John Frame and Music in Worship

Title 1: Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defence

Title 2: Worship in Spirit and Truth

Author: John Frame

Publisher: P&R

John Frame introduces himself to his readers as no specialist in music but someone who loves music. Of course his actual field is theology - and it shows. He writes about music as the man enamoured with a subject, not having yet learnt the complications which defy such simple love.

His specific target in these two books is the use of music in worship. The basic thrust of both books is well-summarised in this quotation from Contemporary Worship Music p.25:

"unless it can be shown to be inappropriate for worship, everyone’s music should be heard: old people’s and young people’s music; European, African American, and other ethnic music; complex music and simple music. This is how we defer to one another - serve one another - in the body of Jesus Christ."

In other words - there is no right, there is no wrong, all you need is love.

This places us in doctrinal no-man's land. Mr Frame puts his reformed credentials to one side and says that the Regulative Principle (that only what Scripture commands is permitted) does not apply.

But Mr Frame does not "just" do that - he does so in an attitude of emotional blackmail. He loves the young. He loves the old. He loves people of every nation. He loves everyone's music. Because he loves the Church. The implication, of course, is that those who place restrictions on the style of music which is appropriate in the public worship of God hate the Church and all in it.

Having established a paradigm where enforcing principles in worship equates to hating Christians, Mr Frame uses the same style of argument with regards to the words of our songs in Worship in Spirit and Truth p. 125:

"Are the Psalms adequate for New Testament Christian worship? Certainly we cannot criticise their theology, since they are divinely inspired. And the Psalms do testify of Christ, as the New Testament shows in its use of the Psalter. But the Psalms present Christ in the "shadows" (Col. 2:17), in terms of the incomplete revelation of the Old Testament period (Heb. 1:1-3). Indeed, to limit one’s praise to the Psalms is to praise God without the name of Jesus on one’s lips."

So if we sing the Psalms of God to sober musical settings, we hate the Church and we don't praise Jesus Christ? It is not a subtle approach from a man of such theological standing. It is not calculated to persuade those who disagree - rather to bolster those who are equally liberal.

We are in a vicious circle. Liberal ideas about music in the public worship of God go largely unopposed because we have imbibed a false idea of what music is. As long as it is adored by the amateur like Mr Frame, it is going to appear as though it can do no harm to let everything into the Church.

This is as irresponsible as saying that the commandments of God do not matter because everyone in the Church just needs to love and serve one another. It underestimates human nature. Mr Frame and his comrades underestimate the nature of music and how zealous God is of his own worship.

I would like to introduce Mr Frame to my own former composition tutor. His style was the most anarchic discordant noise one would never wish to hear. He thought it beautiful. Truly. And this man was of the Church. Shall we let his music in, for love's sake? If everyone else is welcome, it would be mean to leave him outside.

God's glory is dishonoured when we take his worship into our own hands.