Make Music (6)

Music provides a compelling sounding image of life together; but it is a shared life in which the distinctive voice of the individual is not negated by communion with the other. In music, we encounter identity which preserves particularity. As we sing together, different sounds—your voice, and mine—occupy the same time and the same space, without obstructing or negating one another.

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 643

Make Music (5)

The unity of the Body of Christ is not a bland, undifferentiated uniformity, but a rich and manifold concord. Music is uniquely equipped to provide an aural image of this kind of community, in which union is not unanimity, nor multiplicity a cacophony. With every resonant sonority, music testifies to the possibility of this sort of life.

——Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 645

Make Music (3)

Paul’s view of music is not simply benign. Rather, he sees music as having a role to play in sanctification. One scholar of church music observes that the NT has relatively little to say about music, aside from “a stray remark in two of the Epistles about the singing of hymns and spiritual songs” (Eric Routley, Church Music and the Christian Faith, 15). Routley is referring to this passage in Ephesians and the parallel passage in Colossians. But this is certainly not a stray remark.

—Stephen R. Guthrie, “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46/4 (December 2003), 638‐39

A Place for Music, and Music in Its Place

I’ve been amazed since becoming an elder in a local church just how dependent many Christians are on a certain style of music, or certain level of excellence in music. How many times have you heard someone say, for example, “I just can’t worship in that church.”? Or “I just don’t feel like I’m connecting with God there.”

Of course there can be a lot going on there, but I think that many times if you press in on statements like that, what you find behind it all is not very far removed from “I don’t like the music there.” People don’t put it that starkly, mainly because if you do it sounds silly. But I think that’s a lot of what people mean when they say, “I can’t worship there.”

I am really afraid that we’ve managed to create a generation of anemic Christians who are spiritually dependent on excellent music. Their sense of spiritual well-being is based on feeling“close to God,” their feeling close to God is based on their “ability to worship,” and being able to worship depends on big crowds singing great music.

I’m being facetious with the title of this article and the call for a moratorium on music, of course. The Bible tells us to sing. God gave us music precisely because it affects our hearts and emotion, and that is a good thing. But every good thing can be and will be misused by sinful humans. My sense is that “excellent music” has become something of an idol.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that it would do every Christian well to do some honest heart-searching about what makes them feel “close to God.” Can you feel close to God just by reading or saying the words, “In Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”? Would you be able to function in a church that’s great in every way except the music? If not, you probably need to give some thought to whether your spiritual life is dependent on something it should not be dependent on.

—Greg Gilbert, “Against Music” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/against-music

No fan of hymns!

When I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; . . . . I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth rate poems set to sixth-rate music.

—C.S. Lewis, “Answers to Questions on Christianity” in God in the Dock:
Essays on Theology and Ethics, 61-62