A discussion starter
Why do we use in the praise of God in church services the musical instruments that are used around us in the world to worship demons and to support sexual immorality?
Why do we not imitate the Early Church when it comes to music at the Daily Offices and at the Eucharist?
Since the 1960s church members have been told constantly that we must adopt the shape of the liturgy as it was in the 3rd century when the church was a persecuted minority in a pagan, multi-religious, multi-ethnic culture of the Roman Empire. The classical shape of the Liturgy of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1549-1928 [USA]-1960 [Canada]) has thus given way to the new "Shape" as found in the tremendous amount of new prayer books and rites now in vogue in the Anglican Communion. (see further, Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy.)
With this "shape" have come various other things from the same period such as "the passing of the peace" (which has become so dominant in some places as to be a sacrament in its own right of the celebration of self-esteem and community).
So we have the "shape" and the "peace" but why don't we adopt other essential features of the worship of the Early Church?
Take music for example. The congregations of the early Church were certainly a singing and a chanting people. They sang Psalms from the Psalter & Canticles from various parts of the Bible, together with a small selection of locally created hymns [ see Ephesians 5:18-10 & Colossians 3:16-17].
Yet, like the synagogues of the Jews, they did not use instruments. A cantor started them off and then they sang in unison, seeking to express in one voice their unity in Christ Jesus as his one people. The men and women joined together to make one sound to the praise of God the Father through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost. Vocal music was seen as altogether superior in the worship of God to instrumental music. [see further, James McKinnon, Music in Early Christian Literature, Cambridge, 1987]
They rejected the instruments available all around them in society for these stringed, woodwind and metal instruments & drums were too closely associated with idolatry and immorality, with pagan feasts and festivals, and with going to war and returning from war. They also rejected hand-clapping and dance for the same basic reasons.
[Instruments only began to appear in Christian worship between 1000 - 1300 and the organ was the first to appear. It had the advantage that it had no previous association with immorality and paganism.]
So if we have the shape, and the peace, why not the early Christian approach to music & dance and hand-clapping?
Let us ask: Is it not the case that, apart from the organ, most of the instruments used (guitar, drum etc) by music groups for worship are also used in the world around in the worship of demons and the promotion of immorality (sexual especially).
If we must have music then let it be the organ!
Appealing to the Old Testament Temple and its instruments will not do for Israel was a theocracy and a nation and thus complete in itself. Today the Church today is a pilgrim people, mere sojourners in this world, and She cannot simply adopt the culture and provisions of the world without sanctifying them! Perhaps it is a fact that certain forms of music and certain expressions of the body and certain musical instruments cannot be sanctified!
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor,
England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large
of The Prayer Book Society of America