Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Song, Old World

Last week I read through Calvin Stapert's A New Song for an Old World

The premise(s) are not new: 1 - the church of today will do well to stay in touch with the early fathers, and learn from their wisdom; 2 - the world of today is much like the world of the first few centuries AD, and we do well to see how our forebears navigated in that world.

I picked up the book (finally) because it seemed to be a good introduction to a field that I expect to read extensively in, for a master's thesis. (On that, more as it develops, and over the next couple of years!)

Anticipating the heart of my nascent thesis - viz., that in considering the music of the church we tend to reject some wisdom from our ancestors, and to hold on to some perspectives from anti-Christian philosophers - this book looks at the writings of the immediately post-apostolic church in regard to music in worship, music in the home, and music's role in shaping character. Stapert draws out some consistent and helpful themes, while carefully (as a good academic!) suggesting that the main thing is to not ignore these voices in our modern decision-making.

Naturally, given my personality and my self-proclaimed position as "poster boy for traditional worship," there is much here that I would like to champion. Interestingly, it has started to have its effect in a more personal way than I anticipated. Our fathers critiqued the music of pagan entertainment cut pretty close to home, and I realize that as often as not when I am in "mindless music mode" - cycling, working in the yard, showering, etc. - the music in my head is nearly always . . . well, let's just say, it is not lofty, exalted, nor sacred. Don't get me wrong, it's not lewd or offensive either. But the point that gets to my heart is: where are the psalms and hymns hidden in my heart?

Well, a lot to think about, and a hard hard heart to be plowed. As for the academic purpose for this reading, it has presented me with a good start at the theological primary sources for my academic project. Meanwhile, perhaps the unexpected work on a more important, more personal project, will begin to have its way in me.


Jonathan said...


Fascinating. I would love to read the final project whenever it's available.


Claudia Gerwin said...

Thank you for this. I think my iPod will begin to have more uplifting music on it from now on - it's great encouragement to me to "set my mind on things above."