Psalms

Psalm Singing

tissot-david-singing427x620.jpgThe debate over Psalm singing is particularly discussed in Reformed circles. The issue involves adherence to the “regulative principle,” which affirms that only that which is in the Scriptures is to be practiced in the church. Some have come to accept the practice of exclusive Psalm singing (exclusive Psalmnody). They argue the Bible does not offer other forms of singing in the Scriptures, ergo, God has left the church with 150 Psalms. While Psalm singing is desirable in Sabbath worship or private worship, it is necessary to realize that the texts used to defend Psalm singing are commonly misinterpreted. There are primarily two texts used. Edmund Clowney in his respected volume on the church writes:

Those who insist that the church should sing Biblical Psalms exclusively need to consider more carefully the apostle’s words in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-20. It is the wisdom that is the enduement of the Spirit-filled church, taught by the Word of Christ, that enables to admonish and teach one another; they do so in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Paul’s expression shows that he is thinking of the wisdom that composes psalms, and therefore not of the psalms of David. Nor do his words refer to inspired compositions exclusively. The context of his use of spiritual wisdom in Colossians 1:19, his prayers for wisdom, and his charge to walk in wisdom show that he thinks of the wisdom of the Spirit as the daily need of every Christian, not a gift of revelation to bring the Word of Christ (136).

Clowney finds the theme of this passage “wisdom,” not a prescribed form of worship. Granted, Psalm singing is edifying and needful; the church today lacks a catechized youth because the Scriptures are not sung nor are they brought to memorization. Surely the singing of God’s Word facilitates immensely this process. Nevertheless, there is a fundamental concern that must be addressed. Exclusive Psalm-singers argue that only Scriptures can carry the intensity and loveliness of worship. Since it is the only writing in which there can be found no error and since it claims self-authentication, ergo, it is the only prescribed form of worship. Any singing that is non-scriptural runs the serious risk of raising voices to a fallible and erroneous composition. This logic urges worshipers to consider their sinful natures and their conspicuous tendency to err. This is a critique worth considering and must come to the attention of the composer and the worshiper as he lifts his voice to glorify his Maker.

Greg Bahnsen answers the argument raised by exclusive Psalm-singers (these arguments must not be thrown out as infantile, but should be considered and learned from – for a profitable discussion of exclusive Psalm-singing see Bahnsen’s discussion) by noting that:

…to prohibit congregational singing of anything but the Old Testament psalms is an unwarranted addition to the word of God (cf. Deut.4:2) and – ironically – a violation of the regulative principle of worship thereby. The crucial question is this: Where in Scripture does God restrict His people to singing only the songs in the book of Psalms? No such restriction can be demonstrated. Those who try to infer it end up relying on fallacious arguments. Those who insist that we must positively demonstrate that anything we sing has the explicit warrant of Scripture have misunderstood and misapplied the “regulative principle” – on a par with somebody who would hold that the very words of our prayers and sermons must have the explicit warrant of Scripture.

Bahnsen’ s main argument rests on the fact that if we are to follow the logic of Psalm-singers who claim to be adherents of the “Regulative Principle,” we must further apply this to all of worship. This means we must carefully commit all our prayers to reflect word-for-word or thought-for-thought the prayers found throughout Scriptures.

In conclusion, though exclusive Psalm singing is wrong, Psalm singers exemplify, if perhaps a bit extreme, the sincere urge to commit our minds and our voices to the worship of our God in words that lift, adore, praise, magnify, and reflect the grandeur of our Great God. May all of us be ever mindful of the duty of worshipping God in beauty and authentic spirit-led adoration.

Michael Savage the Theologian? Correcting terminologies…

aboutmichael_savage.jpg Instead of the usual “HELLO INFIDELS” introduction, Michael Savage, host of the “Savage Nation,” began his popular talk show program by boasting in the success of his most recent book: The Enemy Within. Believe it or not, good ol’ Savage is ahead of Clinton’s Memoir in many big cities in the country. It is really no big surprise that Clinton’s 950-page self-pitying, self-congratulatory tome is not reaching all the expectations that the former president thought it would. To top it off, the New York Times wrote a scathing review denouncing Clinton’s book as ” poorly written,” and “written in a hurry.” In yesterday’s post, Matt Drudge reported at least ten different cities in which the book seems to be in dire straits. It is not that My Life has not sold copies, in fact, it has even broken some records, but these records are not what were expected.

Michael Savage dealt with a few other, uh, let’s say “touchy issues.” He denounced, without any moment’s hesitation that Saudi terrorists are “sub-human.” “They are inferior to you and I,” he screamed. Now, let me see if I can be subtly theological without spoiling my political post. While our hatred towards terrorist actions (such as the recent beheading of two Americans and a South Korean) is justifiable, there is one fundamental presupposition we must carry amidst conflict or war (such as the one we are in right now); this presupposition is that all men are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28).

It is indeed difficult to conceive how such savages can so calmly and seemingly without any remorse cut one’s throat and still be called human, but the Scriptures still put all men in one category. Your heart and my heart cries for justice; we long to see these men punished as severely as their victims. We are infuriated with the extent of their religiosity and radical commitment to annihilate all that looks, sounds, and tastes Western. At the same time, we confuse categories by calling them “sub-human,” as if by putting them in a separate group we restore our own goodness or our innocence. To quote an unpopular verse, ” all our actions are as filthy garments.”

Of course, our actions are not as theirs, but our hearts are. It is corrupted and despicably depraved. We are still in need of cleansing, still in need of purification, we are still as wicked savages killing each other with our minds and seeking justice with our own hands.

So, should we seek justice? Yes. Are terrorists sub-human? No. But in what ways can we tie these two truths? Let me suggest that the imprecatory Psalms are one way. Yes, they are for God’s people and are to be sung, prayed, and read by God’s people. Secondly, we cishmaelite_prayer_gallery.jpgan pray that human justice will prevail and that they will be punished accordingly. And finally, we can keep bad people in the same category as “civilized society” (as some call the west). There is no such category as “sub-human.” All men are lost, whether be American or Saudi  until Christ by His Spirit conquers the hearts of men. In the end, our hope is that God’s justice, which has passed over us because of His love, may be applied to those whom He hates (Psalms 5:5).