11 August, 2008

13th Century Worship Wars

Why must we be different? It is rare today to go into a Protestant Church of any kind and find that people praise God with only their voices. The worship wars (which are officially over, according to evangelical scholars) between the organs and the praise band never took us into account. Those who praise God acapella are in the very small minority today, and were never consulted as to our thoughts on the worship wars.

So why be different? If less than 5% of the Western Church chooses to sing acapella- then what is the argument? It does not seem as though we have a leg to stand on in our argument. The Church of Jesus Christ DOES USE instruments in worship. That is just the fact.

But it was not always that way: Hear this selection from Nick Needham's (who, as far as I know, uses instruments in worship) book on Church history, 2000 Years of Christ's Power:

In the period 900-1100...organs began to become common features of the great western abbys and cathedral churches... At first the organ was used simply to give the right note for the monks and choir (like a tuning fork)... This period (900-1100) did not actually lead to a widespread use of instruments in ordinary parish churches and thus in normal Western Catholic worship. Even in the great abbeys and cathedrals the organ's use was limited... Some historical sources speak of an organ controversy in the 13th century, which resulted in the Catholic Church's declaring against the use of organs. Thomas Aquinas... confirms this, for Aquinas simply repeated the way that the early Church fathers had condemned all musical instruments in Christian worship: "The Church does not use musical instruments such as the harp and lyre when praising God, in case she should seem to fall back into Judaism..." In fact, it was not until after Aquinas in the 14th and 15th centuries, that the playing of musical instruments became a widespread, regular and accepted feature of ordinary Western worship.

So, the first 14-15 centuries of Christian worship were without instruments in worship. Then the Reformed churches abandoned them in the 16th century. That means that 3/4 of Christian history is acapella worship.

If I were in a church that used instruments, that figure alone would compel me to investigate the reason why.

4 comments:

Robbie said...

Great question to ask.
Why? (not getting into the theological arguments...)
For the first 300 years Christians were on the run from persecution. Going so far as hiding out in catacombs not to attract attention. Jamming on the lyres and flutes would bring unwanted heat. After Constantine Christianity changed forever (sadly). There are no other primary sources saying instruments were used in worship.

A dude named Ambrose comes around and kicks in the practice of hymn singing while under attack from the Arian Empress. Shame on him.

But then you had the iconoclast controversy.. people were far more interested in staring at a crucifix, Mary, or some other random "too thin to be a real man" painting.

Then instruments came along enmasse, which the reformation tossed out with a lot of other practices. So the question is... why did instruments become commonly used c. 900-1000? Does that not hint at the possibility instruments were used before? Of course... money was an issue as all funds went to the crusades and preventing Islam from taking the HRE.

:-)

♥♥Miss Kiki♥♥ said...

cool... thanks for postin this... it was very intresting... I myself have been wondering about instruments in church worship.
thanks again,
Kiki

Droll Flood said...

"Thomas Aquinas... confirms this, for Aquinas simply repeated the way that the early Church fathers had condemned all musical instruments in Christian worship: "The Church does not use musical instruments such as the harp and lyre when praising God, in case she should seem to fall back into Judaism..."
"If I were in a church that used instruments, that figure alone would compel me to investigate the reason why."

-Nate, this is not an inherent accusation but an assertion of a principle cautioning against anachronism. It would be more proper to ask why did they think that it would be returning to Judaism and making sure that we do not just simply assume our theological positions into what could just be a circumstantial agreement in terms used or phraseology. If they held a non-instrumentality position on the same exegetical grounds then fine, well, and good.

-On the side, this is the first time I've ever had this asserted to me regarding a majority position in the church being non-instrumentality. How about exclusive psalmody?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. In addition, from personal experience, I really think "Worship Wars" do not only involve the question of whether to use instruments, or none at all, but also involves the style or manner in which people play the instruments and sing during worship.

Sadly, while there are psalms (and/or traditional hymns) that are being sung with Psalters (and/or with Hymnals), in some churches, some selections are instead modernised and given a contemporary twist (sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious) for the worship service.

Another concern is the allowance of instrumentalists playing in elaborate concerto fanfare or a contemplative style, which conflicts with and disturbs the reverent and prayerful atmosphere of worship services. There is even the allowance of soloists singing in front of the congregation before the worship service begins while everyone watches him or her, similar to a concert; and worse (as personally witnessed during a worship service), the allowance of a worship leader instructing the congregation to practice singing along together a new worship song that was just written by him, similar to a practice session for a recording.

Let us all pray that God would intervene in these matters, and pray that many of His people would not be a stumblingblock to others, and that many would not be perplexed or disheartened by these strange fire practices.