October 2018: The text below is the original introduction (“The Reason Why”) to this Theomusicology Blog from 2008.
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!