4112(Long) response to "Some footnote to the EP discussion"
- Apr 1, 2002Tim,
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, I do not 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.
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 (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. Also, he allows that
Psalms here refers to a song played with an instrument, which
practice during worship Calvin elsewhere flatly condemns. I'll allow
you to look up his commentary on these verses and conclude for
yourself how he interprets this. Point being that Calvin didn't
necessarily view these commands as worship ordinances in the strict
sense). 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
Spirit." Look around, there are a various ways we can understand
Eph. 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 which do not demand the use of
uninspired hymns in the worship of God.
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
http://members.aol.com/Puritanone/songs.html ). 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.
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
singing (Christ teaching in the temple by "asking questions" [i.e.
catechizing] for example) or, that this verse is teaching (not by
singing, by the way!) that the ordinance of singing does not involve
praise to God, but only the teaching of men, which also cannot be
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.
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.
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. This simply
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. 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.
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
song." As I'm not familiar with this position, I will pass it by
with little comment. 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
worship, 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
the Psalter. 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?
"If Paul's intent was to teach that only canonical psalms were to be
used in worship he is ruling against the admissibility of any
noncanonical psalm singing in Christian worship."
A wrong "if" will get you the wrong "then." Again, Paul's intent
need not be to limit us to anything here. The point is that he gives
us nothing else but Psalms to sing. No one denies that while God
sets up rules, He Himself can make exceptions. 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. Thus far you've been unable to demonstrate
the use on any uninspired songs in the worship of God found anywhere
in Scripture. Tim, believe me if Non-EP's were arguing merely for
inclusion of other Scripture songs, the whole debate would take on a
different face, as both sides would grant something that YOU WILL
NOT, which is that God will be worshiped in song only with inspired
songs. The argument would then become "All inspired songs? Or are
they limited only to the `Psalms of David'?"
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 nonEP principle, but the strongest case of nonEP'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.
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. 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). 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.
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?
"If EP is not God's intent the proposed cure is no better than the
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.
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."
We can simply recognize that the Septuagint was already calling the
Psalms of David "psalms, hymns, and songs" and that we have no
compelling reason to suppose that Paul was commanding the early
church to forget that up until then the church had used only the
inspired hymns of David, and that they were now to start writing
hymns so they have something to sing when the show up for church, and
that if they restricted themselves to the Psalms that they would be
violating this new commandment.
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.
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