Kuyper: Worship Songs as an Artistic Exhibition?

It’s been awhile since Andrew or I pointed our readers to Abraham Kuyper, so I thought it would be good to do so once again.  The following quotes are found in chapter seven (“Congregational Song”) of Our Worship.  I’ve edited it for the purpose of this blog.

“We defend the use of hymns, but we should remember the following: 1) The spiritual depth of the psalms exceeds by far anything that afterward was composed as a church hymn and was sometimes claimed to be even more spiritual.  2) Whenever hymns came into the churches, they always seemed, first, to push back the psalms, and then to supplant them.  3) The psalms have always echoed the enduring, eternal keynote of the pious heart, while hymns usually had a temporary quality and were marked by what was popular at the moment.  4) In the struggle between hymn and psalm, all nominal members favored the hymns over the psalms while the truly pious members were much more inclined to use the psalms rather than hymns [Of course, we do not mean to say that everyone who favored hymns could no longer be called pious.  After all, who would want to exclude Luther?  Yet, it seems to us that the…points mentioned above do express what experience has shown us to be true.]”

“…During the Middle Ages abuse [of hymn singing] had become very real.  Choirs replaced congregational singing.  Men and women, boys and girls with the most beautiful voices were enticed to join these choirs, even though their moral reputation was often far from impeccable.  Also, the songs they sang often led much to be desired.  The sound, the tone of voice, and the artistic element became most important, and the content of the song of secondary importance.  Singing became an artistic exhibition and ceased to be an expression of thanksgiving and adoration of god by the believers.”

“…The [hymnal] ‘Evangelishe Gezangen’ (evangelical hymns) of 1807 …was written in a time of little poetic competence and of slackened religious interest.  When you compare the poetic and religious quality of that hymnal with our ‘Psalter,’ the former looks like child’s play.  Gilded tin and real gold have nothing in common.”

If I can interject here, I’d say that there is far too much ‘gilded tin’ in Christian worship today (though ‘gilded tin’ is probably too charitable a term for some P&W songs).  The best way to get rid of ‘gilded tin’ is to sing more Psalms.  On that note (pun intended), read the aforementioned chapter of this book: Our Worship by Abraham Kuyper.

shane lems

2 thoughts on “Kuyper: Worship Songs as an Artistic Exhibition?”

  1. Reblogged this on URC Psalmody and commented:
    When I first read this Reformed Reader blog post, I thought I might re-post it here on URC Psalmody. When another blog reader sent me the same link, I knew I had no choice. Abraham Kuyper’s words are extremely relevant to many of the topics we’ve been discussing over the past weeks. I needn’t comment further except to say, “I agree!” (We’ll be returning to our Monday morning psalm meditations soon. For now, enjoy!)

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