Tag Archive | musical expression

Dustin Kensrue – This Is War

Thought provoking song and video. 

 

“This Is War,”  Allen Swoope and Dustin Kensrue:

“This is war like you ain’t seen.
This winter’s long, it’s cold and mean.
With hangdog hearts we stood condemned,
But the tide turns now at Bethlehem.

This is war and born tonight,
The Word as flesh, the Lord of Light,
The Son of God, the low-born king;
Who demons fear, of whom angels sing.

This is war on sin and death;
The dark will take it’s final breath.
It shakes the earth, confounds all plans;
The mystery of God as man.”

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”     

~Revelation 21:4

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, Come! 

Sing the Gospel

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

~Colossians 3:16

Introduction

Colossians 3:16 comes in the context of thankfulness and living in light of the gospel. In the beginning of Colossians 3 we have seen that we are raised with Christ (v. 1), hidden with Christ in God (v. 3), and will appear with Jesus in glory (v. 4). So we see Colossians 3:16 flows from the gospel.

We see that there are two primary ways that the word of Christ dwells in us richly: 1) teaching and 2) singing. Teaching is important but it’s not the only means that God uses to implant His truth deep inside us. God richly blesses various forms of singing. Singing can be used to make Christ’s word dwell in us richly.

Wow. That is powerful. Singing is important. Singing is serious.

We all know this. We all resonate with music. It can move us even when we don’t know why.[1] It can help us memorize memorable and meaningful lyrics but also obscure and corrupt lyrics.

What should we sing about when we’re gathered togehter?

“Word of Christ”

When we come together and sing to one another we are to have as our goal Christ’s word dwelling in us richly. That is, we want to focus on who Christ is and what He has done, His person and work. We don’t want to keep our eyes on the horizontal, on what we have done or are called to do. We want to keep our eyes on the vertical, who Jesus is and what He has done.

When we gather to sing we want to sing songs that display the glory of Christ Jesus, who He is and all He has done. We want to see Christ! We want to exalt Christ! That does not mean that there can’t be variety. It means that in all our variety we don’t want to forget to worship the Lord God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.

Variety

We see we are told to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” We also see variety in the book of Psalm. Psalm 46:10 tells God’s people to be still, Psalm 150:5 encourages loud clashing cymbals. Psalm 136 has simple and repetitive lyrics. Psalm 105 has more sophisticated and substantive lyrics. Psalm 51 is a humble confession and Psalm 103 is relentless joy. The book of Psalm, the great song book of the Bible, has variety in style and lyrics. This variety served Jewish people of old and it continues to serve us today.[2] Variety is good.

The issue is thus not new songs verses old songs, hymns verses choruses, or an issue of style. The issue is does it make much of and point us to God and His glory? Does it point us to Christ?

Although, we desire a variety of different songs and even music genres this does not mean that skill is not important. Skill is important. Remember, singing is serious and we should take it seriously. Notice Psalm 33:3 says, “Play skillfully” so that must be what we strive for no matter what type of music we play or sing.

Conclusion

It is our joy to sing but we are also commanded to sing (cf. Ps. 100:1-2). So let’s praise Jesus with joy. Singing is serious.

Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

~Psalm 47:6

Songs to Keep in Regular Rotation 

  1. In Christ Alone
  2. Before the Throne of God Above
  3. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
  4. Speak, O Lord
  5. Behold Our God
  6. Holy, Holy, Holy
  7. The Gospel Song
  8. Grace Greater Than All Our Sin
  9. Jesus Paid It All
  10. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
  11. All I Have Is Christ
  12. O Great God
  13. We Will Glorify
  14. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  15. How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
  16. My Hope is Built on Nothing Less
  17. You Alone Can Rescue
  18. Man of Sorrows
  19. Your Great Name
  20. This is Amazing Grace
  21. Be Thou My Vision
  22. Grace Alone

What other songs would you add and why?

_______________

[1] “It is indisputable that music is one of the most powerful media humans have at their disposal; how it mediates and what it mediates are notoriously hard to understand or explain” (Jeremy S. Begbie, Resounding Truth, 14).

[2] See Tom Olson, “Singing That Flows from the Gospel” 147 in Gospel Centered Youth Ministry. This document relies heavily on Olson’s chapter.

Bono and Eugene Peterson Discuss the Psalms

Interesting conversation between Bono from U2 and Eugene Peterson who wrote a paraphrase of the Bible called The Message:

The Breadth and Width of Musical Expression

It’s important for a painter to paint with a full pallet; yellows, reds, and blues and various types of hues; orange, green, and pink, in short, a full panorama of colors. This allows one to do better justice to reality. If a painter paints for very long and very well, he will eventually use the full range of colors.

Shouldn’t it be the same for musicians? Should not they, at times, have clashing symbols, bludgeoning bass, and frantic whispers? Is not there a time for aggression as well as joy? Soprano singers have their place, that’s true; but left to their own devices they won’t be able to communicate the breadth of the human condition and reality. We need waltzes and swing, we need metal and Mozart, we need jazz and, surprised to say, we need pop. However, that is not to say that all forms or types of music are good. That is not true in the artistic or moral sense. What I mean, rather, is that human experience is so broad that we need lots of “colors” and “easels” to express it. Look at the Psalms. Or look even just at David’s Psalms. David would have understood (and perhaps wrote) pop praise songs akin to what we hear on the radio as well as laments. David did not paint with broad bland strokes but used the appropriate “brush” for the appropriate picture.

I think we see a parallel also in the breadth of literature or genres in Scripture. One genre or form of literature simply won’t do in the communication of truth.[1] In the same way, contemporary Christian music in the vein of CCM, won’t be able to communicate the full breadth of truth in Scripture.[2] There are things worth screaming over and musically weeping over. I, for instance, am personally convinced that Christians need double-bass “fight” songs from time to time. I would argue that some heavy music is better than a lot of the stuff we hear on Christian radio (see here and here). 

Popular contemporary Christian music tends to paint with brood bright strokes, using mainly happy and poppy major chords. Dark colors and minor keys seem to be all but forgotten. It’s like they’ve remembered redemption but forgotten the Fall. There are reasons to rejoice. But there are also reasons to weep, and scream. Christianity offers a full-orbed worldview. It deals with the pain and paradoxes of life. Much of contemporary Christian music doesn’t. A lot of secular music deals with angst; and that, that I can relate to. The world has much good in it, yet much bad, we are vying for meaning and redemption, and we have a thirst that can’t be quenched here. Much of contemporary Christian music, through lyrics and arrangement, doesn’t deal with or admit angst. It often seems ingeniune.[3]

Witness the realness and struggles of the Psalms. They are not always just poppy and happy. Sometimes they are, but not always. They incorporate a richer view of what it is to be: Blacks, browns, grays as well as pinks, yellows, and light blues; they use minor as well as major cords. They sing and scream. They cry and rejoice.

When all Scripture references to music making are combined, we learn that we are to make music in every conceivable condition: joy, triumph, imprisonment, solitude, grief, peace, war, sickness, merriment, abundance, and deprivation. This principle implies that the music of the church should be a complete music, not one-sided or single faceted.”[4]

The Psalms and the Bible broadly communicate and speak to the human condition and I hope more and more Christian art will as well.

Christian music as a role should take into account the major plot turns of Scripture. Neither stuck in the Fall or New Creation. To do justice to Scripture and reality, much of Christian music must expand its scope to include the Fall and the tragic pain and loss that humanity now suffers as a result.

“Modern and postmodern art often claim to tell the truth about the pain and absurdity of human existence, but that is only part of the story. The Christian approach to the human condition is more complete, and for that reason more hopeful (and ultimately more truthful). Christian artists celebrate the essential goodness of the world that God has made… Such celebration is not a form of naive idealism, but of healthy realism. At the same time, Christian artists also lament the ugly intrusion of evil into a world that is warped by sin, mourning the lost beauties of a fallen paradise… There is a sense not only of what we are, but also of what we were: creatures made to be like God… Even better, there is a sense of what we can become. Christian art is redemptive… Rather than giving in to meaninglessness and despair, Christian artists know that there is a way out.”[5]

Hopefully there will be more and more Christian artists that deal with the damning affects of the Fall. That will deal with the angst and anger we often feel. But also the amazing promise of hope, redemption, and shalom through Messiah Jesus. This world is fallen but we must not forget the future, the coming reign of Christ, or what He has already accomplished on the cross.

True Christian expression should take into account the dark night of the soul, the melancholy madness we sometimes feel, as well as exuberant joy. It should recall our suffering Savior on the cross as well as His coming reign in which He’ll slay unrepentant sinners. It should at times acknowledge doubt and affirm belief. It should encompass the whole range of human emotions, various genres of Scripture, and the full sweep of the Christian story and the end (telos) of it all should be the glory of God through the exaltation of Christ.

This then would be real, rich, and weighty musical art. Music that strives, obtains, aches, yearns, realizes, weeps, and rejoices. Music that is accurate and true; music that is richly diverse and leaks over into other genres. Music that reflects the great story that we all find ourselves in—the creation of all things good, the Fall and thus futility we all reckon with, the redemption offered in Christ, and the Judgment and New Creation that awaits. Music that is rich, hopeful, and honest. Music that is hard and peaceful. Music that does justice to the world we live in, in all of its beauty and pain. Music that offers hope and redemption but that’s not naive about pain and pointlessness and suffering.

Music has a distinct ability to distill, channel, and focus truth and beauty into a unified whole so that the result is a type of laser that cuts into our core to wreak havoc and heal. As Augustine said, sounds flow into our ears, and truth streams into our hearts. Music is important and it shapes us.[6] It is thus important that it is done well and shapes us well, to the right end (telos).

________________________________

[1] “When the psalmist says, ‘Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for passages throughout the Psalms refer to all four main forms of music: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. The ascriptions to the Psalms also contain evocative references to musical tunes, such as “The Death of the Son’ (Ps. 9) and ‘The Lily of the Covenant’ (Ps. 60). The Bible is full of many kinds of music. And as for literature, what further endorsement is needed beyond the Bible itself, which is the world’s richest anthology of stories, poems, historical torical narratives, romances, soliloquies, psalms, laments, prophecies, proverbs, parables, epistles, and apocalyptic visions?” (Philip Graham Ryken. Art for God’s Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts [Kindle Locations 180-185]. Kindle Edition.)

[2] “By continuously ‘praising the Lord’ the CCM artist rarely shows evidence of a comprehensive worldview. In fact, the world is not viewed at all. What is viewed is personal spiritual experience and usually only its more beautiful peaks. The valley of the shadow of death is rarely traversed, nor is the valley of indecision” (Steve Turner, Imagine: a vision for Christians in the arts, 52).

[3] “The problem with some modern and postmodern art is that it seeks to offer truth at the expense of beauty. It tells the truth only about ugliness and alienation, leaving out the beauty of creation and redemption. A good deal of so-called Christian art tends to have the opposite problem. It tries to show beauty without admitting the truth about sin, and to that extent it is false-dishonest about the tragic implications of our depravity. Think of all the bright, sentimental landscapes that portray an ideal world unaffected by the Fall, or the light, cheery melodies that characterize the Christian life as one of undiminished happiness. Such a world may be nice to imagine, but it is not the world God sent his Son to save” (Ryken, Art for God’s Sake, 242-246).

[4] Harold M. Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, 186.

[5] Ryken. Art for God’s Sake, 217-227

[6] “Music gets ‘in’ us in ways that other forms of discourse rarely do. A song gets absorbed into our imagination in a way that mere texts rarely do… Song seems to have a privileged channel to our imagination, to our kardia, because it involves our body in a unique way… Perhaps it is by hymns, songs, and choruses that the word of Christ ‘dwells in us richly’” (Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 171).

%d bloggers like this: