Singing only the Psalms

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.” 

He said:

David1. 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:

communion tray1. 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.

Thunderous silence silence of GodThese examples come from the book The Thunderous Silence of God by Joe Neil Clayton.

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.john calvin

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.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Bible, Command, Example and Necessary Inference, History, Instrumental Music, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Singing only the Psalms

  1. WDTBS says:

    Mark said: “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”

    So very true! I’m forever amazed by those who deny the roots of the heritage of the cofC. I enjoy reading your Blog, thanks!!!

  2. RA says:

    And what happens to all those Christians between the nearly 1800 year gap if only the church of Christ is going to Heaven!?! 🙂

  3. E says:

    Acts 20:7 is not about communion. ‘Breaking Bread’ is a common term for eating or dining with someone. Please read Jeremiah 16:7. Communion has been a discontinued practice since Jesus returned on earth after the resurrection.

  4. Mike says:

    Unfortunately his logical argument fails with the premise. He wrote:
    “. The only way to be filled with the spirit (these days) is to be filled with the inspired word of God.”
    I assume by “these days” he is speaking of the post apostolic age where the Spirit is no longer conferred by the laying on of hands or other “miraculous” method.
    The reason I say that this premise is false is because between AD 100 and the 1800s, the vast majority of humans who believed in the Christ had no access to “the inspired word of God.” There were no printing presses and only the richest of the rich had access to paper and ink, never mind a copy of the scriptures. So if his premise was true, then the vast majority of Christians who have ever lived did not have the Spirit, and if they didn’t have the Spirit, they did not have Christ, and if they had not Christ, they were dead in their sins.

  5. Jerry Mosley says:

    The law is perfect, never wrong. The consequence of breaking any one of God’s laws is a capital crime. Death. Sin = death. 100% of the time. This is fair and this is just. Pure, perfect, simple, justice. God loves every single human dearly, knows our hearts and the wickedness which lies within. He had the choice of destroying every earthly child or giving us a way out. John 3:16. Sin demanded the death penalty and Jesus paid it.
    Now we find ourselves today. You cannot keep part of the law. It’s either all or nothing. Many religious groups opt for keeping many parts of the law, which unfortunately removes them from the mercy Christ’s death provides. I am a vile sinner and opt for the mercy of Christ. I deserve justice but pray to never receive it.

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