The connection between theology and music mood

I've been listening to a variety of Christian music with my iPod on shuffle mode. I have a mix of Classical Hymns, Southern Gospel and CCM of different flavors. Apart from the lyrics, the music itself sounds distinctly different depending on the Theological persuasion of the artists. It's hard to explain the mood of music except to use words that communicate certain emotions, but I'll try...

 The mood of most Southern Gospel Music (SGM) is what some call "happy clappy". It's a sound that reflects a momentary happiness based on a surge of good feelings that is based on very little thoughtful meditation on deep truth. Many of the happy foot-stompin' hand-clappin' songs are about feeling good about going to heaven and having a happy time. The theology behind the artists and song writers is an easy-believism gospel. Their view of the gospel and salvation is to get on a "gospel train" and ride it up to heaven for a good ol' time. It is not centered on God or the gospel, but more so on the benefits that one receives from God as the greatest joy and gladness in the Christian life. The music is whimsical and light-hearted which reflects the shallowness of the doctrine behind it. (EG: When they Ring the Bells)

 The mood of the Hymns written before the 1850's was mostly somber, serious, reflective or grand. The lyrics in these songs are much more theological. The big grand sounds reflect a a theology of a big God who is sovereign and powerful. The other hymns that speak more about Christ's atoning work have a more serious sound and sometimes even sad. (EG: Sacred Head Now Wounded)

 The mood of the gospel songs that were written during the days of revivalism in the late 1800's to the early 1900's has a sound that was similar to its age. The music was close to the pop sound being produced by rag piano players like Scott Joplin. The theology coming from this music was shallow and experiential - decisional regeneration, easy believism, Arminian free will, man centered gospel. The songs shift from a focus on God's glory and God's work, to man's feelings and experience. The music reflects this in it's "happy, feel good" style that was similar to the pop music of the day:
 (EG: Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled my Soul) compare with Ragtime music (Scott Joplin's Easy Winners)

 The mood of mainstream CCM music is sentimental and mushy. The theology behind it has Charismatic influence behind it. There is not a lot of logical, rational and objective truth from Scripture. The theology is more subjective, experiential and sensational. Since Charismatic theology is more feeling based than Scripture based, then they are given to sensuality and the music mood reflects that. The music has been mocked by some as "Jesus is my Boyfriend Songs". They sound more like love songs than praise to a great and mighty God who is to be feared and obeyed. The (EG: God So Loved)

 The mood of some of the new contemporary hymns that are now emerging from the Reformed community also have a reflective, more serious sound for most of the songs that are speaking of the actual work of Christ in the gospel. Some of the people producing these new hymns are writing some great songs and there seems to be a resurgence of music and lyrics that are equally weighty and worth singing in the church to communicate doctrine well. (EG: In Christ Alone)

~ Originally posted at Reforming Baptist

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