One of my old roommates wrote a book about the Psalms. I looked it up yesterday and found a review of it on a Psalmody website. It is a website devoted to the concept that God only wants the Psalms sung in church, no other songs.
Fascinated, I listened to a sermon by a pastor, in a Presbyterian church, argue that only psalms are authorized by God for worship. That “spiritual songs” are songs that are inspired by the Holy Spirit, as only the psalms are, that Jesus never wrote a song, the apostles never wrote a song, and that both Jesus and the apostles sang the psalms.
He analyzed one of the Church of Christ’s favorite passages: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”
1. The only way to be filled with the spirit (these days) is to be filled with the inspired word of God. (He was speaking to a non-pentecostal church.) The apostle Paul did not say, “speak to one another with uninspired songs,” but songs that are “filled with the Spirit.”
2. The only inspired hymns are those in the psalms.
3. The only spiritual songs are those in the psalms.
Fitzpatrick went through command, example and necessary inference, and especially the silence argument, so familiar to members of hard line Churches of Christ. This argument goes like this: If the Bible is silent on a topic, then it is forbidden. One of their favorite slogans: Speaking where the Bible speaks, and silent where the Bible is silent.
Two examples from the hard line Churches of Christ are:
1. Since the only day we know of that the early Christians took the Lord’s Supper was on the first day of the week, then that is the only day authorized by God. God’s silence forbids the other days.
2.Another example is: Since the only place authorized to make melody is in the heart, and the New Testament is silent about plucking the strings of any other form of musical instrument, then only the heart can be used to accompany our worship to God. Anyone who uses a musical instrument has gone beyond the authority of the New Testament, and has elevated themselves to not needing God’s authority.
To bolster his case, the Psalms only speaker, Fitzpatrick quoted from John Calvin and the Westminster Confession, making sure we knew these were only the opinions of men, but that they also exhorted us to stick to what God had authorized.
Mark Fitzpatrick, the pastor recorded, called the opposite of the silence principle the “normative principle”, which he said let in such Catholic practices as candles, prayer books and vestments into worship.
Fitzpatrick found verses in the Bible that authorized man-made prayers and man-made sermons, but never man-made songs. So his conclusion is that evidently God has proscribed what kind of musical worship He wants: only the inspired Psalms in the Bible. God has given us a Psalmody, but not a prayer book. Therefore we are to make up our own prayers, but not our own songs.
So Fitzpatrick’s conclusion: That all the churches that use man-made songs with which to worship are perilously close to blasphemy, elevating their own authority above God’s commandment.
I felt right at home listening to the sermon. If he had been arguing against instruments of music instead of human-written songs I would not have known I was listening to another group’s sermon.
The reason I point this out is because it is sometimes easier to see our own foibles if we can see it clearly in another parallel organization. The hard line Churches of Christ, with our rules of Command, Example and Necessary Inference, and especially the Silence Principle, came straight out of the Protestant Reformation of John Calvin. Our sect has a history that we have come from.
Sometimes we like to say that our particular group jumped straight from AD33 to the present without any history in between, that we just picked up the Bible, and lo and behold, here we are, the One True Church that follows the Bible, all the others are mired in history and tradition. I don’t agree.