Music As Apologetics


#1

Since the Great Contarini and I have been having a bit of a side discussion in another thread on musical apologetics, I thought perhaps there would be interest in a fuller thread on the subject.

Here’s the question:

Are the various types of music employed during religious worship significant vehicles for apologetics of the worship community?

As an example, the Catholic Church warns about using hymns such as “Amazing Grace” as they may lead to doctrinal confusion. This leads one to wonder as to the doctrinal content of hymns.

So dig out the hymnals, brothers and sisters, if you’d like a bit of a diversion from the more heady discussions in defense of the faith elsewhere.


#2

Sure, the lyrics used in hymns or other songs can be employed for apologetic or theological purposes but, in most instances, I think that lyrics are intended more to be inspirational. As such, they often don’t reflect the theological divide between Catholics and Protestants and can be used by both.


#3

Do you have any examples of hymns or songs which could be employed for apologetic or theological purposes?

I agree with you on the inspirational aspects, but I think the music as apologetics line of argument might be a more novel one to discuss.


#4

The Belleville IL diocess has Amazing Grace in its Catholic hymnal.


#5

Ave Maria comes to mind, but I’m sure that there are even better examples. I’ll have to think about it.


#6

It must be, since music is what brought me back to God and His Church after 30 years.

And now I’m trying to return the favor: www.choraltreasure.org


#7

Excellent point—tell you what: I’ll dig up the lyrics for some of the common Catholic liturgical music; will you do the same for some of your favorites?

It would be interesting to see what doctrinal information is contained in each.


#8

I find this question rather odd, since the purpose of worship should not be apologetics but, well, worship.

As an example, the Catholic Church warns about using hymns such as “Amazing Grace” as they may lead to doctrinal confusion.

Are you saying that there is some official document warning about “Amazing Grace”? Where might I find this?

What I said in the other thread was that Catholics sometimes “mutter” (a word that was needlessly provocative in the charged atmosphere of this forum) about “Amazing Grace.” I am unaware of any “warning” issuing from any organ of the Magisterium, though that may be my ignorance. My concern was that if the most orthodox and devout Catholics feel uncomfortable with the hymn, then the “sensus fidelium” of your Communion may be incompatible with the evangelical piety in which I was nourished and to which I am far more attached than I am to any specific Protestant doctrine.

I am probably putting too much weight in opinion of the minority of very conservative Catholics who have expressed such concerns.

Edwin


#9

I don’t think you can separate “inspirational” from “theological.” Piety always has an implied theology.

I agree that the idea of hymns as an apologetics tool is odd. Apologetics should be directed toward worship, not the other way round.

Edwin


#10

I’d start with a hymn that is mighty popular in the Protestant Churches…

Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side that flowed,
Be of sin the double cure -
Save me, Lord and make me pure;

Should my tears forever flow
Should my zeal no languor know,
This for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone;
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyelids close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold thee on thy throne -
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.


#11

Of course, but you indicated on the other thread that music also serves an apologetics purpose and contains doctrine to some degree.

Are you saying that there is some official document warning about “Amazing Grace”? Where might I find this?

You could start with “Ask An Apologist”—the question’s come up there.

What I said in the other thread was that Catholics sometimes “mutter” (a word that was needlessly provocative in the charged atmosphere of this forum) about “Amazing Grace.” I am unaware of any “warning” issuing from any organ of the Magisterium, though that may be my ignorance. My concern was that if the most orthodox and devout Catholics feel uncomfortable with the hymn, then the “sensus fidelium” of your Communion may be incompatible with the evangelical piety in which I was nourished and to which I am far more attached than I am to any specific Protestant doctrine.

I am probably putting too much weight in opinion of the minority of very conservative Catholics who have expressed such concerns.

Edwin

Maybe, but this thread really isn’t so much about who issued what warning, but whether or not church music carries doctrinal messages which orthodox followers of any faith ought be wary of, or, to take the more positive view, contains apologetics for the faith which might well bring others into it.

In other words, here’s a chance to get real specific. I will post the lyrics to “Holy Holy Holy”, the Gloria, Ave Maria, etc which are commonly used during Mass; we can then highlight which Catholic doctrines (if any) are contained therein.

Likewise, if you or any other non-Catholics would care to do the same for your favored hymns or songs, we could discuss these as well. Since “Amazing Grace” seems to be a favorite for you, why not start there?


#12

Maybe not, but often the multitude of theological differences we have are not always reflected in the lyrics of the hymns we sing. Some are, but many are not.


#13

It is reported that Cardinal Ratzinger, attending a concert of sacred music, turned to a companion and said “Anyone who hears this, knows the faith is true.” Now while that is incorrect in the most literal sense, it certainly does contain a nugget of truth. One can hear a great piece of sacred music and “know the faith is true”. It is not intellectual knowledge, but it is real knowledge just the same, as real as any other form of assurance of faith.


#14

Music can, and indeed should, express deep theology. Thomas Aquinas seems able to do this effortlessly-- look at Pange Lingua or Adoro Te Devote.

I wouldn’t recommend it as apologetics, pe se, but as an invitation to examine the truth of the Church through beautiful art.

For instance, the chanted Salve Regina (Dominican style) is a wonderful treasure of the Church. Perhaps by looking at the beauty of the chant one might be led to consider the beauty of the truth beneath it.

Other than that, though, music does a poor job at, “apologetics.”

Edwin:

The opinion of many posters on CA against Amazing Grace is, as you note, the opinion of a minority. I don’t know any Catholics who have a problem with it. (And I do know a group of very faithful, committed young Catholics who I doubt would think twice about it.)

-Rob


#15

Those are not the same statements. We really would have a better conversation if you would not ascribe statements to me that I did not say. Music is going to serve an “apologetics purpose” in the sense that everything we do as Christians is a witness to the Faith, but I don’t find that a very helpful way to think about it. Of course music is theological–everything is.

In other words, here’s a chance to get real specific. I will post the lyrics to “Holy Holy Holy”, the Gloria, Ave Maria, etc which are commonly used during Mass; we can then highlight which Catholic doctrines (if any) are contained therein.

Likewise, if you or any other non-Catholics would care to do the same for your favored hymns or songs,

Well, I could start with the Gloria and the Sanctus!

we could discuss these as well. Since “Amazing Grace” seems to be a favorite for you, why not start there?

Actually the reason I cited it (rather than other hymns I love just as much) is that it is often used in Mass and I’ve heard it complained of. But I certainly love it very much.

Edwin


#16

Yes. An friend of my wife’s from seminary (where he lost his faith, entering with the intention of becoming an apologist and leaving as a nonbeliever for whom science is the most reliable source of truth) visited us earlier this summer, and in the course of the discussion my wife said that for her Bach’s music was the strongest proof of God’s existence. This made no sense to him at all!

Edwin


#17

Excellent—what Protestant doctrine is contained herein?


#18

Let’s not derail this thread, too, okay?


#19

Rock of Ages

I think that the message of the lyrics of this beautiful hymn (which is also quite compelling from a purely musical sense as well) reflects truths that both Protestants and Catholics share:

(1) Nothing that we can do merits salvation:…"Should my tears forever flow, Should my zeal no languor know, This for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and thou alone"

(2) We rely only on Christ’s loving, saving merit*:…“Let the water and the blood, From thy wounded side that flowed, Be of sin the double cure–Save me, Lord and make me pure”* and “In my hand no price I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling.”


#20

This is perfect—thanks for providing the template we can use for any other songs brought into the discussion!

For the Catholic ones, I’ll take a similar approach, and go one step further by citing the Catechism or other doctrinal documents as appropriate.

I’ll have some more time this weekend to work in the Catholic ones and catch up to you a bit.

“Rock of Ages” is certainly one beautiful hymn. :thumbsup:


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