What follows are some notes towards unravelling the various threads at work in the Commerical Worship Music (CWM) movement.
The movement astounds me. In the span of a generation we've seen centuries' worth of Doctrine, Hymnody, and Liturgy obliterated--completely flattened. All the bastions that worked so well against previous invasions were useless against this enemy, but why?
Disappointingly, I've found that most conversations on the subject are usually pretty brief and/or one-sided. This is too bad, because the problem is actually very interesting. There are many elements to discuss; what I present to you over the next few weeks are descriptions of ten (or so) of them.
1. Subjectivity vs. Objectivity
Can anything be regarded as "objective" in this day and age? Orthodox Christians will say "absolutely," and point to the truths of Scripture as being objective, immutable truths. Ask anyone else, however, and you will probably get a "maybe" or even a "no." As a society, we've embraced the conclusion that truth is entirely relative and or subjective, and that there are few or no absolutes in the world.
The situation becomes graver if we ask about the existence of "objective truths" in art, where it's almost impossible to find anyone who would agree--even Orthodox Christians. The old "Situation Ethics" has been rewritten to include Music. This is a relatively new notion--for even as recently as the late 20th century, there were highly regarded Music critics and theorists who advocated essential, unchanging truths in the interpretation and creation of art. These truths, it was once argued, are transcendent across time and culture, and bind together a select canonical body of work--the most transcendent art. This in contrast to popular music, which by its amateurish and fleeting nature, must be relegated to second- or even third-class status.
For popular music to be elevated from the banal to the transcendent, one must, by necessity, throw out these antiquated notions and believe that in music, "all things are relative," and that there is no way to ascribe any value or worth to anyone's efforts. Since everyone's opinion is equally valid (subjective), it's considered poor taste to evaluate anyone's musical tastes or compositions. "That's just your opinion" has ended many a discussion.
The same arguments take place, interestingly enough, in the interpretation of the Bible; there are those who place it entirely within the culture, severing Scripture from any notion of transcendent or eternal truth (Rationalists, higher critics).
Could there be a relationship one's perspective on the inerrancy of Scripture and their opinion of Musical style?