Monday, October 12, 2015

Praise and worship?

A Roman Catholic wrote about praise and worship music and highlighted some of the presuppositions about praise and worship music that need to be challenged.  I have adapted his list for our own church but he is clearly on track.

  1. P&W music assumes that praise is worship.
  2. P&W music assumes that worship is principally something we do.
  3. P&W music assumes as its [primary] principle relevance.
  4. P&W music assumes as its second principle the active participation of a certain age group.
  5. P&W music self-consciously divides the Church into by such things as age and personal preference.
  6. P&W music subverts the Biblical and liturgical texts of the lectionary and Divine Service.
  7. P&W music assumes that the church's liturgical tradition is not an integral part of our doctrine.
  8. P&W music focuses more consciously on emotions and uses this music as a tool to produce a setting seen as necessary for spiritual conversion.
  9. P&W music focuses more on the present moment and seems to equate transcendence with feeling or sentiment.
  10. P&W music tends to focus on individual interpretations of what happens in worship and less upon the larger assembly, the unity of the liturgical songs of the Divine Service and the roles of music to speak confessionally of what we believe and teach.
  11. P&W music values simplicity and ease of comprehension over the rich, deep, and full appreciation of the mystery of Christ's presence in the means of grace and the fuller doctrinal confession intrinsic to the lectionary and the use of primarily liturgical texts.
You can argue about his conclusions or mine own adaptation of his list for Lutheran use but I believe he is pretty much on track.  Praise and worship music is certainly an ecumenical phenomenon and this is both one of its strengths and its primary weakness.  It is difficult to use praise and worship music in sacramental and non-sacramental churches without that music being intentionally vague or devoid of the specific doctrinal confession inherent to the classical Lutheran chorale and the songs of the liturgy.

You can read his words here and this might spark a discussion, a healthy one I believe, and this would be good thing.  For Lutherans, the worship wars continue and the biggest hot spots are in the areas of the music used in worship -- both form and text.  If we take worship seriously, we will not short circuit this discussion but will work through it deliberately and carefully.  Worship is so important that it deserves nothing less... 


Kirk Skeptic said...

Pr P: I clicked on your link, and especially appreciated Fr's commentary on the 3rd part of the article:

"4.Relevance is irrelevant to a liturgy which seeks to bring man outside of space and time to the Eternal.
5.Participation in the liturgy is principally interior, by the union of the soul with the Christ who celebrates the liturgy. Any externalizations of that interior participation are meaningless unless that interior participation is there.
6.The Church’s treasury of sacred music is not the province of one social-economic, age, cultural, or even religious group. It is the common patrimony of humanity and history.
7.The Church must sing the Mass, i.e., the biblical and liturgical texts contained in the Missal and Gradual, and not sing at Mass man-made songs, if it is to be the corporate Worship of the Church and not just Praise designed by a select group of people.
8.Orthodox Catholic teaching on faith and morals must always be accompanied by respect for the Church’s liturgical and musical teaching and laws.
9.The deliberate intention to manipulate human emotions to produce a religious effect is abusive, insincere, and disrespectful of God’s power to bring about conversion in the hearts of man.
10.While music does affect the emotions, sacred music must always be careful to prefer the transcendent holiness of God over the immanent emotional needs of man.
11.The Church’s treasury of sacred music inspires and requires the highest attention to artistic excellence. It is also an unfathomable gift to the Church, and must be presented to the faithful so that they may enjoy that rich gift."

What Fr's & your articles didn't mention was another problem w/P&W, and that is the pernicious influence of worship leaders and associated artsy types (eg vocalists, instrumentalists, and other public nuisances) who believe the liturgy to be their canvas & congregants their captive audience. In my experience, such people are theologically illiterate and militantly ignorant, valuing their alleged "gifts" over sound Scritpural teaching on worship and the church's historical practices. I'd be curious about your take on this.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

I love good P&W music, and consider it a way of lifting up Christ, the Gospel, and His church and people together. But unlike some stricter Lutherans, I also enjoy country Gospel music, Christian non-denominational music, and some hymns and songs with a more Baptist origin. Why? I do not know. But the lyrics and melodies of many Christian songs are "universally" praise music without distinction as to theology and doctrine. I play Fingerstyle acoustic guitar in a country style beat, and have written a few songs. I believe Christian music, consisting of clear and biblical lyrics in common plain everyday language of the people, combined with simple chords and solid melodies, can do much to bring us closer to God. Some songs will remind us of the trials of life we may experience, and point to Jesus as Lord and Savior. In my view, that is what good Christian hymns, country Gospel, ballads, and praise songs should accomplish.