Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing and music in the church. This debate has often come down to “traditional” music, or (old) hymns, versus “modern,” or popular music. The real truth is that the great influence on church music has been a combination of the charismatic influence, much of which is good in directing our hearts to God in personal praise, and the popular songs of television and pop-culture. This “performance” music is not good, at least in my view. Why?
People do not participate in “praying twice” (St. Augustine) as much as they watch and observe and see a professional production of varying quality. On contrast, pietism went right to the heart of people when they sang their faith. What happens if we cease to express our communion in the common faith in deep and thoughtful ways?
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Does What We Sing Matter to the Faith of the Church?: Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing… https://t.co/0jmJ78WSwt
In my liturgics class I used to play for my students two pieces of Renaissance music, both a cappella choral compositions by contemporaries of the major Reformers. The first was Giovanni Palestrina’s Kyrie from his Missa Papae Marcelli, composed c. 1560. The second was Thomas Tallis’ motet Spem in alium [Hope in any other].
I then invited the students to suggest why, leaving aside the characters of the composers, the Reformers took exception to such music. In the two illustrations offered it was not a theological problem, nor was it a question of the quality and beauty of the composition. The primary objection was inaccessibility. Worship had been taken from the mouths of the people and had become a performance to be listened to, a sacrifice of worship too sophisticated for ordinary people to offer.
Today, with different genres of music, we have, as you point out, much the same kind of problem.
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RT @JohnA1949: Does What We Sing Matter to the Faith of the Church?: Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing… https://t…
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Bad theology and bad spiritual practice is reinforced on a pretty melody. It is one of my major irritations with my heritage and why, in part, I wrote this: http://www.stevecrosby.com/Praise-Worship-Presence-New-Covenant-p/pwpsc.htm. It’s a critique of the topic: how did we get to where we are today and why it has become a fetish cottage industry. We have lost our way. It is not just “charismatic” churches either. I am convinced theology and practice need a complete new covenant overhaul.
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I’ve heard this idea being tossed around for a while now. It even touches on things that people like Stephen Curtis Chapman tried to say a while ago about the commercialization of Christian music.
On the other side of the coin, I’d like to say that the ability and fervancy of worship of young people is unlike anything I ever experienced in my growing up, and I think the accessibility and prevalence of worship music is a startling and beautiful thing.
Young people know how to worship, it’s their lingua franca. In my day, we joked about how we didn’t know how to raise our hands in worship, Presbyterian as if it were an (undesirable) personality trait. I don’t think that’s an issue anymore.
Kids can worship, and they know how to express their hearts’ desire to Jesus. That is a huge shift, and I think it is 100% the result of a worship culture that allows for expression of emotion to Jesus, and to open hearts toward Him.
It is hugely desirable to be transparent before Him, and to express how I feel to Jesus. It’s great to have theology, but I nearly lost my soul and heart in a rift between head and heart growing up Presbyterian and unregenerate inside. I didn’t know Jesus cares how I feel or that my Heavenly Father knows me by name. I just didn’t get it. I see these young people as infinitely better off than I was. Praise be to GOD that He showed Himself so tenderly to me and proved to me He had always been speaking to me. I credit His Holy Spirit with lifting me and filling me and giving me a new name known only to Him written in Heaven and on His hands. He is GOD indeed to me.
People like the Gettys and the Catholic charistmatic liturgical worship movement, Taize, and the new wave of worship leaders who use Scripture as the basis for worship are doing a lot to bring a depth to the worship genre. It is way better than my youth that’s all I can say. I’m amazed at how often our music at church is verbatim from Isaiah or elsewhere in Scripture.
It could be that our worship leaders are bringing us the best, but I see it on KLOVE as well. That didn’t even exist when I was growing up. The fact that normal people who aren’t necessarily Christian listen to Christian radio all the time is a good thing, I think. Alternative point of view 😉
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In general, the theological quality of the lyrics matters far more to me than the tune.
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My observation – much of the mega-church music looks and sounds like a rock concert (sometimes including strobe lights and (holy?) smoke. Upside is participation. Downside is personal praise is sometimes overshadowed by onstage performance.
I also observe we need to coach congregations on the difference between signing songs, hymns, etc about God and singing our praise-petition-declarations directly to God.
Just saw this link:
Bono wants Christian music to be more honest
I think the lyrics and the tune matter about equally. Why? The idea is to pray twice as Augustine said. We pray better when we remember the words and the tune carries the words to the heart with power. I do not think we can divorce them at all. I think this is a modern distinction that most would not recognize in the past.
I’ve been touched by the ministry of Audrey Assad, Catholic worship leader, who strongly draws our hearts toward God especially in the first half of this clip from an Ecumenical Catholic/Protestant conference…
Both Matt Maher and Audrey are friends and fellow ecumenists using their art for Christian unity and discipleship.
Wonderful to know…