Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Implications of the Origins of Musical Styles

Chapter 6 of Deconstructing Evangelicalism is titled "Worship in Rhythm and Tune." It examines the history and objectives of music in contemporary evangelicalism. After arguing that contemporary praise and worship music grew out of the charismatic movement, he develops a conclusion in conjunction with some comments from Donald P. Hustad's forword to Barry Liesch's book, New Worship. The thought-provoking quote block below is a quotation of Hart that contains quotes from Hustad.
"[C]harismatic believers have a right to develop their own theology and exegesis, and they have done this well." After all, it's a free country, and in the United States that freedom especially gives believers the liberty to design worship and forms of devotion geared to popular sovereignty rather than beholden to an official church or governmental liturgical agency. The trouble, however, as Hustad explained, is that charismatic forms of worship are not readily compatible with non-charismatic religious traditions. For this reason, he warned that "noncharismatics should not thoughtlessly copy or imitate [charismatics'] worship formulae, unless they expect to enter the same "Holy of Holies in the same way." Instead, religious adherents of historic Protestant traditions "should develop their worship rationale based on their scriptural understanding, and then sing up to their own theology."
I offer this as food for thought, not as dogma. I don't profess to be a worship expert or even one of other fine minds. What is significant about this argument to me is that it is a discussion about music grounded in its overt theological purpose, not merely abstract arguments about form and message. The question is to what degree the form of music is shaped by the theological intent. Can non-charismatics sing non-charismatic words in a form adopted from charismatics in authentic, biblical worship? Is a form necessarily affected by the purpose of its origins? Are there other questions, perhaps even more important ones, that have not yet occurred to me?

To take it a step further, what if we applied this reasoning to conservative fundamentalist music? Given that so much of the music written in the past 150 years or so was explicitly revivalistic, or intended to prepare for or to elicit an emotional response to an evangelistic sermon, would the same line of reasoning not hold true? If Hart's argument is right, then those who are disturbed by invitation responses that are motivated primarily by emotions need to abandon forms that are rooted in revivalism.


joy mccarnan | said...

don't worry, there are many of us who hail from that non-OFM category. it doesn't have to impede your self-esteem radically. it's kind of like knowing you have acquired a case of lice and that every step you take is weighted down by the presence of myriad little extra bodies on your scalp. you feel a little sub-human, but you can still enjoy sleep and steak and a good soccer game. life goes on. =}

david said...

yikes, ben, you and your questions. quite the concluding paragraph. thanks for some food for thought. (not that i'm going to go near an online discussion about music with a 10 foot mouse, but good stuff to think about.)

i was sorry to have missed you while you were here. i was laid quite low all weekend and am still recovering. anyway, i'm sorry to have missed a rare opportunity to fellowship with you again.

grace and peace

Unk said...

"Are there other questions, perhaps even more important ones, that have not yet occurred to me?"

Perhaps the notion that everything, even the style of the music, is an expression of our theology. It has probably occurred to you though!

Ben said...

Ditto that, David. I was likewise disappointed by your indisposition. I hope you were able to take solace in the arms of a borrowed GameCube. Perhaps it will not be long until we cross paths.


I take that as a given, albeit one that is difficult to nail down objectively.

joy mccarnan | said...

i really do enjoy sleep, steak, and soccer, when i can get them. i've been thinking a lot about them all--ever since you posted this--it's been far too long since i enjoyed any of them in real life.

i like music, too. don't get me wrong. =}