Original Research - Special Collection: Impact of Reformed Theology

The contested legacy of singing God’s inspired songs in the Reformed Churches in South Africa: The regulating role of the Word from Dordrecht to Totius and into the present

Simon N. Jooste, Johannes C. Potgieter
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 54, No 2 | a2579 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v54i2.2579 | © 2020 Simon N. Jooste, Johannes C. Potgieter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 November 2019 | Published: 10 September 2020

About the author(s)

Simon N. Jooste, The Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the South African Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Johannes C. Potgieter, The Unit for Reformational Theology and the Development of the South African Society, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


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Abstract

This article is a historical–theological inquiry into the Reformed Churches in South Africa (RCSA) and the doctrine behind her historic practice of essentially singing only God’s inspired songs. The catalyst for this investigation is the 2012 RCSA Synod decision to revise Article 69 of the church order – an order based on the one formulated at the 1618–1619 Synod of Dordrecht – to allow for the singing of free hymns. Such a decision marked a significant break with the early Reformed and confessional tradition of singing only God’s inspired songs, as well as a driving reason for the formation of the RCSA in 1859. This article challenges the 2012 revision of the Dort-modelled Article 69 on historical and theological grounds. In addition to failing to reckon adequately with her pre-formation history, the RCSA did not give appropriate attention to her rich legacy of singing predominantly Psalms only. More specifically, this article contends that within her own history the RCSA has a confessional and theological category that can help re-establish continuity with the best of her Reformed liturgical past. This category is the scriptural or regulative principle of worship (S/RPW) – a doctrine that has encouraged the reformation of public worship across the globe and one at least latent in the historical RCSA theological discourse. This essay commends its recovery for the future reformation of worship for the glory of God.

Keywords

Regulative principle of worship; Psalms; Hymns; Church Order Article 69; Worship; Synod of Dordrecht

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