While I find myself agreeing with, and being greatly encouraged by, Peter Leithart’s writing in From Silence to Song: The Davidic Liturgical Revolution, I have to admit this quote troubled me.
It didn’t trouble me so much in its essence of thought; rather, the troubling thing was the fact that the solution posed is a) difficult, if not b) impossible to discern.
“If liturgical song is a “memorial,” secondly, it is in an important sense directed toward God. He is the “audience” addressed in liturgical song, the One who is being reminded of His promises and actions, the recipient of praise and thanks…What this means in detail I do not presume to know; but it at least means that our tastes, or the need to communicate to unbelievers, cannot be the overriding standard of the substance or style of worship music. Since our Father is the audience of song, His musical tastes must be determined and determinative.”
While this is perfectly biblical and well put, the application of its sentiment is a bit of a cast-off. The protestant church does not have for itself a ready made theology of beauty (or aesthetic), so the setting off in to that territory is a bit uncharted and could be (relatively) subjective.
For instance, how can we say with great authority what God’s musical tastes are? Since the spirit inhabits the praises of his people, and the Son making intercession on their behalf is the aroma that reaches the throne of grace, is it not biblically questionable to assert that a major normative practice for determining what is done in worship music is guised under the authority of “the Father’s musical tastes?”
The reason the field of ethnomusicology even exists is precisely because all valid musical forms are not western, nor are they readily identifiable in terms of the major musical epochs.
Just saying. This quote works in theory. It is a bit harder to see it working out in practice.
However, on the other side of the coin, what I appreciate about this quote is the nature that it is neither the need to please the congregation nor the need to please the non-believer that should be ultimately determinative in what we sing. The problem is, both sides want to use the “Father’s musical tastes” as the large stick to beat their opponents with.