From Heavenly Harmony
Echoes of Glory
by Ken Myers
In a 1990 essay entitled "'Sing Artistically for God': Biblical Directives for Church Music," Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger observed that "church music is faith that has become a form of culture." But in late modernity, "the inner connection of faith to culture is in the throes of a crisis." This crisis is the result of the fact that for centuries, at least since the Enlightenment, "faith and contemporary culture have drifted apart more and more." Since the eighteenth century, cultural life—especially in the arts—has been pursued with a spirit of defiant emancipation from faith. Ratzinger lamented the fact that by and large, Christians are now "at a loss as to how faith can and should express itself culturally in the present age."
The modern separation of faith from culture has consequences for culture no less than for faith. Modern culture "has been driven into a dead end in which it can say less and less about its own quo vadis. . . . The difficulties that art has gotten into through the complete secularization of culture are becoming particularly clear in the area of music." And so, "the issue of church music is really a very vital piece of a comprehensive task for our age which requires . . . a process of rediscovering ourselves."
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Ken Myers is the host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Formerly an arts editor with National Public Radio, he also served as editor of Eternity, the Evangelical monthly magazine, and This World, the quarterly predecessor to First Things. He also serves as music director at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy, Virginia. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.
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