Worship in the olde, but also the vulgar, tongue...

(Tim, w/thanks to Lucas and our CGS musicians) Every church should celebrate Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday--and particularly Good Friday--if they're to be allowed to celebrate Easter. And a corollary: no believer should be permitted into Easter morning worship unless he's first been in attendance at a Good Friday service. But of course, who's making any rules in Protestantism, today?

Anyhow, yesterday we held our noon Good Friday service and, on the spur of the moment, I decided to record some of our worship liturgy on my iPhone to share with you. First, from Bach's St. Matthew's Passion, "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben:"

For love

For love my Savior is now dying,

Of sin and guilt He knows not.

So eternal desolation

And the sinner's righteous doom

Shall not rest upon my spirit.

If the video above isn't working, try this link.

We speak of worship and music often, here and on the ClearNote blog, and many of our readers are uncomfortable with our commitment to musical worship that's in the vulgar tongue. So I thought I'd provide a taste of what it looks and sounds like, admittedly on a more unplugged day in our congregational life...

Again, if the video above isn't working, try this link.

Please forgive the quality of these two recordings from yesterday's worship. They're done on a phone, after all, but you'll get the idea. This is the sort of mix we have in our worship all the time. If you'd like to read what our chief musician has written about our theology of worship, check out these two posts (first and second) on the ClearNote Blog.

Comments

Brian Kinney writes: "If I had been barred from Easter worship for such reasons when I was an unbeliever, I would not be Reformed today. I love you Tim, but have to tell you that I think that idea is idiotic. Where is it in Scripture?"

Dear Brian,

Just trying to make a point about the loss of the Cross in American civic religion. If I had a choice between Good Friday or Easter, I'd choose Good Friday, wouldn't you?

But no, I'd not really want to bar anyone. And I'm very happy to hear from you, esteemed brother.

Love,

>We speak of worship and music often, here and on the ClearNote blog, and many of our readers are uncomfortable with our commitment to musical worship that's in the vulgar tongue.

Who is uncomfortable with musical worship in English? I know what you meant but I don't think that's a very accurate way of describing it. Perhaps it would be better to describe it as a commitment to musical worship in the popular style?

>>Perhaps it would be better to describe it as a commitment to musical worship in the popular style?

Dear David,

I've considered such a change of vocabulary, but continue to use "vulgar" because, here in our congregation, it's classical/highbrow music that would win the contest for "popular." Actually, in my experience most PCA/Presbyterian/Reformed churches would vote to follow the old piano/classical path.

So, I try to draw men up short with the word 'vulgar' so they have to stop and think, rather than simply confirming their prejudices by referring to it as "popular."

Then too, 'vulgar' is the term most commonly used to refer to the Reformers' principled stand on worship comprehensible to the masses.

Love,

Dear Tim,

Thanks for the videos. Love it, love it, love it.

-Dan

Oddly enough, the first one isn't in English. :)

The arguments for staying with the Latin language in church are pretty similar to the arguments for staying with classical music in church. It's better. It holds much historical tradition and value. You lose something when you get rid of it.

And both Latin and classical music can make the worship of God completely incomprehensible to those who are present.

Also, the argument against mixing styles is here obliterated, if you ask me. This is not jarring nor distracting. Both of them lead me to worship God in spirit and in truth. What a delight to have the best of both worlds, since you have people who understand both languages.

Thanks for sharing these.

How about 'vulgar style,' David?

The choice between a rock-n-roll-derived/popular/vulgar style and a "classical/piano" style is a false one.

A more intriguing question to me is whether musical quality or sophistication per se (whether with Bach or Bob Dylan) is the idol. Does the thought of having non-professionally trained musicians leading worship make us squirm?

No. Josh is up there every Lord's Day.

Love,

It's funny Tim, you write: 'vulgar' is the term most commonly used to refer to the Reformers' principled stand on worship comprehensible to the masses.

And yet, unless I am forgetting something the way the reformers saw 'vulgar' worship was by getting rid of instruments and singing psalms only...at least many of them. I don't think, by vulgar, they meant contemporary music - do you?

I think they did away with special music performances also...but, then again, this wasn't a Lord's Day worship service as it was on Good Friday so I suppose it can be tolerated.

>>unless I am forgetting something the way the reformers saw 'vulgar' worship was by getting rid of instruments and singing psalms only

Actually, I think yes, you're forgetting something. "Vulgar" didn't have to do with instruments and Psalter-only singing. It had to do with the English or German or French, rather than Latin or Greek. And going back, the Holy Spirit inspired His Word in Koine--not Ecclesiastical--Greek.

For instance, this from Roman Catholic Francis De Sales (1577-1622) in his "How the Protestant 'Reformers' Violated the Integrity of Scripture," is quite typical of Romanists' condemnation of the Reformation principle of liturgy and Scripture being taken into the vulgar tongue:

"Indeed, is there not a greater danger in reciting the Holy Scripture in the vulgar tongue at public services, on this account that not only the old but little children, not only the wise but the foolish, not only men but women, in short both he who knows and he who knows not how to read, may all take occasion of erring, each one as he likes?"

Love,

>I don't think, by vulgar, they meant contemporary music - do you?

We believe it's a timely, pastoral application of the 'vulgar tongue' principle, yes.

>...the way the reformers saw 'vulgar' worship was by getting rid of instruments...I think they did away with special music performances also...

This was not so much a principled, as a pastoral act. In Roman worship, the work of the people had become almost entirely the work of professionals done on the people's behalf, and this extended beyond just the sacrifice to the music. The more a thing becomes professionalized, the higher it soars, stylistically. Such was the case with pre-Reformation church music. It was very complicated, very ornate, and extremely unfriendly to congregational singing. And this went hand in hand with their extravagantly decorated church buildings, and the whole Roman shebang.

In an effort to bring worship back to the people, Calvin and company came in and cleaned house. Out with the instruments, out with the melismas, out with the latin, out with the images. In with simplicity, and the common man. Not a principled stand against instruments, per se, but a pastoral concern for the average joe.

The 'vulgar tongue' principle is still a good one, but it's going to look very different when applied pastorally in reformed churches today than it did in 1550. What would concern for the common man look like in our churches this Easter? A little less Tracker, and a little more Fender. A little less Macintosh and a little more PC. A little less Brooks Brothers, and a little more Wrangler.

Less for the rich and more for the poor. Less for the whites, and a whole lot more for the browns.

> No. Josh is up there every Lord's Day.

And Jim. And David. Shoot, all of us in some sense, as few of us trained musicians are playing in a style we've been trained in, or the instruments we've trained on.

Thanks for posting this Tim. But the angle is such that I can't get a good look at who it was that shanked the opening bar of the banjo part. Any idea who that was?

Another reason why the Romanists had their services in Latin was that meant that the whole Church (catholic), in a united way (one), was worshipping in the same language.

Thus, they found two of the four notes of the Church to be enhanced by worship in Latin. So to return to the vulgar tongue was the balkanization of the church and her worship.

Unfortunately, this was just one more triumph of form over substance, of ritual over reasonability.

Add new comment