The Contested Legacy Of Singing God’s Inspired Songs In The Reformed Churches In South Africa

The scope of this article is focused on an investigation of song in worship in the period leading up to and including the 150-year history of the RCSA. It focuses on the period from the dissenting ‘Doppers’ to the adoption of the Dordrecht church order in 1859 and thereafter from Totius and into the present. And yet, it assumes and builds upon a body of historic Reformed scholarship congruent with the main argument of this essay: that is, what fundamentally lies behind the historic Reformed practice of singing only God’s inspired songs in worship – pre- and post-1859 in South Africa – is the scriptural or regulative principle of worship (S/RPW).

…The Dutch Reformed Synod of Dort (1618–1619) is a highlight in the history of the early continental Reformed tradition. The Church Order Article 69 that it birthed essentially perpetuated the catholic (Bushell 1999:154–167; Maxwell 1936; Oliphant Old 1975; Oliphant Old 2002:47) and Calvinist (Clark 2008, 2010:266–269) practice of singing only the songs found in God’s Word. More contested, and yet assumed, is the claim that what motivated this practice was a Calvinist and confessional theology otherwise known as the S/RPW (Clark 2008:227–229; Clark 2010; Gordon 2003; Manetsch 2015:34–35; Oliphant Old 1975:231). Thus, when Reformed immigrants from the Lowlands anchored in Table Bay in 1652, they brought with them a tradition of singing predominantly Psalms, rooted in an understanding of sola Scriptura as summarised in the Three Forms of Unity. That confession is: what is permissible in corporate worship – including what is sung – must be commanded by God in his authoritative and sufficient Word, and nothing besides (BC1983:art. 2–5, 7, 32; HC 1983:LD 35; Inst. 4.10.23–26; cf. 4.10.30; 3.11.1; Ursinus 1992:506–549; Voetius 1891:783, 797). Read more»

Simon N. Jooste and Johannes C. Potgieter, “The Contested Legacy of Singing God’s Inspired Songs in the Reformed Churches in South Africa: The Regulating Role of the word from Dordrecht to Totius and into the Present,” in In Die Skriflig 54 (2), a279.


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