Exclusive psalmody in the OPC?

As part of the debate over whether or not to transfer to the doctoral program where I currently am or finish a masters here and then move elsewhere to continue studies, I spent a few moments taking a glance at some of the churches in the vicinity of universities that I'd consider attending.

When looking at the website of an OPC church in Ontario, I noticed a bunch of articles posted which advocated exclusive singing of Psalms and opposed musical accompaniment. I know that in some of the reformed churches with Scottish roots that such a practice exists, and that the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America take a similar approach. Just how common is advocacy of exclusive Psalm-singing without accompaniment in the OPC?


In the 1960s, there was a discussion about the direction the OPC was going to take on what was going to be sung in the church. At one of the General Assemblies, two reports were served by the committee studying the matter. One was the majority position which allowed for the singing of hymns. The other was the minority report (which included John Murray as one of its signatories) and it advocated exclusive psalmody. The OPC went with the majority report and this led to the Trinity Hymnal. Nevertheless, there are a few OP churches which practice EP without accompaniment. G.I. Williamson has been one of the most vocal proponents for EP and he is an OP minister.

David also mentioned musical accompaniment, which I believe the OP church referred to does not oppose, nor does G.I. Williamson (as far as I know). Furthermore, of the various OPC's I've attended over the past decade, I've never found one with EP. One thing I must say about GI is that while he is a proponent of EP, he does not push his view on those he worships with or preaches for. He is one of the most humble and gentle men I've met. He worships with a URC in Iowa which has not taken over EP, and when he preached for our PCA he requested, but did not demand, psalms be sung. He did join in singing the (non-Psalm) doxology, and we found plenty of great Psalm settings in the Trinity Hymnal. You should have heard GI, a self-confessed "bass fellow", pounding out the bass line of TH#153's refrain "O how love I thy law!"

r0sigma - http://r0sigma.blogspot.com/

Regarding instrumental accompaniment, there's a paragraph in one of the articles that that church has posted:

The conclusion to which we are driven is this: God has not commanded us to use musical instruments in New Testament worship. We have seen that God did not authorize (command) the use of musical instruments until the time of Moses (even if we consider the trumpets used in the tabernacle to be instruments of music). When they were authorized (commanded), they were clearly a part of the shadowy ceremonial system. And even in the Old Testament period, worship (except that which was performed by the priests and Levites at the temple in Jerusalem) was commonly offered without musical instruments. Worship in the ancient synagogue was always devoid of such. So was the worship of the early church. Never in the New Testament do we find mention of their use. What we do find is an abundance of teaching to the effect that the whole system of tabernacle and temple worship (shadowy and typical in nature) has been abolished. It follows, therefore, that the use of musical instruments is not authorized in the worship of the church today.

I've found the distinction between circumstances and elements to be helpful for this discussion. Circumstances are those things which can change from culture to culture. Elements are the pieces of the worship service that will (in principle) be unchanging in every age and place. Some regard instruments to be circumstantial, others see instruments as elements. It's an important distinction if we take what we believe seriously.

God has not commanded us to use musical instruments in New Testament worship.

I don't remember anything about being prohibited to use instruments either.

they were clearly a part of the shadowy ceremonial system

Electricity hadn't been invented yet; everything was shadowy back then.

Never in the New Testament do we find mention of their use.

This article gives some possible reasons for that. It was one of the first ones that came up on Google; that's the only reason I picked this instead of the many more that are probably out there.

The author of the OPC article seems to be confused between the definitions of authorized and commanded, and as such their conclusions are a bit of a stretch. I guess they weren't in English class the day the teacher said never use the word "clearly" in lieu of support for argument?

Scott wrote:

I don't remember anything about being prohibited to use instruments either.

Wes replies:

Yes and we are also not prohibited from having drama or liturgical dance in worship.

The notion that we are permitted to do anything in worship that is not expressly forbidden is historically a Lutheran approach to worship, but in contemporary times it is the guiding principle of many non-Reformed churches. However, it is not the Reformed approach found, for instance, in Lord's Day 35 or Belgic Confession Articles 7 and 32.

See here: The Whole Manner of Worship

I think we might have met. Are you a physics professor at TWU. If you are we might have met in Wyoming at a rest stop as you were moving to BC from Dordt? Do I have you right?

I'm Dave's PCA pastor in Calgary. Small world eh?

This is too funny...

To Dave's pastor: Yep, that's me! It was great to cross paths with you and your family back in June '05. I suppose I should've put two and two together earlier...but, wait, that's arithmetic, not physics. We'll have to stop by in Calgary some day to link up again. Take good care of Dave: his mom was my grade 1 teacher!

r0sigma - http://r0sigma.blogspot.com/

Great to hear my hunch was right. The Reformed world is maybe large, but well connected. See you in Calgary some time.

Enjoy the snow in BC! We can't envy your weather anymore!

RevGoT lenscleanse.blogspot.com

My brother-in-law's OP church in the SF Bay area was EP. They're called Providence OPC Chapel that meets in Castro Valley, CA