Exclusive Psalmody: A Response to Arguments Against Using Psalms Exclusively

Those of us who use only the Psalms of Scripture in worship are not pretending that our worship is perfect; we are seeking to give God our best.

Because I don’t think that man-made hymns are as pleasing to God in worship as words He has given to us, I choose not to sing uninspired hymns when I preach in the churches that use man-made hymns.  And I probably won’t sing them until I become convinced that the words of Fannie Crosby, Isaac Watts, and Charles Wesley (or Martin Luther or any other human author) are on par with the Scriptures for my worship.

 

Lane Keister is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is pastor of Momence OPC in Momence, IL  He recently wrote an article which was picked up by The Aquila Report.  It was an article against Exclusive Psalmody stating, in essence, that those who advocate Exclusive Psalmody would have to sing only from the original manuscripts to be consistent.

I don’t know Pastor Keister, but as an Orthodox Presbyterian Church minister, he is undoubtedly a man of God beyond repute.  But I think that he may be laboring under some misconceptions.  Surely, all true believers must believe that our worship must be mediated by the Lord Jesus Christ. No one has ever offered worship that doesn’t need to be mediated by the blood of Christ.

Even if I could sing from the original manuscripts, my worship would be tainted by indwelling sin.  The fact is, we don’t love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.  The Westminster Confession clearly states that our merciful God “is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections”   (16.6).

Those of us who use only the Psalms of Scripture in worship are not pretending that our worship is perfect.  Far from it!  Our worship needs a Mediator!

But surely we can all agree that our great God deserves our very best in worship.  All of us agree that God despises blemished sacrifices.  So the question becomes how do we worship in the best possible way according to the precepts of Scripture—how do we worship in spirit and in truth?  If God has regulated our worship, what does He prescribe?  There is much debate about that in the church today.

When it comes to worship “in truth”, the historic church in sizeable numbers (perhaps the majority) believed that the Psalms were the hymnbook for the New Testament church.  In one country in East Asia with which I have had the privilege of working, the church uses the very words from the Psalms of the Bible and puts those very words to music.  When done well, that is beautiful, indeed.

Of course, today the number of those who sing the Psalms exclusively in worship is very small.  Many of that number believe we have a lot to learn from those who use man-made hymns in worship when it comes to worshiping “in spirit”.  I know how divided my own heart is in worship, and I think my brothers and sisters around me realize that as well.

Because I don’t think that man-made hymns are as pleasing to God in worship as words He has given to us, I choose not to sing uninspired hymns when I preach in the churches that use man-made hymns.  And I probably won’t sing them until I become convinced that the words of Fannie Crosby, Isaac Watts, and Charles Wesley (or Martin Luther or any other human author) are on par with the Scriptures for my worship.

But that does not mean that I think God despises or rejects the worship of others who think differently.  I suppose some of my brothers do think that way; but our Confession itself says that God accepts and rewards that which is sincere even if it contains weaknesses and imperfections.  What a gracious Savior we worship!

Dr. Jerry O’Neill is a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) and is president of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Penn.