In this blog article, the question is asked, “is your worship worthy of God?” The following quote from Calvin is offered:
Moreover, that which St. Augustine has said is true, that no one is able to sing things worthy of God except that which he has received from him. Therefore, when we have looked thoroughly and searched here and there, we shall not find better songs nor more fitting for the purpose, than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit spoke and made through him. And, moreover, when we sing them, we are certain that God puts in our mouths these, as if he himself were singing in us to exalt his glory.
Quote by John Calvin taken from John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor by W. Robert Godfrey.
It seems that Calvin has a point to make and makes it well. It would, in response to Nathan’s question, seem to point out a serious deficit in worship which is exclusively hymn-driven (or even ‘blended,’ I’d argue). This is why, as a Reformed worship leader at a non-Reformed congregation, I strive to incorporate psalmnody whenever possible. We don’t chant them, but I am capable of doing so myself due to the fact that I was in a psalm-chanting Episcopalian congregation while in college.
By the same token, I’m not certain the solution to the ills of worship music are solved by reverting back to psalms which do not, unaided by modern paraphrasing and restructuring, contain the name of Jesus. Opting for strict interpretations of the psalms which do not, as Watts’ psalter did, include praise to Christ, set up an unhealthy situation in which the name of Jesus cannot be sung, but only spoken. The “Song of Simeon” included in many psalters may be a notable exception to this, but upon what basis is that song included? That it’s scriptural? So then would be singing songs which convey gospel truths clearly taught in Scripture.
It does not seem to me to be Nathan’s argument that we should revert to a psalm-only method of singing. It was, however, John Calvin’s aim to revert to a psalm-0nly approach. So, to the extent that Calvin’s quote shows us the poverty of our worship services we should embrace it. However, it doesn’t seem wise or prudent to exclude music which is cross-focused, Christ-honoring and which teaches the gospel in New Testament terminology to its singers and hearers.