Heidelminicast Q&A: If Confessions Why Not Hymns, What About Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, And Open Theism?

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  1. Although I appreciate your discussion of non-canonical hymns, I’m left a little confused.

    Your argument: We are spoken to with God’s word and we reply with God’s word is a soundproof argument. But if that’s true then we CAN’T use the confessions and creeds in worship, because although they are truths from scripture, they are not the words of Scripture,they are the words of man.

    I.e. I feel like your argument against non canonical hymns in worship throws out confessions in worship as well

    • Derek,

      One question is whether God has ordained the church to confess the faith. The Reformed churches say that he has. Has he ordained or commanded us to respond to his Word with a man-made, non-canonical hymn? Historically, the Reformed churches said, no, he has not. The other thing that you might be overlooking is the place of confession in the liturgy. If, as the Reformed churches understand the structure of worship, it is a dialogue wherein God speaks to us in his Word (read, preached, and made visible in the sacraments) and we respond with his Word sung, and if he has commanded us to confess his Word (in creeds/confessions), then we are repeating his Word, in creedal form, back to him according to his command.

      So, no, the argument against non-canonical hymns doesn’t eliminate confessions.

      • I admit some trouble in following this logic, however much I’d like to commit to exclusive psalmody every time I encounter a cringeworthy “hymn”.

        It seems consistent that if the Word can be said in non-canonical creedal or confessional forms (as you say above), then the Word can also be sung in non-canonical hymn forms. Can we sing a creed in worship? Or only say it?

        Is the bright line the lifting of the voice in song? All things sung in worship must be canonical; all things said must be faithful (but may be noncanonical).

        • David,

          Did you read my reply to Derek?

          Don’t miss the dialogical aspect of worship. God speaks to us in his Word and we reply with his Word.

          The creed is the ecclesiastical summary of his Word to us. A non-canonical hymn would be our reply to him. Has he authorized us to reply to his Word with something other than his Word? There is good evidence that he has authorized creeds. Where is the evidence that he has authorized non-canonical hymns?

          • Yes, my questions were after reading that reply.

            Perhaps the principle of the RPW that I still don’t grasp is that, in dialogical worship, ecclesiastical summaries are permitted when God speaks to us, but ecclesiastical summaries are not permitted when we reply (although some amount of liberty must exist if the replies are to be in meter).

  2. I know this is just a hypothetical, but if a valid ecumenical councils produced hymns that were faithul summaries of the scriptures, would this be permissible to sing in worship? I’m honestly not trying to be a wiseguy 😉 I’m really just trying to understand the key issue. Is it that the creeds were produced by the church through the ecumenical councils, while non-canonical hymns, faithful summaries of scripture as they may be, were not produced by the church through the ecumenical councils?

    • Brad,

      1. If I have to give up the creeds/confessions in worship to sing only God’s Word, I’ll take that deal.

      2. I don’t think that deal is necessary, however, because, as I keep saying, the two things have different functions in worship. When we confess a creed together, we are speaking God’s Word, as it were, in the liturgy. When we sing, we are speaking God’s Word back to him. The liturgical dialogue is essential here. God speaks in his Word, we respond with his Word. In Geneva, they had both, creeds as summaries of God’s Word to his people and Scripture (Psalms & NT songs) sung back to God, in response to his Word.

      If they performed the same function, then I could see the argument, but they don’t. They have different places in the liturgy.

      • Dr. Clark,

        The distinction in function is what I was missing. Now I think I understand the argument.

        Thank you for patience in explaining and taking the time to answer my questions!


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