Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Way Back: Psalm Singing

Thinking about practices the Church has lost over the years on its rocky path to modernity, woman's head covering looms large in my mind, but in pursuing that topic in the last few days I discovered another possible loss.  That is, I discovered that there are denominations, or at least one anyway, the Reformed Presbyterian, where the singing of psalms is practiced as the authentic form of worship given by God.  I'd heard of this practice before but it didn't catch my attention as a possible lost truth until I ran across it in Rosaria Butterfield's book on her conversion, then also in the first sermon of a series by Brian Schwertley at Sermon Audio, on Headship and Headcoverings.  He mentions psalm singing very briefly as a practice that fell out of common practice in the churches because of the popularity of other forms of singing that took its place, which he understands to have been the way the head covering was lost as well -- it became popular not to wear hats and then it was theologically rationalized away until it was completely given up.   I don't know if his historical analysis is correct, but it had the effect on me of considering that perhaps psalm singing was once the common, and the authentic, practice which has since been dropped.

I continue to think of such losses as being steps down a path of deterioration of the Church over the years or even centuries, that has finally brought about God's judgment to the point that we are losing all Christian influence in the cultures of the West, and the West is on the brink of total annihilation.  I keep coming back to the principle that "judgment begins at the house of God" when I see how difficult it is to recover the heritage of western civilization by political or educational means.  We've had high hopes for Trump's Presidency, and I haven't completely given up on his having some important influence in rescuing the culture from its battered condition, but the wolves of God's judgment continue to howl so loudly I doubt they can be held at bay for long.  And that takes me back to the Church, which after all we understand to be where the health of the culture is built up or undermined.

There are so many failures littered along the road of the Church's fall, from liberalism to evolutionism, to feminism to abortion "rights" and gay "rights" and so on, it's hard to arrange them all in their historical order, and it's hard to know where to start if we want to recover God's blessings and especially His strengthening hand on His people.  I suggested starting with women's covering our heads in church, because it seems like a simple thing to do.  But of course that means persuading people that it's worth the try, and like all the monuments to modernity that have supplanted truth in the churches it's just as vexed with opposition as any would be, and in some cases angry indignant opposition, even in some churches the disciplining of women who DO cover their heads.  Or so I've heard. 

So we pray then of course.  Pray for starters that God would show us the paths to truth, without telling Him what we think about it, if we can be that humble.

Anyway, all that was to lead up to this new idea that psalm singing might be one of the lost practices of the Church that God originally ordained for us.  I don't know enough about it yet to have a clear opinion.  The scripture that tells us to sing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" doesn't seem to insist on limiting us to any one form such as psalms, but it does suggest that psalms are an important element in worship that no church I've ever personally attended practices.   Well I should note that psalms or parts of psalms have been incorporated into popular worship singing in the last couple of decades, but I don't think that's quite the same thing, though maybe a step in the right direction.  At the very least it's a very appealing idea that we should all learn to sing psalms as PART of our services.  It's something I've become interested in learning anyway. 

Here's a page of Psalters that are used for the purpose.  I ended up choosing the Trinity version based on the descriptions given of each, but that's subject to change.  Some of the music appears to be familiar hymn tunes, but even the folk song "Scarborough Fair" is included in the first psalter.  I was expecting something more ancient I guess.   But anything is a start at this point, just to feel around in unfamiliar territory.

I don't know if psalm singing is something to be recovered or not, but I was intrigued by Schwertley's comment and it seems worth thinking about.