[This post is part of the Revamping Christian Worship series]
I’ve heard the quote attributed to both Thelonius Monk, and Elvis Costello, and it is possible they have both said it, but certainly in a way, talking about music is like dancing about architecture.
As a musician, I can completely understand this, but at the same time, changes in thought and explorations that come with blogging need words to accompany them. So in that vein, a new series is in order.
Prior to becoming some sort of amatuer theologian, I was, and still am, a professional musician. Professional of course in the sense that I get paid to play music, and amateur in the sense that I do not get paid for any theological work (at least not to date). However, in the original sense of amatuer, I am really an amatuer at both because I would do both (make music and do theology) whether there was money involved or not.
But because I hope to support a family, I’d rather not do either for free, and would prefer to get paid when appropriate (i.e. when teaching children to play guitar, but not after the morning worship service).
Of course, reading this blog will remain free.
Anyway, all that aside, what is becoming a looming task for me is to integrate what I have learned about thinking theologically with what I have been doing and continue to do musically both inside and outside of the church.
Part of the stimulus in my thinking is the book to the right, which you might notice is by the same author as Why Johnny Can’t Preach. While I liked his thoughts in that book, overall, I can’t say quite the same for Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns. I share some of his overall concerns, but find some of his arguments either unpersuasive logically or Scripturally. I’ll say more in coming posts, but here it might help to clarify further what direction this series might take.
Some questions I think would be helpful to explore are:
- Where does music fit into the Christian life?
- What genres of music are appropriate/inappropriate for Christians?
- Can Christians worship God through any musical genre? (Even heavy metal?)
- What genres of music are appropriate/inappropriate for church worship services?
- What kind of lyrical content should worship songs have? (Is it ok to be shallow?)
- How should Christian musicians approach their craft?
- How can Christians use music to connect to the culture around them?
- Is it ever ok to like pop/country music?
Now, that last question is slightly in jest, but the way T. David Gordon talks about the genre in his above book is generally very disdainful. He seems to more or less deplore the very existence of a recording artist like Pink (to name one he targets multiple times). Now, I am not particularly a fan of pop music, and I agree with Gordon that it is generally mindless and banal, but I am not sure I follow his arguments that church music cannot be in some ways similar in simplicity to pop music.
Much more goes into his argument, and we’ll get to it when the times comes. Hopefully this has served as a brief enough introduction to pique interest. My original thought that lead to this series was coming from the angle of Christian death metal. Is it really appropriate? Even though the lyrics can be worshipful, are they canceled out by the musical idiom used?
More specifically, several albums came out over the summer on the label Facedown Records that are overtly angry in lyrical content. Is that appropriate for bands who claim to be Christians? Now granted, much of the anger is direct towards false prophets and “wolves” within the church, but still, is that an appropriate outlet?
There is certainly much more to explore here, but hopefully I will be uniquely qualified to navigate the waters given my dual background in music and theology, as well as my cultural acquaintance with most mainstream music, and as well most in the alternative and indie scenes, as well as the Christian metal circuit.
My hope is that this will be generous in tone, intellectually stimulating, paradigm shifting, and God honoring and Scripturally based in how it proceeds.
I guess we’ll see how it goes!