MUSIC IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY,
by Dale Topp; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich., 1976. (205 pp., paperback, $4.95)/ Reviewed by Prof. H.C. Hoeksema.
Written by a professor of music at Calvin College, this book tries to view music in its proper perspective as a tool for use “in the Christian Community.” In seven chapters the author develops the concept of the power and importance of music in the lives of God’s people. Not only does he discuss the areas of life in which music enters” our lives, such as in worship services and the Christian home and school, but he also treats the many problems which arise in the study and performance of music, those of the choice of music, the choice of singers and instrumentalists, and the place which music should fill in the lives of Christians.
In the first chapter, “Worshipping God,” the author sets the tone of the book, using Scripture’s many references to the importance of singing and instrumental praise in the lives of God’s people. With a fine blend of scholarship and common sense, he goes on to write a reasonable, well-balanced treatise on the purpose and use of music, in an atmosphere of sympathetic understanding of his fellow Christian.
In his comments on proper selection of hymns he shows how to select those which are solidly Scriptural, singable, and whose lyrics fit the tunes; and he makes suggestions for the improvement of congregational singing. Although this reviewer cannot agree with all his choices and suggestions, his ideas are well worth studying.
One theme which the author carries throughout the book is that all Christians can and should enjoy music. Even those whose voices are not so beautiful should be encouraged to develop their talents for the glory of God. He urges those who have few vocal talents to praise God on instruments or by listening to others perform. The chapter on “Music in the Christian Home” and that on “Music in the Christian School” should help parents who want to foster an enthusiasm for good music in their children.
Although the author recommends the heritage of the music of the church of all ages and shows how to mold the tastes, even of children, toward the classics that have stood the test of time, he fails to reckon with the antithesis of good and evil in our lives, also as it shows itself in the area of music. As in all areas of our lives, so in music there is a line of sharp distinction between the good and edifying and the secular and sensual, between music and the perversion of music, between music in the service of God and in the service of Satan. It is in this area that we would disagree with the author. Particularly, for example, we disapprove of the author’s permissiveness with regard to the choice of rock music and with regard to the dance for teenagers. Also in the comprehensive appendix, which in general is an excellent guide for musical selections, the selections from the world of rock, of films, and from Broadway we deem to be inconsistent with a life of sanctification.