A Biblical Reflection on Music & Theology By Marco Gonzalez
On August 20, 2000 It was a scorching summer day in San Jose California. The time was 9:20am. I stepped into a gymnasium, which would be accustomed for chapel. However, every day preceding Monday, Wednesday, and Friday it was a typical run of the mill gym. Nevertheless, as above-mentioned, at 9:20 am this unpretentious gym was revamped into the manifold wisdom of God: his church. Chapel usually commenced with various songs of praise. In view of this, the worship demeanor was unalike. Several would raise their hands, others would stand silently, and furthermore some refused to sing. However, almost all demonstrated tolerance in support of the songs, whether the words were theologically veracious or not.
This likens to evangelicals; evangelicals have become increasingly permissive on the content of worship lyrics. In addition, Christianity is concerned with style subsequently to God-honoring lyrics. Godâ€™s attributes, mainly his love, are manifested as his chief end. Christ is displayed as my intimate love and BFF (Best Friend Forever).
The sphere of spirituality in worship is more often than not dimwitted and infringes on the nature of God. Godâ€™s communicable attributes are emphasized in describing his very essence and nature. Godâ€™s incommunicable attributes: eternality, infinitude, holiness, wrath and immutability, ect. are apparently of inconsiderable significance. D.A Carson says:
What is at stake is authenticity. . . . Sooner or later Christians tire of public meetings that are profoundly inauthentic, regardless of how well (or poorly) arranged, directed, performed. We long to meet, corporately, with the living and majestic God and to offer him the praise that is his due.
Nevertheless, worship characteristically is acquainted with the congregation and their own selfish needs more than extolling the God they serve. Psychology and seeker sensitive ideologies are the primary justification for this outlook. The false notion of self-esteem and sensitivity to its reasoning has, as a consequence, created grossly unfaithful and decedent worship. The concept that a good sense of self-esteem is imperative to be healthy and therefore, is highly important, creates confusion in oneâ€™s understanding of manâ€™s inferiority to God; accordingly sin is labeled a cognitive disorder.
The priority of worship is thus cross-eyed, cooperate and individual worship are muddled and misunderstood. Theological veracity is subservient to stylistic worship. A meager conception of salvation and scripture is paraded amid this nature of worship. Moreover, reflective convictions commencing from the expressions of lyrics ought to dwell deep within believers, sparking reverence and awe for God. The word worship is a contraction of woerth-scripe, denoting the ascription of reverence to someone or something of superlative worth.
Suitable worship is creating a correct response from believers. It is the obligation of the church to allow a proper response from regenerate Christians. Although the New Testament does not administer a construction for worship, it does, however, offer the idea of worship. An unambiguous picture of this is in John 4.
First, it is a necessity of worship to be perfected in spirit and truth, in other words in the veracity of Godâ€™s provision for salvation. An individual cannot worship God without the faith of Godâ€™s word embraced in his inner being. The pnuema or spirit in Jn 4, is not an allusion to the â€œHoly spirit,â€ but the spirit contained by man. Worship is not an external conformity to religious rituals and places; accordingly it is the disposition of the heart.
Secondly, Ï€ÏÎ¿ÏƒÎºÏ…Î½ÎµÏ‰ or â€œto prostate or give homageâ€ is for the most part a common word used in the NT of worship. Ergo, worship is a response to God, giving homage to all of Godâ€™s communicable and incommunicable attributes. The Westminster Confession states Manâ€™s Chief end: â€œTo Glorify God and Fully enjoy him.â€ Worship is to enjoy making much of God.
Thirdly, worship is a perpetual act of believers; it commences from a regenerated heart and is everlasting. Worshipâ€™s stepping-stone is an uncontaminated heart toward God and therefore dispenses honor to his name. For this reason one facet of worship lyrics ought to demonstrate the relentless iniquity of our hearts. John Calvin heeds believers:
Let us remember therefore this lesson: That to worship our God sincerely we must evermore begin by hearkening to His voice, and by giving ear to what He commands us. For if every man goes after his own way, we shall wander. We may well run, but we shall never be a whit nearer to the right way, but rather farther away from it.
To worship God is as George Bennardâ€™s once said in his well-know hymn The Old Rugged Cross:
On a hill far away stood an Old Rugged Cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So Iâ€™ll cherish the Old Rugged Cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
Oh that Old Rugged Cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In that Old Rugged Cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For â€™twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the Old Rugged Cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then Heâ€™ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever Iâ€™ll share
The lyrics in this beautiful hymn look at the subject of all genuine worship: Jesus. Worship lyrics must be Christ-centered, rich in doctrines of the gospel. Believers are assembling together corporately to give recognition to the God who saved them. Individually they confess their sin and repent of their wickedness. Worship is obligated to concentrate on our lowliness and the grace of God upon sinful individuals. Consequently, contemporary worship is less theological and more sensitive to believerâ€™s self-esteem.
The difficulty of contemporary worship is the imagery and conception of God. The imminence of God is displayed throughout worship lyrics and as a result Godâ€™s nature is misunderstood. Peopleâ€™s conception of God is distorted and his glory defamed. An example of this is a very praised song â€œIâ€™m Trading My Sorrowsâ€
I'M TRADING MY SORROWS, I'M TRADING MY SHAME,
I'M LAYING THEM DOWN, FOR THE JOY OF THE LORD.
I'M TRADING MY SICKNESS, I'M TRADING MY PAIN,
I'M LAYING THEM DOWN, FOR THE JOY OF THE LORD.
I AM PRESSED BUT NOT CRUSHED, PERSECUTED NOT ABANDONED,
STRUCK DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED,
I AM BLESSED BEYOND THE CURSE, FOR HIS PROMISE WILL ENDURE, AND HIS JOY'S GONNA BE MY STRENGTH,
THOUGH THE SORROW MAY LAST FOR THE NIGHT, JOY COMES IN THE MORNING
This is a model of contemporary worship, not only is it theologically erroneous itâ€™s simple-minded and experience oriented. It creates an untrue conception of God and has no validity from scripture. Evangelicals have become exceedingly passive in their worship. Feebleminded lyrics and imaginary conceptions of God are plaguing the church. To sing praise unto God is to give him worth. However, the worth God deserves is how he has revealed himself in the scriptures. Evangelicals would be wise to reassess the current state of worship and the lack of a theological mindset. Incorrect thinking about God is damaging to the worship we give to God. To worship God is to respond to God, responding to God is glorifying him for all his perfections. Dense worship does not give praise to God. When we worship God we donâ€™t just bestow him two-thirds of his glory but all of his glory. John Macarthur writes:
Modern songwriters seriously need to take their task more seriously, churches should also do everything they can to cultivate musicians who are trained in handling scriptures and able to discern sound doctrine. Most important, pastors, and elders need to begin exercising closer and more careful oversight of the church music ministry, consciously setting a high standard for the doctrinal and biblical content that we sing.
Worship is not simply playing to an audience; it is Christâ€™s church corporately gathered together to give honor and glory to his name. Words encompass significance. To dumb down lyrics is to abandon the doctrine our faith is built on. Moreover, the content of lyrics will give delivery to the imagery and conceptions we take in of God. John Wesley offers insight to the worship that should be given to God:
O God, what offering shall I give to thee,
The Lord of earth and skies?
My spirit, soul, and flesh receive,
A holy living sacrifice
Small as it is, â€˜tis all my store
More shouldst thou have, if I had no more
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