God-honoring hymns and eternal predestination

I recently read two articles on the need for stronger church music.  This has been an issue close to my heart for some time, having tired of  squishy gospel songs from the twentieth century (and earlier).  The first is from Peter Leithart writing for First Things online.  His article is entitled “Songs of the Church Militant.”  The other article is from an Asian Anglican, Lue-Yee Tsang.  It is about how worship must accord itself to the Word of God and not to artistic license.  It may sound sound odd coming from an Anglican who doesn’t follow the regulative principle, but when he’s saying stuff like this, I’ll read it no matter who he is.

On a separate note (no pun intended), there are questions in Calvinistic circles about the extent of God’s predestination and how it relates to each of us.  More to the point, how is God sovereign and not the sinful in condemning some to hell?  It was encouraging to me that John Calvin faced that same question many years ago.  Paul Helm discusses how Calvin dealt with the issue here.  It’s pretty good reading.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I would, however, dispute the characterization that Anglicans repudiate any regulative principle. It should be clear to all Protestants, not only the puritans, that we have no licence to invent methods of worship as we please: everything we do must be, however mediated by reasoning about natural law and local circumstances, directed by those things alone which the word of God has commanded; what God tells us of the early Church can guide us in determining how to fulfil our divine charge. Classical Anglicans may accept more mediate reasoning from Scripture, but we have no less a regulative principle, moderately applied, than the other Reformed churches.

  2. Lue-Yee,

    I warmly welcome your response and clarification. I was under the impression that most Anglicans believed whatever was not forbidden in Scripture was permitted in worship, and am happy to be corrected on that point. I’ve developed a taste for eating crow, so I guess it’s time to have a little more.

  3. What the Church of England has most distinctively among the Reformed churches is a liturgical conservatism that has generally retained all that it was possible to keep, developing old liturgies in a manner that its divines considered edifying to the people. At first glance, Article XXXIV of the Thirty-Nine Articles seems to licence just about anything not directly contrary to Scripture:

    It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren. Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

    Closer examination of its statements, however, reveals a strong resistance to the willy-nilly innovation that has so marked public worship in our own time. Along with the Aberdeen doctors who were active in the Church of Scotland during the 17th century, Anglicans maintain that the New Testament is not a Book of Common Order, and therefore that it gives principles of worship without giving a full-orbed order of worship to follow. At the same time, Article XXXIV specifies that ceremonies and rites of man’s authority serve the purpose of edifying. Edification, of course, is none other than a building up in the catholic doctrine and piety that the Apostles received from our Lord, and therefore it is the instructions of Scripture itself that not only circumscribe what is lawful but also direct ceremonies to be reasonably retained or changed in particular contexts.

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