There seems to be no surer way at times of splitting a church and setting Christian brethren at odds with each other than to bring up the subject of music in the church; one side will characterize the other as "dead" or "frozen chosen" because the music seems "out of date," the other will characterize their "musical opponents" as "too worldly," claiming more or less that what is supposed to be worship has become something of an orgy if the musical style is a mere 10 or 30 years old instead of 50, 100, or 300 years old.
Now I make no pretension that I'm going to bring the "true believers" on either side to repentance, but perhaps there is a hope of coming to the aid of those caught in the crossfire by pointing out some true, Biblical realities of worship in the Temple, and in the New Testament Church.
To wit, David was said to "dance with all his might" before the Lord when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem--and his wife Michal was condemned for thinking it unseemly and undignified (I believe that this passage points forward to the Cross, by the way). Saul's prophetic experience suggests that such dancing was a routine sign of the prophet's office. The instruments used in the Temple include lyre, trompet/horn/shofar, tambourines, cymbals, and more. Refrains of "Selah" and "His mercy endures forever" indicates that there was some degree of call and response in those days.
In the New Testament, Paul lays down procedures for songs, tongues, prophecies, and more in 1 Corinthians 14. In other words, the New Testament church sometimes got a bit rowdy due to the great joy and enthusiasm of those who newly knew their sins were forgiven.
Paul more or less says "keep the enthusiasm, but let's aim for a blessing for all here." In the same way, the presence of percussive instruments in Temple worship suggests that, then as now, music in the near east had a beat to it, and that people would kick up their heels a bit as they came to Jerusalem. For a modern parallel, one might think line dancing instead of ballroom dancing--and to lyrics far more edifying than "Celebration" or the "Macarena."
The development of polyphony, crescendos and decrescendos may or may not have been accomplished yet, but what seems to be the case is that worship in Bible times was a little bit more "rowdy" than we might believe today.
So how do we divide, then, between good and bad music in the church? Well, for starters, if the instrumentalists don't know the harp from a chainsaw, one might differentiate on the basis of basic talent. Also, the example of Temple worship rings true; the pagans used many of the same structures as did the Hebrews, but with certain unmistakeable differences....things like shrine prostitutes and human sacrifice. In the same way, we might know today that something is up today when the praise band doesn't just use the instruments and harmony techniques of the Pendletones, but also emulates the attire of their backup singers.
It doesn't mean one must give up hymns, or praise choruses, or Bach, or whatever. It simply means that whatever genre are used, the true fundamentalist needs to understand that genre and how the Word of Life may be sung, or played, in that genre. To stomp on one of my favorite soapboxes, it means we need to get a literary education in music. Piano or singing lessons could come in handy, too.
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