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Discussion Forum : Revivals And Church History : CONTROVERSY! - HISTORY of CHRISTIAN MUSIC

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Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 37952
"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11


by "pastorbob"

Many see this as a new problem to the church and blame it on
the worldliness of the 'young' people or the fact that the 'old'
people are totally out of touch with reality. The debate on just how
contemporary music should be in the church is an age old one
which keeps reccurring. The problem is that we have not learned
from our past. Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember
the past are condemned to repeat it" (Miller, 119). This, I believe,
is the foundation of our current contemporary Christian music
debate in our churches.

It is the intent of this paper to show that this is not a new problem.
I will do this by surveying the history of church music and by
examining the beliefs and practices of the key figures in each period.

The Medieval Period

Gregory I laid the foundation for the enlargement of the use of
music in the church. He developed the Gregorian Chant which
modified the scales and all voices sang in unison. All musical
instruments were banned during this time and only men were
allowed to sing in worship.

During the end of the 14th and 15th centuries the professionalism
of church music developed to a much greater extent. Only
professional choirs sang in the churches' worship services and the
common folk were extremely limited in what musical participation
they had. This contributed to their desire to sing religious music
outside the church. During this period the development of the
secular Folk Song was prominent among the commoners both
Christian and pagan. So, taking their example from the 12th
century troubadours men like Francis of Assisi wrote simple songs
of devotion and praise and these sprang up as important parts of
the religious life of the common Italian people. (McElrath, 147).
Even back in the Middle Ages, there was the need for the people
to sing religious songs in ways that were familiar to them. Again,
this is not unlike the situation today.

The Reformation

In some senses the Reformation was not only one of theological
reform but also of musical freedom. This musical reformation
began with John Huss (1373-1415). He opposed all polyphonic
and instrumental music and only would support the singing of
devotional and simple songs in unison. He stated that unison
makes all men equal in worship. (McElrath, 151) I believe Huss
took a step forward in the use of popular songs for the common
people, but by rejecting the use of polyphony and instrumental
music he took a step backward in music's overall influence on the
church. The Bohemians, Moravians and followers of Huss put such
an emphasis on popular praise in music that in 1504 a hymnbook
was published for use by the common people.

Luther, however, took a position of adapting the use of popular,
secular tunes with the truth of Scripture. He also believed that
there was room in the church service for the use of instruments,
especially the organ, polyphonic choir singing as well as
congregational singing in the venacular. (Norman,) Luther said,
'To win popularity a song must be in the most simple and common
language.' (Miller, 113) Luther got his inspiration for his music
from the popular German ballads of his day. The tunes were
borrowed from German folk songs. (Leupold,196) Luther was not
so concerned with the associations or origins of the tunes as he
was with their ability to communicate Biblical truth. (Miller, 113)
Luther went as far as to say ' The devil has no need of all the good
tunes for himself.' He further stated that 'For the youth's sake we
must read, sing, preach, write and compose verse, and whenever
it was helpful and beneficial I would let all the bells peal, all the
organs thunder and everything sound that could sound'. (Miller, 114)
Luther cared only to communicate biblical truth and to set hearts
on fire for the Lord. Is this not the cry of those who support the
use of a variety of instruments as well as musical styles in church today?

Others did not agree with Luther. Zwingli reacted against the use
of any instruments that had association with the Catholic church.
Calvin went even farther in his opposition to Luther's 'liberal' use of
music in worship. Calvin felt that instruments were only tolerated
in the Old Testament because the people of God were only infants
then. He opposed the use of instruments and the singing in parts.
He also eliminated any lyric not found in Scripture. He allowed only
the singing of the Psalms in worship

Two strands of church music, that which is 'sacred' resulted from
the reformation: Germany followed Luther in the singing of hymns
and the use of instruments while England and Scotland followed
Calvin's psalm only singing with out instruments. John Bunyan's
attempt to introduce hymn singing into his church resulted in a
split and at his death in 1691 the church finally agreed to
compromise. Those who opposed to hymn singing could either sit
in the vestibule or sit quietly through it until that part of the service
was done. (kind of like what happens today during the choruses singing.)

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) returned from church and complained to
his father that the Psalm singing was boring. His father challenged
him to compose something better. And did he ever! He wrote over
750 hymns and psalms and had such an impact and influence on
hymnology that he is called the 'Father of English Hymnody'.
(Miller, 120-121) Watts advocated the use of hymns of human
composure as opposed to Calvin's strict 'Scripture only' position.

Watts was not so readily accepted. There were those who thought
he was placing his own human words above the Word of God.
There were also those who felt poetry used in any sense was evil
as it aroused the sensual pleasures of man and was too worldly to
be used in church. Churches split, pastors were thrown out of their
churches and many people were enraged over Watts hymns and
their use in the church.

The funny part of all this was that even though the acceptance of
Watts hymns was slow, it did happen. When hymn singing was
fully embraced by the church in Europe as well as in the US,
tradition set in and no other type of song should be sung in the
churches but Watts hymns. It seems Santayana was correct once again.

The Wesleyan Revival

John Wesley was the spiritual father of Methodism. He preached
about having a vibrant and exciting relationship with Jesus Christ.
He was evangelistic and highly energetic in his preaching. His
brother Charles was the musician in the family. His hymns were
influenced theologically by John's arminianism and the Anglican's
churches freedom of accepting new musical and worship styles.

In relation to the Psalm singing of the old Puritan tunes, the music
of Charles Wesley was considered 'pop' . Wesley's music is
tuneful, with dance like melodies which were often taken from
improvisatory instrumental music. (McElrath, 157) Much of his
music had secular origins and influences. He adopted new
melodies from the popular opera and English folk melodies. (Miller,
125) Wesley had no problems mixing the secular and sacred when
it came to writing songs to communicate a biblical message.

Gospel Songs of the 19th Century

The gospel songs of the 19th century had it's beginnings in the
revivalist camp meetings in rural America. The camp meeting
songs were characterized by phrase repetition and choruses.
(Eskew, 171) The term gospel hymn or song was popularized by
the Moody-Sankey revivals in 1875 in England. D.L. Moody had
been called the greatest evangelist in the 19th century and he
believed that singing played a vital role in evangelism. He said: "If
you have singing that reaches the heart, it will fill the church every
time...Music and song have not only accompanied all scriptural
revivals, but are essential in deepening the spiritual life. Singing
does at least as much as preaching to impress the Word of God
upon people's minds. Ever since God first called me, the
importance of praise expressed in song has grown upon me."

Moody realized that he needed something new as the rural camp
songs would not reach the urban people he was targeting. So he
found Sankey. Moody and Sankey clothed sacred songs in a style
that was indistinguishable from popular tunes. They found that this
enhanced the power of their ministry.

Again, not all were impressed with Moody and Sankey. The Scots
were deeply entrenched in the Psalm singing of Calvin and had
even rejected the wonderful hymn writing of their own Horatius
Bonar. The Scots considered organ music to be of the devil.
Someone once said that if Moody kept singing songs like he was
doing, pretty soon he would have the people dancing. (Miller, 133)
In the end, the music of Moody and Sankey was to have a
incredible influence on the revival in Scotland and England.

The Salvation Army and William Booth

William Booth (1829-1912) had a burden to reach the common
people of England who were not churched. He resigned his
position as a Methodist minister and began to work among the
poor in London. His work eventually became known as the
Salvation Army. Unique to Booth's music was his use of a wide
variety of instruments: violins, viola, concertives, brass instruments,
drums and anything that would make a pleasant sound before the Lord.

Salvationists brought their instruments together and formed
Hallelujah Bands' Not unlike the 'Praise Bands' today. Most of the
people he wanted to reached, the unchurched, didn't know the
church tunes popular at his day. So he took tunes from the local
music halls. He used secular tunes and added Christian words.
Booth wanted songs that were simple and in the language of the
people. Songs that would stick in the minds of the people when
they left his meetings. He saw thousands saved who never had
never stepped foot in a traditional church.

Again, however, not all saw these innovations as positive. Many
Victorian clergymen, the press and local officials saw this type of
music as offensive and distasteful. Others felt that the secular
tunes would remind the people of the secular words and lead them
to sin. This didn't happen and the songs caught on like wildfire.
Booth made this charge to his soldiers in the band: 'Music has a
divine effect upon divinely influenced and directed souls. Music is
to the soul what wind is to the ship, blowing her onwards in the
direction in which she is steered...Not allowed to sing that tune or
this tune? Indeed! Secular music, do you say? Belongs to the devil
does it? Well, if it did, I would plunder him of it, for he has no right
to a single note of the whole gamut. He's a thief!...Every note and
every strain and every harmony is divine, and belongs to us...So
now and for all time consecrate your voices and your instruments.
Bring out your harps and organs and flutes and violins and pianos
and drums and everything else than can make melody! Offer them
to God and use them to make all hearts about you merry before
the Lord.' (Miller, 136-137)

Contemporary Society

The late 1960's saw the beginning of the Jesus Movement in the
US. This movement saw the antiestablishment of the culture
seeping into the church. With this came the need for a new music
style was free from the tradition of the established church. Music
that was more experiential and subjective and that was concerned
with expressing how the individual felt in his relationship with God
was what was being sung during this time. Most in the tradition
church thought it a fad but they were mistaken.

It has not only lasted but that grown and matured to the
contemporary Christian music we have today. And the traditional
church is still fighting against it. Some see it as a fresh moving of
the Holy Spirit while others see contemporary Christian music as
a blatant compromise with the world. Not unlike what we have
experienced throughout the history of the church.

Those in favor and support of this movement see churches utilizing
this musical format as the fastest growing segment of the church
today. They see innovative pastors utilize contemporary Christian
music in their worship services, youth services and evangelistic
outreaches all with great success. In fact, even Billy Graham has
utilized Christian pop singers in his crusades.

Opponents say that what appears good on the surface is a thinly
veiled disguise of Satan trying to weaken the structure of the
church. It shows the total lack of discernment and an embrace of
all that's worldly by the church at large. They want a return to the
traditional pattern of church hymnody. Personally, I would like to
ask them which traditional pattern of hymnody are they talking
about, but that is another matter.

SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2005/12/16 15:10Profile

Joined: 2003/10/15
Posts: 1632


I love what Booth has to say here:

Not allowed to sing that tune or
this tune? Indeed! Secular music, do you say? Belongs to the devil
does it? Well, if it did, I would plunder him of it, for he has no right
to a single note of the whole gamut. He's a thief!...Every note and
every strain and every harmony is divine, and belongs to us...So
now and for all time consecrate your voices and your instruments.
Bring out your harps and organs and flutes and violins and pianos
and drums and everything else than can make melody! Offer them
to God and use them to make all hearts about you merry before
the Lord.'

In Him, Chanin


 2005/12/16 16:48Profile

Joined: 2005/2/8
Posts: 112


I personally have had a great desire to put some of the old, Biblically rich hymns that I love - so many of them - to a more modern tune, so they could be revived.

The problem that I have with much of modern music is not the tunes these issues:

1. The words: Often times, I am wondering which God they are singing about? There are so few references to Jesus, and so few references to anything other than a generic, all inclusive spirituality. The songs of Wesley, and Sankey, and all of the others may have had secular tunes, but they were rich in both the knowledge of the Word and in experience with Jesus. Much of the music today sounds like repetitive poetry - things that a non-Christian could easily sing to His God right alongside a believer. Our songs should be used to to imprint the Word on our heart, and remind us of the Gospel, of Jesus, the Word, etc....many of today's new songs sound like "I love you, you love me..."

2. Most of what is happening today, in mega churches, is the use of amplifiers and lights to manipulate the flesh and soul. But most times when I go to my local mega church, I have to sit down because of uncontrollable grief and tears - which are not contrived of my self. It is soulish - "and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play".

I say this without any apology - last week, my local mega church started off its worship by singing the song "God" by Tori Amos - you remember,

"What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home....nobody calling on the phone....except for the pope maybe in Rome".

What a blasphemous notion to even utter among saints (if they truly are)? Where is God hallowed? Where is our fear of Him? However, many were singing right along.

Anyay, I could go on forever. The article is true, as long as it is embraced by people who exalt the Word, fear God, and know Christ.

Otherwise, the same truths can be used by the compromising to justify their means by quoting a small section of church history, and neglecting the far weightier matters that were both the fuel and the fire of those moves they say they are mimicking.

I have been extremely blessed lately by the "Christ our Life" music that was uploaded.

 2005/12/16 20:25Profile

Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3777


Whenever something is done over and over again, the conscience thinks it is right. And if it is done over and over again in church, the conscience thinks that it is GOD'S WAY, and any other way must be wrong.
So people squabble because they really believe that they are right, and they are defending God's music.

I just finished listening to a sermon by John Bevere about idols in our lives. His words would be appropriate for music related issues. Music becomes an idol when it holds our affections more than God does, when we can't get along without it, when we are overly dependant on it, or when it is our path to God.

The Bible tells us that dissention is caused by wrong desires. Music of any kind can become a sinful desire. And it doesn't matter how much one justifies it - even if Billy Graham used it, or even if it did great things in past revivals.

The secular music production industry is making millions off of our fleshly idolatrous Christian music dependencies.
Meanwhile, the poor and needy get put on the back burner, and sin remains buried while God's people are having the time of their life "worshipping" God with their music.

.... oh dear, I'm starting to sound like Ravenhill.


 2005/12/16 21:39Profile

Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3777

 Re: When our music is our idol

sin remains buried while God's people are having the time of their life "worshipping" God with their music.

This should have read: " worshiping their music" , or "worshiping their worship."

Actually, this could be said of any aspect of religious ritual - whether ancient or modern.
The golden calf was merely a blob of gold, but in the hearts of the people it was much more than that. It was in their minds where they had forged God into their own image - an image they had absorbed in Egypt. And likewise for us, it is in our minds where anything and anyone can become an idol.

I believe that many who have been caught up in controversies over music never looked deeply enough into the real issues of the heart. They did not put the dividing lines in the right place. The sharp two-edged sword of the word of God was never applied correctly. And nothing has changed even today.

It is not the music that is the real issue with God, but what is in the heart. Here are some diagnistic questions we could ask ourselves to test if our music has become and idol for us:

1. Do I need a certain kind of music to make me FEEL like I am worshipping God?

2. Can I get along WITHOUT it?

3. Do I believe that the kind of music that I like must be what God likes too (making God into my own image)?

4. Am I so wrapped up in my music that I fail to empathize with others around them - ie I have no clue what is going on in their lives, and I really don't care?

5. Do I regard my musical involvement as my sacrifice to God, when really it is merely a way to satisfy my senses?

6. Do I control others in order to get what I want, and fail to appreciate or involve those who may have different musical abilities or interests?

7. Is what's happening on the platform at my church sacred to me (ie more importance than God)?

8. If God calls you to surrender it, would you?

There are many more questions we could ask. Maybe you have some.

Idolatry is a serious problem - a violation of the first two commandments in the OT and the greatest commandment in the NT. We are all prone to it, so, it is worth allowing God to examine our hearts regarding our music. ("worship")



 2005/12/17 9:15Profile

Joined: 2005/1/14
Posts: 2164


To me, its not always the music but the words. Personally there is some music I do not like. Most of what grieves me about much of the modern music is the shallowness of it. Sometimes you have to even search for biblical truth! That's absurd to think that in a "Christian" song you have to search for "Christian" trues.

I like the older songs/hymns mainly because of the depth of them. So many of them are practically sermons!

Josh Parsley

 2005/12/17 11:11Profile

Joined: 2005/9/8
Posts: 60



As a musician and a follower of Jesus, I have issues abounding regarding music in worship, teaching, evangelizing, et al. I may post at greater length on this in the future. I just wanted to say this, regarding my experience last week, in case anyone wants to comment;

I was at a full-gospel church in Bangkok last Sunday and they played "Jingle Bell Rock"... twice.

J. Buzza

 2005/12/17 13:16Profile

Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3777

 Re: How would you handle conflict regarding music?

PreachParsly said:

I like the older songs/hymns mainly because of the depth of them. So many of them are practically sermons!

GodsPeace said:
I have issues abounding regarding music in worship,

I have some questions for you two, or for anyone that matter:

If there was controversy in your church regarding music, how would you (if the pastor) handle it?

Would your strategies promote Christian maturity?




 2005/12/19 7:57Profile

Joined: 2005/12/13
Posts: 15
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Controversy indeed!

I am a bit both ways here. I think that using contemporary music to glorify God is awesome, and not a practice to be stopped. I have come to like Hymns in the last few years and respect them, but I feel that to reach out to this generation, we need to be using such songs. Also, I enjoy guitar riffs and bass lines that shake the floor.

However, recently I have become dissatisfied with the majority of Christian music that is poular at this time. I feel that a lot of it is very shallow.

Personally, I feel that there are enough "love songs" in modern Christian music, and not enough that probe deep into the character of God, and bring the singer to an acute realisation of the character of God through the lyrics.

Songs that draw heavily from scriptures, and that speak not only of God's love and mercy, but also speak of His holiness, His justice, His righteousness, more than just the passing references given to them now.

Songs that show more than a 1-D or 2-D picture of God and who He is.

Matthew Peterson

 2005/12/20 20:38Profile

Joined: 2005/11/18
Posts: 17


That is what I love about God so much, the fact that it does not matter how you worship or where you worship or what "tunes" stir worship in your heart, if you are truly seeking, you're going to see Him. God will never leave Himself w/out a testimony of Himself to the person that is seeking Him with all of their heart. I really believe that the the style or genre of the music is irrelevant, but that it is the person behind the music, what they stand for, and if the Holy Spirit is authoring the work. Rap, rock, country, jazz, pop, Hip-Hop, acoustic, worship music...all can be used mightily to glorify the Lord and bring Him honor, no doubt. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14

 2005/12/20 21:09Profile

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