Music Technology and Worldliness -- By: Leonard R. Payton

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 04:4 (Fall 1995)
Article: Music Technology and Worldliness
Author: Leonard R. Payton


Music Technology and Worldliness

Leonard R. Payton

Recently during the worship service, I moved from the piano bench over to the organ as I always do. It is a thirty-five-year-old Allen which still works ... more or less. The switch was in the “on” position; I am always careful to make sure of that in advance since this instrument takes at least a minute to warm up.

Instinctively, I glanced at the power light. It was not on. I thought, “Perhaps the bulb has burned out.” So I pushed the preset buttons. They too did not light up. I knew then I was in trouble. (No doubt my Church of Christ non-instrumental and Covenanter brethren are enjoying delicious vindication in this account!)

There I was with one of my choir tenors, in the midst of a service, tracing wires. We were on our hands and knees, but not in reverence. Eventually we discovered that the circuit breaker had been inadvertently turned off. It was just one more experience underscoring a conviction which has been welling up in me for years: We in the church place uncritical trust in technology, and, in so doing, we not only expose the sacred regular assembling of the brethren to untrammeled innovation and disruption, but we alter the very message by which we are defined because of technological constraints. And it is this latter assertion which should cause Reformed people to reach for their Rolaids.

We expend endless hot air and gas over the regulative principle while, at the same time, casually buying organs of all sorts, synthesizers, microphones, overhead screens, air conditioning, clip art, laser printers, et cetera ad absurdum. So while we are prosecuting our heady discussion, our congregations are gradually perceiving the whole message a little bit differently. The change creeps ever so slowly like those two other creeping things, heresy and serpents.

The process is subtle and not two-dimensional. In complaining about the effects of unquestioned technology, I am, nonetheless, mindful of its advantages. I would probably be

moved to similar decisions in a position of authority. What is problematic, however, is that we usually see the advantages without pondering the weaknesses the new technology will introduce. For example, church newsletters and bulletins sometimes spare us superfluous disruptions during the service, and this is to be applauded. On the down side, however, they allow us to stay abreast of what is happening in the congregation without being in direct contact with the believing community. We can be a part of a congregation without anyone knowing us all that well, allowing us to slip out from under the protective cloak of accountability. You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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