Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 10, Number 2
In this Issue:
2003 LMS Annual Conference and Convention
June 20-22, 2003
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
As in the past couple of years, the LMS Annual Conference will be held on the Saturday of Convention weekend. Presentations this year will be centered on the theme:
Fear of God
• We Should Fear and Love God •
The Catechism's, "We should fear and love God," should make for some interesting presentations. Do "fear" and "love" speak of the same thing, or are they opposite sides of the same coin? And we want to remember, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Ps. 111:10).
Youth and Adults attending the Convention will join with the congregation of St. Matthew for Sunday School at 9:20 a.m., and for Divine Worship at 10:30 a.m. A congregational dinner will follow. The Convention will convene at 1:00 p.m.
The Youth Gathering
Youth ages 10 and older are again invited to attend the annual LMS Youth Gathering. The youth program will begin Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. To parallel the "fear" theme of the Conference, the Youth will have their own mini-Survival weekend. What are you afraid of? The Youth will face it in our rendition of T.V.'s Survivor, Worst Case Scenario, and Fear Factor with a twist; we'll also be discussing how the people in the Bible survived wars, famine, plagues, pestilence, and their often tenuous relationship with God. We ask kids to pack like they're going on a Survivor camping trip. Who knows? The gear you take may save your "life" or our team. Please do not pack food because, in the fine tradition of Survivor all food items will be taken away from you. The youth will also be participating in a humorous play on Moses, which will be performed for the entire Conference on Sunday after lunch. Counselors for our excursion are welcome. Please contact Maureen Spears at firstname.lastname@example.org
Annual Conference Information
back to top
The Interpretation of Scripture
by Rev. John Erickson
As pertaining to Scripture, we read in the LMS' Indianapolis Annotated Statement on Holy Scripture,
"We subscribe to the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Bible... We recognize and submit to the Bible as the... divinely inspired, revealed, harmonious, and inerrant Word of God. We joyfully submit to this Word of God as the only infallible authority in all matter of Church doctrine and practice and personal faith and life."
In its Brief Positional Statements we read,
"We believe the Bible is God's Word and self-revelation to us, and as such, it is without error in all it touches, whenever and however it speaks whether in matters of faith, doctrine, history, geography, or science."
All of this is fine and good. However, what one has to say about the authority and reliability of Scripture as we find it in the Bible is one thing. How one interprets the Bible is another. Or it could be put this way. What one thinks or believes concerning the Bible is one thing. What one does with it, how one applies it, is something different entirely.
An example of this is what we find in our Lord's Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:21-48). The people of the day, especially the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, had high respect for the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament Scriptures). At the same time, they worked diligently at a proper interpretation of the teachings and ethical precepts found in the Scriptures. When Jesus came on the scene, while he in no way disagreed with the authority they gave to Scripture, he did disagree with the interpretation these "religious experts" gave to many portions of the Scripture. In fact Jesus asserted the authority of the Scriptures as God's written Word... and, at the same time, he called on his followers to accept its true and exacting interpretation. Thus we read, several times, in these verses, "You have heard that it was said, ...but I tell you..." In other words, "Your interpretation is wrong... I am giving you the correct interpretation."
This human tendency toward false interpretation of that which is true, did not end with those Jesus confronted in the first-century. As early as the second-century, a fellow by the name of Marcion falsely interpreted what he found there and ended up rewriting the New Testament. In so doing, he eliminated all its references to the Old. Some of his followers went even further in their interpretation of Scripture, daring even to reverse the meaning of certain verses. An example of this is found in their reworking of Jesus' words in Matthew 5:17, "I have come not to fulfill the law and the prophets, but to abolish them."
In what is called the patristic period (the second century through to the beginning of the Middle Ages), the tension between what the Bible really meant and what it means can be found in the division between the literal (Antiocene) and allegorical (Alexandrian) approaches to Scripture interpretation. Antiocene interpreters (for example, John Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia), without denying the spiritual truths in Scripture, emphasized the historical realities found therein. They insisted that any spiritual sense should be based on the literal sense of the text. On the other hand, men such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen, of the Alexandrian school of interpretation, used the methods of allegorical interpretation developed by Greek pre-Christian interpreters of Homer and by the Jewish philosopher Philo, in seeking to arrive at the spiritual truths beneath the surface of the biblical text.
As we move into the Middle ages, we find biblical interpreters discerning four senses in the biblical text: literal (what happened), allegorical (the hidden theological truth), anagogical (the heavenly sense), and moral or tropological (the meaning for one's behavior). Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) insisted that the spiritual sense should be based on the literal sense, and presuppose it. In his commentaries, Thomas Aquinas used human reason to explain the Scriptures and he sought to integrate biblical and philosophical truth.
It was in the Renaissance period with its stress on humanism, that we find interest in studying the scriptures in the original Hebrew and Greek languages, and to do so in their historical settings. It was at this time that Erasmus produced a new edition of the Greek New Testament and he looked to Greek and Latin classical writings to help with the biblical interpretations of the church fathers. This was also the era of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers placed emphasis on the clarity of the Bible and on its authoritative sufficiency. They saw, in this understanding of the Bible, the best means of restoring the purity of the Christian life.
Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) was one of the thinkers of the Enlightenment. These men championed human reason over the claims of divine revelation and church tradition. Spinoza along with other philosophers argued that if there was a conflict between the Bible and human reason (the miracles for example), then the Bible should be rejected as the final authority and the matter should be explained in light of human reason.
One can see how all this has fed into the matter of biblical interpretation in our day. Some time ago, I recall reading a piece that came off the web site of a national church body (sadly it was a Lutheran church body). I am not saying it was an official pronouncement of that particular church body, but the statement was not challenged. In so many words, it was that it is the role of the Church to determine what parts of the Bible are relevant for people today and what parts are not. And how would the "Church" make these determinations?
A recent book by two men who held leadership roles in this same church body give us an example of how this ought to be done. They write of how, for example, when it comes to looking to the Bible for guidance on the issues of same sex marriages and/or the ordination of homosexuals into the ministry of Word and Sacrament, it requires "informed interpretation." They explain "informed interpretation" this way. "Christians don't derive their ethical and social teachings from the Bible alone but from the natural and social sciences as well, and our understanding of homosexuality has been greatly enhanced by the scientific discoveries the past century.'" (The Roseville Review, July 24, 2001).
So, when trying to interpret Scripture, we have, on the one hand, those who continue the ways of Aquinas, and later, the enlightenment, by interpreting, or seeking to make sense of Scripture, through the incorporation of human reason.
On the other hand... there are those who follow in the ideas of the Alexandrian school and by some of those of the Middle Ages, who saw allegory in most all of Scripture and who sought to find that illusive, more lofty meaning to the text. With nothing but human imagination, or supposed personal revelation, upon which to base such findings, one can only imagine where such interpretations have, and might, lead.
The Bible itself informs us, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16).
It is Peter who informs us "no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (II Pet. 1:20-21).
Are the words of the Bible truly "God-breathed"? Is the Bible of a wisdom that far higher than that of human wisdom? Is the Bible truly authoritative? Can we take God at his word, believing that it is true and true for all time? Was the Bible given to us as God's revelation of himself to us and of his will for us? How one understands all of this and then interprets that word will make all the difference in the world. Do we take the words of Scripture and simply let them speak to us, trusting that the Holy Spirit will, in fact, lead us into the truth (Jn. 16:13) that we might come to believe and have life (Jn. 20:31)?
It is not popular in the church today, but the LMS is committed to (and thankfully the LMS is not alone among the various church bodies in this commitment) of what is called, the Historical-Grammatical view of biblical interpretation. The following article, a brief chapter from a small volume titled, The Thousand Years Not Pre-Millennial, by Jacob Tanner, will give the reader some understanding of what is behind good, solid biblical interpretation.
back to top
Interpretation As Determined by the Unity of the Bible
by Jacob Tanner
In our quest for guiding principles of interpretation we naturally turn to the Bible. As God's revelation of Himself the Bible must be self-explanatory or it would be of no value as a revelation.
Christian people generally agree that the Bible is a unit in plan and purpose. Its purpose is the building of the Kingdom of God through Christ Jesus, and its plan is an historical process of preparation and fulfilment.
This unity in plan and purpose extends of necessity also to the teaching of the Bible. The pulse beat of the Old Testament is the hope of better days at the coming of the prophet greater than Moses, of the priest more efficient and enduring than Aaron, of the king purer and mightier than David.
The program of Moses and the prophets furnished the scope as well as the details of the work by which Christ stepped into history as God's answer to the longings and hope of the past (Luke 24:27). The apostles and their co-workers saw in Him not only the conclusion of the preparatory process, but the fulness of God's life in man. To them Christ was the source and content of the new spiritual life in human history. He was the Alpha and Omega of the Epistles and of the Revelation, the inexhaustible depth of the riches of the wisdom of God, so complete in person, in life, in teaching, that there was nothing to change, nothing new to add. In Him God's revelation as well as human history had reached the final stage. "For how many soever be the promises of God, in him is the yea: wherefore also through him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us" (2 Cor. 1:20). From His day on the future of mankind would depend upon its relation to Him.
The logic of these Biblical facts has shaped probably the oldest and most generally accepted rule of interpretation. The Bible must explain the Bible. This law of the analogy of faith that meant so much to past generations of believers will always remain a basic law for all sound exegesis.
More specifically stated, it means that the Old Testament must be understood in the light of the New, the preparatory in the light of the fulfilment. There is a book in the New Testament, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the main purpose of which may be said to be a demonstration of this very principle. The Gospel according to Matthew, Peter's Pentecost sermon and Paul's Epistle to the Galatians are other outstanding examples.
Further it means that obscure words and statements must be explained by the plain teachings bearing on the same subject. If every scripture is given us for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), it is evident that it must be plain enough to serve this purpose. The sunshine of the day cannot be explained by the moonlight of the night, but the radiancy of the sun accounts for the reflection of the moon.
Finally it means that contradictory teaching on the same subject cannot be accepted. "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you ... was not yea and nay, but in him is yea" (2 Cor. 1:19).
back to top
Lutheran Hymnody: Orthodoxy in Song
"Lutheran Worship: Why We Do What We Do"
by Pr. Chad L. Bird
(St. Paul, Wellston, OK) Texas Confessional Lutherans Free Conference 5 August 2000
(Ed. note - This paper has been edited down considerably. The complete paper can be found at:www.concordtx.org/cpapers/birdhym.htm
Hymnody and Orthodoxy
A confessional church is a singing church. As she sings, she makes her good confession, a confession both in word and music. Theology must be given a voice. The lips, not the pen, are the best instruments of theological expression. Although doctrinal books, commentaries, journals, and essays serve well as mediums of confession, they all play second fiddle to that which is articulated in the liturgy.
All of which is to say that the hearth and home of theology is the Divine Service. All true theology is restless until it finds its rest in liturgy, sermons, and hymnody. There the rubber meets the road. In that holy context the Bride of Christ is doing what she does best: hearing from and speaking to her heavenly Groom. And the words she speaks are God-words, nouns and verbs which cradle the divine presence. She confesses, chants, and sings the words God first planted in her ears. I have heard seminarians say that they learned as much (or more) theology in the daily chapel services as in the classroom or study. The same could be said by any layman who confesses the creeds, prays the liturgy, sings the hymns, and listens to the sermons in his congregation.
What Makes a Hymn a Lutheran Hymn?
Scholars estimate that in America alone there have been more than 1,500,000 hymns published in approximately 4,700 hymnals. That means, for instance, that the hymns which made the cut for Lutheran Worship [The LCMS Hymnal] (520 in number) comprise a mere .0003 of that total number. The world is flooded with hymns, but as with any flood, there is a lot of trash and raw sewage floating around in the water. Not all is safe for churchly consumption.
To inquire after what makes a hymn a Lutheran hymn is to ask what theological and musical criteria must be met before one of those 1.5 million hymns is sanctified for us in the Divine Service. Such an inquiry is more art than science, more like contemplating a work of art than computing a correct answer on an arithmetic quiz. The criteria listed below is limited in scope, but is meant to start us down the right path toward determining what makes a hymn truly Lutheran.
Criteria #1: A Lutheran hymn aims not to create the right atmosphere or mood for worship, but serves as a vehicle for the Spirit-filled Word of God. The American culture is permeated with the sounds of music. Businesses have taken advantage of the situation by harnessing various styles of music in their effort to sell products. In that context, the goal of the music is emotional or psychological. Its intent is to create an atmosphere in which the clientele will feel comfortable shopping.
The marriage between music and commercialization does indeed work in the secular realm. It works so well, in fact, that many within the church are tempted to use music and hymnody to "sell" the Gospel, to prepare the "potential consumers" in the pew for a "faith-transaction." For example, in the introduction to The Other Song Book, Dave Anderson quotes approvingly this paragraph by the Rev. Dick Hamlin:
"Music prepares the heart for worship and commitment. Music is the greatest mood alternator of all, and unlocks the ministry of God in the untrespassed soil of a person's soul. People love singing. They love being moved even when there is not a song in their hearts."
Harold Senkbeil provides a lucid commentary on these words.
"Note what is being said here and what is not being said. Holy Scripture declares that it is the Word of the Lord that prepares the heart for worship and commitment. Here the claim is that music is a substitute Means of Grace, unlocking the human heart for God. No mention is made of the Means God has appointed as channels for His activity. No mention of music as a vehicle for the Divine Word. Rather, God's action in equated with mood changes. The claim is that since people "love being moved," the function of Christian music is to move them; whatever works."
Theologians have long extolled the benefits of clothing the best of theology in the dress of the finest poetry. St. John Chrysostom (c. 345-407) once stated:
"When God saw that the majority of men were slothful and that they approached spiritual reading with reluctance and submitted to the effort involved without pleasure, wishing to make the task more agreeable and to relieve the sense of laboriousness, He mixed melody with prophecy so that, enticed by the rhythm and melody, all might raise sacred hymns to Him with great eagerness. For nothing so arouses the soul, gives it wing, sets it free from the earth, releases it from the prison of the body, teaches it to love wisdom and to condemn all things of this life, as concordant melody and sacred song composed in rhythm."
What Saint Chrysostom notes has been the consistent observation of the Christian church: that the word wedded to music is a beautiful and powerful means to give memorable expression to the most profound truths of theology.
Criteria #2: A Lutheran hymn is not entertainment but proclamation. The goliath music entertainment industry towers over the American cultural landscape and, sadly, there doesn't seem to be a Davidic hero about to bring it down. This industry has radically transformed the way people view the purpose of music and song. Music as entertainment certainly has its place in a society, but increasingly its function solely as entertainment overshadows all other functions. Music has traditionally been used in education and other fields not with the goal of entertainment but enhancement of learning and memorization. Over the past half century, however, music has become largely a source of everything from titillation to exploitation. The quality of such songs is gauged not by their beauty or truth content, but the emotional effect and appeal they have upon the masses. And often the appeal of such lyrics and music is to the basest of passions in sinful man.
With such widespread use of music solely for entertainment purposes, it was only a matter of time before some within the church hopped onto the bandwagon. The attempt is made in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), for instance, to utilize the secular sounds one would hear on the radio or MTV to convey a Christian message. Leaving aside the fact that this message is commonly a heterodox message, what can be said for or against the express intent of CCM? Commenting on the mixture of language to and about God with language to and about man, Kantor Richard Resch points out the dire results emanating from this union of sacred and secular:
"Examples of that confused language are plentiful in Contemporary Christian Music, in the popular, experiential supplemental hymnals found in many Lutheran pews, in the gimmicky Vacation Bible School music, in school musicals that use religious themes, and in solo and choral music available from a host of publishers. If one heard this language from afar, minus text, one would never guess that it means to be faith language for it blatantly has its source in the musical expression of the world. However, the concern is not just a matter of music but has to do with the total expression. As early as 1985, Amy Grant said in a USA Today interview, "We prefer to be a little bit sneaky with the lyrics . . . when you start getting churchy, they start running" [USA Today 11-8-85]. After Miss Grant spoke of her fast-paced drumbeats, her "deafening screams" and her sensually oriented apparel, the reporter ended the interview by asking the reader the question, "This is gospel music?" In a 1986 magazine interview Miss Grant said, "There are songs that can go both ways. I call these God-girlfriend songs - meaning you are either singing it to God or to your boyfriend or girlfriend" [Charisma, 7-7-86, p. 21]
When words are so vague and rubbery as to be capable of addressing either "God" or my girlfriend, we are no longer singing to the Holy Trinity but to an idol. It seems Miss Grant - and many others - have failed not only in providing Christian music, but Christian words as well.
Music is powerful, and as with any power, it is capable of accomplishing good or evil purposes. When entertainment music is wrapped around Christian lyrics - even if those lyrics are orthodox - the truth is obscured. The secular overtones of the music overpower the sacred claims of the text.
The purpose of hymnody within the liturgy is not to put on such a grand performance that the congregation rises to its feet with feverish hand-clapping. The hymns proclaim a divine message, which is not entertaining, but sustaining, designed to feed the sojourning church as she makes her way through the world, but is not of the world. Entertainment has its place, but that place is outside the bounds of the church.
Criteria #3: A Lutheran hymn is not experiential or sentimental (theology of glory), but objective and sturdy (theology of the cross). The theology of the Lutheran church is a theology of the cross. This means not only that we preach Christ crucified, but that the crucifix is the lens through which we view all of God's dealings with us. In the sacrifice of the body of Jesus, God was hiding Himself in order that He might reveal Himself through what seemed most ungodly or "ungod-like". God revealed His glory, His love, and His will to save within what the human mind rejected as offensive or unbecoming of divinity. And so St. Paul says, "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.... God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God." (1 Cor 1:18, 27-29).
The cross thus shapes the sacramental and liturgical life of the church as well. The plain, ordinary, earthly elements of water, bread, and wine are the masks behind which Christ is present. Human words spoken by a common man are the vehicles of the Spirit's work. These are the means of the cross, the bearers of divine gifts which come from outside man and enter into him by objective channels. Because God is so hidden and unseen in this, faith is required to believe and receive that which God is proffering.
The theology of glory, however, turns its gaze away from the outside-of-me Gospel and Sacraments, to the inner experience of the Spirit or the outward manifestations of God's might or sovereignty. The theology of glory looks for God where man assumes God should be found, not where He has promised to be. The glory-theologian thus treasures supposed experiences of God, where he "feels" the divine presence. His conversion-experience replaces the objectivity of Holy Baptism and the whispering of the inner "still, quiet voice of God" trumps the public preaching of the Gospel.
A Lutheran hymn is not centered on the experience of man "falling in love" with God but the activity of a loving God on behalf of fallen man. And that divine activity is always hidden in, with, and under the Means of Grace - the Gospel and Sacraments - not feelings and garden- walks with imaginary Jesuses. One need not look far in Lutheran hymnody to find a plethora of examples of hymns which focus on the theology of the cross.
Criteria #4: A Lutheran hymn is not doggerel but the finest of poetry. In the Greek translation of Gen 1:31, we read, "And God saw all that He had made, and, behold, it was exceedingly beautiful (kala)." St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), in his exposition of the Psalms, wrote of how the beauty of God's creation is an icon of the beauty of God.
"The beauty of everything is in a way their voice by which they praise God. The sky . . . the earth cry, You made me, not I. And as He made all things, and nothing is better than He is, whatever He made is less than He is. So do not let what He made please you so as to drag you away from Him who made them. If you love what He made, love much more Him who made them. If the things He made are beautiful, how much more beautiful is He who made them!"
Criteria #5: A Lutheran hymn is not bound merely to paraphrase the biblical text; rather it interprets and expounds it in reference to Christ. A few years after Dr. Luther and company were active in the reforming and writing of liturgy and hymnody in Germany, John Calvin and his followers engaged in a similar task in Geneva, Switzerland.
Calvin's rigidity in the arena of hymnody set the tone for his theological heirs in the various Reformed churches for many years afterward. Metrical psalms were sung which contained no explicit reference to Jesus Christ, this despite the fact - attested to by Jesus Himself (e.g., Lk 24:44) - that the veins of the Psalms pulsate with the blood of Christ. They bear witness of Him and His salvific work on our behalf. Not until the Puritan hymn-writer, Isaac Watts (1674-1748), began to question the received Reformed hymnic tradition and to write Christological hymns, did this all begin to change. In contrast to Calvin and company, since Luther and his followers viewed the entire Scriptures as pointing to Christ, they hesitated not a moment to insert the name of Christ or Christian doctrine into a hymn based on an OT psalm or other text, even though the original text did not explicitly mention the Messiah. Christ was their hermeneutic - their interpretive lens - through which they read the entire canon of Scripture.
Criteria #6: A Lutheran hymn is bound to no culture except the culture of the church catholic. One of the primary criticisms of Lutheran hymnody is that it is too Germanic or too "out of touch" with modern tastes in music and song.
However, Lutheran Hymnody is catholic in the truest and best sense of the term. In The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, W. G. Polack, the chairman of The Lutheran Hymnal committee and a professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, describes the wide range of sources used in the creation of TLH. After pointing out that TLH will be used not only in America, but also Canada, England, Africa, China, India, New Zealand, and South America, Polack notes:
A careful study of The Lutheran Hymnal will show that, including the carols and spiritual songs, it contains 313 original hymns and 347 translations. The translations are divided as follows: From the German, 248; from the Latin, 46; from the Scandinavian, 31; from the Greek, 9; from the Slovak, 6; from the French, 2; from the Italian, 2; from the Dutch, Welsh, and Finnish, each 1. The original hymns may be classified as follows: British [. . .], 267; American, 45; Canadian, 1. The translators are as follows: American, 47; British, 42. These numbers are interesting. They indicate that the editorial committee covered a wide field in search of hymns suitable for inclusion in The Lutheran Hymnal without losing sight of the fact that the hymnal must be thoroughly Lutheran in content."
...The tunes used in TLH are also truly catholic:
"The composers classify as follows: American, 18; British, 59; German, 58; Scandinavian, 4; French, 3; Italian, 2; and Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Polish, Russian, and Slovak, each 1. 18 Lutheran liturgy and Lutheran hymnody belong to the culture of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, not the German or American or African culture.
Another criticism of Lutheran Hymnody is that it does not attract unbelievers. However, the fact of the matter is: unbelievers cannot worship. As St. Paul asks, "How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?" (Rom 10:14). The Divine Service is for the faithful, that they might be gathered by the Spirit to receive the gifts of the Father in the flesh of His Son. It is the worship of the church, the Body of Christ, outside of which are all unbelievers. Although it is our fervent wish and desire that unbelievers be present in the Divine Service - where they will most certainly hear the Gospel (the evangel) - the Divine Service is not for the purpose of evangelism. As David Truemper has memorably said, "An understanding of the church based on CA VII [Augsburg Confession VII] leads to the conviction that we do not worship in order to gain converts but rather we evangelize in order to gain worshipers. Evangelism and catechesis are the proper areas for bringing the Gospel to unbelievers, not a seeker-sensitive service.
The third fallacy is that the music of worship ought to be "similar to the kinds of music people listen to all week long. First of all, the multiple styles of music listened to by Americans is not so easily classified as "traditional," "contemporary," or "blended," as is commonly done in Church Growth literature. Classical music, jazz, blues, folk, rock, pop, country/western, rap, new age, and ethnic music styles are not easily squeezed into one of three categories. The "kinds of music people listen to all week long" is so varied, that if a church wanted to cater to those who prefer one style over another, at least ten services would be offered every Sunday! Secondly, this fallacy completely disregards the theological function of music in worship, reducing musical selection to a mere matter of taste. Robin Leaver describes the character and purpose of the music used in the Divine Service.
Its function is to proclaim the word of God to the people. Sometimes this is done through the single voice of the cantor or minister, sometimes through the combined voice of choir and instruments, and sometimes through instrumental music alone. And then there is that unique proclamation of the whole people of God when they join their voices in one, in psalmody and hymnody, as they proclaim their response of faith to God and give witness of that faith to each other. All the Church's great composers have understood the proclamatory nature of their art, that through it the eternal sound of God's grace focused in Jesus Christ is made known and shared with his redeemed people.
Liturgical music is always a servant of the text, carrying the Word of God into people's heart through the beauty and dignity of melody.
Rather than constantly marrying and divorcing one musical style after another in the ever- changing secular culture, the Church has developed and maintained her own music in her own culture, a culture of historic depth and present vitality. Hers is a counterculture, a culture whose ideals, beliefs, and purposes run contrary to the vast array of secular cultures in which she sojourns. It is a culture of the holy, where her hymnody gives witness to the presence of the Holy Trinity in her midst and she in His. Be not misled: the church's culture is not static and stagnant, but vivacious, throbbing with life, for hers is the culture of real, abiding life in the Living God. Each generation adds a few new strokes to the aged portrait she has been painting for millennia, but they do not scrap it all to begin anew. As Daniel Zager has written,
For the church to use countercultural music is simply to rely upon the full multiplicity of the church's traditions, and to draw on the music created by the church's finest living composers. To call on the church to use countercultural music is to state emphatically that the church's music is not to be rooted in the music of adult contemporary or soft rock radio stations, but that it is to be rooted in the church's own vital and varied traditions, of both the distant and the very recent past.... Drawing on the full spectrum of the church's varied musical traditions, both historic and current, is very different from offering the people of our parishes country/western services, polka services, or adult contemporary/easy listening/soft rock-influenced styles. The latter is particularly in favor these days, and is perhaps particularly misguided, for it fails to engender that sense of holy ground. Indeed, it seeks to do just the opposite - to bring the predominate musical culture into the sanctuary, where, instead of encountering "the profound mystery of God's presence in our midst," as [Harold] Senkbeil terms it, the music points us back only to ourselves, to our favorites from an entertainment, "feel good" culture.
A Lutheran hymn is, therefore, bound to no culture except the culture of the church catholic.
The criteria listed and explained above to determine what makes a hymn a Lutheran hymn is only a sampling of the many questions which one must ask of any hymn before it is welcomed into the service of the thrice-holy God.
back to top
The LMS-USA is a Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, Congregational
expression of the universal (catholic) orthodox Church on earth. It is a
'Forum by Subscription.' As a 'Forum' the intent is that there will be an
ongoing discussion of theological issues and concerns among clergy and lay
alike. The LMS-USA meets annually for a Theological Conference and this
publication, besides carrying news of the Ministerium and Synod, functions
also as a vehicle for this continuing dialogue.
For information or to make comment contact:
2837 East New York St.,
Indianapolis, IN 46201
P. O. Box 31
Chetek, WI 54728
email - email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
back to top