Mark Ross, professor at Erskine Theological Seminary‘s Columbia Campus and dean of the Institute for Reformed Worship, spoke on “What Place Should Psalm-Singing Have in Christian Worship?” Below are a few notes from his lecture.

  • The question of whether we should sing psalms is not simply a practical question but also a theological and ethical question.
  • Must we sing the Psalms? Is it a divine imperative?
    • This isn’t a question of “Should we sing?” or “Should we sing only psalms?”
  • There is a biblical pattern of remembering God’s mighty deeds in song.
  • Songs bookend Samuel – Hannah (1 Samuel 1) and David (2 Samuel 22).
  • Psalm singing, like the Lord’s Supper, should be seen as ordinary and beneficial.
  • Isaac Watts believed that as Old Covenant writings, the Psalms were outdated. (Hence his Psalms Imitated.)
  • Calvin was eager to institute Psalm-singing in Geneva in 1537.
    • As a remedy to the cold prayers of the people.
    • People will learn “to make like prayers and render like praises.”
  • There are two kinds of public prayer:
    1. Words alone
    2. Words with singing
  • Singing in Worship is calling upon God.
  • For Calvin, Psalms aren’t simply instances of prayer but are model prayers.
  • The Psalms reveal forms of acceptable prayer.
  • The Lord’s Prayer says little about thanksgiving, lamentation, etc.
  • The Psalter is an anatomy of all parts of the soul. – Calvin
  • All emotions we can express are present in the Psalms.
  • The Psalms are channels of prayer.
  • The Psalms form a complete topography of human experience.
  • Psalms give us the rule to evaluate all our songs since they are paths of acceptable prayer.
  • The work of Watts exemplifies the best of Reformed hymnody in relation to the Psalms.
  • There should be a dynamic relationship between Psalms and hymns.
  • Abandonment of the Psalter can only bring harm to our prayer and piety.
  • The Psalms must be prayed! Not simply read.
  • We can only understand the New Testament service of song in the light of the Old Testament service of song.
  • Psalms can keep us from the delusions of false doctrine.
  • In times when we do not know what to say, the Psalms give us words.

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