Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sing psalms

I'm in recovery on this. My church background never insisted on it but my Bible does.

Kevin DeYoung touches a raw nerve on the neglect of psalm singing. You can read the full post, and here are some highlights:
Is there a command of Scripture we disobey more frequently, and with so little shame, as the injunction to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)? I mean, seriously, it’s right there in black and white. We are supposed to sing psalms.

As far as I can tell, the exegetical debate is not about whether these three terms refer to something other than biblical psalms, but whether they might all refer to different kinds of biblical psalms. Either way, God wants us to sing psalms does he not?

Jesus sang the Psalms (Matt. 26:30). The early church sang the Psalms. The Reformers, especially in the tradition of Calvin, loved to sing the Psalms and labored mightily to restore them to the church. The Bay Psalm Book was the first book printed in America.

The Psalms—150 God-breathed songs—have been the staple of Protestant (and especially Reformed) worship for 500 years. And yet how many of our churches sing a Psalm even once a month? I know there are exceptions, but by and large the evangelical church is bereft of Psalm singing. We might unknowingly stumble into one every now and again through Isaac Watts, but for the most part we don’t think about singing Psalms; we don’t plan to sing Psalms; and we don’t sing Psalms.

Assuming we haven’t started an irreversible trend, I imagine future generations will be puzzled by our avoidance of the Psalms. “Why did they give up on the Psalms?” they may ask. “Didn’t they know God wrote them? I suppose they were worried that no one would like singing Psalms. I guess they assumed young people wouldn’t stomach it.

But why didn’t they try? Why didn’t they come up with new music for the Psalms? Why didn’t they teach their people about the emotional depth and Christological richness and the gritty honesty of the Psalms? And if they couldn’t think of any other reasons to sing the Psalms, why didn’t they just do it because the Bible told them to?”


étrangère said...

Both the FCoS and the RPs in Ireland have recently produced metrical psalters with modernised wording (I grew up with the good ol' Revised Scottish Metrical, which I love, but don't recommend for intelligibility!) One's called 'Sing Psalms', and either you could get hold of from Evangelical Bookshop Belfast - 02890320529. I'm not on commission, honest - just trying to be helpful :)

Guy Davies said...

I try and pick one Psalm per service for Sunday worship. We use Praise! and the new edition Christian Hymns. For all its faults, (mangled modernisation of old classics etc), Praise! has at least one version of each Psalm. And the new CH includes more Psalms than the old.

Zac Wyse said...

I'm with ya, Martin! I just finished Clark's Recovering the Reformed Confessions and had to go out and buy the psalter put out by the RPCNA - "The book of psalms for singing", which is meant to be the best in the States.
Psalm singing is something I've only done twice in church. We tend to opt out of actual psalms for something resembling a psalm. This neglect is surely connected to the way the Old Testament is absolutely foreign to us.

Anonymous said...

The Mundelein Psalter is a wonderful Psalm book with very simple music, to sing the Psalms in English. Published by the Benedictines.

Tim Nelson said...


The RPCNA psalter has more modern words than the RPCI one. The RPCI one is also split-leaf, which some may find confusing.

I grew up on the original Scottish Metrical (with extra alternative versions in the back "Pure to the Pure, Froward thou kythst unto the froward wight").

Also, I once went to a church where they had an elder explain a psalm for maybe 5 minutes or so (2-8 minutes?), and then sang it afterwards. That was kind of nice.