My, Devotion to Him #240
Verse Passage: Psalm 66:4 “All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.” – NIV
Perhaps one of the biggest controversies in the Christian church is around music. Traditional hymns or contemporary music? Piano only or include drums and guitars? Vocals only? Include musical instruments? This debate has caused real rifts and cracks in congregations around the world and for generations. But why? Why do we remain a divided house?
People might assume it has something to do with or maybe even everything to do with tradition. However, after listening to this debate over and over I have decided to take a shot at this subject but have waited till I have felt led to. Music as we all should be aware is powerful. People enjoy all kinds of different genres of music just as they might movies or books. Christians are not all alike when it comes to deciding the genre of music that prepares their hearts and souls for worship.
As christians we are called first to worship and honor God. Then we are called to love and serve one another. So first I would like to encourage everyone to remember that every song you sing to the Lord whether its hymns, praise chorus, or you just make up something is a joyful and sweet sound to the Father. It sweet to His ears and warmth to His heart.
Its not about the tempo or accompaniment but about the heart from which we sing and that should be at the forefront when we come to worship Him anytime. Now the Bible contains no musical notes or preferences for use to strictly follow in order to help us. But luckily I do believe there are things we can look to in which will help us when it comes to this matter.
Lets take a look back on history.
In the 200’s A.D Instrumental music was almost shunned around the world during worship because of it’s association with debauchery and immorality.
In the 300’s A.D A certain bishop called the father of hymnody to the western church was the first person to introduce community hymn singing. Many of the songs and metrical stanzas were written by heretics but rewriting the words (Woah! Yes they used songs which had prior association with worldly people and re-wrote the words in which the new words would then lift up Gods Holy name.)
In the 500’s A.D people were often singing psalms in a way that everyone would respond. This could have been traditional Jewish practice of cantor and congregation singing alternate verses.
In the 600’s A.D The monasteries, referencing “Seven times a day I praise you” – Psalms 119:164. Developed a seven times daily order of prayer. The services varied in content but included a certain amount of singing mainly by a solo singer with the congregation repeating a refrain at intervals. Services were linked together by their common basis in the biblical psalms in such a way that the whole cycle of 150 psalms were sung every week.
In the 800’s A.D Almost all singing was done in chant based on scales that used only the white keys on todays piano. The monastery was the setting above all others where christian music was sustained and developed through the dark ages.
In the 900’s Music began to be widely notated for the first time which enabled choirs to sing from music. Thus new types of music would be created which would also be out of reach from tradition where music was passed on by ear.
In the 1100’s A.D The perfection on new forms of latin verse using rhyme and accent led to new meditations on the joys of heaven, vanity of life, and ultimately the suffering of Christ Jesus.
In the 1200’s A.D Musicians began to discover the idea of harmony. The startling effect of the choir suddenly changing from the melody did not please everyone. Some have even accused harmony as sullied worship by introducing lewdness into the church.
In the 1300’s A.D Worship in the great gothic era cathedrals and abbeys used choirs that were “paid professionals” they were sealed off by screens. Ordinary people had not place in the church except maybe when it came to tithe. (Yea who would turn that down?)
In the 1500’s A new prayerbook was pushed by King Henry VIII of England. It decreed that all services would be in English and with only one syllable to each note. Martin Luther set out about reforming public worship by freeing the mass from what he believed to be rigid forms. One way he did this was by putting stress on congregational singing. He would use hymns and music that was already familiar to the majority of people in Germany.
In the 1600’s A.D The organ played a vital role in Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and even Roman Catholicism. While the reformed churches were in opposition to it. Initially the organ was not used to accompany congregational singing but had its own voice as a result the organist would often play a verse on the congregation’s behalf.
In the 1700’s A.D Isaac Watts gave a boost to a controversial idea of congregation singing “man-made” hymns which he created freely by paraphrasing scripture. Charles Wesley paraphrased the prayer book, and versified christian doctrine and experience. Wesleys songs were said to have had an important influence as his sermons.
In the 1800’s A.D William Booth (Founder of the Salvation Army) used rousing melodies with a martial flavor to set the tone for his army. He is credited with popularizing the “Why should the devil” question. “Why should the devil have all the best music?”
In the 1900’s A.D Radio was in it’s infancy and a handful of Christian pioneers such as Donald G. Barnhouse and Charles E. Fuller began featuring gospel music and evangelistic teaching over the airwaves. Many christians showed skepticism. (Why I have no idea? But interesting enough radio was also associated with other types of music that were not christian.)
In the 1970’s Larry Norman was another person who gave a controversial subject a boost. He sang “I want the people to know, that He saved my soul, but I still like to listen to the radio. They say that rock and roll is wrong. I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong and I don’t confuse it. Why should the devil have all the good music. Cause Jesus is the rock and he rolled my blues away (rock and roll inserted into here nicely.) He founded what became known as Contemporary Christian music and its still controversial to this very day.
Music has played a central and contentious role through the church. The is no reason to believe that disagreements will stop tomorrow or next year. But being aware of the past changes and movements that swept the church should only encourage us to be more humble about our preferences and even more open to other styles of music used to worship God and to point people to Christ.
It’s interesting that worship in any given church can hit you personally when sometimes the pastor or the sermon can’t. Worship I believe is not only a powerful tool on a solo basis but can be the very tool that should be used to bridge the divide between churches because we are worshiping God. It should not be the thing that rips us apart. There has to be a spirit of following Jesus before we can have the possibility of unity.
Worship is so powerful because it gets our whole self back on the greatness and goodness of God no matter the circumstances that we are in at that moment.
Worship invites us to join in the choir around the world to worship the One True God. Your voice if you so allow can be the symphony of all creation.
Believing in Jesus Christ is more important than theological arguments such as if we should have instruments or not, how communion should be served, what is the exact age for baptism. Will we continue to allow the kingdom of the world divide the church because of politics (which is what theological arguments are)
We will all discover that when we get to heaven we are all wrong about something.
Copyright © 2020 by Jacob Olinger