God’s Song and Music’s Meanings: Theology, Liturgy, and Musicology in Dialogue, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

God’s Song and Music’s Meanings

Theology, Liturgy, and Musicology in Dialogue, 1st Edition

Edited by James Hawkey, Ben Quash, Vernon White


196 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-08-07
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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.

Table of Contents


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

About the Editors

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.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts

What have imagination and the arts to do with theology? For much of the modern era, the answer has been 'not much'. It is precisely this deficit that this series seeks to redress. For, whatever role they have or have not been granted in the theological disciplines, imagination and the arts are undeniably bound up with how we as human beings think, learn and communicate, engage with and respond to our physical and social environments and, in particular, our awareness and experience of that which transcends our own creatureliness. The arts are playing an increasingly significant role in the way people come to terms with the world; at the same time, artists of many disciplines are showing a willingness to engage with religious or theological themes. A spate of publications and courses in many educational institutions has already established this field as one of fast-growing concern. This series taps into a burgeoning intellectual concern on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. The peculiar inter-disciplinarity of theology, and the growing interest in imagination and the arts in many different fields of human concern, afford the opportunity for a series that has its roots sunk in varied and diverse intellectual soils, while focused around a coherent theological question: How are imagination and the arts involved in the shaping and reshaping of our humanity as part of the creative and redemptive purposes of God, and what roles do they perform in the theological enterprise? Many projects within the series have particular links to the work of the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts in the University of St Andrews, and to the Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts at Duke University.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Religious / Christian
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Christianity / Literature & the Arts
RELIGION / Christian Theology / General