You’re Included – Music and Theology

Posted By on August 16, 2019


The following program is a presentation of Grace Communion International and Grace Communion Seminary and is made possible by generous
donations from viewers like you. Jeremy, thanks again for being with us. In the other parts of the interview, you’ve
mentioned the particular powers of various arts, and music is one of them. I was wondering if you might demonstrate for
us some of those particular powers that might apply to life in general and perhaps worship
and things like that. Well, we were talking earlier about knowing
your medium and the danger … Some people… there’s a danger, that they’ll think that
music, for instance, is a mere frill. It has no theological power or substance to itself. If I hear that and I’m anywhere near a piano
and I’m with Christians who worship, I quite often speak about this tune. What A Friend We Have In Jesus, right? And that’s the well–known tune, and it’s fairly upbeat and fun and easygoing. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins
and griefs to bear. There’s not a great deal about sin and grief
there, but there’s plenty of cheerful joy. If we set it to this tune… …everything changes,
because this is heavy. It’s dark. We’re reminded He is our friend, but He’s the
friend who’s born our grief, the griefs which we bear. It’s much… That’s the kind of plodding, marching thing. It’s a different thing. Now, the words are exactly the same, but they’re
now inflected in all sorts of different ways through the music. Film composers know this, of course, it’s
just taken the church a little time to wake up to that, that you can flip around these
tunes and it makes a difference, as if the tunes were simply varnish on what we could
see quite well otherwise. No, the varnish can change the way you look
at that wood very dramatically. I’ve taught theology for most of my adult
life, I suppose, and I’ve found over and over again that music has distinctive powers, to
help us not only feel and sense things, but actually understand them as well. One powerful way, I think, in which that’s the case is when it comes to thinking in Trinitarian terms, which is very much an interest, I know,
of course, of your own. Part of the difficulty we’ve had in Christian
theology when thinking about the trinity is we will tend to rely very much on our eyes. The way we look at the world, things will
occupy bounded locations, but they can’t be in the same place at the same time and visible
as different things. So, a patch of red on a canvas that a painter’s
put there and a patch of yellow on the same space, you try to put those two together,
either the yellow hides the red or it could be the other way around, red hides yellow,
or the paint’s wet, they merge into orange. In the world that we see, therefore, you can’t
see two different things in the same space at the same time as different. In the world of sound, you can and do all the time. That note, or any note that I play, that note
fills the whole of your heard space. You don’t say of what you hear, “Ah, it’s there but it’s not there.” There’s no interval between anything. It’s just there in the whole of your heard space. If I add another note, that second note fills
the same space, and yet, you hear it as distinct, undeniably two notes. In the world that we hear, things can be in
and through each other. They can sound in and through each other. They can interpenetrate. Now we go to John’s gospel, and all that language
about the Son in the Father, the Father in the Son, all that “in” language. What Richard Baukham calls the
in-one-anotherness of Father and Son, that is very hard to draw. When I’m teaching, at that point, I would
take out a point and give it to a student and say, “Would you like to draw that for me?” And of course, no one does. Not even those Bibles that have all those
illustrations will try to demonstrate that visually. It’s very, very hard, but it’s very easy to hear. Because what you’re hearing there is two sounds in
and through each other. It can go further than that, of course, because
if this was a real piano, then there would be two strings here and they would be setting
each other off, because one string will tend to resonate with another if they have what’s
called a harmonic series in common. The more “this” resonates, the more “that” resonates. Now between those two, you have Father and
Son who love each other, who mutually establish each other you might even say, according to
some Trinitarian theology. Then, of course, now we’re into the Trinity. I’m sure you’ve got there already. This is a three note cord… it’s by far, in my own view, by far the most potent way of not only sensing but also beginning to comprehend intellectually all that in-one-anotherness
language that pervades the New Testament. Now, the trouble is, a lot of Trinitarian theology has over-relied on the eye and therefore, Well, what can you see? You can see oneness, you can see three separates,
or you can go kind of modalist. You can think there’s on the middle but three
on the outside. You can see how many struggles of the church
with the trinity have been because they’ve over-relied on the eye, but if we begin to
think sonically, that isn’t’ the case. Here we have a kind of sonic space and a mutually
resonating space that opens up the Trinity in extraordinary ways. Then, of course, what happens is other notes
around that will resonate with that and get caught up in it, and you can understand, therefore,
participation in the Trinity through the Spirit as a form of attunement. We are tuned into God, and you can begin to
see sin, or think of sin, as a matter of being out of tune with God, radically so, and unable
to communicate, therefore. What the world of sound has done for me is
had me rethink all of that area and also reread the history of doctrine. I think there’s a lot of work to be done,
but it’s a lovely thought to think that something as simple as a chord, something as simple
as something you could strum on that guitar in the corner of your room that you’ve neglected,
it’s just sitting there waiting. If you ever preach on Trinity Sunday,
as you do in my denomination, I’m telling you, I think it’s a lot better to be using
that kind of metaphor, sonic metaphor, an embodiment you might even say, not just a
metaphor, than many of the visual illustrations we typically trot out and confuse people with. Also, with the Trinity, we tend to present
the Trinity as a problem to be solved, you see that way. It becomes a mathematical problem to be solved. That’s not a problem to be solved. That’s something to enjoy. You’ve been watching You’re Included, a production of Grace Communion International.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 1 comment

  1. Yes, in deed yes! All are (will be) included in Jesus Christ according to Eph 1:9-12. And in Romans 5:18 all people will have life everlasting.

    Reply

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