God-Centered Music

Dr. Ligon Duncan, 2006 Ligonier Pastors Conference
(Notes transcribed by Kirk Bentson and Ron Bechtel)

Listen: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/pastors_conference_2006/god-centered-music-3996/

  1. Music in worship is to serve the praise of God. Our preferences are not the key issue.
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  2. Music in worship must serve the congregation’s prayer and praise of God. Not what do I like, but what will enable our brothers and sisters to praise God?
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  3. Music in worship is to serve the congregation of the redeemed sing praises to the Redeemer about the redemption. (Cf. Rev. 5)
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  4. Music—as distinct from singing—often takes on a more prominent role in our worship than it does in New Testament worship.
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  5. Musical style preference is often too important in unhelpful ways to many people.
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  6. Music, like every other aspect of worship, must pass the test of the catacombs. If it can’t be done in the catacombs, it can’t be considered essential to worship.
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  7. Music—at least some of it—must pass the test of the stake and pyre. What will our martyrs sing when they are at the stake?
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  8. Music must contribute to the communion of the saints in all ages, not sunder it.(See Peggy Noonan’s comments on the music played during the time of President Ronald Reagan’s death and funeral.)
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  9. Music is not an element of worship; rather, it is an aid to an element (singing).
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  10. Music must be consonant with the text of scripture or the scriptural truth that we are singing. Tunes should be suited to words (appropriate marriage of text and tune).
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  11. All musical forms convey real impressions, some clearer, some less so.
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  12. The purpose of music in worship is not to accommodate our preferences, or to reclaim culture, nor is music to be determined by culture and preference. Our music is to serve the praise of God.
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  13. Music has powerful emotional effects and associations, and so it needs to be handled with great care. We Americans do believe that the medium changes the message. (Consider why your dentist does not pipe the theme to “Jaws” into the patient room.)

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