Archive for the ‘Psalmody’ Category

Does Colossians 3:16 Command Hymn Composition?

April 12, 2008

One recent commenter suggested that it does command composition of songs for worshipping God. We’ll see, shortly, that it does not. First, let’s see what it actually says:

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.

And here is the parallel passage in Ephesians:

Ephesians 5:17-19
17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

As a lexical-grammatical issue, it is important to recognize that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are three of the categories of the Psalms from the Greek Psalter (see more detail here).

Once we recognize that fact, these passages become rather clearly exhortations to use the Psalter wisely in teaching and admonishing one another, as well as for song to God. The point is that the Psalter not only worships God but edifies the brethren, as indeed it does.

There is nothing in the verse about writing or composing previously non-existent songs. The word “to write” or any equivalent thereof is simply absent from the text.

An interpretation that the verse must refer to composition of new works of song is simply an example of reading back into the text our own modern-day practices. In short, it is eisegesis. The wise man teaches and exhorts Scripturally. These verses are a call to the use of Scripture for mutual edification, not call to invent a new Psalter.

May God give us wisdom to give unto Him the worship He desires,


Popular Culture Meets Popular Worship Song

April 12, 2008

There is a Chris Tomin (Update: or perhaps it actually by Darlene Zschech, as Paul notes in the comments below) “Worship Song” that song that was performed on the aptly titled show, American Idol.

In a move that shocked and disgusted some watchers, the word “Jesus” was replaced with “Shepherd” in the song’s chorus. As far as content changes, that was it. Why was it done? I can only speculate that it would done to avoid offending people who would be offended by a song about worshipping Jesus (such as Muslims).

The song is steeped in Biblical terminology, but the composition is a human aggregation – it’s not even (as far as I can tell) a paraphrase of any particular Psalm. It is a beautiful piece of music, and very dramatically performed in this example, but it’s still not inspired or appointed by God for his worship.

Here it is, with comments continuing below:

As noted above, some people don’t like that the name of Jesus has been removed from the song, to the point of being disgusted. If someone had taken Psalm 46, and gone through and had substituted “God of our Fathers” for “God of Jacob,” I think I’d be similarly upset. But then, I think I have a good reason to be upset: Psalm 46 is inspired, “Shout to the Lord,” is not. It doesn’t really even change the meaning of “Shout to the Lord,” since we all know that Jesus is the Shepherd. I respectfully submit that people are offended by the change partly because they view it as an attack on Jesus (which it is not) and partly because they view the song as somehow sacred (which it is not). Possibly some are offended because it is a comprise made for purposes of political correctness … but it is hard to imagine that a reaction of shock and disgust would be generated by people who don’t mind calling the person who delivers their mail a “carrier,” the person who brings them refreshments in-flight an “attendant,” or the person who brings them food in a restaurant a “server.”

I think it might be good to reconsider our attitudes toward these merely human compositions that have crept into religious life. Consider going back to the book that God gave us for worshiping him in song, the Psalter.

Here are some examples of Psalm 46:

Choral Arrangement

Guitar Arrangement

Chanted Arrangement (Questionable [2d commandment] images included)

Dramatic Reading

I’d be remiss if I omitted what I believe to be the best English-language presentation of the Psalm I could find (though there is no video, and though it is incomplete) (link).

James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


Reformed Rap

April 11, 2008

If you enjoy the “rap” genre, and theological songs, this is a well-done example of Reformed rap.

Caveat. There is simply no place for this in worship on many levels. It’s a Reformed song, but the musical style does not seem to be (a) suitably reverent (at least not given the connotations of the “rap” genre in the present society in which we live) or (b) adapted for orderly congregational participation (i.e. it would seem to be too difficult for a congregation to join their voices without causing confusion). Additionally, the content while (based on a cursory review) seems theologically sound (and even appeals to a Psalm), is not itself inspired and divinely appointed for worship.

Nevertheless, outside the context of worship, it is an excellent and interesting song, and its author and performer deserve the respect that any viewer that appreciates rap will no doubt give it.


(located via ThinkWink)

Worship-Related Blog Posts of Interest

April 10, 2008

Have Praise and Worship Music in Church become a Cain Sacrifice to God?

(TurretinFan would answer, “yes”)

The RPW is simple, why all the fuss?

(TurretinFan would answer, “because people think they know better”)

Handraising in Worship: Questions

(TurretinFan would answer, “Jordan basically gets it right: raised hands by the pastor during prayer/benediction is called for – otherwise one has a tough time binding anyone’s conscience”)

Singing Psalms (Example in video)

(TurretinFan would comment, “I still prefer the Psalms unaccompanied”)

Why the Date of Easter Changes

(TurretinFan would comment, “This post actually provides a good counter-argument for the idea that we know when Easter was, such that we have a legitimate selection of a single day yearly to celebrate the resurrection. Sure it is determinable based on Passover – but that itself is a bit of a challenge.)

The Original Name of Easter

(TurretinFan would comment, “The underlying assumption that the earliest Christians celebrated Easter is unproven at best. The point about the name ‘Easter’ coming after ‘Pascha’ is correct”)

iMonk on the RPW

(TurretinFan would comment, “iMonk is a good writer, but his view of the RPW is wrong”)

The meaning of “Psalms” in the Westminster Standards

(TurretinFan would comment, “Psalms meant the 150 Psalms in the Hebrew canon”)

The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 1
The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 2
The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 3
(Music & Singing in Life & Liturgy)
Worship in Spirit and Truth, Part 1
Worship in Spirit and Truth, Part 2

(TurretinFan would comment, “This series is one of the least commendable on the RPW. Jeff Meyers lone footnote was to his fellow Federal Visionist, Peter Leithart. Perhaps this series will define the halfway-back-to-Rome worship for the CREC in the future, though Meyers is still in the PCA, as far as I know”)

All praise and worship be to our Lord!


Backwoods Presbyterian on Exclusive Psalmody

February 4, 2008

By way of disclaimer, the Backwoods Presbyterian (Benjamin Glaser) is not an Exclusive Psalmody-ist. Nevertheless, he gives a fair and balanced presentation of the matter in his recent post (here). He hits chiefly on the verses of major contention: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Exclusive Psalmody – What about Jesus?

February 3, 2008

Very often, when I discuss the issue of exclusive psalmody with people, once we are past: “But would that mean wouldn’t be able to sing ‘Amazing Grace’?” The next question is something to the effect of “What about Jesus? His name is not mentioned in the Psalms!”

Sometimes this question is even phrased as an argument, something to the effect that singing only the Psalms is somehow wrong or anti-trinitarian.

Pastor Ian Campbell provides an excellent answer to this question/objection (link).

To give you a taste of the article, here is it’s opening paragraph:

I detect an increasing interest in the Psalms. Paul. S. Jones, in the essay, ‘Hymnody in a post-hymnody world’ says that “Singing psalms in worship is a biblical mandate — not an optional activity’ (Give Praise to God, p255). In the same volume Terry Johnson, in ‘Restoring Psalm Singing to our Worship’, asks: “What are the implications of a psalter in the canon of Scripture?” (p259), and concludes that “Our ancestors were psalm singers! The Psalter gave to their faith the bold, robust quality that we still admire today. A revival of their use has begun in our time… may they become a fixed element in the worship of evangelical Christians once more” (p286).

May the God of David and Asaph shine his blessings on us,


Heresy in the Guise of Charity

January 23, 2008

James Jordon, in a recent post at “Biblical Horizons,” has thoughts on this thesis: “it has been my observation that in every group there are those with a healthy catholic attitude toward other Christians and also those with a proud and condescending attitude toward others who call themselves Christians.”

James really ought to have capitalized that “c” in “catholic.”

Look at James’ examples:

– Lutherans … supposedly have better music.

Jordan pompously insists that instruments in worship are a “must” and goes on to complain that Lutherans have the best congregational song. There’s no accounting for taste, as the saying goes. I still love the sound of the voices of the congregation singing, unaccompanied, the Psalms of David.

– Baptists … supposedly are better at evangelism.

Perhaps Reformed Baptists are (though, frankly, I have not seen evidence to back that claim up). Non-reformed Baptists claim many proselytes, but most present a gospel message that is wildly distorted! One cannot be a “good evangelist” unless one has the gospel. Besides all that, Jordan is distinguishing between Calvinists and Baptists, which presumes he has overlooked the Reformed Baptists in the process.

– Roman Catholics … are supposedly better than “other Christians” at setting up hospitals and mercy missions.

Frankly, I have no way to evaluate the claim that he makes. I’m aware of plenty of non-Catholic medical (and the like) missions. Nevertheless, Catholics make up a large fraction of the population in some parts, so perhaps they have some edge in Jordan’s perception. The bigger problem is with Jordan’s blanket classification of Roman Catholics as Christians. While individual Roman Catholics (in the sense of adhering to an RC congregation) may be saved, just as anyone is saved, namely by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, Roman Catholicism is apostate: it is outside the visible church, because of its rejection of salvation by grace alone, and its rejection of justification through faith alone, as well as other things. Anyone who seeks salvation the way that Rome invites, will be lost. Nevertheless, God’s word is able to work even through corrupt means. Consequently, just because someone is affiliated with the Roman Catholic church does not mean he is lost.

– Methodists … supposedly “outdid” us in America.

What does Jordan mean? Jordan means that Methodists gained more adherants. Jordan rails against an “educated clergy,” claiming that this “eliminated vast numbers of men with pastoral gifts in favor of a scholarly elite.” Jordan’s an anti-intellectualism is natural, for those with sound thinking will see through his position. Nevertheless, it’s important to note why “Calvinists” insisted on trained preachers, rather than novices, in the pulpit. Not only does the Bible insist that elders not be novices (which would be cause enough), but practically this helps to stem the flow of heresy. It is easier for an uneducated man to be buffetted about from untenable position to untenable position, until his ego alights on a position that renders unassailable through force of dogmatism, without justification.

– Episcopalians … supposedly have been able best to work with “the halls of secular power.”

Presumably Jordan means “the civil magistrate,” or “the national/state/local goverment.” It seems to me that the Quakers outdid the Episcopaleans, but how does one measure such things. Jordan even goes further and asserts that, “Episcopal church government is closer to the Bible,” a statement that goes so far beyond supportable, that one wonders what Bible Jordan has been reading!

– The Pentacostals … are supposedly more enthusiastic.

Well, this is mostly true, but enthusiasm is only good when balanced. The Reformed tradition balances enthusiasm with order, discipline, and most crucially, with truth! Irrational exuberance is what leads to stock market crashes and disorder of every kind, including heresy.

Jordan’s thesis is not completely wrong. There are ways in which other Christians “outdo” us. The verse in question, though speaks to us as individuals, not the Christian church as a whole. Jordan is misapplying the verse as a platform to speak against sound doctrine and practice, and to blur the lines between Christian and heretic. This truly is a grave error, and one hopes that Jordan will repent from it. For those interested to confirm my representation of what JBJ said: (link).

May God give us wisdom to remove the beams from our own eyes,


UPDATE: Meanwhile, his fellow Federal Visionist, Douglas Wilson has post similarly perpetuating negative stereotypes of Calvinists (“Some die-hard Calvinists may have glanced at the title of this message–friendship evangelism–and asked, “What’s evangelism?” Or, if they are really die-hard Calvinists, perhaps they asked, “What’s friendship?””) here (link).

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