Friday, February 10, 2006

Frondeur Friday: All music is a fine expression of worship

Earlier today I criticized my organization's wrong emphasis on worship as being about lifestyle and not a life of substance.

The other side of the coin to worship is the silliness with which people argue over methodology. If worship is about the heart's cry, the heart's service, the heart's acknowledgment of God, why do we spend so much time criticizing each other over superficial things?

We previously stated God doesn't care about your singing, but it's very clear in the Word that music is a divine instrument of worship, and a practice that took place in heaven before God breathed into us our first breath as a race of people. Music helps express the yearnings of our spirit in ways where words alone fail. Music forces us to stop in our tracks, and its lyrics -- if properly composed -- impose upon us the right way to approach God while taking the focus off ourselves and reprioritizing our worries as temporary.

I know of no Christian that disagrees with this. Music has been central to the worship of God ... since perhaps at the first creation of angels.

The issue that divides so many today is the kind of music acceptable in worship of God, an issue I find so petty as to speculate ulterior motives behind the criticism:

  • On one side we have traditionalists, people who cling to hymns, some of those songs hundreds of years old. The lyrics tend to reflect the strong theological arguments of the Reformers, primarily words about God, and not always words to God.

  • On the other side we have mostly Third Wavers using modern stage instruments such as the electric guitar, electric bass, and drum set, playing very contemporary-style arrangement. These songs tend to focus more on praise and worship to God in typically simple words. While most of these songs can be founded on strong theological justification, they tend to not emblazon theological doctrines like the hymns.

    What I find in the polarized among the two camps is a lot of pride and not much discernment. Theology is important, but so is intimacy between worshipper and Deity. Arguing against one or the other is to impose methodological arguments based on forced interpretations of Scripture, and to me, this violates the very intent of Christ's establishment of the Church.

    Peter and Paul never led anyone in a Vineyard and Maranatha chorus, but they never sang "How Great Thou Art," either. They both seemed much more concerned with the application and practice of worship than song style and form.

    New worship music is not destroying the church anymore than Rev. Carl Boberg did when he wrote O Store Gud in 1886, or when John Newton was inspired to write Amazing Grace aboard an 18th Century slave ship. That was the new worship music of its day, and it was greeted with equal suspicion by those who did not want to be pulled in by a cultural challenge. There was a time when Christians would not have been able to sing How Great Thou Art because its time signature is in twos (halftime). Up until the 17th Century, sacred music was to be written only in threes to reflect the Trinity doctrine.

    Our nearly 2,000-year tradition of Christianity is not one of static worship style, but one of imposing extraBiblical restraints on song methodology to stave off cultural influence. This seems to be a strictly Christian practice, since our Jewish forefathers had no such sensibility. They borrowed from everyone in ways that did not impose upon or offend their doctrine. David, the greatest psalmist in history, borrowed heavily from the styles and instrumentation of the unbelieving tribes around him. David felt God could be worshipped with any tool, as long as the heart and mind were focused in the right direction.

    And that's what it comes down to, once again. We place far too much emphasis on methodology to the point of turning it into an idol, either as traditionalists or new worship music advocates. Music is what it is, and it has zero spiritual value until our heart gives it an application.
  • No comments: