Shoot Me Now

One objection to the exhortation to cultivate a “biblical” approach to music is that we don’t have musical notation from biblical times. We have the lyrics of the psalms, but not the music. Here, in brief, are my staccato responses.

First, there is a good argument that we do have an idea of what the music sounded like. There has been a musical decoding of the vowel accent points of the Masoretic text (which, while not from biblical times, is likely to have preserved a biblical tradition), which, coupled with other forms of musical “archeology,” do give us a good idea of what their music was like. Here is a sample of it from Psalm 23.

Second, if we had to abandon And Can It Be in order to go back to singing in just this way, I think I can speak for most of us when I ask somebody to shoot me now. But why are we so quick to rush to a I-could-never-serve-a-God-like-that approach, as though our desires were the be all and end all of every musical choice? I don’t think the Bible requires us to sing this way entirely, but I do think the Bible requires us to have a humble and complete willingness to sing that way cheerfully if it were required.

But last, the foundations do not have to run along the roof line. The mustard plant does not have to look like the seed. The risen loaf doesn’t have to look like the leaven. But the roof line needs the foundation. If we don’t have a straight understanding of the foundation lines, then it shouldn’t be any surprise that our roof line music wobbles the way it does.

So we need to cultivate a gathering stream, postmillennial approach to our music.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • Tim H.

    To say that the vowel points imply the tune or meter or both, is exactly the same as saying the vowels do so. And that, is patently ridiculous. Any more than it would be possible to write poetry in English or any other language with such parallelism.

  • Roy

    DW, I was very pleased when I realized the subject of this post. However, my initial thoughts are that it is very loose compared to many of your others. Lot’s of room here. I hope that this is merely an introduction to a recurring segment. But, if not, I’ll get over it.

  • Arwen B

    Nice music. Soothing, rather than stirring. Sounds appropriate for the mediterranean region, and is not strange-sounding if one knows anything about music before the invention (discovery?) of polyphony.

  • Eric Stampher

    Randy Travis twanging Baptist verses is as postmillenial as it gets.

  • Michael Lynch

    Again, nothing to do with this post. I was so disappointed with that appearance on TBN. All you did was sprinkle of truth into a sea of deceit. Both you and Cameron ought to know better. The Church is truly in a bad state.

  • Douglas Wilson

    Dear Michael, from my perspective I was doing far more than “sprinkling.” I was operating under no constraints, and the hard logic of what we were talking about assumed a world of truth that many of these dear people need desperately to hear.

  • Phil

    Mr. Lynch. I didn’t see the TV appearance you are referring to, so I can’t speak to that situation. However, I disagree with your comment: “The Church is truly in a bad state.” The True Church is alive and thriving. I assume you are referring to the state of the American church. It looks rough, but there are plenty of true believers out there following Christ. Many Churches are reforming their ways, and some new ones have come up and are ministering to their communities. They may not be as large as the TBN viewing audience, but Jesus said it would be small (Matthew 7:13-14).

  • Gregory C Dickison

    Micheal’s comment reminded me to check out the TBN interview. Great stuff. It was like opening a package of Cheez Whiz and finding Brie inside.

  • Douglas Wilson

    Tim H — correct. I wrote vowel points above when I should have written accent points. I will correct that at the first opportunity.

    While I have you all, I currently can’t get to my back page because of a security snarl. The frequent outages of Mablog have been the result of malevolent hackers, and we are adding layers of security to fight them off. But new security is capable of adding additional problems, which it has.

    I would appreciate your prayers. I asked my web guy if this was random malevolence or “because it is me.” He said it was the latter, and I am afraid there is no fix for that.

  • Charles Long

    Great TBN segment, Doug. Top notch. Is it me, or was that a huge Trojan Horse moment for everybody at TBN except Kirk? Great job.

  • Andrew Lohr

    A saying: I’d rather tell Larnelle Harris, James Ward and Steve Green– or Madonna, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath–that Psalm 119 is a singable lyric, than tell the Holy Ghost that it is not.

    Application: if the saying is true, does our choice of church music reveal that we really believe it? (I once asked Robert Webber if he’d ever sung Psalm 119 straight through. He said he had not.)

  • Rebecca

    As a classically trained musician, I though the excerpt was quite nice and wouldn’t mind at all singing like this for worship.

  • Brendan

    I’m confused why the music example is weird. What about it causes you to hear it that way? The choice of an old instrument? The free meter? I found it very pleasing and expressive if somewhat beyond usual congregations’ training.

  • David Paul Regier

    At least some of them are for the choir director. As a choir director, I’m taking it to heart and writing music for full Psalms. For example, Psalm 13:

  • Tim W

    Pastor Wilson,

    I’d be curious to get your take on liturgical music elements, such as the Gloria, Agnus Dei, etc. These operate outside the Psalms, and in the context of more “high church” liturgical forms. But they have been vetted and used by the Church catholic for nearly two millennia. They are straight out of Scripture or are a close variant of particular passages. Could they not be used alongside the Psalms in a service?

  • Johnny

    I thought the TBN segment was great, and I hope you and Kirk persuade some to, ahem, leave behind some errant theology.

    I really liked the Psalm.

  • Johnny

    …though I prefer “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” :)