The Restoration Movement, Acapella & the Trinity

I am glad to be a part of the Restoration Movement – and in particular – the Church of Christ.

But though there is much to praise about its history, like all movements, we have our ‘not so impressive’ moments and ways of thinking as well. The most frustrating of which is the oft inability to affirm and articulate well our faith in the Triune God.

c070fda8a6827023927ca8fc552ea6321There may be several reasons for this, but it is hard to forget that one of the movement’s founding fathers (Barton Stone) was less than orthodox in a number of his beliefs – namely his rejection of the Trinity as unbiblical and as a result his rejection of Jesus as equal and co-eternal with the Father. Said in another way, largely because of his hermeneutic, doctrine of scripture and rejection of creeds, he completely disregarded the Church’s unbelievably consistent claim that Jesus is fully human and fully divine (somehow missing the fact that this rejection renders his entire gospel claim meaningless and powerless).

Yet! – amidst all of this – a singular subversive aspect of our movement that undermines the lack of a robust Trinitarian affirmation is the invigorating tradition of singing accapella. Though I have no issue with instruments in any way, I have come to deeply appreciate this form of worship.

And it has occurred to me recently that what the Churches of Christ have lacked by way of a robust Trinitarian theology has been carried (perhaps unwittingly) through the deeply Trinitarian practice of multiple voices singing in a singular harmony. Here, if we are attentive, the medium is the message.

It is no wonder that the Christian faith has always had a love affair with music, and thatgeorge-frideric-handel-1327939984-article-0 Western classical music emerged in a culture infused by the Christian proclamation of a Triune God. For the central features of this form of music are the multiplicity of instruments and voices coming together into one integrated piece which (it often feels) has a singular purpose, movement and resolution even amidst the tension of sounds.

Reminiscent of Tolkein’s creation narrative in the Silmarillion and Aslan’s singing creation into existence is John Dryden’s famous Song for St. Cecilia’s Day set to music by Handel, which tunefully portrays Heaven’s harmony as the foundation of all existence:

From harmony, from heavenly harmony
      this universal frame began.
When Nature underneath a heap
of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high:
“Arise, ye more than dead!”

Then cold and hot and moist and dry
In order to their stations leap,
And Music’s power obey.

From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began;
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
  The diapason closing full in Man.

So my consolation is this: even if we (as a movement) have often failed to affirm (though this is not excusable) who our God is, we have at least sung in a way that proclaims – perhaps louder than the actual words sung – the beauty and genius a God who is a joyful harmony of oneness.

Published by Ryan Hayes

Ryan Hayes is a development practitioner, teacher and co-author of his first book of poems, Paralipomenon. Being born in Nairobi, Kenya and living most of his life in Africa, he has a wealth of experience and understanding into the cultural and linguistic factors of South-East Africa. Ryan is happily married to Justine with whom they have begotten three beautiful girls – Amelie, Lily and Rylee. He is a lifelong learner and devoted student of Jesus, mysticism, quantum physics and the human psyche.

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