Kuyper: The “Real Gold” Of Psalms And Idolization Of Hymns

When you compare the poetic and religious quality of the hymnal with our Psalter, the former looks like a child’s play. Gilded tin and real gold have nothing in common. And yet the inferior hymnal was quickly given such prominence by persons in leadership that for a long time most ministers chose one psalm to six or seven hymns. And the psalms used were usually a few that were generally well-known, sometimes no more than two dozen, and they were chosen over and over again. Hymns stole the scene and psalms were mainly forgotten. And if you ask now who preferred the hymns and who the psalms, history teaches that the majority of people in the church who held fast to the confession of the fathers preferred the psalms while those who had drifted away from the truth idolized the hymns. Read More»
Chris Gordon | “Why Do We Fight Psalm-Singing?” | July 2, 2022


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  1. Quite an interesting argument.

    The difficulties occur in the comparisons, and the arguments put forth from scripture, wouldn’t they?
    What I mean is :
    (1) Weighing traditional psalm singing in the balances against the opposing liberty of the Church enjoying relating to God by singing songs from our hearts is a rather debatable issue. (a) Of course the only pro-psalm singer may be assuming that the only the Psalms touch one’s heart in any significant spiritual manner that other songs do not.
    (b) Or there may be the assumption that only singing psalms will touch God’s heart.
    Both positions, one man-ward and the other God-ward, are not necessarily logical and are also not necessarily true.
    (To make it clear, the position of ‘ONLY psalms to be sung’ in Church services is the subject matter that is being considered by me.)
    (2) Further and to proceed, the argument, even if made by the pro-Psalmist, that one seeks to sing other than Psalms in Church because one is unredeemed, and/or because one’s heart is immature, is also not exactly logically true. The unredeemed … well they cannot do the will of God, cannot please God, etc. Therefore, their psalm singing or psalm recitals are pointless, even if it were possible for them to have been been motivated enough to sing / recite Psalms. As concerning the category of the redeemed who are yet immature … their hymns and songs, sung from the heart, are surely heard by God.

    So … Are ‘ONLY Psalms’ better?

    Well that surely depends upon the reasons and the perspective that defines ‘better’..

    Some reasons for the ‘only Psalms’ groups preference may be one of these, if not others which are unlisted below. I would be interested in know them.
    To proceed, however, one would need to examine motives, such as ….
    (a) Is the reason is to please God because of the expectation that God is best please when His exact words are repeated to Him?
    (b) The objective may however be to teach a particular denomination of the beauty of God’s words, to help them remember God’s words, etc.
    (c) Yet another objective for the use of ‘only Psalms’ may be the idea that the use of other than ‘only Psalms’, is to presumptuously approach God in a manner that is irreverent. I recall having heard of this argument once too. This is not necessarily so in every instance of the matter.
    (d) There is also the argument that using other than Psalms leads the Church to become eventually an ‘entertainment’ centre. And this too may be true at times, but again it is not necessary. For God is not against legitimate enjoyment and celebrations of Himself and His goodness and will not necessarily despise those that have not yet memorised the Psalter.

    So …
    Viewed from one perspective, this matter becomes a subject of ‘Law vs. Spirit’, the ‘Law’ being … “ONLY use Psalms for singing in Church”!

    The rejection of that, is possibly one reason why hymns got into the Church … assuming also that only Psalms were all that the first Christians ever sung.

    And consider this too :
    If such a law were to be extended to the realm of prayer, then every prayer would be mere parroting of scripture from the Bible.
    No other cry for rescue to God for His mercy, based upon the cross, would ever be fruitful, then! The ‘Our Father’ would then not be a ‘model’ prayer. Rather, it would be the exact prayer one would need to make, although there’s nothing to oppose saying that ‘exact’ prayer either, if it were said with full understanding from the depths of one’s heart!

    Thus to all of these arguments, and to proponents of arguments from both camps, I would use the argument from Holy Scripture that teaches in Romans 14:1-23.

    And in conclusion I ask …
    How else would one who advocates ‘ONLY using the Psalms in Church’ as being the acceptable method of singing praise to God, rebut these reasoning, I wonder?
    I’m open to listen and learn. I have not yet attained and am willing to press on.
    Perhaps I’ve even understood the entire issue incorrectly?
    But … as it stands for now with me, the force of reasons does not lie with the ‘Only Psalmers’ presently.

    In Christ Jesus,

    • Tony,

      If you’ll go back and re-read my article carefully you’ll see that I didn’t argue for exclusive Psalmody. See also the resources attached to the post beginning with the chapter in Recovering the Reformed Confession, where I argued for Theodore Beza’s position (and Calvin’s), that we should sing from all the canonical Scripture.

      In this post I’m illustrating where hymnody can and obviously, in this case, has led. If you’ll look at the articles by Kuyper he made the same observations a century ago. The history of hymnody is mixed at best.

      The Reformed churches don’t confess any such principle of “liberty.” We confess what Calvin called “the rule of worship,” which is summarized in Heidelberg 96. We may do in worship, including singing, only what God has commanded.

      The question then is whether God has commanded his church to respond to his Word with non-canonical songs?

      There is liberty is a great many areas of the Christian life but the practice of worship is not one of them.

      The Reformed churches don’t speculate about what pleases God or what touches his heart. Deus 29:29 is the rule here. We proceed from the clear teaching (both explicit and implicit).

      Remember, we’re talking about public worship here. That’s where the rule applies. That’s what is in question here. Please take a look at the resources on the rule of worship that are linked below the essay.


      • Dr. Clark,

        Thanks for that clarification.
        Those links helped me get the background behind the latest Heidelblog which we’ve written about.

        Having read a few of the previous links as suggested by you, I observe that the issue of merging melody with meter in the Psalms in the English language is still the hurdle to them being widely used contemporaneously, among other reasons such as denominational issues, etc.

        I wonder if the Psalms would’ve been better sung in Hebrew, once upon a time?

        Finally, may I request you to email to me some YouTube links that you would recommend, of the Psalms, sung best, (best meaning most melodious) … and if such a complete compilation / collection exists it would help me delve personally a bit further into this subject?

        And once again, thanks for your patient and kind response to my post a few days back.

        In Christ Jesus,

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