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Music Philosophy

These Psalms and hymns were written with congregational singing in mind.  As such, the aesthetics of these works is consciously striving towards accessibility and excellence. One of my foundational motivations in planning worship services is choosing and writing music and texts that are objectively beautiful and good as an appropriate offering to the Most High God as He calls us as His people into worship.

I believe that the eternal Word of God should be set to music that has an appropriate Biblical sense of permanence, beauty, goodness and truth.  There is a timelessness that is inherent in music of folk traditions that transcends when it was written—this has been a significant source of inspiration since that timelessness provides an appropriate foundation for eternal truth.  Hans Rookmaaker reminded the Church that we must bring the Gospel to bear in the times in which God has placed us.  While this does not mean succumbing to the styles of the day, it does pose the challenge of applying theological, Biblical and historical models to our own era.

With this in mind, the music and texts reflect that specific needs for corporate worship in a local church: specifically a local congregation in the Middle Tennessee—an area steeped in folk, Celtic and Southern Harmony musical roots.  Some of these songs have texts that fit a particular sermon or service.  Many of these Psalm settings were written as the Psalm of the Month for our worship services.

In no way would I say that this is the only way to present Psalms and hymns for corporate worship, but it has been an effective way for our congregation to sing, meditate and incarnate the Word of God in their families, hearts and lives.

I believe that beauty is an attribute of God and is therefore a theological issue.
I believe that beauty and excellence are objective and that the Bible provides the standard for what is beautiful and excellent.
I believe that since there is a biblical objective standard for what is beautiful and excellent that this should apply especially in areas of worship.
I believe that an understanding of beauty enables a greater understanding of the nature and character of God.
I believe that the arts are worldview incarnate.
I believe that goodness, truth, and beauty are Trinitarian concepts and that each element requires the relationship of the other two for complete understanding.
I believe that the saints need to know how to read music and how to sing for the sake of the worship of God.
I believe that we should know, respect, and utilize the arts of the past as we continue to create new art that is historically informed but also Biblically creative.
I believe that originality is not a Biblical notion.
I believe that we weaken our understanding of art when we try to apply a narrative structure on all works instead of trying to understand music as music, painting as painting, etc.
I believe Philippians 4:8 provides a Biblical pattern by which to critique our thoughts and actions as well as our affections.
I believe that the Church abdicated its rightful place as the leader of culture.
I believe that the Church no longer knows how to train and equip artists because we have adopted a secular view of the arts.

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My Cry Ascends: New Parish Psalms « Presbyterian & Reformed
September 1, 2010 at 8:06 am

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Faires March 31, 2010 at 5:40 am

My heart soars when I read this creed.

Nathan Clark George April 8, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Greg, you already know this, but it has been wonderful to get to know you, and to be challenged and encouraged by many of your thoughts. The part of the CREDO that has been of special interest to me recently is that of originality. I am drastically shifting my not-too-well-thought-out view of this issue, or lack thereof. Being able to join your classes just a few times has truly been an enjoyable challenge. Thanks again!

Mary Pothoven May 30, 2010 at 7:25 am

Hear hear!

J Paul Morgan October 8, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I sit here listening to these marvelous works of art. Rejoicing at the Word of God sung with such beauty to melodies that raise the soul toward heaven.
BUT, most of all, I find my self weeping with joy, at the words of the Credo, I have just read.
I had all but lost hope that such understanding of the beauty of holiness, still existed.
With grateful thanks.

Steve and Cathy Lawton March 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Usually I am excruciatingly careful about borrowing other people’s work. Not this time.
CREDO is so clearly the cry of my heart, the shameful fact is that I am about to claim authorship.
I have already copied it, printed it, framed it.
We are making it required reading for our music and worship interns.

Emily Williquette June 29, 2011 at 5:05 am

I’m a college student thinking about music and other current issues in the church, so I find this article very interesting. Thanks for posting in such a well thought out and God-focused way. I also appreciate your passion for God and His word. I have a question about the ninth points of the Credo. Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t originality encouraged and even commanded in the Psalms? “Sing unto the Lord a new song.” Just wondering if you could clarify this for me. Thanks!

admin July 7, 2011 at 10:16 am

Emily: Good question about “Singing unto the Lord a new song.” Firstly, the idea behind that phrase is more along the lines of “Singing the Lord’s songs anew.” There is a great example of this in Luke 2 when Mary sings the Magnificat. Her song is basically a compendium of phrases and concepts from the Psalms and other OT passages which was re-combined and refashioned into a song of praise that fit the occasion. Secondly, I believe the Biblical concept is craftsmanship rather than originality. The difference is taking those things which have been done before and re-shaping and re-structuring. This is the example we see of J.S. Bach who took established forms, ideas, melodies, and studies from other composers and crafted them into greater and deeper works than before. The modern concept of originality serves the individual by being different or standing out instead of entering the stream of God’s good providence as displayed by His faithful servants in the past and to learn from them and expand their work into deeper realms. I hope this helps explain the statement.

Pastor Ben August 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I look forward to purchasing the CD. I am glad you are putting your heart and soul into the music. So often the Psalms have been set to difficult tunes for congregational singing. Our congregation loves the Psalms, and can’t wait to hear more. The tunes truly are beautiful. I am so glad you’re doing this!

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