Worship (Part 1) – Aesthetic Relevance and Excellence

The aesthetic of prose is constructed to aid in the greater motion of man’s affections.

It is no coincidence that God inspired about one third of His holy scriptures to be written in prose. He certainly wanted our hearts to be conditioned to be moved by poetry.

For one example, Lamentations is structured with pristine poetic scrutiny. It is composed of five poems. The first two poems have exactly twenty-two verses, three lines per verse, and each verse within the poems begin with a new Hebrew letter (in poem two, the sixteenth and seventeenth letters are reversed). The third poem, the middle of the poetic chiasm (that which is the heart of Hebraic poetry), is composed of 66 verses with one line per verse. Poem four is composed of twenty-two verses with two lines in each verse, and each verse begins with a new Hebrew letter (in poem four, like poem two, the sixteenth and seventeenth letters are reversed). Poem five is composed of twenty-two verses with two lines in each verse, but has no acrostic pattern.

The point being, God inspired the aesthetic of poetry to direct the reader’s affections, the motions of his or her heart, properly. Being that worship music is written in verse, the same aim should be sought. There is something to be said of the value of poetry – not that every Christian should be a poet, but have a poetic heart. Clarified more, the Christian ought to be inclined to aesthetics because of their value to moving the affections. Jonathan Edwards summarizes it best:

And the duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections. Jonathan Edwards – Religious Affections

The most practical principle results in our execution of worship with cultural relevance and the utmost expertise.

Firstly, the church ought not, in the deepest sense, purposely sing to preserve customs and encourage congregation involvement, but for the sake of the motion of affections. The means of the aesthetic changes because music changes. If the church sacrifices cultural engagement for the sake of the conservation of its sub culture, than it will become ineffective in its movement of the affections. If the culture is moved by Dubstep, than the church ought to redeem and capitalize on that aesthetic to move the people of God. Moving forward, the reason for this disengagement is shallow methodology and lack of expertise.

Therefore, and secondly, the church needs to lead the musical aesthetic with great talent. The people of God are not incapable of producing great art. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were on the front-lines of literature in their time, and they were notable followers of Jesus Christ. It is certainly possible, and seemingly the way it should be; for they are in a more intimate relationship with the ultimate creator.
In full, worship music in the church should be led to move the affections, and this is certainly done with the proper and expert use of culturally relevant music. We ought to use the most affective means of transforming the heart.

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