Music is always changing. In many ways it is like an organism: it grows, it is influential, it changes and discovers many new things, and it adapts. However, music itself doesn’t feel, we do! God has given within each of us an intuitive musical capacity (some more than others), and it is important that, just like ourselves, we feed and nurture it to give him glory.
The way music and culture changes, either in our lifetime or within human history, reflects our spiritual walk with God. While the whole of Christianity and Music may be changing, its essential elements remain the same. Whether you’re listening to the angelic harmonies and overtones produced by Palestrina, the majestic organ sounds of Bach, or current day Christian music like Casting Crowns or Chris Tomlin, some things remain the same. On the spiritual end we see the continual praising of God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of mankind, but how about from a musical perspective?
We find within the whole of musical literature these characteristics: Notes, Rhythm, Groove, Dynamics (changes in volume/accent), Phrasing (how something is said), Expression (feeling), and Contour (the “shape” of the piece). We can imagine more, but this gives us a good start. Neither of these elements of music are lost over time, only modified. If one of them were lost, it would cease to be what we consider music! Imagine music with no notes (everything would be like a percussion concert), or no rhythm (everything would be one long note or chord).
So what does that have to do with Christianity? The church is always going through changes. The church is living, and as anyone who has studied biology knows, a living system must change and adapt. However, we should be open to these changes, much like musical changes, as long as they do not affect core beliefs. This way, as our spiritual walk with God changes, we can accept and appreciate a newness of worship, so long as it is holy and applies to biblically grounded church standards. Using this lens of objective criteria, we can test these various changes (whether they be Vatican II, the new mass translation, or other liturgical adjustments) to be of the spirit of God.