First, a reminder: At this point in the series, I am trying to put forth the most compelling argument that I can think of for the use of emotionally powerful music in worship, which is most often associated with “contemporary Christian music” (kind of a “best construction +” kind of thing).
I said before that we did not need power dressing, preaching, or music. I said that we don’t need to “add power” to these things because they are already plenty interesting as they are – something little children get but adults forget. But now: what if all the things that happen when a simple black Gospel choir sings, for example, actually has nothing to do with adding power, but is simply about receiving all that God has to give us and would have us use?
All of this is a theological argument of course. We know that in the beginning was the Word – the Logos – and yet, this is not simply synonymous with rationality, logic, and the life of the mind, but contains so much more.
Let me explain, starting with more simple things. First of all, I think we can all agree that the real thing that has the power to transform human hearts is the Word of God. That said, when God gives us the word for us to speak, He gives us not only the message but also the power to say it rightly (i.e. “gentleness and respect”, the “truth spoken in love”, etc – in other words, with the corresponding attitudes and emotions that properly go with these words).
In other words, God means to fill and move us by His Spirit to do this. And this of course means that this is not about “adding” anything on our own – like “our passion” for example – but simply receiving all the passion that He means to create in us when we not only hear words from Him but speak words to Him and words of Him to others. This means that we can “quench” the Spirit’s activity here via our sin – which means that in our sanctification we fail to grasp hold of all God means for us to have.
Now that this has been established, let us add music to the mix. Here, something similar would occur: God provides some persons – musicians – to accompany His words that are spoken, and the music – like the speaker’s emotions – should be fitting and appropriate to those words. We can be sure that such was the case when Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon break out into song in the Gospel of Luke (the first musical!), for example.
This statement would seem to be uncontroversial on the face of it, but we can all see where this is going: now we further propose that persons rejecting much (not all) of the more “contemporary” Christian music are rejecting that which God really does mean to give them for their proper use. In other words, while they are rejecting the music because they consider it too emotional and affective, the reality is that here to, the Spirit is being quenched. They do not want to consider that God’s words might be “properly enhanced” by emotional music that goes with what, in fact are, very emotional words, and should be recognized as such.
In other words, the Christian says “what do we have that we have not received” while simultaneously recognizing that we do not receive much of what we should due to our sin. We not only do not ask for things, as James says we should, but we even reject gifts from God he gives to us apart from our asking!
Part IV coming on Sunday