I had an experience this week which heightened in my heart the tension I feel as I observe current Christendom. It was a musical experience, and it came about through the unintentional juxtaposition of two musical works, both of which implicitly claim to be expressions of Christian orthodoxy.
The first piece was J. S. Bach's "St. Matthew Passion." I don't know of anyone, friend or foe, who would deny that Bach's music is a masterful musical interpretation of Reformation orthodoxy. In fact, many have credited Bach's music itself with helping to forward the Reformation cause.
The second piece I do not know the name of, nor do I know if it has a name. It was the theme music for a video promo of the New Attitude 2007 conference. I really don't even know how to describe the music. You'll just have to listen to it yourself. I would hazzard a guess that it was written by one or more of the artists associated with Sovereign Grace ministries. The theme of the conference is "Embrace a Humble Orthodoxy," and the conference features some of the biggest names in conservative Christianity in America as speakers. The doctrinal orthodoxy of the speakers is beyond all doubt. The promo video features several snippets of Josh Harris talking about embodying the unchanging truths of God's Word which have been passed down through generations. He asks, "What does it look like for our generation to embrace a humble orthodoxy?" He says that humble orthodoxy requires discernment. He says that we should be able to tell others to look at our lives and see that the gospel has changed us.
All of this is true, preciously true. And certainly our music is one powerful means that we use to express to others our worldview. In fact, we use music to participate with others in a common expression of hearts. Music aurally embodies, not just our emotional interpretations of the world, but our constructions and explorations of what we desire. So as I listened to the music of the video, I was struck with this thought. Can this kind of music and Bach's music both be good, beautiful, and true embodiments of Christian orthodoxy? Is it possible to embrace a reformed systematic theology and at the same time to miss the musical implications of that theology by a mile?
What are your answers to these two questions? I say "no" and "yes," respectively. So what do we do about it? We need a powerful reformation that can revision the world according to God's revelation and then express that in song. Think about it, and pray that God in his mercy will grant us the wisdom to do it.