Archive for May, 2017

The Medium is the Message: Role of Music in Corporate Worship

May 30, 2017

An interesting question came up during Bible Study today. Is there such thing as a Death Metal worship song?

My instinctual response is that generally, some mediums are more suitable for certain messages. Death metal, for instance, is less suitable for the message of the Good News, than Getty’s In Christ Alone accompanied by piano. The medium is, if not the message, invariably tied to the message. There is, after all, a reason for the incarnation.

Furthermore, I posit that worship music should never be about trying to produce an emotion. Worship, by definition, is about ascribing to God who he is and what he has done. Worship music is a form of worship. Body worship can be a form of this as well. This does not mean that one cannot worship God dancing naked, as King David did. But surely, the sons of Korah were not singing the psalms in order to produce an emotion in David so that he would dance naked.

And I warn of a danger here: it is when we assume that we can produce or affect a genuine sorrow of repentance rather than fleeting momentary ennui, or soul-consuming joy rather than a mere saccharine high, that we are close to the dangers of assuming the role of the Holy Spirit. We are in fact like Simon the sorcerer.

Furthermore, there is appropriate time for the ‘manifestation of the Spirit’ as some have argued. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14, there is to be intelligibility to worship. If you want to speak in tongues, for example, do it at home if there’s no interpreter.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

If you want to worship so much that you dance naked, great! But how does that build up the church? Or would you assume that you are like king David, pure in heart? Or that there is no edification of the body, i.e. the people of God, in a king throwing off his royal garments so that he could be a nobody with the Ark returned and worship with the commoners? Does not that edify the people? Surely, better is one day as a nobody than thousands elsewhere as a king.

Worship may very well produce emotions, and good uses of emotions can be made when they come. But emotions is never the goal but a mere by-product of encounter with the living God. Never get in the way of that. The bible never commands joy out of joy’s sake; it commands joy in God.