Title & Purpose

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.

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Friday, 19 October 2012

Over a dozen reasons why the argument for Exclusive Psalmody doesn't stand up, Part 8

8. If 'inspired praise' is required then an equally valid argument could be made for 'inspired praying' and 'inspired preaching' in public worship.

Exclusive psalmists tell us that inspired praise is absolutely necessary because of the importance of praise in the worship of the Lord. But surely this begs a series of questions: why only limit this argument to praise? Why should this same argument not apply to praying and preaching as well? Why should you have a lower, lesser standard for these two elements of Biblical worship? Why is there such a narrow interpretation of the commands of texts such as Ephesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16 but a much broader interpretation of commands respecting prayer and preaching?  

Praying and preaching are just as important as praise. In fact, it is the Reformed position that preaching is the primary act of worship. The exclusive psalmist argument requires 'inspired' praise for some elements but not for other elements and certainly not for what is deemed the primary element of worship. You would be forgiven for missing the logic of this line of argument!

Does praying and preaching not require the same accuracy as is argued for by exclusive psalmists with regard to our praise? There is no logic in only restricting our singing to what has been given in the Scriptures. If a preacher is permitted to employ his own words and even quote a hymn in prayer or in preaching how is this different to the employment of hymns in singing?

Furthermore, many of the 150 Psalms are actually prayers and may never have been sung in praise in the Temple at all. This is the opinion of that eminent Old Testament scholar Edward J. Young: 
We are mistaken when we regard the entire Psalter as designed for the usage of the Temple. That some Psalms were so used cannot be denied, but it is interesting to note that liturgical directions are lacking for many of the Psalms, An Introduction to the Old Testament.
Are we required to sing in praise to God that which the Old Testament church never did sing themselves in a corporate fashion? This is grossly illogical.

The book of Psalms could equally well be called a book of prayer. There is a whole section of the 150 Psalms which are classed as the prayers of David, Psalms 42-72, cf. Psalm 72:20: The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended. This is a fifth of the Psalter at the very least. There are other prayers in the Psalms outside of this section. Therefore, why does this belief in exclusive psalmody only apply to singing and not to praying?

There is a pattern prayer in the Bible, given after a request by the disciples to the Saviour to be taught how to pray. In response to this request there is an express command given by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:9: After this manner therefore pray ye. There are also many other recorded examples of prayer in the Scriptures.

If Ephesians 5:19 or Colossians 3:16 is so narrowly interpreted as to require us to sing inspired praise and nothing else, then on the same basis of interpretation why should we not have inspired praying? After all, is the command not present: After this manner therefore pray ye….

No one in their right mind limits these words to only praying the inspired words of Scripture. The more a believer knows their Bible the more they will populate their prayers with biblical language and expression. But prayer is not limited to the words of Scripture alone.

The same argument could be applied to preaching. All preachers are commanded to: Preach the word, 2 Timothy 4:1. There are many sermons recorded in the Scriptures both in the Old and New Testaments. Why then are preachers not restricted to repeating these sermons when preaching is the primary act of worship? Why not, if our choice of words and terminology are so important as exclusive psalmists repeatedly say with respect to praise? Surely theological accuracy in preaching is just as necessary as theological accuracy in praising.

These words are never taken as a command for a preacher to only confine what he has to say in a sermon to the inspired words of Scripture. But why a different standard and rule of interpretation by exclusive psalmists for these texts? Consistency would argue that if inspired praise is required then so is inspired praying and preaching.

What about the realm of spoken praise? Is this permitted to be in our own words or must it also only be from the Psalter? If it is so, then why is it only the praise which is sung that must be in the language of the Psalter?

There is no consistent, logical interpretation of Scripture in arguing solely for inspired praise and not for inspired praying or preaching!

Previous posts on this subject:
1. The terms 'Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs' inEphesians 5:19 & Colossians 3:16 do not refer to the 150 Psalms of the Book of Psalms.
2. Old Testament and New Testament saints did not live by this exclusive psalmist rule.
3. The angels and glorified saints did not sing the psalms.
4. There are possible remnants of hymns/canticles/doxologies quoted in the New Testament.
5. Progressive Revelation argues against Exclusive Psalmody.
6. Exclusive Psalmody leads to different levels of worship.
7. The Exclusive Psalmist's position requires them to reject ever singing the 'very best song' in public worship.


Nick said...

I've heard a good response to this from Richard Bacon:

Answer. (1.) Right or wrong, it is a matter of fact, that most worshippers neither do nor can compose their own songs of praise. (2.) God has given us, in the Bible, a book of Psalms, but no book of Prayers; and promised to the church a Spirit of prayer, but not a Spirit of psalmody. (3.) In prayer we express our own wants; in praise we declare God’s glory. If we can frame a form of words, suitable for the former purpose, it by no means follows that we are equally competent to compose a form of words for the latter purpose. (4.) The ordinances of prayer and praise differ in this, that in the former the thoughts suggest the words; and we should therefore use the words which they do suggest; whereas, in the latter the words are designed to suggest the thoughts, and therefore we should use words, if such we can obtain, which can suggest none but appropriate thoughts. (5.) Our wants are always changing; and therefore, our prayers should vary: but the glory of God is ever the same; and therefore the same collection of songs will serve for the expression of his praise, from age to age.


Rev Brian McClung said...


In reply to the words of Richard Bacon I would say:

1. Many of the issues he raises are just red herrings. For example who denies the statement he makes in point 1?

2. He states that God has given no book prayers. The Book of Psalms is equally a book of prayer as it is of praise. It is replete with prayers. In fact, there is a whole section entitled the 'Prayers of David' cf. Ps 72:20. Many of the psalms could not have been sung in public worship as they contained instructions forbidden in public worship.

3. It is not correct to say that 'In prayer we express our own wants; in praise we declare God’s glory'. The Psalms are full of wants [prayers] which are to be sung according to the exclusive psalmists. Again he says: 'If we can frame a form of words, suitable for the former purpose, it by no means follows that we are equally competent to compose a form of words for the latter purpose'; this begs the question what about spoken praise in prayer. Are we competent to do so here? Or is just praise that is sung? If the Christian is commanded to praise God in prayer, and he is, and he is capable of forming words for spoken praise, and he is, then why not apply the same rule to sung praise. There is no warrant in Scripture to make a difference. What about the praise that is in between? The praise of the Jewish and early New Testament church was most likely a form of chanting and not the singing that we are accustomed to day. Which category does this fit into?

Can you point out where the scriptural reasoning is for point 4. It begs the question against about spoken praise.

Point 5 fails to acknowledge the truth of progressive revelation that the Old Testament does not contain the fulness of the light of the Gospel. It is there merely in shadow. Therefore the language of the OT could not possibly contain the fulness of the Gospel. These issues are developed in a number of the articles I have posted.

Brian McClung