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.
We saw in the last article that the Lord Jesus’ Simultaneous Divine and Human Natures showed us that our worship, like the Divine-Human Person we worship, should involve both spiritual and physical aspects together, as Jesus’ Person was.
We turn now to a further consideration of the implications of the Lord Jesus’ Divine-Human Person for our worship. As a Human, with a Beginning (the Conception by the Holy Spirit and Virgin Birth from Mary), Development and Growth in His Humanity (as Luke 2:52 tells us, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men”), and even the experience of Death and Resurrection (Romans 8:11; John 19:30), Jesus, like all humans, experienced change.
However, in His Divine Nature, the Lord Jesus has never changed (and will never change, as Malachi 3:6 tells us). This all means, of course, that just as Christ Jesus experienced both change and unchanging continuity, so our worship should reflect this by static parts and aspects of worship and parts which do change.
As it relates to the use of music in the worship of the Lord, we should, as a reflection of the Unchanging Continuity of Jesus in His Divinity, retain older songs that the People of God have used for long and long (some songs the Church has sung for centuries, like the “Te Deum Laudamus” and the the “Gloria Patri,” not to mention that the lyrics that quote Scripture utilize the Unchanging Word of God; cf. Isaiah 40:7-8; 1 Peter 1:24-25).
Yet also, just as Jesus experienced change in His Humanity, the music of our worship should also embody change, not only in terms of completely new music, but even in terms of the musical styles and settings of the ancient worship expressions.
Both are necessary to a balanced Incarnational worship of the Lord Jesus, Who embodies both change and continuity in Balance. So should our worship, as a Biblical reflection of the One we worship.