Friday, October 07, 2005

More on Preaching in Music

Yesterday's post got a firestorm of response for this blog: two comments! Whew. I almost didn't know what to do with myself, but I took a few hours to sort through it all. Here are some concluding remarks on my rather controversial remark of yesterday.

I want to affirm wholeheartedly that I am for the inclusion of all kinds of biblical truths in music. Much of the music I listen to on a daily basis is rich with Scripture and interpretations of Scripture. My comment, then, refers to the way in which one presents content, not so much with the content itself. In music, it seems, telling a story fits better with the genre than does merely reciting content. This is not to say that I do not sometimes enjoy listening to sermonic music. There are times when such art is just what is needed. But on the whole, I would say that music, and the messages that artists communicate through music, are fitted well for metaphor. Artists, even Christian artists, don't often put a sermon to melody. Instead, they will take an idea, or set of ideas, a doctrine even, and then express it by using images and telling stories. This seems a natural part of verbal music.

I love hearing Scripture pictured and even expounded in music. But the most effective way to do so in music seems to be to mix in rich images, metaphors, and stories that bring poetry to the truth or idea one is considering. We don't simply sing "As a Christian, I want to go to heaven but it's not time yet/Because the sovereign will of God has not determined that it be so." Rather, we sing, "On Jordan's stormy banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye/To Cana's fair and happy land, where my possessions lie." Both of these verses express Christian truth. But one mixes in moving images and poetic language. This is but one example of many I find that speaks to me that music is better suited to poetic expression than dogmatic utterance. Don't get that wrong--we still express dogma, but we do so with poetry and story. In this we see a part of creation's beauty. We are not confined to indicative statements, but can communicate deeply through the language of the heart.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think music is a great medium through which to observe the tension between what is and what should be. These observations are often couched in the form of a narrative culminating in an implied or stated moral. I think the telling and subtle spin of a story creates the unique opportunity for the listeners to fill in the blanks and make judgments, often drawing parallels and making applications to their own lives. Nuance, subtlety and implication are perfectly at home in the realm of music. In general I think that polemical dogmatism makes for great preaching but rarely results in good poetry.

8:10 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home