May 20, 2021

Church Music

Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious Name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
Nehemiah 9:5
The person sitting in the pew is not overly concerned about the ideology of church music. Heresy in a hymn would have to be pretty egregious for the average Christian to raise an objection on theological grounds. But that doesn't mean people don't have opinions about church music. They do. Very strong opinions. They know what they like, and—more important—what they don't like.

A lot of people are flocking these days to megachurches with rock bands that perform contemporary Christian music. More traditional Christians will have none of that, and only want to sing the old traditional hymns they grew up with. And then there's every musical expression in between, including "blended worship" which combines both contemporary music and old favorites.

There is, of course, a theology behind church music, and in some churches it is strictly enforced. You won't find yourself singing anything in a Roman Catholic mass that hasn't been approved by the diocese. And in some orthodox Reformed churches, nothing but the psalms are sung. Most denominations are little more lax, but in just about every church, you'll find certain emphases, while other ideas are either downplayed or eliminated from the hymnal.

The nice thing about music in the Bible is that there's variety. In Nehemiah 9, the priests make it clear that whatever we sing on earth is but a shadow of what's being sung in heaven. We cannot replicate what the saints and angels are singing before God's throne. 

And in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses a variety of terms to refer to the types of songs we sing. Even the earliest Christians were not limited to a single kind of church music. And so we shouldn't be either. Yes, we need to be careful that the message our music conveys is not contrary to the gospel, but variety is a good thing, for no single style of singing is a perfect reflection of God's glory.

Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts.
 Ephesians 5:19
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
Loose my tongue to sing your praise, O God. And may I be so caught up in your majesty that I forget to judge my neighbor who's singing to a different tune.
✙ 
After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.

A metric version of Psalm 149 sung in a traditional Presbyterian church
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