them precisely in view of what you point out about Christ’s role as our federal representative.

    Does that help?

  34. David R. says:

    Sorry, that last comment was mine.

  35. David R. says:

    So, to respond to the specific objection, yes, we should sing Psalm 22, but we sing it not as those who actually believe that God has forsaken us, but rather as those who, while rejoicing in God’s promise never to forsake us, still recognize that we are yet pilgrims in exile, living beneath the shadow of the cross, and in some sense sharing in the sufferings of our Savior.

  36. John Harutunian says:

    David-
    No, I’m afraid what you’ve written doesn’t help very much. I can’t see that taking “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” simply as it stands involves me in a “wooden” interpretation. And, if,
    as you say, the Psalms aren’t first and foremost about us, that actually strengthens my objection: we’re implying that God, Whom they *are* about, forsakes His covenant people -which is something which He doesn’t in fact do.

    “[we] still recognize that we are yet pilgrims in exile,”
    OK, but it’s a long way from being pilgrims in exile to being forsaken by God.

    “living beneath the shadow of the cross,”
    I’m not sure what this means; and I certainly haven’t come across the expression in the Bible. It’s surely more in keeping with the tenor of the New Testament to say that we are living in the light of the Resurrection.

    “and in some sense sharing in the sufferings of our Savior.”
    OK -but not His *redemptive* sufferings, e.g., His God-forsakenness.

    It seems to me that the basic assumption here which needs to be questioned is yours (and John Murray’s): that the collection of 150 Psalms, which were admittedly sung, but which contain maledictions, expressions of repentance, and pleas for mercy as well as praise -these all nevertheless fall into the category of “sung praise.” That this category is separate from prayer -despite the explicit statement of Psalm 72:20. And that this collection constitutes “The Psalter” -God’s hymnal for Israel and the Church. I certainly would never come to these conclusions on the basis of Scripture.

  37. David R. says:

    “I can’t see that taking ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ simply as it stands involves me in a ‘wooden’ interpretation.”

    If “simply as it stands” means the Psalm is about you, then that is a wooden interpretation, for the reason I explained above. But even on the face of it, the Psalm is of course not ultimately about being God-forsaken.

    “And, if, as you say, the Psalms aren’t first and foremost about us, that actually strengthens my objection: we’re implying that God, Whom they *are* about, forsakes His covenant people …”

    What I actually said is that the Psalms find their fulfillment in Christ.

    John, as I’ve said above, the position you hold, that there are Psalms we shouldn’t sing, is almost non-existent in the Reformed tradition. I’m not going to take any more time to argue against it here, but if you are interested in the issue, literature dealing with it abounds. You might want to start with something like Calvin’s Commentary on the Psalms, which is easily accessible online.

  38. John Harutunian says:

    (Feel free to respond or not.) I just checked Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 22, and I think there are some superb insights there. I have no problem with his exegesis, at least not at this point.
    From what you’ve written, I’m inferring that when an EP congregation sings Psalm 22, it is not so much addressing God as (among other things) recounting Christ’s experience of God-forsakenness.
    It would be somewhat similar to a congregation’s reading of one of the Passion narratives: when they say “Crucify Him!” they are not expressing a wish that Christ be crucified. OK, but why is this categorized as “sung praise”? Also: a)Scripture itself refers to the Psalms as “prayers” (Psalm 72:20), and b)sifting through just the first two books of Psalms, I see several which contain little or no praise (Psalms 15, 38 and 39).

  39. David R. says:

    I didn’t intend to imply that we don’t sing to God. I’m also not married to the notion of “sung praise,” though I have no problem with it. I think the element of praise is implicit in the Psalms you mention (as I suppose it is, or ought to be, in all prayer). Certainly most of the second half of Psalm 22 is focused on praise.

  40. John Harutunian says:

    But if we sing to God, and the Psalms are [sung] prayers (Psalm 72:20), then when we sing Psalm 22:1, we’re asking God why he has forsaken us. And God-forsakenness=hell.
    I agree with you about the second half of Psalm 22. But take a look at Psalm 15. There, David speaks of God’s hill as holy (verse 1), which *could* be viewed as an expression of praise. But otherwise the Psalm consists exclusively of a description of a godly man, and concludes with a blessing pronounced upon him. And Psalm 39 contains no praise, but is a prayer of supplication.
    The fact that it was sung indicates that prayers (spoken or sung) and Psalms (always sung) weren’t two separate, differently-regulated elements in Old Testament worship. And I know of no Biblical reference indicating that they became such in New Testament worship.

  41. David R. says:

    John, I guess you’re still trying to show that singing and praying are really the same thing, and therefore regulated the same way. But Reformed churches don’t see it that way, which is why they all do both.

  42. John Harutunian says:

    “I guess you’re still trying to show that singing and praying are really the same thing,”

    If you’re singing *to God*, that is, addressing *Him*
    -then I’d say that whether you’re using ordered pitches (as in chanting or singing) or not: no, I can’t see that this involves a major difference of principle in worship.
    But you don’t have to take my fallible opinion on it -you can check out Psalm 72:20.

    “Reformed churches don’t see it that way, which is why they all do both.”
    True enough. But *all* churches do both! So I don’t see how this strengthens the EP position.

  43. David R. says:

    “But *all* churches do both!”

    Right, all churches implicitly acknowledge that they’re separate elements of worship. But you seem to want to say that all churches are wrong, that they’re really in fact the same thing.

  44. John Harutunian says:

    No, I don’t say they’re the same thing. But I do say that they don’t “involve a major difference of principle in worship.” Like those who gave the OPC Majority Report on the issue, I don’t see that Scripture regulates them differently. I say this in the light of a)Psalm 72:20, and b)the fact that the earliest Christians were Jewish, and Jewish believers chanted their prayers in worship (i.e., “cantor”). I see no New Testament evidence that this practice ceased.

  45. John Harutunian says:

    David, I appreciate your willingness to continue the exchange. It’s occurred to me that there’s something else which you may want to think about:
    In our society we draw a hard line between speaking and singing. To interpret Biblical teaching on worship accurately, one must ask whether the early [Jewish] Christians did that.
    And the best way I can address that question is by referring you to something which you’ll probably recognize as a hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Even though you may not have sung this in worship, I’m sure you know it; and even though you may not be a musician, I’m sure that you recognize that it sounds different from most other hymns. The main reason is that it doesn’t have a pattern of strong and weak beats. In other words, it’s [technically] a chant. And as a chant, it’s one step closer to speech.
    And if you look at the words, you’ll see that they constitute a prayer. My point is that this is how the early Jewish Christians prayed.
    Granted, the New Testament doesn’t say this; but neither does it say that all worship prayers were spoken, as is done in most Protestant churches today.
    This was, then, an early form of hymnody. And, as musical style changed over time, there arose (in the 12th century) the practice of differentiating between strong and weak beats. Which is why most of the hymns sung today sound the way they do.
    Thus endeth the music history lesson.

  46. David R. says:

    “To interpret Biblical teaching on worship accurately, one must ask whether the early [Jewish] Christians did that.”

    What the early Jewish Christians did may be an interesting question in itself, but for Protestants it is not normative for faith and practice–any more so than what the medieval church did.

    “My point is that this is how the early Jewish Christians prayed.”

    I don’t know of any biblical evidence that the early Jewish Christians chanted their prayers, but even if they did, I don’t know what that would prove, for the reason I just gave above. And it’s been awhile since I’ve thought about synagogue liturgy, but as far as I know, Jewish texts with cantillation symbols date back to maybe the sixth century, and furthermore, these were produced by a religious establishment that had decisively rejected Jesus and Christianity, so I think it’s far from safe to read their practices back into that of the early followers of Jesus.

    “Like those who gave the OPC Majority Report on the issue, I don’t see that Scripture regulates them differently.”

    The majority report didn’t make the claim that Scripture doesn’t regulate them differently. All OPC churches acknowledge implicitly by their practice that Scripture regulates them differently. That’s why, for example, even in my church (a hymn-singing church), the pastor always leads in spoken prayer and the people always sing in unison. In our practice, we regulate them differently. What the OPC report attempted to do was make other sorts of arguments, such as, that the biblical texts don’t limit singing to the Psalter, and that, since *some* elements of worship involve uninspired composition (e.g., sermons and prayer), then this must be allowed in other elements also.

  47. John Harutunian says:

    >The majority report didn’t make the claim that Scripture doesn’t regulate praying and singing differently.

    Implicitly, it did:

    “It may be asked whether the freedom granted in prayer is granted also in song. It is true that the freedom is clearly or expressly granted in the case of prayer. Will not the regulative principle for worship taught by Scripture require us to take such freedom in the case only of those forms or elements of worship for which the Scripture specifically authorizes such freedom? It might possibly be maintained in answer to this question that if the Scripture makes it clear that freedom is permissible in connection with one element of worship—and to no prejudice of the regulative principle—it is a warrantable inference that freedom of the same sort is permissible in connection with other elements of worship, if the Scripture does not clearly and specifically prohibit our taking that freedom in connection with those other elements. But even if this position is not taken, it might well be maintained that in the absence of any specific statement in the Bible to the contrary, the freedom granted in the case of prayer is certainly to be regarded as obtaining also in the case of songs used in worship, even if no statement can be found in Scripture expressly granting it in the case of songs. The resemblance in content between prayers and songs might be maintained to be so close and important as to lead us to infer that the liberty granted in the case of prayer is quite legitimately to be taken in the case of song. If the Scripture itself calls psalms prayers, may we not regard it as reasonable to think that the freedom of content granted in the one case is to be taken in the other also, and not to be denied because of certain external or secondary points of difference?

    >What the early Jewish Christians did may be an interesting question in itself, but for Protestants it is not normative for faith and practice

    But if they did it as early as the book of Acts (which they did if they were Jewish), and neither Acts nor any other Scripture records a command to change it (and *speak* rather than *chant* their prayers) -then it is normative.
    And here are some helpful Biblical insights by Ron Potter, taken from his online article, “Is Hymn Singing in Church A Sin?”

    “What needs to be proven in support of the EPS position is that there is a clear line of demarcation between spoken and sung speech acts in the Scriptures; that what is said of one cannot be applied to the other. Certainly that demarcation cannot be established by an appeal to the Psalms for they are BOTH singing acts and speaking acts. Psalm 72:20 for example states: “The prayers of David, the Son of Jesse are ended.” The Scripture does not have a line of demarcation between what is spoken in prayer and what is sung. Are we to assume that one must exclusively sing the Psalms but not exclusively pray them? If we are not bound to exclusively pray the Psalms how then can we be bound to exclusively sing them? The proponent of EPS needs to prove the distinction between speech acts and singing acts, not assume it.
    Another example is that of Paul and Silas. Acts 16:25: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” The word “and” does not appear in the original Greek. The sense is that Paul and Silas “praying hymned” for so is the Greek for “sang praises” (humnoun). There is no clear line of demarcation between a speech act and a singing act.
     Again, in Deuteronomy 32 where Moses taught the congregation of Israel a song concerning the Lord (Deuteronomy 31:30) he refers to this song, after he taught it, as testimony and a law (32:46). Again, no clear demarcation between a speech act and a singing act.  The burden is upon the EPS advocate to prove there is a line of demarcation between a speech act and a singing act, and not assume it without evidence.
    C. The EPS arguments from definitions centered around Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 together with responses.
    Ephesians 5:19
    “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody
    in your heart to the Lord.
    Colossians 3:16
    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
    Much of the EPS argument centers around the meaning of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in the above texts. EPS advocates define these words as being a reference to the Old Covenant Psalms. I suggest it may be a case of finding what you are looking for. Let me set forth several points on this. 
    To state that the Apostle Paul needs to add “hymns and spiritual songs” to establish the fact that it is Psalms exclusively he has in mind is contrary to the rest of the New Testament where “Psalms”, when referencing the book of Psalms, is sufficient. The use of “hymns and spiritual songs” would seem to detract from an EPS position rather than establish it. It would appear he has something in addition to Psalms in mind, namely “hymns and spiritual songs.”
    When the word “Psalms” is used by the New Covenant Scriptures in quoting from the Book of Psalms itself, more than “Psalms” is used. For example,
     Luke 20:42
     “And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand….” 
    Luke 24:44
    “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.”
     Acts 1:20
     “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take.”
     Acts 13:33
     “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is
    also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”
    Whenever the New Covenant Scriptures refer to the book of Psalms in a definite way the definite article is used, which in Greek usage is like a teacher tapping the blackboard with a pointer at a particular spot to make a definitive point. No such definite article appears in Ephesians 5:19 or Colossians 3:16. One is left with the impression that Paul was not referring specifically and emphatically to THE book of Psalms but simply to Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. This is the plain reading of the text.
    If we are to believe that “spiritual songs” are tantamount to “inspired songs” as EPS advocates claim, then it seems strange that Paul would use the Greek word “pneumatikos” (spiritual) and not the Greek word “theopneustos” (God breathed) as in 2 Timothy 3:16. John Murray in the Minority report cited above contends that “pneumatikos” (spiritual) means “given by the Spirit” or “proceeding from the Spirit as theopneustos.” In other words “spiritual” is the same as “inspired”. Thus Paul is contending for only “inspired songs”. If this were the case then the EPS position is undercut because, in their view, only those “songs” that are in the Psalter are eligible to be sung. But here Paul would extend that to all “inspired songs” including non-Psalter songs. 
    But the truth is that “pneumatikos” is not the same as “theopneustos”. If it were then several problems are apparent. For example in Galatians 6:1 when we are told that the spiritual (pneumatikos) are to restore one caught in sin, it would mean that only “inspired” Christians could undertake this task. Again, in 1 Corinthians 15:44, are we to understand that when the body is sown a natural body and raised a “spiritual” body that this means Christians at the resurrection will have an “inspired” body? No way! Again, are we to understand in Ephesians 6:15 when we fight against “spiritual” wickedness that this is “inspired” wickedness? I think not! But when you make “spiritual” equivalent to “inspired” this is what you must do.
     It is interesting to observe that Murray, in the Minority report cited earlier, adopts the position that “spiritual” is equivalent to “inspired” and rejects the obviously correct interpretation of Trench without giving any exegetical reason. Trench states that “they were such as were composed by spiritual men, and moved in the sphere of spiritual things. In other words rather than composing “natural” songs or songs of the “flesh” the believer, in the light of Jesus Christ WHO IS THE SUBJECT AND OBJECT OF THE PASSAGES IN QUESTION, is expected to compose “pneumatikos odais”, NON-INSPIRED BUT THOROUGHLY SPIRITUAL SONGS.
     

  48. David R. says:

    No, the report (as is clear from the quote you posted) is not claiming that scripture does not regulate elements of worship differently. Rather, it is claiming that if Scripture regulates *one* element a certain way, then *we can infer* that other elements are to be regulated that way too, as we see here:

    “[I]f the Scripture makes it clear that freedom is permissible in connection with one element of worship … it is a warrantable inference that freedom of the same sort is permissible in connection with other elements of worship …”

    This sure looks to me like wishful thinking.

    You say, “But if they did it as early as the book of Acts (which they did if they were Jewish), …” You’re begging the question.

    With regard to the Potter quotes, an argument that begins: “What needs to be proven in support of the EPS position is that there is a clear line of demarcation between spoken and sung speech acts in the Scriptures …” isn’t going to make much headway with me. Also his claim that Trench’s interpretation of “spiritual songs” is “obviously correct” seems ludicrous to me.

  49. John Harutunian says:

    David -OK, the majority report claims that *it may be reasonably inferred* that Scripture regulates singing and prayer in the same way. Which is pretty much was I was saying. Unless you’re saying that inferences can’t be made from Scripture.

    “You say, “But if they did it as early as the book of Acts (which they did if they were Jewish), …” You’re begging the question.”

    I don’t see why. If God wanted the early believers to stop chanting their prayers, wouldn’t He have told them so? (In a similar way, if He had wanted them to stop initiating their infants into His covenant, wouldn’t He have told them so? [I’m assuming that you’re a pedobaptist.])

    “With regard to the Potter quotes, an argument that begins: “What needs to be proven in support of the EPS position is that there is a clear line of demarcation between spoken and sung speech acts in the Scriptures …” isn’t going to make much headway with me.”

    Why not? Where do you see a problem with Potter’s readings of the Greek in Acts 16:25, and of the Hebrew in Deuteronomy 31:30, and 32:46?

    “Also his claim that Trench’s interpretation of “spiritual songs” is “obviously correct” seems ludicrous to me.”

    But doesn’t Potter make it cleat that “pneumatikos” (spiritual) and “theopneustos” (God breathed) aren’t the same thing? The sermons which you hear at the OP church are, I assume, “spiritual” (otherwise you wouldn’t be attending there). But Scripture alone is “God-breathed.”

  50. John Harutunian says:

    David. I forgot to add: How do you deal with Psalm 72:20? This is critical.
    (Not that it proves that “singing and praying are the same thing”, but rather that they can overlap, that they can be done at the same time, that there isn’t necessarily a clear line of demarcation between them” -however you choose to put it.)

  51. David R. says:

    “[T]he majority report claims that *it may be reasonably inferred* that Scripture regulates singing and prayer in the same way.”

    John, you’re missing the point. The inference in the report is from the way *Scripture* regulates something to the way *we* regulate something. It’s not quite the same thing.

    “Why not? Where do you see a problem with Potter’s readings of the Greek in Acts 16:25, and of the Hebrew in Deuteronomy 31:30, …”

    Potter’s initial assertion that in your quote has absolutely nothing to do with Greek and Hebrew.

    “I don’t see why. If God wanted the early believers to stop chanting their prayers, wouldn’t He have told them so? (In a similar way, if He had wanted them to stop initiating their infants into His covenant, wouldn’t He have told them so?”

    For your analogy to work, you would need to show that God told them to chant their prayers in the first place.

    “But doesn’t Potter make it cleat that ‘pneumatikos’ (spiritual) and ‘theopneustos’ (God breathed) aren’t the same thing?”

    Murray never argues that they *are* the “same thing.” What he argues is that “pneumatikos” in the text in question means the same thing that it means everywhere else it appears, something akin to “given by the Spirit”:

    “Paul specifies the character of the songs as ‘Spiritual’—odais pneumatikais. If anything should be obvious from the use of the word pneumatikos in the New Testament it is that it has reference to the Holy Spirit and means, in such contexts as the present, ‘given by the Spirit.’ Its meaning is not at all, as Trench contends, ‘such as were composed by spiritual men, and moved in the sphere of spiritual things’ (Synonyms, LXXVIII). It rather means, as Meyer points out, ‘proceeding from the Holy Spirit, as theopneustos’ (Com. on Eph. 5:19). In this context the word would mean ‘indited by the Spirit,’ just as in I Corinthians 2:13 logois…pneumatikois are ‘words inspired by the Spirit’ and ‘taught by the Spirit’ (didaktois pneumatos).”

    Warfield said something similar about the term:

    “Of the twenty-five instances in which the word [pneumatikos] occurs in the New Testament, in no single case does it sink even as low in its reference as the human spirit; and in twenty-four of them is derived from pneuma, the Holy Spirit. In this sense of belonging to, or determined by, the Holy Spirit, the New Testament usage is uniform with the one single exception of Ephesians 6:12, where it seems to refer to the higher though superhuman intelligence. The appropriate translation for it in each case is spirit-given, or spirit-led, or spirit-determined.”

  52. David R. says:

    The verse is a subscript designating a collection of Psalms as “the prayers of David.” I don’t know what I would need to “deal with.” I don’t know of anyone who denies that Psalms are prayers.

  53. David R. says:

    John, the word “scriptures” means “writings,” right? But the works of Louis Berkhof and C.S. Lewis are also “writings,” right? Therefore, what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 can apply to the writings of Berkhof, right? Wrong! Yes, there’s overlap, but …

  54. John Harutunian says:

    “John, you’re missing the point. The inference in the report is from the way *Scripture* regulates something to the way *we* regulate something. It’s not quite the same thing.”

    But it’s close: the way we regulate it in the *light of Scripture.*

    “If anything should be obvious from the use of the word pneumatikos in the New Testament it is that it has reference to the Holy Spirit and means, in such contexts as the present, ‘given by the Spirit.’”

    I Googled the word, and none of the half dozen sources I checked defined it as “given by the spirit”. Some said “belonging to the Holy Spirit” (as, for example, our bodies belong to the Holy Spirit). This is not the same as “inspired by” the Holy Spirit.

    “[Warfield] Of the twenty-five instances in which the word [pneumatikos] occurs in the New Testament, in no single case does it sink even as low in its reference as the human spirit; and in twenty-four of them is derived from pneuma, the Holy Spirit. In this sense of belonging to, or determined by, the Holy Spirit, the New Testament usage is uniform …”

    But you now need to prove that nothing belongs to the Holy Spirit except for inspired Scripture! James’ teaches in 1:17 that *every* good gift is given to us by God; presumably he wasn’t referring solely to the Bible. A great, theologically accurate hymn would fall into this category.

    “Potter’s initial assertion that in your quote has absolutely nothing to do with Greek and Hebrew.”

    David, I can’t follow your syntax here. But here’s the Potter quote:

    “Another example is that of Paul and Silas. Acts 16:25: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” The word “and” does not appear in the original Greek. The sense is that Paul and Silas “praying hymned” for so is the Greek for “sang praises” (humnoun). There is no clear line of demarcation between a speech act and a singing act.
     Again, in Deuteronomy 32 where Moses taught the congregation of Israel a song concerning the Lord (Deuteronomy 31:30) he refers to this song, after he taught it, as testimony and a law (32:46). Again, no clear demarcation between a speech act and a singing act.

    If Potter is right about Acts 16:25, then singing and praying can be done at the same time -which makes the case of EP weak.

    “I don’t know of anyone who denies that Psalms are prayers.”
    OK! So *these* prayers can be sung. And they were. All 150 of them. So why do you say that singing and praying are necessarily separate acts? And why do you assume that all of the *other* prayers in Biblical, Christian worship were spoken? The burden of proof lies with you here, doesn’t it?

  55. David R. says:

    John, suppose the majority report had argued thusly:

    Scripture permits freedom in all elements of worship. Prayer and singing are both elements of worship. Therefore Scripture permits freedom in singing and prayer.

    That’s a valid syllogism but the major premise is false, and this of course is not what the majority report argued, because the authors acknowledged that Scripture does *not* expressly allow for freedom in all elements of worship.

    Instead, what the majority report actually argued was:

    Scripture permits freedom in one element of worship, namely prayer. But singing is also an element of worship. Therefore Scripture permits freedom in singing.

    But one doesn’t have to be a logician to see that this conclusion does *not* follow by good and necessary consequence. You see the problem?

  56. John Harutunian says:

    David-
    >”Instead, what the majority report actually argued was:

    >Scripture permits freedom in one element of worship, namely prayer. But singing is also an element of worship. Therefore Scripture permits freedom in singing.”

    No: you’ve omitted an important link in the logical chain.The report never argued that freedom in one element of worship *per se* implied freedom in another. What it actually said was:

    “If the Scripture itself calls psalms prayers [*this is the critical link*], may we not regard it as reasonable to think that the freedom of content granted in the one case is to be taken in the other also, and not to be denied because of certain external or secondary points of difference? ”

    Also, the report notes:

    “There is not to be found in the Old Testament any explicit command which would require the Israelites to employ the entire Psalter which is now preserved, and only the Psalter, as the exclusive manual of praise in worship. Neither does it appear that the Talmud, which is the main source of information concerning worship during the inter-testamental period, makes any reference to the entire Psalter as the exclusive manual of praise, although it does require the use of certain Psalms on set occasions. Thus after the completion of the canon, or after the Psalter had become fixed as containing the present 150 Psalms, there is no evidence (or at least no remaining evidence) that the entire Psalter was used as the exclusive book of praise in worship. This lack of evidence obtains not only with reference to the inter-testamental period but also to the time of Christ.”

    “John, the word “scriptures” means “writings,” right? But the works of Louis Berkhof and C.S. Lewis are also “writings,” right? Therefore, what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 can apply to the writings of Berkhof, right? Wrong! Yes, there’s overlap, but …”

    You’ll need to finish the sentence if I’m to understand your point. The full sense of “scripture” is “sacred authoritative writings”. Which Lewis and Berkhof are not. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:
    “Scripture is that portion of literature deemed authoritative for establishing instructions within any of a number of specific religious traditions, especially the Abrahamic religions.”

    Believe me, David, I defer to no one in my admiration for Lewis. But I don’t consider his writings “authoritative” in the sense intended here. Only the Bible is.

    There’s also no Biblical indication that the prayers which Paul and Silas *sang* in Acts 16:25 were any different from ordinary prayers. Why assume that if the context had been a worship service, they would have been *spoken*?

  57. todd says:

    As V. Poythress pointed out many years ago, when Israel sang in Ezra 3:9, they did not sing a direct quote from the Psalms, but one that summarized statements in the Psalms, which is what the good hymns do.

  58. John Harutunian says:

    Good point, Todd. James 1:17 is also relevant to the issue. If Paul’s reference to
    [psalms, hymns and] *spiritual songs* (Eph. 5:19) refers only to songs “given by the Holy Spirit” -then one might infer that only canonical Scriptural songs are in view. But then one would have to conclude that James’ reference to “every good and perfect gift” given by the Father refers *only* to the various canonical writings. Which is a stretch.
    Unless: one were to claim that the Holy Spirit gave us the Bible, but the Father gave us every other good gift. Which (in light of “The Lord gave the Word” [Psalm 68:11] and countless other Scriptures) is a greater stretch.

  59. David R. says:

    So you’d be happy singing summaries of statements in the Psalms? 🙂

  60. todd says:

    David,

    yes, but not just the Psalms, but all the Scripture, especially in light of the resurrection

  61. John Harutunian says:

    Good point, Todd. You’re raising an issue which I think is worth some more exchanges, especially in view of the [perhaps inevitably] defensive postures which EP discussions often assume. So: David, in what sense do you hold to progressive revelation? If you do, and if you see it as a fundamental concept (as most Christians do), then one would expect that it be reflected in the Church’s worship music, wouldn’t one?
    Putting it more pointedly: Do you believe that all that we need to know about Jesus Christ can be found in the Psalms? If so, then why did God give us the Epistles?

  62. David R. says:

    Todd,

    I was joking of course, I knew what you meant. But like I stated up front, at the very beginning of this thread, I’m very open to the idea that we should include New Testament songs (and even possibly songs using other NT texts). And even though I’ve been arguing against the use of uninspired songs in worship, I’m sympathetic to those who would want to include, in addition to the 150 Psalms, *a few* hymns that faithfully reflect NT revelation. It’s possible that someday I might even be convinced that this would be a good thing to do. One big hurdle for me though is that the hymns (at least the ones we sing in my church) are often so bad. I doubt I’ll ever be comfortable singing “Jesus Loves Me” or “Trust and Obey,” or most of the stuff by Fanny Crosby for example, not that her stuff is even the worst of it.

  63. David R. says:

    “So: David, in what sense do you hold to progressive revelation? If you do, and if you see it as a fundamental concept (as most Christians do), then one would expect that it be reflected in the Church’s worship music, wouldn’t one?”

    Perhaps, but of course Christian faith and practice does not always include what “one would expect.” If we learn anything from the Bible, we learn that God is not pleased with *our* ideas of what constitutes worship.

    “Do you believe that all that we need to know about Jesus Christ can be found in the Psalms?”

    No, of course not. But I do believe that in light of NT revelation, the Psalms become a Christian book.

  64. John Harutunian says:

    The main thing which I learn from the Bible about worship is that God is not pleased with empty formalism, with worship which does not come from the heart.
    I do grant that I am making an assumption about Acts 16:25. That assumption is that God was pleased with the sung prayers which Paul and Silas offered up to Him. And that what they did constituted an act of worship. If they had been guilty of sin in singing those prayers, it’s unthinkable to me that Luke wouldn’t have informed us of that.
    Now, it seems to me that the burden of proof at this point lies you. You need to come up with clear Biblical teaching that those sung prayers would have been sinful if Paul and Silas had offered them up in worship on the Lord’s Day in company with their fellow believers.
    I’ll be glad to hear what you have to say -but it sure looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you!

  65. David R. says:

    John, aren’t you making another assumption about what Paul and Silas sang in Acts 16:25? I bet you can figure out what I mean.

  66. todd says:

    John,

    have you read David Peterson’s “Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship”?

  67. John Harutunian says:

    David, the only other assumption which I’m making about Acts 16:25 is that the translation of the Greek that was given by the Majority Report is correct:

    >“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” The word “and” does not appear in the original Greek. The sense is that Paul and Silas “praying hymned” for so is the Greek for “sang praises” (humnoun).

    Todd, I’ll look into Peterson’s article.

  68. David R. says:

    John, I’m not sure what you’re quoting from. I can’t find what you quoted in the report. The way the authors of the majority report translated it as far as I can tell is: “praying, they were singing hymns.” I don’t know Greek, so for all I know, what you have is more is more accurate. In any case, I sure don’t see anything conclusive enough here to shift the burden of proof.

  69. John Harutunian says:

    David, you’re quite right. What I quoted wasn’t in the Majority Report. And since I don’t know Greek either, we’re on equal terms in that respect.
    Having said that, I still believe that what I did quote shifts the burden of proof onto you. It is from
    “Is Hymn Singing in Church a Sin?” an online article by a Reformed Pastor, Ron Potter. Conjoin it (see above) with the Majority Report’s translation -“praying, they were singing hymns.” The most natural sense resulting is that “they were singing hymns in prayer” or “they were hymning God as they prayed”. Not, “they were alternating between praying and singing.”

  70. Lacie says:

    Wouldn’t most agree that from Biblical texts, in the NT there actually appears to be little singing in worship? In our day, singing has become focal. I’m not against it, but the Biblical data doesn’t warrant as much singing as we do, in my opinion.

  71. todd says:

    It’s a book, but agreeing with some of your points, I thought you might have read it – great book; challenging

  72. John Harutunian says:

    Believe it or not, I agree. Much of one’s conclusions depends on whether one views the Book of Acts as prescriptive or descriptive. I believe that much of it is descriptive. First, it’s an inspired *record* of “Acts of the Apostles” -I don’t see that it is, or contains, a manual for worship. Second, it records how Christians worshipped when Christianity was an underground movement -and its adherents subject to arrest. Under such circumstances, we shouldn’t be surprised to see no record of the use of elaborate liturgies, pipe organs, or even buildings designated for worship.

  73. John Harutunian says:

    David, my apologies for my confusion re: the quote -hope you didn’t spend too much time on the wild goose chase I sent you on. I do think my understanding of Acts 16:25 is correct: Paul and Silas are described as “praying;” the contents of their prayers are “hymns sung to God.”
    There’s also a larger issue involved.

    “If we learn anything from the Bible, we learn that God is not pleased with *our* ideas of what constitutes worship.”

    David, you really need to supply a context for this. If the determining factor is the noetic effect of sin, agreed. But if you’re saying,”John, even if you’re a regenerate believer, the fact that you would consider something to be a reasonable inference from Scripture -that alone is evidence that it’s not” -that’s an entirely different proposition.
    Also, your point proves too much. One *idea* of worship held by virtually all Christians, (including yourself) is that God _is_ pleased by private acts of worship which involve the offering up of Biblically sound hymns. What is the basis for saying that we are more prone to displease God in our corporate worship than in our private worship?

  74. David R. says:

    “But if you’re saying,’John, even if you’re a regenerate believer, the fact that you would consider something to be a reasonable inference from Scripture -that alone is evidence that it’s not -that’s an entirely different proposition.”

    John, what I’m saying is that I think you are making a logical leap from the fact that revelation progresses to your unproven conclusion that therefore, the church needs new songs.

  75. John Harutunian says:

    I don’t think it’s a leap; I think that it’s a valid inference.
    I don’t claim to be able cite a New Testament passage which a)describes a worship service, and b)commands that said worship service must use hymns. My point is: Unless Scripture indicates otherwise, the most reasonable course of action for the Church is to use worship material which explicitly expresses the fullness of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. This includes prayers (both spoken and sung), liturgies, etc. And if they are to do this, it is fitting that they include the *name* of Jesus Christ. I say this because of the New Testament emphasis which holds His *name* to be inseparable from His *Person*.
    (I don’t claim that the Church “needs” hymns in the sense that it a worship service absolutely *cannot* be held without them. I do see their use as normative for the Church.)

  76. John Harutunian says:

    David, I can put it still more succinctly: Unless Scripture commands otherwise, the Church is to worship God through the use of elements which reflect His *complete* revelation in Scripture. And the Book of Psalms doesn’t constitute that complete revelation.

  77. David R. says:

    John, that’s the problem. I too can come up with a slew of *reasons* as to why we should limit our praise singing to Scripture texts, and particularly the Psalms, and why they are sufficient even in the New Testament age, and why the stuff composed by Wesley, Watts, and Crosby (as good as some of it is), is not as suitable. And so we’re at an impasse.

  78. John Harutunian says:

    First, even though the Psalms are indeed uniquely inspired. if you then proceed to lay down a principle *forbidding* hymns, you’re adding to Scripture.
    Second, there’s nothing in the EP arguments comparable to the *weight* which Scripture assigns to the *name* of Jesus. Check out Matt. 1:21, Acts 3:16, Acts 4:10, 12. And there’s *no Biblical warrant* for excluding the name of Jesus from prayer -again, spoken prayer or sung prayer.
    Third, underlying your reasons is a false assumption: Because “said” as used in present-day America refers to the specific mode of utterance which is “speech”, it must have this same meaning in Biblical usage. Not so. Matthew 22:43 and Acts 2:25 refer to David “saying” and “speaking” particular utterances. But since these are both quotes from the Psalms, the mode of utterance wasn’t speech -it was singing. In view of these passages as well as Acts 16:25, I don’t understand how you can say

    “I also think there *is* “a clear line of demarcation between spoken and sung speech acts in the Scriptures.”

    Where do you see such a line drawn?

  79. John Harutunian says:

    Another thought. You could *reasonably* argue that uninspired spoken prayers are less pleasing to God than those found in Scripture. So our corporate praying should be limited to the Lord’s prayer, and other prayers found in the Biblical text.
    Do you not see that your argument is proving too much?

  80. John Harutunian says:

    David, this really isn’t true. We’re not at an impasse. Because your reasons are dependent on there being a clear line of demarcation between spoken and sung speech in Scripture. Which my Biblical citations have shown to be false. (The “clear line of demarcation” is drawn by modern Protestantism, not Scripture.)

    UNLESS: you are also claiming that we’re at an impasse as to whether or not uninspired prayers -whether spoken *or* sung- should be allowed in worship. If you claim such, let me know and I’ll try to take it from there.

  81. David R. says:

    “Do you not see that your argument is proving too much?”

    John, from my vantage point, we’re at an impasse. You claim to have proven that singing is the same thing as speaking (from Acts 16:25?) but that’s not the way I see it and neither has the Reformed tradition. Overlap? Sure. Identity? Definitely not.

    Do you not see that your argument isn’t proving enough?

  82. John Harutunian says:

    David -on Oct. 22 I posted my acknowledgment that singing and praying aren’t literally “the same thing”. And I certainly see that singing and speaking aren’t literally the same thing. My point is that in our culture, they have become separate to a degree which wasn’t true for the authors of Scripture.
    Now, does this fact alone guide the Church’s worship?
    Of course not. But it’s something which we learn from Biblical passages like Acts 16:25, Matthew 22:43 and Acts 2:25, where they are used interchangeably. Since they are used interchangeably, _you_ need to show that the Bible regulates them differently. Unless I’ve missed a major point in your argument, you haven’t done that. If you feel that you can, I’m listening.

  83. John Harutunian says:

    Addendum: Or, if anyone else has done that, refer me to him -and I’ll check out what he’s written. Thanks.

  84. David R. says:

    John, the passages you quoted, it seems ti me, merely show that David “said” the things he wrote. I just don’t see how that helps your case.

    Murray’s argument still makes sense to me:

    “In dealing with this question [i.e., “What does the Scripture warrant or prescribe respecting the songs that may be sung in the public worship of God?”] it should be appreciated that the singing of God’s praise is a distinct act of worship. It is to be distinguished, for example, from the reading of the Scripture and from the offering of prayer to God. It is, of course, true that songs of praise often include what is of the nature of prayer to God, as it is also true that in the offering of prayer to God there is much that is of the nature of praise and thanksgiving. But it is not proper to appeal to the divine authorization or warrant we possess as to the content of prayer in order to determine the question as to the content of song. Prayer is one element of worship, singing is another. Similarity or even identity of content does not in the least obliterate the distinction between these two specific kinds of exercise in the worship of God. Because of this distinction we may not say that the offering of prayer and the singing of praise to God are the same thing and argue from the divine authorization we possess respecting the one to the authorization respecting the other. One or two examples may be given of the necessity and importance of guarding the distinctiveness of the several parts of worship and of determining from the Scripture what its prescriptions are respecting each element.

    “Both reports submitted by this committee are agreed that some Scripture songs may be sung in the public worship of God. But these Scripture songs may also be read as Scripture and they may be used in preaching. In such cases the actual materials are the same. But reading the Scripture is not the same exercise of worship as singing, and neither is preaching the same as singing, or reading the Scripture. The same kind of distinction applies to the exercises of praying and singing even when the content is identical.

    “The Lord’s Supper is an act of thanksgiving as well as one of commemoration and communion. But though the partaking of the bread and the wine includes thanksgiving, just as prayer and singing do, yet the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is an act of worship distinct from both prayer and singing, and the divine prescriptions respecting the celebration of the Lord’s Supper cannot be determined by the divine prescriptions regarding prayer or singing but must rather be derived from the revelation God has given respecting the observance of that distinct element of the worship of God.

    “Consequently the minority contends that the argument used in the report of the committee, to wit, that, since we are not limited in our prayers to the words of Scripture or to the “prayers” given us in Scripture, therefore the same freedom is granted in song, is invalid. We may not argue thus from the divine warrant respecting one element to the divine warrant respecting another. The question of the divine prescription regarding the songs that may be sung in the public worship of God must be answered, therefore, on the basis of the teaching of Scripture with respect to that specific element of worship.”

  85. David R. says:

    John, I’ve appreciated the chance to dialogue with you about this. As I’ve said from the beginning, I’m not closed minded on the issue. I recognize that many of the stalwarts of Reformed theology today disagree with me. But the factors that keep me (for now) refraining from singing hymns (and singing Psalms instead) are primarily these:

    (1) First and foremost, Murray’s argument still makes sense. I honestly do not believe he has been refuted.

    (2) In terms of practice, let’s face it, the real issue for Reformed churches is not so much whether hymns may be sung *in addition* to the Psalms, but rather, whether hymns should be sung *instead of* the Psalms, because in the vast majority of hymn-singing churches, that’s what actually happens. (I will acknowledge, however, that I’m very thankful that the OPC is producing a psalter-hymnal that will include all 150 Psalms, and from what I understand, eliminate many of the post-revival era hymns.)

    (3) I personally find the Psalms more satisfying, and I believe, edifying, then even the best hymns. As I see it, the Psalms are the prayers of Christ, which we as His people have the privilege of singing, only by virtue of our union with Him. His God is now our God. Israel’s pilgrim songs are now our pilgrim songs as we journey to the heavenly inheritance. Since the types have given way to substance, the signs to the thing signified, for the first time in the history of redemption, the people of God can understand *what the psalms actually mean*. That’s why I’m not sold on the idea that the Psalms are insufficient for this stage in the history of redemption.

    And, as has often been said, the Psalms run the gamut of human emotions, in a way that is not true of hymns, generally. Carl Trueman made some great observations about this in his essay, “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?”

    So for now anyway, I’ll stick with Calvin and the Reformed tradition on this issue. Again, thanks for the discussion.

  86. John Harutunian says:

    And thanks, David, for your graciousness in bringing closure to the discussion.

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