Arguing for inclusive hymnody

You’ve probably heard of exclusive psalmists, and chances are that you probably aren’t one and have never even considered it. But have you ever heard of an inclusive hymnist? In his chapter in the Festschrift in honor of James Boice titled “Restoring Psalm Singing to Our Worship,” Terry Johnson argues for evangelical churches that largely practice exclusive hymnody to move toward inclusive hymnody. That is, churches that sing predominantly hymns or praise choruses have compelling biblical and historical reasons to sing full Psalms in corporate worship (as opposed to a verse or two from a Psalm as a chorus). Five of them, in fact:

  1. Psalm singing is biblical – psalms are canonical, Holy Spirit inspired, and commanded in scripture.
  2. Psalm singing is historical – the church throughout the ages has sung them.
  3. Psalm singing is beneficial – they contain scriptural virtues to convert sinners and sanctify saints.
  4. Psalm singing is satisfying – they employ theologically, christologically, experientially rich language with which to understand life.
  5. Psalm singing is unique – singing the whole psalter uniquely molds biblical piety.

Further, Psalm singing does not inhibit church growth but grows God’s kingdom:

“Will Bible reading inhibit church growth? Will Bible exposition? Will biblical praying? The Bible either has converting and sanctifying power or it does not. If faith comes by hearing the word of God, then the key to creating and building faith in sinners and saints is God’s word. Psalm singing will build the kingdom of God. That does not that mean that one does not need to proceed slowly and wisely in introducing new words and music. But unless one has lost all confidence in the power of God’s word, the question of church growth should not be an issue” (p. 282-283)

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2 thoughts on “Arguing for inclusive hymnody

  1. Joel, Agreed. To put it another way. The Psalms (each in its entirety) are the songs that God put into the Bible. Therefore, we know God approves and commands His people to sing them. The real question is, how can any Bible believing Christian argue against singing Psalms in their entirety in corporate worship? Additionally, I have found no easier way to memorize God's Word than by singing it, and singing the Psalms achieves that!

  2. Coming from a background of mainly "Praise Choruses", or what-have-you in that genre, I was very rarely exposed to hymns. Now that I am a member of the OPC I sing Psalms and Hymns during Sunday worship and I feel that worship is so much better for it. Looking back, I am sad about the music I sang growing up. Those songs tend to not be as theologically rich (and poetically and musically for that matter), like hymns and (of course) Psalms are. Also, Psalms have become some of our favorites to sing to Liam and Jillian…and it's a great thing because they are memorizing God's Word as a result! Side note: people so frequently turn to the Psalms for comfort and inspiration, including them in corporate worship seems natural!

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