Deeper, Please


From Scott Aniol, Worship In Song, pages 190-194

Often people excuse shallow music (or preaching) by saying that new Christians cannot handle deep doctrinal truth.  John Frame praises modern music on the basis that it is accessible to young or immature believers. “CWM is Christian music that is immediately accessible – to the young as well as the old, to the immature as well as the mature.”[1]

This argument, however, does not hold up when you consider that the Epistles, written primarily to new believers, are packed with deep doctrinal truth.  Paul’s marvelous treatise on the doctrine of salvation in the book of Romans contains substantial truths such as predestination, election, justification, atonement, adoption, reconciliation, propitiation, depravity, justification, and sanctification among many others.  New believers in Ephesus received a letter from Paul that addressed topics such as predestination, election, regeneration, adoption, depravity, and the doctrine of the church.  Paul addressed the weighty topic of eschatology in his letters to the new believers in Thessalonica.

Remember, none of the believers in these churches, including the pastors, were seasoned believers.  Many were probably mature believers, but this was not because of the length of their salvation.  It was because these new Christian fervently studied rich truths.

Consider also the hymn texts that are found in Scripture and were sung by early Christians.  Many sections of the New Testament were written in the patterns of classical Greek poetry and were quickly adopted as hymns in the early church.  Here are some examples:

Philippians 2:6-11 (KJV)
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1 Timothy 3:16 (KJV)
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

2 Timothy 2:11-13 (KJV)
For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

Modern worship is not the only music guilty of shallowness, however.  Some of what might be considered, “good old hymns” fail the same evaluation applied to modern music.  Note the following critique:

[This style of music] is nothing if not emotional.  It takes a simple phrase and repeats it over and over again.  There is no reasoning, nor are the lines made heavy with introspection.  “Tell me the story simply, as to a little child.”  The feelings are touched.  The stuffiest of us become children again.”[2]

That sounds like it could be a critique of modern worship music, but it is actually a 19th century pastor describing “The American Gospel Hymn.”

We must be careful, in our critique of modern worship music, to be willing to apply our own arguments to what has often been considered “traditional” music.

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Worship leaders: think about the songs you choose to put on the people's lips. Think pastorally!  Think theologically!  Think lyrically!  Think musically!

Pastors: Let's go deep.  Let's challenge our people with deep spiritual truths that will allow the Holy Spirit to transform their lives and draw them closer to the Father.

Journeying with you...

[1] Frame, Worship Music, 126.

[2] Spencer Curwen, Studies in Worship Music (1885) quoted in Eric Routley, The Music of Christian Hymns (1981), 137.