Psalms in worship …

As I’ve already said, I believe that the book of Psalms is the only legitimate song book of the church. I believe this because I see this as the consistent teaching of the Bible. Some people have suggested to me that this view is simply the 16th-17th century puritans’ reaction against the abuses of the mediaeval church, but that isn’t the case. For example, I was reading the introduction to John Owen’s Commentary on Hebrews (he was explaining the meaning of the word ‘canon’ as a collective term for the books that are included in God’s written word), and he provided the following quotations from the early church fathers as illustrations of the use of the word:

Council of Laodicea (AD 363–364) said this, “That no private Psalms ought to be said or read in church, nor any uncanonical books, but only the canonical books of the New and Old Testaments”.

Note: ‘private Psalms’ are non-Bible songs that Christians create. These, according to this council, are not to be sung in church. Also note that the word ‘said’ in the quote refers both to speaking and singing. Bible itself regards these activities as fulfilling the same task of communication — see the title of Psalm 18 and Ephesians 5:19.

Augustine (AD 354–430) said this, “Let them demonstrate their church, not by the rumours of Africanus, but by the prescriptions of the law, the predictions of the prophets, the songs of the Psalms, that is by the canonical authority of the holy books of scripture.”

Augustine aligns the characteristics of the true church not only with the doctrine of the Psalms but also with the singing of them.