Exclusive Psalmody

Discussion in 'Music Ministry' started by christianyouth, Feb 16, 2007.

  1. christianyouth

    christianyouth
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    Has anyone heard of this doctrine? I know some churchs still practice just singing songs from the Scottish Psalter, and I am curious where the practices of hymn singing came from.

    I have read in history that for the first 1500 years of the Christian church, Psalms were exclusively sung. If this is so, why the sudden break from this tradition? My church for one does not sing the Psalms, just little choruses extracted out of context.

    God Bless,
    Andy
     
  2. amity

    amity
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    This is a pretty interesting subject for inquiry. I am interested in old hymns and so have read a bit about it, yes. I am not a believer in exclusive psalmody, but if you type that term into your browser you can find plenty of websites out there to give you the outlines of the rationale.

    Basically, they seem to believe that Psalms are God's own ordained songbook for the use of believers, included right with the Bible. They believe singing "inspired" songs is better and more certain to please God than singing songs of human invention (hymns). They believe that psalms cannot fail to be doctrinally correct.

    The argument against exclusive psalmody is that they are not Christian. They do not approach the true meaning of Christian experience. There is no scriptural support for the idea that we should necessarily return God's words to Him in worship, and in fact the Bible cautions against "vain repetition."

    Historically, Christians have always sung both Psalms and hymns. Exclusive psalmody as a doctrine is strongly associated with the Reformation, and in particular, with Calvin and other Geneva reformers, who believed that inspired songs were preferable. Luther on the other hand endorsed and composed hymns (A Mighty Fortress, for example, is a Luther hymn). Among English protestants, hymns caught on slowly and through a bit of an uphill struggle. The first English language hymns written specifically for public worship were authored around 1700 by Isaac Watts, who made arguments against exclusive psalmody. Many other hymnists soon followed and gradually psalms began to be replaced by hymns in church. It seems it was an idea whose time had come. The Bay Psalm Book, which was of course was the first book published in America, was a metrical psalter (for singing).

    If you are interested i will try to find some online resources for and against exclusive psalmody.
     
    #2 amity, Feb 16, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 16, 2007
  3. christianyouth

    christianyouth
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    Thanks for the response! I think I'll google some of it.

    For me the question is not whether Exclusive Psalmody was right, but rather what changed that predominant belief. You said that Psalms and hymns have been sung mutually by the Church down through the ages, but the source I have consulted actually said that Psalms were exclusively sung in worship, not only in Israel but also in the Church for over a thousand years!


    So, Luther believed that if something is not specifically prohibited in the Bible, then it is appropriate in worship. A pretty deranged view I think. That is, as the Reformers were breaking away from the extravagent liturgy of the Catholic church, and as they began forming their own liturgy, Luther would incorporate things that were not exclusively backed up with Scripture. Calvin, on the other hand, believed that only things that were evidenced in Scripture, or given as a command in the Scriptures should be incorporated into worship.

    I think the basis for exclusive psalmody hangs on this hinge; can we worship God by our own means, or must we use His?

    Remember Nadab and Abihu, they wanted to worship God in their own means, and the results were deadly. Maybe this whole ungodly CCM movement is just God judging His Church for their departure from exclusive Psalmody.

    God Bless,
    Andy
     
  4. amity

    amity
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    Here's some sources on exclusive psalmody.

    This first discussion is from another discussion board, a reformed board, and lists many resources:
    http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php?t=16188&highlight=exclusive+psalmody

    Although these psalms are in Gaelic, the MP3s on this site give a good idea of how metrical psalms sounded in the English psalm tradition:
    http://www.gaelicpsalmsinging.com/index.php

    Article arguing for Exclusive Psalmody:
    http://reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/sola.htm

    Another article advocating EP by a Presbyterian:
    http://www.reformed.com/pub/psalms.htm

    The Exclusive Psalmody Homepage:
    http://www.covenanter.org/Worship/Psalmody/psalmody.htm

    Article against Exclusive Psalmody:
    http://www.the-highway.com/psalmody_Irons.html

    Wikipedia article on metrical psalters:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrical_psalter

    History of psalmody/hymnody:
    http://www.laudemont.org/index.html?MainFrame=http://www.laudemont.org/a-stp.htm
     
    #4 amity, Feb 16, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 16, 2007
  5. amity

    amity
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    Well, I am not going to mount a terribly vociferous argument here, because I think EP is fine, but the Bible does enjoin us to sing a new song!

    I think God wants OUR worship. When I pray, I must use my own words, knowing the Spirit helpeth my infirmities, making intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered. It would not truly be worship if all I did were to only repeat the model prayer "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." Similarly, I think God wants us to use our own frail and faulty human words in sung praise as well.

    I would really miss the Christian content if I were limited to psalms. It would inhibit my praise to sing non-Christian songs only. And nowhere does the Bible say we are only to repeat scripture in worship. The Bible does not endorse exclusive psalmody that I can find. I wouldn't want to hear sermons that were only Bible readings, either.

    If you believe in EP, then by all means go for it, and I will try to help you find more of it.
     
    #5 amity, Feb 16, 2007
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  6. amity

    amity
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    I think what changed belief about psalms was the writing of men like Watts and others who came after him who were dissatisfied with psalms sung in church. I think they were responding to what they were experiencing and seeing others experience with EP in church.

    If you look at medieval church music you will see that it was not exclusive psalms, so I imagine the article you read was using some value judgment to say that the Church only sang psalms. Like you seem to, I do believe in the regulative principle of worship, but I just do not see the Bible endorsing a psalms-only approach in worship.
     
    #6 amity, Feb 16, 2007
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  7. rbell

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    well, scripture says, "Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs," so that regulation is nor prohibitive anyway.

    Careful with the word "deranged." I bet I could find elements in your worship service that are not New Testament. Fact is, we don't have a moment-by-moment liturgy. We have guidelines. But I'm sure every church has something not prescribed in the New Testament.

    The Psalms say, "Sing to the Lord a new song." Why would a creative God create a creative man in His image, and then want us to not be creative in praising Him? Furthermore, I'd be hesitant to stand before folks and say, "I am the authority on God's way to worship." Often times that is heavily influenced by the underlying thought, "I've got God figured out, and He thinks like me."

    And I think we should be careful to not touch the Ark of the Covenant carelessly. I'll remember that next time it's in my sanctuary. I have had some senior adult ladies threaten to kill me for moving a flower bouquet, though.:laugh:

    Oh, this is what this is about...Well, I keep going back to the scriptures myself. It says, and I quote, "Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." Whoops.
     
  8. Karen

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    I have read some of the exclusive psalmody rationale.
    What I think ironic is that EP supporters have no trouble with sermons or New Testament readings. You can read a passage from the New Testament in worship, you just cannot set it word for word to music.
    You can say an "uninspired" sermon but not sing a passage from the New Testament.
    Every Psalter that I have seen moves the words around in the Psalm at least some to fit the meter of the music.

    It is an interpretive grid with lots of assumptions that is overlaid upon Scripture, in my opinion.
     
  9. Timsings

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    In addition to the web sites that amity cited, another site you might find interesting is Music for the Church of God,www.cgmusic.com/workshop/index.htm. This link will send you directly to a list of the psalters on the site. Not how psalters were written to replace earlier versions.

    Also, there are books that can give you a fuller picture of the way hymnody developed over the centuries. Of particular interest to Baptists are A Survey of Christian Hymnody originally by William J. Reynolds (my father), most recently revised and enlarged by David W. Music and Milburn Price; Singing Baptists by Harry Eskew, David W. Music, and Paul A. Richardson; and Sing With Understanding by Harry Eskew and Hugh T. McElrath.

    According to A Survey of Christian Hymnody, Martin Bucer, a German minister from Strasbourg, was one of the early advocates of metrical psalm singing. In the early 1500's, he said that no songs should be used in worship except those taken from Scripture. This exclusive use of psalm texts lasted until the early 1700's when non-psalm texts began to be approved. "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" is one of the earliest examples. New hymns were introduced in an effort to improve congregational singing due to a decline in psalm singing in the Anglican Church.

    I hope this helps.

    Tim Reynolds
     
  10. amity

    amity
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    I found this briefly stated reason in the Wikipedia article:

    But by the time better metrical psalms were made in English, the belief that every hymn sung in church had to be a Biblical paraphrase had been repudiated by the Church of England. A flowering of English hymnody had occurred under writers such as Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, but their hymns were freed from the stricture that each verse had to be a paraphrase of a scriptural text. Attitudes towards the Biblical text itself had also changed, with closer emphasis being paid on its exact phrasing. This new regard for the letter of the Biblical text diminished the appeal of the psalters' paraphrases; those who sang them no longer felt they were singing Scripture. The success of these newer hymns has largely displaced the belief that each hymn must be a direct paraphrase of Scripture. Now, many hymnals contain Biblical references to the passages that inspired the authors, but few are direct paraphrases of Scripture like the metrical psalters were.​
     
  11. christianyouth

    christianyouth
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    Thanks for the replies, It is good to see some wheels turning! :thumbs:

    amity, I agree that I dont see why God would give us creative minds and then restrict us in our worship, but there are many things about God as revealed in His Word that I have a hard time grasping; His ways are higher than mine. I am a musician, and so obviously I would find EP very restricting, VERY. However, the question is not what would benefiet me or cause me to enjoy worship, but rather what is acceptable to God and what He enjoys.

    rbell, you brought up some good points. :)

    No, that is not the underlying cause, the CCM movement. Also, I do not want this to degenerate into a debate whether or not CCM is right, I was just saying that obviously there is a manifest worship crisis in the Christian church... Just listen to how people talk about worship, they talk about worship as if it were some activity used to stimulate Christians.

    I'll read some of those articles today and then post back when I have dug alil deeper.

    Thanks for the links everyone posted,
    God Bless,
    Andy
     
  12. amity

    amity
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    Actually the argument pertaining to creativity was rbell's, not mine. I am an adherent to the regulative principle myself, but do believe I see hymnody endorsed in scripture.

    I do hope those sites are useful.
     
    #12 amity, Feb 17, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 17, 2007
  13. Dustin

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    I heard some Gaelic Psalm singing once.

    Absolutly beautiful.

    CCM is nothing compared to it.

    Here's a link to some clips:



    http://www.gaelicpsalmsinging.com/audio/

    Personally I like singing Psalms AND hymns, if you want to call that noise I make singing.


    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Dustin
     
    #13 Dustin, Mar 11, 2007
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2007

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