1st Edition

God’s Song and Music’s Meanings Theology, Liturgy, and Musicology in Dialogue

Edited By James Hawkey, Ben Quash, Vernon White Copyright 2020
    206 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Taking seriously the practice and not just the theory of music, this ground-breaking collection of essays establishes a new standard for the interdisciplinary conversation between theology, musicology, and liturgical studies. The public making of music in our society happens more often in the context of chapels, churches, and cathedrals than anywhere else. The command to sing and make music to God makes music an essential part of the DNA of Christian worship.

    The book’s three main parts address questions about the history, the performative contexts, and the nature of music. Its opening four chapters traces how accounts of music and its relation to God, the cosmos, and the human person have changed dramatically through Western history, from the patristic period through medieval, Reformation and modern times. A second section examines the role of music in worship, and asks what—if anything—makes a piece of music suitable for religious use. The final part of the book shows how the serious discussion of music opens onto considerations of time, tradition, ontology, anthropology, providence, and the nature of God.

    A pioneering set of explorations by a distinguished group of international scholars, this book will be of interest to anyone interested in Christianity’s long relationship with music, including those working in the fields of theology, musicology, and liturgical studies.


    Vernon White


    Part 1: The Meanings of Music in Western History

    1 Mellifluous Music in Early Western Christianity

    Carol Harrison

    2 ‘We Prefer Gods We Can See’: Music’s Mediations Between Seen Things and God in the Patristic and Medieval Periods

    Nancy van Deusen

    3 Hearing Revelation: Music and Theology in the Reformation

    Jonathan Arnold

    4 Music, Atheism, and Modernity: Aesthetics, Morality, and the Theological Construction of the Self

    Gareth Wilson


    Part 2: The Work of Worship and the Meanings of Music

    5 The Worship of God and the Quest of the Spirit: ‘Contemporary’ versus ‘Traditional’ Church Music

    Gordon Graham

    6 Musical Promiscuity: Can the Same Music Serve Sacred and Profane Ends Equally Well?

    Lucy Winkett

    7 Mixing their Musick: Worship, Music, and Christian Communities

    James Hawkey


    Part 3: The Meanings of Music and the Mystery of God

    8 The Malleable Meanings of Music

    John Butt

    9 The Material, the Moral and the Mysterious: Three Dimensions of Music

    Ben Quash

    10 Absolute Music / Absolute Worship

    Daniel K.L. Chua

    11 Afterword

    Jeremy S. Begbie


    James Hawkey is Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey, and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, UK.

    Ben Quash is Professor of Christianity and the Arts and Director of the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King’s College London, UK.

    Vernon White is Visiting Professor in Theology at King’s College London, UK. Until recently he was also Sub-Dean and Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey.