Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Response to an Anonymous Criticism of Psalmody

An anonymous commenter provided essentially five interrelated criticisms of Psalmody, which are produced (with added numbering and italic face) below. My response is in plain face.

1. "Recall what Jesus told James and John when they wanted to call down fire from heaven like Elijah? "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." I think he would say the same to those singing most of the Psalms, seeing they call for vengeance against enemies and beating them small as the dust and so on."

Respectfully, I'm not sure how familiar the commenter is with the Psalms. Surely there are some Psalms that call for God's victory over his enemies. Likewise, I think that the commenter is assuming that Christ's ministry brought a shift rather than a fuller revelation of what was already known by faith in Old Testament times. The Psalms are balanced, and divinely so.

2. "Not only that, but the Psalms also speak of animal sacrifice as still accepted by God (because it was when they were written).

I haven't done an exhaustive survey, but surely the Psalms mention animal sacrifices, but also mention their insufficiency, for example:

Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.


3.

a) "Not only that, but Paul says that Christians are to speak the gospel boldly, "not as Moses, which put a veil over his fac[e]" and does that not also apply to singing?"

2 Corinthians 3:12-15
12Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: 13And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: 14But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 15But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.

This argument is actually interesting, and it is the first time I've heard it made. Still, the way that we can readily take away that veil is by - in addition to the singing - read from and preach the New Testament.

God could have inspired a new or expanded Psalter, but he did not. Furthermore, in many cases the Psalms speak the Gospel more clearly than the Law does.

b) "Should we sing in shadows and figures or in reality?"

Well, when we sing Psalm 23's "The Lord is my Shepherd," we certainly know that this psalm speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ. We may not use the name Jesus, but from the remainder of the sermon, the type does testify to the antetype.

4. "I have seen also a very good argument against exclusive Psalmody based on Col 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." in which it is asked if perhaps it should be read thus "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing..." Isn't he commanding them to use their wisdom to compose songs that can teach the message of the gospel?"

That's a very orginal argument, but I wouldn't call it strong.
As you should be aware, there is a parallel instruction in Ephesisans:

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

That passage would be more helpful to this particular argument in some ways, because the parallelism in Colossians 3:16 is between "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;" on the one hand and "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." One might even argue that the verse has been incorrectly punctuated, but we need not reach that issue, because no one would suggest that "word of Christ" is something that we compose, as compared with Scripture.

It's interesting to note that the parallel includes the "wisdom" component, but also includes another component that is perhaps unexpected:

Ephesians 5:17-23
17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Colosians 3:16-19
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. 18Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. 19Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

What are the parallels:

1. Be wise;
2. Sing the Psalter (its historic divisions were the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, as Michael Bushell adequately proved in Songs of Zion) as your way of exhorting one another;
3. Give thanks to God in prayer through Christ's mediation;
4. Wives submit to their husbands; and
5. Husbands love their wives.

When you look at the parallels, the point of the passage almost immediately pops out! It's a recipe for Christian unity. How can we argue when we are singing the Psalms? How can we seek the preeminence we acknowledge one mediator betweeen God and man? Surely, there is some hierarchy (after all, wives submit to their husbands - which lends itself to peace as well), but there is also to be charity (for husbands are to love their wives - which also lends itself to peace).

In short, the passage is a recipe for peace. And look at the preceding context in each case:

Ephesians 5:1-2 & and 15-16
1Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. ...
15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

and likewise:

Colossians 3:12-15
12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

So, that ought to make it clear that the point of the passages is that we should join in the fellowship of unified Psalm-singing corporate prayer and mutual submission/love, rather than ceaseless strivings and contentions.

There is a place for debate, but there is more to life than debate.

-Turretinfan

4 comments:

natamllc said...

If only I were so fortunate!

Pro 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Pro 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

TF,

to the commenter, I would that when I am so foolish one such as you would answer so that I do not think myself so wise, at least in my own head!

But to Psalms 22 then:::>

Psa 22:19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Psa 22:20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!
Psa 22:21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
Psa 22:22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
Psa 22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

Who, I ask your reader and you, who could be so fortunate to have Him declare His NAMES to us lest He conjoined us to Him and the Holy Ghost?

Ok, I will interpret the Him and His.

As you know, this is the Psalm pointing to a kind of death, by hanging on a cross, well in advance of it even being used by the Persians and then taught to the Romans when they crucified our Lord.

But to be risen from the dead, He, God Our Heavenly Father can now conjoin us to Jesus; Jesus now can reveal His/God Our Heavenly Father's NAMES to us too!

How? By the means of GRACE as Peter declares and I quote:::>

1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Pe 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.


This indeed is a God thing!

Turretinfan said...

Thanks for the compliments and comments Natamllc.

Thanks also for bringing Psalm 22 and the promise to declare His name back to our minds!

-Turretinfan

Anonymous said...

natamllc,

"As you know, this is the Psalm pointing to a kind of death, by hanging on a cross,..."

This is more obvious in the KJV of Psalm 22:21 than in your translation, since it says "thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns" which Justin Marytr points to saying "the intersecting horns of two unicorns make no figure other than the cross." Oxen horns are a bit harder to imagine making a cross, but I suppose its possible.

TF,

If I understand correct, many Presbyterians sing only the Psalms, and without musical instruments due to the regulative principle. That is, the NEW TESTAMENT nowhere sanctions the use of musical instruments in worship, thus by the regulative principle, it is not to be used. Yet the very same people who are following this principle are singing Psalm 33 "Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings" and doing so acapella due to the regulative principle. If the NEW TESTAMENT does not permit the use of musical instruments per the regulative principle, what business do we have singing those Psalms which command the use of instruments? It seems counter-productive. This is similar to the point I was making about Psa 51:19 and the acceptance of animal sacrifices, but the instrumental music point it is very much more ironic.

As to animal sacrifices, I am aware that the Psalms do portray them as inadequate, but is inadequate enough? They are an abomination now, as Daniel 9:27 says "for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate," that is, because the Jews continued to sacrifice animals after the cross, therefore he destroyed the temple. I don't think we ought to be singing about doing something that is an abomination. And if we were to remove the Psalms that speak of using instruments of music or of sacrificing animals (since they imply that we can ignore the regulative principle and do things not sanctioned in the New Testament or things even condemned therein) then we would severely limit the number of Psalms left.z

Besides this, there is the unsingability of the Psalms as they stand. They must be paraphrases first, and then the whole thing you are trying to avoid with Exclusive Psalmody comes up again, namely human error. And if you are suggesting that arguments result from singing hymns rather than the Psalms, I dare say just as many arguments will result from the Psalms, because undoubtedly there will be arguments on the tune, on the merits of a particular paraphrase of the Psalm, of whether or not an individual Psalm is fit for congregational worship, etc., etc. I see just as much room for argument with the Psalms, indeed more room. And even if it is not inappropriate to sing the gospel in figures, certainly it brings more joy to sing it openly. But I suppose the fear here is that one might sing it as though he died for all men? One might quote John 3:16 in their hymn?

Turretinfan said...

Anonymous, you seem to introduce a few new criticisms ... I'll briefly address them:

"If I understand correct, many Presbyterians sing only the Psalms, and without musical instruments due to the regulative principle."

True.

"That is, the NEW TESTAMENT nowhere sanctions the use of musical instruments in worship, thus by the regulative principle, it is not to be used."

Or the Old Testament either, outside of temple/tabernacle worship. Since the temple/tabernacle are gone, so are its altars, ark, lavers, candlesticks, and trumpets.

"Yet the very same people who are following this principle are singing Psalm 33 "Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings" and doing so acapella due to the regulative principle."

Yes, and that seems to cause endless amusement to folks outside of RPW circles. The usual response is that this is a reference to the temple/tabernacle worship that passed away.

"If the NEW TESTAMENT does not permit the use of musical instruments per the regulative principle, what business do we have singing those Psalms which command the use of instruments?"

See above. We sing them in light of the NT.

"It seems counter-productive."

Hmm.

"This is similar to the point I was making about Psa 51:19 and the acceptance of animal sacrifices, but the instrumental music point it is very much more ironic."

Certainly it is, though the response is much the same.

"As to animal sacrifices, I am aware that the Psalms do portray them as inadequate, but is inadequate enough?"

Speaking of irony "is inadequate enough"? :) And yes, it is.

"They are an abomination now, as Daniel 9:27 says "for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate," that is, because the Jews continued to sacrifice animals after the cross, therefore he destroyed the temple."

I don't think that's by any means the clearest or best interpretation of Daniel's prophesy. Even if it were, I don't think it would change anything in the argument above.

"I don't think we ought to be singing about doing something that is an abomination."

That's not an argument, just an opinion. Duly noted.

"And if we were to remove the Psalms that speak of using instruments of music or of sacrificing animals (since they imply that we can ignore the regulative principle and do things not sanctioned in the New Testament or things even condemned therein) then we would severely limit the number of Psalms left."

Indeed.

"Besides this, there is the unsingability of the Psalms as they stand. They must be paraphrases first, and then the whole thing you are trying to avoid with Exclusive Psalmody comes up again, namely human error."

Actually, translating the Psalms into metred English (for example) presents some challenges, but they were overcome many many years ago. Those who sing from (for example) the Scottish Metrical Psalter sing translations, not paraphrases.

There is Scriptural warrant (and Historical precedent) for translating the Psalms from Hebrew.

"And if you are suggesting that arguments result from singing hymns rather than the Psalms, I dare say just as many arguments will result from the Psalms, because undoubtedly there will be arguments on the tune, on the merits of a particular paraphrase of the Psalm, of whether or not an individual Psalm is fit for congregational worship, etc., etc."

I didn't make that argument.

"I see just as much room for argument with the Psalms, indeed more room."

Oh, come on. More room? You're stretching things.

"And even if it is not inappropriate to sing the gospel in figures, certainly it brings more joy to sing it openly."

Opinion, and impossible to prove. Duly noted.

"But I suppose the fear here is that one might sing it as though he died for all men?"

Nope. That doesn't even show up on the radar screen.

"One might quote John 3:16 in their hymn?"

As noted elsewhere, that verse says he died for all those who believe.

-Turretinfan