Musical Mayhem??? Part 3 (and final)

Addressing the remaining issues… (see parts 1 and 2)

C. “This is Protestant music.”

What exactly makes music Protestant?

What makes anything ‘Protestant’?

We define our denominations according to their theology, as well as their history, culture and demographics and so on. For example, we speak of the “Russian Orthodox Church”, and we know we are speaking of a group of Christians who hold to an Eastern Orthodox theology, who are mostly of Russian descent, although there are many members from other ethnic backgrounds, and who use chants and prayers and hymns in the Russian language and style.

But which of those descriptions is essential for the salvation of the Russian Orthodox individual? Which of them really characterises what it means to be Russian Orthodox? Do you have to be Russian? Do you have to speak Russian? Do you have to use that particular musical style? Certainly, the style helps define the CULTURE, but it does not define the FAITH. Greek, Macedonian and Japanese Orthodox Christians all hold to exactly the same faith, the same theology, yet they express their faith differently, according to their own culture and style of music. Without doubt, a style of music should enhance and complement one’s faith and beliefs, but there is nothing in our faith to say that only one particular style of music is going to do that.

Don’t get me wrong – I am absolutely in love with the rich treasure trove of Coptic Hymnology. I wish everyone could taste it and enter into the beautiful world of the spirit it can open up. I believe strongly that it should be carefully preserved and experienced and passed on intact and inviolate to the next generation. But I also believe that there can be room in our lives for more than one style of music.

A musical style cannot, in itself, be ‘Protestant’. Yes, perhaps historically Protestants have tended to use it, but that doesn’t give them ownership over that style, anymore than Protestants doing mathematics gives them ownership over the set of natural numbers. Can you imagine that? “No! We mustn’t count in our Church! We’d become Protestants!”

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

Hillsong, if you don’t know, is a Pentecostal Assemblies of God movement based in Northwestern Sydney that has grown in numbers and in notoriety over the past few decades. It specialises in worship services that are closer to a pop concert than they are to a traditional Christian worship service. Thus they have appealed to a young generation who enjoy going to ‘church’ to sing and dance and have a great time. All the traditional Christian Churches have, I think, felt the impact of Hillsong as their own young people are at times attracted to go and find out what it’s all about, and occasionally, they stay and never come back. This has made the traditional Churches somewhat defensive whenever the name ‘Hillsong’ is mentioned.

What is it about Hillsong we don’t like? I propose that we should not be cranky about their apparent success at drawing young people in, nor about their professionalism in putting on concert services, nor about the industry standard slick CDs they put out. There is nothing inherently wrong in singing snappy, catchy tunes to praise God. Nor is their anything wrong in using the music that speaks to a new generation – “I have become all things to all people that I might by all means save some” quoth St Paul.

No, our problem with Hillsong is their theology, and their philosophy. Theologically, they preach what has come to be known as the “Health and Wealth Gospel“. The gist of this is that material success is a sign of God’s favour and blessing – pretty much always. Thus, they soothe the consciences of the rich (it just means you’re God’s favourite) and their pastors are quite proud of their own personal wealth (extra special favourites!) It really is Christianity for Yuppies, but with such dangerous and subtle flaws that it genuinely runs the risk of no longer being true to the Gospel of Christ who remarked that not only did He have nowhere to lay His head, but encouraged His followers to sell everything they had. If the precepts of the Health and Wealth Gospel were to be consistently followed through, then God must have totally rejected St Paul the Apostle, since he was deprived of both health and wealth in the most dramatic of ways through his whole preaching life (just read 2 Corinthians 11 & 12 if you don’t know what I mean).

Philosophically, we have a big problem with reducing Christianity to the level of a consumer item. Yes, it is true that we should follow in St Paul’s footsteps and be all things to all men that we might by all means save some, but I don’t think watering down the Gospel and commercialising it is really what he had in mind. There is s fine line between doing something professionally and doing it commercially, and I think that Hillsong too often cross that line. It is true that Hillsong have a very large “front door” with large numbers going in. But it is a lesser known fact that they also have a very large “back door”, with lots of people leaving all the time in disappointment and disillusionment. Their congregation is not as stable as most traditional Churches, but the faces are always changing. Added to that is their Pentecostalism. That is perhaps a topic for another day, but I have deep concerns about modern day Pentecostalism and its ‘showiness’ and lack of theological foundation or even of sensible purpose.

No, it’s not Hillsong music that we distrust.

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

And they don’t already? OK, here’s my understanding of our Church’s attitude on Christian liberty: “All things are lawful to me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful to me, but not all things build up” (St Paul again). Our role then is not to ban our youth from engaging with the secular world, but to train them and equip them with the divine wisdom, discernment and passion for God that will make the influence flow the other way – not from the world into them, but from them into the world. Whatever happened to “Let your light so shine among men” (Jesus this time)?

We only fear our youth listening to modern music because we fear it will lead them away from Christ. But surely this means we have failed miserably in instilling them with a genuine love for Christ? A person of any age who loves Christ with all his/her heart will not need anyone to tell them “Turn that song off – its leading you away from Christ”. They should be self-aware enough to sense the danger and devoted enough to make the right decision. There is even the possibility that the young person might use the secular song to bring them closer to Christ. Some love songs, for example, if sung with God in mind as the Beloved, can actually be quite beautiful prayers. This is not something new – King Solomon made a Book of the Bible out of that very concept!

Christianity, more than anything else in this world must be from free choice and sincere desire for God. Sure, we restrain younger kids with strict rules of what’s allowed and what is not in order to protect them from hurting themselves. They don’t yet know how to handle the world, so we help them do it. But is anyone really going to argue that a 25 year old, who might be responsible for millions of dollars or dozens of workers at work, can’t be trusted to be responsible for his/her own salvation?

F. “What is our Church coming to???”

Its senses, I hope. We live in a world of change, and often the answers of yesterday lose their relevance very quickly. If we are to remain strong as a Church and true to our core Christian mission, then we simply have no choice but to quickly separate the chaff from the wheat, to distinguish what is merely cultural norm from what is spiritual imperative, so that we can preserve that spiritual imperative by applying it to the ever changing cultural landscape in which we find ourselves.

I’m sorry, but musical style is not one of the spiritual imperatives of the Gospels. Yes, music has a powerful effect on people, but it is also true that it affects different people in different ways. I find today’s contemporary pop music just as cacophanous as my parents found the Beatles back in the 60’s, or their parents found jazz back in the 20’s.

Authentic Christianity isn’t bogged down in changing fashions.
It speaks the language that gets the message through, for it is the message that matters, not the medium.

Fr Ant

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25 Replies to “Musical Mayhem??? Part 3 (and final)”

  1. Agreed. But I just want to say that I think some Theologians or something should look into the current songs being used, and make sure the message is consistent with our Theology? What do you think?

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  2. There is quote from Pope Shenouda’s Book

    Experiences In Life
    “[50] Popular Songs
    Sometimes people compose a hymn using the same tune as a
    popular song.
    They imagine that as long as the words are healthy, it does not
    much matter about the music!! However, music in itself has an
    effect upon the emotions which is no less than the effect of the
    words composed to it.
    So, the words of spiritual songs should only be set to spiritual
    music and melodies which are suited to them.”

    http://tasbeha.org/content/hh_books/Exprncs/index.html

    I personally think the medium does matter as well as the message.

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  3. What makes a melody spiritual, and a melody worldly? I mean pretty much every Orthodox Church has its own tunes and melody?

    I ask this sincerely.

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  4. I believe we have to evolve with life , otherwise we would be left behind ,get the good and throw the bad …we have to get what suits us and reject that stuff that do not fit us ….by doing that in any aspect we always Must adhere to our tradition and roots ….in the Hymns aspects the wordings and the instruments we received them from our old ancestors saints and fathers and passed on from generation to generation ..we came across it since the time of our great prophet David in psalms ” wordings ” and his musical instruments ” trumpets , drums etc “…over the years the “wordings ” modified in other additional hymns and we evolve everyday in this , so now we have to look at our “musical instruments ” i believe we stopped in the Triangle and the cymbal,we never evolved in this …i believe time now came to evolve in it , why not ?? i am not saying we have to go back to David and his drums and even to dance in the presence of of God, by the way God used to be pleased from that as he looked at the heart of David and found it the greatest in his love and the purest heart , God did not look at the drums !! so i reckon the introduction of those instruments like Piano and Organ in our Hymns in a great organized team of Deacons will be great and maximize our presence as a congregation in front of God , remember God wants our pure hearts with his love and love towards our neighbors and nothing more than that …May God open our churches all the time to cater for all his creatures in this part of the world as the type of current congregation of our churches is mixed in its nature from Ethiopia , Egypt , north Sudan , south Sudan and i believe our children now started to have a mixed breed of Aussie through marriages and i reckon this will be the main congregation in the next few years in this part of the world , even i reckon a lot of evolution will occur on other ares as well such those liturgies in the Arabic language will disappear over the years and it will be mainly English laaaaaanguage in our churches ..mate i reckon everything will evolve , priests from this part of the world and a bishop too ,the fact we need to live in one standard way of life in our churches as well as in the big community , our churches at that time must cater for our Australian Coptic Orthodox in order to survive in this part of the world …anyhow time will tell but usually with any change always there is resistance …praise God by your life , amen ..

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  5. Change is good.. I’m not against change in any way at all.

    An example is this church website.

    The church has evolved and is using technology as a tool.

    I think generally that dramatic change is bad eg. Priests that live outside of Arabic nations should not have to wear a Galabia. This is a drastic change that will have many opposition. It doesnt mean its right or wrong. I mean its not written in the bible priests have to wear a black galabia

    So in otherwords.. the question is. What makes change acceptable?

    Changing to western music and making a band is dramatic. It should not be taken lightly. I’m surprised at why it is so easily accepted. Most likely the reason is, like abouna said, most youth already listen to songs on the radio anyway. So they’re already use to that type of music. But that does not make it acceptable.

    I really wish that this issue be discussed in more depth. We definitely lack in the amount of Spiritual English songs available and so that makes it a problem. And I’m happy that you are trying to find a solution. But I don’t think this is the right way to go about it.

    Please remember to pray about this issue, so that God may give us a solution.

    God Bless

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  6. “Changing to western music and making a band is dramatic.”

    I don’t think Abouna’s talking about changing anything… only attacking the common misconception that modern tunes are ‘evil’. I listen to a lot of modern Christian music… and alot of the music I listen to is actually being introduced into church and becomming part of our Friday night youth meeting (even though it sounds completely different without the music). For example, “Yesterday, today and forever”, absupositively a rock song… and we sing it in church, just can’t tell without the drums. I’ll send it to you if you like…

    Also, I don’t think the change dramatic whatsoever. It’s not like we’re integrating contemporary music into our liturgy… It’s actually been a long time comming… Youth is increasingly becoming less and less interested in ‘Church music’ and more and more interested in contemporary music. Don’t you think that by encuraging this, we will in turn have a chance to sensor specific songs they are subjected to and perhaps even initiate and encourage growth in their spiritual life, which could in turn help them to understand and relate the traditional music of the Church.

    I look foward to your reply.

    ROMANI,
    I don’t think we should use new instruments in our mass. I think we should keep it exactly the same. My reasoning is simply that the Catholics have tried this… and are currently putting it into practice. Going to a Catholic School, I’ve experienced this first hand and all it does is take away the spirituality of the mass and turn it into superficiality. It stripes it of being a communal praise, instead, it becomes a performance. I think we should stick to our cymbals and triangles, simple and familiar, keeping us in tune while we simultaneously lift our hearts…

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  7. Thankyou all for your comments. I appreciate and respect them all. I encourage others to please put forward their views, for as Bilious said, we really need to discuss this further and in more depth.

    May the Holy Spirit guide us all to His will.

    Fr Ant

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  8. I believe ,this issue of concern reflects one of many issues involving our Coptic church in this part of the world which the congregation must have a say in it ……Jesus loves the fair go and wants the salvation for all his creatures everywhere regardless of color , age , sex , background and education ….i believe all views so far in this issue are relevant but as our Father Antonios and others suggested must be looked at more in depth with the guidness of our Lord Jesus Christ , also i felt all of us we tackled the topic in such a way by not touching our Coptic roots in principle and that the great side of it and i believe we must adhere to our roots all the time … also we are in agreement about we must evolve by getting the good and rejeeeeeecting the bad and that for our long term vision for our future church congregation …those good aspects will be added to our backbone Coptic roots to make the most of of it to reflect the Australian Coptic Community by 2050 …..I reckon ,any system in the world must be revisited , adjusted and tuned up to keep it relevant , viable and efficient …the question now how we evolve in this aspect and make the most of it without touching our Coptic roots ???? i remember, i read something very long time ago , why most churches close their doors in this part of the world and why the Coptic church still survive ???? the answer was simple , that the Coptic Church kept its COPTIC TRADITIONS in everything in their Mass etc….they said , if the mass was modified, just all English or shortened or adjusted etc. it would be in its way out …so i believe as an old person in this part of the world and in this Coptic Congregation we must adhere to our Coptic roots and adjust and fine tune our systems with whatever aspects which makes our Churches survive the future challenge of change putting in mind the nature of our future congregation and our way of life in this part of the world with one attitude standard , not back home where ever we came from . …..may our Lord Jesus Christ guide our Coptic community to fulfill the future congregation needs to have the right vision and that for the praise of the name of the Lord all the time , amen ….

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  9. Dear Father,
    Do you believe that this is the right way to introduce something new to the Coptic Church? By discussing it with the youth before the Head of the Church HH Pope Shenoda or at least Anba Mossa? defiantly youth will agree on it but are they really guided by the holy spirit or by there own needs?
    Do not get me wrong I used to enjoy Rock music and still to an extend but when it comes to my church I totally disagree. What about Australian culture lets then introduce BEER in the church after mass instead of the soft drinks yes it is Australian culture and priests should trim there beard because it is not accepted in the Australian way of life.

    Sorry Abona I totally disagree with your point and I have to remind you that you were brought up with out ROCK MUSIC, the same Father Gabriel and Father Matthew and Bishop Sorial.

    If we have this rich heritage why should we seek other less in value, you said in part 2

    But having one precious and ancient pearl does not prevent you from also acquiring some less unique treasures, does it?

    I have to say yes it does since Childs of The King uses only the most precious treasures not replicas.

    Finally please forgive me when saying you should seek higher approval about such posts before publishing

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  10. Dear Father,
    Please refer to Bishops Raphael quote

    خطورة الروحانية الإنفعالية
    الإنسان مركب من جسد ونفس وروح… إذا كانت الروحانية مرتبطة بالجسد فقط، سيكون التدين مريضاً فريسياً حرفياً. وإذا كانت مرتبطة بالنفس فقط، سيكون التدين نفسانياً عاطفياً إنفعالياً مزيفاً ومؤقتاً…
    † لذلك فى المنهج الأرثوذكسى، نتعامل مع الله “بالروح والحق، لأن الآب طالب مثل هؤلاء الساجدين له، الله روح، والذين يسجدون له فبالروح والحق ينبغى أن يسجدوا” (يو 23:4،24). فى المنهج الأرثوذكسى، الجسد يتروحن ولكن لا تكون العبادة حسب الجسد. والنفس تتسامى، ولكن لا تكون العبادة على مستوى العاطفة… والروح تقود الكيان الإنسانى، ولكنها تكون خاضعة لروح الله… أما المناهج المنحرفة، فتعتمد على إثارة عاطفة السامعين… سواء بالترانيم الحماسية والموسيقى الصاخبة… أو بالكلمات العاطفية المتأججة بالمشاعر… أو بالوعظ الحماسى، الملىء بالإنفعال والإيحاءات النفسية. أو بالأكثر بالهتافات المليئة بالحماس والإنفعال، فمثلاً يكررون عدة مرات “دم يسوع المسيح يطهرنى من كل خطية” بصوت مرتفع وحماسى، كمن يسير فى مظاهرة!!حتى لو كانت العبارة صحيحة عقيدياً… ولكن الهتاف العاطفى والإنفعالى خاطئ… لأنه سريعاً ما يزول، ويعود الإنسان مرة أخرى إلى برودته الحقيقية، بعد أن زالت عنه السخونة المزيفة. لم نسمع عن الآباء أنهم كانوا يهتفون هك
    ذا.. ولا وجدت فى ألحان الكنيسة، أو تسابيحها مثل هذه العواطف المريضة… إن الروحانية المزيفة، تكون كالنار فى القش… والروحانية الأرثوذكسية، كالماء ينحت فى الصخر، بهدوء وعمق واستمرارية.لذلك نرفض هذه العبادة الإنفعالية لأنها من النفس، وليست من الروح. The seriousness of spiritual emotionalism
    The human body is a composite of the same spirit … If the spirituality associated with the body only, it will be religious patients Freisea literally. If linked to self-only, it will be an emotional religious psychological emotionally false and temporary …
    † to that in the Orthodox approach, we deal with God “in spirit and truth, because the Father asked him Alsagdin such, the spirit of God, and who bow down to him and the right Fbalrouh should prostrate themselves before” (Jn 23:4,24). Orthodox in the curriculum, but the body Itrouhn not worship as the body. Transcends the self, but not worship at the level of emotion … And the Spirit is leading the human entity, but are subject to the Spirit of God … The curriculum deviant, dependent on the ministry spread a passion … Hymns, both enthusiastic and loud music … Or words of powerful emotional feelings … Or preach enthusiastic, so full of fury, and the psychological connotation. Or more a cheering full of enthusiasm and emotion, for example, repeated several times, “the blood of Jesus Christ of all written taking a” loud and enthusiastic, like walking in a demonstration!!, Even if the correct words Aqidia … Emotional, but the cheering and emotional wrong … It quickly disappears, and returns again to the human Brodth real, after the heat was still false. Have not heard from our fathers that they were shouting so .. Not found in church music, or emotions such Tsabihaa patient … The counterfeit spirituality, like a straw … And Orthodox spirituality, such as water sculpted rock, calmly and depth and continuity. Therefore, we reject such a bid to worship as one of self-restraint, and not the soul.

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  11. With due respect to all the views in this issue so far i am confused with all those big words interacting in each other and i wonder what is the fuss ?????!!!!!!!….simply i understand that God wants our PURE HEARTS to love him and warship him ..in hymns truly we have our own Coptic Orthodox roots like the other ritual aspects and like the other Christian cultures as well , we like , we treasure ,we respect and we admire all of them ,,,we evolved with everything in life but without touching the heart of the matter of our roots and ritual aspects …oh mate the other day somebody told me that priests repeat the same sermons in every Sunday of the year without something new and related to our experience in life , we need to live the bible and what is preached , he said even the wording , he added for example look at the Samaritan woman sermon if you go from one church to the other on that day the priests are repeating the same even wording ???!!!! …the fact that when we look at Coptic Orthodox culture , it is a drop in an ocean in Christianity around the world as far as the population and numbers …Catholics use organs and i believe most of us experienced over the years in the Catholic schools every morning when we used to go to the mass and enjoyed those beautiful hymns before classes , it was great for me ..i personally i experienced the Greek hymns in AGIOS PAVLOS first church in Thessaloniki also in AGIA SOPHIA as well for a lot of years when attending the mass for a lot of years over there , also till now we go and attend the Greek Orthodox mass and their hymns in this part of the world and it is great …we attended also hymns in Africa with their drums in praising our Lord from the depth of their simple hearts and simple life ..i believe David the prophet used to dance to our Lord with his drums and flute from the bottom of his pure heart and our lord loved him and his hymns for one reason that everything was coming out of his pure heart .. may our lord give us pure hearts with great love for him all the time to dwell in it and his great unlimited love to touch all the hearts of his creatures everywhere …..

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  12. A musical style can be inherently protestant. Protestant means to protest, hence PROTESTant. The very nature of the worldly music they use is a protest to the music of God. Worldly music is a protest against God and the human soul by playing to the emotions of the individual and getting them to react upon their emotions rather than common sense. Allowing this into the church will cause more problems than they will solve. The majority of the youth will jump on the protestant bandwagon, while others will be more traditional. Mark my words, if this continues there will be a schism.

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  13. Hi John

    A final response in addition to the ones on the first two blogs in this series…

    I find your analysis of the word “Protestant” a little confusing. You are aware that when used to denote those Christians who broke off from the Church of Rome, it referred to their protest against what they saw as the corrupted teachings and practices of the Church of Rome? It has nothing to do with music.

    If you are trying to say that any music that protests against anything is Protestant, that is just an utter confusion of the term. If you are saying that “worldly music” must be evil, then you are unaware that some of the beautiful ritual hymns (Alhan) we cherish today began as worldly music, ancient Egyptian folk songs that were given new words and integrated into the liturgy. Some of our ancient tunes even come to us from the temple worship of the pagan Egyptians. Where did you think they came from? Did you think that a group of Christians just sat down one day and invented a totally new musical style?

    To reject music that “plays with the emotions” would be to reject our most profound ancient tunes. Do you seriously tell me you have never been moved to tears by the “Adribi” tune of the Psalm in Passion Week, or the doleful Diptych of St Cyril’s liturgy? The Orthodox approach to worship is holistic. It requires that the whole person be involved in the encounter with God, body, soul, mind and spirit. The problem with Protestant hymns is not that they are western in style or that they touch the emotions, or anything like that. It is that they contain an imperfect, incomplete understanding of what life with God can be. Replace the words with appropriate words expressing Orthodox spirituality and you have a perfectly good vehicle for doing the work of Christ.

    There would only be a schism if over such a trivial issue if people on either side become fanatical about it. If instead, we accept each other with love and leave each other to find Christ as we may within true Orthodoxy, there can be no schism.

    Finally, I would just like to point out that other Orthodox Churches have trodden this path and so far as I can tell, the sky has not yet fallen on their heads, nor have any bolts of lightning struck them down. Here are just two examples: Peter Jon Gilquist, son of the famous Fr Peter Gilquist who led the mass conversion of 10,000 Evangelical Protestants to the Orthodox Church in America, is a talented musician. You can hear some of his very western style hymns here: http://www.myspace.com/peterjongillquist . Another one I really like is Katy Wehr, (who also writes beautifully by the way) http://katywehr.com .

    Fr Ant

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  14. WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS

    What a Friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    O what peace we often forfeit,
    O what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!

    Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged,
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness,
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.

    Are we weak and heavy-laden,
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer;
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer;
    In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
    Thou wilt find a solace there.

    I like this hymn! It speaks volumes to me… I guess that makes me an Evangelical Protestant heathen…

    Oh please, what a joke!!

    Music is a form of worship, it has many styles. To assume that one style is more acceptable to God over another is laughable!! I’m sure the angels of heaven do not use cymbals and triangles while they sing the Trisagion. What makes the repetitive vowel style unique to Coptic melody any more solemn than monotonous Gregorian chant, or the clapping and dancing of our Ethiopian brothers, to name only a couple??

    Also, what of David the Prophet who ‘danced before the Lord with all his might’ wearing nothing but a loin cloth, when he received the Ark back into his city? The Second Book of Samuel describes him as ‘leaping and whirling before the Lord’. Would his naked dancing before the Ark have been unacceptable to God? No!! His joy over receiving the Ark manifested itself in dance, it didn’t make his joy or his pray any less worthy, as it also doesn’t for our Ethiopian brothers who use the same style of worship today.

    So as long as its theology is consistent with Orthodox theology, then what is the problem with introducing western hymnology for general use in our non-ritualistic, non-sacramental services? There is no problem!! If it serves the purpose to lift the soul and the mind to heaven, then it has done its job. When we were kids we used to crowd around the Christmas tree and sing ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’. Does that make me Protestant because I didn’t sing ‘Pimisi Evol’?? I think not!! Moreover, in my house we celebrate Christmas in December more so than in January. Does that make me more of a heathen? Please!!

    We are not like our Muslim brothers who have to pray and chant in a specific language or style. Coptic is not the language of heaven! While I am all for preserving it, because I personally love to hear Coptic chant, we don’t have to be Nazis about it!!

    By introducing western style songs for general use, we are not introducing Protestantism, we are allowing the Church to reach out to the current generation. Isn’t that what the Christian Mission is all about??

    Meanwhile, I’m going to continue singing my heathen song… What a friend we have in Jesus…

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  15. Nathan,

    This song, despite being written by a Protestant author, really isn’t too bad, I’ll admit. But when we say Protestant music, the sort of songs we’re referring to are not really this, but songs like ‘Awesome God’ (they’re the popular ones). Songs like have an almost jocular tone lacking any sort of gravity (eg “the Lord wasn’t joking when he kicked them out of Eden” – why – does The Lord often joke about things like this?).

    But even so, there are a couple of things heterodox about this song:
    – calling Jesus ‘friend’. Give me one Bible verse/patristic quotation which does this. If theology is not derived from these sources then it’s not Orthodox.
    – the first 4 lines of this song subtly suggest that sins can be forgiven by mere prayer to Jesus: “all our sins and griefs to bear… EVERYTHING to The Lord in prayer”
    – “take it to The Lord in prayer… thou wilt find a solace there”: this does not account for the fact that prayer is often a struggle, and no wonder, since this concept is absent from Protestantism
    – the whole goal and focus of this song is wrong: it’s all about taking it to The Lord in prayer to avoid “needless pain”. The goal of an Orthodox Christian should be theosis – not merely an easy life on earth and even entry to heaven
    – the whole focus of this song is purely moralistic. There is barely any theology here, unlike the tasbeha which is full of theology. And unlike patristic hymns, like these of St Severus (http://www.lsocs.co.uk/severus_hymns01.php), which are deeply theological. That is what an Orthodox hymn should be like.

    The fact that none of these points seemed obvious to you (nor to me, at first glance) highlights the real insidious danger of music originating outside of the Church. I don’t understand the urge to let all these in indiscriminately, rather than vetting each one, as I have quite quickly done here.

    The Western songs we should use should either be pre-schism (and the versification preferably done by an Orthodox christian) or traditional Roman Catholic (Vatican II stuff like Here I am Lord).

    The British Orthodox Church and French Coptic Orthodox Church cater specifically to westerners, but have not seen the need (and seen the dangers) of using Protestant music – at least not before rigorous scrutiny – so why should we?

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  16. I meant “NOT Vatican II stuff like Here I am Lord”

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  17. Oh please!!

    In Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples at the Last Supper, he called them his friends. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ – John 15:13. Is that sufficient?

    I fail to see what is wrong with the message that we should carry everything to God in prayer. Isn’t that what we are told to do? To pray unceasingly? To lay everything at his feet? To let go and let God? What is wrong with that? Just because my Orthodox Church teaches me that forgiveness of sins comes through the absolution of a priest, that does not mean that I do not ask for forgiveness from God first. I must do this anyway before I ask the priest for absolution. It does not mean that my griefs, my sins and my sorrows will linger until a priest puts his hand on my head. God doesn’t work that way.

    I don’t know about you, but I find solace in prayer, it is not a struggle for me. If it were I would not do it. I pray, God gives me comfort, that is all. The ‘needless pain’ the song speaks of, I think is whatever sorrow may be in your heart. You need not bear this pain, this sorrow, he will give you comfort from it when you lay it at his feet in prayer. ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ – Matthew 11:28-30. The strive for theosis needn’t be a heavy burden. In fact if you experience the comfort of God in your heart, it will not be a burden or a struggle at all.

    As I said before, as long as a song serves to lift the soul, or ‘lift up the heart to the Lord’, then its verses have fulfilled their purpose. Whether the words are inherently Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, or whatever. If the words to this song are purely moralistic and there is barely any theology, then what is the problem? Christian morals are mostly universal, and there is no heterodox theology which might lead anybody astray. And you will find that the composition to most these non-Orthodox songs are along the same lines.

    I have no issue with singing the ‘Orthodox’ hymns in the ritual and sacramental services, I’ve said that. But at a general meeting for example, I see no problem. I am not, as I am sure Abouna is not, saying that we should introduce these songs in our liturgies or our tasbeha. There is, I believe, a ban by the Holy Synod on doing so anyway.

    That being said, I understand where you’re coming from. I too used to be an Orthodox Nazi, until that changed a few years ago due to a personal experience which I will not get into here.

    Anyway, let me get back to my heathen song… What a friend we have in Jesus…

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  18. Growing up in a Catholic School and being a part of their choir, we have used Hillsong hymns in every mass. Our school song is a Hillsong hymn. From experience singing these hymns without all the embellishment of instruments is just as much worshiping God as singing one of our Church hymns.
    I feel that as long as we don’t add the embellishments to these hymns during the mass then it should be acceptable for communion.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_NcescDvdQ
    At every school mass we sing this hymn and because it is very catchy the words stick in our minds and the girls begin to believe what they are hearing and saying.
    All things are possible – Hillsong Australia
    Almighty God my redeemer
    My hiding place my safe refuge, no other name like Jesus
    No power can stand against You.

    My feet are planted on this rock
    And I will not be shaken
    My hope it comes from You alone
    My Lord and my salvation

    Your praise is always on my lips
    Your word is living in my heart
    And I will praise You with a new song, My soul will bless You Lord

    You fill my life with greater joy
    Yes I delight myself in You
    And I will praise You with a new song, My soul will bless You, Lord

    When I am weak, you make me strong
    When I’m poor, I know I’m rich for in the power of Your name
    All things are possible
    All things are possible
    All things are possible
    All things are possible

    Look up Casting Crowns or Jeremy Camp. Just because there is simply some rock or pop it does not mean the message is not there. My friends from school every week ask me to sing them a Christian Rock song. Each song has a message. Look at Francesca Battistelli and Britt Nicole.
    Watch the film Joyful Noise staring Queen Latifa and Dolly Parton. They turned songs by Usher and Chris Brown into Christian Songs
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTicJVR3R_c
    I am not saying we become like this but introduce these some of these song into the mass WITHOUT all these instruments.

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  19. Nathan,

    You almost got me there with that verse. But this verse is referring to Jesus calling his disciples friends not necessarily the other way around. I know this might seem pedantic but it is not a foregone conclusion, unless you can produce a bible/patristic text (of which there are many) to prove it. But I am happy to accept that this is only a minor deviation from Orthodoxy.

    I don’t know if you are doing it intentionally, but you are intellectually dishonestly lumping griefs, sins and sorrows together in the 2nd last sentence of your second (major) paragraph. My point only referred to sin. While I agree that the instant the priest puts the hand on his head is not God’s cue to forgive sin, the fact remain that taking it to God in prayer alone will not forgive sin. If it looks like Protestant theology (albeit veiled), sounds like Protestant theology… and it happens to be in a Protestant song – then it is Protestant theology.

    Perhaps more to come later… will address the rest maybe

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  20. So he is our friend, but we are not his. Do you not realise how ridiculous that sounds? You asked me for a text to support my opinion, I gave you one. Where is your biblical/patristic proof of the error in calling Jesus a friend?

    ‘Taking it to God in prayer alone will not forgive sin’, does that mean a Protestant, or non-Orthodox believer will never have his sins forgiven? That would mean that you are condemning all people to eternal damnation who are not Orthodox believers, something my orthodox zeal used to do, but now I have a real issue with this.

    While I believe the preservation of the Orthodox faith is important, we have to realise that truth is not exclusive or singular (this is what caused the schism of AD451). There is my truth, there is your truth, there are other truths. Neither of us can claim some exclusive apprehension of truth.

    Extreme orthodox zeal was important in the early few centuries of the church when dogma was being established, they had to weed out ‘heretics’. The same zeal is not necessary any more, we need not exclude others whose interpretation of scripture is different to ours.

    To claim your Orthodox view as ‘fact’ by saying ‘the fact remains that taking sin to God in prayer alone will not forgive it’ is wrong. It’s fact to you. Heaven is not reserved for the Orthodox. If it were, I’d like to ask, is it exclusively for the Oriental Orthodox faithful or are the Eastern Orthodox faithful also guaranteed entry? Because the two sides are not in communion with each other, so we may as well exclude them too. Heaven then becomes almost exclusively Coptic. That, again, sounds ridiculous.

    At the end of the day, and I truly believe this, God is not going to judge you on which church you attended, but on how faithful you were to the message you received. Jesus was inclusive, why shouldn’t we also be?

    Anyway, this has now veered in a different direction

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  21. “We are his friend, but he is not ours” (I think that’s what you meant to say).
    Hasn’t a teacher ever addressed you by your first name? Does this give you the right to address them by their first name? Of course not!

    I have never held the position that Catholics/Protestants cannot be saved. It is possible that their sins are forgiven without confession, but this is by no means certain. The proper and only sure way for the forgiveness of sins is through confession. That does not mean it is NECESSARILY the only way.

    I’m not going to reply to your postmodernist view of truth, as I’m afraid this could derail the topic, suffice to say I disagree.

    In regard to the two families of Orthodoxy: I believe we share the same faith (I mean, EXACTLY the same faith) so this is not at all analagous to issue of Protestantism, which does not share the same Orthodox faith.

    “God is not going to judge you on which church you attended”. Who are you or I to step in to God’s judgement seat? I am judging false doctrine, you are judging people (I know you are judging in their favour, but it is still judging). The former is necessary for the preservation of the faith, the latter is not proper for it is only God who judges.

    Re your 4th paragraph: We still need to ‘weed’ out heretics today – otherwise we can lose this dogma. “We need not exclude others whose interpretation of scripture is different to ours” – I don’t know what exactly you mean by ‘exclude’, but certainly we should not in any way give credence to a heterodox interpretation of scripture. The ONLY correct interpretation of scripture is the Orthodox one. Otherwise, we would become like the Protestant churches, embracing private interpretation of scripture, which leads to many schisms which are still continuing to this day in the Protestant churches.

    However, I agree that we must not become too extreme, but be pragmatic. I would not be so annoyed if we used these Protestant hymns, but admitted that it was a form of economia, since there are few collections of Western Orthodox hymns available. And once we develop/collect these hymns from ancient patristic sources, we make sure we stop using these songs. Also, I am happy if we do not use any Coptic at all, but only English – for it is not the language which concerns me but the correct Orthodox faith.

    Actually, I am quite puzzled about your and Abouna’s insistence that the liturgy remain exactly the same. Is the Ethiopian liturgy the same as the Coptic liturgy? No. So why should an Australian liturgy (and don’t tell me we are ‘Coptic Orthodox’ in Australia – there is no such thing as the Coptic Orthodox Church or the Syrian Orthodox Church, only the Orthodox Church in Egypt, Syria, Australia, etc.) be the same as the liturgy in Egypt? Why not use a Western rite liturgy like some Antiochian Orthodox churches, or the Liturgy of St James like the British Orthodox Church – then maybe there would be no need to sing these Protestant songs, and we would have replaced them with equally Western yet Orthodox alternatives.

    I hope this provides food for thought. I know Abouna loves his Orthodoxy – and I hope these points resonate with Abouna too.

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  22. I thought I might add that the other issue I have with this band is the use of musical instruments in worship (and don’t tell me that that is only for the liturgy – because the liturgy is the fundamental worship in the Orthodox Church, and so every other worship should be modelled on it). St Clement of Alexandria expressly condemns this. You can find this and other relevant patristic quotations here: http://www.stmaryscopticorthodox.ca/content/articles/other/musicchurch.pdf

    On another note, I think you should avoid applying pejorative labels like “Orthodox Nazi” to those who hold my position. This is because I’m sure at least 4 members of the Holy Synod would agree with most of what I have to say: Metropolitan Seraphim of the British Orthodox Church, Bishop Youssef of the Southern United States, Bishop Rafael of Central Cairo and Bishop Surial of Melbourne. You can disagree with them, since they are not infallible, but you should not apply such pejorative labels.

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  23. Also, please stop referring to your song as “heathen”.
    This word usually refers to a polytheistic religion.
    The proper word to use is “heterodox”.
    This loose use of terminology makes light of this serious topic.

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  24. Friendship is mutual, it is never one sided.
    Your teacher analogy doesn’t apply, a teacher may call me by name but that doesn’t make me his friend, I call a teacher ‘Sir’ due to respect of his position, there is no mutual affection between us. For us to be friends, he must be my friend BEFORE I am his.
    You have still failed to provide any patristic or biblical evidence for what you think is an error here, I can only assume you cannot find one.

    “The proper and only sure way for the forgiveness of sins is through confession. That does not mean it is NECESSARILY the only way” – you contradict yourself in the same breath here; you say its the only way, but not necessarily the only way. Which is it?

    “The ONLY correct interpretation of scripture is the Orthodox one” – I beg to differ. The most accurate interpretation of scripture is the Orthodox one. Orthodoxy is an interpretation of scripture, it is not the ONLY correct interpretation. Your ‘friend’ analysis is case-in-point, it is YOUR interpretation of scripture applied to Orthodoxy. And truth be told, a lot of what we believe is Orthodox teaching has been taken from the Gnosticism of old.

    We are the Coptic Orthodox Church in the diaspora, we are not and cannot ever be an ‘Australian Orthodox Church’. The Liturgy is at the very heart of this Church, it can and should be translated, however it should never be changed until such time that the Australian native faithful (including clergy) exceed the Coptic ones (and by Australian native I don’t mean Australians born with Egyptian heritage, I mean Caucasian, European Australians). When such occurs, it may warrant an autonomous or autocephalous Australian Church. Until then, we are the Coptic Orthodox Church in Australia.

    “I thought I might add that the other issue I have with this band is the use of musical instruments in worship (and don’t tell me that that is only for the liturgy – because the liturgy is the fundamental worship in the Orthodox Church, and so every other worship should be modelled on it). St Clement of Alexandria expressly condemns this” – Firstly, what band, I never referred to one? Secondly, the Coptic Church uses cymbals and triangles in worship, what of this?? And David used a harp also when he sung his psalms.

    “Also, please stop referring to your song as “heathen”, the proper word to use is “heterodox”” – Heathen, heterodox, both have the same derogatory connotation. If you call someone heterodox, you may as well call them a heathen.

    All this being said, and I know it probably does not sound like it, but I love my Church and I love my Orthodoxy, I just want to see that Orthodoxy stop going on the offensive every time it refers to other non-Orthodox Christians. This is not how you attract people to the faith. This is not how you witness Christ to the world. Be inclusive, attract people through the fundamentals of Christian love and acceptance, AND THEN teach them your Orthodoxy. Orthodox extremism only serves to push people away. I’m not talking about myself, I take my Orthodox faith for granted, that is why I feel I can speak so candidly, I speak of others.

    Anyway…

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  25. Paragraphs correspond to one another:

    My patristic/biblical evidence is that there is no patristic/biblical evidence. I can’t produce any evidence to prove that there is no evidence!

    I didn’t say it is the “only way” I said it is the “only sure way”. There may be other ways which are outside of Orthodox Church but they are up to God and not for us to speculate on. There is no contradiction here.

    The Orthodox interpretation of scripture is not only the most accurate but fully accurate. So perhaps I should change my wording to “Orthodoxy is the only fully accurate interpretation of scripture”.

    Why don’t Australians born with Egyptian heritage count as Australians? They may look Egyptian but could be otherwise fully Australian in every other aspect. At what point do people of Egyptian heritage become Australian – after 3 generations, 4 generations? It doesn’t make sense to force them to embrace Coptic culture to stay within the church. And what about prospective converts. While ideally the truth of Orthodoxy should be enough for any converts, why should there be a stumbling block of another culture to join a faith which is supposed to be catholic -that is universal – the Orthodox Church.

    The band is the topic of Abouna’s post. The cymbals and the triangles are an innovation from the Middle Ages. St Clement was aware of King David, and explains his position clearly in the quote I linked to.

    I would rarely call anyone heterodox. I was calling the song heterodox.

    I don’t know where you got this idea of Orthodox extremism from. I even said that I was happy that these songs are sung if it is recognised that it is an economia. Of course we should be loving and tactful with people of all faith. But if it comes to the crunch, we cannot deny our faith – otherwise what would be the point of people converting to Orthodoxy if it is not Orthodox anymore – if it is no longer fully true?

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