Thursday’s first full session was presented by John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, MI. Much of what he had to say was a condensation of his book, The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship, published by Eerdmans. All conference attendees who pre-registered received a copy of the book.
I’ve provided some of my notes from his session below with little context.
- The CRC tradition has largely abandoned psalm-singing – a practice which once characterized it.
- John Calvin: When we sing the psalms, we are certain that God has put the words in our mouths.
- 5 significant challenges to vibrant psalm singing:
- Operative Theology of Worship in North America that sees worship as expressive and not formative.
- Increasingly in North America, we see worship as expressive.
- Sometimes we need to be formed to say something we wouldn’t otherwise say.
- The Psalms will form in us ways of relating to God that we otherwise wouldn’t express.
- Sometimes even the most familiar psalms can become too familiar.
- Psalms can help us accomplish the point of the sermon.
- “What psalm would this sermon lead us to pray more intently?”
- Much Praise and Worship music strips verses out of their contexts.
- Exclusive Psalmodists do this as well, however, by eliminating verses or sticking to the same melody for singing when the emotion radically changes.
- For example, the meaning of Psalm 22 comes from the movement of one section to another.
- The parts of the Psalter we don’t know how to sing, i.e. the imprecatory Psalms: Psalm 25 – the judgment of the treacherous, Psalm 137 – the destruction of infants of the enemies of the people of God.
- We should sing every verse of the Psalter but we should not do so on auto-pilot.
- Some psalms we pray in solidarity with other Christians.