Musical Theology

There is no biblically proscribed way to worship God through music, but in an article entitled “Musical Theology: Past lessons, present perspectives” Joan Averett suggests that a disconnect between music and theology results in churches that “tend to ‘entertain’ the person in the pew rather than equip him for a deeper understanding of the gospels.” In the process there are some fascinating things said about the way Johann Sebastian Bach used to express sacred concepts musically.

6 thoughts on “Musical Theology

  1. Excellent!
    As a composer with a PhD in composition, I have rather a lot to say about this. Bottom line: jettison it from church if it (a) inhibits ‘proskuneo’ [reverent worship], or (b) has profane cultural associations.


  2. Oh, I forgot to mention … There’s an obvious connect between this thread and the latest one, “Against Mediocrity”: I think it is incumbent upon us in church to make music as excellently as possible (think J. S. Bach) – compositionally, performatively and theologically. This is very much an OT principle, of course, but not overridden by the NT. Note: some musics are innately better than others; this isn’t merely a question of ‘taste’, I assure you…


  3. Why, you’d have to jettison the bulk of it in that case. No Love+1? What is the world coming to 🙂
    Hey, what’s your take on folk versus formal music then? My one concern is that we elevate musical excellence into genre elitism. In striving for excellence I think there should be a place for excellent folk, excellent metal, excellent R&B, etc, alongside excellent classical. That is, we should not look for the Christianity in the genre and style but in the lyrics and substance.


  4. Agreed, Matt (grudgingly). However, art music by its very nature attempts more: certain aspects of it seek the limits of what is humanly possible – conceptually, performatively, and perceptually. The other genres do not. This ain’t a value judgement *per se*… Also, art music possesses the advantage of using notation – a valuable mnemonic device that allows one to sculpt uniquely complex structures ‘outside time’ rather than just ‘through time’ (as is always the case with non-literate musics). So this genre is innately richer in possibilities; it is a universe and not ‘merely’ a galaxy! So there isn’t really an ‘x vs y’ situation, any more than it’s high-school athletics versus the olympics.


  5. As long as we’re acknowledging a legitimate place for high-school athletics 🙂
    To follow the analogy, I think we can legitimately critic the performance of high school athletes without judging them against olympic athletes. That is, there are standards appropriate to the context.
    So, in discussing Christian musical mediocrity I think we need to be genre sensitive, BUT this is not to use genre as an excuse for mediocrity. There is plenty of Christian rock which is mediocre even by rock standards, both compositionally and lyrically and theologically.


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