Monday, 21 September 2009

The Dangers of Great Music

Gregg Gilbert at the Gospel Coalition blog gives us a timely reminder of the dangers confronting depraved sinners engaging in worship to 'excellent music'.


Andy said...

Nicky - you're clearly determined to give at least one of the 'Alpha-males' in Greenview a Stroke.

Nick Mackison said...

Hey Andy, crappy instrumentation is a hinderance to worship as at is more of a distraction than a help. I'd rather have no music than anything other than excellent.

Nevertheless, it's incumbent upon us to be aware of the dangers of the trappings of beautiful accompanyment.

JohnGreenview said...

I'm still looking - and it seems to be in vain - for NT Scriptures that urge either great preaching or great music. Great likeness to Christ yes. And in this we are all far from excellent.

Donald Ferguson said...

I think you miss the point John. What scripture is clear about is that some are called and gifted for these tasks while others are not and those who are called and gifted are obliged to do the best they can. Of course the degree of gift will vary but we are obliged to maximise and identify gift. Preachers who are gifted by God, godly and work hard at their sermons will [most often] be distinguishable from those who are not gifted, not working hard enough, or lacking in godliness – and perhaps, therefore, power.

James 3:1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 Timothy 2:15
15: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.]

That means we need a clearly thought out theology of preaching in order to say what is preaching and what is not and we must help those gifted develop their gift and those who are not gifted should be gently pointed in another direction.

Now, do the same principles apply to music? To some extent they must but perhaps you would like to comment on that!

Preaching is about God speaking through his word. When God speaks with power and clarity through the preacher then you have great preaching because it reveals a great God. No doubt the right response to such an encounter with God would be great worship!

JohnGreenview said...


I agree with you wholeheartedly. I agree about gifting and industry.

I note that the texts you quote put the emphasis on the character of the preacher (James) and the content of the message (Paul), precisely where I think it should be.

What I resist is the temptation to put the emphasis on 'performance' criteria; qualities like charisma, presence, and eloquence - features that, if pressed, belong more to the world of entertainment.

I recall that those most concerned with these 'performance' criteria were the false teachers who criticized Paul for having a 'bodily presence that was weak and speech that was contemptible'. These teachers were putting an emphasis on style and not substance.

Gifting is important,yet for Paul not what is most important. Having discussed and tempered the Corinthian preoccupation with gift Paul says, at the end of ch 12

'eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you a still more excellent way.'

The more excellent way is of course the way of love - of great likeness to Jesus.

I wonder if, when a preacher, musician, praise leader falls a little below our high expectations we are quick to implement the 'more excellent way of love' which covers a multitude of sins.

Finally, although we may differ a little in emphasis, I suspect when it comes to evaluating what is good preaching, in practice there would be only the smallest differences between us.

JohnGreenview said...

PS Let me be mischievous: Chesterton is worth quoting:

”Anything worth doing is worth doing badly”

Think about it.

Donald Ferguson said...

I am sure that we agree on the substance of this issue.

The texts also speak of the fact that ‘not many’ should seek to be teachers; preacher must be skilled in handling scripture and must show that they are ‘approved’. To show yourself approved by God is to speak with His power – as Paul did. What Paul avoided was the use of rhetoric [a highly developed and lucrative skill in ancient Rome that was used to persuade regardless of the truth or value of an argument]. However, Paul allied illustration, reason and relevance to the power of the spirit when preaching [if his writings are anything to go by].

I agree with you wholeheartedly that the character of the preacher and the content of the message are necessary conditions for good preaching but they are not sufficient conditions. They are not enough on their own.