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Issue and Interchange

ISSUE: DOES SCRIPTURE PERMIT THE USE OF HYMNS OTHER THAN PSALMS IN WORSHIP?

ADVOCATE 2 Response

The abusive personal attack in the opening paragraph of Advocate 1's response is best ignored. "Advocate 1" is in this response used to designate the written text and not the writer. It is in this sense that Advocate 1 fails to adhere consistently to the regulative principle by applying it in a way that nullifies it. No charge of insincerity is made against the person who proposes the principle. Application may be more or less far reaching. To apply a principle in a way that defeats its genuine tendency is to reject the principle in fact while asserting it in words. When the regulative principle is made to support such innovations as dance, rock music, and a host of other forms of false worship, it is clear that the principle has not been meant in its proper sense.

Advocate 1 is unclear as the nature of circumstances in public worship. The Westminster Confession, Ch. 1, Sec. 6 speaks of "some circumstances...common to human actions and societies." The Lutheran and Anglican view involves such a confusion of these circumstances with elements of worship as Advocate 1 falls into. Singing God's praise is not a circumstance common to human actions and societies. It is rather the element of worship that directly declares the glory of God in a way not done by prayer, which expresses the desires of men, and by preaching, which is addressed to men. The use of the same words in a sermon and in a hymn is radically different. The former is instruction to man directly and praise to God incidentally. The latter is praise to God directly and instruction secondarily. The Reformed faith surely does not endorse the view widely practiced in Evangelical circles, that a major purpose of Gospel hymns is evangelism.

Colossians 3:16 does not subordinate singing God's praise to instruction in doctrine in such a way, or in the less extreme, but none the less erroneous way asserted by Advocate 1. The answer to which Advocate 1 is blind has already been given in the preceding paper, and has been developed in this paragraph.

There is an anomalous feature of the tactics of Advocate 1. First, the content of sung praise is held not to "require Biblical warrant according to the regulative principle." Later we read "I believe Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 give that very warrant." These two positions can be rendered logically consistent only by sacrificing any claim to a unified defense of uninspired hymns in worship. That the two texts may only refer to informal practice is no part of the positive argument for singing the Psalms or hymns found in the Bible. This consideration is only meant to eliminate the claim that the text provides warrant for uninspired hymns in worship.

The argument from possibility to actuality is an elementary logical fallacy. But the argument from possibility of not p' to the denial of the assertion of the necessity of p' is strictly valid. This is what is the case when from the possibility of the text's not meaning that certain songs may be sung in worship, there follows the denial that the Regulative principle warrants (i.e. implies the necessity of) the allowability of the practice.

The rejection of Dispensationalism obviously does not imply a refusal to use the language of the WCF Ch.7, Sec. 5-6. What was intended was that the position that asserts the unity of the Covenant of Grace in both dispensations and yet argues from differences to the lawfulness of uninspired hymns in worship may be paralleled by that of Reformed Baptists from the difference of the dispensations to the denial of infant baptism. This minor observation is subordinate to the major point that the Old Testament in general and the Psalms in particular exalt Christ as the eternal Son of God and as the only Mediator between God and man.


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