One objection to the exhortation to cultivate a “biblical” approach to music is that we don’t have musical notation from biblical times. We have the lyrics of the psalms, but not the music. Here, in brief, are my staccato responses.
First, there is a good argument that we do have an idea of what the music sounded like. There has been a musical decoding of the vowel accent points of the Masoretic text (which, while not from biblical times, is likely to have preserved a biblical tradition), which, coupled with other forms of musical “archeology,” do give us a good idea of what their music was like. Here is a sample of it from Psalm 23.
Second, if we had to abandon And Can It Be in order to go back to singing in just this way, I think I can speak for most of us when I ask somebody to shoot me now. But why are we so quick to rush to a I-could-never-serve-a-God-like-that approach, as though our desires were the be all and end all of every musical choice? I don’t think the Bible requires us to sing this way entirely, but I do think the Bible requires us to have a humble and complete willingness to sing that way cheerfully if it were required.
But last, the foundations do not have to run along the roof line. The mustard plant does not have to look like the seed. The risen loaf doesn’t have to look like the leaven. But the roof line needs the foundation. If we don’t have a straight understanding of the foundation lines, then it shouldn’t be any surprise that our roof line music wobbles the way it does.
So we need to cultivate a gathering stream, postmillennial approach to our music.