Thursday, September 3, 2015
There are some benefits and some drawbacks to contemporary worship music. It’s simplicity has the benefit of making a good chorus memorable; after all I have occasionally had a good gospel chorus run through my mind in the middle of the night. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night singing Bach, even though I prefer Bach to much of the contemporary worship music that I have heard.
On the other hand there is a difference between being simple and being simplistic. Some of the contemporary worship music is so theologically simplistic that it is like jumping head first into a shallow pool; you just might strain your brain! Recently I was exposed to a contemporary praise song that posed some problems for me, not that the theology was all that bad, but the presentation distracted seriously from the message.
First of all it was lousy poetry. C. S. Lewis objected to some of the hymns in Hymns Ancient and Modern for the same reason, so maybe we can call it a draw, but not quite. Even though some of the hymns in Hymns Ancient and Modern were not very good poetry, at least the lines had some rhythm and rhymed. The same cannot be said for much of contemporary praise music.
The depth of contemporary worship music can hardly be favourably compared with,
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.
The real problem with the contemporary music piece was the last line of the last verse; “Such a marv’lous mystery yeah!” Now I understand that the composer’s intention was to present his song in colloquial English, but the word “Yeah” introduced the last double singing of the chorus. Guess which word the music team and the congregation sang with the greatest gusto and unbridled enthusiasm, Yeah?
The Oxford English Dictionary says of the word “Yeah” that it is a “Nonstandard spelling of yes, representing informal pronunciation.” It may be a matter of taste, but I usually prefer a steak to a McDonald’s hamburger. Can you imagine singing, “Come with us O blessed Jesus, yeah! With us evermore to be, yeah!”? Somehow it spoils the effect of a worship song, yeah! even though the chorus of the song might be theologically acceptable, Yeah!