Thursday, October 23, 2008

Routley on Calvin and the tendency of musical worship toward degeneracy

I just read Erik Routley little book Christian Hymns Observed (Prestige, 1982). Chapter 3 is titled "The Crisis of the Reformation." He describes the formation of the Genevan Psalter under Calvin and notes, "It remains a monument to all that was best in Calvin's conception of religion" (p. 21).
He concludes, "You might say that Calvin saw the infinite possibilities of degeneracy in these new [Reformation] freedoms; you might even say he saw 'The Old Rugged Cross' coming and did what he could to warn us against it. But he didn't win" (p. 21). Routley's sense seems to be that Calvin promoted the singing of unaccompanied canonical psalms alone, because he wanted to build a protective fence around "degeneracy" in the realm of the musical aspects of worship (typified for Routley in schmaltzy songs like "The Old Rugged Cross").


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