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.

This entry was posted on 07 August 2008 at Thursday, August 07, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



"Prescriptive Psalmody's thesis is that the Psalms be the model for worship"

Upon what grounds? Why the Psalms as opposed to Leviticus? Does that also mean that the church ought to reconstruct the original Sitz im Leben?

August 9, 2008 at 1:47 PM

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