(some responses to recent comments)
I always assumed we sing because Christians have always sung, and before there was Christianity, the Hebrews sang, to the glory of God.
Having a choir is a practical consideration to provide musical leadership and give choral artists an opportunity to practice their craft. Also, there are angelic choirs, and so we aspire to same.
I'm checking with my music director on the other questions. I'd say the organ, like the $200-million cathedral in Los Angeles, is just an instrument created to the best of our ability to please and glorify God. Why shouldn't God get the very best - and why can't it be expensive? I'm sure Solomon's temple wasn't cheap.
I think God does care a great deal about our worship - that is the only reason I care so much. I don't think everyone should worship the same (if I ever get a PhD my dissertation will probably be on diversity in worship), but all worship should share the common elements of glorifying God and, secondarily, being aesthetically excellent.
Nicolas Wolterstorff wrote an awesome chapter in his book "Art in Action" about liturgical art in practice. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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I totally agree that God cares a great deal about our worship, I'm just not sure he cares much about its form. If we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, if our hearts are turned to him in worship, what else matters? I love singing in worship, but I think that silent worship is just as valid - both require the right attitude of heart. As to aesthetic excellence, if that is required then most of us are in big trouble! We have to give our best, that's for sure, but that's not the same as aesthetic excellence. I used to lead a street children's day centre in Mumbai, India. The worship was sometimes amazing, people set free in so many ways, but at times the singing was not great!
Speaking to the concerns over aesthetic excellence, while I understand the desire to call all of it good, as long as the person is worshiping God, this becomes a problem for me in a corporate worship environment.
I spent two years at a small conservative Christian college. With mandatory chapel thrice weekly, there were ample opportunities for crappy worship. The music was hard to mess up, most of the time, as we still used the old methodist hymnals (when we ventured off into the 'praise chorus of the week' stuff, it got a little dodgy). But there were stilted skits and awkward interpretive dances (no social dancing was allowed at the school, so these moments were especially painful), and altogether strange pseudo-sign language songs. While I realise that compared with God's perfection, we are all stilted and awkward and strange, I don't feel like we did God any favors with our performances. The mediums killed the message.
Bad art is a stumbling block for me. And so much of contemporary "Christian art" is just that: bad. To me, the excellence of the music (or whatever) IS the worship. The desire to emulate the perfection of God should drive the artist/worshipper. Aesthetic excellence conjoins the body of believers in one experience of worship. "Good" worship allows us to come together and do the work of the church.
Limin, you rock. That is exactly my point!
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