Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Proving the Music Issue in the Worship War: Is there Holy Hip Hop? pt. 9

Go to last post, part 8, to get links to 1-7.

Awhile back, I read the following from none other than Leonard Bernstein:

[F]or some people music and melody are the same thing. It's the whole meal so to speak: when you think of music, you think of melody right away — melody: music. And they're right, in a way, because what is music anyway but sounds that change and move along in time? And that's practically a definition of melody, too: a series of notes that move along in time, one after another.

Well, if that's true, then it's almost impossible to write music that doesn't have melody in it. I mean, if a melody is simply one note coming after another, how can a composer avoid writing melodies if he just writes notes. He must write melodies all the time.

Bernstein, of course, wasn't trying to prove anything about rap when he wrote that.  Do you think if he liked rap, he would have had to write something different?  In order to adjust his definition to his taste? No.  It was stating what is patently obvious.  Music is melody.  You've got music with melody, and without melody, you don't have music.  There are other components to music, but on a root level, music is melody.

In my last post I talked about the necessity of melody for directing music toward God.  Eleven, music directed toward God must be spiritual.  What kind of music is spiritual?  Or how is music spiritual?  Ephesians 5:19 says that God wants "spiritual songs."  The music of Ephesians 5:19 is the result of the filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18.  The music is produced as a byproduct of Spirit filling, so it will be spiritual music.  But what is that?

Some would like professing believers to think that how things are going with music today is about how things have always been.  Their narrative is that Bach took secular music and Christianized it, Luther did it, Watts did it, Finney did it, Moody did it, the Jesus movement did it, and we have just kept on doing that, so that here we are today.  What's to question?  Using rock, rap, jazz, and all of that are just another iteration of that same practice -- that idea.  So the people who charge that the use of popular music are the ones outside of the historical stream of worship music.  This narrative turns this use of these popular music forms into the same as its always been, a "good thing."  No.  It's a false narrative.  This is a new bad or an all time bad.

For quite a long time now, professing Christians have been misjudging true spirituality.  We do know that this is old, going back to biblical times, and what we have today is actually another iteration of that false notion or corruption, something we have been warned about in the Bible.  And Paul deals with it in 1 and 2 Corinthians and other places in the New Testament.  Satan would have men think they're in the right place spiritually, that whatever it is that is occurring is the Holy Spirit, when it's not.  It's actually another spirit, as Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 11.  The level of deceit here is that men think something is spiritual that is really physical, a feeling.  Jonathan Edwards warned about this shortly after colonial days with the passions versus affections.

True spirituality relates to thinking.  We read that in 1 Corinthians 2.  The natural man, who isn't spiritual, doesn't understand the things of the Spirit of God.  He doesn't know them, can't know them.  Spirituality is about knowing and understanding.  Paul had to talk to the Corinthians like they were carnal and not spiritual (1 Corinthians 3), because they were not receptive to the Word of God as they should have been and then been obedient to it.  Spirituality is understanding the Word of God and then living obediently to it.  The way that this is bypassed is through the feelings, and that's what was happening in Corinth.  The mystery religion found in pagan Corinth had worked its way into the church, replacing true spirituality with a false kind.  This is also what is happening with music today.  The feeling orchestrated in Corinth, that was mistaken for spirituality, came through euphoria and enthusiasm that was created.

Alright.  With all that being said, if music is spiritual, it will emphasize the Word of God and the mind.  There is music that is like that.  There is feeling to it, but the feeling is secondary.  The popular forms work against true spirituality, because they deal primarily with the body, with the flesh, with carnality.  When the Holy Spirit is working, the body takes a back seat, subjects itself to the mind.  We sin when we are drawn away of our own lust (James 1), so Paul commanded that we were to make no provision for the flesh (Rom 13:14).  If music is spiritual, it will take the biblical priority of mind and body.  Music that prioritizes body over mind is not spiritual.  The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God through the mind.  He doesn't work through the body, through the lust.

All music has rhythm, but when the rhythm takes prominence in music through various musical means, the body is taking priority in the music.  Musicians know how to do this.  I remember several years ago that there was a kind of music that you could purchase, called Hooked on Classics.  People who didn't ordinarily like the classics could develop a "taste" for them by means of a rock rhythm that was placed in the background.   The people who produced this were "hooking" or "addicting" people to that music by changing the rhythm (here's some Hooked on Bach).   People weren't questioning what this "hooked on" genre was all about.  Almost any imbecile could get what was happening.  However, now professing Christians act like they don't know what we're talking about when we talk about what rhythm can do to music.  It's an insult to intelligence.  We have to go along with the act so that people can have what they want.

That rhythm that is to hook people changes the nature of the music.  It becomes more physical, so it has more feeling.  The rhythm puts the feelings on steroids, so to speak.  Spiritual music is not about that orchestrated feeling, that is multiplied by the rhythm.  We can talk about all the ways that music does this, but true affections will come from the mind.  It's not that they bypass feelings period.  Feelings are involved, but they take the proper diminished role.  The mind works toward the will toward the feelings.  That is God's order and it is spiritual.  It promotes knowledge and understanding.

Right now, right at this time, I was thinking about a typical kind of argument against what I'm presenting, which everyone knows about music.  Rock musicians have liked what their music can do in making them more popular and sometimes adding to their harem.  Professing Christians play possum, act the part of the village idiot, take on a totally naive posture, in order to keep it.  What's worse, they then think it's fine for worship.  But I digress.  I was thinking about march music, Sousa, John Philip Sousa.  Does his music honor God?  Rhythm is primary there.  I was thinking of that kind of argument.  No, I don't think Sousa should be used for worship, but I do believe it is permissible for marching.  And the rhythm has most to do with that.  There is nothing wrong with marching.  But is there anything wrong with jiving?  I won't go there right now, but Sousa actually doesn't help someone who wants to argue for a priority of the physical or of rhythm for worship.

Earlier I talked about the beauty of holiness.  Holiness is the distinctiveness, the uniqueness, the majesty of God.  A quality of God is order, the proper order, a Divinely mandated order.  We see it all over the universe.  As this relates to classical music, consider what Bernstein said:

That's what classical music really means: music written in a time when perfect form and balance and proportion are what everybody is looking for -music which tries more than anything else to have a perfect shape - like a beautiful ancient Greek vase.

Now the two giant musical names of these first 50 years of the 18th Century were Bach and Handel. Especially Bach; because he took all the rules that the composers who lived before him had been experimenting with, and fiddling with - and he made those rules as perfect as a human being can make them. For instance, take that form called the fugue. Now the rules of a fugue are something like the printed directions you get when you buy an Erector set; they tell you exactly how to build a house, or a fire truck, or a Ferris Wheel. You start a Ferris Wheel by attaching one metal section to another on the floor; then you add one exactly four notches higher; then another five notches higher than that; and so on.

Bernstein wasn't arguing for the exclusivity of this type of music.  He was just being honest about it. If he did care about how God was worshiped, he could have talked about the order and precision to music after the nature of God.  Many today find that kind of music too intellectual.  They want their music more emotional. They want to feel more.  If you want to feel more, just add to the rhythm in a number of different ways.   Musicians know what they are doing.  This is what popular music is about.  It goes to the lowest common denominator to pull people in.  It's marketing.  It's making money.  It's having a hit.  You cannot take that music and use it for worship.

More to Come

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