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.


16 thoughts on “UPDATED: A good discussion between Dr. R. Scott Clark and Lane Keister”

  1. Seems though like Dr. Clark has thrown in the blogging towel. WordPress.com just says his blog was deleted by its author. Not that it has anything to do with this discussion, it’s just that your links to the HB are dead now.

    Keister said nothing new, just the same old rehash of the same excuses for justifying idolatry that has been going on for last 2+ centuries. They just can’t seem to see, like the 10 tribes of Israel (really all 12) the displeasure God has for those who worship according to their own “What we permit…” rules rather than by what He himself has required. Just as every king of Israel after Jeroboam, was labeled “and he did that was evil in the sight of the LORD departing not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat that made Israel to sin”, so every reformed church which adopted Isaac Watt’s hymns, has departed not from the sins of Isaac Watt the idolater that made the church to sin.

  2. Andrew,

    Yes, it seems that the Heidelblog is no more. For those who are interested in the discussion, I have saved the statements from the Heidelblog and Greenbaggins. I will work on getting permission to post the discussion for future reference.

    I hope all is well with Dr. Clark. I have a great appreciation for his ministry. In fact, it was while reading his book Recovering the Reformed Confessions that I was convinced of the truth of the EP position. Praise God for Dr. Clark’s scholarly work in the kingdom of God.

    I also appreciate Rev. Keister’s efforts, though I disagree with him on the subject of EP. I found myself scratching my head as I read his objections to EP, especially the confusion over the differences between prayer and singing. I would think that the differences would be quite obvious. Anyway, I am thankful that he initiated a discussion with Dr. Clark. I firmly believe that we are in the right corner in this “fight” and that any discussion among church leadership will ultimately benefit our cause.

    Speaking of benefitting our cause, say a prayer for Dr. Clark and his ministry.

    Andrew, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I really wish fine Reformed ministers like Rev. Keister could see the negative impact that hymns have had on the church. While you’re praying, say a prayer for Lane. He has ably defended Reformed theology in recent years from the dangerous threat of the Federal Visionists. May his wit and wisdom come over to the cause of defending the Songs of Zion.

  3. I asked Dr. Clark for permission to post his response to Lane here since the Heidelblog has closed, but he declined. He doesn’t want any Heidelblog materials on the internet. ok. I had already quoted him above, so I intend to leave those references. But for now, you can go to Greenbaggins and read at least one side of the conversation.

    I am confident, however, that the objections offered to EP on the Greenbaggins website are ably defended by other leaders in the Church of Christ. All of the issues dealt with there have been discussed before. The links here on this site are a good place to start.

    I don’t want to speculate here about the Heidelblog or Dr. Clark. I like Dr. Clark. This post was started to discuss his interaction with Rev. Keister and now we can no longer read those comments, so to me that is a little frustrating and not very helpful to the people who were looking in his direction for instruction / guidance / wisdom. For the cause of EP we need to have visible leaders who are willing to engage the church on the issue of biblical song. May God be please to raise up men who are willing to do so.

    I needed to make a statement about the Heidelblog website no longer being available so I did. That is all.

  4. Good for Clark for removing his blog. Perhaps he wants to maintain the unity of faith and this saying “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity” applies. Was this St. Augustine who first coined this phrase?

    Dr. Gentry has some important considerations that I reviewed on Millennial Dreams. I know you have been busy chasing down the Clark/Keisler debate, Mark, but kindly order or take a look at Gentry’s tapes on EP. You missed this when I posted April 8th. I had hoped that you would have gone to my name above which would have taken you to http://millennialdreams.blogspot.com/ and at least checked it out.

    Best to you and your lovely family.

  5. Carol,

    Thank you for your earlier post. I did not realize that Dr. Gentry had a series of lectures on the subject of Exclusive Psalmody. Since you brought these to our attention I have asked around a little and would like to hear more about the lectures. I also have a few questions for you regarding your post above and on your post at Millinial Dreams.

    1) First, why is it a good thing that Dr. Clark’s website has been removed? Dr. Clark is an outspoken advocate of Confessionalism, something that you and I both care about. Often he is in the position of saying controversial things. But this is position that we all find ourselves in since we value the Wesminster Confession and its highly unpopular summary of the Christian faith. I fail to see the passing of his website as a good thing.

    2) If Dr. Clark’s website were for the purpose of promoting disunity, which it seems that you have implied, I might understand why we would be glad the website has been deleted. As I have stated here many times the promoting of Exclusive Psalmody is neither a focus on a non-essential nor is it an act of disunity. Obedience to God’s specific directives regarding His worship is perhaps the most important of issues, it is far from a non-essential.

    If the countless number of Reformed Presbyterians who have taught exclusive Psalmody (including the Westminster Divines) are right, the singing of anything other than a Psalm is an offense to God. How can this not be important? How can this be a non-essential? Also, if the perspective of the EP position is correct, then it is an act of disunity to introduce any other song into the worship of God. The destruction of unity occurs because of those who oppose EP, not from those who only believe that we ought to sing the Psalms. Unity comes about through obedience. If we all are obeying God, we would be singing the Psalms.

    I realize there are many who disagree with this, but even fine scholars like Dr. Gentry have not proven we have authority to introduce uninspired hymns into our worship. The introduction of uninspired hymnody is an act of disunity.

    3) Can you please provide us with some specific points that are given by Dr. Gentry against the position of EP? It would be good to discuss specific points if we can. From others who have listened to the lectures, I have heard that he restates many of the objections against EP that have been offered many times before. These have been sufficiently answered by Reformed scholars again and again. Does Gentry’s analysis of EP surpass what has been done before?

    Thank you for letting us know about Dr. Gentry’s lectures. I am thinking about starting a new thread to cover them specifically.

    God bless, I also hope you and your family are doing well. Your church and Rev. Dr. Talbot are very dear to me and both have been a great blessing to our family.

  6. I am sorry for speaking at all about Dr. Clark’s blog being removed. That was speculation on my part that was not warranted. We can never speculate on the motivation of others. I also noticed that Dr. Clark’s Heidelblog podcast of April 6 on his discussion with Lane Kester doesn’t play and there have been no further podcasts issued.

    At this point my Kenneth Gentry tapes on Exclusive Psalmody are loaned out to a church family who have gone back up north. However, it would perhaps be worth your while to order them from KennethGentry.com. Go to the Audio CD section where it is listed as a top seller. He is very gracious in these series on messages.

    Just discussed your issue with Dr. Talbot Thursday night at dinner. We are struggling with my husband’s Alzheimer’s as you see another blog attached to my name above. Today I am working on a paper for our nouthetic counseling course at the church and my topic is “Dealing with the Anger of an Alzheimer’s Loved One”. Might post parts of that paper on that Plant City Lady blog.

    Mark, I always loved hearing your thoughtful sermons when you lived here. and preached instead of Dr. Talbot.

    Eager to maintain the unity,

  7. Carol,

    I will make it a point to listen to Dr. Gentry’s lectures. I think it is important to engage those who are in the Reformed community speaking on issues related to biblical worship. The discussion between Dr. Clark and Rev. Keister is a good model for us to be thoughful in our responses because we are dealing with matters of great importance.

    I pray that you would be strengthened in your great responsibility of caring for your husband. Alzheimer’s certainly presents a great number of difficulties for you in the years ahead. I would encourage anyone following along with this post to pray for Carol, that God would grant her endurance and patience in her daily duties.

  8. It is a bit baffling when church leaders suppress good instruction material from public use. I am the firmest of believers in using every possible means and channels of promoting Biblical principles.
    As you say so rightly, Mark, this will necessarily involve us in controversy, sometimes more, sometimes less but in a world of darkness, constantly. I am sure the Free Church of Scotland Cont would love to have you minister to us if you are ever over in the U.K.!!
    This site is a tremendous resource and we thank God for it and all the effort you must put into it, especially when so many are so antagonistic to purity of worship. Every blessing.

  9. Ewan,

    Thank you for your kind words. I would love to visit if I ever make it over to your part of the world. I am glad the site has been helpful, though the greatest benefit of this website is found in our being brought together for such an important common cause.

    God bless.

  10. It seems to me that Dr. R. Scott Clark is a coward. He’s apparently more afraid of men than God. If he truly cared about the Gospel he would not have removed his blog. Apparently, however, his loyalties lie with his professional career rather than speaking the truth and spreading true theology all over the world. Interestingly, Roger Olson continues to blog, spreading Open Theism and other lies through the internet.


  11. BTW, I’m leaning to the view that Psalms only should be sung. Why is it that Puritans do not also read the lectionary? Psalm, OT reading, NT reading, Gospel reading….

  12. Charlie,
    Let’s be careful of making accusations against Dr. Clark. I understand your frustration, but we have no way of knowing the situation that brought about the end of the Heidelblog. For our cause of promoting Psalmody, I would rather have his wit and wisdom in our corner on the internet. However, I am certain that he will continue to publish and to teach views that we would find most beneficial. Take for instance his book Recovering the Reformed Confessions. In this work he ably defends inspired worship songs. I would rather encourage Dr. Clark to keep taking up the pen to help us in the work. If I can’t have the Heidelblog, give me more books to read and use for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

    God bless.

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