Category Archives: Articles on Music

Discerning the Christian Imagination: Consensus and Canonicity

Discerning the Christian Imagination: Consensus and Canonicity

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Christian Imagination You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Determining if a poem, hymn, musical piece, novel, devotional work, painting or other work should be considered a helpful work of Christian imagination is mostly an act of considering its meaning. Does its content agree with the truths of Scripture? Does its form remain consonant with that content, and shape the appropriate responses in us?… Continue Reading

Discerning the Christian Imagination: Analogies and Proportion

Discerning the Christian Imagination: Analogies and Proportion

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Christian Imagination You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

If Christians should grow in their ability to discern superior Christian works of imagination, how should they do this? Must every Christian pursue some kind of music appreciation, literary criticism or aesthetic theory in order to recognise Christian from non-Christian or sub-Christian imagination? Likely not, though no Christian should scorn the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom… Continue Reading

What Was Early Church Worship Music Like?

What Was Early Church Worship Music Like?

This is an important question because many earnest believers desire to worship on the Lord’s Day in form and content the same way that Christ and the Apostles worshiped. The New Testament is very clear about the purpose of music for the church, but it does not give explicit indication as to what the form… Continue Reading

Scripture-Formed Music

Scripture-Formed Music

Last week I mentioned the fact that there has been a resurgence of sorts in recent times of emphasis on the disciple-forming power of gospel-shaped worship. What has not yet been recovered in my opinion is a recognition of the disciple-forming power of Scripture-formed music. In fact, both Bryan Chapell and Mike Cospers explicitly deny music’s… Continue Reading

Music That Is Intrinsically Good

Music That Is Intrinsically Good

The “worship wars” have now ceased, and many people are mostly happy about the cessation. Some of us are less happy, however, because those wars—like many non-metaphorical wars—settled nothing. There was neither victor nor vanquished, neither winner nor loser; there was simply a Nixonian “peace with honor,” in which two unreconciled combatants withdrew (honorably?) from… Continue Reading

Doctrinal Triage for Worship

Doctrinal Triage for Worship

Many years ago, Al Mohler published a widely-read article on doctrinal triage, a method for evaluating the seriousness of doctrines. Kevin Bauder then pointed out that this approach was something that mainstream fundamentalists had espoused for many years, with possibly more sophistication. I’ve thought for a while that we need something like that for the… Continue Reading

A Parable About Pop Music in Church

A Parable About Pop Music in Church

Christian 1: So I hear you have a problem with lollipops? Christian 2: Lollipops? No, I think they’re just fine. Christian 1: But you apparently won’t eat them for family meals. Christian 2: That’s true. I prefer my family eats some kind of meat, vegetables or healthier food for their meals. Christian 1: So you… Continue Reading

Psalm 130 in the Hands of the Great Composers

Psalm 130 in the Hands of the Great Composers

I recently walked through Psalm 130 with the congregation I pastor. Psalm 130 My Soul Waits for the Lord A Song of Ascents. [1] Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! [2] O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! [3] If… Continue Reading

How Poetry Forms Us

How Poetry Forms Us

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Sing to the Lord a New Song You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Singing both helps us express right affections to God in response to God’s character and works, and it also helps to form those affections when we make present through the art realities that are past, present, and future. But our affections are also formed by the art itself; in the case of Psalm 96, the… Continue Reading

Two Views on Christ’s Invitation

Two Views on Christ’s Invitation

Below are two works of Christian imagination. Both attempt to depict what it means for Christ to invite sinners to Himself, and how sinners should understand themselves. On closer examination, however, they are nearly opposite in meaning. We do not see the same Christ, the same Gospel and the same dilemma of the sinner in… Continue Reading

Fine new album of Buxtehude’s sacred cantatas

Fine new album of Buxtehude’s sacred cantatas

I keep an eye on the classic charts, and recently noticed at this week’s #14 spot an album entitled Buxtehude: Abendmusiken (Evening Music | Amazon). I was glad I did, so I pass it along to you too. Performed by the vocal ensemble Vox Luminis led by Olivier Fortin, the recording features a fine selection… Continue Reading

The Unproven Premise Strikes Again

The Unproven Premise Strikes Again

The Gospel Coalition recently published an excerpt from a new book by Brett McCracken in which he makes a very common argument about music in worship that may sound pious at first glance, yet has a fatal flaw. Here is the core premise of McCracken’s argument summarized in two pull quotes from the post: “We… Continue Reading

Using Song to Shape Hearts of Repentence

Using Song to Shape Hearts of Repentence

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Out of the Depths You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Up to this point in our study of Psalm 130, we have talked only about the poetic part of a song, but Psalm 130 wasn’t read; Psalm 130 was sung. So I’d like to address the music side of things. Clearly the music—the melody, the harmony, and the rhythm—doesn’t make a clear statement like words… Continue Reading

Pastors – Become Literate in Christian Culture

Pastors – Become Literate in Christian Culture

When the topic of music and worship comes up, a favorite slap-down argument against thoughtful discrimination of music is that pastors need not study music to be faithful pastors. It is beside the point to say that pastors need not become art critics. If their vocation is that of shepherding the flock, it is manifestly… Continue Reading

Why Tolkien Wrote About Middle-Earth

Why Tolkien Wrote About Middle-Earth

Some Evangelicals’ credo might be: “There is only one Tolkien, and Peter Jackson is his Prophet.” While there is no denying that the art of John Howe and Alan Lee made the films a visual feast, or that Howard Shore’s scores were moving and memorable, let us set aside the movies for a moment and return to… Continue Reading

National Anthems and the Universal Language

National Anthems and the Universal Language

While watching an Olympic medal ceremony a few evenings ago, I remembered a blog post I wrote over ten years ago (on a now extinct blog) about national anthems and the universal nature of musical communication. Here’s what I wrote (March 28, 2005): In discussing the cross-cultural communication power of music with a friend of mine,… Continue Reading

Why Christians Should Care About Meaning in Art

Why Christians Should Care About Meaning in Art

Christians claim to be concerned with meaning. They debate over the meaning of texts of Scripture, and urge particular hermeneutics, so as to arrive at the correct meaning of Scripture. Many claim to be concerned with the meaning of cultural trends, explaining their ethical significance. Some are fascinated with current events, and are hungry to… Continue Reading

On Associations

On Associations

Whenever the question is asked whether associations matter in musical choices, people usually fall into one of two camps. First are those who strongly believe that associations matter. If a particular song is in any way associated with a raunchy lifestyle, errant theology, or questionable movement, then we must avoid using that song, whether or… Continue Reading

Do origins matter?

Do origins matter?

One common argument used today in defense of using pop music styles for Christian purposes is that origins and associations don’t matter. Christians can redeem something that comes out of a sinful lifestyle and instead use it for good. I do agree that the sinful origins, roots, sources, or associations of something do not automatically… Continue Reading

How Music Naturally Carries Meaning

How Music Naturally Carries Meaning

It is important in any discussions about music to understand how music carries meaning naturally. I highly recommend Stephen Davies’ Musical Meaning and Expression, which clearly articulates where the most basic meaning does and does not lie: It is not a system of conventional symbols, like a language. It is not depictive, like representational paintings. It is… Continue Reading