Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns"

My review of T. David Gordon's Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns has now been posted TGC Reviews.

Gordon makes a compelling series of arguments against the use of pop music in corporate worship. His arguments focus primarily on the three dimensions mentioned above: the literary, theological, and musical merit (or lack thereof) of pop music. Two of the problems, perhaps the most significant problems with pop music according to Gordon are its 1) profanity, that is, it is common; and its 2) ubiquity, that is, it is everywhere. It operates like a kind of white noise in our culture.

Certainly many will challenge Gordon’s assessment of the relative importance of the music itself compared to the lyrical content of the songs. But part and parcel of the book’s thesis is that form is far from neutral. Indeed, it is foolish to try to separate form from content. As Gordon asserts, “We make tools and tools make us” (p. 10).

Gordon places “paedocentrism” near the center of the present soiling of corporate worship. “Reaching the young” has become for the church what “doing it for the children” is for politicians. After all, who opposes reaching young people? But Gordon challenges this paedocentrism. “Biblically, the goal of youth is to leave it as rapidly as possible. The goal of the young, biblically, is to be mature. . . . We equate youth with youth culture, and erroneously believe that we cannot minister to the one without embracing, condoning, or promoting the other” (p. 161).

What is more, Gordon challenges the assumption of many baby boomers that pop music forms in worship is an effective way to reach young people. One of the “money quotes” from the book is, “Young people who attend a church and see a group of fifty-year-olds playing their guitars in front of the church in order to ‘reach the young’ will perhaps politely appreciate the gesture, but they frankly regard the music as being fairly lame” (p. 159).
Read the entire review HERE.

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