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Worship and Music During Christendom

In his book, Wiser Than Despair: The Evolution of Ideas in the Relationship of Music and the Christian Church, Quentin Faulkner provides a helpful description of how the domination of the Church during the Middle Ages affected worship and music, for good and for ill:

  • Financial support for the church was from taxes; therefore “in no way, then, was the church dependent on popular opinion.” In fact, it dictated what popular opinion would be.
  • All activities in the church (including music) were geared to the learned ecclesiastical aristocracy.
  • The medieval church continued and intensified the conservatism of the early church.
  • Christianity permeated all of life, including all artistic endeavors.
  • Medieval Christians were just as fully world-conscious as their early Christian forebears.
  • There was an almost total emphasis on God’s radical transcendence, to the exclusion of his immanent, personal quality.
  • The church’s liturgy was splendid, ceremonial, and ritualistic in part because it was considered to be the divinely revealed earthly counterpart of the worship of God in heaven.
  • Since the liturgy was considered to be not of earthly, but rather of heavenly origin, it became essential, indeed crucial that its conduct be as “perfect” as humanly possible.
  • The clergy controlled and made all music in the church.
  • Music practice followed theory and was carefully controlled by it.
  • “Musicality” meant reflective of divine harmony rather than subjective expression.

Quentin Faulkner, Wiser Than Despair, 88-92.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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