My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

17 May 2006

Believing the Gospel

In our core group for church planting, we've generally gone about our studies by trying to answer these questions (and in this order):

Why plant a church?
Why plant a presbyterian church?
Why plant a reformed church?
And, finally, why plant a reformed presbyterian church?

So, we're concluding by focusing on our distinctives, those things that set us apart. This week and next, we're studying the issue of musical instruments in worship. Again we find ourselves squarely in line with church history but way outside the current practice. After I present the material to the group, I'll post a little more, but here's a great quote from John Calvin that gets to the heart of this issue: Is Jesus Christ our perfect sacrifice or not?

A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the Church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the Gospel, should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this, it appears that the Papists…in employing instrumental music, cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God’s ancient people, as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament, which was figurative, and terminated with the Gospel.
–Commentary on Psalm 92, pg. 495


Josh said...

I decided to send that quote to my dad. I'm interested to see what his response will be.

Jon said...

Jared --

I've been thinking a lot about psalmody and the lack of musical instruments in RP worship recently. Having spent many years in the RP church, and now attending a non psalm singing church, I'm finding that I really miss it and wish the practice was more prevalent.

On the other hand, my reasons for liking psalmody are not the typical RP line. Normally, we roll out regulative principle and early church practice, but these are both difficult to prove and hard to understand if you're not versed in the literature. Like any other group trying to revive all-but-dead practices, the RP church needs to seriously think about how it communicates psalmody to those outside its own tradition.

For me, the most compelling reason for singing the Psalms is that they allow the whole person to engage wholly with God. The Psalms include anger; they include grief. If I didn't feel that hymns and praise songs were just endless recitations of the good and happy feelings we're always supposed to be experiencing, I could probably get more excited about them. The Psalms offer authenticity and force us to see the good and bad in ourselves as well as the easy and difficult aspects of God's character.

As far as the lack of musical instruments goes, I would argue from simplicity. We are called to be strangers and pilgrims in this world. We are called to surrender our possesions to God and look after the downtrodden, the orphans, and the widows. Jesus calls us to worship God in spirit and in truth, which means that the building and the stuff inside should never be the focus of our worship.

Anyway, I'd love to get your thoughts.

Jared said...

Hi Jon,

I really appreciate your comments, especially about how we communicate Psalmody and argue for it. I'm glad to hear of your continued desire for more Biblical worship.

Your thoughts, I think, are right on track and a helpful balance to the exegetical & historical tack that I normally take. I should say that most of these posts come from my work with those already in our church, committed to the Scriptures, etc. Thus, there are times when we can go straight for the jugular of Scriptural conviction.

I especially love the comment "the whole person to engage wholly with God." Amen! Carl Trueman has great thoughts on that in an essay called "what can miserable Christians sing?" The idea being that the church, by abandoning the Psalms in favor of man's songs, has projected a patently false image of what Christianity really is. It's not always happy or easy or flowery. It's often filled with strife & grief, hardships and longing, and with a God far too amazing and powerful to fit into our small boxes we have reserved for Him. So not just for you and me, but for those who come to our churches, especially unbelievers, the Psalms are the most accurate songs we can sing.

Along with your thoughts about simplicity: I can't help but remember something I heard from Ted Donnelly a few years ago. Remarking on the simplicity in RPC-ish worship, he said something like, "What's great about this is that, if the Holy Spirit doesn't show up, there's nothing to hold up the show. If the Spirit doesn't inhabit our praises, there's no band to make us feel like we're still praising, no great productions to keep us going." So while worship without instruments can be scary, it is again the most honest and God-honoring.

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