Monday, October 02, 2006

Seven Reflections on Music in Worship

I had someone ask for the text from the Sunday evening message I did a few weeks ago offering seven reflections on music in worship. Here are my notes:
Reflections on Music in Worship
JPBC September 17, 2006, evening sermon
Jeff Riddle

Luther said that when Satan fell from heaven he landed in the choir loft!

In modern times, there has been much division over music in worship—the so-called "worship wars."

In some sense, this is nothing new. J. B. Jeter left his pastorate of the FBC-Richmond in the 19th century after a controversy over whether or not to add an organ—which he opposed. When he moved to his new church in St. Louis, he found that they had installed an organ!

Seven reflections:

1. Music is a Biblical part of worship.

In the OT, we have the Psalms and the Levitical choirs.

In the NT, the key passages are Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16-17, both of which speak of singing "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."

We might add the parting hymn sung by our Lord and his disciples after the Last Supper (Mark 14:26); the worship instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:26 mentioning a worshipper bringing a "psalm"; the possible hymn fragments in the NT (like the Christ hymn in Phil 2:5-11); and the hymns of the book of Revelation.

We should also, however, note the lack of detail.

Note, in particular, in the NT that no one is given charge of leading music in worship. The overseer is to be "apt to teach" (1 Tim 3) but not "apt to sing."

2. As with all worship elements, music is to give glory to God (the vertical aspect) and to edify the saints (the horizontal aspect).

Again, in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul notes that all things are to be done "for edification" (v. 26). "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (v. 33a).

3. Corporate worship should not focus on performance or individuals.

The emphasis, thus, should be on congregational singing (see Mark Dever’s The Deliberate Church, pp. 116-17).

4. Exclusive Psalmnody?

Some have argued that only the exclusive singing of Psalms fulfills the regulative principle for worship.

See Iain Murray’s little booklet, The Psalter—The Only Hymnal, in response.

-Not all the psalms are meant as corporate songs. Some are individual laments.
-The Psalms only speak indirectly and prophetically of Jesus Christ.
-The NT speaks of "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." Is this not more than OT Psalms?

5. Instrumental accompaniment?

Some have likewise objected to instrumental accompaniment.

There is no direct reference to instruments in worship, except maybe Revelation (see 5:8 where each elder has a harp).

There is no doubt that instruments were used in OT worship (see Psalm 150).

Bottom line: Instruments are permissible but must not detract from God’s glory or the saints’ edification.

6. We should take care in the lyrics we sing.

We learn much of our theology in singing.

We should avoid over-use of the first person, preferring lyrics that are God-centered and Scripture based. The songs we sing should lead us to worship God by contemplating who God is (the vertical) or teach us great doctrines (the horizontal; cf. how "Holy, Holy, Holy" teaches the doctrine of the Trinity).

7. We should beware of worldly musical styles.

This is the danger of rock-pop music. We cannot separate the medium from the message.
Rock is about sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll (the modern version of wine, women, and song). It conveys an anti-authoritarian spirit to people in our age. So, how can we urge men to submit to God when we have music that conveys this unspoken counter-message, even if the lyrics are "Christian"?

The church’s music must be "sacred" and distinct.

When a worldling comes into our worship, he should note our distinction from the world’s ways even in our music.

See Dan Lucarini’s Why I Left Contemporary Christian Music. Music is not amoral.
What about those who object that Luther and Wesley used contemporary tunes (beer hall songs)? John Makujina in Measuring the Music has uncovered this as a contemporary evangelical fiction (see Lucarini, pp. 107-08).

John 2:15: "Do not love the world or the things in the world."


Anonymous said...

Dr. Riddle,

I would like to hear your thoughts on John Girardieu's work "Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church". He offers a compelling argument that a consistent application of the Regulative Principle of Worship would cease to use or apply instruments in public worship. Would you be able to write a response to his work, or do you know of a response to this work?

Julius said...

Dr. Riddle,

I did not know for sure whether my last comment went through. I would like to know your thoughts on John Girardieu's work entitled, "The Use of Instruments in the Public Worship of the Church." He presents a compelling argument for no instruments as a consistent application of the Regulative Principle of Worship. Would you be able to give a response to his work or do you know of anyone that has?


Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Sorry Julius, thanks for your comment. I got behind on my comment moderation.

I examined JG's work when I was thinking through issues related to the RP over ten years ago (this post, for example, was done in 2006). I have not written an in-depth review or response to JG, except to say that I did not find it completely convincing at the time. I do not know of anyone who holds to some limited form of instrumental accompaniment (as I do) who has written a response to JG. Funny you ask about this, because I did just recently run across R. L. Dabney's favorable review, but he seems more interested in it as opposing the introduction of "organs" into Presbyterian life.

Your question might send me back to review it again, if opportunity will allow....

What are your views on instruments? said...

Dr. Riddle,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have benefited much from your teaching. I hold to the view of Exclusive Psalmody and the Regulative Principle of Worship. Therefore, since I believe that what is commanded is right and what is not commanded is wrong (and I find no command or warrant for the use of instruments in public worship in the NT) I presently do not believe in the use of instruments in the public worship of the Church. Of course, I am stating my position in brief and will gladly change my position if persuaded hermeneutically.

I would much appreciate an in-depth review if you can provide that in the future.