Monday, May 19, 2014

Sung worship

Until the end of May The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond can be downloaded, free, for eReaders. This is another book I have just begun and it begins promisingly. From the Preface:
Just as the medieval church cut off the congregation from participating in the sung worship of the service, today many well-meaning Christian leaders have reconstructed a sung worship wherein congregational participation does not matter. We sit or stand as our medieval forbears did and watch others sing for us. .... Such a venue, produces a response in the hearer, one super-charged with raw emotion, but I wonder whether it is an emotional response produced by a mind renewed by deep consideration of the objective truths of the gospel of grace or by the music itself.

Watts clearly understood all this. He no doubt learned it from the Psalms and perhaps from John Calvin's preface to his commentary on the Psalms:
We know by experience that singing has great force and vigor to move and inflame the hearts of men to invoke and praise God with a more vehement and ardent zeal. Care must always be taken that the song be neither light nor frivolous; but that it have weight and majesty (as St. Augustine says), and also, there is a great difference between music which one makes to entertain men at table and in their houses, and the Psalms which are sung in the Church in the presence of God and his angels.
In an age of entertainment-driven worship, a recovered appreciation of Watts as a hymn writer is critical to correcting the "light" and "frivolous" tendencies of the postmodern church, and perhaps the dark and edgy ones, too. Every biblically mature generation in the church will want to contribute poetry and music to the church's worship but, alas, so will every biblically immature one. Watts makes an excellent role model to guide the new generations of poets who presume to write lyrics for the corporate worship of God's people.

Instead of letting his son be guided by the transient poetic and music appetites of the moment, Watts' father taught him who must guide his pen:
In ancient times God's
   worship did accord,
Not with tradition, but the
   written word;
Himself has told us how He'll
   be adored.
Watts got his father's message: what Christians sing in worship must be guided by what God has revealed about how we are to sing to such a God. Watts mastered the poetic gift with which he was entrusted and earned the undisputed title "the Father of English Hymnody." ....
Free download of The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts