Sunday, February 03, 2008

2/3/08, The Reformed Argument Against Musical Instruments in Public Worship

2/21/08, Updated Addendum to the Federal Vision's Fraudulent Revision of Reformed Worship.

John L. Girardeau's exposition of the historic reformed argument against musical instruments in public worship is little known and somewhat beside the point of the previous comments on Federal Vision's mischaracterization of the Regulative Principle of Worship. Nevertheless it is still worth mentioning, not only in order to persuade people to further examine the question, but also purely for the love of the truth alone (2 Thess. 2:10), without which nothing good or great can be accomplished. Yet not only has Girardeau's Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church (1888) been reprinted along with Robert Lewis Dabney's review of it a year later, G.I. Williamson, who is well known in American presbyterianism for his popular study guides on the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism, also wrote a not so well known tract on Instrumental Music in Worship.  

The Synagogue vs. the Temple
Plainly put, the thesis for Girardeau, if not Williamson, boils down to the fact that the simple and didactic worship of the synagogue is largely the basis for Christian worship, as opposed to the ceremonial and typical worship of the temple in the Old Testament. Musical instruments were only part of the latter, not the former, and were only brought into the ceremonial and typical worship of the temple after its institution by Moses, through divine commandment to David (2 Chr.29:24) (You will see no substantial mention of this necessary distinction in FV proponent, Peter Leithart's From Silence to Song. Consequently Leithart or other proponents of FV will have no quarrel in principle with the musical instruments of ceremonial OT worship being brought into the NT worship of the church.) Again, only under inspiration, David reassigned the role and tasks previously given to the Levites. They became musicians, singers and porters in the temple (1 Chr. 23:4-26:32) since they no longer had to assemble, disassemble and carry the tabernacle and its furniture in the Mosaic exodus (Num. 3:1 - 4:49), now that Israel and the tabernacle had settled in the promised land.
  


Even further the temple worship was typical either of Christ or the Holy Spirit, if not both, in all its offerings, washings and special days etc. - in all its carnal and external ordinances and weak and beggarly elements (Gal.4:9). Instrumental music for its part, only accompanied the burnt offering (2 Chr. 29:27,28) which was typical of Christ's atonement on the cross. Instrumental music was also - like dancing, which few if any Christian churches have a problem forbidding in public worship - typical of the joy of the Holy Spirit (Ps. 149:3, 150:3-5). Of course, with the coming of Calvary, the temple sacrifices have been fulfilled and superseded by Christ (Heb.9:1-14). So too, with the coming of Pentecost (Acts 2) and the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Jn.7:37-39), the OT types of the Holy Spirit have also been superseded and fulfilled. Consequently to return to any aspect of the ceremonial worship of the Old Testament temple economy typifying Christ or the Holy Spirit over and against the simple and didactic worship of the synagogue, has historically been considered by presbyterian and reformed churches to be judaizing. This would of course, include musical instruments.

On the other hand, as the precursor to New Testament worship, the synagogue service basically consisted of the reading and preaching of the word, the praise of God in psalm and prayer and the giving of alms. H.O. Olds' Worship That is Reformed According to Scripture, while it is weak on psalmody and fails entirely to acknowledge the good and necessary consequences of Second Commandment as it is set forth confessionally in the Regulative Principle of Worship, does offer a decent historical oversight of the basis of these elements in scripture and their subsequent development in history primarily, but not exclusively culminating in the worship of presbyterian and reformed churches.




Calvin Against Musical Instruments
All this on musical instruments though, is generally foreign, if not extreme to most reformed and presbyterian churches today. For example, how many realize what Calvin said on the question? The Genevan reformer commenting on Ps. 81:3, says that:

With respect to the tabret, harp and psaltery , we have formerly observed [see Ps. 33:2, 71:22], and will find it necessary to afterwards to repeat the same remark [see Ps. 92:1,150:3-5], that the Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God, it having been his will to train his people, while they were yet tender and like children, by such rudiments, until the coming of Christ. But now when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law, and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time. From this, it is very apparent that the papists have shown themselves to be very apes in transferring this to themselves.
In other words, Calvin thought that the Roman abuse consisted in aping the Jewish worship under the law before the coming of the gospel, i.e. judaizing, regardless if most modern presbyterian and reformed churches even realize it.




The Reformed Originally Against
True, Van Dellen and Monsma's popular Church Order Commentary (1941) on Art. 69 of the historic Church Order of Dordt as revised by the Christian Reformed Church in 1914, does acknowledge that Calvin forbid musical instruments in Geneva because they belonged to the shadows of the OT. Later, Van Dellen and Monsma tell us, that the Synod of Dort 1574 on the basis of 1 Cor. 14:19 forbid all organ playing in the Dutch reformed churches in that essentially God would have the living voice of his saints to praise him in intelligent and understandable words and not the tongue of inanimate brass or other musical instruments.

But they also tell us that "No doubt Calvin went too far on this score. The evils of Rome urged him on (
p.285)", as well that the decision of Dort 1574 was an "extreme in reaction to the abuse as experienced and seen in the Roman Church (p.286)". Consequently they note that the organ was first allowed to accompany the congregational singing at Leyden in 1637. Evidently Leyden was the first breach of the dike for the continental reformed churches of the previous Reformation practice, because the trickle subsequently became a flood. This is so much so that today organs are firmly entrenched in reformed churches. Williamson in "Part III. The Testimony of History" of his essay on the question, says that musical instruments returned in the worship of the Dutch reformed churches after their banishment because the civil magistrates were in favor of Sunday concerts on the great organs in the municipal cathedrals. This eventually wore down the resistance to the use of organs in the public reformed worship.

Likewise Presbyterianism

Presbyterianism maintained the Reformation position for much longer. For instance, Richard Cameron, a Scottish covenanting presbyterian minister in Scotland, who had gone to Holland to be ordained, had this to say about musical instruments, in a sermon on Psalm 92 before his death in 1680 for opposing the erastian interference of King Charles in the church:

The Jewish way under the law of praising the Lord was upon timbrel, the harp, psaltery, and ten stringed instruments, and other instruments of music that belonged to ceremonial worship that is now abolished. Christ, who is the end of the law, has torn or taken away the ceremonies of the law, and there is no warrant now to make use of the organs, as they do in the Popish Church, and in the Prelatical Church of England, and even among them that are more reformed, those over in Holland. Oh, but we have a great advantage in being free of these!
While Cameron was talking about spiritual freedom, the circumstances in Scotland at that time certainly did not encourage the use of musical instruments by presbyterians in the worship of God. From 1662 till 1688, presbyterianism was outlawed in Scotland and episcopalianism established by King Charles. Those, who like Cameron, resisted this erastian usurpation by Charles and continued to adhere to the National and Solemn League and Covenant to uphold the true reformed Protestant religion in church and state, had to meet secretly in the fields for worship and preaching. Practically speaking and new covenant worship aside, musical instruments were hardly seen as expedient or necessary.

Still, while Scotch and American presbyterianism held out much longer than the continental reformed churches, in the 1800's the issue began to come up and the historic doctrine and practice began to decline. The end result is the same today. Only a few presbyterian churches still hold to the historic position of the Reformation against instrumental music. Musical instruments not only set the pitch, but accompany the singing in most presbyterian and reformed churches. Psalm and hymn tunes alone without singing - essentially instrumental mood music - are also customarily played before the service or during the collection in many presbyterian and reformed churches. Instrumental music is seen as adiaphora or indifferent. It is merely a practical aid to the singing like a hymnal, never mind a psalter. According to its defenders, it is purely circumstantial and nothing ceremonial or judaizing is meant by it.

Federal Vision's Judaizing with a Vengeance

But if most of the P&R church world only thinks the argument against musical instruments an unenlightened historical curiosity, the advocates of Federal Vision unfortunately think the more the church judaizes, the better. According to one analysis (post #23), in that FV has accepted Meredith Kline's vertically orientated typology with symbols on earth representing heavenly reality instead of the classic old testament shadows/new testament fulfillment typology, the OT ceremonial liturgy and worship has not been fulfilled at Calvary and Pentecost in the NT era, but will continue past the Last Day on into heaven. It therefore remains for the Christian church today. Jordan says as much in his Liturgical Nestorianism and the Regulative Principle of Worship(1994). He criticizes Isbell's argument on NT worship by saying:

In fact, the glories of the Old Creation worship were not symbols of Christ's death, but were revelations of the glory of His and our enthronement after His death is accepted. When this is understood, we can see that if anything, New Creation worship should exceed Old Creation worship in the fullness of artistic glory (p.49)!
Rather we understand this to tie in rather nicely and explain what seems to be the theonomic "interpretative maximalism" and fascination with the Book of Revelation as a directory for worship for the Christian church in marked contrast to the historic plain and simple presbyterian worship of the Westminster Assembly and their Directory. David Chilton's commentary, Days of Vengeance (1985) is as popular an example of this as any we suppose on John's vision, as well the "reformed/reconstructionist" alternative to Hal Lindsay's 1970's take on the Apocalypse or even the current Last Days' premillenial rapture madness and commercial opportunity. But this stupefying fascination with and the reintroduction of OT temple worship into NT Christian worship just might spill over into the doctrine of justification and the relationship of works to it and salvation, denying as Jordan, the godfather of FV does, the fulfillment of the OT typology with Calvary and Pentecost. In other words, if there has been a revival of interest these days in not only the purity of the gospel, but also gospel worship, primarily as regards psalmody, there are unfortunately still a few stones that mar the good land on either account (2K 3:19).

Yet a reformed church is reformed not only in doctrine, but also in worship (as well as her government which is to defend the first two). May it please the Lord to enable the reformed church in this day to live up to her heritage across the board, not only as regards the gospel, but also gospel worship in resisting Federal Vision's perversion of both. After all,
the stone that the FV innovators in doctrine are rejecting, foreshadowed in their assault on reformed worship, is Christ, if not his Word. Whomsoever without any works of righteousness, by faith alone lays hold of this corner stone, shall be saved. But on whomsoever this stone shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Matt. 21:44) and there shall be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth in that day (Matt. 25:30, Rev. 18:19) - not the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of organ musick (cf. Dan.3:7).

(1/14/08)

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