Psalmically-Saturated Education

My brief address to the staff at Trinitas Christian School in Pensacola, Fl

The Lord be with you.

One of my greatest joys as a churchman, one who breathes ecclesiastical air, is the music of the Church. There is music in the morning in the office before I pick up my first commentary or make my first phone call and there is music at night during family worship. And perhaps more directly, though I have a great passion for the hymnody of the historic Church, I have an even greater passion for God’s hymnbook; His inspired collection, the Psalter.

Dietrich Bonhoefer once wrote that whoever has begun to pray the Psalter seriously and regularly will soon give a vacation to other little devotional prayers and say:

Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire which I find in the Psalter. It tastes too cold and too hard.”[1]

Bonhoeffer continues and says that in some eastern churches memorizing the entire Psalter was prerequisite for pastoral office. When the Psalter vanishes from the life of the people of God, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the life of God’s people. Sometimes nothing vanishes, because it was never there to begin with, but my proposition is that it needs to start somewhere, even if with a couple of simple metrical psalms or a chanted version. What I am espousing and defending is that the lives of our children and our students need to be psalmically saturated.

If we stop and only train the next generation to become “thinking man” and never “worshiping man,” everything is in vain. In fact, I am suggesting that learning to think without learning to worship is not true thinking. Education needs to be contextually psalmic and thus, the telos of education is the worship of the saints. Education is a continual cycle of song and dance, like the psalms. One step to the right with correction (ethics), one step forward with content (teaching them to make decisions), and one step back, which is the final stage; the speaking forth truth. This would take a while to explain, but what you have is the priestly role, the kingly role, and the prophetic role. The final stage is the prophetic going into the world proclaiming the education he has received. The school, the center of training, is not the Church, but it should serve as a training ground for what the students will do on Sunday. Whatever diversity exists denominationally in this school, each student, on the basis of his education should be able to provide for a congregation a model for what a worshiper looks like. This would certainly be the joy for any pastor.

If the second person of God is the Word of God, the third person is the Music of God.[2] The Spirit binds people together through music. This is exactly what He did at Pentecost. The Spirit came down like the sound of a mighty, rushing wind upon the people. It was the music of the Spirit that formed a new community and a new people. “The first goal of Christian education is to train worshippers, and that means to train musicians,”[3] which will in turn sing God’s words. “The Father seeks worshippers, not intellectuals. It is fine to be an intellectual, but we are called first and foremost to be worshippers. A well-formed education is wholistic and worshipful. The Lordship of Christ requires nothing less.

So, what is the effect of the psalms on the student life?

Paul says in Ephesians 5:19-20 “…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul is calling us to adopt a new language; a language that is shaped and formed by biblical music, and I would say primarily the Psalms. According to Calvin, to be psalmically-educated means to be educated by the Lord in the school of true wisdom.”[4] The effects of incorporating this model means you are creating a student body that is being formed as a worshiper, so now he is able to minister to his fellow students as a worshiper using the music of Yahweh. Beyond that, you are creating a Eucharistic student body. By that I mean that you are creating a student body that knows the language of thankfulness. They acknowledge the Creator/Creature distinction in every way. They know that the education they receive is a gift from God; this community is a gift from God, and all things come from the hands of God. You want them to reflect the Psalmist desire in Psalm 9: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 2 I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” It is quite a mission, but a worthwhile mission; one that will bear fruit here at Trinitas this year and in the next thousand years of this school’s history.

[1] Bonhoefer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, 25.

[2] James B. Jordan, A Case Against Western Civilization.

[3] Ibid. See

[4] John Calvin, commentary on Ephesians.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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