Again, there are some who are not even willing to consider that perhaps some contemporary Christian music really is appropriate. The argument here is simply that those who consider particular songs overly emotional are often wrong about this – simply because they are not comfortable expressing their emotions in that way when they should be. Yes, they may be the bride of our husband, Christ, who woos His people, but even the idea of singing “Jesus is our husband love ballads” (note: not my boyfriend songs, or ditties) is anathema to them. God is to be loved – but simply not in a way that is too personal, emotional or “passionate”.
Now, let us take things one step further and ask the inevitable question, and this is where things get more challenging for the proponent of much contemporary Christian music. If the above is true, might the music itself be able to carry God’s message to us – communicate it to us? (some more liturgical folks actually claim this for Bach, for example – they say that the music itself “preaches the Gospel”!). Might there be music that, coming from Christians, is actually “Christian” music – even without the words? (perhaps then, even a non-Christian could pick up and play this music which is distinctively Christian?). Not long ago, I had the pleasure of teaching an African American woman who came from a charismatic background, and in spite of her clear biblical knowledge, she once told our class that the best worship experiences she had had – those times when she felt the closest to God – were ones that were “wordless” – when only the music was playing.
Given that we will consider the times we feel closest to God as the source of our strength and security, the practical effect of this view would be that the spoken word (and given the song, this spoken word will be more or less – perhaps much less – in conformity with the Word of God) that the music normally would accompany takes a back seat as the music itself that supposedly “preaches” – comforting, nurturing, encouraging – takes center stage.
Now, all of us might get a bit nervous here when we think about this. And yet, given what we have talked about above, does not all of this make good sense? After all, in our lives, so much communication that occurs is non-verbal. Do we limit the idea of what the Word means – do we take this passage from John too literally? If we insist only that literal words can communicate God’s message to us – that only they are the Word of God – are we perhaps limiting God’s power and what He desires to do?
So what does this mean? What if this is true about music being just another way that God shares communicates with us – shares His “Word” with us? Well here is a preview of where I am going: the problem with this is the “What if?” question itself. As theologians – especially pastors – we do not operate in this realm, nor should we want to.
Final part coming tomorrow