One reason why we Christians argue so much about which hymn to sing, which liturgy to follow, which way to worship is that the commandments teach us to believe that bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics. You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend.Disputes about music and liturgy will surface afresh next spring with the publication of a collection edited by James Hawkey, Ben Quash, and Vernon White: God’s Song and Music’s Meanings: How Shall we Sing the Lord’s Song?
About this book the publisher tells us:
The public making of music in our society happens more often in the context of chapels, churches and cathedrals than anywhere else. The command to sing and make music to God makes music an essential part of the DNA of Christian worship. Taking seriously the practice and not just the theory of music, this ground-breaking collection of essays establishes a new standard for the interdisciplinary conversation between theology, musicology and liturgical studies. Framed by two substantive essays by leading theologians with a profound interest in music, the book’s four main sections will address questions about the history, the performance, the contexts, and the nature of music, as Christians understand it. It will show how any serious discussion of music opens onto considerations of time, tradition, ontology, anthropology, providence, and the nature of God.We are also given the contents. While some chapters obviously pertain to a Western context, the first chapter, by the patristics scholar Carol Harrison, will obviously be of especial interest to Eastern Christians; and then the final chapter by the Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart will be likewise along with the response from the Anglican scholar of Orthodoxy, Rowan Williams:
Introduction: What Does ‘Musical Meaning’ Mean? Jeremy Begbie
SECTION 1: THE MEANINGS OF MUSIC IN WESTERN HISTORY
1. Providence and Prayer: the Theology of Music in the Patristic Church
2. Music in the Great Chain of Being: Medieval Christianity
3. Hearing Revelation: Music and Theology in the Reformation
4. Music, Atheism and Modernity
SECTION 2: MUSIC’S MEANING IN WORSHIP
4. The Worship of God and the Quest of the Spirit: ‘Contemporary’ versus ‘Traditional’ Church Music
5. The Rise of the Individual, and the Fall of Communal Participation
SECTION 3: MUSICAL MEANING IN CHURCH AND WORLD
6. Musical Promiscuity: the Gods Music Serves
7. What’s Sacred About ‘Sacred Music’?
SECTION 4: GOD, THE COSMOS, AND THE MEANING OF MUSIC
8. Christ the Song of God: Is Music Absolute?
9. Sacred Music and the Holy Trinity
David Bentley Hart
Response to the Essays Rowan Williams