Exclusive Psalmody, Reformed doctrine and the PB rules  

Posted by panta dokimazete

I have had an on-again, off-again "relationship" with the Puritanboard, particularly around my view of Psalmody and specifically around the practice of Exclusive Psalmody. Recently a new sub forum was created to address the overall practice in context - this is the introdution to my request for some clarifying discussion. I pray it is edifying.

My apologies if this violates the requirements of this sub-forum, but for the sake of clarity and preciseness, I would like to respectfully request some dialog around the inferences of this sub-forum description and what it means in terms of EP debate on the PB:

A capella Exclusive Psalmody Sub-forum dedicated to the discussion of non-instrumental worship and the exclusive use of the Psalms per the Reformed Confessions. Participants are reminded to be respectful of the Reformed Confessions and to avoid ad hominem labels of Pharisaism simply because a brother is more scrupulous.
If it is not deemed too contentious, I would request that a non-EP'er among the moderators also participate in the dialog.

I use the word "dialog" purposefully, because I believe this discussion would serve the greater needs of the board in terms of acceptable parameters to approach this important subject, as well as a useful resource of reminder when the parameters have been violated.

First a couple of thoughts:

I personally consider the PB a "proving ground" of sort for a range of discussions that serve to refine and reform ideas, presuppositions and potential misconceptions within a pre-established framework - namely Reformed doctrine.

That being said, I believe that this approach aligns with the principle of Semper Reformanda and am discouraged when it seems the board rules and moderator actions discourage discussion and frank debate around unresolved or non-binding issues.

Let me qualify with this statement - I do believe that tone and approach matter and should certainly be moderated. As a passionate and direct person, I appreciate the character and intent of our moderators and have learned much in the way of modulating my words and implications to be more irenic when irenic is appropriate.

I am also aligned with closing threads that have served their purpose - that is - each viewpoint has been presented, clarified and refined and the dialog has become repetitious or overly contentious in nature. I believe the nature of a discussion board is to extract bits and pieces of prior discussion and work them through, with an eye toward the law of diminishing returns.

So, to the point:

It is my impression that EP was not monolithic doctrine among the Confessionally Reformed ("Truely" and "Broadly"), otherwise one would have to take exception to all the accepted confessions in this area, so I am confused as to why EP seems to be presented as the "default" position for the PB as well as the implication that an EP'er is more scrupulous than a non-EP'er?

Thanks in advance for allowing this clarifying discussion to occur.

Your brother in Christ,


Did the Westminster Divines require unconditional Exclusive Psalmody?  

Posted by panta dokimazete

I thought this article - while very polemic in nature - gave a good answer:

Let me come to the Westminster divines. A greater collection of godly and learned men was never assembled since the times of the apostles. Their view on the cardinal doctrines of the gospel is not to be dismissed lightly.
The impression given by the advocates of “psalms only”, undoubtedly, is that they have the full support of these great men for their views. But is that true?

Thomas Manton stood head and shoulder above those giants. He was chosen to represent the assembly of divines who authored the Westminster Confession of Faith, when he was asked to write the epistle to the reader, placed at the very gateway to this historic document. I believe that we can consider him to be the embodiment of the views held by at least the majority of the divines who co-produced the Westminster Confession of Faith.

What was his view on this matter? It is found in his comments on the verse “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms,” James 5:13, and is very clear.

“Others question whether we may sing scripture psalms, the psalms of David, which to me seemeth to look like the cavil of a profane spirit. But to clear this also. I confess we do not forbid other songs; if grave and pious, after good advice they may be received into the church. Tertullian, in his Apology, showth that in the primitive times they used this liberty, either to sing scripture psalms or such as were of a private composure.”

Two things are clear from this statement.
In advancing his case for the singing of psalms:—

[1] Thomas Manton did not forbid the singing of spiritual songs other than the psalms;

[2] He considered the singing of hymns of “private composure” to have been the practice of the early church and refers to Tertullian as his source for believing that.


I am entitled to ask the question that if Thomas Manton were here expressing something quite contradictory to the Regulative Principle and to the mind of the Assembly divines on the important matter of the public worship of God, would he have been permitted to represent the divines by writing the epistle to the reader at the front of their great work, the Westminster Confession of Faith? I am very confident that the answer would be “No”.

Thomas Manton’s views on this subject were representative of the thinking of the Westminster divines and we conclude that the Westminster divines were no advocates of “exclusive Psalmody.”

Great Debate Refuting Exclusive Psalmody  

Posted by panta dokimazete

Two authors exchange views on the Reformed regulative principle and Psalms

Good Article rebutting Exclusive Psalmody  

Posted by panta dokimazete

Exclusive Psalmody or New Covenant Hymnody? by Lee Irons - very well written and reasoned. I wish he had inlcuded this rationale, though:

In terms of the RPW:

P1 New covenant believers are commanded to sing and to be taught by the Psalms (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16)
P2 The Psalms teach that we should sing a new song to the Lord (verses here)

C1 New covenant believers are commanded to sing new songs and the Psalms to the Lord

The PP rationale used to rebut Exclusive Psalmody  

Posted by panta dokimazete

From this thread:

 I am merely asking that we ensure that the passages speaking of new songs are truly commanding us to compose new, uninspired song. I am only requesting an evidenced hermeneutic. That is all that I meant by what I said. Not only should we give prooftexts that speak of new songs, but also we should say what exactly the "sing a new song" means. Surely you can agree with this.
Surely I do - I also believe a hermeneutic should be as simple as it needs to be and not one shred more complicated than it must.

In fact, I have conceded (grudgingly) one potentially faulty premise that the EP'er has constructed. That is the synonym usage of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as primarily and exclusively referential to the 150 Psalms.

However, I take the words of the apostle literally when he says to be taught by the Psalms.

I then examine the Psalms for what they teach in context as a new covenant believer desiring to worship God in Spirit and Truth.

Those Psalms teach a variety of things concerning worship and praxis.

Among them are several instances of the positive command - sing to the Lord (or Him) a new song.

I then ask myself in a non-skeptical manner, since this is the Lord speaking in His Word - what is the simplest interpretation of these positive commands?

Well, as a new covenant believer, it seems a good and necessary consequence that the NT church may compose and sing new songs of praise in the fullness of understanding that the old covenant only spoke of in types and shadows.

So, new and "uninspired" songs along with the 150 Psalms are required and commanded for sung worship and thus aligned with the RPW.

Singing "new songs" - OT vs NT context  

Posted by panta dokimazete

Originally Posted by larryjf on the PuritanboardView Post
Originally Posted by FrielWatcher View Post
1 Thess 5:21 - why could you not use it as regulatory BECAUSE we are given a spirit of discernment to find what is good and to hold fast to it. Our expounding on the scriptures in pulpit - why not just get up and read the scriptures and say "Amen." Could not a lyrically written sermon be turned into verse with music accompaniment?

I just don't see how we can see one aspect under one precedent but another not? Why is the the sermon given up to fallibility and interpretation and okay yet the music has to be the psalms? Music has to be the psalms but the liturgy and the sermon is not held to the same precedent - purely biblical.
The Scripture regulates all of these elements...and as written in an earlier post (found here), Prayer is regulated to include things outside of Scripture, and Preaching is regulated to include using our reason to make Scripture clear.

Granting the synonym useage for the Psalms (grudgingly - I still think Paul was referring to 3 forms common to the culture), the EP'er (holds to only Psalms sung in worship) continues to overlook that we are commanded to be taught by the Psalms, that the Psalms teach us to sing a new song, so we must understand what that means in context for the NT priesthood of believers worshiping apart from the temple in spirit and truth.

In the OT - the new songs were written by David and others in priestly office, compiled and closed for that covenant period. So the command to sing an entirely new song was closed to the OT worshiper, except in the sense that the Psalms themselves contained "new songs" written for the Davidic type of OT temple worship.

In the NT - the Psalms - just as the entire OT - are renewed and refreshed in light of the revealed (and named!) Messiah. We are commanded to worship in spirit and truth freed from the requirement of temple worship, but not from the commanded elements that remain (preaching\teaching, praying and singing) and the new ordinances.

So, in context, we, the NT, new covenant church, are commanded to be taught by the Psalms. The Psalms command that we sing a new song. So, just as preaching and praying may have "uninspired" yet regulated content, so may our song.

More on Exclusive Psalmody  

Posted by panta dokimazete

From a discussion:

1. The more you depart from the Psalms the more you put yourself at risk of singing heresy or singing the song of an apostate from the faith (maybe Watts himself).
My beloved brother, BB. You know I agree with the Psalms as our ultimate guide to worship, but your statement could just as well be applied to preaching not being aligned with Scripture, right?

For example, the more you are exhorted and taught by pure Scripture, the less likely you are to fall under corrupted teaching, right? So, we should only preach the words of inspired Scripture without any uninspired additions.

In the same way, the more one prays the Scripture alone, the less likely one is to fall under uninspired alignment to the will of God, or to entreat Him for ungodly things. So, we should only pray the words of inspired Scripture without any uninspired additions.

While I certainly admire the desire to worship "purely" and "safely", I am much more passionate about worshiping in spirit and truth.

The truth is, until Christ's return, there will be always be false worship, just as there will always be false teachers. We are exhorted to examine and test and "work out our own salvation" according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit which is always aligned to the Word of God.

Therefore we should not let our worship be less than what Scripture commands, just as we must not allow it to be more. And by that, I mean not allowing our worship to become a contra-reaction to the excesses and errors of others, thus risking the equal error of falling into dogmatic subscription to the uninspired ideas of Man.

A holy life and holy worship, fully aligned to the will of God is not easily accomplished, nor should it be, lest we have reason to boast. Resting on the path of rigid exclusivism is not the answer, anymore than unbounded inclusivism is.


Excellent article Examining Exlusive Psalmody  

Posted by panta dokimazete

The issue of church music must be approached with great carefulness and seriousness because it concerns a very personal aspect of the worship of God. Exclusive psalmody excites deep emotions in both those who favor it and those who oppose it. This is why unusual care must be taken to approach this issue with a humble heart and mind.

The past few years have witnessed a resurgence of Calvinism in America and Great Britain, due notably to the influence of the Banner of Truth Trust, which has its headquarters in Scotland. Two distinct phenomena have coincided with this resurgence to bring about a renewed interest in exclusive psalmody.

Recent republications of classic Reformed literature have led to the rediscovery of the great Scottish divines. Two distinctive elements of Scottish Theology were Sabbatarianism and exclusive psalmody. Out of appreciation for the Scottish contribution to Reformed Theology, there is a renewed interest in these distinctives.

The rise of interest in Scottish psalmody coincided with a growing dissatisfaction with fundamentalism’s exclusive hymn singing practice. Many fundamentalistic or evangelical hymns are shallow and theologically incorrect. Consequently, some Christians have been emotionally drawn to exclusive psalmody because it is “Reformed,” and because it supplies an easy remedy against shallow evangelical hymns. Since the fundamentalists sing only hymns, some have come to the position that they will sing only the Psalms.

To the majority of Reformed people, exclusive hymnody and exclusive psalmody are just two extremes which illustrate the pendulum propensity of man’s fallen nature One Christian sings only hymns and the other only the Psalms. But there is a balanced position between these two extremes. This position has been embraced by every major Reformed denomination and thus it is the majority position. This paper hopefully sets forth the majority Reformed position which states that hymns may be sung in the public worship of the church as well as the Psalms.

Our first task is to clarify the issue by asking three distinct questions.

1. May we sing the Psalms in public worship?
2. Should we sing only the Psalms in public worship?
3. May we sing uninspired hymns or songs in public worship?

Complete article here

I am still not sure why there are not others that make the correlation between the command of the apostle and the principle of PP...

Good article that touches on Prescriptive Psalmody  

Posted by panta dokimazete

Calvin’s worship for today

The question of the pertinence of Calvin’s views on worship for our time is important for one thing is clear: there is little agreement among existing “Calvinists” on Calvin’s theology of worship. What we call “the regulative principle of worship” remains an area of hot debate, even among Reformed Presbyterians. I will admit that as a Reformed Presbyterian I do not agree with everything Calvin said about worship, but at the same time, I believe that I have come to understand Calvin, the theologian of worship, in light of Calvin, the man of his times. By this I mean that not only did his views on worship prove relevant for the culture of his day, but also the culture of Calvin’s day affected his perspectives on worship. Calvin’s disapproval of the use of images, musical instruments, and support for psalm-singing on the Lords’ Day were nurtured within a highly charged historical setting: the theological and ecclesiastical battles of the late Middle Ages. He claimed more than once that his was an effort to reform the worship of the Church according to the pattern of New Testament.

While I heatedly concur with his New Testament principles of worship, I find it impossible to read him on the prescriptive elements of worship without sensing that his positions were at the same time highly colored by his deep antipathy toward Rome. Calvin certainly admitted as much. What I believe he would have been averse to admit, however is the extent to which his hatred for the idolatrous practices of Rome shaped his reading of parts of scripture that have to do with the continuity between the Old and New Testament patterns of worship (e.g. his argument, for example, that under the old dispensation musical instruments were “shadows of the Law” that have been fulfilled by Christ and are therefore of no use in New Testament worship).


As for the regulative use of the psalms, I join Calvin in asserting the majesty of the psalms, their high status as revelation, and in singing them as means for praising God. But Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (cf. Col. 3:16) broadens congregational singing beyond the prescriptive use of the psalms or even hymns and songs that contain the words of scripture verbatim.
from Luther and Calvin on Music and Worship - John Barber, PhD

Remember - Prescriptive Psalmody's thesis is that the Psalms be the model for worship and for the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs the Psalms themselves command. It encourages the use of the Word as content for new songs! While at the same time, PP sets boundaries to keep us from error.

Prescriptive Psalmody - Idea Bucket  

Posted by panta dokimazete

"Inspired" vs "uninspired" composition in worship. Preaching, praying, singing.

Why PP is not an "innovation" or "new idea".

PP and worshiping "in spirit and truth".

PP - answering potential objections.

Prescriptive Psalmody vs Exclusive Psalmody.

How the Psalms reference sacrifices and the NT perspective.

How the Psalms align with the NT ordained worship elements (very well!)

The non-PP category of drama and an acceptable use rationale. (net effect, it must only be used as sermon illustration).

PP and the necessity of the RPW.

PP and (gasp!) dance, lifting hands, clapping and other body motions during praise.

PP and the idea of regulated worship activities\components by frequency of mention in the Psalms.

How PP regulates worship and praise - as well as differentiators - (all praise is worship - is all worship praise?)

How new song fits within the category of "prophesying", in the same sense as preaching and prayer for the post-apostolic NT church era.

How the composition of new song should be regulated for use in worship.

PP, cessationism and continuationism.

Defending Prescriptive Psalmody against Exclusive Psalmody  

Posted by panta dokimazete

Some highlights from the earlier referenced discussion thread.

(if you are wondering, "What the heck is Exclusive Psalmody?" click here)

My "opponent's" remarks in italics - keep in mind that his position maintains that the Psalms only should be sung in worship and that this is a VERY straightforward debate - that is, we are holding one another to very strict reasoning and direct responses:

As we depend on the NT for our understanding that the Psalms are to be sung, so we should also depend on the NT for understanding what bearing the OT has on NT worship.

I concur and am glad that you acknowledge that the Psalms are to be sung, but they are commanded in the NT to be more than sung. They are a guidebook for NT worship in spirit and truth understood in the fullness of the NT revelation. I am surprised you don't support the authority of the Psalms, since we have no more complete guide in terms of worship orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

But the NT explicitly states that the next period of revelation is not to be expected until the coming of Christ; it also explicitly teaches that the OT ceremony is abrogated. The Westminster Confession faithfully explains both points in chap. 1:1, 6 and chap. 19:3.

And on this we have no quarrel, since singing and making melody have been retained and was not a component of the ceremonial Law of Moses, anyway, nor is there a requirement for exclusively inspired song in worship, since the Psalms themselves do not place that restriction.

I have already addressed the question of "new songs" in previous threads and shown that they refer to new revelation making known the accomplishment of salvation through Christ and the proclamation of that salvation to all nations of the earth. Such "new songs" were given in the NT, as is seen from 1 Cor. 14, and it is evident that the quality of the song was no less inspired than the prophetic songs of David. Further, these "new songs" have not been recorded in Scripture; therefore there is no means of singing them even if it could be proved that the command to sing "new songs" was a corporate imperative. Given that there is no evidence that this prophetic gift continues today, there is no means of singing new songs; and even if there were, the new songs would be ecstatic, individual pieces, not written compositions imposed on whole congregations.

Your hermeneutic, while interesting, is incomplete. You create a sui generis (to borrow your term) where none is imposed. The Psalms certainly contain elements of prophesy, but you know as well as anyone that their content and context span the continuum of human experience and praise of God. We are directed to be guided by the Psalms in terms of our musical worship before the Lord (at the very least) and since they establish new song as allowable, we may then correlate music to preaching and prayer, which utilize the inspired writings to guide and regulate their practice while simultaneously retaining "newness" in compositional structure.

How do we discern whether an OT command was ceremonial? The apostle clearly described the chief characteristic of the OT ceremonies when he stated that underage Israel was "in bondage under the elements of the world," Gal. 4:3. In Heb. 9:10 they are called "carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation." To discern whether an OT command was ceremonial, therefore, all that is required is to show that it commanded the use of something material and this-worldly to be offered up in worship to God. What is a musical instrument? It is specifically described as a material thing without life; 1 Cor. 14:7, "And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?" Therefore, according to the apostle's own classification system, musical instruments belong to the elements of this world and their "prescription" in worship is a bondage.

Again, non sequitur and category error. The Scriptures are written on paper, just as the scrolls were written on papyrus or lambskin. Would you ban the lifeless material that contains and facilitates the reading and proclamation of God's Word? How about a psalter? The argument does not hold water.

PP - The Confessional Connection  

Posted by panta dokimazete

From the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath-day.

I. The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.

From the 1689 London Baptist Confession:

22. Worship and the Sabbath Day

1. The light of nature shows that there is a God Who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is just and good, and Who does good to all. Therefore He is to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God has been instituted by Himself, and therefore our method of worship is limited by His own revealed will. He may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan. He may not be worshipped by way of visible representations, or by any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.

I plan to expand on the confessional aspects, but I wanted to post the relevant sections for reference.

Note the use of "prescribed" as opposed to "commanded" - I contend that this is a very precise choice\use of words by the confession framers, as I began to explain\define here.

Prescriptive Psalmody - defining terms and usage  

Posted by panta dokimazete

Another thread on PP on the Puritan Board :)

From the thread:

Originally Posted by JohnV View Post
1. By "prescriptive" do you mean that, since (we assume) that God approves of instruments and other songs, we must use instruments and other songs, otherwise we aren't filling the prescription?

Well, first off, let's distinguish between prescription and command.

Actually, let's first define a hermeneutical approach:

1. The NT has greater prescriptive authority than the OT for the NT church.

2. However, unless abrogated by the NT, the OT prescription stands as normative.

Now, I use prescriptive in the context that affirms and expresses requirement (command) and regulation (guidance). (Think in terms of a medical prescription "Take 3 times a day or as needed for pain...")

So, in context of Prescriptive Psalmody, the Scriptures determine what is required and then what can be exegeted as appropriate in terms of regulation.

So, with that said, I have stated before that it is clear in the NT that the commanded worship element is music, with singing as the required expression of the command and instruments as an allowable and regulatable circumstance for use as vocal praise accompaniment.

I'll touch on new songs in a different post, since I missed addressing it before submitting the post.

A discussion on PP and instruments in worship  

Posted by panta dokimazete

I had an opportunity to participate in a good online debate around whether the use of instruments is allowable according to the Regulative Principle of Worship. It probably went on too long, as you'll see if you read the whole thing, but it covered some common objections raised by folks that hold to Exclusive Psalmody with no instruments.

Considering PP and Corporate Worship Practices  

Posted by panta dokimazete

Some practices mentioned in the Psalms for consideration:

1. New song composition
2. Instrumental accompaniment for singing
3. Lifting hands
4. Clapping
5. Dancing
6. Shouting with joy

Some practices not mentioned in the Psalms for consideration:

1. Drama (but, I believe, allowable within context)
2. Instrumental music without voice (I believe the practice would be fine as prelude or postlude to worship, however)

Prescriptive Psalmody - Thesis  

Posted by panta dokimazete

The idea of Prescriptive Psalmody is aligned to a concept called the Regulative Principle of Worship, which in turn is based on the 5 key principles of Reformed Theology, particularly Sola Scriptura.

At the root, Prescriptive Psalmody contends:

1. We are commanded in the New Testament to use the Psalms to guide us, the New Testament church, into God-honoring worship practice.

2. Unless a worship practice outlined in the Psalms is abrogated by New Testament example, it stands as prescriptive or allowed.

Why Prescriptive Psalmody?  

Posted by panta dokimazete

Simple - there is much debate and outright anger tied to the manner of worship practice in the church today. After many years as an active participant in the "worship wars", the Lord has led me to seek His way to worship in spirit and truth and not the way of Man, and therefore avoid worship principles that could be viewed as overly permissive or restrictive, but is grounded in Scripture and glorifying to God.

1 Corinthians 14
40But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.

1 Thessalonians 5
21But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good