One of the great Christian books written during the 20th century is The Christian Mind, by Harry Blamires. In a chapter dealing with "The Supernatural Orientation", he states:
A prime mark of the Christian mind is that it cultivates the eternal perspective. That is to say, it looks beyond this life to another one. It is supernaturally orientated and brings to bear earthly considerations, the fact of Heaven…
As musicians, especially Christian musicians, this is a most important observation – and admonition – for all of us in the choir.
Over the last 120 years or so, our musical world has been totally turned upside down. Since the beginning of the Christian Church, (see Ralph Martin’s book: Worship in the Early Church) music has existed for praise and edification – that is, enhancing the work of "equipping the saints".
With the advent of the "Gospel Song" and recordings" toward the end of the 19th Century, the role of music began to shift from worship to evangelism. Music was transformed from a ‘heavenly’ point of reference to an ‘earthbound’ orientation, designed to bring enthusiasm and energy – and most of all, people – to evangelistic services.
Another way of looking at it is that the music of the church became more secularized as the popular nature of music was emphasized. Thus, the spiritual or ‘heavenly’ aspect of music was de-emphasized and began to be viewed in a more negative light. The motive for this change was understandable, but the consequences were (and continue to be) disastrous for the church.
For most of the history of the church, Scripture’s emphasis on the mind has produced music that is serious and reflective. But, because of the musical "sea change" noted above, the mind, or intellect, has been put on the back burner, and music’s unabashed appeal to "emotion" has grown exponentially.
Now, it’s important to remember that these changes were not consciously planned or articulated. But, once the emotional aspects of music were emphasized, it was difficult to stop the power of "raw emotional appeal."We will continue this next week, but for now, let us pray that God will bless our musical efforts and give us wisdom. Let us pray that the "weight of glory" will enable us to "fix our eyes on Jesus" – and be guided by God’s Spirit in our Sunday musical assignment!