GMW's previous post is included almost entire. The Baptist ''byssinian's
thoughts are interjected and marked with Tp-
With all due respect (and I mean that... your kind and comforting
words to me in my time of trouble a few months back are not
forgotten, and I hold you in high esteem), my brother.
Tp-Your words are appreciated and I have no doubt you mean them.
The esteem also is mutual.
I find your objections to be quite weak. Let's look at them:
1. The Unwitting Error of Equivocation
You write, "EP's have suggested two possible meanings of the
phrase "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." I'm sure you will find
more than just two suggested meanings if you look around enough.
Tp-The two equivocal descriptions of EP I posted were
meanings that I seemed to be reading in the recent series of postings here
whether by you, BD or Rev. S, I can't remember which and don't have time to
There are some Reformed folks who we know were very likely to have
sung the Psalms exclusively in worship who do not deny definitions
similar to yours, though they do not seem to think that Eph. 5:19 and
Col. 3:16 are commands limited to worship
Tp- I assume that in your reply you are defining the word
"worship" as referring to formal church worship services. May I suggest we
get away from that usage since the NT usage for worship is broader. I will
use the word "services" for such in what follows.
(Calvin, for example,
states clearly that the Psalms alone are suitable songs to be used in
the worship of God [in his preface to the Genevan Psalter], and yet
he does not limit these texts to speak only of Psalms. Rather, he
seems to speak of morally upright songs which speak of God's praise,
of all types, in all kinds of situations.
Tp- This creates a problem for me. If Calvin is taking Col
3:16 as not referring to the Hebraism of psalms, palms and psalms, but
morally upright songs which speak of God's praise in all situations, and yet
claiming that only the psalms are suitable to be used in the worship of God
why is Calvin distinguishing between corporate and individual worship and on
what grounds? If Calvin does make such a distinction, I question whether it
is tenable. As previously noted Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19 are not written in a
context of general church order but one of common Christian life which would
seem to apply the teaching of these verses to all Christian settings. Which
is why I think a consistent EP will sooner or later reduce to psalms only in
all situations. (Do you for instance use uninspired songs in your private or
family worship and/or find it easy to listen in good conscience to human
worship song CD's?) If you do, I would be immensely surprised.
Since Christ defines acceptable worship as being "in spirit and in
truth" (John 4:24), then if human composed songs are insufficient they must
be insufficient on one or both of these grounds. It has been argued
somewhere in the recent series of posts in the club that only acceptable
content for worship is divinely inspired texts. Therefore it would seem that
offering less than inspired texts is a belittling of God if not an outright
blasphemy i.e. a human usurping one of God's prerogatives (Luke 5;21)-
that of composing praise to be given to Him. If this is correct, the
blasphemy is committed whether done in a service or outside it. Therefore I
am left with cases 1 and 2. EP's may not like my case 1 but on my premises
nothing else is tenable.
In passing pleas not that we are not free to assume that OT
requirements for worship carry over into the New Covenant since Christ in
John 4:21 specifically abrogates the temple requirement of the OT for which
the psalms were the songbook, right before He announces the NT criteria of
"Spirit and truth". If a song is composed by someone "filled with the
spirit" which we are all commanded to be, and is of irreproachable biblical
truth why is it then inappropriate for use in the worship of God?
But, leaving that aside for a moment, if Calvin's view is right and
these texts speak of generally moral and upright songs which speak of God's
praise rather than being specifically limited to the canonical psalms: then
the Hebraism argument quoted against the non EP understanding of "hymn and
spiritual song" becomes invalid. It is only a valid consideration for the
discussion if Paul's intent was to teach 'psalms, psalms and psalms' as the
general rule for the churches i.e. case 1.
You will also find some arguing that the term "spiritual"
refers to not simply "songs," but to all three terms (i.e. "spiritual
psalms, hymns, and songs") meaning that all three are "of the
Tp - This argument has certainly not commended itself to
many on either grammatical or contextual grounds. I can't speak to the
grammatical point, but on the contextual point I observe that if by the word
"psalms" Paul meant the canonical psalms, psalms and psalms, the word
"spiritual" applied to them is redundant. Since Paul does not waste words
this intended meaning is less likely. Note that we must assume that the
Ephesians would have known that Paul meant by the book of Psalms when he
used word "psalms" since he had been among them and it is certain that he
would have used the canonical Psalms, at least in part, both in his teaching
and when leading worship. Moreover, modifying the word "ode" as "spiritual"
appears to do is a strong argument that the word 'hymnos" is specifically a
non inspired song, since, from Paul's perspective, the only way an
uninspired ode would be mistaken for his meaning by the Ephesians or
Colossians is if the previous word "hymn" was intended to be seen as
You describe the first suggested EP meaning: "It was asserted
somewhere in these postings that Paul's phrase `psalms, hymns and
spiritual songs' was a Hebraism, saying the same thing different ways
three times as in Ex. 34:7 where God says he is `bearing iniquity
rebellion and sin' (Fox translation)." Now, I will allow you your
interpretation of Exodus 34:7, as I do not deny that while the three
words may denote the same thing, they may connote slightly different
things (perhaps even the very things you say). However, that is
nothing to the point. The fact is, that the Septuagint refers to
various Psalms as humnos, ode, and or psalmos (see
Tp-That the bible uses those terms of the psalms I do not
It is not disputed
that the Septuagint was in wide use amongst the Greek speaking Jews,
and it seems that the writers of the New Testament sometimes quote
from it. And therefore, we need to appeal to no other Hebraisms to
conclude that Paul is referring to the book of psalms, hymns, and
spiritual songs with which the Church would already have been
familiar. But if you wish, you can take a look at some other verses
that say roughly the same thing multiple times: Lev. 16:21; Deut.
30:16; 1 Kings 6:12; 1 Chron. 19:19; Ps. 19:7,8; Ps. 66:1,2; 1 Cor.
2:9; 1 Cor. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Tim. 2:1; Heb. 2:4; etc.
Tp-I believe I had stated that the Hebraism was a possible
understanding. But the example I gave (which you granted) shows that the
threefold repetition of similar ideas does not always mean that a threefold
repetition of an identical idea is always intended by the Hebrew mind. Hence
the Hebraism argument cannot be advocated with certainty. Paul may have been
meaning psalms only, or he may have been meaning something else. We cannot,
with certainty, therefore, by the Hebraism, determine which of the possible
meanings he meant.
And it is the issue of certainty which is very important here. At bottom the
issue is not whether EP understandings of the text are possibly what Paul
meant. They are and they might even be right. The real question is can we be
certain that Paul's intended meaning was one of the EP proposed
understandings, or the one I pointed out i.e. a mixture of canonical psalms,
new composed hymns and charismatic "odes". By the term "certain" here I am
not referring to the subjective certainty we experience as we consider two
sides of a debate, and the evidence influences our judgement one way or the
other, but the objective certainty defined as when one understanding of the
text is known to be indisputably correct on grammatical contextual, and
theological grounds since not only is it explicitly taught, but the contrary
possibilities are specifically excluded also. Remember that faith involves
being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not now see. (Heb
11:1). While we can be absolutely and objectively certain of key doctrines
like the Trinity, justification by faith etc because in those cases,
Scripture specifically excludes any alternatives to the orthodox
understanding, we cannot be equally certain in the same sense when all we
can do is select from one of a number of possible understandings of a text.
Now as I see this situation, no NT text excludes uninspired hymns from use
in the church. Similarly no OT text specifically mandates only canonical
psalms for worship or specifically excludes non canonical ones. Therefore
while we may fellowship in groups which prefer to "play it safe" and sing
only the canonical psalms, which may be the correct understanding, we
should not try to legislate for all Christians where Scripture leaves the
other possibility not specifically excluded, and there are a couple of texts
that argue that it may be permitted.
You continue, " ...then the content of Paul's teaching in Col 3:16
reduces to "Sing only canonical psalms in the church for instruction
and worship...". There are some problems with this conclusion:
A. You continue to suggest that this verse teaches either 1) that we
may only teach by using singing - this, however, cannot be true, as
we are to take the whole of Scriptures as our rule, and we find in
them many commands and examples of teaching which do not involve
Tp - I was not advocating that that we may only use singing to
teach. Let me rephrase what I was trying to say. It should have read "On
this premise the content of Paul's teaching in Col 3:16 reduces to 'when you
worship in song or when you teach by singing, then sing only psalms, psalms,
and psalms, for instruction and worship" It is not that Paul is limiting
teaching to song, but that when someone is teaching by singing, it appears
that the content must be psalms only.
B. This is very important: *** EP'S DO NOT SING PSALMS ONLY BECAUSE
WE BELIEVE PAUL HERE TEACHES "SING ONLY CANONICAL PSALMS," RATHER,
WE SING ONLY PSALMS BECAUSE PAUL HERE GIVES US NOTHING ELSE TO SING.
Tp- that is fully understood. But if you believe that Paul gives you nothing
else to sing, you are only saying in different words that we are limited in
what we may sing. And if Paul is these verses giving us nothing else to sing
in services then what the bible elsewhere limits us to which on EP premises
is psalms then we arrive at my case 1. And an aside - if you believe that
Paul is giving us nothing else to sing why did you quote Calvin who
interprets these verses as Paul indeed giving us something else to sing,
just not in the church? For the purposes of this discussion between thee and
me, his view of these verses is irrelevant.
EP does not need Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 to find warrant for singing
Psalms. We already have enough warrant from the rest of Scripture.
Tp- I do not think you do sing psalms only because of what is taught here. I
agree there is plenty of warrant for using psalms in worship. I do so
I am asking where else in Scripture do we find ourselves specifically
limited to psalms only since Christ's criteria appear to be "Spirit and
truth" not psalms.
C. And finally, you continue to misunderstand the EP position, by
suggesting that all the songs any Christian at any time in redemptive
history must be found among the 150 canonical Psalms.
Tp- The above sentence seems to be missing something. Is it the words "may
sing" after Christian?
I understand fully that EP's are not saying that the early church was
limited to the canonical psalms in worship that they had charismatic songs
to teach doctrine. My case 1 assumes that exception.
isn't true. We believe that God must give us the songs to sing, and
if He chooses to do that by way of charismatic inspiration or by way
of a prophet, then He has the right to do that. No one denies that while God
sets up rules, He Himself can make exceptions.
Tp-Sure God has the right to do anything He wants to do and He does it
whether we like it or not. But we do not have the right to hold to our
understanding of what He is teaching and doing when our understanding brings
with it the good and (provably) necessary consequence that He is the author
of confusion, when Scripture tells us plainly that He is not. If He is
mandating through Paul that only canonical psalms are to be sung for
instruction which, ISTM, is what case 1 entails while Himself instructing
the church by noncanonical sung prophecy which he has forbidden by Paul, He
is creating confusion. Since Scripture forbids us from thinking that He is
the author of confusion, we must therefore revise our understanding. And
thus we are forced to turn to case 2 if we believe EP is scriptural.
But in the absence
of those things, He's given us a book to use - the Psalter. Based on
this error, you (while flirting with blasphemy) conclude, "and then
the non canonical psalms given charismatically by God to the early
church creates the situation in which, on EP premises, God is at
least the author of confusion since He is mandating through Paul that
only canonical psalms are to be sung for instruction while
instructing the church himself by noncanonical psalms which he has
forbidden by Paul." Talk about a straw man! You knocked that
scarecrow right over with one doozy of a wallop! By stating the EP
premise falsely, you've made God out to be contradictory.
Tp-I don't think I have stated the EP premise falsely or created a straw
man. I recognize that EP's see these verses as teaching only a general rule
with the charismatic exception. I think I have shown, though, that if Paul's
intent was in these key verses was to teach psalms only as a general rule,
he is more likely to have meant case 2., not case 1, since stating the
general rule as case 1 might (from Paul's perspective) create problems for
the churches given that Paul knew that God from time to time was inspiring
charismatic singers to teach doctrine. If EP's argue Paul to mean case 1
with exception for charismatic teaching, then I do think that the argument
makes God out as at least an incompetent teacher since he could have given
any needed teaching by spoken prophecy which meant that He would not have
set the bad example of contradicting His instruction given by Paul. Or on
the other hand if Paul knew that God was using charismatic singing to teach
doctrine surely he would make room for it in his instructions, which is case
2. Why? Because any prophet in the churches receiving Ephesians (if it was a
circular letter) or in the Eph. church itself would, after hearing 5:18,
never feel free to give a sung prophecy, even if prompted by the Holy
Spirit, and the church concerned would never know with certainty whether a
particular sung prophecy containing true doctrine was acceptable or not,
until they received a copy of an apostolic letter repeating the doctrine.
Could Paul have wanted to risk foreclosing all future charismatic song when
he wrote Ephesians or Colossians? If he meant psalms psalms and psalms he
risked doing exactly that, since AFAWK the common dating of the NT there was
still some more Scripture yet to come after these letters. Which is why I
think that if EP is biblical at all, only case 2 is a tenable understanding
of these verses.
In your next example, you write, "Case 2. On the other hand some EP's
have maintained that Paul referred to the canonical psalms by the
terms psalms and hymns only, and used the term spiritual songs to
mean the charismatic songs given in 1 Cor 14. This means that what
Paul meant to teach was "sing canonical psalms and charismatic songs
i.e. inspired songs that give teachings that would be inscripturated
in the NT later." While this possibility solves the problem presented
in case 1, it leads to its own problem: on this version of the EP
premise the songs in Revelation must be permitted worship texts on
the grounds of their inspiration, and any biblical text (because NT
ones are inspired and OT by parity of reasoning since both are
inspired and canonical) is available to be taught by means of
As I'm not familiar with this position, I will pass it by
with little comment.
Tp- If we deny case 1 so Paul can, to avoid confusion, then teach his
converts to allow for charismatic song we arrive inevitably at case
2.Incidently case 2 also destroys the Hebraism EP's use to make Paul say
psalms psalms and psalms in these verses. You will now need to find
Hebraisms of a,a,b. Are there any?
I will only state again that the EP position is
not properly that Paul is in this verse limiting us to anything in
particular, but that he is not giving us anything other than Psalms
to sing. Given the biblical principle that God prescribes His own
Tp - I do not dispute that God prescribes His own worship-I merely ask,
since Jesus prescribes that worship is to be in Spirit and in truth, why
Biblical truth whether quoted or accurately paraphrased not good enough for
Christians who if they are walking rightly before God are in the Spirit?
we are left with only the songs God gave us to sing - in the
absence of God providing directly inspired Psalms, this means we use
Tp-the whole question is whether or not we are so limited in view of Jesus'
I will also point out that the best arguments against
exclusive Psalmody tend to still argue for inspired praise, something
to which most Non-EP's DO NOT LIMIT THEMSELVES TOO, ANYWAY. Are you
arguing that we should allow only inspired praise, Tim?
Tp - If by inspired praise you mean "canonical Scripture" than sometimes I
would have to almost agree. But then I remember that Christ's criteria was
"truth" and my preferred ways of stating truth do not automatically trump
other ways of stating that same truth, if the truth itself is not
compromised. If we can accurately state and explain Scriptural truth in
ways other than merely quoting Scripture than why limit our praises when we
don't so limit our words?
You wish to take the
rare exception (prophets giving inspired charismatic Psalms) and make
it the rule, and then include in that new rule all kinds of
uninspired hymns as well.
Tp - Now this IS a "straw man argument." I am not arguing for "all kinds" of
uninspired hymns. I am only arguing for worship texts which meet the
standard of absolute fidelity to biblical truth. I have already said so both
in the previous post and in my answers to Susan's questions.
2. The Straw Man Argument
"The second error is a straw man argument. GMW mentioned the problem
of Joe Sournotes ditties. Granted Joe's ditties are the worst
example of the non EP principle, but the strongest case of non EP's is
not Joe's babblings but the best work of people like H. F. Lyte (O
love how deep, how broad, how high.) or Graham Kendrick (Meekness and
Majesty) which are hymns of irreproachable biblical content. If we
are going to question a doctrinal position, let us make a habit of
questioning its best representatives, not its worst."
There are several problems here.
First, you are making too many conclusions about Joe Sournote. You
are concluding that he writes unbiblical or heretical hymns. I've
made no such conclusion or suggestion. My problem with Joe Sournote
is that he is not a prophet, nor a Levite, nor is he inspired by God
or called by Him to deliver songs to His Church for use in worship.
That alone is grounds for me to reject Joe's hymns as being fit for
use in worship.
Tp-That is a begging of the question. If John 4:24 is the governing criteria
for Christian worship, anybody may create worship songs so long as they are
of irreproachable biblical teaching.
Second, you bring up two men (Lyte and Kendrick) who may or not write
beautiful and biblical hymns - honestly I'm not familiar with them by
name. I have no idea offhand what their hymns are like, whether they
are orthodox or not.
Tp - I have recently posted the text of the Lyte hymn at Between a rock and
a hard place. Check the index for passiontide.
They may very well be very well written,
biblically solid, songs. If so, God blessed them with a rare talent
because most hymns I've heard suck eggs. There's a reason churches
tend to make great use of a handful of hymns while ignoring the other
200 pages in their hymnals - it's quite rare to find a good one.
Now, in the Baptist hymn-singing church I grew up in, we didn't sing
too much of those two fellows: we sang more Fanny Crosby (who was a
woman commanded to keep silent in the Churches, not to teach), the
Wesley's (flaming Arminian Perfectionists), and Isaac Watts (who
denied the orthodox understanding of the Trinity).
Tp - I do not ask you to ignore doctrinal errors of hymn writers overall
theological position. I only ask you to test particular hymns by Scripture.
If you find anything in a given hymn that is false or heretical don't sing
it and/or find a church which does have a competent minister and choir
director. I would also ask you to check your history in the case of Watts.
While he may have been unorthodox for a short time, for the vast majority of
his ministry he was orthodox on this subject and recognized as such. He
wrote a number of hymns which presume orthodox doctrine in this area. One
couplet chosen at random is "Jesus is worthy to receive / honour and power
divine" which is hardly unorthodox.
Now, you may wish
that I ignore those horrible hymn-writers in order to address the
best ones. While I did not address EITHER, but only used the
hypothetical example of one uninspired, non-prophetic Joe Sournote,
even if I did address the worst hymn-writers rather than the best,
that still would NOT be a straw man argument, as I would simply be
addressing the scourge which is most widespread in the churches,
rather than addressing the rare exceptions of great hymn-writers.
Tp -That scourge can be addressed by other means. I have seen it done. And
if EP is not Biblical we are adding to His word and must expect Him to
rebuke us. (Pv. 30:6).
Again, my objection is not regarding whether or not they are good or
bad hymn-writers, but whether or not they are producing songs worthy
to be placed next to the Psalms in our hymnals, and worthy enough to
be song to God in worship, and even if they met the last two
qualifications, the last qualification is the most important one: Do
we have warrant to worship God with those songs?
Since Christ defines acceptable worship as being "in spirit and in truth"
(John 4:24) and since the NT defines the normal Christian walk as being
filled with the Spirit, if our songs are distillations of biblical truth, we
"If EP is not God's intent the proposed cure is no better than the
3. The Problem of Word Meaning
"The Ephesian and Colossian letters were written to Greek speaking
churches. The Greek word for "hymns" mentioned in those letters was
commonly used in contemporary secular Greek to refer to humanly
written hymns. Since that is so, we cannot, without a begging of the
entire question, arbitrarily assume that Paul could not have meant
the normal usage of the Greek word "hymnos" i.e. uninspired psalms in
distinction from the canonical psalms."
Oh, but Tim, why stop there? Continue your definition to more better
match the common use of hymnos... add that they were sung to false
gods! Then your rather arbitrary definition would read, "uninspired
psalms sung to false gods in distinction from the canonical psalms."
Tp- That possibility is ruled out by Paul in both texts when he specifically
identifies the object of our worship -it is to be "to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19)
or "to God" (Col. 3:16). That Paul does this in both passages is a strong
argument that the meaning one or more of the terms he had used could have
been misunderstood exactly as you have just done. If he had meant "psalms,
psalms and psalms" and he knew his Ephesian congregation knew his usage he
had no need to add "to the Lord."
4. Searching for Liturgies
"dating from the 5th to seventh century."
Yes, somewhere around A.D. 666 (no, I'm not trying to imply anything
by the date) the Romans added musical instruments as well. You are
bound to find lots of innovations by then.
Tp-Did you notice that I mentioned Ambrose who dates from three centuries
earlier? If you did, this is another straw man.
If EP is not God's intent, one might be able to find in Scripture
commands to sing uninspired songs in worship, or perhaps even an
example or two of God's people singing uninspired songs in worship.
Tp-Since Christ defines acceptable worship as being "in spirit and in truth"
it is not we who need to find commands to sing uninspired material in
worship (although the two key verses in Eph. and Col. may be held to permit
such), it is the EP advocate who needs to prove that acceptable worship is
limited to psalms.
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