Posted tagged ‘music’

Singing with Rationality

August 10, 2011

Today some of us discussed for a short time the pros and cons of what one of us called “Mantra Music”. He was describing the songs which go on for an extended time and repeat the same words over and over.

Something my son David wrote recently on his blog (aroundcambridge.org) jumped out at me and I wanted to put it before you. In his blog post, he lamented the fact that Christianity is often viewed by unbelievers as an irrational leap of faith. This leap has no rational basis, as the unbeliever sees it. People just “check their brain” and believe.

Is it possible that our aversion to “Mantra Music” is that it is often times “check your brain” music. It doesn’t say anything (at least after a while) and appears to have no rational basis for being sung. In Scripture, people often cry out, “The Lord Is Good!” For example, take the 5th verse of Psalm 100:

Psalm 100:5 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Here is a truth that loses its rationality if we just sing it over and over without connecting it to the first four verses:

Psalm 100:1-4 NIV Psalm 100:1 A psalm. For giving thanks. Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

There are at least three other ways music (both old and new) can demonstrate an irrational tone. First, we can sing about things that can’t really be true. Songs about touching God, for example, are not true to reality. I know that we can sing metaphor, but some songs speak about wanting to reach out and touch God and say that we love him. We can’t. We appear to have “checked our brains.”

Another example is the song that talks about how we pledge our love or service beyond what we really, rationally can or do actually do. One song I know ends with the line, “I will always love you with everything I am.” No unbeliever believes that believers do that, and no believer should either. God always loves us, but we are often not loving to Him. Why sing that when we know it isn’t true?

Finally, there are words in songs that just don’t mean anything (at least to me). I like the song, “How Great is Our God,” until the end of the second verse:
And age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the End
Beginning and the End
The Godhead three in one
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

The Beginning and the End clearly refers to his control over the ages. So, what repeats after the lines about the Trinity should refer to the Trinity. It could be, “The Mystery of God, The Mystery of God,” or, “The Trinity of Love, The Trinity of Love,” etc. But—it reads, “The Lion and the Lamb, The Lion and the Lamb.” I don’t know how that connects. It seems irrational and becomes, for me, “check your brain,’ irrational music. I could go on with other examples I don’t understand (“you took the fall, above all,” rhymes, but I’m not sure what it means.)

So it seems to me that our music should be rational. That doesn’t mean we can’t sing experiential music, but it should be rational.

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