Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why do we use music to praise God?

So I've been thinking lately about how music is such a central part of how we praise God. Then I started wondering... why? Why did God give us music to praise Him?

Is it for God’s sake that we have music?

I mean, is more meaningful to Him than just saying the words of praise? If what really matters to God is what is in our hearts, then it means the same whether we sing it or paint it or write it or simply say it.

But maybe God receives aesthetic enjoyment from our songs. I guess this could be true, especially since Jesus is human, but still I imagine that the aesthetic value must be relatively small compared to the glory of heavenly music. I don’t picture God saying, “Let’s give music to the humans because I’m getting tired of all this angelic singing.”

Of course, then you might counter that it isn’t what our music sounds like that makes it beautiful to God, but what we’re trying to say to Him and what is in our hearts, right? Which brings us back to the idea that simple words of praise are just as beautiful and meaningful to God as songs.

Now, maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems to me that if God didn’t give us music for His own enjoyment and benefit, then there is only one option left… and just think of the profound implications of that!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the morning thoughts...
I have two responses:
1) anytime we get beyond ourselves and open our hearts in expression of praise to God, I think that makes the same "sound" in God's ears. Whether it be spoken, sung, cried out.

2) God loves sharing beauty with us. :)

Missy K said...

I agree with Anonymous about praise through music being beautiful and God wanting to share it with us. It's the same as someone writing a poem for God, using words to make a beautiful illustration of whatever we're sharing from our hearts to His ears or eyes (painting, drawing). He gave us these blessings to express ourselves to our Creator, another way to not only draw closer to Him through deeper understanding of how we feel about Him in our expressions, but by praising Him noting His power and wonder, beauty and goodness, and LOVE! :)

Adelina said...

A good question to ponder. I don’t think I’ve wondered much (or at least as explicitly) about the purpose of music.

Of course, due to the complexity I sense in it (and highly probable subsequent questions), I would most likely contemplate it further. But a few random thoughts that come to my mind now:

I don’t know if God gave us music purposely so we praise him (there is some music not specifically religious or God-oriented that is delightful, beneficial, therapeutic, etc.), but maybe simply who we are is reflected into our worship content (and music seems to be the most common artistic gift, the most widespread).

I think God finds meaning in the heart. I think God does not find meaning in the form, but in what is behind it, just like a painting’s meaning is found in the reality (or ideality) it expresses, or a poem is meaningful and cherished for the idea if carries. But everything we do/are is by necessity enveloped in a form. Abstract concepts (life, love, hope, faith), need a form to express them (a being, a hug, a poem, … ). The more esthetic the form is (a rather relative concept…), the more enjoyable they are. And although our music is faint in comparison with the heavenly strings, I believe God delights in our music because we offer him ourselves with all that we are, and also for the esthetics of it.

The esthetics of our music, however, do not condition degrees of divine love towards us. God does not love less those who worship him in less art-filled ways, nor will he find more value in such individuals (every one of us is unique and infinitely valuable), but neither does his love for us does mean that he enjoys absolutely any forms of expression (although he will accept the heart offering). Now what God’s taste of esthetic is, that is another story… into which I don’t know how much insight we really have.

“if God didn’t give us music for His own enjoyment and benefit, then there is only one option left…” Not sure I can guess what you are thinking of – perhaps for our enjoyment and benefit?
But does it necessarily have to be either/or? Could it be both for his and our enjoyment?

Adelina said...

On more thought though, when a child offers his father a 5-year-old song on Father's Day, this is the most beautiful song in the world to him, and it means everything.
And we are God's children.

So..I don't know..

Jason said...

@MissyK: "He gave us these blessings to express ourselves to our Creator"

That is what I find so fascinating! So often God is portrayed as demanding our praise and worship, as if we're supposed to do them out of duty and without any pleasure to ourselves. But the fact that our gift to Him is also a gift to ourselves just amazes me!


@Adelina

(Don't worry, this has nothing to do with the rock music debate. :-p Or, at least, I didn't intend it to.)

"Not sure I can guess what you are thinking of – perhaps for our enjoyment and benefit?
But does it necessarily have to be either/or? Could it be both for his and our enjoyment?"

Yeah, you're right that God's gift of music to us probably has multiple purposes. But if, as has been mentioned before, God doesn't gain anything particularly wonderful from music itself (its more from the heart, through whatever form we use to express... much like the 5-year-old child), then the primary reason, from what I can tell, is that music is for our enjoyment.

I just think the idea that music is *for us* has huge implications on some of the debates I've heard about what type of praise is appropriate in church (which, of course, is another topic).

Adelina said...

Phew!

=)

All right. Further thoughts:

I don’t know if it is so much a matter of what God gains… He “gains” nothing out of nothing we are or do. We exist for a relational purpose, which is a delight to God with all that comes with it (that is.. besides the heartbreak we cause him every too often), including the music we use for praise. It’s kind of hard to separate particular dimensions that make up who we are.

It is true, the idea that music is for us would have implications on such debates, but I don’t know if necessarily critical. There are more elements thrown into discussion of appropriateness, such as the influence it has on us (including on our morality, behavior, etc.), the process involved in the making of the music, conditional responses, etc.

In regards to enjoyment, I definitely think God would want us to like the music we use to praise him. But we need to keep in mind that, like everything else that has been perverted by sin, our taste of enjoyment has been perverted too. Various people would have a different view on enjoyment, ranging from picking wild flowers on a field to sleeping around. I just think there have to be some principles to guide our selection of worship music, just as there are principles that guide other areas of our lives (like dating, for example). If we take enjoyment as the sole guideline in music selection, and accept whatever anyone would find enjoyable, it would lead to complete relativism (which does not like the “constraint” of principles). But God’s kingdom functions on absolutes.

Also on enjoyment: like in any type of relationship, (since we are in one with God), wouldn’t it be desirable that both parties enjoy an activity that involves both of them? I would like my song offering to be pleasant to him, not only to me. When we offer a gift to someone, we do so wishing that the receiver find pleasure in it.

Jason said...

Thanks for being interested in this topic. :-)


“It is true, the idea that music is for us would have implications on such debates, but I don’t know if necessarily critical.”

I think it is critical though, because it is at the core of the purpose of worship and praise and music. If, contrary to what we’ve been saying, music is solely for God’s enjoyment, then we should only offer the highest class, most finely-tuned songs, and only by those who have perfected the art and can present it without mistakes. Thankfully that is not the case.

You are right that there are other issues involved, and I don’t think anyone is saying that enjoyment should be the sole criteria.

But neither should enjoyment be an automatic disqualification. There are so many Christians out there who seem to be afraid of enjoying worship, afraid of feeling good while praising, afraid of feeling in general. And so praise has become this stale, mechanical ritual in which their main thought is “I am here to give God something, thus I must void myself of anything that takes the focus away from God.” And while good-intentioned, they are missing the point that praise and worship is a mutual experience and that it is okay, even preferable, to enjoy the experience, to – dare I say – have fun while praising God.


“Also on enjoyment: like in any type of relationship, (since we are in one with God), wouldn’t it be desirable that both parties enjoy an activity that involves both of them? I would like my song offering to be pleasant to him, not only to me.”

Yes, I think God does enjoy music. But my question has been, why did He give it to us? And as someone mentioned, it’s because He loves to share with us. He enjoys it, so He wants us to enjoy it. Of course, in the truest of actions, there is no distinction between the giving and the receiving of pleasure.

Anyway, I get the feeling that you’re trying to defend something that I’m not attacking. Alas, the shortcomings of blog discussions.


~Jason

P.S. Just throwing this out there, too: God’s kingdom functions on the absolute of love, which has many variables.

Jason said...

lol, this was supposed to be a short blog... and now I've ended up writing more than I usually do on longer posts!

Adelina said...

You are welcome. I am interested in music.

“If music is solely for God’s enjoyment, then only those who have perfected the art and can present it without mistakes.” I hear you. That is a very good point. Also a good point “they are missing the point that is okay, even preferable, to enjoy the experience.”

I wasn’t really trying to defend something, just bringing into the discussion other aspects/dimensions derived from the initial thoughts. But those should probably be saved for other blogs or such, while supporting the general idea of God’s love….

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