Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"If the words stink...."

One of the most important aspects of the "worship wars" has been disagreement about music. Kevin DeYoung is in favor of musical diversity in worship:
...I want to defend diversity in one important area: the songs that we sing in church. I believe it very good for our churches to sing songs from different eras, traditions, and styles.

Before I highlight four types of songs in particular, let me make four general comments. First, the songs that we sing in corporate worship must be biblically and theologically sound. No song gets a free pass just because its “diverse.” No matter how brilliant or moving or catchy the music, if the words stink, we shouldn’t sing it. ....
After his general comments, DeYoung discusses four "types of songs":
With that in mind, and in pursuit of a right kind of diversity, let me mention four different “traditions” of songs that we should be (and are, I think) singing.
The Psalms have been the church’s songbook for two thousand years. They are also inspired by God and intended to be sung. It is sad, therefore, that so few churches in North America regularly sing Psalms. Some Christians groups sing only Psalms. That goes too far in my opinion, but inclusive Psalmnody is a grand idea. Singing the Psalms keeps us real as they give expression to the full range of human emotion–lament, joy, anguish, doubt, hope, longing, confusion, jubilation, contrition, and fear. ....

“Hymns” is a broad category in which are dozens of different styles and traditions. I use the term loosely to refer to the songs we find in hymnals–songs from Wesley, Watts, and Winkworth (look her up; she may be in your hymnal a lot); songs from the early church, the Reformation, and the Great Awakening; songs from monks, Puritans, and evangelists. Hymns are not perfect (e.g., “my faith has found a resting place not in device nor creed”), but they have at least three advantages over newer songs.
One, hymns, because hymnals have notes on a page and because their melodies are more geared for keys on a piano as opposed to a note in a guitar chord, are often more singable by large groups.

Two, hymns, because they have been around for decades and usually centuries, have undergone more weeding out. The chaff has been sifted and the wheat has remained. If Christians have sung a song for 1500 years, chances are there’s something good about it. Most hymns are simply better musically, lyrically, and theologically than most newer songs.

Third, hymns link us with the past and the communion of the saints from all generations. Hymns guard us against our cultural blindspots and historical idiosyncracies.
Contemporary Songs
Like “hymns,” “contemporary songs” is a term so broad as to be almost meaningless. By contemporary music I mean chronologically, songs written since I’ve been alive; stylistically, songs you might hear on the radio; and musically, songs that probably use guitar, drums, keyboard or some combination thereof. ....

No generation of Christians has the right to stop including new songs. .... Thankfully, the last meaty, good song for corporate worship has not yet been written. And thankfully, the worship music today is more mature, more God-centered, and more singable than it was a decade or two ago.

Non-Anglo Songs
This category is completely artificial I admit. There is no “non-Anglo” tradition of music. .... But even using this clumsy category I think you can understand my point. We should be singing songs that aren’t from the majority culture at our churches (writing from my perspective as a white man from a majority white church). .... [more]

DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed: In Defense of Musicial Diversity

1 comment:

  1. Neat article. I wish we would
    get over the worship war.

    Terry Finley


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