We’ve seen in this series that contemporary worship music has become dominated by songs modeled on romantic, experiential, subjective musical expressions. We’ve further seen that , though such songs are a legitimate stream of Biblical worship expression, they have been historical and Biblical worship models (such as the Psalms or the Book of Revelation) held in balance with objective, doctrinal song content.
We then began to investigate how and why such an imbalance has occurred in arriving at such an experiential overemphasis. We began by seeing that the deep alienation between God and mankind engendered by the Fall leads men to see the world dualistically, as split between the “pure” spiritual realm and the flawed and imperfect physical world, a view which is a result of the simultaneous and inescapable knowledge that men have rebelled against their Holy Creator while they attempt to suppress that inescapable knowledge (Romans 1: 18-32).
This split was institutionalized in Platonic thought, which hugely influenced monastic thought, which shaped to a certain extent the way the Medievals viewed Reality, resulting in a Late Medieval and Renaissance perspective which located emotion and instinct in a “religious” zone, while reason and normative life were seen as belonging to the “secular” sphere.
Christian reactions to the rationalism of the Enlightenment fused with Victorian and pietist viewpoints to produce a feminized, experientially-fixated Evangelicalism whose worship music institutionalized these attitudes for that branch of the Church. This was all the easier because there is a legitimate strand of subjective and emotional aspects included in Biblical worship paradigms (for instance, in Psalms 51, 56, 3, 6, etc.).
We also saw, as well, that the Tri-Unity of God speaks to all aspects of the life of the Image-Bearers of God, humanity, including their worship of the Lord, which is to enact both objective and subjective thanksgiving, and to express both change and continuity as the Church gathers before her Maker and Redeemer.
There are further implications for worship in the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus, Who, as the Scriptures and the Creeds teach, was both Fully God and Fully Man simultaneously. As we’ve seen before, this Fact has massive implications for the expressions of continuity and change in our worship. His Simultaneously Divine and Human Person, as we’ve seen, means both that our worship is to be both physical and spiritual (as He Himself is both Spiritual in His Divinity as well as His Created Human Spirit, and Physical in His Body) and that our worship should enact both continuity (as Jesus is Eternally Unchanging in His Divinity) and change (as He is also Human, having undergone human mutability until His Resurrection), so that, in both these implications, our worship correctly images the Natures and Persons of Christ.
This last implication, that continuity and change should shape our worship, we’ve also seen as a corollary implication of the Holy Trinity (Continuity in the Undifferentiated Unity of the Essence of God and Change in the Diverse and Variegated Perspectives of the Three Persons of God). These Aspects of the Trinity and the Incarnation are, of course, to be held in balance in our worship, just as they are in the Reality of the Trinitarian Godhead and the Incarnate Lord Jesus. This perspective helps us to hold a balanced value of both continuity and change in our lives and worship.
Last issue, we saw that the Lord Jesus, though Fully God, was also Man simultaneously, and that, in His Humanity, He experienced growth, but in His Perfect and Complete Divinity, had no need of growth, again demonstrating the continuity and change which should characterize our worship of Him.
Every aspect of the Persons and Attributes of the Creator Who has become our Incarnate Redeemer, and Who is the Object and Ground of our worship, has continuing implications for the form and structure of the corporate expression we owe to the Lord. We have seen that, both in the Economy of the Interrelationships of the Persons of the Holy Triune God, and in the Two Natures of the One Person of Christ Jesus, there are Aspects Which correspond to human continuity and change, to past and future, to growth and development in the realm of time.
We’ve seen the influence of these Creedal Aspects of the Lord in any number of areas relative to our worship in past articles; those Aspects also directly impact the type of songs and music utilized in our assemblies in His Presence. As we’ve noted before, our worship should reflect in all its varied elements Who He Is and What He has done; this is, of course, equally true for music.
Unlike God, of course, we don’t experience all of time simultaneously, and must structure our actions, as the Lord Jesus did in His Human Nature, across time. In our worship music, we can do so symbolically and actively by the very songs we utilize. Older songs and hymns (from across the history of God’s Old and New Covenant People) both embody and remind us of the Ways that the Lord has interacted with and upheld His People across the ages. Current/contemporary songs record and celebrate how God is presently involved with us today. Finally, new songs, ones which are being composed at present and are yet to be written point to the Surety of His Love and Promise in days and years to come.
These together communicate the Presence and Actions of a Lord Who has been, is, and will be intimately involved with His Church. The diversity of expressions musically, lyrically, and perspectivally remind the worshippers that they are part of a People wrought by the Hand and Will of God across time past and into the future, a musical collation of testimonies which also bears witness before the Face of God that we recognize that He is the Same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Our music must bear witness to the Church, the world, and the Lord of Who He is, not only with what it says, but with what it expresses symbolically and historically.