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JCS 3/1 Is Shipping Soon!

The Journal of Christian Studies volume 3, issue 1, will be shipping soon! The theme of this issue of JCS is "Theology and Practice of Singing."

Below is the Editor's Note and Table of Contents. Be sure to subscribe now in order to receive this issue of JCS as a part of your subscription.


Singing is not a strictly necessary component of Christian worship. It is a tonal, melodic way of speaking, a means for conveying God’s word and the church’s prayer, messages that can be communicated clearly in an atonal voice. God may be praised with unmusical speech.

At the same time, however, singing is one of the venerable and beloved practices of Jewish and Christian worship. Jesus and his disciples sang (Matt 26:30), Paul’s churches sang (1 Cor 14:15; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16), and the heavenly host sang praise to the Lamb (Rev 5:9; cf. 14:3; 15:3). Around AD 112, the earliest pagan account of a Christian liturgy, based on the first-hand testimony of apostate Christians, describes Christians gathering “to say a poem [or song] to Christ as to a god.” These texts bear witness to congregational, participatory singing. From the beginning of the church and throughout its history, singing or chanting has been the preferred method of liturgical speech, most frequently practiced a cappella.

Humans have always instinctively understood the power of a song, how it can say more than mere speech, even when the words are identical. In the ancient world, “chant” is often what is meant by “sing.” Such chanting was the normal poetic mode of delivery, as in the opening line of Homer’s Iliad: “Sing” or “chant” (from ἀείδω [aeido]), O goddess, the wrath of Achilles. The contracted form of this Greek lexeme in the New Testament was translated into Latin as “canto,” which, of course, is the origin of English “chant.” As with the epic poem, to chant the words of Scripture is to call the hearer’s attention to these words, to declare that these words are sacred, set apart from ordinary conversation. A chant enchants, and an incantation charms. Music can variously delight, excite, gladden, or sadden. It can soothe and calm or enrage and embitter—David’s lyre could do it all (cf. 1 Sam 16:23 with 18:10–11). Music heightens the emotions and is therefore powerful. Through singing, the church glorifies God and edifies one another.

Singing is a gift from God to the church and an inheritance that we have received from our ancestors. Yet a range of causes threatens to erode congregational singing. Some of these factors are socio-cultural—for example, the advent of recorded music and especially the ubiquity of ear buds, which means we primarily listen to singing and music and don’t actually produce it ourselves. Some of the causes arise from within the church, introduced by leaders who no doubt intended to support singing but have actually undermined it. The congregation is no longer trained to sing but instead trained to listen to others who are trained to sing and make music. The result is that, in many churches previously known for their robust a cappella singing, the future of congregational singing is in jeopardy.

In view of this reality, the present issue of the Journal of Christian Studies examines the theology and significance of singing in the church’s assembly of worship. We asked article contributors to consider and address such questions as: What is the nature and purpose of singing? What can we learn from Scripture, Christian history, and sociology that would enhance our understanding of the importance of singing and its practice? What theology is conveyed in song? What are the criteria for good hymns, and how can we pass these on to the next generation? Each article touches on at least one of those areas. We intend for these articles and the entire issue to present a positive theology and practice of singing that will help shape both corporate worship in churches and the personal devotion of Christian families and individuals.

Keith D. Stanglin



Table of Contents:

The Church Born in Song:

Toward a Sacramental Theology of Congregational Singing

Darryl Tippens

Singing as a Spiritual Discipline

Darren T. Williamson

“The Tuneful Art to Captivate a Human Heart”:

Song and Singing in the Methodist/Wesleyan Tradition

Karen B. Westerfield Tucker

Something Old and Something New:

Five Theses on the Worship Wars

Donald T. Williams

Jorgenson and His Contemporaries:

A Select History of Hymnals in Churches of Christ

D. J. Bulls

“Congregational Song Is in Trouble”:

What Makes a Good Hymn?

R. Mark Shipp


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