“Not in My Church!”
I’m not sure how what has been called “the worship wars” is going in your ecclesiastical neighborhood but for many an un-easy truce seems to have been declared. In some quarters, thankfully peace negotiations are ongoing. Doing some study for a message on Colossians 3:16, I looked back at some old worship controversies from previous ages – such as English Baptist Benjamin Keach introducing singing in the Lord’s Day service or Isaac Watts composing hymns that were based on the Bible but used his own words (“Jesus Shall Reign” or “O God Our Help in Ages Past”) changes which seem quite benign and unimportant to us I but in their day caused quite a ruckus and led to much debate, denunciation and the eventual separation of many congregations and denominations.
In our own day, as the organ (pipe or otherwise) seems to be going the way of the 8-Track player, due to cost and changes in culture, technology and generational preferences, I was amused to find the following quotes that give a glimpse of how many theologians felt about the organ when centuries ago it was “new” and becoming predominant in the music and worship of the church:
“We have brought into our churches certain operatic and theatrical music; such a confused, disorderly chattering of some words as I hardly think was ever in any of the Grecian or Roman theatres. The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes, and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them. Men run to church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled. And for this end organ makers are hired with great salaries, and a company of boys, who waste all their time learning these whining tones.” (Erasmus – 16th cen)
“The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal” (Martin Luther – 16 cen)
“Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon tolerate the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries, and yet the instrument has gradually found its way among them…. How far this modern organ fever will extend among our people, and whether it will on the whole work a RE- formation or DE- formation in their singing service, time will more fully develop.” (David Benedict, Baptist – 19 cen)
“I am an old man, and I here declare that I never knew them to be productive of any good in the worship of God, and have reason to believe that they are productive of much evil. Music as a science I esteem and admire, but instrumental music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music, and I here register my protest against all such corruption of the worship of the author of Christianity. The late and venerable and most eminent divine, the Rev. John Wesley, who was a lover of music, and an elegant poet, when asked his opinion of instruments of music being introduced into the chapels of the Methodists, said in his terse and powerful manner, ‘I have no objections to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.’ I say the same.” (Adam Clark, Methodist – 19 cen)
It has always been the “how” of worship that has been the stumbling block for God’s people. Sadly, that which is intended to demonstrate the harmonious joining together of all God’s people from every nation, tribe, culture, age (and with all creation and the saints in heaven) by the Spirit in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father has been the occasion of failing to love, honor, and welcome one another. I think that the sounds, sights, singing, music, melodies and worship of heaven will be a great surprise to many of the Lord’s warring children – if they get there of course!