A Spiritual Ministry of Music Part II: Problems in Psychology and Aesthetics in Music -- By: Donald P. Hustad

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 117:467 (Jul 1960)
Article: A Spiritual Ministry of Music Part II: Problems in Psychology and Aesthetics in Music
Author: Donald P. Hustad


A Spiritual Ministry of Music
Part II:
Problems in Psychology and Aesthetics in Music

Donald P. Hustad

[Editor’s Note: This article is the second installment of the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures on the subject, “A Spiritual Ministry of of Music,” given November 10–13, 1959, at the Dallas Theological Seminary, by Mr. Hustad.]

It should be easy to understand that when any spiritual element appears in the service of the church use can degenerate into misuse. This has certainly been true of the history of the church and its use of the arts, and this is why church music has often been approached as a problem. During the first five centuries there was a great deal of conflict over whether or not hymns of human composure should be used, or whether the holy Scriptures should comprise our only song. Most Christian leaders in that day felt that instrumental music was out of place in Christian worship. Some even felt that all melody was dangerous. An Egyptian abbott named Pambo, in the early fourth century, is recorded as wailing: “Woe is upon us, O son, for the days are come in which monks shall relinquish the wholesome food given by the Holy Ghost, and seek words and tunes. What repentance, what tears proceed from hymns? What repentance can there be in a monk who, whether situated in the church or in his cell, lifts up his voice like a bull?”1

We have every reason to believe that hymn singing by the total congregation existed to a greater or less degree during the first five centuries. But as the churches grew to be cathedrals and the liturgy became more and more complex, the clergy more powerful, wealthy, and less spiritual, “in the interest of an orderly and dignified service” the music was given over to the priests and the choir. For about a thousand years the voice of the congregation was stilled in public worship. True, many of our Greek and Latin hymns come from this period, but they were born in the cloisters, and are often the result of the personal worship of some great spirit such as John of Damascus, or Bernard of Clairvaux.

In the early sixteenth century the Reformation again freed

the tongue of the congregation. It was Martin Luther’s conviction that every believer is a priest unto God; this should help us understand his stated purpose to give the Bible and the hymn book to the people in their own language, “so that God might speak to them directly through His Word and so that they might answer Him directly in song of praise.” Somewhat later, in the same century, John Calvin discarded the Latin hymn and introduced the singing of metrical versions of the Psalms. Although...

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