"Douglas O’Donnell draws out the historical, exegetical, and theological significance of the songs of Moses, Deborah, Hannah, David, and Habakkuk. He then shows, in the light of the person and work of Jesus Christ, how the lyrics of God’s Word apply to contemporary congregational singing.
"God’s Lyrics offers both a corrective and a call—a corrective to sing of Christ from the Psalms, the Law and the Prophets, and a call to use the whole counsel of God in worshiping him.
"The new hymns and music provided for each biblical text encourage pastors, lyricists, and church musicians to reengage with these ageless songs and their timeless themes" (publisher's website).
- The Lord is at the center; that is our God is addressed, adored, and 'enlarged.'
- His mighty acts in salvation history (not merely or primarily our personal experience of redemption) are recounted.
- His acts of judgment are rejoiced in.
- His ways of living (practical wisdom) are encouraged.
Focusing on salvation history gets into Christology and proclamation and delivery of the Gospel. O'Donnell calls for a deciedly more Biblical focus instead of one based on a personal testimony or worship overtaken by pietism. The major canticles tell these salvation stories!
The Law is listed third. I do like this listing due to theological priorities. In proclamation, preaching, and pastoral care, Law comes before Gospel. Yet, because the Gospel is intended by the Lord to be our priority, unique and predominate message, I like what O'Donnell does with this, especially in exposing his readers to the more uncomfortable corners of Holy Scripture: holiness, sin, repentance, confession, and judgment.
Number four on O'Donnell's list could be easily misunderstood by contemporary Christianity. Don't settle for a caricature of Christianity like moralism, works righteousness, or legalism.
Two brief critiques are in order. I'm not a fan of Brueggemann's theology (33). I would encourage a rethink of this section in the light of the Lord remembering us. For comparison, consider Our Lord's words instituting Holy Communion. Who is doing the remembering. Yes, we are, but the Lord's remembering of us is far more important.
A minor change is also recommended in a footnote about Paul's theology of worship (118). Would it not be more accurate to say that "the church is gathered by the Lord" instead of "the church gathers" ?
- You are what you sing (101). Pastors, what would your congregation know about God based on what they sing in worship over two decades?
- The recommendation of modern hymns by Kristyn and Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (138, 142) as among the best of the new.
- The weakness of modern Christian song when it comes to Jesus' Incarnation, Life, Resurrection, and Return (143, Appendix).
- The strength of classic Christian hymnody, especially the hymns and catechetical hymns of Martin Luther, and the hymnal Cantus Christi (164ff, http://www.cph.org/p-6291-martin-luther-hymns-ballads-chants-truth-4-cd-set.aspx; http://www.canonpress.org/store/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=297&idcategory=0).
- Downloadable recordings of the author's original hymns. Lutherans will be able to pick them up on the first Sunday they are used. (And we all have a better text to use for the melody associated with "We Three Kings." Go ahead, prove that there were "three kings" from Matthew 2!)
No, it is not merely about "taste" (25). Gordon is right to point toward theological foundations for worship, especially the use of hymns and why hymns were/are in decline in many congregations and denominations. "None of this stern, transcendent seriousness is consistent with the values of pop culture" (92). So, people changed church rather than a sinful, anti-biblical culture!
"T. David Gordon looks at these changes in worship and not only examines the problems, but also provides solutions. They are solutions of great importance to us all—because how we sing affects how we live. Dr. Gordon not only shows the problems, he also provides solutions - it's important, because how we sing affects how we live.
"T. David Gordon has been Professor of Religion and Greek at Grove City College since 1999" (publisher's website: http://www.prpbooks.com/inventory.html?target=indiv_title&id=2022).
- theologically orthodox lyrics
- theologically significant lyrics
- literarily apt and thoughtful lyrics
- lyrics and music appropriate to a meeting between God and his visiible people
- well-written music with regard to melody, harmony, rhythm, and form
- musical setting appropriate to the lyrical content
"Looking at biblical and historical sources, he builds a structure to help us all understand where we should be directing our energies and attention - and how to increase the value of our worshipful singing. Paul S. Jones (D.M., Indiana University) is organist and music director at historic Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia. He has composed or arranged more than seventy sacred works" (publisher's website).
Paul S. Jones gets right to the point. He has to: What Is Worship Music? is a mere 43 valuable pages.
- We must measure our worship practices by the Word of God (37).
- We need to comprehend the pastoral nature of music ministry (37).
- We should ensure that our practices are informed by and patterned after these truths.
Brief, yet potent, What Is Worship Music? from P&R's Basics of the Faith Series is a theologically-informed and practical addition to your pastoral care library, even if you are a lay musician!
Thanks to P&R for these three wonderful resources on preserving, promoting, and defending the heritage of Christian worship text and song.