Review of Exclusive Psalmody.
This review begins with a response to Dr W. Gary Crampton's article critical of the position of the exclusive singing of Psalms in public worship. Also printed is Dr. Crampton's response to these remarks, and concludes with Rev. Bacon's comments on that rebuttal.
THE STATE OF THE CASE
Since the writing of our last review of The Psalms in Worship, The Trinity Review republished an old article by Dr. Gary Crampton [.Dr. W. Gary Crampton, "Exclusive Psalmody" in The Trinity Review, no. 92, October 1992.] Dr. Crampton asks in that article, "Did the Westminster Assembly restrict the church to the exclusive use of Psalms in public worship?" What Dr. Crampton should have asked is more of the form, "Did the Westminster Assembly understand the Scriptures to restrict the church to the exclusive use of Psalms in public worship."
SPECIFIC MEANING OR LICENSE?
Dr. Crampton's conclusion is negative. He states that neither our Confession of Faith nor Scripture compel the exclusive use of Psalmody in the public worship of God. Crampton maintains, "it should be stated that even if the majority of the Westminster Assembly were exclusive Psalmodists, it does not follow that one is non-confessional if he is not an exclusive Psalmodist." The correctness of Dr. Crampton's statement depends, however, upon the specific meaning of the Confession. If by "Psalms" the authors intended "the 150 canonical Psalms and no others" then one certainly is non-confessional if he is not an exclusive Psalmodist. But how might we know the specific meaning of a 350 year old document? One way would be to examine the practice of the authors. Why does Dr. Crampton want to exclude such evidence from the debate? Could it be that he knows that an examination of the church of Scotland in 1647 would reveal a church that was actively ridding herself of all unauthorized hymnody?
LEAPS AND QUESTIONS
Dr. Crampton makes several leaps. He asserts on the basis of "modern scholarship" that there are hymnic fragments in the New Testament. But he does not and cannot provide a shred of evidence for any of those hymnic fragments ever (1) existing prior to the canon or (2) being used in public worship prior to their inclusion in the canon. Though Dr. Crampton appeals to such authorities as F. F. Bruce, even Bruce admits that this idea of hymnic fragments is highly conjectural with no actual evidence to back it. As Dr. Crampton well knows, an appeal to authority is not evidence.
Dr. Crampton, as many others, expresses his pity for the poor Psalm-singers who may never take the name of Jesus upon their lips — then admits in the same paragraph that the Redeemer's name was Yehoshua, not Jesus. It is unclear to this reviewer why the English transliteration of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name is more important to have on one's lips than the other names by which God makes Himself known. We have received commandment to pray in the name of Jesus, but I am unaware of a scriptural command to sing in His name. If one exists, the case is no better for uninspired hymnody. How many hymns speak of Yehoshua? We do, however, have a commandment in Colossians 3:16 to sing with the Word of Christ dwelling in us. Would Dr. Crampton suggest that we would be better for it if we were to sing instead with the words of Isaac Watts dwelling in us?
"What constitutes a metrical Psalm," Dr. Crampton asks. If that question is being asked for the right reason, it is a good one. How we choose the words we use in translating a Psalm so that it can be sung is an important issue. We should not settle for a loose paraphrase. The impression I get from Dr. Crampton's article, however, is that he is not very familiar with The Psalms of David in Metre nor the history of that translation. He claims "some of the metrical Psalms are at best rough paraphrases of the Hebrew text." It is the case that in translating from one language to another, word order is sometimes changed and words are added to make for a clearer presentation of the thought. That is not the same thing as a paraphrase. Crampton asks, "does the exclusive Psalmodist violate the regulative principle when he does not sing the Psalms in the exact language of the Hebrew?" It is very difficult for me to believe that this question was asked seriously by a Christian scholar.
TRANSLATIONS ARE JUSTIFIABLE
Why is it a principle of the Protestant Reformation that we have a translation of Scripture that is suitable for reading? Simply, so that the people of God will be able to read the Word of God in their own language. Are some translations more faithful to the original than others? Certainly. But God has supplied the church with a song-book — the Psalter. Why is it unreasonable to expect that there should be a translation of the Psalter that is suitable for singing? It need not be the same translation that is used for reading — because reading and singing are different activities and form different elements of worship. A translation that is intended for singing should be "suitable for singing." Will one metrical translation be better, or more faithful to the original, than another? Probably. When there is a more faithful translation, "suitable for singing," I suggest we use it! In the meantime, aspersing the singing of the Psalms is no substitute for a more accurate metrical translation. The Psalms of David in Metre is a translation that is remarkably faithful to the Hebrew . . . and 350 years of Psalm-singers attest to its suitability for singing. There is room for improvement, of course. But the solution is to propose a more suitable and faithful translation.
EPHESIANS AND COLOSSIANS PERMIT HYMNODY?
Two passages are generally used by those who would bring unauthorized hymns into public worship: Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. Dr. Crampton is no exception. However, just as those who have gone before him, Dr. Crampton fails to show that Paul had any other Psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs in mind than the ones written by the Spirit of God.
Crampton approvingly quotes Gordon Clark as saying, "these three titles[Psalms, hymns and songs] seem to be insertions in the Septuagint without Hebrew evidence." What Crampton forgot to mention is that Clark referred only to the title of Psalm 76 and not to the titles of the Psalms in general. For in the titles of the Psalms, even Crampton must admit that the word for Psalm (Psalmos) occurs 67 times, hymn (humnos) occurs 13 times and song (ode) is found 36 times. These words occur in the Psalter itself over 100 times in the titles of the Psalms (not to mention the number of times they occur in the body of the Psalms), yet Dr. Crampton would have us believe that Paul might have reference to some other group of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs for which there is not a scrap of historical evidence.
The questions a careful exegete of these passages should ask are these:" What would Paul have in mind as he penned these words? What was the specific meaning to the author and recipients of this epistle? Is there any evidence that he referred to some Psalm(s) other than the canonical Psalms? What way is the word 'spiritual' used in the New Testament? What would constitute a 'spiritual song?'"
FOR OR AGAINST THE PSALMS?
Dr. Crampton admits that the church should be singing Psalms. He admits that the "Psalter has supplied a chief vehicle for praise from primitive times." Yet from reading his article one could get the impression that this Psalmody is some innovation sweeping through the churches of the Lord. In fact, the Psalms are virtually ignored by the vast majority of American churches. Dr. Crampton gives a brief "nod" to Psalmody in the last paragraph of his article, but it is too little too late.
A DIFFERENT PRINCIPLE
Dr. Crampton's conclusion is really foreign to the regulative principle set forth in Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter XXI. The Westminster divines maintained the principle that, ". . .the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture" (article 1, emphasis added). The principle that Dr. Crampton sets forth in his article requires that a practice be forbidden by Scripture before we may say that it is not allowed. For Crampton states, "there seems to be no biblical warrant for us to eliminate altogether the use of other hymns and songs, as long as they are theologically sound." Let us note carefully that Dr. Crampton is maintaining that there must be a biblical warrant for eliminating a practice, not for upholding it. The principle is precisely the opposite of that set forth in the Confession of Faith.
If Dr. Crampton is sincere when he says, "the present writer is very much in favor of the singing of the metrical Psalms," I would invite him to begin writing in favor of Psalm singing rather than against it. So long as Crampton takes away in 99% of his article what he seems to give in the final paragraph, it is difficult to accept such a statement at face value.
THE FUTURE OF PSALMODY
There seems to be a reviving of interest in singing the Psalms. As might be expected, there is also something of an opposition to this revival. What, then, is the future of Psalmody? In the short term, the answer is known only to God. However, long after such hollow ditties as "Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Down in My Heart" and even such present-day standard hymns as "Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven" are historical curiosities, God's people will be still singing the Psalms — the songs of Zion.
Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and every other sect may be unable to agree on which of the unauthorized hymns are "theologically sound," but should be able to sing unitedly the songs given to them by the Holy Spirit Himself. When that day comes — when the Word of Christ dwells in us as we make melody in our hearts — we can expect a unity in the body of Christ unparalleled by anything we see today as men attempt to place the compositions of men on an equal footing with the compositions of God.
Dear Mr. Bacon:
I am in receipt of your review of my article on Exclusive Psalmody. Before I respond, as per the request of Mr. Christopher Coldwell, I would like to commend you on your What Mean Ye By This Service?. It is truly a scholarly work, properly setting forth the biblical perspective contra paedocommunionism. Congratulations are in order.
Let me now attempt a few seriatim comments:
1. Regarding the use of the word "psalms" in the WCF, as noted in my article, I do not believe that the authors intended "the 150 canonical Psalms and no others." You ask, "how might we know the specific meaning of a 350 year old document? One way would be to examine the practice of the authors." This is true. Another way is by examining the word as to its usage at the time. As per the Oxford English Dictionary, "psalms" refers to "any sacred song . . . sung in religious worship." The use of this word by the Westminster divines was carefully chosen so as in no way to "tie the conscience" to exclusive psalmody, even if the practice of the church at the time was that of "actively ridding herself of all unauthorized hymnody" (your quote). In fact, if this process of "active ridding" was taking place at the time, it would further support my thesis. It would show that there were some who were not practicing exclusive psalmody.
2. Regarding the "hymnic fragments," all I am suggesting is that there are a large number of N.T. scholars who agree that the evidence is strong (overwhelming?) that these "fragments" did exist as a part of the early church, and that their incorporation into the canon gives us the biblical right to use them in the public worship of the Triune God.
3. Regarding the singing of the name of "Jesus," you state, "It is unclear to this reviewer why the English transliteration of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name is more important to have on one's lips than the other names by which God makes Himself known." These are your words Mr. Bacon, not mine. What I said is that it is important in public worship to sing the name "Jesus," the name (not of the First or the Third, but) of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, the only Redeemer of God's elect, the one who "saves His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This an exclusive psalmodist may not do! That is my point brother Bacon.
4. Regarding the "rough paraphrases of the Hebrew text," which are all too often found in "some of the metrical Psalms," sadly, this has been my experience, i.e., I have found too many which qualify as "paraphrases." Interestingly, I know of exclusive psalmodists who also bemoan this lamentable situation. And when I ask, "does the exclusive psalmodist violate the regulative principle when he does not sing the Psalms in the exact language of the Hebrew?," admittedly, this could have been better phrased. Thank you for pointing this out. By this statement, however, I certainly did not mean to infer that one must be singing the Hebrew itself to adhere to the regulative principle as espoused by the exclusive psalmodist. What I meant was that an exclusive psalmodist, to be true to his position, must have a "very precise" translation from which to sing. In the metrical versions, rearrangement of the biblical words, to promote "rhyming," frequently negates the "preciseness" of the translations. (Could this not be, to use your words, "the compositions of men," rather than "the compositions of God?") Yet, exclusive psalmodists all too frequently sing from these "paraphrases" or "imprecise" translations, and believe it to be exclusive psalmody, which, as per their own standards, it is not. This is hardly consistent.
5. Your comment that Gordon Clark "referred only to the title of Psalm 76 and not to the titles of the Psalms in general," when he said, "these three titles [psalms, hymns, and songs] seem to be insertions in the Septuagint without Hebrew evidence" (Colossians, p. 121), is incorrect. This is corroborated in his commentary on Ephesians (p. 181), where he says, "The Hebrew text of the Psalms [plural] does not make this threefold division. It has been inserted in the Greek LXX." Clark's point is that Paul's usage of these three titles in Colossians and Ephesians cannot possibly be used to support exclusive psalmody. It is a gratuitous assumption to claim that it does. Further, as I point out in my article, the Septuagint uses these terms or titles in a number of places other than the Psalms.
6. At the end of my article I state that "the present writer is very much in favor of the singing of the metrical Psalms." You claim that "Dr. Crampton gives a brief nod to Psalmody in the last paragraph of his article, but it is too little too late." Let me assure you brother Bacon that I meant what I wrote. The majority of songs that we sing in our congregation are biblical Psalms. This we consider to be more than a nod.
7. Finally, you say that "Dr. Crampton's conclusion is really foreign to the regulative principle set forth in Westminster Confession of Faith XXI," because I conclude my article by stating that, "there seems to be no biblical warrant for eliminating altogether the use of other hymns and songs, as long as they are biblical." Again, you are correct that this could have been better worded. But in its context, you will notice, that I have just asserted that the Bible gives us every assurance that we are to use songs and hymns outside of the Psalter, in the public worship of God. Further, I am here merely paraphrasing the words of the Greatest of all of the Puritans, the non-exclusive psalmodist Jonathan Edwards words which I quoted earlier in the article.
Thank you brother Bacon for the opportunity to comment on your review of my article. Perhaps, in God's providence, our paths will cross one day. I would enjoy meeting with you and discussing this as well as other matters of theology. It is obvious to me that you take the precious doctrines of the Christian faith very seriously. This is most refreshing. But if not this side of the eschaton, we will someday meet around the throne of the Lamb. And when we gather for worship, I will enjoy singing with you the inspired Songs of Zion, and perhaps you will also sing with me "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning our song will rise to Thee."
Doctor Crampton's reply to my review is quite gracious. I shall attempt to respond in a like manner.
Though I do not agree that the way to arrive at authors' intent is via the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), nevertheless I am willing to examine that material. The word "psalm" is, of course, from the Greek and does seem to have "plucking upon a string" as its origin. The OED, after giving this etymology, then goes on to state that in a general sense a psalm is "any sacred song that is or may be sung in religious worship; a hymn: esp. in biblical use." This cannot be our operative definition, however, because it remains for us to determine what songs "may be sung in religious worship." Otherwise, we have nothing but a tautology. "Which songs may be sung in public worship? The songs that may be sung in public worship may be sung in public worship." There is no information in this general sense that lends itself to our use.
However, if we proceed in Dr. Crampton's source material (OED), we find that there is also a specific definition which he omitted from both his original article and his reply. OED maintains, "spec: any one of the sacred songs or hymns of the ancient Hebrews which together form the book of Psalms; a version or paraphrase of any of these, esp. as sung (or read) in public or private worship." OED goes on to assure us that the specific sense, and not the general sense, is the "prevailing use."
Regarding the "active ridding," perhaps Dr. Crampton missed my purpose in pointing to the fact that the Kirk was ridding herself of extraneous practices. My contention is not that there is an uninterrupted succession of Psalm-singers from the apostles. My point was that when the General Assembly proceeded to implement the Westminster Confession of Faith, they then understood it to require that they rid their psalmody of extra-biblical doxologies. [See David Hay Fleming, "The Hymnology of the Scottish Reformation," Naphtali Press Anthology Volume 4.] This goes to show their understanding of their own document. What the authors themselves believed WCF required appears to be exclusive psalmody based upon their actions subsequent to adopting WCF. Also, their action in commissioning a new Psalter implies that their understanding of WCF XXI was more specific than general regarding the definition of the word "psalm."
Dr. Crampton is correct when he says that an array of New Testament scholars can be found who maintain that the existence of so-called hymnic fragments gives us the authority to use them in public worship. I do not dispute that they may be used, but rather how they may be used. I have no question that they may be used for reading and for sermon texts. I do, however, question their suitability for use as praise songs in public worship.
The evidence that these hymnic fragments were sung in public worship is not only not "overwhelming;" it is non-existent. Dr. Crampton did not produce evidence, but repeated his appeal to some unnamed New Testament scholars. Doctor Donald Guthrie, for instance, believes that there are hymnic fragments in Paul, but he honestly admits, "the study of early Christian hymns raises problems because there is no general agreement about what fragments of Christian hymns are to be found in Paul's epistles." [D. Guthrie. New Testament Theology. (Downers Grove: IVP), p. 751. emphasis added.] Guthrie further maintains, "it cannot be affirmed unreservedly that Paul in these instances made use of already existing hymns. . . ."[ibid., p. 343.] This is a significant admission coming from Dr. Guthrie, who believes that there are hymnic fragments in Paul. Regarding Philippians 2:6-11 (one of the supposed fragments), Guthrie says, "the style of the passage is certainly more rhythmic that Paul's normal prose, but is not unparalleled in other, though less extensive, Pauline passages. It cannot be argued, therefore, that Paul could not have written it."[ibid., p. 344.] Here Dr. Guthrie admits that the language of a supposed hymnic fragment is not unparalleled in other known Pauline passages. There is no evidence that it existed before Paul wrote it. Even if it did, without our knowledge, exist before Paul "included" it in the canon, there is no evidence that it was ever used in public worship even as a confession, much less as a song of praise. This evidence is becoming more "under-whelming" all the time.
Regarding Colossians 1:15-20, Guthrie also admits that New Testament scholarship is not so overwhelming that it can easily be determined "whether Paul himself wrote it or adapted it from some other source." Dr. Guthrie does claim "many feel more strongly that rhythmic qualities favour the idea of an independent hymn."[ibid., p. 352.] "Feeling strongly" and "rhythmic qualities favour" is hardly what counts as evidence particularly when the claim is made that such evidence is "overwhelming."
The New Testament form critics do not agree on who may have written the hymnic fragments (Christian, Jewish and Heathen authors have all been suggested). They cannot agree on where the fragments originated (some have proposed that they are Palestinian, others that they originated outside Palestine). They are not even in full agreement that the hymns were liturgical (i.e. used in public worship). The reason for the non-unanimity is simple to understand: the so-called evidence is ambiguous at best.
THE NAME JESUS
Dr. Crampton is correct in stating that he did not in his original article use the modifier "more." Yet the fact that he brought up the concept at all indicates that he must believe that it somehow militates against an exclusive use of the Psalter for our praise-songs. The following illustration is for example only. I do not believe Dr. Crampton is a "Jesus-only Pentecostal" and I am not suggesting that he is anything but orthodox regarding the doctrine of the Trinity. Still there is a parallel that I hope we will all be able to see.
In the baptismal formula, we baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (see Matthew 28:19).[Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:] Though the Jesus-only Pentecostalists insist on using the actual syllables "Je-sus," we maintain that we have baptized in the name of Jesus [Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.] when we use the Trinitarian formula. I continue to regard Dr. Crampton's argument as spurious because we are never commanded in Scripture to sing Jesus' name. Further, as the baptismal formula teaches us, we need not use the actual syllables in order to reference the second person of the Trinity. And references to the Person and Work of Christ abound in the Psalter the Old Testament book most often quoted in the New Testament.
PARAPHRASES, VERSIONS, AND TRANSLATIONS
There is no question in this reviewer's mind that there are many poor and even "loose" paraphrases of the Psalms available today. Nor would I maintain that the rules of translation are identical for a translation intended for word study, reading, and singing. Some of the worst metrical versions of the Psalms happen also to be some of the most recent. Some are little more than "ditties." Yet, to say that a translation should be accurate is not to say that word order must be followed in the target language as it appears in the source language. Most of our readers are familiar with Psalm 23:1-2. . .
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
New International Version:
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside still waters,
The Psalms of David in Metre:
The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want.
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green: He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
Wooden literal following Hebrew word order:
Psalm of David. Jehovah shepherd mine.
Not I shall want. In pastures green He causes to lie me;
by rests He leads me.
As it turns out, none of the three (AV, NIV or metrical Psalter) follows the Hebrew word order perfectly. At one point (pastures green) the metrical psalm alone follows the Hebrew word order. We have no reason from the word order to assert that the metrical version is a paraphrase as opposed to the other two versions. Beyond the genuine concern for accurate translations, metrical or otherwise, I am still at a loss to discern the force of this argument. It is an excellent reason to use only good "tight" metrical Psalms, but is it set forth as a reason not to sing Psalms or does it follow from this that we may sing the hymns of Isaac Watts?
I do not believe the translators of the Authorized Version were "inspired." But I do maintain that they gave us a generally accurate translation of inspired originals. More than that, it is suitable for reading. We should ask no more of a Psalter. It should be as accurate as humanly possible and should be suitable for singing. Dr. Crampton, I do not believe this is any less consistent than reading from the Authorized Version and saying, "thus saith the Lord."
PSALMS AND SUPERSCRIPTIONS
I have re-read Dr. Clark's comments on both Ephesians and Colossians and have concluded that Dr. Crampton understood Dr. Clark correctly. Unfortunately, Dr. Clark does not seem in those two places to understand Psalmodists correctly. It is not maintained, as Clark says, that there were three divisions in the Psalter. It is maintained that these three Greek words (for Psalm, hymn, and song) appear in many of the titles of the Psalms in the LXX. They also appear in the body of several of the Psalms. I am not familiar with any apologist for Psalmody who claims that these words represent divisions in the Psalter, whether LXX or Hebrew. It is unfortunate if Dr. Clark based his rejection of Psalmody on this.
Clark also mentioned in his comments on Ephesians that he found it amusing that Psalmodists could sing Psalm 150 while rejecting the use of musical instruments in worship. He did not mention whether he found it strange that they also did not dance as Psalm 150 commands. But it is important that we sing the Psalms with understanding. Thus Psalmodists, though we sing Psalm 118:27, do not bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar nor do we believe ourselves bound to keep other weak and beggarly elements of the ceremonies, though we do sing about them and understand them in light of the coming of Christ.
With respect to the existence (or non-existence) of the superscriptions in the Hebrew, all but thirty-four of the Psalms have superscriptions of longer or shorter length. It is so unusual for a Psalm not to have a superscription, that the Talmud refers to those Psalms without titles as "orphan Psalms."[The "orphan Psalms" are 1, 2, 10, 33, 43, 71, 91, 93-97, 99, 104-107, 111-119, 135-137, 146-150.]
The Greek word "psalmos" is used routinely to translate the Hebrew word "mizmor" and the Greek "ode" is used routinely to translate the Hebrew "shiyr." The Hebrew word "mizmor" is found fifty-seven times in the Psalm titles and nowhere else in Scripture. Both of these words appear in the superscriptions of the Psalms, but "shiyr" occurs elsewhere as various "songs" are presented in Scripture (for example Song of Solomon in Hebrew is "Shiyr hashiyrim"). In our English Bibles these superscriptions appear as titles, but in the Hebrew, they are a part of the text of verse one. In fact, in some of the Psalms, the superscription is verse one. The Hebrew word "tehillim" is the overall name of the Psalter in Hebrew, and is translated variously as "hymns," "psalms" and "songs of praise." We should also note that when Christ sang the great hallel (Psalms 113-118), Matthew referred to the act as "hymning."[Matthew 26:30, where Matthew uses a participial form of a verb "to hymn."]
These considerations do not prove absolutely that Paul had only the 150 Psalms in mind when he penned Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. Yet, in the absence of any other corpus of hymnody, inspired or otherwise, it is highly likely that Paul referred to the one book which Jewish and Gentile believers alike could use to "speak" to one another in song. So, to say "Paul's usage of these three titles in Colossians and Ephesians cannot possibly be used to support exclusive Psalmody" is, at best, a stronger conclusion than the evidence allows. The "gratuitous assumption," it seems to me, is that Paul must be referring to . . .we know not what. Where is the corpus of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs if it is not the Psalter?
Further, Clark admits that the passage "does not refer specifically to a church service at all." But if one cannot justify the use of uninspired hymns from these parallel passages, he cannot justify it at all. I "camped out" on these two verses for many years in an attempt to justify my use of an unauthorized hymnody. "Here is my justification," I would say, "Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19." But if either (1) the passages are not addressing public worship or (2) Paul is referring to the Hebrew Psalter, then Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 provide no authority for hymns other than Psalms.
NODS TO PSALMODY
I am happy to hear that Dr. Crampton's practice is better than his theory. However, the reference to "giving a nod" in my review was concerning the amount of space in the article given to the use of Psalms not the amount of time given to Psalm-singing in the church Dr. Crampton pastors. I apologize for any confusion or offense I caused.
THE ACTUAL PRINCIPLE
The regulative principle of worship states that if we do not have a command from God to make something an element of worship, then we are not free to add it upon our own initiative. The principle need not be understood to require an explicit command, however. An approved apostolic practice would be sufficient to form a command (thus the change of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week First Corinthians 16:1-2; Acts 20:7). So also would a logically valid conclusion from scriptural premises be sufficient.
Yet the only evidence that is set forth for singing of human compositions is (1) the OED general sense and not the prevailing use of the word "psalm;" (2) there might be some hymnic fragments from somewhere that Paul may or may not have incorporated into Scripture without mentioning their liturgical use; (3) the explicit name "Jesus" does not appear in the Psalter, though Christ is given many other names and offices in the Psalter and, far from being absent, is the central theme of the Psalter; (4) translations to make Hebrew Psalms suitable for singing are not perfect; (5) though the words "psalms, hymns, and songs" appear in the Psalter of which we do have knowledge, Paul might be referring to something of which we have no present knowledge.
I do not see how the five arguments above, even if there is a cumulative force (a doubtful concept), lead to the conclusion that we are free to sing any composition in public worship that we want with the proviso that it must agree with our theology. Of course, there are Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Pentecostal hymnals and all agree with their respective theologies but not with each other. On the other hand, there is one Psalter and there is one true faith.
A final comment that really should have been in the original review. Dr. Crampton's article did not quote or even attempt to interact with the standard literature in favor of exclusive Psalmody. I would suggest, not only for Dr. Crampton, but all our readers, The Psalms in Worship, edited by McNaugher; The Songs of Zion by Bushell (this book is somewhat harsh in places, but contains some excellent inductive reasoning; and the "The True Psalmody" in Naphtali Press Anthology vol 4, 1991. Also David Hay Fleming's "The Hymnology of the Scottish Reformation" (also in Anthology vol. 4) settles the historical question concerning the singing of hymns by the early reformed Scottish church.
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