The Sovereign Grace/Getty Music Question

Scott Aniol wrestles with the matter

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Adam Blumer's picture

I have also been wrestling with the matter. Thanks, Scott, for your fine article. Definitely food for thought. I think you raise a good point that some may be using the songs simply because they are "cool" right now. Will we still be using them in a decade? That question makes me wonder what songs fundamentalists will be using by then? That question is actually a little scary because it does seem like the standards have changed. Your raise some excellent points. Thank you.

Daniel's picture

You really have to agree with his first few presuppositions to really consider the rest of the article. Needless to say, I don't particularly agree with Scott based upon his presuppositions, not the rest of the article.

RevPhilHunt's picture

I’m glad someone brought up this issue. It is one that I’m personally trying to work out as well. My heart was settled on the issue of the Getty’s just by going to their website and seeing their philosophy of music. I have taken the quotes directly from their site.

“There are two reasons we write modern hymns,” explains Keith. “First, it’s to help teach the faith. What we sing affects how we think, how we feel and ultimately how we live, so it’s so important that we sing the whole scope of truth the Bible has given us. The second reason is to try and create a more timeless musical style that every generation can sing, a style that relates to the past and the future.”
“In the Church, the purpose of singing is to express the community we have as the Body of Christ." Kristyn adds, “To try and search for the melodic ideas and song structure that might bring more people in, that’s what we’re trying to investigate. Is there a way to bring everyone together musically?”
- Keith and Kristyn Getty (quoted from gettymusic.com (under Keith and Kristyn))

I take very serious issues with some of the above statements, especially that “the purpose of singing is to “express the community we have as the Body of Christ” and “bring more people in”. That is a complete unbiblical view of music as it is man centered, and not focused on celebrating the excellence and glory of God. Help me out on this one - if the basic foundation and purpose of the music is in error, can great truth come from a false premise? I ask that question humbly and respectfully - I by no means claim to be an authority on it. But it was the Getty philosophy and SGG affiliations that gave me doubts - and doubts are enough to keep me from recommending them.

Audrey's picture

I think that, taking the Getty's lyrics in conjunction with those quotes, it would be difficult to describe their approach as "man centered". While Kristyn's quote in particular may not have been well-phrased, my understanding is that their intention is to provide lyrics that are deeper than your average CCM doctrinally, while providing a musical style that will be less likely to offend people on either side of the CCM gap, thus the "more timeless music" bit. As far as the "express[ing ] the community we have in Christ" being the purpose of singing in Church, I would hope that what she was meaning was something along the lines of Eph. 5, which, after a charge to "be immitators of God" and "look carefully then how you walk," states "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord with all your heart." Thus while there certainly is an upward view (to the Lord) in worship, there is also a communal aspect (addressing one another).

To be clear, while I enjoy much of the Getty's music, many of their songs are more difficult for the average, non-sliding vocalist to sing, and I realize that there are many hymns out there which have just as good and better doctrinal teaching in them. Nevertheless, I still think we should be careful to read people charitably and in light of their body of work, not just from a couple of quotes on their website. As with many aspects of modern Christianity, well thought out positions which are stated clearly and carefully are rare. I would commend the Gettys for the higher quality that they are bringing to contemporary music but that doesn't mean that I am not aware of their shortcomings or that I, given everything that I know about them, do not try to view what may be shortcomings as charitably as possible. And whatever their shortcomings are, I don't believe that they are in the area of man-centeredness but rather that, in their commendable attempt to bridge the gap between CCM and traditional hymnody (thus avoiding some church splits), they are perhaps not as explicit as they ought to be in the upward view of worship, focusing rather on the aspect directed at fellow believers.

Daniel's picture

Phil. I am probably no more an expert on this than you are, but does the fact that something has a man centered focus make it wrong? Are we to say that hymns by Watts and others do not at some point appeal to our feelings, to our (Godly) wants and desires? Or are they completely devoid of everything relating to us?

Also regarding your question about anything good coming from a false premise. Well, this is where many on here would probably disagree. I tend to think a person can create an excellent piece of music, but at the same time be a complete heathen. (of course, the question needs to be asked, why would a heathen create a God honoring piece of music?) But truth is truth no matter from whose mouth it is coming from. And so if SG/G reason for creating music is completely man focused, yet they produce good quality music (of course that statement can be debated), how are we to say it is not what it is? Is truth true because a truthful person spoke it? Or is truth true because it is true?

Patty C.'s picture

RevPhilHunt wrote:
if the basic foundation and purpose of the music is in error, can great truth come from a false premise?

We studied this question in a Philosophy of Church Music class my senior year at NBBC...er, NIU...Anyways, we considered the idea that b/c man is created in God's image, even though that image was blurred at the Fall, man still reflects the image of God in some ways whether he "intends" to or not. So even though a premise or philosophy may be wrong, beauty and truth can still be communicated (for example: great art, classical music, literature, etc...). Now, how that truth is affected by the manner of communication (style of music, for example) is another matter entirely.

packfan's picture

I guess I'm one of the 10% that likes the version we sing in church but I must admit I have the Getty CD on my IPod and look for ward to their new release. I don't listen to them because I like the "pop/rock edge", whatever that means, but for their theological content. They are deeper than a lot of the songs that have come out of fundamentalism in the past 50 years.

That being said, I also enjoy a lot of the songs by the authors listed at the end of the article.

I guess I'm just not comfortable placing musical "normal rules of counterpoint " in the realm of biblical.

JohnBrian's picture

at http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=CD7323&netp... ]CBD

My daughter bought me this cd for my birthday. I appreciate the lyrics the Getty's and Townend write. I was not initially impressed with Kristyn' s voice, but it is "growing" on me. The lyrics are so much more theologically sound than a large percentage of contemporary and traditional music that I have listened to. So much of the music in any given baptistic hymnal and that I sang in any church I have been is either man-centered or weak in theology. I am grateful for the Getty/Townend contribution to Christian hymnody.

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ScottBurdett's picture

I am sure am I part of the minority as well, but I fail to see a man-centered theology in the Getty songs (or Sovereign Grace). Though I am not sure what Kristyn was trying to state in her comment "bring more people in", I can state after talking with Keith on several occasions that it is his passion to bring back biblical truth to the songs the Church uses in worship. I also believe after looking at Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, there is a sense of "community" in believers' worship to God, not only should the songs reflect Bilblical truth regarding God and his nature, but also serves as edification within the Body.

I do appreciate Scott Aniol's approach in his article and agree with some points, though I do arrive to a different conclusion. What I really enjoy about Scott's thoughts is that he causes me to stop, think and evaluate my positions on worship, thus developing my critical thinking skills. Thanks to Scott for his contribution.

markbgomez's picture

@Packfan - I'm with you. I may have to do some more reading at Aniol's blog to try to discover where he's developed his view that things like "normal rules of counterpoint" are necessarily better suited to Christian music.

@ScottBurdett - I think Kristyn's comment "bring more people in" was in the context of the community of worship within the church. In other words, she doesn't mean that they're trying to appeal to the world to get them in the church doors, but rather that within a worship service in the church, they want to bring more people in to the worship experience. I've been in plenty of churches where the church members are not "brought into" the worshipping as we sing. That's how I read her comment in its context.

@Adam Blumer - You say, "I think you raise a good point that some may be using the songs simply because they are "cool" right now." Is it not possible, or even more likely, that they use the songs because they like them? I like the SG/G music. I'm not trying to be "cool". I don't know why traditionalists need to assign motives like this to contemporaries. Its always that we're trying to be "cool" or "like the world" or "edgy". What if we just like it? And if we've looked at the arguments that try to show that its an inferior form of music and decided that those arguments don't hold any Biblical weight, why shouldn't we listen to what we like? I also don't understand the argument, "Well, we might not be listening to this in 10 years." So what? First, how do I know what they're going to be listening to 10 years from now (I'm guessing the answer will be something about pop cliches)? And second, why should I care? If the majority of people like it now, why shouldn't we sing it now? I can't imagine telling one of my students, "You probably shouldn't listen to that because in 10 years, you might not like it anymore."

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

packfan wrote:

I guess I'm just not comfortable placing musical "normal rules of counterpoint " in the realm of biblical.

Even though I'm more of a traditionalist in my music taste/choices, I'm with you here.

What is interesting is that a lot of the early American hymnody also violates the "normal rules of counterpoint," and therefore I suppose that Scott wouldn't use music of that type, but the music is as "traditional" as it comes. I own three reprints of these old hymnals, and while not all of the hymns would be usable doctrinally, many of them are, and some of them are amazing, both musically and lyrically.

Dave Barnhart

BryanBice's picture

[quote=markbgomez/quote ] I think Kristyn's comment "bring more people in" was in the context of the community of worship within the church. In other words, she doesn't mean that they're trying to appeal to the world to get them in the church doors, but rather that within a worship service in the church, they want to bring more people in to the worship experience. I've been in plenty of churches where the church members are not "brought into" the worshipping as we sing. That's how I read her comment in its context.

I concur with your interpretation of this, Mark. As a pastor, I don't get around to other churches very often, but while on vacation I have had occasion to attend church services that use the worship team, praise band, P&W songs on the screen, etc. My observation in those experiences is that MAYBE 50% of the people are singing. I always stand to with the congregation just to conform to the crowd :~ , but almost never participate because 1) I don't know the tune that goes with the lyrics on the screen, 2) I can't pick out the melody because the percussion overshadows it, and/or 3) even after hearing the melody, the song is, frankly, hard to sing. So, instead of singing, I gawk at the crowd, and low & behold, most are either doing what I'm doing or simply watching the show on the platform. In contrast, I remember the first time I ever heard "In Christ Alone" -- at the DBTS conference 3 years ago. Words were projected on the screen, I was able to catch the melody quickly, and joined in on the second stanza with gusto. The text, tune, and singability "brought me in."

ScottBurdett's picture

@ markbgomez - See where you coming from regarding Kristyn's quote and the context and with your interpretation, it does make mores sense to me. Thanks!
@BryanBice - Ditto. That is the strength of the Getty songs/hymns - easy melody, strong lyrics, high congregational participation from my perspective as well.

markbgomez's picture

@BryanBice - That's too bad that your experience with praise bands/worship teams was like that. I'd say, though, that the problem is not necessarily with the idea of a praise band/worship team, but rather with the actual praise bands/worship teams forgetting what they're there for. I've had some positive and negative experiences with praise bands/worship teams.
I do agree that the songs by SG/G are easy to pick up and powerful when you're singing them. I heard a poster on SI actually criticize "In Christ Alone" because she thought it was a bit too easy to sing. :O I just don't know what to say sometimes. It was probably best that I didn't say anything.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I wonder how many hymns would stand up to the scrutiny of these sorts of standards, especially "associatons." Not many, I think.

"The Midrash Detective"

Alex Guggenheim's picture

I posted at the website of the article:

Quote:
Whether one agrees or disagrees with your observations, your comprehensive and appropriately nuanced grasp of the subject matter is at a level lacking in many evaluations which unfortunately often results in inefficient conclusions on such matters. Thank you for the abbreviated but thorough treatment. I post at Sharper Iron and will modify this comment and repost it there.
Now as for my own boundaries, if I were responsible for making the decision I would accept a song's use if the music and lyrics were appropriate and I would not lay heavy on the association (though this is not an absolute). After all the saying goes, "God draws a straight line with a crooked stick" (the human instruments being the crooked stick of course).

I do agree in part, though with slightly differing reasons and posture, that there is and should be a distinction between worship music and entertainment music and it should be reflected to a significant degree. Now that said, no one should assume I mean to say that worship music will not result in some pleasantries for our human senses which might be in part defined as entertaining such senses but these should not be the designed purpose. Well anyway, let me limit the comment to this, I realize this discussion and debate does finds itself slowed to a crawl in minutia and quicksand isn't my cup of tea on this topic.

tlange's picture

I personally like some of their music. I do not care for the stuff that might have rock overtones to it. We have sung some of their hymns in our church service. Funny thing is, I bet most people in our church do not know who Keith Getty or Stuart Townsend are. I did not know about them until I heard Dr. Mohler interview the Getty's on his radio show. I cannot recall the title of the hymn that we have sung in our services, but it is theologically sound. I know that there are some purists out there who would have a problem with Gettys, but they also have problems with Fanny Crosby also....

Brian Jo's picture

I guess I'm one of those weirdos who likes SG/G recordings AND the old doctrinally sound hymns. The style isn't so much the question as is the doctrinal accuracy and God-centeredness of the lyrics. I would venture to guess that the folks at Sovereign Grace would say something similar. For instance, the T4G recording is full of old and new hymns, done in a fairly conservative style.

Greg Long's picture

Brian Jo wrote:
I guess I'm one of those weirdos who likes SG/G recordings AND the old doctrinally sound hymns. The style isn't so much the question as is the doctrinal accuracy and God-centeredness of the lyrics. I would venture to guess that the folks at Sovereign Grace would say something similar. For instance, the T4G recording is full of old and new hymns, done in a fairly conservative style.
I'm with you, Brian. I love all the SG stuff (recordings included) as well as old hymns.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University