Monthly Archives: April 2011

Rev. Matthew Winzer reviews Nick Needham’s essay on the Westminster Assembly’s teaching on psalms, hymns and musical instruments

Thanks to Mr. Chris Coldwell and Rev. Matthew Winzer for bringing this review to us free of charge. There is a link in the post below to download the PDF. The Confessional Presbyterian Journal (highly recommended by this EP website) is available there as well. The following is from Mr. Coldwell’s website:

“The Confessional Presbyterian 4 (2008) 253–266. Review: Nick Needham, ‘Westminster and worship: psalms, hymns, and musical instruments,’ In The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, 2, ed. J. Ligon Duncan (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005). 540 pages. ISBN 978-1-857-92878-5. $37.99. Reviewed by Matthew Winzer, Grace Presbyterian Church (Australian Free Church), Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia. Download PDF.

[Synopsis:  Matthew Winzer briefly critiques Mr. Needham’s handling of the regulative principle of worship before reviewing at length his handling of the Westminster Assembly’s view of Singing of Psalms. Sections are: The Historical-contextual Interpretation of “Singing of Psalms” in the Westminster formularies; Th e Work and Proceedings of the Westminster Assembly; External Evidence: the Milieu of 1640s London; Advocates for Exclusive Psalmody Amongst the Westminster Assembly of Divines; and The Wider Puritan Tradition. Mr. Winzer then briefly covers Mr. Needham’s handling of the Assembly’s view of musical instruments in worship before concluding the review. A lengthy footnote handles the “other Scripture Songs” project of the Scottish General Assembly running parallel with what would become the 1650 Scottish Psalter.]

Westminster and Worship Examined: A Review of Nick Needham’s essay on the Westminster Confession of Faith’s teaching concerning the regulative principle, the singing of psalms, and the use of musical instruments in the public worship of God.

An attempt has recently been made by Nick Needham “to give an accurate historical judgment relating to the [Westminster] Assembly’s views and deliverances relating to exclusive psalmody and non-instrumental worship.”1 If, however, one were expecting to find a detailed examination of the writings of the divines, he would be sorely disappointed. Throughout the article reference is made to only one fragment of writing from a member of the Assembly; all other quotations are taken from the statements of individual Puritans who neither attended the Westminster Assembly nor spoke specifically to the issue of exclusive psalmody. Moreover, no use has been made of the valuable historical material to be found in the writings of those members who have provided some sketches of its proceedings. Given this regrettable state of affairs, it must be said that the article fails in its attempt to provide an accurate historical judgment on the Assembly’s views. Whoever is the rightful possessor of the views Mr. Needham has represented, they have not been shown to belong to the Westminster Assembly….”

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UPDATED: A good discussion between Dr. R. Scott Clark and Lane Keister

[The Heidelblog has recently closed so the links below are dead. I am working on securing permission to put the Heidelblog quotes here for future reference.]

[Permission denied! Oh well, there are some good comments worth reading at the Greenbaggins website. Rev. Keister, thank you for bringing this issue up for discussion.]

I am enjoying a good discussion on the use of the Psalms and the Psalter between Dr. R. Scott Clark and Lane Keister on the Heidelblog and Greenbaggins websites. Lots of good conversation.

Here are Greenbaggins Part 1 and Heidelblog Part 1  comments

Heidelblog Part 2 More Dialogue on Worship and the RPW
Greenbaggins Part 2 Response to Dr. Clark

Heidelblog Part 3 More Dialogue on Worship and the RPW part 2

Greenbaggins Part 3 Response to Dr. Clark Part 2
Greenbaggins Part 4 Response Roundup

If you join in the discussion, let us know your thoughts…

I must comment that the articles by Dr. Clark are excellent. He responds to some common misconceptions regarding the Psalter and encourages us to be both biblical and confessional in our worship. A few selections from Dr. Clark’s first post:

“I don’t accept the premise that, for the purposes of called, stated, public worship services to which God’s people are required to attend under pain of church discipline, there are such things as “good” non-canonical songs that might be imposed by a consistory or a session upon a congregation. Here’s an analogy. We would all admit that there are skilled artistic renderings that purport to represent God the Son incarnate, our Lord Jesus. Now, we know that no such representation is possible because such representations are necessarily a figment of the artist’s imagination. Confessional Reformed folk cannot tolerate even a “good” painting, i.e., an artistically skilled attempt to represent a first century Jewish male, because it violates the law of God. The same is true for ostensibly good hymns. However permissible it may be to sing well-written hymns with solid biblical content or even paraphrases (e.g., Luther’s paraphrase of Ps 46 is a personal favorite) in a private context their use in the context of public worship is something else altogether.”

“As I argued in RRC, the URCNA synod erred when it essentially codified the mistakes of the CRC from the 1930s. That’s why I distinguish between “conservatives” (e.g., the URCs on worship) and “confessionalists.” I’m not satisfied with mere conservatism especially since we’re conserving a mistake.”

“I have yet to see a single instance in which any of the paraphrases improves upon God’s Word. In services where the order of worship calls for hymn I am sometimes forced to find a psalm to sing or read quietly during the service (there should be no disruption of public worship). Almost without fail the psalm I’m reading/singing is more appropriate to the service than the hymn (or paraphrase) the congregation is singing. I’ve been in many services where it is evident the minister did not even consider a psalm. There are practical reasons for this. 1) Those ministers who, like me, come from non-Christian backgrounds are typically ignorant of the psalms. 2) Those ministers who, like me, come from broad evangelicalism are ignorant of the psalms. 3) Those ministers who were raised in most NAPARC churches are ignorant of the psalms. Our first instinct is to pick a hymn. If it’s a progressive setting it will be a favorite chorus. If it’s a “traditional” setting then it will be “The Church’s One Foundation. To the degree this is true it says more about the inadequacy of those planning the service than it does about the insufficiency of God’s Word.”

“…There is at least a difference of degrees and arguably a a difference in kind between paraphrases and translations. One is not the other. Historically, confessional Reformed churches have sought to make the most accurate translations possible. We produced the Geneva Bible not a paraphrase. Our solution to difficult passages was to teach via marginal notes not to make the problems go away via paraphrases.”

Again, the brief article by Dr. Clark is an excellent summary our our confessional beliefs regarding song in worship. Please give it a read.

Pageland RPC moves to morning worship services starting this Lord’s Day at 11 a.m.

Meeting location for Pageland RPC

A new church plant in Pageland, SC will now hold worship services every Lord’s Day morning at 11 am.

From the church’s website:

“Pageland Reformed Presbyterian Church is a ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). We are located in Pageland, South Carolina – 55 minutes from downtown Charlotte, North Carolina and 75 minutes from downtown Columbia, South Carolina.

We meet for worship at 11:00 am in the Cambridge Hall at the Guest Lodge located at:

910 West McGregor Street
Pageland, SC 29728-2014

Please email pagelandrpc@gmail.com or call 843.622.5853 with any questions.

What we believe:

Our beliefs all stem from a full commitment to the authority of the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God. This means that we believe in the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We acknowledge our total inability to save ourselves and, in faith, depend on Christ alone as our Savior. We acknowledge Him as Lord in every area of life, and we vow together to advance His Kingdom on earth.

God made man in His image to glorify and enjoy Him. In the public worship of the church, the people of God, redeemed by Christ, glorify and enjoy the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as He reveals Himself in His Word.

Jesus Christ, as our Prophet, Priest and King, has revealed to His people how to worship Him in a pleasing manner. Therefore, “the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshiped 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 Scriptures” (Westminster Confession of Faith 21:1 [p.49]). This means true worship is commanded by God only; false worship is anything not commanded. In other words, if God did not direct us in the Bible to do something–we do not do it.”

A news article from November in the Progressive Journal from here quotes the Rev. Frank Smith, “We have maintained the practice of singing the Biblical songs in public worship without musical accompaniment. We’ve maintained those standards through the years. We believe this is the way that God desires to be worshiped. We believe that worship should be worship.”

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Please pray for a continuous “supply” of Pulpit Supply as our brethren in SC begin to hold worship services on a regular basis.

UPDATED April 16, 2011: Rev. Kenneth Stewart to the RPCS…

The Rev. Kenneth Stewart, formerly of Dowenvale Free Church of Scotland

The following is from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland website.

“The RPCS has received an application from Rev. Kenneth Stewart (formerly minister of Dowanvale Free Church of Scotland) to be received as a minister in the RPCS.” found here

And later as of April 16th:

“Rev. Kenneth Stewart, upon his assent to the ordination vows of the RPCS, became a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland on Saturday the 16th April.”

Any thoughts?

Thanks to Connor Quigley for bringing this to our attention.

Some previous posts on this topic here and here