The Reason Why…

Hello, and thanks for stopping by! Whatever the means or reason by which you got here, you’re now reading this, so let’s see if I can put you in the picture regarding this blog.

Before we get to things such as the definition of ‘theomusicology,’ the reason for this blog is very simple. I am a serious, confessional, non-liberal (or conservative, if you prefer the term) Seventh-Day Adventist Christian who has basically had enough of not only the so-called ‘worship wars’ but the serious lack of genuinely informed debate in the ‘Venn-diagram’ space where Christian theology, music, worship and liturgy meet, overlap, intersect – etc (you know what I mean, I hope!). Theologians are often badly informed vis-a-vis music, and while musicology and ethnomusicology do not necessarily tell us quite as much about music as many of their proponents would have us believe, the fundamental lack of geniune knowledge about musical materials by many Christian musical practitioners is very, very startling.

It is less surprising that clergy don’t always understand music as a phenomenon, but if more of them did, my feeling is that they’d be more on top of the (at times very strange) musical practices that take place in certain churches…

However, as a musician, I have found that church musicians right across the denominational spectrum are nowhere near as theologically savvy as would be ideal. If you are a Christian of the non-liberal variety, then your ‘God-concept’ might well conform to Anselm’s definition of God as ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived.’ Such a God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent – and, to use a nice evangelical formulation, ‘worthy of the highest praise.’ Now, if you don’t see God that way, then you will most likely be espousing a very different theological outlook, and so you might find all of this less than interesting. No problem! Feel free to still have a look, or move on elsewhere. If you wish to comment, please feel free to do so.

Moving on, if we look at the fact that significant numbers of people the world over consume (yes, in a fiscal sense) sacred music of all varieties, ranging from what I call the RSCM traditions (SATB choirs in robes, organ, orchestra etc – ‘choral evensong’ in the Anglo-Catholic traditions) to African-American urban gospel music – but despite having attended performances, bought recordings of such music, or both still do not in any way find themselves drawn to a place where they feel the need to learn more about the God that the music speaks about, we have to ask if these so-called ‘music ministries’ are doing what they claim to do!

It is my hope and prayer that confessional Christians from all denominations may read what is written on these pages and gain some form of insight/blessing. I have not created a blog exclusively for Seventh-Day Adventists, who I have found to be no more enlighted when it comes to principles of debate than any other Christian adherent. However, we SDA-types (well, most of us) do hold to the Reformation principle of sola scriptura – the Bible and the Bible alone, and so some of the interpretations of the Bible espoused by other believers are only problematic as far as we are concerned. That said, my experience is that many Adventists don’t do as well as they might in engaging honestly with people who think and believe differently.

I am no oracle, or genius intellectual, or gifted pastoral entity. I am simply here to interact with all those who say they love God and want to learn more about how we can grow closer to Him and create worship settings in our churches which shatter the artifices of cultural preference and aesthetics. Not all such people are members of my church.

Certain Roman Catholic theologians have written in ways about Protestantism that I have found to be less respectful than would be ideal – both in terms of personal spirituality and even academically. However, I do in fact welcome comments from Roman Catholics, including those who believe in papal infallibility. There is no way I can ever subscribe to Roman Catholic theology, but I have known some sincere and earnest RCs, and while there will be some inevitable disagreements all round, we are ALL God’s children, and the bigotry of some Protestants towards RCs is equally unacceptable in the sight of God.

Lastly – all this is designed to hopefully have an impact on the local church – Seventh-Day Adventist and otherwise. What is the point of people going out to work hand in glove with the Holy Spirit to win souls for God, only for these new converts to end up in churches where the constant infighting over worship styles continues to fragment our worshipping communities? This is not about academic aesthetics. This is about reaching over and across the barriers and artifices that divde and stratify us in our various societies, and overcoming cultural preferences and unregulated traditions to create safe and sanctified spaces where all those who truly believe that the Great Commission (Matthew 20:18-20) can reach out and share the Gospel with those who have never met Jesus for themselves. This, to my mind, is what all of us – laypeople and congregants, musicians and worship leaders, theologians and clergy, learned or not so learned, old and young, male and female – are supposed to be doing; worshipping God ‘in spirit and in truth.’

God bless you!

Advertisements

14 comments on “The Reason Why…

  1. Audley Chambers says:

    I want to thank you for inviting me to your theomusical blog. Your introduction caught my interest. I will be coming back from time to time to seriously take part in what I hope will be informed discussions. Thanks.

  2. I hope so too! This is a serious step into the unknown, but it is early days as yet, so we will see what transpires…

  3. Paulette Martin says:

    Alex thank you for this. I hope to learn more about HOW as individuals and groups of people who profess to love and want to serve the Lord can do so sincerely in this medium which can so easily seem so right but can be so sincerely wrong. Let the discussions of the word of God in worship begin!!

  4. theomusicologist says:

    Paulette, thanks for being the first person in my local church to respond up on here! May you not be the last…:-)

  5. Dan Finkbiner says:

    Wow, it never occured to me that theomusicology could possibly be a thing, but google search led me to your blog. I come from a post-liberal Anabaptist theological persuasion with some Reformed leanings. I can certainly appreciate where you come from, although I imagine that I tend toward a more radical/liberal/social reading of scripture.

    I am actually working on my final paper in my MDiv program for a cross cultural studies class and am trying to find something profound to say about tonality and theology, particularly in Celtic folk music that is used in modern hymnody (IE Slane (Be Thou My Vision)). I confess that, at this point, I am at an academic aesthetic level with this, but I really am hearing your challenge to take it deeper. I wonder if there is some culture crossing way that the Holy Spirit can be said to move within the relationships between musical tones.

    • theomusicologist says:

      Wow, how extremely interesting! And I am so sorry for taking so long to reply to this!

      My snap response to that would be a resounding ‘yes’ – God is the author of our very ability to think and create, and the Holy Spirit can use all sorts of vehicles and mediums (media ??!!) to reach people. I was listening to a quite outstanding OT scholar break down some of the linguistic realities that arise out of the forms of Hebrew used in the OT, and he made the form that beauty – even in language forms – is a way in which we can know truth. So when we use notes and tones within melodic/harmonic/rhythmic frameworks that really have musical integrity, we are utilising the prerogative for creativity that comes from God himself. Language can be used to praise the Divine – so can music – and God facilitates that. When language and music are used for rather more profane purposes, He remains the author of these ‘good and perfect gifts’ but the Holy Spirit cannot work in the same way…

      Hope to be able to converse with you properly on this, you’ve got me going now… 🙂

  6. Charlotte says:

    Desperately wondering what God thinks of drums and middle of the road rock music as worship; no drums in OT worship, and no timbrels in the sanctuary, despite drums being used by surrounding countries. Was it because they stir up the flesh, which is at war with the Spirit, too much? What about rhythms derived from pagan, spiriting and animist rituals such as Latin rhythms and rock and roll, see Robert Palmer, Rock and Roll, an unruly history. Thank you, theomusicalogist!

    • theomusicologist says:

      No drums in OT worship?

      Charlotte, do you read Hebrew by any chance? Please tell me how you would construct a list of instruments used in temple worship – and indeed, in the entire OT. Have you taken a thorough look at the history of Jewish sacred music traditions? Is this your own information? Or has it been taught to you by someone else? I am happy to dialogue with you – but I’d love a response to these questions. And as for your book suggestion – how much time do you have for my suggested bibliography? Do you know the history of the organ? What do you know about the role of ‘dance’ in classical music?

      Thanks for engaging, Charlotte!

      • charlotte.bubb1@gmail.com says:

        Thank you for your response. I don’t know much about percussion instruments in traditional Jewish music, other than what is in 1 Chronicles and Psalms, where the timbrel is mentioned, which has been described as being nearer the tambourine than a drum as such. I would have time for some reading; I am at home with my four teenage boys, who are less demanding than previously and I don’t have a formal job. Twenty years ago I studied for a just one year at a good conservative evangelical bible school. But I have no knowledge of the history of Jewish sacred music; or the role of dance in classical music, if you mean Jewish music. I do not know about the history of the organ… The reason I wrote is that, having been a charismatic for c 30 years, I am now becoming concerned about the elevation of loud worship music in the services; it is sometimes very sensually stimulating because of the loud drumming. I don’t know whether people and myself are ‘excited’ by the beat or the Holy Spirit. I read the Dan Lucarini books, Alex Robertson’s Playing with Fire, and The Secret Power of Music by David Tame, as well as many articles on the Internet. Also Rock and Roll, an Unruly history by Robert Palmer, Rolling Stone editor, and Hole in Our Sole, Martha Bayles.

        I know that music affects people differently and cultural context affects the way music affects us – but from all my very amateur reading it would appear to me that music is a very powerful thing and that is not a neutral ‘force’ ie some styles take us more into ourselves/the flesh than others.

        I would be very interested to learn more of how much what seems originally to be African music compares with Jewish sacred music. If there were heavy beats in music ordained/ inspired by God, then I would feel happier to go with the flow.

        Thank you so Charlotte, UK

        >

      • theomusicologist says:

        Hey Charlotte, thank you very much for taking the time to explain where you are coming from!

        Okay, let me start by saying that I have learned a great deal in the last year – it is the first year that I have been in a more formal/official ministry post and I now realise that there are times when I sound tough and I am being that, and then times when I think I’m being gentle but actually I’m being tough. Not a single one of us knows everything, but this is right in the area in which there are so many problems of understanding and at times I let my frustration with this situation show more than it should. So I would also like to apologise for what I see is a more confrontational response to your first comment than I had intended.

        It is very interesting to me that as a conservative Christian who was raised against rock’n’roll and drums in all forms, I was also conditioned to believe that ‘charismatic’ Christians were long on their desire to experience a ‘worship high’ and very short on biblical literacy and doctrinal awareness. As it is, my chaplaincy activities have brought me into contact with a number of young Christians attending charismatic churches who have ended up on my radar because they wanted to study the Bible much more. They had clocked that ‘worship’ was not enough.

        All of us in whatever our traditions have to be honest enough to stop and critically evaluate what we are doing in our churches from time to time. I salute you for doing this. I do not want to come across like some sort of know-it-all, but let me pick up a few things from your first comment now.

        “Desperately wondering what God thinks of drums and middle of the road rock music as worship;”

        These are two different things. What does God think of drums? Good question. What does He think of any of our ‘modern’ instruments? I am not going to make the mistake I have made in the past of launching into a technical diatribe. I am going to point out that Western harmony as we know it did not exist in Bible times – over 1000 years after the NT canon closed, we have the origins of modern hymnody with harmony in four parts. So the assumption that keyboard instruments cannot be a problem but drums might be a problem is an assumption that has opened itself to critical attack from the outset. So whatever position anyone adopts, they need to be able to defend it. My viewpoint in a nutshell: God is less interested in WHAT is being played than with HOW it is being played. Psalm 33:3 exhorts the musician to play with “skill.” That is a musical value that in an ultimate sense is not dependent on individual aesthetics. Something is either in tune, or not. Or in time, or not. Etc. And then, the musician either has a sincere desire to worship God with their whole heart – or not. Only God is qualified to judge, but there are times when human beings can have a pretty good idea about the motivations of others; ‘by their fruits ye shall know them.’ If the worship setup really does resemble a rock concert, complete with smoke machines, people whipping up the crowd and a style of playing that showcases technique over God’s grace, people will know.

        As for ‘middle-of-the-road’ rock music, I guess you mean a style, right? Actual ‘middle-of-the-road’ rock music is secular music, not contemporary Christian music in a mid-rock style. What about that style? Does God like that? Similar question to last time: what would make God favour one musical style over another? I am NOT saying that ALL styles of music can be used to worship God, but there are mid-rock songs and groups who write wonderful music. And it’s not that loud and it is never all about the drums. What would make God favour contemporary ‘black’ gospel over contemporary ‘white’ CCM music? Or classical music over hymns? The internet is full of people making cases for and against one style over against another and most have the kind of biblical/theological reasoning that if applied to other questions would guarantee heresy on doctrinal matters that are in fact salvific.

        “no drums in OT worship, and no timbrels in the sanctuary, despite drums being used by surrounding countries. Was it because they stir up the flesh, which is at war with the Spirit, too much?”

        Interesting. I studied Jewish music traditions in some detail as a postgraduate student. It is a massive area of study; Jewish culture is more diverse than many realise and their musical traditions are hugely wide-ranging. And all of them go right back to temple traditions. This is not the kind of historical overview that I can right easily (it will take too long to type) but I am interested to know which of your authors (or whoever) is arguing that what can be defined as a ‘drum’ was used in neighbouring countries. Which countries? And what is the language in which they have gotten this information? There are several ‘Semitic’ languages, but what is the word that is being translated as ‘drum?’ And what is the definition of that word in the original language?

        1 Chronicles: 4000 instrumentalists. 288 singers. Some argue that David was not authorised by God to bring instruments into the temple. They use certain texts. Problem: if God wanted us to know that David should NOT have introduced instruments into temple worship, why do we have an injunction in Exodus 20 insisting that the priests not raise the altar beyond a certain height and also ensuring the dress modesty of the priesthood, but not a clear injunction as to what instruments were banned? Anytime a person makes a theological case using an ‘argument from silence’ they are on terribly thin ice – it is a flawed methodology of Scriptural reasoning that cannot bear scrutiny and cannot be consistently applied. So it fails the smell test theologically, but many of us STILL use this way of thinking and then wonder why people don’t find our Christian reasoning to be persuasive and compelling. If one is to argue that the only instruments that God approved of were the ones mentioned in Scripture, it is not just the organ/piano/keyboard/saxophone/drumkit that would have to be ditched – it would have to be all the songs and repertoire that can only be played on those instruments…so our hymns would need to go as well. And I can make this point much more rigorously and with more teeth if a genuine occasion arises.

        How do we know that there were no ‘drums’ in OT worship? How do we know that other countries had ‘drums?’ What is the logic in arguing that there were no drums when there were percussion instruments? Cymbals can make a very loud noise and can be played in all sorts of ways rhythmically…

        2 Chron. 29:25-30, “King Hezekiah then stationed the Levites at the Temple of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres. He obeyed all the commands that the LORD had given to King David through Gad, the king’s seer, and the prophet Nathan. The Levites then took their positions around the Temple with the instruments of David, and the priests took their positions with the trumpets. Then Hezekiah ordered that the burnt offerings be placed on the altar. As the burnt offerings were presented, songs of praise to the LORD were begun, accompanied by the trumpets and other instruments of David, king of Israel. The entire assembly worshipped the LORD as the singers sang and the trumpets blew, until all the burnt offerings were finished. Then the king and everyone with him bowed down in worship. King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to praise the LORD with the psalms of David and Asaph the seer. So they offered joyous praise and bowed down in worship.”

        We have no idea what those ‘other instruments’ were. We are not told. But it was not quiet. This suggests that volume is not the issue. You use a very important word: ‘sensuous’ to describe the effect of the drumming in various contexts.

        The fact that the drums can be played that way is undeniable. But when you hear ‘sensuous’ drumming, do you only ever hear drums? Think about it. Yes, drum solo features take place and they can and do whip up a frenzy. But no-one would listen to 3/4 songs in a row of just drums. What makes some tracks more sensuous than others? The bass has a huge role. The keys/guitar can also really create excitement and emotion – harmony is so powerful that some church musicians have gotten laid because of the chords they can play. Forget drums, some girls (and boys) are excited by harmony in very unspiritual ways. And the vocals are ALWAYS involved in the most sensuous songs. So the drum beat may be especially compelling, but all the other things on the track are complicit too – which means that to single out the drums because it is easy to pick out the beat is easy, but susceptible to major criticism as an interpretive outcome.

        “What about rhythms derived from pagan, spiriting and animist rituals such as Latin rhythms and rock and roll, see Robert Palmer, Rock and Roll, an unruly history.”

        I would be the first to agree that some rhythms are just not suitable for a church service. But what are the grounds of biblical and musical principle for any assertion of this nature? We can talk about the unholy origins of all sorts of things (the story of the organ goes back to pagan Rome). We can talk about the inappropriate use of all sorts of things (the Bible has been used to justify racism). Does any of that automatically make those things totally null and void? If I want to refer to a person as being happy and carefree, it is still technically within my rights to use the word ‘gay.’ But the difference between what gay ‘denotes’ (‘happy’ etc) and what it ‘connotes’ (homosexual) is considerable. We have a framework for certain things in our societies. The same is true of rhythms. Some immediately evoke a nightclub dance stage. Others, a military march. Now we are happy to use march-style rhythms in our sacred music – but not all Christians believe that our modern, geopolitical wars are endorsed by God and some choose never to bear arms even though we accept that war is a reality of our world. Would we suggest that a marching beat to ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ was an endorsement of human warfare?

        I hope that the principles of thought I am employing are made clear. I think I want to draw attention to this business of ‘African music’ – it seems to receive very bad press. Again, as an ethnomusicology student I studied some of the musics of the African continent. Some of the cliches used in anti-drum Christian music arguments are dire beyond comprehension…

  7. David keyes says:

    Hi TM,
    Seeking a few clarifications. Came here from viewing an interview with C.B., having heard him speak at a conference I attended.

    First let me clarify myself. I am an SDA, no apologies! I am Caucasian, likewise. I am a theological and SDA doctrinal conservative (clearly needs clarification), here I might offer some apologies (very relative to the clarification)!. I am an American, and grateful for it. But before all these I am a Christian! For me that is more than a name, it is a recognition of His Lordship (and thus His Father’s Lordship). The implication is an order of things, wherein I must place myself (the springboard for much of which involves our interpretive stance, ie: liberalism or conservatism).

    Now for my queries.

    You spoke of Sola Scriptura as a “norm” for SDA’s (“well, most of us”). Perhaps I would be presumptuous if I said that you should be aware that the criteria of sola scriptura is oft used today in SDA interchanges to, at best, limit the use of MORE CURRENT inspiration, specifically EGW. Is that your stance?

    In some of your blogs (ie: your replies to CB), you use an interesting style of writing, unless I misunderstand. It appears to be a monolog-dialog. Kind of like a pseudo-interview. Am I correct or is there a actually a ‘ghost’ interviewer whom you have not introduced? If I am correct then your style might offer some interesting side benefits for the writer. Like the ability to imply affirmation, even if only superficially. It also implies critical examination by an independent observer (to be fair you disclose your friendship), while providing an undisclosed control of the discussion. That would clearly be a critique.

    On the surface the debate between Libs and Cons (interesting abbreviational outcome) becomes a street level battle over styles and preferences. This is much to the advantage of the Libs, since the Cons gain little cover from their true motive of tradition. However, truth is not determined by the skill or ammunition used to defend or attack it. It remains a constant outside of it’s examination, otherwise it is only opinion. This can be logically derived from the multiplicity of opinion. Since we are not God, all we really have is opinion. So we are left with personally evaluating which opinion has credibility. Credibility is an individual achievement. We base it on an array of factors: education, experience, affect, appearance, even volume of presentation, along with a host of other preferences. It seems a general characteristic of thinking beings to have the desire to establish their credibility over that of others. (i’m aware that my dialog here does that as well). We have little control over exposure to the many factors that affect how we determine credibility. But God has given us one safeguard: reason based on clear thinking.

    I agree with your criticism of CB. It is self defeating to make an argument for credibility of his viewpoint by the use of easily revealed weak arguments. However, his error in presentation does not necessarily debunk his fundamental thesis. In other words, if a truth is poorly presented, the presentation doesn’t change that truth into falsehood.

    My take from CB was that the safeguard of clear thinking is being attacked by Satan through the use of various musical techniques. I think that is a thesis that warrants discussion, much more than the quality of the messenger, particularly by an apparently honest and well trained Theomusicologist. You are a resource for the church, and as such carry a responsibility to apply your influence to bless it. Your influence carries with it a weight of accountability. I pray that is your intent and will follow with interest to hear your take on that thesis.

    In that examination, I would offer the suggestion that while objective evidence should have a high priority in reaching a conclusion, reason based in clear thinking should not be excluded. I would also point out that reason goes beyond objective evidence in that it takes into account the evidence from inspiration. Paul the Apostle pointed that out in Romans 1 when he observed that even the deep things of God could be understood through those things that had been created. He must have been referring to reason based on clear thinking since others have interpreted the same created things in an obviously different way.

    Blessings in your endeavors here,

    Dave

    • theomusicologist says:

      Please see below for responses embedded in text:

      Hi TM,
      Seeking a few clarifications. Came here from viewing an interview with C.B., having heard him speak at a conference I attended.
      First let me clarify myself. I am an SDA, no apologies! I am Caucasian, likewise. I am a theological and SDA doctrinal conservative (clearly needs clarification), here I might offer some apologies (very relative to the clarification)!. I am an American, and grateful for it. But before all these I am a Christian! For me that is more than a name, it is a recognition of His Lordship (and thus His Father’s Lordship). The implication is an order of things, wherein I must place myself (the springboard for much of which involves our interpretive stance, ie: liberalism or conservatism).

      Hi Dave! Thank you very much for taking the time to say hello to a fellow SDA. Apologies would not have been accepted as they are wholly unnecessary. Like you, I am theologically (therefore doctrinally) ‘conservative.’ And the rest of the above accords perfectly.

      Now for my queries.

      You spoke of Sola Scriptura as a “norm” for SDA’s (“well, most of us”). Perhaps I would be presumptuous if I said that you should be aware that the criteria of sola scriptura is oft used today in SDA interchanges to, at best, limit the use of MORE CURRENT inspiration, specifically EGW. Is that your stance?

      This is a MOST interesting question. I’m in the UK, where things work differently here to the USA in certain ways. But many things are very similar. I am not qualified to make a specific statement about precisely how well ‘sola scriptura’ is understood technically in the USA. Here in UK Adventism I can say that my experience is that it is more often used than understood. And sometimes it is abused.

      I personally have not encountered the type of usage to which you refer. I am a theologian-in-training (although my home conference has made it clear that they recognise that I do not have to have completed my doctorate before they recognise my calling in this area). I only say that by way of saying that I have taught on this subject and there is no way that I could ever subscribe to such an understanding. I do have serious problems with the Adventist ‘tradition’ of referring to EGW as the ‘Spirit of Prophecy.’ The Spirit of Prophecy is MORE than just EGW – and sola scriptura is one of the five Reformation ‘solas’ which makes it impossible to honestly use the lexeme and only mean post-Reformation inspiration. How on earth has anyone figured that out??

      In some of your blogs (ie: your replies to CB), you use an interesting style of writing, unless I misunderstand. It appears to be a monolog-dialog. Kind of like a pseudo-interview. Am I correct or is there a actually a ‘ghost’ interviewer whom you have not introduced? If I am correct then your style might offer some interesting side benefits for the writer. Like the ability to imply affirmation, even if only superficially. It also implies critical examination by an independent observer (to be fair you disclose your friendship), while providing an undisclosed control of the discussion. That would clearly be a critique.

      I like you, Dave!

      Okay, I am deliberately employing a narrative device here for both general communications – but it also plays a role in the hermeneutic framework I am using for this discussion. The inspiration for this is based on the experiences I have had where my public ministry speaking has been pretty hard for many people to follow. So I decided to both explore and express my thinking on this matter simultaneously by using a conversation-style rhetoric which would provide a number of advantages. First, the idea was for it to be conspicuously more engaging (and hopefully more entertaining!). Better than yet another flow of words streaming away from me…and also, I have deliberately tried to incorporate the kinds of questions and criticisms that have actually turned up in real-life debates and discussions from friends, colleagues and others too. But my use of ‘friend’ is because I do have friendships which track along these same lines, and I want to really promote the idea of shared journeys to the kingdom as well as kind of give an insight into what conversations with theological types like myself can be like for those who befriend us! So I am engaging in literal self-critique as we go along and using my teaching/mentoring experiences!

      On the surface the debate between Libs and Cons (interesting abbreviational outcome) becomes a street level battle over styles and preferences. This is much to the advantage of the Libs, since the Cons gain little cover from their true motive of tradition. However, truth is not determined by the skill or ammunition used to defend or attack it. It remains a constant outside of it’s examination, otherwise it is only opinion. This can be logically derived from the multiplicity of opinion. Since we are not God, all we really have is opinion. So we are left with personally evaluating which opinion has credibility. Credibility is an individual achievement. We base it on an array of factors: education, experience, affect, appearance, even volume of presentation, along with a host of other preferences. It seems a general characteristic of thinking beings to have the desire to establish their credibility over that of others. (i’m aware that my dialog here does that as well). We have little control over exposure to the many factors that affect how we determine credibility. But God has given us one safeguard: reason based on clear thinking.

      I like the trajectory of this paragraph very much. I have also used the ‘street fight’ analogy for Con/Lib, but you handle this well. Beautiful insight regarding truth, and the sad thing is that although truth does indeed ‘remain a constant outside of its examination’ it may or may not be accepted depending on how well (or how effectively) it is taught/explained/disseminated. So I also agree with your critique of credibility. And as for your last sentence, I invoke Matthew 22:37 and specifically the word ‘mind…’

      I agree with your criticism of CB. It is self defeating to make an argument for credibility of his viewpoint by the use of easily revealed weak arguments. However, his error in presentation does not necessarily debunk his fundamental thesis. In other words, if a truth is poorly presented, the presentation doesn’t change that truth into falsehood. Indeed; it is for this reason that I have been as ‘slow’ and systematic in my response to his thesis – and I am sure that you already know that the same is true of the reverse. Some arguments are utterly false, but very well-made nonetheless.
      My take from CB was that the safeguard of clear thinking is being attacked by Satan through the use of various musical techniques. I think that is a thesis that warrants discussion, much more than the quality of the messenger, particularly by an apparently honest and well trained Theomusicologist.

      What you have stated makes perfect sense. Alas, I am not sure that CB was making an argument with that level of depth and clarity. My ‘reading’ of the video in question is that he is determined a make a very specific case against syncopation, and that the wider principle of being concerned for the wider issue of the threat against the safeguard of clear thinking happens to work really well for that. If he were working on that deeper level of principle, he would ideally have expressed the manner of his concern in a more focussed manner. In this regard I do agree that it can be perceived as self-defeating to destroy weak arguments. It is for this reason that I am hoping to not so much ‘destroy his arguments’ as opposed to using what I will now describe as a ‘conversational hermeneutic’ to help encourage readers to actually think and question for themselves rather than merely ‘listen’ to loquacious (and lengthy) shakedowns from me.

      You are a resource for the church, and as such carry a responsibility to apply your influence to bless it. Your influence carries with it a weight of accountability. I pray that is your intent and will follow with interest to hear your take on that thesis.
      In that examination, I would offer the suggestion that while objective evidence should have a high priority in reaching a conclusion, reason based in clear thinking should not be excluded. I would also point out that reason goes beyond objective evidence in that it takes into account the evidence from inspiration. Paul the Apostle pointed that out in Romans 1 when he observed that even the deep things of God could be understood through those things that had been created. He must have been referring to reason based on clear thinking since others have interpreted the same created things in an obviously different way.
      Blessings in your endeavors here,
      Dave

      I take your words – and my role (such as it is) very seriously. It includes currently serving at the Office of my home conference, and that has been my greatest life challenge to date. I now know that I have been called to a teaching ministry, and that is something which I look forward to growing in.

      I have been spelling out the reasoning principles in the first two responses to CB, and I will be digging into technicalities and the ‘objective evidence’ that we can discern from musicology as we examine precisely what syncopation is. We do need evidence from inspiration, and the Bible and EGW are incredible resources. But what you are describing as ‘reason based on clear thinking’ is not separate from the spiritual and devotional side of things – they are all part of a life of worship of God with both body and mind! So we can reason from science – and from philosophy – as well as Biblically grounded theology. And all of those elements are not only at work as I respond to CB; they are part of me for the rest of my life – privately and publically.

      Blessings likewise, my brother in Christ!

  8. Jonathan Caro says:

    I am very happy to have come across your blog. I have been personally struggling with coming to grips with contentious points concerning secular music and styles of playing, and the point of view held by the SDA church. I even questioned whether personally investing the analysis and consideration of such topics was even necessary or fruitful. I did not want to be guilty of convincing myself of something that wasn’t right just because I wanted to believe it or hoped it to be true, even if I felt like I could argue it well. The efforts you have put forth towards articulating some of your points has helped me find some resolution.

    A recent thought I had that I would like to share, is why being a career musician has to be burdened with the idea that, as a Christian, secular music must be so strongly discriminated against? No distinction is made for any other professional career, as long as you are not dishonest. It seems perfectly ok to be a “secular accountant” or “secular lawyer,” and no one would tell a person on either career path that in order to be a proper Christian your accounting work is only permissible if it is “sacred accounting” or a “sacred practice.”

    The bible in no way even implies that there is any kind of immorality associated with music (not that I’m trying to say that anything and everything is permissible, but it’s true). All arguments are merely personal inferences.

    And as far as statements made by Ellen White are concerned, it is of my point of view that Satan will and can use any means possible to turn our hearts away from God, just as she warns against, but it is what happens in the heart that is the sin, not the syncopation, not the harmony, not the melody. When pride or lust enters the heart anything is sinful, and the enemy will find his foothold wherever he can, whether it be power from career advancement or anything else. Does that mean it’s a sin to accept a promotion? Of course not. Is it a sin to use this chord progression or have that melodic contour? Hardly.

    The devil is a thief and a liar, and he does not own dotted-eighth notes or tritones.

    • theomusicologist says:

      Jonathan, many thanks for taking the time to read and share. This blog was written for many people, but people just like you – members of my own church – are amongst those whom I most wanted to reach.

      I have suffered badly as a professional musician who is also Seventh-Day Adventist – and non-liberal at that. The truth is that I am still recovering from some of that, but God is doing an amazing work in my life and this blog is for me as well as for whosoever chooses to read.

      The devil is indeed a thief and a liar, and he is also a created being. No constructions of harmony or rhythm could ever be exclusively his, because he did not make music and as such can never possess that level of ownership authority…! FYI, here is another blog with some more music-related articles:

      radicallyadventist.wordpress.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s