Thursday, September 03, 2009

Music and Christian Snobbery

Chip Stamm is Director of the Institute for Christian Worship and a professor in the School of Church Ministries (the tattered remnant of what was once one of the finest graduate Church Music degree programs in the nation) at Southern Seminary in Louisville. His Worship Quote of the Week blog is one that I visit from time to time. Last week he featured a quote from Dr. David Peterson, head of the Department of Ministry at Moore Theological College and Lecturer in Theology at the University of Sydney (Australia). The quote, to which Stamm gave the heading MUSIC AND CHRISTIAN SNOBBERY, could not possibly be closer to my heart in the debate over what kind of music is appropriate for worship.

We all know that music is a great encouragement to snobbery. You can either be a classical snob, or a rock snob, or a folky snob. Basically, what we do with our music is we say, “I love this kind of music; this is what really excites me, and I can’t bear that other stuff. I am not going to listen to your stuff.”

The sad thing is that Christians fall into this same worldly trap. We become so familiar with and comfortable with our particular styles of music that we end up saying, maybe overtly sometimes, “I am not willing to listen to your kind of music. I am not willing to sing one of your silly songs.” We get even more intense than that. We say, “Your music is not true worship. Your music is not honoring to God.”

This is one of those areas where Christians feel at liberty to be quite unrestrained and quite ungodly [emphasis mine, RMD] in the way in which we position ourselves and talk to one another when it comes to music. So if music is going to be a meaningful and effective part of our church life, we need to submit it to the Scriptures. We need to apply the Scriptures in a very rigorous fashion from the pulpit about this subject. It is not just
something for musicians to consider. I believe that as pastors of churches and as theological teachers, we have a responsibility to bring this, as with everything else, under the Word of God.
One of the biggest traps in this debate is the false assumption that God shares our preferences for musical style. Ryan Forbes, Pastor of Music and Worship at FBC, Decatur, GA put it this way: “One goal is always musical excellence, but we are kidding ourselves if we think we can impress God with a certain style of music or how wonderful we sound.” I have heard people on all 16 sides of the debate make judgments in favor of or against a variety of styles of music. When we look at Scripture, though, we find that one of the strongest statements God makes about music is found in Amos 5. There God essentially says that if we can’t learn to treat each other with dignity and respect, He would prefer for us to shut up.

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


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