Encouraging a higher standard for Christian music

There is a philosophy abroad that says we must keep church music current and up-to-date. I disagree, if what is meant is that we must make the music of God’s house as much like the music of the secular world as possible. Something is wrong if, in order to draw in the unsaved and communicate the gospel to them, we must descend to their level and incorporate the music styles of the world into our worship. God’s call to separation relates to our sacred music too (“sacred” meaning holy, separated). “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean” (II Cor. 6:17).

In The Book of Common Praise of the Anglican Church (1938 edition), author and hymn writer Robert Bridges makes the following comment:

If we consider and ask ourselves what sort of music we should wish to hear on entering a church, we should surely, in describing our ideal, say first of all that it must be something different from what is heard elsewhere; it should be a sacred music, devoted to its purpose, a music whose peace should still passion, whose dignity should strengthen our faith, whose unquestioned beauty should find a home in our hearts, to cheer us in life and death….What power for good such music would have!

It is not that we try to canonize the old hymns and reject outright anything written more recently than a century ago. Rather, we should develop biblical principles that seek the highest and best–of both old and new. The words of James Rowe, in the gospel song Love Lifted Me, come to mind: “Love so mighty and so true merits my soul’s best songs.” In her book A Handbook for the Church Pianist (Lillenas, 1964), Wilda Jackson Auld makes a similar point to Bridges.

The church must have her own music and it should never be a mere aping of the styles of Broadway…and modern music in general….Our best music is constantly endangered by an amalgamation with the bad, or even the pretty-but-weak….Let the church enjoy and exercise her right to exalted, masterful music suited to her high calling….Do let us guard our music from the taint of a cheap, over-rhythmic, weak, petty, cluttered imitation of the current fads….Beware when a majestic hymn, well sung or played, holds no thrill of enjoyment for you. This is analogous to the jaded appetite of the child who prefers a candy bar and a Coke to a well-prepared, well-served hot meal, even with dessert!

Food for thought in view of present trends!


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