Musical Idolatry

How perplexing to think of the burden we have placed on music, this fleeting human construct! . . . The church desperately needs an artistic reformation that accomplishes two things at once: first, it takes music out of the limelight and puts Christ and his Word back into prominence; and second, it strives creatively for a synthesis of new, old and crosscultural styles.

—Harold Best, Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, 75

Music in Its Place

As much as I love music . . . we have placed far too much faith in it and not nearly enough in the power of the Word, the authority and sweep of fearless prophecy and earnest, yet hope-filled, intercessory prayer. I have often wondered what would happen if we got music out of the way, especially in its upfront dress, and spent abundant time in interceding prayer, reading and searching the Scriptures, sitting in silence, prophesying and perhaps only then singing and making music.

—Harold M. Best, Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, 140

Beyond Style

It is fruitless to search for a single musical style, or even any blend of musical styles, that can assist all Christians with true worship. The followers of Jesus are a far too diverse group of people—which is exactly as it should be. We need, rather, to welcome any worship music that helps churches produce disciples of Jesus Christ.

—Michael S. Hamilton, “The Triumph of the Praise Songs,” Christianity Today 43:8 (7/12/99), 11

The Power of Music 6

Years ago near Christmas I was listening to ATC when a woman commentator shared the challenge of being Jewish in America at Christmas. I wish I could remember her name. What she said was cordial and insightful. As she wrapped it up she conceded wistfully that Christmas had quite simply inspired the greatest music in the history of the world. That admission contained a sigh and a signal.

Even Richard Dawkins (who succeeded Bertrand Russell and Madalyn Murray O’Hair as the world’s most famous atheist) has admitted to being a “cultural Christian.” The foundation for so startling a confession.? He found the singing of English Christmas carols to be irresistible. There is a truth and power in music whose source is not yet fully comprehended. Music is the registry of an unarticulated native reality. The power of music offered in praise suggests that though God’s truth can be denied, the beauty which radiates from that truth cannot go unadmired. Music which praises God’s majesty reflects God’s majesty. The music of Christmas, like the message of Christmas, resonates with something deeper than the mere recognition of excellence.

—Ronnie Collier Stevens, blogpost 12/13/2008

The Power of Music 5

The use of music as an expression of emotion linked to theological truth is common in all churches. In the evangelical traditions where personal religious experience is emphasized, emotional expression is one of music’s most important meanings; it is probably that function which folks refer to when they identify “music that speaks to the heart.” But this is not a new experience for churchgoers. St. Augustine mentioned it in the fifth century.

“How greatly did I weep in Thy hymns and canticles, deeply moved by the voice of Thy sweet-speaking Church! The voices flowed into mine ears, and the truth was poured forth into my heart, whence the agitation of my piety overflowed, and my tears ran over, and blessed was I therein.”

The emotional power of music is perhaps best realized in the life of the church when proper music is well coupled to appropriate text. (Note that Augustine joins emotion with truth!) In this union, the music dramatizes, underlines, “breathes life” into the words, resulting in more meaning than the words themselves could express.

—Donald Hustad, Jubilate II: Church Music in Worship and Renewal