Musical Mayhem???

Our Church has a new band.

The musical variety, I mean. Complete with guitars (acoustic and electrical), drums, keyboard and a group of vocalists with angelic voices. All made up from our youth.

I got to hear them play (or ‘jam’, as they preferred to call it) last Sunday, and I was stunned. Not only did the songs sound great (they did Shout to the Lord and another one I haven’t heard before), but the teamwork and cooperation involved and the practice and effort they had clearly put in were quite impressive. “This,” I thought to myself, “is a beautiful icon of what it means to be in harmony with one’s brothers and sisters.”

The style of music they play is of course, quite western. Rather ‘rock’ in fact. I wonder how the rest of our parish community will relate to this new development? No doubt there are those with more conservative tastes in music who will find this style a bit too loud and too energetic to strike a spiritual chord with them, and that is fine. Our youth have often expressed the fact that they find middle eastern hymns too slow and too quiet to move their impatient young souls! It is nice that we can offer a varied menu in Church so that everyone can find something to suit their spiritual palate.

But I wonder if anyone will be downright offended by this new musical style. Here are some of the responses I fully expect to hear in coming weeks and months:

A. “Rock music is satanic. Any music with a beat, or worse, with a drum beat, is evil.”

B. “This is not our tradition.”

C. “This is Protestant music.”

D. “We don’t want to become Hillsong.”

E. “This will make the youth think Church is giving them permission to listen to horrible worldly music on the radio.”

F. “What is our Church coming to???”

Hmmmm. I’d better contemplate these questions, which I have no doubt will flow from some very sincere and genuine hearts, so I can be sure they don’t have a point. Mind if I share my machinations with you? Perhaps you can also give me some feedback.

A. “Rock music is satanic. Any music with a beat, or worse, with a drum beat, is evil.”

This objection is based, I suppose, on the fairly valid physiological finding that our bodies do enjoy synchronising with an external rhythm. You experience this when you hear a snazzy tune and your foot starts to tap in time with it. Or perhaps when you watch a troop marching and feel like getting up and joining in their apparently perfect regularity. Of course, dancing, modern and ancient, also depend a lot on this rhythm.

But I cannot see that rhythm is in and of itself in any way evil. In fact, music that does not possess rhythm is usually quite unacceptable to our ears. Classical music has rhythm. Middle Eastern Church hymns have rhythm. Liturgical responses have rhythm (often set by the triangle and cymbals). Tasbeha Praises are boiling over with rhythm. One of them, in fact, the First Hoas, uses rhythm to powerfully evoke a sense of marching along with the children of Israel as Moses led them through the Red Sea and out of Egypt. It is a true ‘marching song’. Does this therefore make them evil, because they have the power to draw attention to themselves and engross us, perhaps even hypnotise us with their beat? I don’t know anyone who would say that.

Surely then, it is the lyrics of the song, the intent of the composer and the intent of the singer that makes a song of good or evil effect? There are love songs on the pop charts that become the most beautiful prayers of love for God if you just replace the guy/girl the composer intended with God, and direct the words to Him. Of course there are others that a lost cause however hard you try to ‘baptise’ them.

In our African Coptic Churches every Sunday, there are drums being played along with the traditional cymbals and triangles. That is their culture, and they do not feel that a song is complete if it does not have a drum accompaniment. The worshippers sway from side to side gently as they sing the liturgical responses; try and stop them! It’s part of the expression of their joy in praising God. Like David the Prophet, they are ‘dancing to the Lord’. And why would you want to stop them? It’s quite moving to watch and inspiring to take part in.

Now we are not talking here about introducing our band into the liturgy – God forbid! Our beautiful ancient rites are of a totally different nature and serve a totally different purpose. Where there is joy in the liturgy, it is of the more solemn type, suitable for being in the direct physical presence of the Creator of worlds whose real Body and Blood rest upon the altar. But when we are outside the solemnities of the liturgy (or any other traditional Coptic rite for that matter), surely there is a degree of freedom to use whatever musical style speaks most effectively to our hearts? The one does not cancel out the other, but the same person can enjoy both, deeply and fully, in the different situations and environments.

Perhaps that’s enough deep thought for one day. I might leave the other points for future blogs. But please, do let me know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts, either by leaving a comment below, or if you prefer, by personal email to frantonios@ optusnet.com.au.

Fr Ant

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30 Replies to “Musical Mayhem???”

  1. Our local English Church” Mt Druit ” has got well organized and cooperative group of deacons who work in a team spirit all the time during the mass as well as during the hymns which put the whole congregation with them in attentive way and in a big group enjoying the presence of Jesus with us and praising the name of God …..so with such good foundation and great right ritual attitude i beeeelieve the introduction of some modern musical instruments specially such organ , piano , violin during the hymns will maximize our heavenly enjoyment presence …our great David the prophet not only used to use musical instruments and singing but he used to dance for God from his great joy in his holy presence ….i believe it will be great positive experience for our church as one of the revolution organizational aspects to get our church in the next decades to come …..may God make the doors of the church open all the time and attract more believers till thy kingdom come , amen ….

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  2. Another issue of interest about those musical instruments and its importance to some Christian believers i came across it recently in WYD and it might be of interest to some and that when bishop Zubier of the Catholic church of Sudan visited Sydney and a lot of of Catholic Christian believers from Sudan “mainly southern of Sudan ” gathered in the Mass to enjoy his visit and i was around to enjoy the blessing of this great spiritual man of God and they raised the issue that the old congregation missed the way of church life ” church culture ” used to enjoy their church and praise God over there through their DRUMS during the hymns and mass however they felt happy with the Australian way of life in the churches for their children , i believe it is happening the opposite with us as coptes in this part of the world , however the Bishop decided to send them two priests to fulfill their spiritual needs , what a great Democratic way and trust between a true spiritual shepherd and his flock to look after them , anyhow i thought to bring the issue as relevant to our current issue , we might benefit from it and learn about others as at the end of the day all of us Christians …praise the name of God by your life , amen ……

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  3. “To the pure all things are pure” – Titus 1:15, If this helps the growth any persons spiritual life, and it is truly down out of purity and love, allowing them to draw closer to God, who are we to interfere.

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  4. Agreed. I think whatever makes you feel closer to God is good. Now a day, in a speedy world, an upbeat song is nice to listen to. And definitely, the words to the song make all the difference. But to what extent does the singer of the song go to, in order for it to be considered inappropriate? (ie. their movements and their style of dressing)

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  5. ” I think whatever makes you feel closer to God is good.” This is what I am talking about, the “hey whatever works” attitude. It is individualistic, self centered, and contrary to the established order.

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  6. Father Antonios – you must learn to Love your Orthodoxy, and cultivate this love within your youth. We cannot begin to imitate the west in their style. What then is the benefit of one’s adherence to the Orthodox Church? Are they the sacraments? Well, it would then be sufficient for your parishioners to go to Church for a few hours on Sunday to confess and partake of the Eucharist, with the rest of the week spent at Evangelical Churches. Think about it. If I had the time and wasn’t studying 24/7, I would be writing up volumes in favour of cultivating the love of the calm, Orthodox style of worship (which does not target the emotions, but the soul). The ‘soul movement’ which you speak of, is not a soul movement, but a delusion which you have adopted and fills your pews.

    You are responsible before God. Make the right decision, father. And as Saint John Cassian said: “Do nothing novel, but follow in the path of your elders”. I hope one day, you will be reconsider this (or you are stopped) before this gets out of hand.

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  7. “Agreed. I think whatever makes you feel closer to God is good. Now a day, in a speedy world, an upbeat song is nice to listen to. And definitely, the words to the song make all the difference. But to what extent does the singer of the song go to, in order for it to be considered inappropriate? (ie. their movements and their style of dressing)” –

    Father, are you going to let such a comment slide? You and I both know it’s wrong. Deception is quite common in spirituality, that’s why it’s best to follow the path of discipleship.

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  8. Hi John and Mark

    Thank for your comments and thoughts on what is bound to be a controversial topic, but one that I felt needed airing because it has an effect on the day to day spiritual lives of so many Copts living in the West. I want to emphasise from the start, in case it wasn’t clear enough in the blogs, that I am in no way calling for or supporting any idea that we should do anything to change the beautiful tunes of the ancient rites of our Church. I love these deeply and (although this does not make me one ounce more Orthodox) I personally pray a Coptic language liturgy, with all its rich tunes, every week in my parish. We are blessed with a group of deacons whose wealth of knowledge of Coptic alhan I am reluctant to describe only because I don’t want to give them big heads. What I am discussing is this: just as Archdeacon Habib Guirguis of blessed memory introduced new and novel tunes in his hymns a hundred years ago to counter the impact of American Evangelical missionaries, there is a need today to introduce western style hymns OUTSIDE of ritual prayers to counter the seductive allure of anti-Christian culture and to “speak the language” of Copts on the West today.

    CRITICISM: “I think whatever makes you feel closer to God is good.” This is what I am talking about, the “hey whatever works” attitude. It is individualistic, self centered, and contrary to the established order.

    Firstly, I would caution against the blanket criticism of a “hey whatever works” attitude. Keep in mind that it was St Paul himself who said, “to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23) I take it you are not disagreeing with St Paul’s model, that we should speak whatever ‘language’ is necessary to win people to Christ, whether that language be an actual language, a custom, a culture etc.

    What I think you mean is that we should be discerning in what that means, in which point I wholeheartedly agree with you. To give an extreme case, we should not resort to human sacrifice in order to win Satanists to Christ. But then the question becomes: can any STYLE of music be in and of itself, wrong? Or is it the use you make of it that makes it right or wrong? I hope you agree that playing music is not as obviously wrong as human sacrifice? I resort to St Paul once again: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) The question we need to ask here is this: does the introduction of western style music into our general community culture edify? This is not a question to be answered with my opinion against yours. It can only be answered by observing what happens in the real world. And the fact of the matter is that, yes, there are a growing number of young Copts who are moved and inspired by appropriate, Orthodox-friendly, western style hymns.

    CRITICISM: “Father Antonios – you must learn to Love your Orthodoxy”

    Clearly you don’t know me very well. I challenge you to find anyone who does know me who can say I do not love my Orthodoxy. What I do not love is the false picture that some have created and called Orthodoxy. I am sorry gentlemen, but singing a particular style of music does not make you Orthodox or Protestant. An Orthodox person can use western tunes and still be Orthodox, and a Protestant can use Eastern tunes and still be Protestant. Would it make you any more comfortable to hear extreme Evangelical theology sung to the tune of “A Petjeek”? Neither is true Orthodox theology less Orthodox if it is sung to the tune of “Amazing Grace”.

    I would ask you to please re-examine your definition of what makes a person Orthodox. It is to follow the Apostolic faith and practice, as close as possible to those of the earliest Christians. It is to understand that God entwines Himself in the lives and being of humans through sacraments. It is to live a life of genuine agape love, compassion, mercy and justice towards our neighbours. It is be united to Christ in heart, mind and body, so as to become one with Him. It is to lose your ego, to lose your self in a constant paradoxical denial of the self that amounts to a daily death with Christ and miraculously results in a more vital form of life. It is to strive with all one’s might to be healed of the corruption of sin that infests our fallen world, and to help to heal others.

    Where is “musical style” in THIS definition of Orthodoxy?

    Gentlemen, I am not in any way saying that you should agree with me or think the way I do, because for me, musical style is a peripheral issue, and the sooner we accept a certain diversity on it in our Church, the sooner we will be able to focus on the things that really do matter. What I do ask of you is to understand that different people relate to God in different ways. God bless you in your own path to God, but do not lay stumbling blocks in front of your fellow seekers and put yourselves between them and God in their path.

    Fr Ant

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  9. Valid argument, though my disagreement is at the very core of it.

    At any rate – Both HG Bishop Tawadrous and HG Bishop Rafael (two of the nominees for the Patriarchal throne) have had series explaining the importance of calmness and serenity in worship. Once I find either one of the links I will post it here. It was a youtube video I watched recently…hopefully if one of them becomes the new Pope, they will be able to deal with this matter in wisdom and gentleness (unlike me, an aggressive babbler who is at times over-zealous).

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  10. Orthodoxy comprises a set of doctrinal beliefs etc. Hymns or spiritual songs are a way of people emotively expressing themselves and their love for God, their repentance etc. These are two different things! There cannot be an orthodox and a catholic and a protestant way of connecting with God. It is just CONNECTING WITH GOD. I don’t think God will exile someone to hades for singing Hillsong tunes, they are emotive and as long as we don’t follow their beliefs then all we’ve done is taken the GOOD and left the BAD as long as the correct Biblical spirit is there.

    remember even within the Coptic church there are many views on any topic. If you read the desert fathers one father will say the way to heaven is love and hospitality and the other will say it is silence and seclusion. The point is connection with God is not doctrinal therefore I think this orthodoxy vs protestantism debate just for a tune change is missing the point. And actually, ironically, singing spiritual songs was a feature of the protestant church which we only adopted through Habib Guirguis in his quest to safeguard the Copts from going to Protestant churches and leaving their own beliefs. So did we become protestant since then?

    By the way youth meetings in Egypt have long left the ‘O seeker to meet Jesus’ tunes and gone for contemporary stuff which is sounding more and more western anyway. So we are just following our mother church! Even Bishop Moussa commented on one of his visits to Australia that our hymns style is outdated!

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  12. I guess that all the criticisms you poured out on me can now be redirected to our new beloved pope, His Holiness Pope Tawadrous II.

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  13. Hi Mark,

    I listened to the clip and there appears to be a problem or miscommunication. What Pope Tawadrous says is that you can’t label a hymn as orthodox, catholic, protestant etc (this early on in the clip). Later he says that the person writing and composing should have an orthodox spirit. That is the right words and a suitable tune which he says will change according to the suitability of age group. I don’t see that any of this goes against the blog at all!

    In fact on central points it agrees! Nothing in there prohibts the use of western music in hymns. And nothing says that everything western is loud or inappropriate. And can I also add that arabic music (which I am assuming he’s speaking about) is actually more provocative than western music. Yet a well known deacon does both traditional tunes and hymns (bolis malak) on arabic style music and he gets invited to sing when they have gatherings etc in the cathedral in Egypt.

    I think the point is if the tune is going to completely obliterate the words (which should be in accordance to our beliefs) then perhaps that’s not the best hymn to listen to. However, it does not follow that any western tune will fall into that category.

    Also don’t take people expressing their opinions as ‘criticisms … poured out on [you]’ if we were all going to agree then what would be the point of a discussion.

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  14. Well said Mary! Yes, that quote has been ripped violently out of context by a people lately; they’ve entirely skipped over the first half of the talk. You’re right – his point is that what makes a hymn ‘Orthodox’ is its theological spirit. And he very rightly points out that Protestant hymns often lack any mention of the Church and corporate worship; which is a spot on analysis of the REAL reason Orthodox should be wary with Protestant worship (it’s THEOLOGICAL, not musical).

    His talk agrees essentially with what Fr. Antonios says above. The sensible Orthodox approach has always been to take the good and leave the bad. Even with music.

    “The pruning-knife, I should think, and the pick-axe, and the other agricultural implements, are necessary for the culture of the vine, so that it may produce eatable fruit. … So also here, I call him truly learned who brings EVERYTHING to bear on the truth; so that, from geometry, AND MUSIC, and grammar, and philosophy itself, culling what is useful, he guards the faith against assault.” ~ St. Clement of Alexandria

    “The piano, guitar and many other instruments are used in our Coptic Orthodox praises and Christian songs outside the services. All the new CDs and tapes of hymns and praises have traditional hymns with new musical arrangements and various musical instruments. Let us distinguish between our worship during the liturgies and the praises we offer our Lord outside of the church services and enjoy having both.” ~ HG Bishop Youannes

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  15. Sorry – that’s Bishop YOUSSEF of SUS, not Youannes. (http://www.suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=331&catid=267)

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  16. “Fr Antonios -You must learn to love your Othodoxy”

    What??! Seriously Mark??! More that a little off the “mark” there, if I may say so 🙂

    Abouna, I’m pretty sure I speak for many when I say that few have ignited our love for Othodoxy more than you. And never once, in all the words of yours that I have read (and I have probably read them all – twice), have I EVER seen anything other than the deepest, most abiding love and respect for Orthodoxy.

    And while I’m speaking on behalf of everyone 🙂 thanks for your blog. We love it. Even when we sometimes defend our views a little over-enthusiastically, we are very grateful for the opportunity to hear your thoughts and share ours so openly with you. may your service be blessed always. A:)

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  17. absolutely agree angela! Well said! Except maybe i read Fr Antonios’ writings more than twice 🙂

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  18. I don’t think you understand arabic very well…and if you do well then that’s a bigger problem called selective attention:

    There’s been quite a lot of talk of this on facebook and a group translated the quote by HH. It’s a direct translation from the clip.

    “Let us not forget that Unorthodox worship can pollute our being, leading to forgetfulness. It can cause one’s mind to drift quite far, rendering him unable to value the Traditional Orthodox melodies and style of Church Worship.[…] Orthodox worship is distinct in its constant reminder of the real presence of Christ and his Saints in our lives. We must be careful to ensure that the worship songs we use are Orthodox in their origin, lyrics, melodies and in their spirit. Communion and unity with Christ ought to be embedded within their meaning.”

    Yes, earlier on he did say it is difficult to classify them. Doesn’t retract away from the point being made. Whatsoever. It’s really funny how this happens all the time. I say something, get criticised to death for it. Then I bring up a contemporary Church father..and it always shoots back as either 1) A misinterpretation of the quote on my part or 2) A miscommunication on my part.

    And the Orthodoxy I was speaking of is the one of submission not the one of novel interpretations.
    Can’t you guys begin to realize that the Church isn’t here to echo our own thoughts? There is a truth to the matter. We have to make sacrifices sometimes to remain loyal.

    In all honesty, this liberality is making me less and less fond of Sydney. When I graduate, I’m out of here.

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  19. Mark, Sydney is actually relatively conservative. And it all depends on who is running the diocese. As we saw with Bishop Daniel’s exile, this can change quite quickly, especially now with the selection of a new pope.

    Having said this, here are your options other than Sydney:
    – Melbourne (Bishop Suriel)
    – The Southern United States (Bishop Youssef)
    – British Orthodox Church (Metropolitan Seraphim)

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  20. Thanks qawe

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  21. Dear Samuel,

    Quoting Bishop Youssef creates a contradiction in your argument –

    Look at what HG says here:

    Question –
    Is Contemporary Christian Music alright to listen to? I like this music, but I don’t want to do what is wrong. I would not want that music be used in church; but is it bad outside of church?

    Answer –
    “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but examine the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

    On examining the CCM music (CCM = contemporary Christian music) many points are raised against this multimillion music industry that proves not of God which means it does not obey the Word of God.

    So, not every music or song labeled Christian means it is of God; and not every lyric that has the words “God”, “Lord”, even “Jesus Christ” is necessarily Christian.

    Before discussing some of these points; I would like to refer you to the Holy Bible, our reference for examining any spirit, examine all the Holy Bible’s references concerning this topic.

    Here are some important facts regarding music in general and CCM in specific:
    In considering the music only (without the lyrics), you all know that the beat is the overemphasized rhythm (Rhythm is one of the three elements of music beside harmony and melody). The Holy Bible teaches us that the main element of music, when singing to the Lord, is melody (Isaiah 23:16, 51:3; Ephesians 5:19) and not the beat (Exodus 32:7-18).

    Any music with a beat that overrides the melody, is not music in itself; but noise, as explained by many musicians. As an example, if the church cymbals (the rhythm instrument) are used very loud (producing a beat), overriding the hymn sung, the hymn turns into noise and looses its melody which is the essence of any music as mentioned in the first point.

    It is the beat that compels the body to react in different ways, which could be inappropriate, depending on the music message because it is what the flesh loves.

    Music affects the human body in subtle, but powerful ways either good or bad. A well established fact is that the human body and mind can be controlled and altered with music. The continuous beat is unhealthy to the body. This is proven by musicians, medical researchers, psychologists…etc. most of these researches were done on Rock music (the origin of most other known secular music) and found to be dangerous to humans with many psychological, emotional, physiological and mental effects. The beat could lead to many impulsive reactions from the audience (uncontrolled screaming and fits, sexual excitation, self hurting, even suicide ideation…etc). It is clear that CCM music uses the secular styles of music (pop, hip-hop, R&B, techno, metal…etc) and depends mainly on the beat which attracts its listeners.
    Here are some biblical facts regarding what could be called Christian music:
    Any Christian song or music should be for praising the Lord, His saints and His deeds (Psalm 9:2, 9:11, 28:7, 33:2; Isaiah 12:2; Ephesians 5:19) not the performer or his music.

    Any Christian song or music should be a new song with new lyrics (Psalm 33:3, 40:1-3, 144:9, 149:1; 2 Cor 5:17). You find that the CCM music uses the same world music styles, its slang, attitude, appearance and form. Still, these music styles are used in the secular world to emphasize worldly passions, sex, drugs, violence, rebellion, and bad language. You find also that the CCM performers combine Christian with world music and they sing contemporary with secular music in the same concert or album. These music styles even after changing their lyrics to become “Christian” will associate you with the worldly (secular) music and, by reflex, brings its non-Christian associations.

    Putting a Christian message in such a musical form does not elevate the form but degrades the message to the level already established in the culture by that form and rather than lifting up people to our Lord Jesus Christ, it drags Christ down to man’s level.

    Any Christian song should have a clear message; not vague, unclear or deceitful words (1 Cor 2:4, 14:15; 2 Cor 3:12; Colossians 2:4)

    Any Christian song should elevate, feed, talk to the spirit not to the flesh (John 3:6,7, 4:24; Galatians 5:16,24; 1Cor 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
    Any Christian music should be sung in the assembly of the Lord where God could be present (Psalm 22:22, 149:1; Hebrews 2:12) not in the concert halls or night clubs.
    Let us clarify certain points: listening to the secular music might be pleasant because it gives the physical satisfaction; and it is a sin that you must repent and fight against. But don’t deceive yourself listening to the same music after having been labeled Christian; believing it is of God.

    Our music cannot be like the music of the world, because our God is not like their gods. Most of the world’s music reflects the world’s ways, standards, attitudes, and gods (2 Cor 6:17).

    CCM “deceives” the listener into “getting into the music” and then — subtly we look like the world, sound like the world, act like the world and fellowship with the world.

    “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

    “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4).

    Source: http://www.suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?qid=1098&catid=266

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  22. That is, if you want to assign credibility to CCM. Long live HG Bishop Youssef

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  23. Correction: If you want to assign credibility to HG. You can’t have a double standard when it comes to credibility of a speaker.

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  24. Mark, you seem to be committing some grave category errors. To suggest that Orthodoxy could be bound to a particular musical style is historically, patristically and theologically untenable. There is a difference between DOGMA and culture. Dogma is the unchangeable tradition of the Church, epitomised in the Creed and in the sacramental practice of the Church. There is not now, nor has there ever been a DOGMATIC prescription for liturgical music. There could never be. Orthodox Churches and countries vary immensely in the musical style of both liturgical and non-liturgical worship.

    The Orthodox Church defines dogma as the revealed truths of SCRIPTURE and TRADITION, defined by PATRISTIC CONSENSUS and CHURCH COUNCILS. The Scriptures and the Nicene Creed are the ONLY sources of dogma, and one is an Orthodox Christian if and only if one assents to the DOGMA of the Orthodox Church. Culture on the other hand, varies from place to place (1 Cor 9:20).

    We have to be careful not to place our own theological or cultural opinions at the same level of Orthodox dogma, which is what you are doing by questioning the ‘Orthodoxy’ of those who disagree with you here. St. Gregory of Nyssa speaks very harshly of such behaviour (speaking of the Eunomian heretics): “Perchance they would have done better to look at the sacred company of the Prophets and Patriarchs, and next in order, those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, that they might give honour due to the claims on their belief of the things ATTESTED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT HIMSELF, and ABIDE WITHIN THE LIMITS OF THEIR TEACHING AND KNOWLEDGE, AND NOT VENTURE ON THEMES WHICH ARE NOT COMPREHENDED IN THE CANON OF THE SACRED WRITERS.”

    The human-divine nature of Christ, Trinitarian doctrine, Baptism and Eucharist are all DOGMATIC traditions of Orthodoxy, and they are thoroughly well founded in Scripture and early Church tradition. The use of certain kinds of instruments is not. This is a fact. You are permitted (and perhaps required) to lovingly question the Orthodoxy of anyone who denies Orthodox dogma. You are not permitted to do so for things which are not clearly prescribed dogmatically. To do so raises your own personal opinions to the level of Orthodox dogma. You must either find a DOGMATIC PROHIBITION on the forms of worship you are denouncing, or refrain from questioning the Orthodoxy of those who disagree with you on the matter.

    You are well entitled to your personal opinion on such matters, and are welcome to argue your point patristically and theologically, but you must come to terms with the fact that there simply is no patristic or theological (and CERTAINLY no DOGMATIC) consensus on these issues. To present your opinion as ‘Orthodox’ and condemn all others as ‘novel’ is simply unacceptable.

    Finding a single father, modern or ancient, who disliked stringed instruments does not count. There are fathers on both sides, and issues on which there is no patristic CONSENSUS are not dogmatic. There are certainly fathers who discourage the use of certain kinds of music because of their pagan associations, but there are also fathers (like St. Clement above) who encourage the use of all things, including pagan music, with discernment – pruning away the evil and keeping and using the good.

    Mind you, that is PRECISELY what the Coptic Orthodox Church, including and especially the late Pope Shenouda III, did with Protestant Sunday School. Unlike guitars and drums, Sunday School has an EXCLUSIVELY Protestant association; it is literally a Protestant invention. And yet our Church embraced it wholeheartedly, taking the innocent outward form, removing Protestant doctrine, and filling it with Orthodoxy. That is all Fr. Antonios (and most sensible people within the Church, including, I would imagine, Anba Raphael and HH Pope Tawadros) recommend we do with music.

    No council has ever excommunicated or anathematised someone because their musical style was ‘un-Orthodox’. Councils could not do that, because councils treat only those matters which are made clear in Scripture and in Tradition. Musical style is simply not.

    You would also do well to remember that if you are Orthodox, disputes about things which do not affect dogma (and one’s use of guitars or drums certainly do not!) are ultimately of secondary importance.

    “… avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

    I hope you’ll take all that with love! Apologies if it came across too harsh; I don’t mean it too. I’m sure you’re thoroughly and sincerely Christian. All I’m saying is, we can disagree about this without questioning each other’s Orthodoxy; to do so is to improperly define Orthodoxy.

    In Christ

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  25. I should clarify though, I’m not saying that any and all instruments are appropriate for LITURGICAL use. The patristic consensus (and it is a fairly wide CONSENSUS) is that liturgically, we should only use our own bodies as liturgical instruments. This doesn’t quite rise to the level of dogma (I don’t know of any conciliar or canonical declarations of this), but it is a strong indication that as Orthodox Christians, we should use our own bodies, and perhaps rhythmical instruments like the cymbals and triangle, in worship. This is a theological point, not a musical one: in liturgy, we’re supposed to be united to God, and so we make strings of our own voices rather than employing other things to make music for us. This isn’t because certain kinds of music are bad in and of themselves, but because the music of the liturgy is supposed to be of a certain kind. We don’t jump or run or skip in liturgy, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t jump and skip and run at Church sporting events …

    This patristic idea says nothing about whether or not we can have Orthodox bands which sing with Orthodox lyrics, and whether there’s anything wrong with using guitars at youth meetings or camps. These aren’t strictly liturgical services. And they can be incredibly useful tools for service and preaching.

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  26. ^^ What he said!! I take my hat off to you, Sir!! 🙂

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  27. Hah! St. Athanasius says that stringed instruments are fine 😀

    “To praise God tunefully upon an instrument, such as well-tuned cymbals, CITHARA, or TEN-STRINGED PSALTERY, is, as we know, an outward token that the members of the body and the thoughts of the heart are, like the instruments themselves, in proper order and control, all of them together living and moving by the Spirit’s cry and breath. And similarly, as it is written that By the Spirit a man lives and mortifies his bodily actions, so he who sings well puts his soul in tune, correcting by degrees its faulty rhythm so that at last, being truly natural and integrated, it has fear of nothing, but in peaceful freedom from all vain imaginings may apply itself with greater longing to the good things to come. For a soul rightly ordered by chanting the sacred words forgets its own afflictions and contemplates with joy the things of Christ alone.”

    St. Clement elsewhere says that we shouldn’t use stringed instruments. This is an issue on which there is NO PATRISTIC CONSENSUS, except (broadly speaking) about using instruments in the LITURGY. And perhaps St. Athanasius may have even been okay with that, going on the above.

    http://www.fisheaters.com/psalmsathanasiusletter.html

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  28. Samuel,

    I believe the crux of the issue can be found in your reply #25.

    All Orthodox communal worship is supposed to be liturgical. And so any communal worship which is outside the liturgy proper should also be modelled on the liturgy.

    To prove my point: name me one Orthodox precedent (I mean from an ancient source) where instruments were used for worship. There is none, because the liturgy was the centre of worship.

    The liturgy has everything we Orthodox need. Everything else is an optional extra.

    However, we are actually (and this may at first seem counterintuitive) degrading the power and value of the liturgy by insisting it remain the same and not be changed. As if it’s some ancient relic to be preserved for historical purposes. As if it’s not capable of solving all of our problems and leading us to theosis. The liturgy is supposed to be living and active and the highlight of one’s week. If we were living out this reality properly there would be no need for all of this extra stuff – everyone would reject it for its inferiority.

    Some suggestions to restore the liturgy to centre stage (I mean not just doing lip-service to this concept as we are currently doing):
    – Use of 100% English
    – The transfer of our simple, ancient Oriental tunes to simple, ancient Western tunes (the conservatism of using only ancient tunes is necessary to safeguard the liturgy from modern, secular influences)
    – Recognising the fact that there is no such thing as the Coptic Orthodox Church, this is the herecy of phyletism – there is only the Orthodox Church in Egypt, Australia, etc

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  29. Fair enough qawe. But the Fathers also acknoweldge that stringed instruments are perfectly valid forms of worship, even though there’s an ‘appropriate’ form of liturgical worship. This isn’t Orthodox DOGMA, so there is simply no excuse to accuse those who use stringed instruments unorthodox. That would mean condemning both St. Athanasius (see comment #27) and St. Clement, who it seems, I sold short earlier:

    “And even if you wish to sing and play to the harp or lyre, THERE IS NO BLAME. Thou shalt imitate the righteous Hebrew king in his thanksgiving to God. “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; praise is comely to the upright,” says the prophecy. “Confess to the Lord on the harp; play to Him on the psaltery of ten strings.”

    There simply is no dogmatic or patristic condemnation of certain kinds of instruments. Especially not stringed ones. The use of a guitar in an Orthodox band seems entirely justified.

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  30. Without offending you further Mark (not that I thought anything else should have offended you):

    Pope Twadros actually clearly states in that clip that the tune should NOT be a sleepy tune and it SHOULD be appropriate to the age group etc that it is directed to.

    It seems that he is condoning lively music as long as it is not absolutely outrageous and it seems that he is saying EXACTLY what Fr Antonios said. Give the youth something appropriate, something that they would enjoy or is suitable for them to listen to. where is the wisdom and what would be the point of giving someone something they don’t like and yet stressing they should like it?

    I agree again with everybody who have said many times Orthodoxy is not determined by a beat or tune if it was which is what you seem to hint, then I am sorry but it would be shallower than we think! Can I also ask you what is an ORTHODOX style tune I’d really lilke to know. Musical notes are musical notes, their sequence, pitch and speed can not determine a religion/denomination. Certainly nothing in the BIble points to that.

    By the way I will repeat: by your measures you should be upset about any hymns other than traditional tunes because normal hymns are a protestant adaptation into the church. We never sung hymns before Habib Guirguis. Also we never had sunday school should we scrap that too so we can be ORTHODOX? There were no bible studies etc should we scrap that too? these are all ‘protestant’ practices as you say.

    Can I also add that if Jesus came and broke say the sabbath laws as well as others, to connect with people, do you think He would really mind an ‘untraditional/ western’ tune? This is not a green light to do everything unconventially but this does not at all change anything in our faith and our CORE ORTHODOX BELIEF. And in any case you DON’T have to listen to this type of hymns!

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