Music: To Worship, Uplift, Distract, Or Subvert

A comparison of four classical composers, with observations on how their music either helps uplift the soul to God, or draws the mind down to wallow in the things below.


1 – Johann Sebastian Bach: The Harmony Of Logos


Examples of Bach:

Brandenberg Concerto No.3:

Bach’s beautiful choral arrangement of the Lutheran hymn “By The Rivers Of Babylon” (“An Wasserfl├╝ssen Babylon”):

Toccata & Fugue:

Bach’s music describes in vivid sonic detail the reality of God’s divine order and eternal truth. There is seemingly no phrase or note in his music not written to this one end; all has distinct purpose. There is no waste; and everything is addressed in a most dignified manner. In Bach’s music, the Light is spoken of with awe and reverence; and the darkness is spoken of within the context of God’s mastery over all. There is pure joy in the Lord, with nothing trite or frivolous. There is pure fear of the Lord, with no hint of despair. There is no glorying in man’s thoughts or strength; but much rather in God’s wisdom and power.

Bach is (among other things) the great exegete of the keyboard, and his extensive repertoire lays out for us, as it were, the divinely appointed boundaries of every note’s potential use in relation to another, with every measure of his many compositions effortlessly reflecting his own remark that “harmony is close to Godliness”. There is no flirtation with musical subversion or mindless dissonance; and the occasional unusual sound is employed only to serve the well-being of the hearer as far as it reflects the realities of God’s truth within the created order of the music.

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach

How well indeed did his music fulfill that saying!
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2 – George Frideric Handel: The Sound Of Majesty


Examples of Handel:

Overture, from Messiah:

Comfort Ye My People, from Messiah:

Overture, from Alexander’s Feast of the Power of Music:

A contemporary and fellow countryman of Bach (though they never met), Handel’s music is hewn from the same substance, with an ever-present consciousness of honoring God’s glory. There is always a sense of divine majesty in his compositions, by which the sensitive hearer is at times made to feel that they tread on holy ground – and this without either pretension or any sense of overbearing forcefulness on the part of the music: it simply speaks for itself when played, as truth always does when uttered.

The instrumentation alone in his famous work “Messiah” can easily take one into the very holy of holies if the soul is prepared to heed its call; and the accompaniment of prophetic scriptures borne upon its heavenly melodies carries an anointing unparalleled in most hymnody. There is often a hush of awe which falls upon even the most secular of audiences when these pieces are performed in succession. That particular work was reported to have been written by Handel in the course of approximately 30 days (in its base form, without many of the large choral parts – still an astounding feat).
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3 – Ludwig Van Beethoven: The Self-Interest Of Man


Examples of Beethoven:

Piano Concerto No.1 – Allegro Con Brio:

Cello Sonata No.3 in A Major:

Beethoven’s music still lives within the world of reality and truth, but it often does very little to consciously acknowledge such. There is still an adherence to the orderliness and natural beauty of things; but the element of divine authority is replaced with a largely unanswered search for meaning. Vast portions of his compositions are dedicated to meander through the deep woods of a lonesomely reasoning mind; and their occasional discoveries, though useful, are usually not revelatory. There is natural light, but always the bright sun is hidden behind a blanket of cloud; and the divine is so distant that it need not be directly spoken of.

In Beethoven the transcendent is lost to long rabbit trails of thought, and, at times, impulsive little adventures in melody. Not that anything is ever objectionable to the hearing – there is still a clear appreciation for beauty – yet it is limited to created beauty, and seemingly not the Creator Himself. Beethoven does eventually come to an appropriately resolved end in his compositions; but we are usually left wondering what ultimate reason there was for much of the journey. There is a distinct sense of spiritual unfulfullment despite the typical excellency of his musical form.

One always remembers the feeling of Beethoven’s music; but only a few of his pieces leave a definite impression – and even where they do, all of his music is strongly laced with the sighing melancholy of humanism’s emptiness. Even where he breaks through his troubles into a happy theme, it is always with a certain dullness of heart. Even if the light is brilliant without, it is as though the eyesight remains dim from within. Any soul not lulled to a certain numbness by much of his music is left wanting for a warmth and wholeness that was not granted; and who now shall sing to that soul of the brighter Day?
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4 – Richard Wagner: The Madness Of Devils


Examples of Wagner:

Prelude of “Tristan und Isolde” – which has been cited by some as an early inspiration to Nietzsche’s trajectory of thought.* It is a daunting and tiresome listen:

The Ride of the Valkyries – known to often evoke in men a heightened desire for war and pointless worldly conquest:

Much of Wagner’s music (particularly as heard above) is the expression of the subversive amoral philosophy of will-to-power. There is no reality or truth there except whatever the soul desires to conquer and call its own. As an excellent example of this Satanic mindset, the starting notes of “The Ride Of The Valkyries” sound perfectly like the arousal of jealousy; and the ensuing journey is one of a constant blowing about in the swirling winds of the growing lust for power, which is the only meaning in this nihilistic worldview.

Therefore, its end is wanting of any real wholesome resolve; and throughout, the key signature changes frequently, but not often to a wholly related key. Its sense of mounting triumph has no source outside of what it has accomplished in itself by sheer will: the transcendent is drowned out completely by self-glory. At last, it crashes to an end after a swift tumble into darkness, having left the listener’s heart in great alarm. And after its echoes die off in the ears, one is left with no new thing to contemplate, no melody by which the soul is given a path toward the Logos of God. The divine is utterly cut off; the soul (if it has trusted the music) is left open to the first thought or spirit that may seek to lead it astray.

It is also worth noting that this Wagner, the composer, was a great personal influence upon Nietzsche, the philosopher; and a hefty portion of Wagner’s music certainly does seem to subvert divine order, just as the philosophy of that madman, leaving in its wake the chaotic void into which he himself no doubt gazed.
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There hasn’t been a time since the fall of man when music was not a battleground for men’s souls.
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Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!

With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98:4-9

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*For some additional interesting information on this subject matter, listen to this interview which I came across recently. He lays out the history of the subversion of music in the late classical era quite well, and particularly touches upon the relationship between Wagner and Nietzsche.
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** I do not own any of the music or audio used in this post; it is herein used for reviewing purposes only. **

The Church Of His Countenance

The Body of Christ is not comprised of curiosity seekers; it is comprised of living martyrs. If curiosity seekers come into a meeting of believers and their curiosity is not soon turned into conviction, how can we claim that the Spirit of God is working in our midst? Our sensitivity ought to be toward the Seeker and Judge of men’s souls, not merely the “felt needs” or curiosities of of men.

Men who only want their endless questions constantly answered ought not to be the legacy of our faith, for such is not the faith of Christ. But men who know their God and are only satisfied with His likeness are what allow the authority and power of Christ into the midst; and with an army of such as these, God cannot be ignored on the earth, and men quickly run out of questions in the light of His countenance. For one who has seen the face of the Lord, even in the face of another man, has been given the final answer of all, and now has but to unravel it for the rest of eternity, if he so humbles himself.

Christ is coming for a glorious church, one beaming with His countenance. This cannot be its state so long as it exists to satisfy the demands of men who neither see nor desire to look upon Christ the LORD.

Thought & Scripture – God’s Sovereignty

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the Lord, who does all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)

It is easy for us to say that God is sovereign over all things; but it is another matter entirely for us to say that He is also sovereign in all things. Few are they that love God for the latter, for He leaves them nothing to boast in, not even their own will.

…for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for the sake of His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

The one saying, “I have known Him,” and not keeping His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that one. But whoever keeps His word, truly in this one the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.
1 John 2:4-5

Soli Deo Gloria

Christ the Power & Wisdom of God

“…there is not one that seeks after God.”

“Seek, and you shall find…”

Men do not find God because they do not seek for Him. For if they truly sought, they would find. A seeking of power or of wisdom as distinct from the seeking of God Himself is idolatry; and it is the fool who supposes that God will suffer His might or counsel to be either mingled with or weighed by that of men. Woe to them that go on tickling their own ears, who repent not of their own devices and conceptions when the Lord makes Himself known; for in due time He grants them strong delusion! Woe to them that become proud of seeking the satisfaction of their own minds as an end in itself, as though having no higher authority were the truest of wisdom; for in vain they seek out an excuse not to find the immovable reality of He who is Lord of all, and their reward is the void which they have so esteemed. To deify the mind of man is to blaspheme the mind of God. “Proffessing to be wise, they became foolish…”

All things (under the sun – natural light) are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
Ecclesiastes 1:8

The ears of men are ever itching to hear a new thing; but let a matter be spoken of God, and it cannot be tolerated. They cannot bear to hear of their true predicament, because it breaks the noise of their elaborate distraction: the machinery of artificial crisis, the religion of passing the blame. The monument to destruction is ever so carefully built up, the meaninfulness of vanity is ever so highly venerated to draw the heart unto anything but the subtance and reality of God Himself. The emptiness of man’s soul is ever feeding upon the devices of its own self, never to satiate its hunger. The more of its own debt that it thinks to pay, the more that it finds to be owing. Well does the symbology of the enemy mockingly betray a truth: that the serpent remains ever consuming its own tail, for it cannot fulfill itself. Such madness is the prospect confronting those who reach the end of all earthly learning and wisdom in a world which lies under the power of that wicked one.

But the spiritual are free of this vanity, for through the operation of the Spirit of Truth within them “by the faith OF the Son of God,” they overcome Devil’s persuasion to share in his fate. These recognize through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that all deception begins in the heart of a man, including their own; and must be overcome by the Truth of God dwelling in the innermost parts. By Him they are made free of their rebellious state, which disposes the heart to so readily to be flattered by the crafty peddler of the tree of knowledge. For the fruit of the tree of Life can only be planted and nurtured by that one Spirit of God Himself – which feat no mere man can accomplish, “because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither CAN it be.” With those after the flesh, the Sovereign Lord is righteous to find fault, and against such He is also righteous to execute judgement; “for the saving grace of God has appeared to all men,” and “men loved the darkness instead of the light, for their deeds were evil,” so that men are without excuse.

The demonstration of man’s depraved heart without God’s Life reveals His longsuffering and patience; and the impossibily of men to choose freedom from themselves reveals how much that grace truly is grace. For among whom none was righteous and not one merrited favour, He raises up from among the incapable dead a people for His own possession, which by Him are also made into His likeness; as the likeness of God was otherwise inseperably lost, and no man but those being conformed to the likeness of the One Son of Man can claim truly to bear the image of God – though even many christians are ignorant to this fact. It is not in the least unfair that the many are allowed into destruction: truly it is of His mercies that not all men are utterly consumed. Indeed it is a wonder that He has so decreed and laboured to save even some, working unto the good of those who love Him, who do so because they are “THE called according to His purpose.” And being that such is the gift of God, there are none of them which can boast! For not by prudence in observing signs of power have the zealots been delivered, any more than that by knowledge in plausible arguments have the wise been truly enlightened; but salvation is revealed “to those who are called, of both Jews and Greeks: Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

For the power is He who died now reigning over death; and the wisdom is He who was raised now living in those who by His operation have died.

For except the Lord has implanted the working of His faith within a soul, it proudly lives unto itself and remains dead to God, existing under that great darkness concerning which the apostle rightly spoke, “There is NOT ONE that seeks after God.” Now it is tempting for the carnal mind to minimize or try to deny so comprehensive and infinitely deep a chasm; but enduring faith rests upon power unseen of the eyes, and it reckons by wisdom unknown of the mind, having first accepted this horrible truth. And since the will of sinful man is utterly free of God, praise be unto God that His will is utterly free of sinful man, so that He may bridge the chasm without the loss of any to whom His mighty arm is revealed!

For the freedom of the human will is only ever unto the bondage of the tyranny of self; and the breaking of this evil will by God is required to bring about the true freedom of serving His good, pleasing, and perfect will. The creature indeed has capacity for much; but no son of Adam has any capacity for spiritual goodness without first the extension of uncommon grace which gives power to become a child of God. Seeking with the whole heart after the One who exposes the thoughts and intentions of the heart is a characteristic of those being made alive in Christ Jesus: it is the province of those that are being drawn of the Father; for only by His Spirit are uncovered the wonders of His great Mystery. And those who have found the mystery (which is the glory of God hidden in Christ, and living in them), if these shall continue to overcome the snare of mere human ingenuity, let the prayer of their regenerated hearts ever remain, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.”

For if we are saved not of ourselves, but by the gift of God, how much more then should we also dispose the continuation of our growth in Him unto that same power and wisdom of Christ; for now within us He strives to will and to do according to His good pleasure. For that power and wisdom of Christ, which before we lacked and has now been endowed – shall we not with fear and trembling now submit to its working, a choice which before we could not have made? For it is not unto the heathen, but unto the children, that God says, “Choose you this day whom you will serve,” and, “receive not the grace of God in vain.” The Law of the Spirit of Life is come!

“…faith arises from disposition of soul, but dialectic from the skill of its inventors. Wherefore to those who have the inworking through faith, demonstrative argument is needless, or even superfluous. For what we know through faith you attempt to prove through words, and often you are not even able to express what we understand. So the inworking through faith is better and stronger than your professional arguments. We Christians therefore hold the mystery not in the wisdom of Greek arguments, but in the power of faith richly supplied to us by God through Jesus Christ.”
– Antony of Egypt, to the Greeks who came to visit him. (Taken from the account of his life written by Athanatius of Alexandria)

More on Reason & Revelation

(Consider this an add-on to the previous post.)

To the lost man, earthly (including demonic) reasoning is his revelation. But to the found man, heavenly revelation must evermore become his reasoning – and not merely his reasoning in the mind; but that upon which he acts in faith, which is the substantiation of things hoped for. Revelation bearing no fruit in action has been received in vain. It is those who honor the gift of God through obedience that continue receiving more of His fullness; for those who truly know Him desire nothing less than that He be glorified in the fruit of His labors within them.

And we are His witnesses of these things, and also the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those obeying Him.
Acts 5:32 (LITV)

A witness is one who has heard, seen, looked upon and touched the Word of Life.