Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Timothy Peng on The Reformed View of Music

In his book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren states that "Worship has nothing to do with the style or volume or speed of a song. God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all — fast and slow, loud and soft, old and new. You probably don’t like it all, but God does! If it is offered to God in spirit and truth, it is an act of worship" (p. 65). In modern Christianity, on the one hand, the new breed of Evangelicals that Warren epitomizes think that all kinds of music is good and can be used to worship God. On the other, many traditionalists behave as if only Western music composed in the Baroque to Romantic (some limit themselves to Baroque only even) era are suitable for worship. In this worship war, is there a distinctly biblical and Reformed view of music for us to consider? Are there distinctive features in music that are good and adequate for worship, while other features are inappropriate for the same purpose?

In his paper, Timothy Peng tackles the issue head-on. An excerpt:

Abraham Kuyper calls music the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Church of Jesus Christ has been blessed tremendously as she uses music to bring her devotion and prayers to God throughout the ages. However, Christians have engaged in great controversies over the use of music in the church, with extreme diversity of opinions ranging from Zwingli’s total rejection of music to Rick Warren’s complete embrace of every style of music. The purpose of this paper is to provide guidance on how we can use music for our benefit, and impart wisdom on the way to discern the dangers hidden in its usage as we live in this fallen world. To do this, I will briefly trace the development of music theories to the ancient Greeks, then compared the ancient wisdom with the insights from the Reformers (especially John Calvin), and finally explore the natures of music in order that we can enjoy it.


Junhao Yoong has reviewed Timothy Peng's article and his response can be seen here. An excerpt:

Timothy Peng传道在其论文里提出了许多关于圣乐之重要的论据,即现今信徒皆所忽略的。此论文中,Timothy Peng讲述了音乐在诗歌里所扮演之角色,音乐于人类历史与文化中的发展及音乐的风格、音符、节奏、诗歌的架构及词汇等都与整首诗歌所要表达的信息是息息相关的。此外,他也引用了许多圣乐作品作为例子,讲述了圣乐作品如何带出音乐于崇拜里该有的庄严与神圣两种重要的性质。在此,笔者仅能对此文略作回应,盼能借此彼此勉励,以期能够更好的在教会音乐事工中彼此配搭,敬拜事奉我们的上帝。


Timothy Peng's paper and Junhao Yoong's review are now open for discussion.

Add: The review has now been translated to English here, as follows:

In his paper, Pastor Timothy Peng argues for the importance of many principles with regards to worship and music which has been sadly neglected by many believers today. Peng describes the role music plays in worship, the development of music through humanity’s history and culture, and argues that the character, melody, rhythm and structure of songs of worship are intricately linked to the message that the song aspires to give. In developing his argument, various pieces of church music are used as examples of how the dignity and sanctity of worship is expressed. This reviewer would like to add his appreciation on this excellent article, and wishes that good church music ministries would partner with each other in worship and service unto our God.



Augustinian Successor said...

On a comparison between Luther and Calvin on music ...


Augustinian Successor said...

Another article on Luther and music ...


Augustinian Successor said...

On the use of "bar-tunes" by Luther ...


Augustinian Successor said...

Two more articles debunking the myth that Luther was a promiscuous composer of music ...



PuritanReformed said...

I think Timothy has made some good points regarding music and the criteria on discerning the types of music that is appropriate or inappropriate regarding the coherence of the musical tune to the lyrics.

That said, the regulative principle of worship which is the Reformed position on worship, has not been addressed here. I would say that Timothy's paper while necessary cannot really call itself THE Reformed view.

Hui Cheng said...

"I would say that Timothy's paper while necessary cannot really call itself THE Reformed view."

Hi Daniel,

May I know how is "Tomothy's paper" "necessary," while not being THE Reformed view.

In what way is it "necessary?"

And what is THE reformed view?


PuritanReformed said...

Hi Hui Cheng:

By necessary, I mean that Timothy's paper states useful information which is edifying to the church.

The Reformed view must include discussing and embracing what is historically known as the Regulative Principle of Worship. Timothy did not discuss the Regulative Principle, and thus it falls short of being Reformed.

Hui Cheng said...

Hi Daniel,

"By necessary, I mean that Timothy's paper states useful information which is edifying to the church."

Hmmm, interesting reasoning. If that is so, then any "paper" or "material" that "states useful information which is edifying to the church" would be necessary.

I would say most Christian literature have "useful information which is edifying to the church" in some way, and these would be necessary for our discussion here then, including Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Warren's Purpose Driven Life. That's a great observation.

Also, even secular literature which contains "useful information which is edifying to the church" - even a critique or persecutive, anti-Christian material which is "edifying" in some ways - would be necessary. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, ain't it so? Hence, yes, even persecutive, anti-Christian material would be "edifying" for the church. Our blood would be the seed of the church, if needed.

Hence yes, according to you, Yawning Bread's pro-homosexual anti-Christian literature would be necessary too. That's a great observation, brother!

"The Reformed view MUST include discussing and embracing what is historically known as the Regulative Principle of Worship."

Why MUST it so? Please explain.

John said...

Thank Timothy for the paper...

Below an interesting lecture by Ligon Ducan on the same subject. He gave some helpful points.