Monday, November 8, 2010

Yes, It IS About the Music, Too - Part Deux

Okay, so I've received several emails regarding my post last week.  First of all, y'all can respond to the post right here on the blog.  I mean, I know I don't allow anonymous comments, but it's not all that difficult to create a blogger account and post a response.  Takes all of 15 seconds or so.  Just sayin'. :)  That said, I do appreciate those of you who did take the time to contact me with your thoughts.  

Those who emailed me argue that it's not enough to simply talk about music.  Well, yeah, that's kinda my point.  We shouldn't be saying, "It's not about the music," since the inevitable response is, "What do you mean by 'music'"?  Plus, as I noted in my post last week, that vague, little phrase can also give the impression that music is neutral.  It's not.  Music is a powerful medium and it needs to be treated as such.  So, I agree.  It's not enough to simply talk about music.  Much more needs be said.

The other main argument from those who emailed me is that this whole debate revolves around taste.  Some people like organ music and traditional hymns; others like praise bands and popular CCM songs.  And, as one person stated, "As long as Christ is being glorified, the style of music being used shouldn't matter."  But, this begs the question:  Is Christ being glorified, no matter the style of music?

But, wait, before we tackle that question, let's back up for a minute.  Where, oh where, in Holy Scripture is the precedent set for us to employ our likes and tastes in worship?  I've been asking that question of those Lutherans who advocate "contemporary worship" for years, and I have yet to receive an answer.  But, gee whiz, if we're gonna follow the methodology which purports that worship is about satisfying our likes and tastes, we ought to have a little Scripture to back that up, don't ya think?  But, alas, there is no Scripture to back this up.  There's a reason for that:  Worship is NOT about US!  Our likes and tastes are a non-factor in worship.  I know that sounds crazy to postmodern ears, but it's true.

So, back to the question:  Is Christ being glorified, no matter the style of music?  If the style of music being used is to satisfy the likes and tastes of those gathered together, then the answer must be a resounding, "No!"  You can't say that we use a certain style of music because we know people like it and, at the same time, be about the business of glorifying Christ.  That dog just won't hunt.  If you are using a certain style of music precisely because it appeals to the likes and tastes of those gathered, you are glorifying them - and yourself! - not Christ.

But, wait, there's more.  What is the real reason for using praise bands and CCM music?  Is it not to attract the "unchurched" (i.e. unbelievers)?  You know it is.  Admit it.  You want to put on a good show in the hope that those who would otherwise not step foot in a Church will feel right at home in your worship services.  And, thus, the real purpose of the music style you employ is not to glorify Christ, but to attract the lost.  And so, what is really happening is that the music style you employ (along with the whole "worship form" you use) is being determined by what those on the outside of Christ's Church find appealing and attractive.  Another way to say this is that the unbelieving culture is responsible for setting the agenda for your worship.  Good luck finding any Scriptural precedent for that!   

Okay, so what about "my side" of the equation.  Isn't the reason we old, fuddy-duddy Lutherans use the organ and traditional hymnody (and the historic liturgy) because we like it and it satisfies our personal tastes?  Nope!  It's not about what we like; it's about what is appropriate in the Divine Service.  Does the music (and liturgy) employed during the Divine Service point us to, and proclaim, Christ?  Is it a servant to the Gospel, or master over it?  Does it confess the faith or focus on our feelings and emotions?  Does it support our theology of worship and jive with what we believe, teach, and confess, or would it be perfectly at home in the worship services of other Christians, who have a different theology of worship?  These are some of the questions we have in mind when determining what is appropriate in the Divine Service.  Whether we personally like the music - or whether the "unchurched" might like it - is, as I said above, a non-factor. 

So, no, I do not agree that this whole debate revolves around taste.  Taste should have absolutely nothing to do with it.  As soon as we bring taste into the debate, it becomes about us and ceases to be about Christ, His Church, and the Gifts He desires to distribute to us in the Divine Service.  It ain't about US; it's about Him.

I don't love the Holy Liturgy and Hymnody of the Church because it satisfies my personal taste.  I love it because it is Christ-centered, Cross-focused, and delivers Christ and His Gifts.  I love it because it always serves to remind me where I am and what is happening in the Divine Service.  I love it because it is unique and other-worldly.  I love it because it flows from, and adheres to, the theology of worship revealed in Holy Scripture and confessed in our Lutheran Confessions.  I love it because it is the language and sound of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and it teaches me to speak that language and cherish that sound.

We all have different personal tastes when it comes to music, but those personal tastes should be left out of the equation when determining what is appropriate in the Divine Service.  If it's not left out, then it becomes about us and not about Christ.  That's the real issue here, and relegating the debate to competing arguments over personal taste and likes not only evades the real issue, but completely misses the point.