Cross Points - To The Glory of God

To The Glory of God - 1.9.22

In the year 1738 Johann Sebastian Bach is recognized as one of the greatest organists of his day.  He is a choirmaster at Leipzig, Germany, and he also composes and teaches.  He is considered an outstanding teacher, many of his students becoming musical professionals of high caliber, including four of his own sons who study under him.  

This is all true, but Bach’s love of music and his perfectionism can make it difficult for others when his high standards are not met.  This strains his relationships with fellow musicians and governing authorities when quarrels erupt.  One time in frustration at a student’s efforts Bach threw his wig at the man and told him he should have gone into cobble making.  

His musical compositions are marked by genuine Christian faith.  He writes music so it accents the meaning and emotion of the words being sung.  Many of his scores begin with the letters “J.J.” which stands for “Jesu, juva” or “Jesus, help me.”  And his works end with “SDG” by which Bach means “Soli Deo Gloria” or “To God alone be the glory.”  

Bach considered the bass the foundation of music and only allows his students to write bass parts when they are well advanced in their studies.  On one occasion, while attending a lecture by Bach on playing the harpsichord bass in 1738, a student records in his notebook some words his teacher utters, which capture his philosophy of music:

“The thorough bass is the most perfect foundation of music, being played with
both hands in such a manner that the left hand plays the notes written down
while the right hand adds consonances and dissonances, in order to make a
well-sounding harmony to the Glory of God  and the permissible enjoyment of
the spirit; and the aim and final reason of all music and therefore of the
thorough bass, should be none else but the Glory of God and the recreation
of the mind.  Where this is not observed, there will be no real music but only
a devilish hubbub.”

Wouldn’t it be a great service to the world if many others had this philosophy in the modern age?  As much as I enjoy certain popular venues of music, I must admit that little of it does any real good, and much of it does harm, as non-Christian values are included in the words we sing along with, often not even giving it a thought, yet it’s implanted in our mind.  Shame on me, shame on us.  And although “Christian” pop music generally does much better, some of it doesn’t give much glory to God, and some of these songs communicate wrong doctrine compared to Bible teaching.  The “feel good” vibe can infect Christian music also, with little thought about communicating what God communicates in holy writ, which is what – in truth - gives him glory.  Too much music in our culture is “a devilish hubbub.”

I’m not a musician, but I am a communicator of the gospel and the message contained in the words of Jesus and his apostles.  I want what I communicate to be faithful to their intent, as best I can, and I hope musicians and all of us singing along will share the philosophy of Bach, making a “well-sounding harmony to the glory of God and the permissible enjoyment of the spirit.”  
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