ONLINE CHURCH BULLETIN
The Amazing History of Instrumental Music In Christian Worship, Part 2
David wrote, "Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise His name, and proclaim his salvation day after day" (Psalm 96:1–2). In the history of the world's religions, only two have developed the art of music to a great degree of proficiency: Judaism and Christianity. These have developed music as an integral part of their worship. In many religions we find the dirge (a lament and mourning for the dead) and the chant used. But nothing like the songs of praise, worship, and joy found in honor of Jehovah. The nations which have given the world its greatest music are those that have en-braced the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In this study of the history of Christianity, we are examining the beliefs of leading thinkers on musical instruments in worship. These are not obscure and unimportant sources, but the opinions of the brightest luminaries among their respective religions.
AUGUSTINE. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, "St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was one of the most prolific geniuses that humanity has ever known, and is admired not only for the number of his works, but also for the variety of subjects, which traverse the whole realm of thought." It continues:
If Augustine occupies a place apart in the history of humanity, it is as a thinker, his influence being felt even outside the realm of theology, and playing a most potent part in the orientation of Western thought. it is now universally conceded that, in the intellectual field, this influence is unrivalled even by that of Thomas Aquinas, and Augustine's teaching marks a distinct epoch in the history of Christian thought.... Peter the Venerable accurately summarized the general sentiment of the Middle Ages when he ranked Augustine immediately after the Apostles; and in modern times Bossuet, whose genius was most like that of Augustine, assigns him the first place among the Doctors, nor does he simply call him "the incomparable Augustine," but "the Eagle of Doctors," "the Doctor of Doctors." , .. In the nineteenth century Stockl expressed the thought of all when he said, "Augustine has justly been called the greatest Doctor of the Catholic world."
We do not profess to agree with this assessment, but it shows how much weight his words bear among the Catholics. Historian Philip Schaff called Augustine the man with upturned eye, with pen in the left hand, and a burning heart in the right (as he is usually represented), is a philosophical and theological genius of the first order, towering like a pyramid above his age, and looking down commandingly upon succeeding centuries. He had a mind uncommonly fertile and deep, bold and soaring; and with it, what is better, a heart full of Christian love and humility. He stands of right by the side of the greatest philosophers of antiquity and of modem times. We meet him alike on the broad highways and the narrow footpaths, on the giddy Alpine heights and in the awful depths of speculation, wherever philosophical thinkers before him or after him have trod. As a theologian he is facile princeps, at least surpassed by no church father, scholastic, or reformer. With royal munificence he scattered ideas in passing, which have set in mighty motion other lands and later times. What did Augustine think of instrumental music? Did he use it? According to Augustine, "musical instruments were not used. The pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen l cults, as well as with the wild revelries and shameless performances of the degenerate theater and circus, it is easy to understand the prejudices against their use in the worship" (354 A.D., describing the singing at Alexandria under Athanasius). GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH: The Greek Orthodox Church was the third church, after the New Testament church, and the Roman Catholic Church. The Greek Church split from the Catholics in 1054 A.D. One of the disagreements was over instrumental music. "The execution of Byzantine church music by instruments, or even the accompaniment of sacred chanting by instruments was ruled out by the Eastern Fathers as being incompatible with the pure, solemn, spiritual character of the religion of Christ." To this day the Greek Orthodox Church (which claims to be "today the second largest organized body of Christians in the world") does not worship with the instrument. LUTHERAN CHURCH. Four hundred fifty years after his death, Martin Luther (1483–1546) is still a recognizable name to anyone familiar with church history, or even secular history. Initially an Augustinian Catholic priest began the Protestant Movement in 1517 A.D. He challenged the Roman church with his "95 Theses," a document that attacked papal abuses and the sale of indulgences. Luther's teachings deeply colored the doctrines and culture of the Lutherans and Protestants as a whole. After his death, his followers organized the Lutheran church. The Lutheran church acquired (and still celebrates) a reputation as "the singing church" but did not use instruments until the century following Luther's death.
What was Luther's opinion of the instrument in Christian worship? He believed strongly in the power of songs and singing. He wrote, "Music is an endowment and a gift of God, not a gift of men . . . I place music next to theology and give it the highest praise." Luther strongly supported the musical education of children in the schools and the musical education of preachers and teachers. He encouraged poets to write new hymns. He wrote new hymns himself, as well as "corrected and improved" traditional Gregorian melodies, making them more suitable for congregational singing.? He provided new opportunities for congregations to participate through music that "praised God and proclaimed the Gospel." He encouraged the use of the vernacular language in song. But he did not use instruments in worship. He said, famously, "The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal! The Roman Catholics borrowed it from the Jews."
via Glad Tidings of Good Things
Volume 11 (July 20, 2006), page 2