This volume, having been recommended by two reliable book reviews, was to be the one I have been looking for to help me better understand music in relationship to the church. It proved to be a grave disappointment. It started off promising with statements such as, “Church music should be determined by the nature and mission of the church itself,” and “Nothing is gained by entertaining people into the kingdom, musically speaking, only to have them jolted into reality that the Christian life is not an entertainment at all.” But then signs of problems began to show up. First was the dogmatic assurance that some music is godly and other evil just by whether or not quarter notes or dotted sixteenth were used (or some such jargon). Some music (not speaking here of lyrics) is simply more disciplined and therefore more holy (p. 71). How could he prove this, I wondered. And if he could, what kind of music would we be left with? Things took a turn for the worse when he began to talk about the superiority of the Middle Ages (pp. 76) and things such as monasticism. Perhaps we should consider a new monasticism, he said, for after all monasticism is, well, disciplined (pp. 62-66). Church music should follow this disciplined pattern; something the medieval church could teach us (p.76). The next thing I knew Johansson had eliminated all modern music as inferior and was recommending a revival of chants because, “it has no tune, rhythm or beat…. This is why it can be so useful in a discipling music ministry (pp. 78ff). If this were not enough he had one more trick up his sleeve. He informed us that “spiritual songs” are “songs prompted by the Holy Spirit, and they are most often sung in an unknown language” (p.140). Oh, one more zinger — guess which musical instrument is most disciplined and thus superior for church music. Did you guess organ? Wrong, kind of. It is the pipe organ, silly, not those modern electrical things.
Wow, what a waste.