Saturday, December 08, 2007

Exclusive Psalmody? (part 1)

Well, I have been clearing some stuff on my table, and I have come across 2 tracts which I have gotten from perhaps the most conservative church in Singapore during my brief visit there. Anyway, I would like to tackle the topic of exclusive psalmody here, which is practiced and promoted in that particular church. It is my conviction that exclusive Psalmody (singing the Psalms only) is not biblical, and I will show this to be the case.

First of all, I would like to summarize the arguments used to promote the practice of exclusive psalmody, especially as found within the pamphlet entitled The Church's Perfect Hymnbook — Why we sing the Pslams of the Bible exclusively in public worship (© 1996 Douglas W. Comin, Crown & Covenant Publications), among other sources.


From the pamphlet, the case could be build up as follows:

1) The Regulative Principle of Worship

Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it (Deut. 12:32)

The Regulative Principle of Worship can be seen explicitly in this verse and in various passages in the Bible, with the narrative of Lev. 10:1-3 showing the death of Aibhu and Nadab, the 2 sons of Aaron who died because they offered strange or unauthorized fire in worship before God, as the best illustration of the practice of the Regulative Principle of Worship. Israel was to worship God according to His stated ways; no more and no less. We are therefore not to worship God contrary to the ways He has prescribed to us in the Scriptures. According to the Exclusive Psalmodists therefore: "God has commanded His people to sing the Psalms of the Bible when they gather together for worship. He has not commanded them to sing songs of their own coposition. The consistent application of the Regulative Principle of Worship, then, excludes the use of songs which God has not commanded to be used in worship." (Comin)

2) Sufficiency of Scripture

"The Psalms of the Bible are God's Word. They lack nothing that is needed by the people of God in their expresson of praise and adoration to Him when they gather for worship.

The necessary implication of the use of man-written hymns in the worship of God is that the Psalms alone are somehow not a sufficient volume of praise for God's people. We reject this notion and we believe that the 150 Psalms of the Bible are a perfectly sufficient hymnbook for the church of God thoroughout the ages." (Comin)

3) The Continuity of the Covenant

"The Psalms of the Biblewere written for the very purpose of proclaiming the New Covenant promises which were fulfilled in Christ. In fact, Jesus Himself claimed that the Psalms were about Him (see Luke 24:44). Would it not seem strange if the people of God were commanded to sing the Psalms only until the time of Christ's appearing, and the to put them aside once they were able to fully appreciate their true meaning?

We do not believe that the Old Testament is outdated. ... By anchoring the church's praise in the prophecies of the Old Testament through the book of Psalms, God's people are continually reminded of their heritage among the chosen people of God throughout all ages" (Comin)

4) The Purpose of Worship

"We believe that worship is to be God-centered. ... When God's people approach His worship in this way, they will inevitably be blessed. When they approach Him according to their own ideas of what is acceptable to Him, they may experience some emotional uplifting, but God has not been honored through the keeping of Hid Word. (Comin)

5) They are without error/ Praise songs must be inspired

We should be concerned that what we offer to God in praise is perfect and without blemish. "When we sing to God the songs which He Himself has written, we can be assured that what we are offering to God in praise is not tainted with error" (Comin)

"A careful examination of the Scripture passages which discuss the songs used in worship and how worship songs were composed reveals that God only authorizes and accepts divinely inspired songs for the praise of Himself." [1]

6) They promote memorization

"Another great benefit to singing the Psalms is the memorization of the Scriptures." (Comin)

7) They carry the power of the Spirit

"We have no promise from God that the words of men, no matter how well-intentioned, will pierce the heart and adminster grace to His people. But we have such a promise with regard to God's own Word" (Heb. 4:12) (Comin)

8) They perfectly balance themes

"There are some themes in th Bible in which wetend to take special delight. There are others whih seem more difficult to swallow, but which are just as neccessary for our growth in grace and in the knowledge of the whole counsel of God ... [The book of Psalms] is, therefore, a book of praise which keeps us anchored in the whole counsel of God, feeding our souls with both the "sweet" and the "sour" meat of God's Word"

9) They provide a basis for unity

"There are certain hymns ... containing doctrinal statements with which Christians from another denominational background might disagree. But there is no such difficulty with the Psalms. They are the very Word of God.

Imagine what strides would be made towards unifying the church if all of God's people made His songs the theme of their praise whenever they came together for corporate worship" (Comin)

10) Singing is a separate element of worship, not a circumstance of worship

This was written to counter critics of Exclusive Psalmody, of which Brian Schwertley[1] targets Greg Bahnsen who is quoted as saying that singing is a circumstance of worship, or in other words that although praising God is commanded, the mode is a mere circumstance not strictly regulated by God's Word.

[to be continued]


[1] Exclusive Psalmody: A biblical defense by Brian Schwertley (

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