Hang on There, Trotter

Article by   July 2007

Posted July 24, 2007

I'm a fan of Rodney Trotter and his other personalities. I mostly agree with his points. However, his response, "Nein", to Phil was so weak I just had to write in. Phil makes the point that "explicit" Trinitarian hymns should be used and not just psalmody. Trotter therefore argues that Phil is teaching that , "... they[psalm singers] are implicitly guilty of weakening Trinitarian worship." That is caricature of Phil's point. I'm sure Trotter believes in progressive revelation and though the Trinity is taught in the psalms and the O.T. in general one can't argue that the work of truine God is much clearer and explicit in the N.T. So it is not that psalmody weakens Trinitarian worship, but that explicit Trinitarian hymns can only help. Trotter then mentions three other points that I would like to make comments on, keeping in sync with his numbers:

1. Trotter argues here that the exclusion of singing the Psalms has not strengthened Trinitarian worship, but weakened it. But this is a non sequitur. It seems the point was not that the exclusion of singing the Psalms strengthens Trinitarian worship. It is a singing of *explicit* Trinitarian hymns in conjunction with the psalms that would be a factor of a number of other things that could help.

2. Trotter argues on this point that because someone like Anthanasius memorized the psalms, and the psalms are much greater in their Trinitarian theology than most evangelical hymns that this somehow goes against Phil's point. But Phil explicitly said, "explicit" Trinitarian hymns and he never excluded the psalms. So I'm not sure how Trotter's response is supposed to be interacted with Phil's point. Trotter then closes with the following question: " I wonder, was Athanasius' piety less Trinitarian than that of the typical modern Presbyterian congregation?" This question has nothing to do with the point. Of course Athanasius' piety is probably more Trinitarian than those who practice psalmody. Also remember the "explicit" Trinitarian hymns was only one of four points made by Phil. So, I would say Anthanasius had a much greater Trinitarian piety than typical modern Presbyterian congregation for a number of reasons. Trotter seems to be arguing that it is based so
lely on what we sing, and even with that he caricatures Phil's argument.

3. Finally Trotter ends by making the comment that he believes one hymn in the Trinity Hymnal was written by a Unitarian, and Unitarians could sing many of the hymns with a good conscience. My response is, "So what?". Unitarians could sing many of the psalms in good conscience. Is the hymn written by a Unitarian biblical, sound in theology, and God glorifying? No one would argue that every hymn in the Trinity Hymnal is explicitly Trinitarian, nor are they all required to be. Trotter ends with this quote: "If hymn singing can help solve the problem, Western hymn writers need to do a whole lot better than they have done." Now, I can agree that hymn writers in general could do a whole lot better, however I also think there are a number of "explicit" Trinitarian hymns that can be sung now which would help as Phil stated. However, the problem cannot be solved by hymn or psalmody alone. Phil offered more than this one point and I think they all could play a role in
improving our Trinitarian worship.

-R. Brown

Ref21 Responds:
Dear Ronnie,
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my recent blog on psalms.  I appreciate both your sentiments and the friendly tone of your criticisms.
I confess, I'm sure Phil put the comment about psalms in just to rattle my cage.  It was rattled, in the friendliest of ways (we are friends in real life).
On 1, I accept my argument was something of a post hoc, propter hoc argument; though I was being intentionally rhetorical rather than demonstrative.  What I disagreed with in Phil's post was the inference which one might draw from it (though not, I am sure, intended by Phil) that Trinitarian worship could not be conducted on the basis of exclusive psalmody.  Also, I could not resist pointing to the historical fact that hymn singing and decline in Trinitarian theology have coincided in such a way that, while the former may not cause the latter, it is certainly not sufficient to prevent it.
On 2.  Caricature Phil's argument?  Surely Trotter would never stoop so low...... OK, don't answer that one.
On 3.  I think a Unitarian could only sing the psalms with a good conscience if they actually misunderstood what the psalm is saying.  And perhaps you are right -- hymn books are an eclectic mix and, if the words put down by a Unitarian are sound then what's the problem?  In principle, I think I might agree, though I would then wonder what makes the worship distinctively Christian  - surely the identity of God in Christ, which is ineradicably Trinitarian, is what makes the Christian God, and the worship directed to him, so distinctive.
Now to tip my hand: the real reason behind me raising the issue is that I come from a background which was vigorously opposed to formal liturgy.  What I'm after is: can services without formal liturgy sustain Trinitarianism?  I think Phil's comment on the creeds is absolutely to the point and I agree.  
Once again, thanks for taking the time to move the discussion forward in a positive way, brother.

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