On Singing Psalms

A few weeks ago I happened across an online conversation about music and “blended” worship. It was a somewhat typical litany of misinformation and pronounced individual autonomy, accompanied by a complete failure to grasp or articulate the real issues at hand. As is often the case, Scripture took the most abuse. Trying to rise above the fray, one man wrote that fundamentalists had to decide if the Bible really was sufficient and that people add too many restrictions to music that the Bible does not make explicit. In other words, if you cannot show me a Bible verse don’t bother me with your opinion.

Such sentiment sounds quite noble, especially to Baptists who claim the Bible alone is the sole authority for their life and practice. Unfortunately, it is completely meaningless coming from most contemporary Christians, including many fundamentalists and evangelicals.

The evangelical church in America cares very little for what the Bible says about music and this is demonstrated every week in the songs they sing and, more importantly, the songs they do not sing.

The Bible is a wonderfully diverse work. Sparkling as a multi-faceted diamond, Scripture has history, narrative, proverbs, prophecy, and poetry. Yet the largest book of all is its book of songs: Psalms. So important is song to Scripture, that not even the Psalter is enough to contain the praise. We find songs throughout the Bible, interestingly enough the song of Moses is both the first and last song found in Scripture (Ex 15:1; Rev. 15:3). Since Jews formed the early majority of the church it is not surprising that the Psalms and other Scriptures were the main source of song in early worship. As the church spread east and west, north and south, that godly tradition continued across land, time, and language. In fact, the very first book published on this continent was the Bay Psalter: Psalms for singing in the worship services of the pilgrims and puritans. But somewhere in the foggy, not too distant past, our fathers decided that God’s Word was not fit for singing.

I have spent 30 years in Bible-believing churches. I spent 4 years at a fundamental Bible college, and three years at a fundamental seminary. In all that time I do not recall ever singing a Psalm. How is it that the church can throw off thousands of years of worship history, completely ignore the repeated command of Paul to sing Psalms, and then have the audacity to claim to care what the Bible says about music and worship?

When will we find the answers to all our questions about music and worship? The answers must begin with an acknowledgment of the true problem: apostasy. The fundamental/evangelical church is a product of believers who abandoned loyalties and affections held for centuries by the body of Christ. To not sing the Scriptures in public worship of God is a sin. When we are broken over this sin– the sin of completely ignoring God’s Word at the very time it is needed most– when the gravity of it begins to break our spirits, then perhaps God will be gracious enough to pour out the health of His Spirit and bind our wounds. Until then, let us stop pretending we care what the Bible says about music.