Sunday, January 06, 2008

POWER OF MUSIC

Brian Wansink of Cornell University is a Professor of Marketing with expertise in nutrition science. In a Sunday morning interview on public radio, Wansink said music has the power to make you eat more. He has tested his nutrition theories in restaurants and has found that it doesn't matter what kind of music it is: all music has the power to make people eat up to 25% more food! Fast music had the power to make people eat faster and eat more and spend more money before the body signaled to stop. Slow music made people sit around long and enjoy more and spend more.

This is interesting because God has ordained music in the church, and He has ordained a particular kind of music. Following the Bible, Christians sing spiritual songs to teach and edify one another.
"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Col 3:16)
God's music is spiritual words, but not just noise. The influence of Christian music is the power of the message. It has the power to change by teaching and building up through the truth.

Churches of Christ do not use instruments in worship. This is different from denominations that don't see a problem with them. The curious part of me wonders why instruments are so important to religious folks? Earlier this morning I was listening to something different on a religious radio station. The announcer/host of the morning show followed up the discussion with a prayer. While he prayed, soft background music accompanied. I wondered why and think I have the answer. Without the instruments in the background, the prayer isn't interesting, it doesn't keep the attention of the audience. To an entertainment hungry public, prayer without a piano is boring. And to these people, singing without accompaniment is boring. I notice that a lot of religious programs follow the same pattern as the radio prayer especially when the doctrinal lesson turns to the close and appeal. With the tinkling of the piano keys, the preacher makes a soft appeal: "Won't you respond?" Is it is the appeal of a spiritual message or is it the power of the sensual music? I say it's the instrument because try getting the same audience to attend and hear if the instrument was removed.

I have from time to time visited denominational services. I have witnessed a recurring pattern which they follow. Loud music is couple with simple, repititious lyrics. This pattern has been witnessed by me for 30 or so years. I saw it in East Texas. I saw it in Denver, Colorado. I saw it in Wray, Colorado. I saw it the town I presently live in. The congregants are on their feet for 30 to 45 minutes with clapping, swaying, and dancing to the loud music. Then when the heart rate is excelerated (it's impossible that a physiological change has not occured), the body warm, and breathing altered by the singing and movement, the message becomes "do you feel the Spirit; the Spirit is here." I have witnessed this pattern, and the words for myself, across the country from Texas, Colorado, to Minnesota. My impression was that it had little to do with the movement of the Holy Spirit and much to do with artificial stimulation.

In the Lord's church, there are no pep rallies to get into the prayer or into the worship of God. We ought to shun any temptation to do more than sing in worship to God. Some churches are experimenting with adding clapping to the worship. This is a vain attempt to add music. Even the Sesame Street gang knows that clapping is music! In a children's "play a sound" book where buttons are pushed to add sound effects to the reading, music was the subject of the book and clapping was the first kind to be introduced! Children and honest adults know that clapping to form a beat in worship is adding new music. The church should shun noise making with the lips and tongues to simulate drums, organs, horns, and guitars. These noises serve the same purpose and are back door approach to adding instruments.

The power of music in worship is not so much the sound. God said to sing (Eph. 5:19). God did not say the singing had to be expert. Every Christian is to sing. There is no judging. What makes Christian music so powerful is that it is an expression of the heart and soul and body of a spiritual person making melody to God. That is spiritual worship! But nonspiritual people do not get it and so they need to be artificially stimulated with the mindless noise of instrumental music. Without that, the music is just too boring. You may conclude that my analysis is subjective. But it is an objective fact that the New Testament church that you read of in the Bible did not use instruments: singing only was the practice for over 600 years. What did they understand that our modern, entertainment obsessed culture, does not?

Would you like to do a study on this subject? You are invited to study online. Leave a comment if you like.

6 comments:

  1. Churches of Christ do not use instruments in worship because God said to sing. But many churches don't have a problem with it. I wonder why instruments are so important to them?

    Instruments are important because they are a universal part of human culture. Like sports and entertainment, they have been part of every culture world wide at all times. This is they way God made us. We are not totally spiritual beings like angels. Rather we are both spiritual AND flesh and blood. I hope you can agree? Ha. Ha.

    In the Bible we see David and the Israelites praising and worshiping God with the aid of "harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums, cymbals, trumpets etc." Just search the Scriptures for "David" and "harp". A plethora of references will pop-up. If this pleased God in the Old Testament, how much more should it please him in the New Testament and those who know him through Jesus Christ!

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  2. Hello Pazdziernik,
    It is true that things like instruments and sports are a part of cultures around the world, but that doesn't make them appropriate for Christian worship.

    True, instruments were used in the Old Testament. David introduced instruments into the Old Testament worship because God said to.

    "for the command was from the Lord through His prophets" - 2 Chronicles 29:25

    But there is one error you make in your assertions -- and it is a big one. Instruments were not part of the church culture for hundreds of years until it was introduced, amidst consternation, by one of the Popes.

    History is on my side. So now I have Scripture and history on my side. You have practices in the Old Testament on your side. Like animal sacrifices, instruments are Old Testament practices.

    In the New Testament, even though meat was part of every culture in the world, it was not appropriate in the Lord's Supper. If God said to have unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, then respect for Him dictates that nothing else be added. When it comes to music in the church, God did not say to make music: not in the specific or general sense. Instead, He gave the specific command to "sing" (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

    You are I are operating by two different principles. I do not give approval to things that are not given approval to in Scripture. You however believe that "silence" means approval. Because God didn't say you could not play instruments, then to you it means you can. I like my approach better considering the various warnings against committing presumptuous sins (Ps. 19:13), and warnings against offering vain worship (Mt. 15:7-9), and the explicit command that we MUST worship in "spirit and truth" (Jn. 4:23,24). How can you be assured that a blasting pipe organ is according to God's will? You can't.

    I like all kinds of music, but only vocal is commanded. The Eastern Orthodox church still follows the pattern of the New Testament in this respect - that is my understanding.

    Thomas Aquinas said,"Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize." (Thomas Aquinas, Bingham's Antiquities, Vol. 3, page 137)

    Maybe these people know something you don't. I wish you well. -Discipler

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  3. Instruments were not part of the church culture for hundreds of year... Dios Mios! The pipe organ was not invented until the 8th-9th century. How can one expect the inspired writers of Scripture to record anything about specific instruments. So we have to rely on principles, namely that it it pleasing to got because it benefits us and aids in our worship.

    Consider the great music of Europe and of the World was inspired by Christians: Mozart, Bach, Beethoven etc! These wrote many pieces (Masses in particular) for liturgical worship. Others followed their inspiration. Unfortunately the great classical music became detached from its Christian origins and became strictly secular. ...and some of this secular music is trying to find its way "back" into Christian worship. I agree that much of this secular music has no place in Christian worship. For example, the Catholic Church has guidelines of what is acceptable and what is not. Unfortunately, these rules are not always obeyed and we have much confusion as a result and a dilution of "true worship". I'm sure this disturbs you as well as a trend, no? Nevertheless the Biblical principles of music accompanied by instruments is sound. Just because there is abuses in this area does not mean that the Biblical principles of praise and worship accompanied with instruments should be relegated to the category of O.T. precepts and the like.

    Something to consider also: In communal worship, I along with 99.991% (estimate ? ) of fellow Christians do not play any instruments when we worship in the presence of the Eucharistic Christ (and at other times as well). We simply listen to a single organist play. We sing with our natural voices. Rather than focusing on particular instruments, I think it would be more healthy to encourage people to sing! It really "breaks my heart" when I see many people not singing during worship.

    Of course there are many reasons for this such as when the organist or cantor plays or sings way too high, especially for men, to reach.

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  4. Dear P,
    You know that you and I may go back and forth on this and never get anywhere, but any outside observer would not miss my point that NO instrument, no horn, no stringed instrument, no percussion instrument, was part of the church culture for hundreds of years. So you have no point and mine still stands.
    And human inspiration should not be confused with spirituality. These are subjective ideas you toss about. I like the solid ground of Scripture. There is no Biblical principle for any music beyond singing. And history establishes that this was the church's position for hundreds and hundreds of years.
    Back to my original point: music stirs emotions and actions that have nothing to do with spirituality. Singing stirs the mind: "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding." (1 Cor. 14:15). Organ noise can't do that.

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  5. Wearing a shirt and tie during worship was not part of the Church's culture for hundreds of years either. I'll look for Scriptural proof of this as well. How can we be sure this is pleasing to God?

    Irony aside, sure as Christ promised, like a "mustard seed" the Church would grow (see Matthew 13:31)...

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  6. Dear Pazdziernik,
    I like hearing from you, but you have now engaged in two separate fallacies.
    First, I was making the point that no instruments were used in the church for hundreds of years. Instead of addressing that, you instead imply that the only reason organs were not used earlier was because they weren't invented until the 8th or 9the centures.

    Second fallacy is from your confusion between what is an addition to God's word and what is an expedient to God's word. An addition to God's word is still an addition even if you call it an expeidient. No expedient, something that is necessary to expedite a command, can nullify or add to a command of God.

    For example: Baptism is commanded. Since God says to be buried, any other mode like sprinkling or pouring nullifies the specific action being commanded from the mouth of Christ. It is not expedient to sprinkle or pour water because that leaves the command left undone: "buried with Christ in baptism". Which is why the Eunuch went down into the water.

    Do you think it is no biggy to replace one verb with another? Jesus said be buried. Do you say it is alright to instead sprinkle water?

    Now for you to bring up ties and shirts is to shows that you do not know the difference between an expedient and an addition - something that is forbidden. We have no right to add to God's commands. But God does expect us to choose the best way to fulfill the command (without breaking a command). When God says to "be baptized", He leaves it up to man to decide if it will be in a river, lake, or a tub. The principles from John 3:22-24 requires only that there be "much water". But things like style of garment for baptism, place, etc are left to the discretion of those involved. They do whatever will help to expedite the command.

    And last but not least, it is true that the church would grow like a mustard seed. But here you engage in another fallacy by implying that all growth is from God. The question I have is whether instrumental music induced spirituality is building the church or if it is building something else. Singing of Christian hymns is related to the highest forms of spirituality. Even the angels do it. But an instrument is dumb and unable to relate a single spiritual truth.

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