Praise and worship

Why the hostility towards singing the Psalms?

When it comes to today’s church music, we have run so far from the actual, God-given standard that most don’t even know one exists. I was struck by this reading Abraham Kuyper’s comments about church music in Our Worship. Think for a minute how far we drifted from the original standard. Before there was big box worship, bands, guitars and drums, and mindless mantras that led us into an ecstatic stupor, there was a struggle over psalms versus hymns. Yes, even the idea of hymn-singing is now outdated.

In the Netherlands, Kuyper claims that hymns were introduced in 1807 by “unlawful ecclesiastical might”. Those of our tradition might be surprised to know the history of Protestant churches with regard to this practice and would do well to know one of our forefather’s struggles with regard to the singing of hymns.

Although Kuyper did believe that the church has a right in principle to produce “sung-prayers”, as he designated, you feel his deep struggle over hymn-singing. The following statements from Kuyper are worth considering:

We thus defend the use of hymns, but we should remember the following:

1. In Holy Scripture we do not find a separate collection of prayers, but we do find a separate collection of psalms.

2. The spiritual depth of the psalms exceeds by far anything that afterward was composed as a church hymn and was sometimes claimed to be even more spiritual.

3. Whenever hymns came into the churches, they always seemed, first, to push back the psalms, and then to supplant them.

4. The psalms have always echoed the enduring, eternal keynote of the pious heart, while hymns usually had a temporary quality and were marked by what was popular at the moment.

5. Hymns, in most cases, led to the singing of choirs, with the congregation become listeners.

6. In the struggle between hymn and psalm, all nominal members favoured the hymns over the psalms while the truly pious members were much more inclined to use the psalms rather than the hymns.

Read the full article on Abounding Grace Radio