Doctrine and Music

Putting the "Kerygma" back in Music

We should be asking more of the hymns we sing and the rhetoric of the Music (even purely instrumental Music) we enjoy in church.

One of the best memorization aids out there is the act of setting text to Music. Think of the "alphabet song!" (also known as "twinkle, twinkle, little star.") How many of us still sing that in our minds as we put things in alphabetical order?

In the same way, if someone is asked to repeat the words of Simeon after meeting the infant Jesus, they could immediately recall the words of the Nunc dimittis ("Now you dismiss," or "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.)

What a beautiful way to remember the Scripture!

Doctrine, too?

A well-crafted hymn will also function as an aid to recalling and reinforcing key teachings.

Consider the doctrine of the Law and justification by faith alone, and how it's so eloquently expressed in Matthias Loy's hymn, "The Law of God Is Good and Wise," (vv. 5,6):

The Law is good; but since the Fall
Its holiness condemns us all;
It dooms us for our sin to die
And has no power to justify.

To Jesus we for refuge flee,
Who from the curse has set us free,
And humbly worship at His throne,
Saved by His grace through faith alone.

But What About Relevancy?

Proponents of Contemporary Commercial Music will always fall back to the 'relevancy' argument, which attempts to throw out the old hymns, and replace them with arrangements and lyrics that seem to be more appropriate to our times.

The trap, obviously, is that by making this choice, we're (falsely) marking the pre-existing, theologically-based body of hymnody is thus, "irrelevant" to our current needs, when in fact nothing could be farther than the truth.

God's Word is eternal, and the truths expressed in Holy Scripture are eternal. Hymnody that is firmly rooted in the words and teachings of Scripture must therefore be regarded on a different level than lyrics that point toward our own specific time.

The perspective of the Christian is an eternal one, we look back to Genesis 1, then forward, to the end of all things (Revelation 22) -- all centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Let us not be distracted by the immediate needs of our era, but instead rejoice in our fellowship with the eternal Communion of Saints.