Church Music

A Case for Traditional Music, Part 2

Read Part 1.

How to Judge Worship Music

At this point someone will certainly raise the objection that judging music is terribly subjective. For example, some musicians have taken traditional hymn texts and reset them in a contemporary style. Who is qualified to say whether the older or the newer style better accords with the truths in these texts? If serious and devout people cannot agree on these issues, is that not an indication that these are merely matters of opinion? There are several answers here.

Sustained disagreement, even among sincere believers, is far from an adequate reason to declare a matter to be mere preference.

Surely we realize that in matters of doctrine and practice, Christians of tremendous intelligence and piety have unresolved differences. The fact that such disagreements have not been settled—and show little prospect of ever being settled before the return of our Lord—does not justify our concluding that there is no truth of the matter. While reasons may exist for thinking that music is a matter of preference, a lack of consensus alone is not one of those reasons.

Scripture itself calls us to make exactly these kinds of judgments, and our progress in them is a decisive mark of spiritual maturity.

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A Case for Traditional Music, Part 1

Suppose I told you I have a new car for you. And not just any car: it’s the car you’ve always dreamed of owning, in just the color you imagined it would be. Suppose I hand you the keys and tell you to take it for a spin. I think we all would agree that this would give you a kind of joy.

Now, change illustrations. Suppose you are fighting cancer. It’s a particularly aggressive cancer, with a remote chance of your survival. The treatment is brutal, with drugs and radiation that place you on the verge of death. And now the doctor walks into the room with a clipboard to deliver the news: the cancer is gone. It is not hard to imagine that you might cry. But who would doubt that those tears are tears of joy?

In both examples, the response to good news is joy, yet these joys are quite distinguishable from each other. For someone to hear that his cancer is gone and respond as though he just won a new car would indicate he is oblivious to the stakes of his situation. We don’t doubt that he is happy; we might rightly doubt that he fully understands the magnitude of both the threat he faced and the good news he has received.

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