Friday, May 1, 2015

Spiritual Songs (Part 1 of 8)

First principles:

  1. My aim is not to engage in a conversation about musical taste.  Musical taste includes elements exempt from criticism.  I don’t like the genre of music called “country”.  If you like it, I’m not criticizing your preference.  You may not like my preference for “electronica” or “classical” music.  We agree to disagree.  What we cannot dispute is the existence of objective criteria for good music and lyrics.  This article does not intend to say a certain taste in music is bad or should be banned from Christian culture.  I simply want to raise the issue of what consitutes the best music for corporate worship and Christian spirituality.
  2. The message of the song matters.  All lyrics are not created equal.  Even in songs with spiritual content, some lyrics are better than others.  This is more that mere personal preference.  Objective criteria determine the quality of lyrics.  Invention, depth, truth, creativity, the use of figurative language, rhyme, and rhythm set the best apart from the good.
  3. Good lyrics transcend musical genre.  This does not deny the interdependence between music and lyrics.  Rather, we must acknowledge that quality lyrics may be found in every genre no matter how subjectively unpleasing that genre may be to some.  I may not like country music, but I cannot assume that every country song has rubbish lyrics.
  4. Like most things, context matters in music.  Funeral music is generally inappropriate in weddings and wedding music at funerals.  Thus, music chosen for the public worship of God must meet the requirements of that context.  To ignore this regulation flies in the face of reason and Biblical command.
  5. With regard to “sacred music,” a critical comment about a certain song does not mean that the person who appreciates it is wrong to do so.  One of my favorite songs is “Love song for a Savior,” by Jars of Clay.  This song violates most of what I will say later about the best music.  That does not mean I ought not enjoy it, but it does mean that I need to understand the place it ought to occupy in my mind, heart, and life.

And now to the story:

(Continued next week)

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