Today I’m sharing two more reasons why Christian musicians aren’t known for dropping hundreds of dollars on theology books.
3. Studying God takes time. This is similar to the point I made yesterday about the study of theology being hard. We live in the age of instant everything. I still remember when there was no internet (much less wireless connections), e-mail didn’t exist, you had to wait a week to get your camera film developed, and microwave ovens were a novelty. My, how things have changed. We want to know God NOW. We want to have life-changing 15 minute devotional times, are drawn to the “One-Minute Bible,” and get anxious if we haven’t read anything really gripping in the last two paragraphs. We expect God to fit into the time we allot to Him, because after all, He’s GOD.
When I entered Temple University as a piano performance major in the fall of 1972, my goal was to practice enough to be able to play any piece I desired when I finished school. Over the next four years I practiced an average of four hours a day, seven days a week. Now, when people come up to me and say, “I wish I could play the piano like you do,” I often reply, “You can! It just takes a little gifting, and practicing four hours a day for four years.” We often admire the faith of pastors and Christian leaders, but think there can be a shortcut to obtaining the knowledge of and trust in God they exhibit. There’s no shortcut. Only a joyful, steadfast, time-consuming pursuit of our glorious God and Savior produces that kind of fruit.
4. We think we can know God better through music. There’s a common assumption that music communicates to us in a way that is superior to words. If you really want to know God, you’ll have to forego words and experience Him through music. In his book, Unceasing Worship, Harold Best shares some wisdom about the difference between what art can do and what words can do.
“Even though it is true that every kind of nonverbal expression possesses uniqueness, it is likewise true that no form of nonverbal expression can do what words can do. A jazz riff can no more articulate a methodology for day trading than a Bach fugue can explain substitutionary atonement. So every form of nonverbal expression, instead of going beyond what words can do, simply goes its own way, just as words go their way in doing what no other form of expression can do. And since truth is the most important thing that we can articulate, and since words are a better vehicle for this than any other existing form of expression, the word remains preeminent among all other forms.” (p. 193)
This affects both the words we sing (as Craig Sterling mentioned in his comment to my previous post), and the things we study. As Christian musicians we should know more than anyone that the joy music brings is only the faintest whisper of the superior joy we find in Jesus Christ. And we come to know Him most clearly and authoritatively through His Word. No fugue, guitar solo, piano sonata, jazz improv, or harmonic progression will ever speak to us more clearly about who God is and what He’s done. That’s why every Christian musician should seek to be a good theologian. We should study the Word of God, read books that challenge us, and seek out authors that provide firm boundaries to our affecting, but often vague, thoughts about God.
I’ve wondered at times what would happen if church musicians sought to handle the word of truth as effectively as they handle their instruments. I can’t predict exactly what would happen, but I’m certain that the effect on the worship of God’s people would be very, very good.