Monday, January 12, 2009

Dread Realized

I’ve been dreading this day for a long time, and it’s finally arrived. The Commission on Worship released its list of 100-plus contemporary songs to which it has affixed the official LCMS imprimatur, forever sanctioning the use of vacuous songs in our congregations. Not that they weren’t already being used. These are the songs that are generally called "praise songs," or lovingly called "7-11 songs" by some, because they repeat the same seven words eleven times. This list was culled from an even larger list of songs that were already in use in the Synod. They were kind enough to throw out the songs that were ambiguous and “those potentially compromising or confusing Lutheran doctrine and practice.”

The good news is that they recognize that these are songs, not hymns. They point out that “The words of songs frequently convey simple scriptural thoughts that are wedded to stirring rhythmic melodies.” Hymns, by contrast “provide sequences of poetic stanzas that expound on the life of Christ and the life of the Church.” One of the disturbing things to note is that in many of the congregations who use these types of songs, it is the only music provided. They stick to simple thoughts – no profound Scriptural truths for those parishioners! The lack of teaching in these songs fits in well with their anthropocentric nature. Note that in 24 of the song titles listed there is some derivative of “me” or “us” in the title. The “stirring rhythmic melodies” and lyrics that speak of me and my emotions and my commitment fit in well with the “Contempogelical worship” described by Pastor William Cwirla. These types of songs are designed to wring out of you an emotional response, not equip you with the sword of the spirit.

It’s not surprising how many of these songs speak of “seeing God” and other such experiential motivations, since many of them were written by the Contempogelical crowd that values an internal search for God, rather than the sure and certain promises of God, found not within us, but within the pages of Scripture. This type of self-focused thinking is contrary to Lutheranism and Scripture.

The reviewers point out that “The songs listed in the chart have not been subjected to the same in-depth process that selected hymns receive before being included in a synodically approved hymnal.” Why not? They’re still being used in a church service aren’t they? The reviewers should be thanked for their effort, it’s the standards used that should be questioned. I hope you like repetition.

photo credit: 365bunnies


haughty said...

You make 2 precise statements. Lets deal with just the positive aspects.

1) Hymns, by contrast “provide sequences of poetic stanzas that expound on the life of Christ and the life of the Church.

>>> How are the majority of congregations who are using "Hymns" deriving benefit from the homes. Specifically. I would challenge you to casually ask the people in your congregation what they learned from the hymn.

2) These types of songs are designed to wring out of you an emotional response, not equip you with the sword of the spirit.

How does a Hymn "equip us with the sword of the Spirit"?

What does this look like in worship??

from the
New International Version (NIV)

Col 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Father Hollywood said...

What? No "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life"?

This is an outrage! My District President will be hearing about this...

Scott Diekmann said...

Benefit is derived from a hymn by listening to the Word of God which that hymn contains, in the same way as benefit is obtained from listening to the reading of the lessons. Are you suggesting that people don't pay attention to the words of the hymns, and therefore offering them a "song" is a better alternative?

A hymn equips us with the sword of the spirit by placing that sword in our hand through the Word which it delivers.

Scott Diekmann said...

Father Hollywood, patience...

The report states "As new songs are considered, the data base will expand." Maybe they'll take requests.

haughty said...

Benefit is derived from a hymn by listening to the Word of God which that hymn contains,

Are you suggesting that people don't pay attention to the words of the hymns

>>>( Yes people are just mindlessly reading the words. And Pastors generally don't teach on what happens in service. I mean we all learned it in confirmation/new members class why should I repeat myself)

, and therefore offering them a "song" is a better alternative?

>> You are the one that suggested that the song contain simple ideas. Simple as in easier to catch on to.

A hymn equips us with the sword of the spirit by placing that sword in our hand through the Word which it delivers.

>>>So If I sing a "scripture song" you would gladly embrace that??

Is it the meter or the words you object to??

"end over end neither the left nor the right" I actually have never heard any church sing that song

haughty said...

The Horse and Rider

I will sing, unto the Lord, for He, is glorious.
The horse and rider thrown into the sea.
The Lord, my God, my strength, my song,
Is now become my victory

The Lord is God and I will praise Him,
The Lord is God, and I will exalt Him!
This is my God and I will praise Him,
Just like my fathers, I will exalt Him!

Exodus 15:1-15 (King James Version)

Exodus 15

1Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

2The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.

3The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

4Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.

5The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.

6Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.

7And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.

8And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

9The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.

10Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.

11Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

12Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.

13Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.

14The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.

15Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Haughty:

The "Horse and Rider" song is an example of a ditty that might be okay around a campfire but not in a worship service. It isn't reverent, dignified, or decorous - it's kitsch. It is typically even sung with syncopated clapping.

You can also sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" to the tune of "Come On Baby Light My Fire."

The style of the music truly matters.

I could also sing "Back In Black" to Gregorian Chant, but it would sound ridiculous - as would "Thy Strong Word" sung to the tune of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

Sacred music sung in a sacred setting is just very different in musical setting than is a campfire ditty or Toyota commercial.

The CCM music is a trojan horse to get pop music into the sanctuary for the purpose of entertainment, because entertainment is seen as a "hook" to bait and switch people to the Gospel. CCM comes from a soteriology based on free will, in other words, from Arminian churches that seek to bring a person to a "decision" - which is antithetical to the sacramental theology of historic Christianity.

Problem is, you can't sell Jesus like a car stereo at Circuit City - at least not in the Lutheran understanding of how a person comes to faith.

Scott Diekmann said...

I've been involved in apologetics for a lot of years haughty. I've dealt with a lot of cult members. You rapidly develop a sense for when the conversation may be fruitful, and when the conversation is a waste of time. I put this particular conversation in the latter category.

haughty said...

If helping one brother in Christ is a "waste of your time" that is your call... I think we need to switch names

But I think you know you are on uncertain ground...

So Hollywood..The style of the music truly matters. It has to be reverent, dignified, or decorous ...

Forget all the leading questions.

Why did Luther write hymns?

What are the definitions of reverent, dignified, or decorous..

So there is no CCM that you like for worship services. No Silent Night! Will you always be offended by CCM because you have determined in your heart it has no redeeming value.

So a song like this is not reverent, dignified, or decorous

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Haughty:

I think you know why Luther wrote hymns. CPH puts out a large collection of them. And if you take a listen, you'll find them as far from CCM's "7-11" songs as possible. They are indeed dignified, reverent, and theologically rigorous. They are meat for the soul, not cotton candy for the sake of sugary entertainment.

Luther's hymnody was not Mylie Cyrus ditties that happen to say "Jesus" in them.

If you've been to my church's website (Salem Lutheran in Gretna) you'll see what our sanctuary looks like. That clip you included would be utterly ridiculous for Holy Mass in that dignified sanctuary.

Now, if that kind of music is your cup of tea, that's fine for home, car, campfire, the MP3 player, mowing grass, etc. But it simply doesn't work in a Lutheran worship context in which we believe Jesus is physically present in His body and blood in the Holy Eucharist. Our services include chanting, genuflecting, the sign of the cross, and even incense on occasion. I was listening to a little Iron Maiden today in my office, and one of my parishioners bought me the new AC/DC album for Christmas - but *in church,* we sing *church music* for all the saints, not just for the 20-somethings or the boomers.

How is it that the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal had traditional hymns and not swing music? Maybe that generation wasn't self-centered and uncaring of others who don't share their love for pop music the way folks seem to be today.

I love music - generally hard rock, metal, classic rock - but also classical, choral, some jazz, etc. In my parish I have people who like rap, blues, jazz, classical, metal, country, R&B, etc. We all listen to what we like at home. When we go to Mardi Gras parades, we enjoy high-stepping to brass bands and zydeco. But at church, we don't act like petulant teenagers and demand that others bend to our individual tastes. Rather, we have a common music, the hymnody of the church. It unites young, old, black, and white. It's *our* music as a trans-generational Christian community.

It would be the height of arrogance and lovelessness to impose 80s style heavy metal on my congregation - just because that's what I happen to like. Rather, the loving thing to do is to *submit* to the transgenerational corpus of church music.

And we Lutherans (I don't know what your background or tradition is) have not only the treasures of the ancient church to draw from (e.g. Gregorian chant), but also glorious hymns from medieval Catholicism, Reformation-era hymns from the Lutheran tradition, as well as modern hymnody that is equally rigorous, Christ-centered, and decorous. Martin Franzmann, for example, wrote powerful, dignified, gospel-filled hymnody in the 20th century. And that will always trump fluff from Amy Grant or Twila Paris (which is basically the ecclesiastical equivalent of "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah).

Pop music is candy (and I like my candy). But the Christian life requires real meat. The Christian faith is not about being entertained according to the world's model.

Come on! Do you honestly think those "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs can hold a candle to, for example, what was tonight's opening hymn at my parish's Wednesday Mass: "Come You Faithful Raise the Strain" written in the 8th century by St. John of Damascus?

scott.diekmann said...

"But I think you know you are on uncertain ground...." If that were true, I wouldn't have written the post.

haughty said...

Sorry Scott that doesn't make ever hear the expression whistling in the dark?

Pastor, I wasn't being flip. I think Luther wrote hymns , based on some of his writings, Because he loved music and thought the hymns helped to carry the gospel to his congregation. It was about him shepherding his flock...he actually was willing to lay down his life not out of german duty but out of love.

How is it that the 1941 Lutheran Hymnal had traditional hymns and not swing music? Because it was still very much a German church back then... but the point is well taken...there would have been some pressure to liven things up.

I will agree that only a small part of what is played on CCM radio stations would pass theological muster. And the tempos would not fit much of the rest.

But I didn't get "That clip you included would be utterly ridiculous for Holy Mass in that dignified sanctuary."

I looked at your sanctuary and I don't get the disconnect between the music and the sanctuary. Maybe the issue really is my music background or lack there of.

That will be my last question. Because you have actually been patient with me. And while my questions may not have been clear they weren't intended to "create a stir".

I come from a non-sacramental and non-liturgical church background with lots of Law and not enough gospel explained. 12 steps to a ... 7 methods get the picture

- word - faith - grace ( I prefer not to go back to the mines of Moria) So I am in an LCMS church and they are patient with my "Why can't we "

P.S. Can you post some of the sudio sermons...I saw the sermon text ...

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Haughty:

I also come from a non-liturgical non-sacramental background. Maybe that's why I'm so hard-nosed about not allowing the treasure of the liturgy to drift into entertainment.

Maybe the pictures aren't too clear, but our ornate pulpit is marble and dates back to about 1870 - going on a century and a half old. Ditto on the imposing marble font. The altar is dark wood with a lamb carved into the front. We have brass altar candles and lampstands.

Our ceiling beams are painted in a very Germanic/Nordic-looking theme, and there are numerous brick Roman arches (calling to mind the Church's Greco-Roman roots, and the reformation's Germanic heritage.

Over the altar is a life-sized painted statue of our blessed Lord with his wounded hands.

We have no sound system, aside from the natural echo of the apse - which is ideal for chanting.

It's just not a space that lends well to pop music. In the same way that chanting the litany would be silly in our gymnasium during a basketball game, so is popular music just plain out of place and incongruent with vestments, paraments, genuflecting, kissing the altar, processing with the Bible, and (as I said, occasionally) incense.

So, anyway, that's my take on it. I've been in both environments, and I can't tell you how much more substantial and authentic traditional worship is, and just how hollow and shallow "praise songs" are by contrast.

haughty said...

Thanks. I honestly think that what most people are seeking ( tired seekers) is a real faith. Are you the one or do we seek another? is what they are really asking

God's love, grace , peace, and mercy to you, your family, and your flock.

Matt Jamison said...

I think this is another maddening example of our church body trying to please everyone, and sweeping serious doctrinal division under the rug.

The whole point of having a hymnal is to have a body of music that has been carefully reviewed and approved as appropriate for worship. Hard decisions were made in the formulation of our hymnal, which is not to say that I agree with them all.

If these songs are appropriate for worship, they should be in the hymnal. If they are not appropriate for a Lutheran hymnal, they should not be sung in the Divine Service.

But, once again, the LCMS attempts to be all things to all people.