Read A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church by Calvin R. Stapert Online


Even as worship wars in the church and music controversies in society at large continue to rage, many people do not realize that conflict over music goes back to the earliest Christians as they sought to live out the "new song" of their faith. In A New Song for an Old World Calvin Stapert challenges contemporary Christians to learn from the wisdom of the early church in thEven as worship wars in the church and music controversies in society at large continue to rage, many people do not realize that conflict over music goes back to the earliest Christians as they sought to live out the "new song" of their faith. In A New Song for an Old World Calvin Stapert challenges contemporary Christians to learn from the wisdom of the early church in the area of music. Stapert draws parallels between the pagan cultures of the early Christian era and our own multicultural realities, enabling readers to comprehend the musical ideas of early Christian thinkers, from Clement and Tertullian to John Chrysostom and Augustine. Stapert's expert treatment of the attitudes of the early church toward psalms and hymns on the one hand, and pagan music on the other, is ideal for scholars of early Christianity, church musicians, and all Christians seeking an ancient yet relevant perspective on music in their worship and lives today....

Title : A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church
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ISBN : 9780802832191
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 246 Pages
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A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church Reviews

  • Eric Chappell
    2018-11-19 22:44

    Fascinating read! I picked this book up after I listened to Stapert's book on Handel's Messiah (which was fabulous). Stapert analyzes the acceptance and rejection of music in the Early Church. After setting up the historical context, he uses prominent figures (Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Augustine) to show generally what the church thought of pagan music and what kind of music they used in Christian churches and households. Stapert is accessible, insightful, balanced, and paints a incredible portrait of musical thought in the first few centuries of the church.Books & Authors to read that I found out about through this book:1) F.F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame2) Gallagher, Literature through the Eyes of Faith3) Madeleine d'EngleNotes:Prelude:"Are we at liberty to ignore the past? Do the great teachers of the Church...not possess a--certainly not heavenly--but, even so, earthly, human "authority"? We should not be too ready to say, No. To my mind the whole question of tradition falls under the Fifth Commandment: Honor father and mother! Certainly that is a limited authority; we have to obey God more than father and mother. But we have also to obey father and mother...There is no question of bondage and constraint. It is merely that in the Church the same kind of obedience as, I hope, you pay to your father and mother, is demanded of you towards the Church's past, towards the "elders" of the Church."-Karl BarthMadeleine d'Engle: When I am looking for theologians to stimulate my creativity, theologians who are contemporary enough to speak to these last years of troubled century, I turn to the Byzantine and Cappodocian Fathers of the early years of the Christian era, because their world ours...In the first few centuries AD, Rome was breaking up; civilization was changing as radically as is our own...Such people as St. Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and his brilliant sister, Macrina, were facing the same kind of change and challenge that we are, and from them I get great courage." (Walking on Water)-tyranny of the new; we live in the 'now' generation of the church-our thinking about music is Post-Enlightenment de factochapter 2: the song of the church in the NT-NT begins and ends in song (14)-Gen 1 song--see Job 38:7-Rescue results in rejoicing (Exod 15; Luke 1)-Sing about what you need rescue from-Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy); Gloria in excelsis (Glory in the Highest) (movement of Psalms). You must have Kyrie theme in Christian song that brings out the true meaning of the main theme, Gloria. -Hellenistic music: category called 'epiclesis' (summon the deity; beguile the deity). Largely Hellenistic music was used either to beguile the deity or focused on the effect it had on the worshipper. Christian music was not an opiate, but a response of joy.-singing and evangelism (Ps 96:3; make His glory known among nations; Acts 16:25)--the nations are listening. -Summary: In summary, the song the church sings, as described in the NT, is a joyful response to the works of God, stimulated by the Word and the Spirit. It is sung by humans to God and to each other, with the saints and angels and all creation (28).chapter 3: the church in pagan society-question that plagues modern church: what do you do with the early church's moral stringency? -withdrawal from society in the early church was a minority (yet vocal) position.-Martin Marty: (speaking of the martyrs, hermits, and monks)They had picked up a strand in the authentic fabric..." But they erred in pulling on that strand..."with such strength that it twisted the whole garment. This distorted the question of Christian vocation, complicating it for those who chose not to go to the desert or the cell. The martyr and the monk, then, each had a place, but each in his color detracts from the pastel and gray response of holiness in congregational life and daily calling. Perhaps it was most difficult to be holy there where no beasts roared or fire flamed, where no demons fluttered around the ears of saints--but where the structures of evil pervading life called for higher witness to the way of the cross. The varying hopes for holiness were like ropes. They bound some in misery to the stakes. They corralled others in cells. But for most they were stretched across poles of church and world: it is never easy to walk a tightrope" (34).-Justin Martyr and Tatian demonstrate two responses to pagan culture--the former positive and the latter negative. -there was a liturgical awareness of the union between human and angelic voices in corporate worship (39).chap 4: Clement of Alexandria: musical cosmology and composed manners-differences between Clement and Gnosticism. Clement was not a Gnostic for the simple reason that Gnosticism cannot be squared with the teachings of the Bible (46). -Plato: idea of musica mundana, musica humana, musica instrumentalis. In sum, musica mundana refers to the order and harmony of the universe--'round me rings the music of the spheres.' Musica humana refers to the order and harmony in and among human beings. We are a miniature cosmos. If we live virtuously, we are constantly under [music's] discipline, but when we commit injustice we are without music." To lose one's temper means to go out of tune, to lose harmonia. Ideally, musica instrumentalis should be a reflection of musica mundana: that is, should be an audible manifestation of the order and harmony of the universe if it is to fulfill the function Plato gave it of tuning our out-of-tune souls. -Read Clement's Exhortation to the Heathen-Audible music reflects the cosmic order and shapes human character (e.g. Saul and David). -Clement argued that music is to be used for the embellishment and composure of manners. We should reject 'superfluous music' which leads to variety. -For Clement: music shapes character and shows gratitude. -our whole lives are a 'festival'-we invite pagans to a sober (not a somber) dance-thankful, sober revelry leads to thankful, sober character.chap 5: Tertullian: pagan spectacles and Christian householdsRead: On Spectacles-T had antipathy for pagan learning (Athens and Jerusalem)-quote on Xian care for poor, see Apology XXXIX, 5-7-context of martyrdom may have shaped T's attitude toward pagan entertainment. -Don't assume Church Fathers meant phrase 'psalms and hymns' in church worship context. Often it dealt with everyday life. -Stapert: "In this day of radio, MTV, and ever more readily available recorded music, singing at home, or anywhere else, has been lost..." Tertullian expected singing to occur at home.-T: Singing in marriage: "Between the two echo psalms and hymns; and they mutually challenge each other which shall better change to their Lord. Such things when Christ sees and hears, He rejoices. To these He sends His own peace." (To His Wife, II).chap 6: expansion and persecution, triumph and trouble-3rd c. provides interesting historical model for what church did with expanding membership--some apostasized and came back, others were uneducated, how big did you make the umbrella? -Fathers distrust of wild passion-themes re-emerge in 4th c.: God is primary audience. Reason for singing is gratitude for deliverance. Spirit is source of song. Song is sung from heart. Whole person is involved. Singing is bond of unity. -Definition of passion (87): Passions weren't what we call feelings--they actually hindered true expression of feelings. They were emotions, desires, attitudes, and ways of acting that blind us in our dealings with ourselves, each other, and the world, and so pervert perfectly good, and useful impulses which take away our freedom to love. Passions were an excessive appetite, appetite unbridles and disobedient to the word: gluttony, avarice, lust, depression, anger, sloth, vainglory, pride. Desire inordinate. -Clement used imagery of two horses and charioteer. The charioteer was reason. The horses/drives were desire (appetitive drive) and anger (spirited drive). Both horses are blind. If horses become unbridled chaos results; the energy of the horses becomes the power for various destructive passions, and the human personality is turned over to these passions which victimize it and destroy it as they repeatedly try unsuccessfully to satisfy themselves. But they can never permanently fill themselves up...A life that takes its meaning from eating, or sex, or owning things can never be fulfilled because the desires can never be permanently satisfied. These desires are alternatively filled and recurring over and over. This phenomenon is called 'the cycle of desire.'(88)-Love was Christian response to Stoicism's apatheia. Love is charioteer, not reason. Chap 7: Ambrose: administrator and mystic-quote from Ambrose in his commentary on Psalm 1-Ambrose represents the christianization of Platonic cosmic music.chap 8: John Chrysostom: Christian households amid the Devil's garbage heap-4th c. Antioch church was deeply divided into sects, denominations (nothing new!)-Peter Brown, The Body and Society-theater was a rival community to church-John instituted competing processions/parades-John had issues with the raucous festivity of Christian weddings (121)-the pagan theater was threat to chastity and charity (fascinating!)-See John's convicting quote in Homily XXXVII on Matthew 9--what greater delight is wife and childrenRead: Address on Vainglory and Right Way for parents to bring up their children-Family Singing: in singing the psalms you stand beside David himself. -John Chrysostom has a fascinating biography. I need to read more about him.chap 9: rejection--the music of a pagan world-pagan music: euphemia (produce good omens), apotropaic (ward off demons), epiclesis (summon the gods).-overall picture of music in Roman empire: decadence (137)-neighbors bothered by loud music (nothing new!) (144)-Christian opposition to pagan music was not general, but specific. -both Barbarians and Emperors knew of the threat of the theater. Summary: It appears beyond doubt...that the degeneracy the early Christian writers saw in the theater and in other areas of pagan life around them was not the result of overwrought, puritanical imaginations, but was an accurate assessment of the state of affairs. Their call for Christians to separate themselves from the banal, the rude, and the immoral elements in the culture around them was a call to bring Christians into conformity with the teachings of the New Testament.chap 10: affirmation--psalms and hymns-Fathers' praise of psalm-singing peaked in 4th c.-Basil quote (see Homily on the First Psalm 1 & 2)-Read Basil: Exhortation to Youths-Jewish psalmody was word-oriented, music did not cover the words. -Synagogues probably used no instruments-christian psalmody is inheritance from synagogue practice--this conclusion rests on reasonable assumptions and conjecture more than concrete evidence (154)-Psalm singing was part of Jewish/Christian household worship, not synagogue. -Read James McKinnon, "The Question of Psalmody" and J.A. Smith, "The Ancient Synagogue, the Early Church and Singing"Summary: the surviving evidence suggests that early Christian psalmody came into Christian daily life from Jewish daily life. It is difficult to deny that psalmody occurred in formal worship, but it is impossible to prove that it did. In any case, it is clear that psalms were not only--probably not even primarily--songs for formal, public worship among the early Christians any more than they were among the Jews. Wherever Christians sang, psalms were their songs (158).-Heresy may account for why hymns declined in 4th c.-Growth of monasticism = growth of psalmody. -Ephraem Syrns (ca. 306-373) composed hymns to combat heresy-Reformation spread through Luther's hymns--same argument can be said for growth of Christianity in early Church.Chap 11: Augustine--the problems of eloquence and inordinate love-Augi basically in step with Early Church-goal of music should be to lead us to higher things, not as an end in itself--that is sin-city of God, xxii 'order love within me'Postlude: what can the early church teach us about music?-a song is not just a song-the musical company we keep matters-sound or music mundana is what God created, not rock n roll-our music is a result of common grace, sin, and redemption--thus, it is a mixed bag-God made sound, talent, music, but not pieces of music-Fathers not agreed on cultural adaptation in music-Read: R. Muller, Tertullian and Church growth-where Fathers drew the line for pagan music is ambiguous-few quarrel with idea that christian music should be joyful. Indeed, that is too readily embraced. 'Too many Christians wish to have Christmas without Advent, Easter without Lent, trumpets without tears and ashes, a crown without a cross.' (201)-keep distinction between response in music and stimulant clear: (1) response, not stimulation, is the fundamental role of worship music, (2) that inflaming can easily degenerate into manipulation, (3) that not all that is called 'spiritual' is of the Spirit, not all that moves us is of God. -Read Milton's 'At a Solemn Musick' (sin jarr'd against natures chime)-David Bentley Hart: There are abundant biblical reasons, quite apart from the influences of pagan philosophy, for Christians to speak of the harmonia mundi: in Scripture creation rejoices in God, proclaims his glory, sings before him; the pleasing conceits of pagan cosmology aside, theology has all the warrant it needs for speaking of creation as a divine composition, a magnificent music, whose measures and refrains rise up to the pleasure and the glory of God." (205)Thomas Howard: we have been give the choice between chance or the dance, and our culture has chosen chance.-both bookends of the Bible show the origin and destiny of the song of Jerusalem and the song of Babylon (Augustine, City of God). Gen 1 is a creation song. Gen 4 is the song of Cain. Revelation silences the old song, and the New Song goes on forever. -see quote from Augustine in Exposition of the Psalms 64.3 on singing of Zion in your heart while living in Babylon.

  • Brian Collins
    2018-11-24 05:39

    Historical theology provides a great service to the church, especially when applied to matters that are fiercely debated among God’s people today. C. S. Lewis, in his famous celebration of old books, observes that the errors of older writers "are not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing." Calvin Stapert’s, A New Song for an Old World, provides this service to the present-day debate over church music. By ushering them into the old world, Stapert hopes to give readers a fuller perspective on their own.Stapert begins by extending Lewis’s argument. He first provides a more theological reason for understanding the thought of earlier Christians: obedience to the command to honor one's father and mother—applied here by extension to our spiritual forebears—of necessity involves understanding what these spiritual parents thought. In addition to this (and here Stapert gives some specificity to Lewis's practical observation), the Enlightenment has so influenced Christian thought on music that a pre-Enlightenment perspective on music becomes important for Christians. Stapert's point is not that all post-Enlightenment music or thought on music is problematic. His point is Lewis's: Christians will find it more difficult to evaluate post-Enlightenment music and thought without knowing the earlier views.The body of the book begins with a survey of New Testament musical teaching and example. Stapert highlights two major themes in biblical song: rejoicing and triumph balanced by sorrowful cries for mercy. He also distinguishes biblical song from pagan songs which were used to summon divine beings. Christian songs call upon God, but they have no magical power. New Testament songs also have two audiences: God and other believers. Finally, Stapert notes that the emphasis on the unity that characterized New Testament and early church practice of teaching and singing. Singing together with one voice made audible the unity of the church.The core of the book surveys early church thought on church music from the second through the fifth centuries. A survey of the second and early third centuries is followed by more detailed studies of Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. This pattern is repeated with a survey of the late third through fifth centuries once again followed by two more detailed studies: Ambrose and Chrysostom. Two chapters then summarize the findings. Positively, the fathers urged their people to sing songs and hymns to familiarize them with sound doctrine and to guard them against heresy, to calm negative passions to raise their affections toward God, and to praise the Creator and Savior. Negatively, the fathers polemicized against pagan music. They did not target all music of unbelievers; they "aimed no polemic at the nobler art music or the folk music of their day" (145). Their critiques were "aimed at a few well defined targets: the music of the popular public spectacles, the music associated with voluptuous banqueting, the music associated with pagan weddings, and the music of pagan religious rites and festivities" (145). They described the music they rejected as "licentious, voluptuous, frenzied, frantic, inebriating, titillating, scurrilous, turbulent, immodest, and meretricious" (54, here describing Clement of Alexandria's writings). They were concerned that his music would deform a person's character and would arouse deformed passions that were governed by neither reason nor love (55, 86-90). Interestingly, this view of music remained constant despite the variety of views about pagan culture. The critique of pagan music existed in both Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian.Stapert concludes the body of the work with a chapter on Augustine and inordinate loves. Augustine warns that beautiful sacred music can be dangerous because it draws the mind from God to the music itself. This is a sin, not because such music is not to be loved, but because no earthly thing is to be loved for its own sake. All earthly goods are to be loved as vehicles to love God. Stapert shares the concerns of those who wish to guard against an asceticism which shirks from taking delight in God's good creation, but he also thinks that Augustine's discussion of ordering loves contains important insights from which modern readers will especially benefit.Though Stapert's work is primarily historical, he does not write for mere antiquarian interest. He believes the contemporary church needs to recover the musical insight of the early church. His concluding chapter, a postlude he calls it, asks what the early church can teach the present-day church. Positively, Stapert hopes for four things: (1) a recovery of the centrality of the psalms in worship, (2) the incorporation of the best patristic hymn texts in our worship, (3) contemporary hymns modeled on ancient hymns—"texts that address God communally in language that is simple yet dignified, poetically excellent, and redolent with scriptural vocabulary, stories, sentiments, and imagery" (194), (4) a recovery of psalm and hymn singing as a part of the Christian's daily life. Negatively, Stapert hopes that modern Christians will follow the church fathers in rejecting pagan music. He especially hopes the father's reasoning about music will puncture three modern myths: (1) "It's just a song"—and therefore no ethical concerns should be raised, (2) music is a creation of God and therefore no ethical criticism may be mounted, and (3) "if we wish to see the church grow, we must adopt the music of the ambient culture" (199).A New Song in an Old World is a work of scholarship aimed at serving the church. It deserves a wide reading in the hope that it would make a small contribution toward Christians singing together with one voice that makes audible the unity of the church in Christ by the Spirit.

  • Maria Jo
    2018-12-08 04:40

    This book was a little difficult to read because of the intellectual level at which it was written, but still contains much useful information. Stapert synthesizes information from church fathers and commentaries in analyzing music. He analyzes the secular music of the times these men were writing and compares it to modern secular music. He notes the importance of praying and chanting psalms, and comments on how many of the authors he cites, especially St. Basil and St. Augustine, view these as the only music Christians should be singing or listening to.

  • Steve
    2018-12-11 05:42

    Superb and very insightful. Our views of passion, excitement and emotions are so shaped by the modern period, that this provides a fresh reconsideration.

  • Goodeguy
    2018-11-28 02:35