Mar. 30th, 2007

clothofdreams: (steeple)
(Disclaimer: This is the first in what may be a long series of musings on the subject of music, worship, and theology. Feel free to skip if you aren't interested.)

The below is an abstract from one of the best articles on this subject. Ken Stephenson addresses the need for distinctly Christian musical scholarship in the Winter 2006 Christian Scholar's Review:

"The topic of music theory suffers an absence in the renaissance of Christian scholarship of the last few decades. Mark Noll has nothing to say about music theory in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind; neither does George Marsden in either The Soul of the American University or The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, and neither does J. P. Moreland in Love Your God with All Your Mind. A perusal of the contents of the present journal over the last few years uncovers articles on anthropology, biology, cultural criticism, ecology, economics, education, film criticism, geography, history, journalism, literature, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, sociology, and theology, but no articles on music theory. (The one article on music, 'John Calvin's Theology of Liturgical Song' by Jeffrey T. VanderWilt, concentrates on the texts of the Psalms.)

"Not that either this journal or the mentioned authors are in any way at fault; two basic facts explain the oversight. First, even the music theorist must acknowledge the obscurity of the field as a whole in present-day academia. While most readers could no doubt lend a somewhat informed voice to a discussion on the topic of special creation vs. "blind-watchmaker" evolution or the status of truth as either absolute or relative, and while the names Aristotle and Kant, Newton and Einstein, Dewey and Piaget, Gibbon and Toynbee, Derrida and Foucault, and Lewis, Plantinga, Noll, Marsden, and Moreland are familiar to this readership, the ideas and even the names of the greatest music theorists of history--for instance, Guido of Arezzo, Gioseffo Zarlino, Jean Rameau, Heinrich Schenker, and Allen Forte--are less known, much less the nature of the debate between Christian and secular music theory. And here we reach the second explanatory fact. Readers do not know of any debate between Christian and secular music theory because no debate exists, and no debate exists because virtually no Christian music theory is being done today."


It is my belief that because virtually no Christian scholarship is being done in the field of music, there is likewise a stunted, limited understanding of how music relates to worship. Many are ready and eager to evaluate music based on the quality of the lyrics, but what about the music itself? And what about all the music that is not song? We have no idea how to evaluate the music itself, because no one has shown us how. Thus, we continue to employ theologically shallow (or even erroneous) music in our churches, without having the least idea of what it is that we are hearing.

Clearly, something needs to be done.
clothofdreams: (steeple)
(Disclaimer: This is the first in what may be a long series of musings on the subject of music, worship, and theology. Feel free to skip if you aren't interested.)

The below is an abstract from one of the best articles on this subject. Ken Stephenson addresses the need for distinctly Christian musical scholarship in the Winter 2006 Christian Scholar's Review:

"The topic of music theory suffers an absence in the renaissance of Christian scholarship of the last few decades. Mark Noll has nothing to say about music theory in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind; neither does George Marsden in either The Soul of the American University or The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, and neither does J. P. Moreland in Love Your God with All Your Mind. A perusal of the contents of the present journal over the last few years uncovers articles on anthropology, biology, cultural criticism, ecology, economics, education, film criticism, geography, history, journalism, literature, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, sociology, and theology, but no articles on music theory. (The one article on music, 'John Calvin's Theology of Liturgical Song' by Jeffrey T. VanderWilt, concentrates on the texts of the Psalms.)

"Not that either this journal or the mentioned authors are in any way at fault; two basic facts explain the oversight. First, even the music theorist must acknowledge the obscurity of the field as a whole in present-day academia. While most readers could no doubt lend a somewhat informed voice to a discussion on the topic of special creation vs. "blind-watchmaker" evolution or the status of truth as either absolute or relative, and while the names Aristotle and Kant, Newton and Einstein, Dewey and Piaget, Gibbon and Toynbee, Derrida and Foucault, and Lewis, Plantinga, Noll, Marsden, and Moreland are familiar to this readership, the ideas and even the names of the greatest music theorists of history--for instance, Guido of Arezzo, Gioseffo Zarlino, Jean Rameau, Heinrich Schenker, and Allen Forte--are less known, much less the nature of the debate between Christian and secular music theory. And here we reach the second explanatory fact. Readers do not know of any debate between Christian and secular music theory because no debate exists, and no debate exists because virtually no Christian music theory is being done today."


It is my belief that because virtually no Christian scholarship is being done in the field of music, there is likewise a stunted, limited understanding of how music relates to worship. Many are ready and eager to evaluate music based on the quality of the lyrics, but what about the music itself? And what about all the music that is not song? We have no idea how to evaluate the music itself, because no one has shown us how. Thus, we continue to employ theologically shallow (or even erroneous) music in our churches, without having the least idea of what it is that we are hearing.

Clearly, something needs to be done.

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