Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16
"Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs"
Do you remember when you were a kid singing the Sunday School song:
Be careful little ears what you hear..."
It is probably not sung much anymore, because our ears can rarely escape the banal music of our culture.
But for the giants of the Church, such as Calvin and Luther, the music of the Church demanded the utmost care and thought: banality was banished!
In a volume entitled: Calvin's Theology of Music, written by Charles Garside (of course, it's now out of print!) we see the "working out" of Calvin's music philosophy from 1536-1543, the formative years for worship and the use of music in Geneva. The book traces the evolution of Calvin's views on his theology of music from his initial stance--no music in worship--to his final thoughts on the Scriptural significance of song that guided the formulation of the Genevan Psalter.
For Calvin, the primary issue for the use of song was between "entertainment"--and music acceptable for worship. Calvin wrote this in 1539:
"The musical character of [entertainment] is light and frivolous; the musical character of the other [worship] must be grave and majestic. Above all, one is designed for me, while the other is for God and His angels. The antithesis between the secular and the sacred could scarcely be more pointed." Origins p. 19.
A W Tozer, one of the giants of the twentieth century (he ministered for 31 years in Chicago) wrote this in 1960:
Within the last quarter of a century we have actually seen a major shift in the beliefs and practices of the Evangelical wing of the church, so radical as to amount to a complete sellout; and all this behind the clock of fervent orthodoxy. With Bibles under their arms and bundles of tracts in their pockets, religious persons now meet to carry on "services" so carnal, so pagan that they can hardly be distinguished from old Vaudeville shows of earlier days." Of God and Men p. 17
Luther added this:
I desire that...in the interest of the young people, they should and must receive an education in music...if we are to wean them from carnal and lascivious songs..."
Luther and Culture p. 165
As we sing our "songs and hymns and spiritual songs" we must do so with music that "transcends the world." (Calvin's words) The "beauty of holiness" rises above popular music and soars to the very heights of heaven. It's hard--but worthy of a great God. More next time...