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From Silence to Song: The Davidic Liturgical Revolution [Paperback]

By Peter J. Leithart (Author)
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Item description for From Silence to Song: The Davidic Liturgical Revolution by Peter J. Leithart...

The debate in many Reformed circles over worship music is only a small part of the larger question of Reformed liturgics. And dancing. All sides admit that the New Testament offers relatively little instruction on liturgy, and so the debate over the regulative principle continues with apparently little hope for resolution. In this study, Peter Leithart's key insight reveals a prominent scriptural example of a liturgy that interprets God's commands for worship in ways far more biblically grounded than traditional regulativism allows. King David's tabernacle worship becomes a rich story, not only in respect to liturgical wisdom, but also to the significance of Zion in the fulfillments of the Christian era.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Canon Press
Pages   138
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.54" Width: 5.32" Height: 0.36"
Weight:   0.44 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2003
Publisher   Canon Press
ISBN  159128001X  
ISBN13  9781591280019  

Availability  93 units.
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More About Peter J. Leithart

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Peter J. Leithart (PhD, University of Cambridge), a former pastor, is president of Theopolis Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, and adjunct senior fellow of theology and literature at New Saint Andrews College. He is the author of numerous books, a contributing editor for Touchstone, and a regular blogger at

Peter J. Leithart has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible
  2. Christian Encounters
  3. Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality
  4. Theopolitical Visions

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Church Institutions & Organizations

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Reviews - What do customers think about From Silence to Song: The Davidic Liturgical Revolution?

From Silence to Song  Nov 14, 2008
This is a great book on a much-neglected subject. Leithart shows clearly the biblical evidence for the explosion of musical expression and praise with the reign of King David. The Davidic Tabernacle was a foreshadowing of Christian worship, with uninhibited and inclusive praise before the throne of God. Prior to that, the worship of ancient Israel was relatively silent and exclusive only to the priests.

I was particularly interested in this book because of David's inclusion of instruments in his worship practice, something that continued in the Temple until the time of Jesus.
Leithart's Latest is a Loser  Sep 23, 2003
While Mr. Leithart has some interesting things to say in From Silence to Song on David's tent in the transition between the Mosaic tabernacle in the wilderness and the permanent temple built by Solomon, unfortunately as a whole, the book fails. It is but yet another effort in the long line of those in the contemporary debate who would misrepresent the historic reformed confessional doctrine of worship in order to assault/replace it. A list of those who consistently mistake what is historically known as the regulative principle of worship (RPW) for a caricature and wooden extreme - if that - would include Poythress, Frame, Jordan, Schlissel and Gore. Yet the position of three of the historic presbyterian subordinate standards upon the question, the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1648) on the Second Commandment, is "Been there, done that."

That is, while Mr. Leithart would like to restrict the RPW or "whatsoever is not commanded is forbidden in the worship of God" only to explicit commands in Scripture (pp.14,15, 101), the WCF in Chapt. 1:6 allows for good and necessary consequence, ie. implicit commands. The minutes of the Westminster Assembly also explicitly state that, besides explicit and implicit commands, approved historical examples from Scripture demonstrate the will and appointment of God in regard to the worship and government of the church. (See May 5 - June 8, 1646 in the Minutes of the Westminster Assembly, 1874, rpt. SWRB, 1991, pp.227, 231,2,7,8.) In that the church which Mr. Leithart belongs to, nominally acknowledges the Westminster Confession and the proof texts for the RPW in Chapt. 21:1 of the WCF include the Second Commandment, all the above should be a cause for a pause in the promotion of Mr. Leithart's novel views, but that sadly is not the case.

Neither does Mr. Leithart discuss the classic literature on the question. The best he can do with Girardeau's Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church (1888, rpt. NCPS, 1983) is consign it to a footnote without so much as even mentioning the title. Maybe that is because Girardeau explicitly states twice, in the the first and last chapter, that his position against musical accompaniment in New Testament worship is built upon the proposition that whatsoever is not "expressly or by good and necessary consequences" commanded in the Scripture is forbidden in the worship of God (pp.9,200). Is this thorough scholarship or a caricature of the same? Are we trading on our audience's ignorance in order to put over our case or does our author's ignorance of the real state of the question, only guarantee his incompetence to the question?

The second fundamental error centers on 2 Chron. 29:20 -35. While Mr. Leithart admits that "David's liturgical innovations" which included singing and musical instruments in the worship of the Old Testament, "were therefore, based on revelation (p.57)," this is the last we shall hear of it. From here on out, we will repeatedly be told that David typologically/etymologically reasoned from what the Pentateuch had to say about the duties of the Levites to what they were commanded to do in Chronicles (pp. 57-72, 102-104,109). Not only were they for example, to lift up the ark, they were to lift up the praises of God and so on and so forth. This may all be true and linguistically correct, but the gist of all this is that Mr. Leithart proposes a non sequitur. That HOW David introduced musical instruments is supposedly an approved historical example for us to follow in the New Testament era - rather than the actual ceremonial/temple worship itself which included instruments.

Now Mr. Leithart may be correct in giving us a nuts and bolts view on how David - under Divine Inspiration again, mind you - applied the Mosaic Law to make the innovations and changes in the OT worship, but that is not to say that we may do likewise in the worship of the church today. Yet that is precisely what Mr. Leithart essentially advocates, blithely gliding over the fact that David had Divine mandate, if not inspiration or explicit instruction, to make the changes he did in the Mosaic service of worship. After all, the Scripture says Hezekiah "set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: FOR SO WAS THE COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD by his prophets (emp. added)." It may well have been very reasonable of the Lord to command David in regard to musical instruments, as well as choirs, etc. After all the Levites no longer had work to do carrying the articles and implements of the tabernacle around in the wilderness, now that Jerusalem was the settled center of worship. But it is not reasonable to assume that we may add to or further innovate in the worship of God based on this example. Rather it is contrary to the record in God's revelation.

Even further, this passage in vv.27-30 has historically been a paradigm for the connection of musical accompaniment to the Old Testament temple sacrifices, in that now with Christ's atonement, not only have the OT sacrifices been fulfilled and superceded, so too musical accompaniment. While Mr. Leithart says that instrumental music is the sacrifice of praise which accompanies the sacrifices (pp.69,70), he still thinks we need to continue the one after the other has ceased (p.111).

Again, on the basis of these two errors, a stunted and crippled definition of the RPW and a non sequitur based on David's introduction of new elements into the OT public worship of God by Divine warrant, Mr. Leithart's latest fails. With all due respect, it is back to the drawing board for our good author, if not catechism class. If not, Canon Press will only be seen as cannonading the historic reformed doctrine of worship, if not promoting Romish canons for Protestant worship.

All here: worship, prophecy, typology, Jew-Gentile issues  Sep 12, 2003
Peter Leithart has published a rather unique study that has implications in many directions. His starting point is simple enough: Mount Moriah where Solomon's Temple was built is *NOT* identical to Mount Zion where, for years, David kept the Ark of the Covenant in a tent while the Tabernacle was elsewhere.

Thus, we need to take a second glance at all the prophecies that tell us of the restoration of God's presence on Mount Zion, especially since they typically speak of David and not of Solomon. In fact, in Acts 15, when James refers to Amos' prophecy of "the tent of David" he is referring to that Tent that held the Ark, not Solomon's Temple.

Why would that be significant?

Peter shows that the situation at Mount Zion was unique in Biblical history. For one thing, with the establishment of the Ark there, there was an unprecedented involvement of Gentiles in serving God. This may explain why it was so helpful a prophecy to James to use in the context of Acts 15.

Peter also points out that David seems to have access to God's presence above the Ark unlike anything allowable in the Tabernacle or in Solomon's Temple.

But most interesting is David's establishment of Levitical choirs. David appeals to Mosaic law as the authorization for these changes even though there is nothing about singing in the Mosaic law. David uses a typological approach and speaks of songs as if they were a kind of sacrifice.

This last has tremendous significance for the Reformed Principle of Worship. Presbyterians rightly maintain that we must worship as God has instructed us to do. But this has all too often led to a idiotic use of prooftexts that don't remotely substantiate what we do in worship (i.e. where is a verse that demands a weekly Lord's-Day sermon?). Peter points out that, if we are going to take seriously the need to go to the Bible for instruction in how to worship, we are going to need to go to Leviticus where systematic instruction is actually given! We have to make adjustments of course, and seeing how silent Tabernacle worship is transfigured into singing Temple worship gives us some guidance.

I must say that this book shows the value of Canon Press. It is wide-ranging, deeply scholarly, suggestive, and yet immensely practical. I don't think any other publisher would have known what to do with it since it is a scholarly monograph written for lay people. But the fact that they have printed it leaves us with some needed and lasting treasure.


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