Steadfast in Worship: Why Doesn’t Contemporary Worship Sing the Psalms?

psalmChristian worship has always made significant use of the Psalms, which have always been meant to be sung.  No matter what your approach to Biblical instruction in the area of music in worship, from strict “regulative-ist” to libertine “normative-ist,” there is no getting away from the fact that of all the directives to the New Testament church regarding worship, this one specific instruction is repeated (Ephesians 5:18-19, Colossians 3:16):  Sing the Psalms!  (The meaning of “hymns” and “spiritual songs” aside, it is clear enough that the actual Psalms are to be part of our musical vocabulary.)  They are quoted constantly throughout the New Testament by authors who no doubt had a strong familiarity with them due to the place of prominence they had in the Jewish and emerging Christian spirituality of the time.  Paul commends this to all Christians everywhere.

As does the example of Christ.  The Psalms are the answer to the question “What would Jesus sing?”  Indeed, they are not only the songs that Christ did sing as an observant Jew, they are the song of Christ Himself!  As the living Word, these poems, like all Scripture, testify to Him, and are dripping with Christo-centricity.  They are essential to the formation of our understanding of what praise, thankfulness, repentance, lament, and trust during hardship look like.  As Bonhoeffer says:

“It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart.”

The Psalms teach us the heart of Christ.  There is no better way to solidify these texts as anchors of our spirituality than to sing them.  Doing so more deeply engrains them in our memories.  They challenge all faux spirituality and pretentious piety by their unfiltered bluntness and relentless honesty.  No negative emotions are hidden in their depths, as 69% of them are in the genre of lament.  In singing the Psalms, we remove the mask of the “good Christians” that organized religion pressures us to be, and confess who we truly are in light of the goodness of who God is.  And through this often painful journey of self discovery, we come to delight in and rejoice over who God is for us and what He has done for us, in Christ.  They confront us with sentiments and emotions we prefer to hide from, that make us uncomfortable, and bring them into the light of God’s grace.  When you begin to sing the Psalms, you will find yourself singing things about yourself and about God that you have never sung before.  That there are churches who do not avail themselves of this spiritual boon at all is plain insanity for those who claim to be disciples of Christ.

Throughout the centuries, various expressions of Christendom have found diverse means of carrying this out, from the antiphonal chanting of Augustine’s time to the metrical paraphrases of the Reformers, Anglican chant to polyphonic motets and anthems, modern responsorial settings or brief versicles and suffrages.  You will find these expressions core to the doxological anthologies of Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Presbyterian/Reformed church bodies.  The number of resources available to assist congregations seeking to sing the Psalms in worship is tremendous.  Most churches following a lectionary sing a whole chapter or pericope from the Psalms weekly, some even more if the introit is sung.

congregation-singing

The one exception from this is where traditional lectionary based churches do “contemporary” services.  Even if they retain the other readings, the Psalm is never sung.  There is no tradition common to the current demographic of global Christianity that makes less use of the Psalms than contemporary worship.  Walk into any generic Evangelical contemporary service and you will find no evidence of the concept that the church ever even used to sing the Psalms.  In LCMS churches who mimic their iconoclast leadership, where the “new worship plan” looks remarkably similar to what was trending in Evangelicalism 15 years ago with music led by guitar and band, the Psalms are rarely present.  In both cases, when they do appear at all, they are usually read responsively, or as a brief snippet in between songs with ambient underscore, or as a simple Scripture reading.  Contemporary congregations that go even that far are a minority.  And yet they tout their equivalence to the tradition of Divine Service as a mere difference in style and not in substance.  If you’re not singing the Psalms, there is a significant substantive difference in your worship, in addition to a harmful selective reading of the New Testament.

A common defense used by the proponents of contemporary worship is that they do, in fact, sing the psalms, because of the many praise songs that pull words, phrases, or ideas from the Psalms, in a sort of “the Message” paraphrase (plenty of examples can be found in this handy resource).  But borrowing a few lines or phrases is not the equivalent of singing the whole text, as if singing “Praise the Lord” and “God is holy,” was the same singing the Psalms just because they also include those phrases.  Chris Tomlin’s “Forever” is commendable for it’s direct quotes to and allusions from Psalm 136 (better contemporary songwriting sticks as close to the words of Scripture as possible), but let’s not kid ourselves:  It’s not the same thing as actually singing Psalm 136.  Not even close.  This Psalm recounts the history of God leading the Israelites out of slavery.  It doesn’t merely say a few nice things about God.  It proclaims his mighty works on behalf of his people in detail.  The “Psalm-ish” sentiments populating contemporary Christian music hardly do this.  On rare occasion, a real gem will come through that actually deals fairly with a significant portion of a pericope, but for the most part it is safe to say that contemporary Christian music lacks a serious engagement with the practice of singing the Psalms congregationally, especially as it is practiced in congregations of the LCMS.

You actually can find, without having to look too hard, plenty of resources for singing the Psalms in contemporary worship (starting with this handy index).  A lot of it makes wonderful ear candy, even if it isn’t accessible enough for congregational singing or easily achievable by your volunteer musicians.  I find much of it very useful for meditation on God’s Word, and it’s been the stuff of my iPod for years.  You won’t be hearing much of it on Christian radio anytime soon, or see it at the top of CCLI popularity charts, even though I think it is more artistic, creative, and engaging than anything on Christian radio by leaps and bounds.

It all kind of makes me wonder.  If the Scriptures are relatively clear on this and the benefits are easily discernible, why the lack of Psalm singing?  I almost looks like a disregard for the Bible’s instruction on worship.  If your congregation does contemporary worship or has a contemporary service, does it include the singing of Psalms?  Why not?

Most of the resources I’ve linked here come from the broader Reformed community.  Kudos to their many musicians who are laboring to develop the singing of Psalms in their congregations.  It is time for us to take the fingers out of our ears, follow their lead in pursuing biblical fidelity, and check our blind alliance to the commercial driven industries of explicitly charismatic Integrity and Hillsong music.  Sing the Psalms, or quit pretending your worship is either Biblical or faithfully Lutheran.

Congregations of the LCMS using contemporary worship are without excuse for their neglect of congregational Psalmody.  For those so inclined to work towards recovering the practice, here are a few additional resources:

Index of congregational Psalms:  http://thepsalmindex.blogspot.co.uk/

Contemporary Psalm recordings (great listening!):

http://psalms.bandcamp.com/

http://www.psalterproject.com/

https://www.theshiyrpoets.com/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/psalms-vol.-2/id1049951699

Example of an excellent contemporary Psalm setting: http://www.scoreexchange.com/scores/146419.html

About Miguel Ruiz

Miguel Ruiz is a post-Evangelical adult convert to confessional Lutheranism and a vocational church musician. He is a commissioned Minister of Religion in the LCMS, serving Our Savior Lutheran Church and School in Centereach, New York, as the director of parish music and music teacher. His journey down the Wittenberg trail began when he was roused from his dogmatic slumber by the writings of Michael Spencer and Robbert Webber. After a period of Cartesian doubt seeking a confessional identity, he finally found his home in the Lutheran church. When he isn’t busy running upwards of 12 rehearsals a week, he loves writing as a way to interact with other perspectives and to pontificate on his doxological agenda. He enjoys exploring the treasury of 2000 years of sacred music, and has found his life’s calling as a cantor, with a mission to “put the Gospel on the lips of the people of God through song, that the Word might dwell in their hearts through faith.”

Comments

Steadfast in Worship: Why Doesn’t Contemporary Worship Sing the Psalms? — 36 Comments

  1. Listened to Psalm 1. Sorry, the arraignment does not impress. The drum beat is just sorry replacement for a pipe organ.

    The correct translation for the first verse is: “Blessed is the man” NOT “the person”

  2. “Why doesn’t contemporary worship sing the Psalms?”

    Because, as God Himself has told us in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”; “They’re So Depressing!” (Be sure to accent and add a little bit of “th” to the “S”.)

    I think this answers the question better than anything. As Miguel pointed out, the Psalms tell us the truth about ourselves–as far as they are about “us”–and the truth is not entertaining. This is why you do not find them being used in Entertainment Worship.

    Now the question needs to be asked; What excuse do Liturgical churches who do not sing the Psalms have?

    soli Deo gloria,
    Grendelssohn

  3. Agree completely.

    As we are daily immersed in a culture that views and uses music primarily as a form of entertainment, the idea of a more utilitarian use of music repulses us. That music challenges us intellectually and spiritually instead of simply makes us “feel good” is something foreign to our pagan-contaminated minds and hearts. As a result, we think the music is for our sensual benefit rather than for our spiritual benefit, and the results are dumbed down, shallow lyrics with simplified, emotionally-driven chord progressions rather than deep, scriptural words driven by music composed to the breaking point of virtuosity.

  4. John Marquardt:

    You make a broad accusation here. I’m one of “these people” that you accuse want to just go to a rock concert, one who is wrestling through these issues as well. Our congregation utilizes ancient means of expression in our services as well as modern means of expression. In the midst of it, I do all I can to be discerning in what I put into our congregation members’ mouths and hearts. My intent with picking modern music is not so that “the band can rock” and that our emotions are stirred up (see emotionalism vs. emotion), it’s so that the Church can accept and embrace the fact that God, who literally wrote the book on creativity, can’t be pigeonholed into only one style of music or one time period in history. You do realize that all these sacred hymns we sing were once new, correct, and that the organ was considered blasphemous when introduced in some countries, not even that long ago (see 19th century Iceland – Ólason, “Iceland: A Historical Progression,” 240)?

    While I’m getting a little off-topic here, I think it needs to be said that when we judge the intent and hearts of modern songwriters to all be inept and inadequate in their craft because they only use “emotionally-driven chord progressions”, we judge the Creator to be limited when His creativity is limitless. That being said, I agree that many modern songs are, in the words of J. Dean above, “dumbed down, shallow lyrics” and I agree that many chord progressions are just stolen from other songs. But if we make that argument, we certainly can’t sing Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus to HYFRYDOL or JEFFERSON or STUTTGART, or sing any other hymn text with a “stolen” tune, can we?

    Also, consider words such as these:

    “Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King
    He, the theme of heaven’s praises, robed in frail humanity
    In our longing, in our darkness, now the light of life has come
    Look to Christ who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us”

    That’s just one verse of a beautiful text written in 2013. I, for one, praise God that modern songwriters are beginning to set Psalms and old hymn texts to new tunes as well as write beautiful texts like the one above to melodies/harmonies that are accessible to people who don’t have a taste for high church music and that these settings can be considered very good writing as well. When you argue about how modern music is poorly written and produced, try writing some yourself sometime – see what you come up with, then try to produce it so it actually doesn’t sound like mush, then come back and argue some more.

  5. @Ryan Egan #6
    The problem is when “You Folks, Co Wo Folks” insist that the band has to be in the front, choir members, if any, have to be in the front facing the congregation and the organ is an after thought with the intention of making it into match sticks and paper weights. And let’s not forget the drop down screen covering the cross, if your church has any…and let’s not forget the non existent altar…and the tight pants deacon, I mean pastor, prancing in jeans and loafers with a cup of Starbucks in his hand….
    We need to all go back and use the TLH.

  6. @Tileman Hesshusius #7

    Huh. Again, broad accusations that are just plain not true. We have a beautiful altar with a very central cross that never gets covered that was actually designed by one of our organists with matching pieces for a lectern and baptismal font that doubles as a holder for the Advent wreath and other pieces. Both of our organists are regularly utilized, playing postlude/prelude and organ-heavy arrangements in many, if not most of our services. Our pastor wears a suit and tie every Sunday (don’t get started on the adiaphora of vestments, I just won’t go there). There are no skinny jeans to be found anywhere. I have a text-only copy of The Lutheran Hymnary and a full copy passed on from my grandmother and her mother before her which I use regularly, both in service planning and my own devotional life. These sorts of broad generalizations and accusations are incredibly unhelpful and continue to contribute to divide instead of unite in these conversations.

  7. #9 ….”to be discerning in what I put into our congregation members’ mouths and hearts. My intent with picking modern music is not so that “the band can rock” and that our emotions are stirred up (see emotionalism vs. emotion), it’s so that the Church can accept and embrace the fact that God, who literally wrote the book on creativity,”…
    So you think that 668 pieces of music is not enough from the TLH? I hope every Co Wo song you use is theologically sound. And why cannot your pastor wear an Alb and put on vestments, well that’s another issue all together and getting off topic here…Wait, he is, and your church, is just trying to be like every other church Baptist, Non-Denominational, etc. on every street corner….Words of wisdom from one district president to a newly graduate from the seminary in st.louis years ago, “if you plan on using the TLH or LSB you’ll never going to grow your church.” Looks like your church took his advice.

  8. Ryan has a point. Just because some have misused something, does not mean that everyone has. Anything can be misused.

  9. @Richard Lewer #11

    “Just because some have misused something” Try most, from my observations and experience. The brush my be overly broad, but it sure isn’t narrow. CoWo is only the symptom of an underlying unConfessional mindset.

  10. @Tileman Hesshusius #7

    …let’s not forget the non existent altar…and the tight pants deacon, I mean pastor, prancing in jeans and loafers with a cup of Starbucks in his hand….

    You may have been right the first time?

  11. @Ryan Egan #9

    Our pastor wears a suit and tie every Sunday (don’t get started on the adiaphora of vestments, I just won’t go there).

    Lutheran Pastors don’t appear in the chancel in a suit and tie. Each of those vestments you dismiss has a reason and a meaning.

  12. @helen #14

    There’s plenty of excellent reasons why our ministers should wear the traditional liturgical vestments. But they aren’t what makes the minister Lutheran. They are a part of the catholic cultus we maintain, and therefore ideal. But you should recognize there is a world of difference between the minister in a suit and tie, and the minister in skinny jeans and graphic T. One is communicating reverence and respect, the other is communicating cultural capitulation.

    True story: My pastor wears crocks and jordans under his liturgical vestments. Most Sundays he actually wears a black geneva gown. Does this make him un-Lutheran? My favorite liturgical faux pas is when he preaches against gay marriage while wearing his Easter stole, which features a rather prominent rainbow.

    The pastor who dresses very formal is at least communicating reverence for the significance of what happens in the Divine Service, and can be preferable to a clown who wears a robe, couldn’t tell you why to save his life, and conducts the liturgy like the announcer from a three-ring circus (half-way between “aw, shucks, y’all” and “look how many times I can use the word ‘exciting!'”).

  13. @Jason #12

    CoWo is only the symptom of an underlying unConfessional mindset.

    It definitely can be. But keep in mind the author of this post leads what most would consider rather contemporary worship on most weekends. It doesn’t have to be, not all “contemporary” is the same, that there are varying degrees of un-salutary-ness to it that are unnecessary. Granted, in our synod, it seems that whenever it is done it is done badly. But that does’t mean that it can’t be done well, or that all those involved are pushing a heterodox agenda.

  14. @Tileman Hesshusius #10

    So you think that 668 pieces of music is not enough from the TLH?

    Apparently the good folks at CPH agree, since they keep making new hymnals. As does the synod that accepts them. The hymnal is not a closed cannon. Never has been, never will be.

    Wait, he is, and your church, is just trying to be like every other church Baptist, Non-Denominational, etc. on every street corner….

    You’re assuming a lot of things there about a person you know nothing of, not to mention his congregation. From whence cometh this “secret knowledge”?

  15. Good Grief, Miguel (#15)! Did God create the rainbow because of gays or gay marriage? BTW, ever notice that when there is a double rainbow, they are opposite each other in the ribbons of color? Hmmm. . .

  16. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I appreciate Miguel’s article and agree, of course, that Psalms should be used regularly in worship in one form or another (e.g., Introits and Graduals).

    The question of why Contemporary Worship doesn’t use the Psalms highlights the real issue, at least in my mind. Contemporary Worship is not about a more biblical approach to worship. Far from it. Contemporary Worship is about “consecrating contemporary culture” and rejecting all older forms of culture that have come to us from the Christian church.

    The leaders and advocates of Contemporary Worship dump every single cultural reference or artifact that does not belong to the “here-and-now.” Examples:

    Replace church sanctuaries with movie theaters.
    Replace worship books with computer video screens.
    Replace traditional vestments with the latest weekend “uniform” of the upper middle classes–usually Polo shirts and Dockers slacks.
    Replace 2000 years of hymnody with pop songs found on CDs at Family Christian bookstores and on “Christian radio.
    Replace the traditional exegetical-expository sermon with string-of-pearls edifiying stories.
    Replace baptismal fonts (Lutherans, Anglicans, et.al.) and baptismal pools (Baptists) with fountains more suitable in a office-building lobby.
    Replace the wafer and chalice with “soft cheese and crackers containers,” filled with bread and wine, and handed out to folks in the pew.
    Replace church potlucks with Starbucks. — well, at least they kept the coffee! 🙂

    You get the drift. Anyway, the intellectual justification for this “dumping” of Christian cultural artifacts and references comes from the Church Growth movement, whose intent was to “consecrate the culture.” The motto is: “Nothing that was produced prior to the year 1964 is relevant today, so just dump it!”

    This does make sense for the Anabaptist form of Christianity, which was radically opposed to all Christian cultural artifacts and references. They stormed into cathedrals and churches and destroyed statuary and stained glass, while Luther was away in the Wartburg translating the New Testament for the people. He came back in 1522 and put a stop to that!

    Lutherans are, as a rule, willing to use every cultural reference and artifact in 2000 years of Christian history, so long as it is not contrary to Scripture or leads one away from orthodoxy. We are intent on using such references and artifacts if they preach Christ and lead to him. All on this subject for now . . .

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  17. @Miguel #15

    One is communicating reverence and respect, the other is communicating cultural capitulation.
    True story: My pastor wears crocks and jordans under his liturgical vestments. Most Sundays he actually wears a black geneva gown.

    Actually, both are communicating “cultural capitulation”. [Especially the DP who was conservative in seminary, calls himself confessional now, and behaves like a chameleon, fitting his chancel dress to the whims of a congregation instead of using his visit as a time to teach.]

    I’m not interested in what’s under the vestments. (They can get warm.) That’s between him and God. I was brought up by a Pastor who wore a black Geneva gown; his generation did. The next introduced a white surplice and stole. And so on.
    [By now, being elca, there’s a skirt in the chancel; I wouldn’t know how she dresses, I’m long gone.]

  18. @Redeemed #19

    Oh, come on. It’s just an amusing irony. And to the uninitiated visitor, a rainbow vestment most certainly looks like a political statement. I’m not bothered by it enough to bring it up, but let’s not kid ourselves: mainline ministers wear them all the time, for the wrong reasons.

  19. @helen #22

    If wearing a suit is nothing more than cultural capitulation and not an expression of the significance of the event, then why do so many laymen, even in my congregation, suit up for Sundays? It may be a cultural expression, but a cultural expression of what? Respect. It’s not even a recent innovation, WELS pastors have been doing it forever.

    I’m not so certain we should require as mandatory and definitive of Lutheran-ness something that you just said was popularized a generation ago. Meet, right, and salutary though it may be, and historic to boot, if the Geneva gown is acceptable, on what grounds is the suit and tie not? I will grant that it is an inferior option as liturgical vestments confess much more than just reverence, but call it a musician’s bias, I think the neglect of congregational Psalmody is a much more urgent concern. The New Testament is not as clear and direct on that one, ya know?

  20. @Martin R. Noland #20

    Contemporary Worship is not about a more biblical approach to worship. Far from it.

    Thank you, Dr. Noland, for getting the point! The whole series is about showing that if Biblical faithfulness were the priority, CoWo would be different in these specific ways. The fact that it does not sing the Psalms, despite the immense catalogue of resources available to do it in contemporary ways, simply proves that it is not about an expression of Scripturally informed spirituality, but rather, a “Christianized” expression of cultural spirituality.

    It can be different. It can be more. But it must either be Divine Service, or it is heterodox, period. There’s plenty of “contemporary” ways to do the former, and plenty of traditional ways to do heterodox worship. But in our synod, contemporary is almost exclusively driven by revivalist underpinnings and liturgy, with enthusiast hymnody and methods. This is because they are shamelessly aping what is popular in order to get in with the crowd, rather than seeking to confess the truth with boldness, consequences be damned. The former attracts a fickle clientele, the latter is for devoted disciples. Which do we want for our synod? I had better save this rant for another article.

    “Nothing that was produced prior to the year 1964 is relevant today, so just dump it!”

    2004 is ancient history as far as “church growth experts” are concerned. But the truth is that people know what they like, and they like what they know. Of course it seems like everyone all wants the K-Love playlist on Sunday morning. They are constantly bombarded with it, told it is wonderful, and manipulated by the marketing machines that produce it. You give people a taste of something more and they will rise to it.

  21. @Miguel Ruiz #24

    Meet, right, and salutary though it may be, and historic to boot, if the Geneva gown is acceptable, on what grounds is the suit and tie not?

    The suit and tie is perfectly acceptable … if you are impersonating a Baptist pastor. Or if you are a layman.

    [Laymen who put on a suit and tie are “wearing Sunday best”, an old fashioned idea. (There was a day when all men had a suit for church and women had one nice dress for Easter to autumn and a warmer one for winter; it corresponds to the Geneva gown.) Now it seems, people are much more concerned about looking nice when they “go out”… when they are seen by other people in upscale places.]
    I am aware that fashions are such that many may not own a suit.

    …call it a musician’s bias, I think the neglect of congregational Psalmody is a much more urgent concern. The New Testament is not as clear and direct on that one, ya know?

    I will. You hear what’s out of place in the worship service; laity see what seems less than respectful of place in the pews, or at least among those serving.
    “Casual” has taken over. I guess you have to be old to notice!

    But don’t you see that many times the two go together?
    (Although I have been in ‘confessional’ churches with vested clergy, which dropped the Introit but had time for “This is the feast…”) 🙁

  22. @Martin R. Noland #20

    Thank you for your comment but it is still incredibly problematic because you generalize and accuse ALL people who view anything modern into these categories.

    “Replace church sanctuaries with movie theaters.” – I’ve never advocated this, nor will I.
    “Replace worship books with computer video screens.” – Yes, we have a screen but we have not replaced our worship books with it. Unfortunately even the “traditionalists” in our midst don’t ever open said worship books and when I provide printed music for newer songs/hymns so that I can continue to encourage music-reading and part-singing these are neglected by many (some use them regularly, which is great and they’ve thanked me for providing them). Is that a consequence of having the screen? Maybe.
    “Replace traditional vestments with the latest weekend “uniform” of the upper middle classes–usually Polo shirts and Dockers slacks.” – I still stand by our pastor, as Miguel said, showing respect necessary by wearing suit and tie. We’ve never seen him in a polo/dockers.
    “Replace 2000 years of hymnody with pop songs found on CDs at Family Christian bookstores and on “Christian radio.” – This happens often in many churches, you’re right. Many, on the other hand, and me included, regularly include hymns that date back hundreds and thousands of years. We’re singing “Now Thank We All Our God” (mid-1600’s) this Sunday, as case in point here.
    “Replace the traditional exegetical-expository sermon with string-of-pearls edifiying stories.” – I’m not in the LCMS, I’m AFLC, and I know the Dean of the seminary personally (in fact, he used to be our congregation’s pastor) and he teaches exegetical-expository preaching as what should be the standard and norm, and that is what we see in our congregation.
    “Replace baptismal fonts (Lutherans, Anglicans, et.al.) and baptismal pools (Baptists) with fountains more suitable in a office-building lobby.” – Again, I’ll state that we have a beautiful and beautifully-crafted baptismal font, designed by one of our organists that is a part of the whole of the altar area. It’s really quite breathtaking.
    “Replace the wafer and chalice with “soft cheese and crackers containers,” filled with bread and wine, and handed out to folks in the pew.” – Wafer here.
    “Replace church potlucks with Starbucks. — well, at least they kept the coffee! :)” While we still have potlucks, this is just plain silly. Where in the Lutheran confessions (or in the BIBLE, for that matter) are potlucks mandated?

    As I mentioned before, over-generalization and accusation will never further this conversation. In fact, I found it very interesting as I was looking at my 1925 copy of Introits and Graduals; Advent to Whitsunday that the arranger (who was setting Latin tunes to modern music, GASP) wrote: “these settings have the tonality and greater freedom of modern music, and thus will be acceptable to present-day choirs and congregations.” Why aren’t we still singing the Latin historic Plain Song if we’re getting this picky about what the form of the service must be? Wouldn’t it have been full of contempt for this crazy composer to mess with the chants and put them in the “greater freedom of modern music?” The book goes on to mention how “gradually the development of congregational hymnody pressed the use of sequences and hymns into this place in the service, at first after singing of the Gradual by the choir, and later in many Orders as a substitute for the Gradual.” So, , and speaking to Helen’s point just above, should not some of the hymns that you cherish so much be viewed with as much contempt as modern music since they began to push out one of the major elements of the service? This double standard stuff that doesn’t take the whole of church music history into account is ridiculous.

    While I agree that some dismiss anything ancient as “not relevant enough” we cannot dismiss the hand of God’s creativity on modern songwriters either. Without it we wouldn’t even HAVE Luther, Gerhardt, Rinkart, et. al. We’d still be singing Plain Song. But of course, maybe that’s what many would rather be back to anyway.

  23. @Ryan Egan #27

    Dear Mr. Egan,

    Thank you for your comments. I noticed that you confess to being a member of the AFLC. Thanks for telling us that.

    I believe, barring other evidence, that the vast majority of persons who comment and post articles here at BJS are of the LCMS, WELS, and ELS. Those three Lutheran church-bodies are alike in that their pastors and congregations unconditionally subscribe to the entire Book of Concord. We also follow the orthodox Lutheran tradition of theology that was based on that book, such as found in the writings of Chemnitz, Hunnius, Gerhard, Calov, Quenstedt, Hollaz, Hoenecke, Walther, and Pieper.

    Due to this commonality, the LCMS, WELS, and ELS worked together in what was known as the “Synodical Conference” from 1872 to 1963–almost a hundred years. Due to this work together, we produced a common hymnal, agenda, and resources connected to it known as the “The Lutheran Hymnal.” We were able to produce that common hymnal and agenda, because we had at that time the same theology of worship.

    The sundering of the Synodical Conference was not due to differences in worship, but due to the LCMS falling away from its original position on fellowship and Scripture. The LCMS has returned to its traditional doctrine of Scripture, though the fellowship issue is still a problem that we are working on. Change in the theology of worship (at least at the congregational level) is affecting all three church bodies (LCMS, WELS, and ELS), though I would be happy to hear otherwise.

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I noticed when going to Mr. Egan’s church-body’s website (https://www.aflc.org/about-us/what-we-believe ) that his church subscribes to a different set of confessions (I.3)and has a different theology of worship (V). His church ONLY accepts the Small Catechism and Unaltered Augsburg Confession. That means that it is not informed by the many statements about worship in the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise, the Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord.

    Those confessional writings (Ap, SA, Tr, LC, FC Ep, FC SD) are of no great consequence to the AFLC church-body, but they are to those of us in the LCMS, WELS, and ELS. We settle our differences on the basis of all the writings in the 1580/1584 Book of Concord. The AFLC settles its differences only on the basis of the Small Catechism and Augustana; or at least, I assume they do use those two confessions to settle disagreements. So we (i.e., Mr. Egan and us) are going to come up with different answers to many questions, though I think both of us still qualify as Lutherans. 🙂

    It is important to note that in the AFLC statement of Beliefs, section V. (see website ibid.), it states: •We make no recommendation as to the use of liturgy and vestments except that we encourage simplicity in worship. •We believe the earliest Christians were extremely simple in their order of service. Whatever is added to the service carries the danger of becoming only form. •Even the simple parts of the service may become only form.

    I don’t know how this works out in practice, but it most likely came from Haugean Pietism (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haugean ), which was the dominant religious form in the AFLC’s predecessor church, the Lutheran Free Church (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheran_Free_Church ). Haugeanism was opposed to all types of “formalism,” so I can see how the AFLC would be opposed to liturgical forms, lectionaries, assigned psalms for the day, and anything else that smacks of traditional Christian worship practices.

    Most other Lutherans have not been opposed to structure or traditions in worship, at least historically, and even the Haugeans had to admit that Augsburg Confession XXIV, 1-2 states: “The Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence. Almost all the customary ceremonies are also retained, except that German hymns are interspersed here and there among the parts sung in Latin.” So by the judgment of the Haugeans, the confessors at Augsburg must have been guilty of “formalism” and “traditionalism” in worship. I don’t know how else they could interpret AC XXIV.

    Those of us in the entire-Book-of-Concord and orthodox-Lutheran tradition have never believed that the many traditions of the Christian church–whether they are church calendars, liturgies, litanies, psalms, chants, pipe organs, church music forms, hymns, vestments, candles, art work, architecture, etc.–are necessary for salvation or that failure to observe them is a sin; but rather, if they are not contrary to Scripture and they are orthodox, they can be useful tools to teach the people, the uneducated, and children (AC XXIV, 1-9; AC XXVIII, 56; Ap XV, 20-21; FC SD X, 7-9; etc.). So we accept the traditions and structures of the church in its historic worship, but with a critical eye, just as Luther did with his reformation of the Mass.

    Nor are we opposed to the use of new liturgies, new hymns, and more modern musical forms, as the newer hymnals of our church bodies demonstrate. But we also look at the “new” with a critical eye, lest we end up merely “consecrating the culture” to please the “flesh” and the sinful part of our souls that loves the “world.”

    I hope that this explains where Mr. Egan is coming from, and why we will end up with different approaches and different answers to the same questions.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  24. @Martin R. Noland #28

    I appreciate your thorough research, and, yes, that is indeed where I’m coming from. Please forgive my irritation if I brought a different set of convictions into somewhere they don’t really belong (I mean that sincerely). Also, thanks you for your gracious acknowledgement that said convictions still qualify me as Lutheran. And, thank you as well for your willingness to look at new music “with a critical eye” as I do as well. I have begun to read the entire book of Concord l, and while I will likely remain AFLC, it will be very beneficial for me to read. With respect to all, and because of our differences that were graciously pointed out, I will bow out of the remainder of this conversation. 🙂 Before I do, though, it should be noted that we are not opposed to traditional practices (we have a formal order of worship in our hymnal, pericope texts and lectionaries), we just don’t see them as a complete necessity.

  25. @Ryan Egan #30

    Ryan,

    Although many of us on this blog are from the LCMS, WELS, and ELS, I think we all appreciate the way you have discussed this. At least I hope we all do.

    I’ve noticed on past BJS articles that when the issue of contemporary music comes up many in support of it often resort to emotionalism, turn it into a purely subjective conversation, or simply get angry. IMO, you haven’t done that, and though we would disagree on different matters, I think it’s a breath of fresh air and helpful to communication.

  26. @Ryan Egan #27

    Is that a consequence of having the screen? Maybe.

    [Not maybe… yes. It’s learned in homes with TV’s…which is all of them.]

    But thanks for your comments, (and for telling us “where you were coming from).

  27. Thank you for this post. I am an LCMS pastor (retired), and guitar player of 50 years’ experience, with a Bach. of Music degree from Florida State Univ., majoring in classical guitar performance. While there became an implacable foe of the “folk masses” that preceded “contemporary worship.” Have been working with the legitimate use of guitar in worship since the early 70s. Developed guitar setting of LSB liturgies for CPH (available online I believe). More recently I have written a complete set of new Psalm tones that are guitar-oriented, and have developed settings of Matins, Vespers, and Compline using these Psalm tones. These have been field-tested in local congregations and critiqued by Terry Herald and Rev. Paul Cain. The settings are guitar-driven but compatible with instruments such as violin, mandolin, flute, recorder, light percussion, etc. I would be happy to share this material with interested parties. Please contact me at [email protected] . Also visit http://www.pergolapress.com .

  28. Also, I have found in working with co wo/praise band musicians that they seem incapable of accompanying the a-rhythmic phrases of Psalm chanting. They have to cram everything into 4/4 time. For more on this, see the writings of Dr. Daniel Zager of Eastman, who has shown how rhythm alone, apart from melody or harmony, communicates different things, depending on the rhythm. For example, the “back beat,” a staple of rock music with the stress on the 2nd and 4th beat of the measure, is highly sexual in connotative value.

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