Thursday, June 26, 2008

Deep Words from Dr. Harold Best

Dr. Harold Best, dean of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, is one of the elder statesmen of Christian worship musicians … a wise voice that several generations listen to and continue to learn from. Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a recent online article on Dr. Best’s web page. It made my brain hurt … but in a good way. Here’s a brief excerpt (long article).

If, among faith, hope and love, love is considered the greatest of the three, and if loveless faith makes its practitioners nothing, then we must say this: If faith is the only thing the just can live by (Habbakuk and Romans), and if faith brings substance and evidence to everything done, said, and hoped for (Hebrews), then love raises the whole of faithful living and worship into a gracious, a celebrative, unfussed, giving, and sharing witness. This is the way of Jesus, the way of continued worship. This is what Paul was referring to when he said that we are to be living epistles. And this kind of living then authorizes us to say that the best witness is overheard worship. Christian worship is therefore to be undertaken as an act of love, undertaken by faith, architectured by hope, irrespective of content, context, time, place, or circumstance. Consequently, worshippers, along with those who work so hard trying to tell us how to worship, should free themselves of the assumption that things like music and art are tools of faith and worship, aesthetic overlays on faith and worship, and affective propellants into faith and worship. They should be relieved of the temptation to believe that if the music is just right, if the order of worship is just so, and the styles all patty-cake and blessing, faith will be bettered, more souls might be saved, or worship would be more “meaningful.” Likewise, we musicians would be delivered from the opposite temptation of making musical quality more important than purity of heart, and pastors would be divested of the assumption that music is the great lead-in to the sermon and the sermon the high point. We should never confuse the power of faith and the power of work. Remember, worship is full of works and can therefore degenerate into a self-consciousness about the earning power of works. The expressive power of music and art, as well as any sequence of liturgical events should never be mistaken for the presence of God or the increase of faith.
Where he goes from there is important, but I don’t have room for it here. I find it tough to read long articles online, so I try to keep my blogs to what would fit on a half-page 8.5x11 paper. The bold (or better) of heart and mind can read the whole article at:

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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