Upcoming Article in LOGIA Tells the Truth about “Contemporary Worship”

By Martin R. Noland

I am privileged to work as one of a number of editors at “LOGIA:  A Journal of Lutheran Theology.”  As an editor, I see final proofs of the issues before they go to print and our subscribers.  Today I received the final proof of Volume 20, #1, Epiphany 2011, on the topic of “Lutheranism in Europe” with a beautiful stained glass cover.

What the readers of “Brothers of John the Steadfast” will be most interested in, I think, is the article by Pastor Robert Mayes titled “Controversial Church Music:  Then and Now.”  I don’t think Pastor Mayes’ article will generate controversy, but it will settle a lot of uninformed arguments.

Mayes has done a superb job in examining the history of the change of worship music “styles” in the Lutheran church in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century.  And he has done the historical work with an eye to our contemporary problems.  Anyone who has an interest in the issue of “contemporary worship” needs to read this article, whether they are pro or con “contemporary worship.”

How can you get a copy of this article?  If you are in commuting distance to a Lutheran seminary or university library, you can wait until it appears on the journal shelves there.  I have noticed that LOGIA issues are often “on reserve,” so you may have to ask at the desk.

If you don’t have ready access to a Lutheran library, and are not a subscriber, maybe now is the time to consider your own subscription.  Here is the link to subscribe in print or online.

Prices currently are $30 a year for print issue; $56 for two years for print issue; $25 a year for seminarians for print issue; $20 a year for online issue (PDF).

If you miss the issue you want, you can purchase back issues online here.

For those who have not heard of LOGIA, a bargain is the first ten years of LOGIA on CD in PDF format, available here at current price of $25.

I would like to publicly thank the Rev. Daniel Preus and the Board of Directors of the Luther Academy for their service to the church in their continued publication and support of LOGIA, now nearing twenty years.  I also want to publicly thank my fellow editors and staff for their faithful labors in supporting good Lutheran theology in LOGIA.

If you don’t subscribe to LOGIA, you don’t know what you are missing!


Upcoming Article in LOGIA Tells the Truth about “Contemporary Worship” — 6 Comments

  1. Pastor Noland,
    Good commercial for a great journal. The articles in Logia are incisive theologicall astute. Like the article mentioned above (that I will eagerly read) the articles are timely for confessional Lutherans, and they are also timeless. I quite often will pick up an old journal and read or re-read an old article. Indeed, Rev. Preus and the BoD are to be thanked, and supported with our subscriptions.

  2. I began reading Logia several years ago and let it lapse. I will reup to receive this new article. I always found the material to accessible to any involved layman.

  3. Rev. Robert (Rob) Mayes is a parish pastor at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Churh in Fullerton, Nebraska. He is an outstanding parish pastor and and a brilliant Lutheran theologian. I believe he is one of a number of young pastor/theologians in our church body that gives us great hope for the direction of confessional Lutheranism among us for many years to come!

  4. I will read the article but with a jaundiced eye because Logia is not neutral on the topic of worship.

  5. Just received the article over the internet. Interesting piece, comparing the discussions in the 17th/18th century regarding the “Italian style” of church music (think Bach’s cantatas and oratorios) with the contemporary discussions regarding the use pop music in the church.

    Ok, I like Bach and I don’t like pop. There. I said it. BUT this is not yet a decision for the liturgical suitability of the former. If, as Mayes correctly states, church music must be in accord with a theology that confesses the efficacy of the word of God, then you have to wonder: does the “Italian style” agree with such a confession? It was developed in Italy, in a Catholic context. Catholic theology, like the Reformed variations we’re mostly dealing with today, does not confess the efficacy of the plain word of God as a means of grace. Catholic worship services were / are more for seeing than for hearing. The music developed in that context regularly obscures the text, unlike the earliest Lutheran church music (prior to the advent of the Italian style at the time of M. Praetorius), instead of highlighting it.

    To be sure, Bach’s cantata music is no longer associated with the opera or the theater (and of course opera and theater are now, unlike in the day of C. F. W. Walther, acceptable even among LCMS Lutherans — unless there’s explicit nudity, perhaps). So, that particular cultural ballast is no longer an issue. And it is set to quite profound, and quite orthodox, texts. That would be a big plus!

    However, what about the understandability of the text? First off, it’s German, which is a problem if you live in America. Second, often the impressive, highly artistic music does get in the way, esp. since most Americans (as well as most Germans) are not schooled to understand this music properly. So, is music here a veil behind which the text disappears, leading to some word-less, mystical rapture in the hearers after the last notes of a particularly impressive piece have been played?

    Is music understood as some sort of semi-means of grace that “emotionally prepares” the hearts of the hearers so that the word, in connection with the music, is efficacious to create faith? But wouldn’t this type of understanding of music fall under Walther’s verdict (in his book on Law and Gospel) that he directed against the overly rhetorical revival preachers of his day: in their attempt to arouse strong emotions, they actually miss the hearts of their hearers?

    What does all this looking for non-verbal “attractiveness” have to do with the foolishness of the gospel that the church is commanded to preach in season and out of season?

    Rev. Mayes is to be thanked for raising this issue again (after J. Herl’s 2004 book on worship wars in early Lutheranism on which he draws as well). He shows the questions of suitability of a particular new style of music are not new in a church that tries to be “contemporary” (in a good sense) and is not legalistically tied to one particular cultural synthesis (as seen in Eastern worship). He also shows that the orthodox Lutherans in the 17th/18th century might not have had the timeless answers we might be looking for today. They might have been too much engrossed in the controversy with “the Pietists” already: since the latter were “against” the Italian style, the former might have felt constrained to be for it, even though their theological thinking should have suggested otherwise.

    Happy New Year to all.

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