Social class or the Gospel: pick only one (part 2)...

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(Tim) Most responses under the recent post, "Social class or the Gospel: pick only one...," have gone off on tangents, tilting at windmills. Some have been helpful, though--including some who have disagreed with the post. I want to promote the discussion back to the main page, so here are three short contributions.

The first is by my brother, David; the second by our church's worship pastor, Jody Killingsworth; and the third by your faithful scribe...

David Bayly wrote:

We

invest so much in the style of our worship that we have nothing left

when it comes to the character of our worship. It's as though by

carefully choosing our staid, faux-RPW style we erect big jersey

barriers all along the road keeping us from the ravines on either side.

But once the barriers are up we sit in our cars admiring the

jersey-barriered view stretching into the distance, never bothering to

turn the ignition key because our car doesn't have an engine.

Ben, having lived our early lives entirely within the kind of worship

context you're seeking, Tim and I can speak with some authority of its

issues. I often suspect that those who most ardently argue for dry,

barely-there music are those who, like reformed drinkers, grew up doing

otherwise and upon conversion became scourges of the position they once

held because they've invested a preferential choice with moral weight.

We, on the other hand, began where you've arrived and just as you

claim authority from your background, so too do we. We're not dismissing

the validity of a variety of musical types in worship. We are

dismissive of the blinkered preference for classical and understated

music that typifies the formerly Baptist and Pentecostal upwardly-mobile

convert to Reformed theology and worship.

Jody Killingsworth wrote:

>>[I] have experienced "Praise Band" modern music and those who play it to

be light years more "effeminate" than older hymns.

Yes, yes. And so have we, plenty of times. But it's not sufficient to

argue from experience here. It's true that effeminacy and "modern

music" are often found to go hand in hand, but this does not mean they

do so of necessity. Just because you ain't ever had it, that don't make

it necessarily so.

I invite you to visit us at CGS where you will finally "experience"

what up to now you've thought impossible--manly sons of Asaph commanding

their congregation using common everyday instruments in offering up an

acceptable service to to God with reverence and awe.

More reverence and more awe than you've ever dreamed possible.

For instance, here are words we sang this past Lord's Day (and the

soaring electric guitar over-top haunting F11 chords made us all feel

the heat of them, "preparing" us for a time of confession of sin):

Great God, what do I see and hear!

The end of things created:

The Judge of mankind doth appear,

On clouds of glory seated;

The trumpet sounds, the graves restore

The dead which they contained before:

Prepare my soul to meet Him!

The dead in Christ shall first arise

At that last trumpet’s sounding,

Caught up to meet Him in the skies,

With joy their Lord surrounding;

No gloomy fears their souls dismay;

His presence sheds eternal day

On those prepared to meet Him!

The ungodly, filled with guilty fears,

Behold His wrath prevailing;

For they shall rise and find their tears

And sighs are unavailing:

The day of grace is past and gone;

Trembling they stand before His throne,

All unprepared to meet Him!

Great Judge, to Thee our prayers we pour,

In deep abasement bending;

O shield us through that last dread hour,

Thy wondrous love extending.

May we, in this our trial day,

With faithful hearts Thy word obey,

And thus prepare to meet Thee.

Great God, what do I see and hear!

The end of things created:

The Judge of mankind doth appear,

On clouds of glory seated;

The trumpet sounds, the graves restore

The dead which they contained before:

Prepare my soul— to meet Him!

Tim Bayly writes:

>>Aesthetic sensibilities do not operate within a cultural vacuum.

Precisely. As David and Jody and I've been saying, worship services doing obeisance to the Western musical canon may make Harold Bloom and his Reformed sidekicks happy, but this isn't the purpose of Christian worship. Granted, Bloom is a snob and Presbyterians are snobs, but why work to endow Bloom with theological fodder for his canon?

Amplified instruments don't operate in a cultural vacuum. Agreed.

So what about violins and organs?

Sometimes I think my good Reformed buddies know nothing about classical music--its history or present culture--and speak entirely from ignorance. We see a piano-violin duet being performed up front with the violinist facing the congregation gathered for worship and we feel so very pious because the violin is played by a man from the symphony orchestra; the pulpit has such a famous man; the church is like OLD, dude; it's an organ and brass ensemble drowning out the singing--not a rhythm guitar; it's an opera star warbling the solo, but this one hour Sunday morning, the solo's not about sex, but souls and stuff; the guy conducting all is doctor So and So; and it's so very other from what we had playing on our iPod while we drove to church.

Again, all an Englishman's preferences are a matter of principle and aesthetic sensibilities don't operate within a cultural vacuum.

So what do those arguing for highbrow culture actually know about the American Guild of Organists? And can they tell us precisely which culture is predominant among church organists here in America? Do they have loads of organ music in their iTunes queue and listen to Pipe Dreams? Have they served in churches that spent close to a million on their Casavant trackers and paid Eastman's David Craighead to come do the dedication recital?

Well, David and I've spent years in churches with Casavant organs and violins, with Yamaha, Steinway, and Baldwin grands; and here at CGS, we've bid adieu to musicians who moved on to accompany and lead worship with, among others, Tim Keller, Phil Ryken, Skip Ryan, Sinclair Ferguson, Chicago's Lyric, and Pershing's Own...

Listen, if it's reasonable for the man who listens to Sting or John Lee Hooker six days of the week to want His Lord's Day worship to steer clear of electric guitars, it's also reasonable for the man raised on tracker organs and hooked on Pipe Dreams to want his Lord's Day worship to steer clear of organs.

Admit with me that we all have preferences and prejudices arising from our childhood and its poverty or wealth, as the case may be, and then let's roll up our sleeves and actually have a thinking man's conversation about music in the church, and what it does and doesn't communicate, and what is good and bad about this and that instrument and composer and tune and beat and words and...

David and I grew up among souls who confused Christian faith with a good education, good breeding (not Covenant succession, mind you), and good taste. And nothing communicates those things more effectively, though sotto voce, than the preacher's accent and vocabulary, and the musical style and instrumentation.

If it's a sin for the church to give the best seat to the rich man, why parade our doctorates and accents and opera stars and Philly Orchestra players and Cassavants? In other words, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Back to the arguments, men; but this time with some slight self-critical capacity, please.