Today's Broadcast

Theology of Glory to the Holy One, Part 1

An Interview with R.C. Sproul

All study of Scripture and theology is done with the aim of worshiping God in spirit and in truth. In worshiping God, we pursue the God who is beautiful and true, and so we must have a concern for expressing the beauty and truth of the Lord in our worship. Glory to the Holy One is a new album of sacred music for the church by R.C. Sproul and Jeff Lippencott, and in this special interview, Dr. Sproul explains the reasons for this project, the importance of music in the church, the way music can testify to biblical truth, and much more.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Goodness and Faith

  2. devotional

    The Influence of Music

  3. article

    Choosing Hymns

Goodness and Faith

Goodness concerns the quality of generosity which perhaps is the principle focus of the fruit of the Spirit—at least regarding interpersonal relations. In the Bible, however, good also means “fitting, ordered, beautiful.” We see that used throughout Genesis 1, where each time God made something, He evaluated it as good, and at the end He evaluated the entire ordered cosmos as very good.

Protestant Christians do not seem very concerned with beauty. That is a problem because God is very concerned with it. God is Himself beautiful, and when He appears, He appears in glory. The tabernacle and the temple, built to His specifications, were masterpieces of color, form, balance, and order. God wrote 150 psalms, and other hymns as well, to be sung to musical instruments, and this obviously calls for great artistry, artistry worthy of the texts God has written.

As the Spirit is poured into our hearts, we will more and more appreciate good music, great art, fine literature, good architecture, and proper worship. It is a black mark against evangelicals that our music is so often simplistic and maudlin, our art propagandistic, our literature superficial, our church buildings either shabby or glitzy, and our worship centered on entertainment. The Spirit who hovered over the world and helped build it, who inspired Bezalel and Oholiab to build the tabernacle and David to write the Psalms, should be working in us to appreciate and create great art.

The fruit of faith is basically the fruit of trust. It implies faithfulness. The more we grow in grace, the more faithful to God we shall become. If we really believe God, we will not sin. First of all, we will believe Him when He says He will punish sin. Second of all, we will believe that He has given His law for our own good, and we will trust Him. Thus, the more trusting we become, the more faithful and loyal we become.

As we grow in trust we also grow in trustworthiness. God will entrust more to us, and people will also trust us more. We will also find it easier to trust others, because our confidence in God overwhelms our distrust of other people. Such trust works to build up the church, the community of the Spirit.

The Influence of Music

For almost as long as human beings have gathered to create civilizations, people have worried about how music shapes children and teenagers. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato, for example, once made a statement that could easily be found in our own day on the lips of people criticizing the musical tastes of our young people. He said that "this new music is promoting the moral degeneracy of our adolescents." Apparently, concerns about lyrics, new syncopations, melodies, and beats are not limited to the present era.

In reality, this should not surprise us at all, given the influence of music on men and women. Most people, at least in the West, use music to enhance and reflect the most important things that ever happen to them. Songs and melodies are carefully chosen for wedding ceremonies. Couples typically have a tune that is so associated with their courtship that they call it "their song" even though they had no hand in its composition. We associate Christmas carols with Christmas and patriotic songs with Independence Day. We use music to change our moods. Most significant, we use music to praise our God in private and corporate worship.

When it comes to music, the principles of proportionality, harmony, simplicity, and complexity are especially evident. There is an endless number of sounds that we might hear on any given day—the pounding of a jackhammer, a robin's singing, glass breaking, or a symphony played by an orchestra. Yet not every sound or noise qualifies as music. Jackhammers make a sound, but not one that shows variation in progression or tone (proportionality). We might be able to measure the tone of shattering glass as C sharp, but this sound is not music because it does not occur in a defined sequence, be it simple or complex.

Music actually follows mathematical rules that govern harmony and set it apart from other noises. The numerical relationship of one chord to another determines whether we hear harmony or cacophony. Musicians may not always be able to define their scores mathematically, but their compositions are only noise if they do not follow the mathematical rules of music. In fact, our ears do not hear music at all if a sequence of sounds completely violates the rules of aesthetics.

Choosing Hymns

Matt Boswell

The church possesses two books to aid in worship: the Word of God and the hymnal. The Scriptures stand as the perfect and unwavering revelation of God throughout the ages. It is our rule, and the only infallible word on all matters of our faith and practice. The hymnal exists in submission to the authority of Scripture and assists the people of God in singing truth. Its songs are an ever-flowing stream, sung by people responding to God in worship.

Choosing hymns for the local church is a sacred task. Even when the hymnal used is electronic and lacks binding and pages, the practice of Christian singing remains vital. As Colossians 3:16 says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

In this text, Paul teaches the Colossians the importance of singing in the local church. The hymns we sing are not to be chosen clumsily, but with intentionality and with care. Hymns have the ability to teach us, to admonish us, and to provoke our hearts to worship our Savior with thankfulness.

CHOOSE HYMNS THAT TEACH

The hymns of the church ought to be built on, shaped by, and saturated with the Word of God. While the New Testament is silent on many of the specifics of corporate worship, Scripture is clear that the Word of Christ must be central. When the hymns we sing are aligned with the Word of God, our souls are nourished by its truth. Singing is a unique way to "let the word of Christ dwell richly" in us. One reason our songs should be closely tied to the Word of God is their didactic effects. Singing for the Christian is formative and responsive, and therefore must be informed by Scripture. We learn what we sing.

Let us think of singing as a form of exposition that uses poetry to teach the Word of God. When Isaac Watts published Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, his intention was not to sing Scripture line by line, but to create poetic and emotive renditions of Scripture that allow a church to sing the truths of Scripture. Songs are sermons. They don't work like homiletical exegesis, but they articulate, exegete, and pronounce biblical truths. Our hymns teach and shape the way people view God, man, Christ, and how we are to live in light of the gospel.

One way to ensure our singing is biblical is to comb through our songs to see if we cover the breadth of themes presented throughout the canon of Scripture. Our songs should be held up to the light of God's Word to ensure we are singing the glories of its truth.

CHOOSE HYMNS THAT ADMONISH

The songs we sing as a church are meant to teach and admonish. When we gather as the church on the Lord's Day, we need to be admonished in various ways. Throughout the week, other things call for our praise, attention, and affection. Singing hymns of God's character reminds us of His greatness. Singing hymns of our sin reminds us of the role of confession. By singing hymns of the atonement, we remind one another of the efficacy of the work of Jesus. Hymns of consecration remind us of the dependence of Christians upon the steadfast grace of God.

We sing to admonish the weak and the weary that their salvation is in God. We sing to admonish the doubting to believe and be renewed. We sing to admonish the suffering that they have a hope that is unwavering.

Our songs ought to exhort and admonish. Our songs ought to encourage and remind. In this practice of song, God's people will be pointed to the Scriptures, reminded of truth, and rooted in the gospel of Christ.

CHOOSE HYMNS THAT PROVOKE THANKFUL HEARTS

We should choose hymns that provoke thankful hearts. When we sing robust theological truth, our hearts should erupt with praise. The aim of singing hymns is engaging both the head and the heart. The reason we read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures is not primarily so that we might amass knowledge, but so that our knowledge would lead to worship. The chief end of theology is doxology.

In choosing hymns for corporate worship, we should choose songs that make our hearts sing. From the content of the lyrics to the movement of the melody, we want beauty and transcendence to come together and serve the people of God. In our pursuit of theological precision, let us not neglect the pursuit of heartfelt response.

A church's hymns are not a mere preamble to the sermon. Singing is not obligatory filler time to warm up a congregation. Singing is a holy practice. We sing because God has commanded it, and our songs should fill our hearts with thankfulness and delight in our great God.

Since the beginning,

our aim has been to help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to share it, and how to live it…

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