If our musical understanding is built out of only contemporary music, we are to a large degree foolish people for three main reasons:
- We have such a rich history to tap into. The history of hymnody is dominated by some of the greatest composers in history. It is dominated by some of the greatest poets in history. It is dominated by some of the most brilliant theologians crafting liturgy over hundreds of years. It is dominated by some of the most dramatic conversions and historical moments that shaped countries and nations and cultures. For us to turn out backs to that and say that we here in Illinois today in our room know better and don’t need to learn from them is silly. So there is a richness for us to learn from.
- (Tim Keller mentions it in his article on worship in Worship by the Book .) I think there is a sense in which we should have something in our worship services which reminds us that we are part of something that has gone on for centuries. I think it is important for the outsider to see that we’re not a cult. I think it’s important for others to see that we learn from the past.
- I think it’s just good to do some of it sometimes. It’s just good stuff. It’s good to use. . . . There is no way to satisfy everybody’s musical tastes. But we do have a job to feed our congregations. So we start from there and not from musical tastes and know that we’re part of a rich history.
Related: Don Carson’s introductory essay in the above book is available for free as a PDF:
D. A. Carson, “Worship under the Word.” Page 11–63 in Worship by the Book. Edited by D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.