Question #6: There are so few churches that believe in exclusive Psalmody. How can the vast majority of Christianity be so wrong about singing hymns?

Question #6: There are so few churches that believe in exclusive Psalmody. How can the vast majority of Christianity be so wrong about singing hymns?

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7 responses to “Question #6: There are so few churches that believe in exclusive Psalmody. How can the vast majority of Christianity be so wrong about singing hymns?

  1. From The True Psalmody by Henry Cooke, et al
    “VII. It is said that churches which use hymns are more prosperous—grow more rapidly—than those that do not. It might be enough to reply, that mere statistics settle no principle of moral or religious truth. Rome reasons in this very way. Few Christian communities have grown as rapidly as the Mormons or the Spiritualists. But does the objection state the fact? It may be that in some localities and times, the assertion of the objector may be true. But it is not true when we regard the matter as we should, in a more comprehensive spirit. When has there been a more rapid increase in numbers than in the Apostolic age or in the era of the Reformation? If psalm-singing churches do not grow so rapidly now, it must be owing, not to their psalmody, but to other causes.

    Again, mere growth in numbers is no criterion of a church’s real prosperity. Growth is, indeed, eminently desirable. It is a ground of rejoicing, high and holy, when multitudes flock to Zion; but we must look beyond this: we must have regard to other elements of true and lasting prosperity. If mere additions to the numerical strength constitute any argument in behalf of doctrines and practices, then Presbyterianism is less worthy of acceptance than Methodism, for the latter has grown the most rapidly—Methodism less worthy of acceptance than the Baptist views and system, for the latter grows most rapidly of all. Does the Most High endorse all these varying doctrines by blessing with increase those who hold them? And is His approbation, in the degree of it, to be measured by this increase? The fact is, the Most High may and does bless His own truth, even when it is presented intermingled with some error; to ascertain what is truth, we have but one resort—”the law and the testimony.”

    Still, we do not admit that the growth of the psalm singing churches is even, in this day, so much less than the growth of others as the objection requires. We believe they will bear scrutiny well on this point. Most of them, so far as we can judge of statistics, are not far behind any of their contemporaries. And should there even be some ground for the objection, may it not be owing rather to the fact that the use of the Psalms has generally been found associated with a closer adherence to scriptural requirements in the admission of members, and a more careful discipline exercised over those within?”

  2. Hopefully, one day more churches will sing psalms. It seems that in the modern church people seek a connection with the songs that they sing in worship. For the older generation, there is a connection with what is termed “the great hymns of the faith.” The younger generation is joined with the CCM movement. Unfortunately, both would rather share a connection with Isaac Watts or Chris Tomlin than the Word of God. Until more people realize that the Psalms are superior to the words of man, the vast majority will continue to place hymns and CCM songs above God’s songs.

  3. John, it is certainly interesting that so many older Christians feel that strong connection with the older hymns, while the younger generations are connected with Contemporary Christian Music. If we look at the stronghold that hymnody had on the church just fifty years ago, it is suprising to see how far the CCM movement has been able to come. It was the hymnody movement that overcame the Psalmody of our forefathers. Our “fight” now is with a much more formidable enemy. Modern worship has incorporated a much stronger degree of sentimentalism and coupled that with technology to the degree that Psalmody is even less relevant in our day than it has ever been. I also believe that we as EPers are wise to consider the great persuasive power that is inherant within modern worship settings. We should not understimate the hold it has on people. I think this should cause us to redouble our efforts to promote Psalmody and increase our committment to training our children in the proper worship of God.

    Of course, God’s Word is never irrelevant. We must keep pressing forward despite the fact that we are small in numbers. I always like to think that everything we are doing now is for the benefit of our grandchildren. We may never see growth, but they might.

  4. I was just thinking about this very question, but a modified, tougher version. “How is it that so many godly Christians–even Reformed Christians who strive to uphold the old Regulative Principle (as opposed to Frame’s variant)–are so wrong on this issue (and that goes for psalms, instruments, choirs, and etc.)? After all, would God hide such an important thing from godly people considering that they are offering up strange fire in worship?” As my dad likes to say, people who believe it apply the Regulative Principle in so many different ways that the way to apply it must really not be so obvious.
    I certainly haven’t been convicted of Exclusive Psalmody yet (I’m still studying…), but I do agree that at the very least Psalms should be sung and should constitute most of our songs of praise in worship, and so in a certain forum I go too, I try to make Psalm singing and the old Reformation/Puritan theology attractive.
    Modern worship is indeed very attractive. It’s as attractive as hearing “personal words from God.” What is more attractive than having an emotional experience in worship? What is more difficult to talk people out of than having emotional experiences from that kind of worship or from a worship that “touches” or “moves” a person? After all, we cannot deny their experiences nor can we say that such experiences are wrong to have in and of themselves nor can we argue in such a way that it sounds like we merely prefer a different kind of worship (<– Considering that I'm not a very outwardly emotional person anyway, I have been accused of that). It appears that emotion is stronger than reason in this area. *sigh*
    Yet, it is interesting that despite this everyone seems to realize that it is more "spiritual" to sing acapella. Notice that occasionally after many repetitions of a bridge or chorus, a final repetition or two will be acapella to end the song. Granted, for them this is done out of an act of emotion, but I still find it interesting nevertheless that some vestiges of what is truly spiritual still remain in some form.

  5. I felt I needed to ad a small point or two here.
    First, what is sung in worship is certainly going to have an emotional effect on the singers and listeners. The question to be answered though, is “if God wanted us to emote others into the kingdom, why would he choose the foolishness of preaching to save the lost?” It’s not an emotional high that indicates a true closure with God (to use a very old word) – it is an awareness of the horrendous nature of our sin before him.
    Will this lead to an emotional result – quite possibly. But the aim of the leaders of the congregation should be to reach the mind. The emotional response is an indirect result which shows the former has been achieved. Part of the reason we fail so readily today is we are concerned not to lose those who are looking for the emotional high. But wasn’t that the focus of the Corinthian’s interest – rather than the weightier things of the Word of God (like love, faith and hope). The problem is not the existence of the thing – it’s focusing on it.
    Secondly – what we sing is a part of what we learn – in the most often disputed passages which speak of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs the concern is not the music or the type of songs that are sung. It is the content and the content is to be used to “teach and admonish one another.” Perhaps we have forgotten that we are to grow in the Word – and to sing the Bible words is certainly better than to sing something written by a person of unknown relationship to God.
    Lastly – for this issue. Suppose I was a famous person and it was known that I had written a song book which had gained a wonderful reputation for containing profound thoughts and appropriate music. And suppose my home town wanted to honor me. They organize a great gathering and then choose to sing together songs which were shallow and even denied the worth of what I had done by honoring the towns people instead of me.
    I ask you, would I feel honored? And I am just a human being. We are talking about Almighty God here. If we are going to honor him do you not think it appropriate to at least use the songbook he had written for us?
    But I go on … I am sorry. These three arguments, it seems to me are far more weighty than any consideration of the emotional desires of the congregation.
    We are gathered to worship God! It may be our decision as to what we choose to “honor” him with. Let us think wisely and in the light of what he has shown us in Scripture before we neglect the one book he wrote himself.

  6. oops … I forgot. I was going to say the number of modern Churches which don’t sing psalms at all and the number of Churches which teach false doctrine seem both to increase? Perhaps the question should be … Why don’t more Churches wonder about the source of the false doctrine which has crept in “unawares? could it have some relationship to what we sing?”

  7. Hone, this is a great point to mention on the subject of church growth in relation to the singing of Psalms. We believe that Psalm singing is to be practiced in obedience to God’s commands. Obeying God is generally not a popular thing to do. It is much more likely that a large crowd of human beings gathered to worship will choose to change the commandments of God to fit their own agenda. Singing Psalms only, with or without music, will never be as viscerally attractive as a modern praise band with no limits on what they can do in worship. The limitation of our worship to what God has commanded will always lose the ‘numbers’ battle with modern worship trends.

    And yes, modern worship (which has abandoned any regulation by Scripture) is a perfect medium for the growth of false doctrine. I suspect that just as most Christians are unaware of their own flirtations with heresy, they are unaware of the diastrous theology that has entered into their minds through the indiscriminate singing of hymns.

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