John Calvin is Back!

This past Saturday I attended an Office Bearers’ Conference here in Hamilton.  The topic was the upcoming proposal to make some major changes to our Book of Praise.  For the most part, I’m on board with these changes.  One of the changes that I’m definitely happy with is the reintroduction of the quote from John Calvin regarding congregational singing.  It originally appeared in his preface to the Genevan Psalter in 1543.  It also appeared in the 1972 edition of the CanRC Book of Praise.  But for some reason it was dropped in later editions.  I’m glad the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise wants to bring it back.  The quote reads:

As for public prayers, there are two kinds: the one consists simply of speech, the other of song…And indeed, we know from experience that singing has great strength and power to move and to set on fire the hearts of men in order that they may call upon God and praise him with a more vehement and more ardent zeal.  It is to be remembered always that this singing should not be light or frivolous, but that it ought to have weight and majesty…Now, what Augustine says is true, namely that no one can sing anything worthy of God that he has not received from him.  Therefore, even after we have carefully searched everywhere, we shall not find better or more appropriate songs to this end than the Psalms of David, inspired by the Holy Spirit.  And for this reason, when we sing them, we are assured that God puts the words in our mouth, as if he himself were singing through us to exalt his glory.

Beautiful!

About Wes Bredenhof

Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania. View all posts by Wes Bredenhof

9 responses to “John Calvin is Back!

  • tom bosma

    Dear Rev Bredenhof

    I agree with your comments about Calvin / Augustine. They were men of good order in these matters. What I find unusual about the revised Psalms is why there are congregations using them in worship already. Articles 1, 55 and 76 are very clear, these Psalms are not to be used during worship services until adopted by Synod. To utilize the revised Psalms in worship prior to Synod defeats the ecclesiastical process. It hollows out the Church Order. The Church order is there in black and white…established… why do some congregations not follow it?

    “Reformed Church law and the system of Reformed Church governance is very, very simple in its structure- so simple that even a child can understand and see how it works …” pg 416 Schilder’s Struggle for the Unity of the Church

    • Wes Bredenhof

      The representatives of the Committee explained at the meeting on Saturday that it was their intention that just as with the hymns, so also the psalms would be tested by the churches. The manner in which they were to be tested would be in the freedom of the churches. Synod Smithers could have made this more clear, but it was definitely the intent. Also, it was mentioned that the psalms are not really new compositions, but revisions of the existing psalms.

      Finally, the broader assemblies up to this point have agreed with the Standing Committee for the Book of Praise. I was part of a Classis Pacific West last year that dealt with an appeal against a consistory’s decision to use the revised psalms in the worship services. The appeal was denied. I noticed that the appellant took his issue to the last Regional Synod West and it was also denied there. If he takes it to Synod 2010, I’m pretty sure that they will also agree.

      I believe it was Rev. VanOene who taught us that the Church Order is not “the law of the Medes and Persians.”

      • tom bosma

        Thank you for your reply.

        Then is the good intentions rather than the church order that are being followed. I am not sure if the clarity of article 148 Synod 07 suggests contravention of the church order. However intentions certainly seem to suggest it.

        The Church Order was not given to men of an “obscure language” (Ezekiel 3) it was clearly given to us. Medes and Persians might have a case. 🙂

      • Wes Bredenhof

        Well, as I mentioned, so far the churches who hold this CO, meeting together in their broader assemblies, don’t agree with this understanding of things. We’ll see if this issue makes it to the table of GS, but even then if it gets denied, I imagine that there will be those who see this as evidence of continuing decline in the Canadian Reformed Churches, rather than accepting Synod’s judgment.

      • tom bosma

        Perhaps evidence of decline could be kept to a minimum if Synod decisions were viewed by the churches through the lense of established doctrine and order, rather than by way of interpitation. Just a thought!

      • Wes Bredenhof

        I’m curious about something, Tom. In your perspective, did General Synod 2007 err by sending provisionally approved hymns to the churches for testing, also indicated that they may be tested in the worship services? After all, we have nothing in the Church Order about “provisionally approved” hymns. They’re either approved or they’re not. Right?

      • tombosma

        My response to your question is 4 posts up ?

      • Wes Bredenhof

        Well, as I already intimated, the interpretation of what Synod 2007 decided has been debated and decided upon in two broader assemblies, and may even be going to the next one. You and others can have an opinion, even if Synod should decide otherwise. But obviously even you agree that it is theoretically possible for the churches to deviate from the CO when a synod gives that freedom. Many churches understood synod to be giving that freedom, as have two broader assemblies. Who gives the definitive answer, if not for our broader assemblies? Anyway, thanks for interacting. This discussion is closed.

  • tom bosma

    No they did not err, they were explicit in their instructions they have the authority to provisionally approve . If decisions are unclear (which apparently they are in art 148) it would be reasonable to default to the C.O. Is that not in keeping with ecclesiatical process?

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