Christian Music: A Global History
By Tim Dowley
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Each and every week, throughout the country, churches are discussing what “worship style” their congregation should embrace. Some people believe that churches should embrace a more “contemporary” style, following recent trends in secular and worship music and bringing those musical styles into the church. Others embrace a more “traditional” style of worship, believing that they are reflecting a historic faith by the songs they sing. Both people who are traditional and people who are more contemporary could benefit by reading Tim Dowley’s Christian Music, which describes historic contributions to and development of music in the church.
Many persons who might embrace a more traditional worship style will be surprised how the way people do church music and worship has changed throughout the centuries. Christian Music tracks them all. From the pre-Christian worship of the Ancient Hebrews, to the chant of the early church, on to the radical revolutions in the way churches incorporated worship after the Reformation and beyond, Dowley clearly demonstrates that worship in the Christian church has always been changing and evolving.
Persons who embrace a more contemporary style will be impressed with how similar the concerns and goals of historical church musicians were to their own. Many of the revival songs that we now understand as “traditional” because of their instrumentation were actually attempts and presenting Christian music to nonbelievers in a way that would be easy for them to both sing and understand.
This book is certainly a pleasure to hold in one’s hand. The pages are thick. The text is filled with high quality photographs of artwork and worship settings that skillfully illustrate each era in the development of church music. The text is well footnoted. It also has a nice index. Christian Music works hard to cover the theological and cultural diversity of church music as it has developed.
I only have one disappointment. This book billed as a global resource. Much of the discussion of church music in a “global” sense makes it into each chapter through a small article that serves as an interlude between sections in the book. I would have liked to have known more about the development of church music outside of Western Civilization in more depth.
Over all though, Christian Music would make a wonderful book to own and read, as well as a great textbook. If I had a coffee table, I would say it would be a good coffee table book as well with the fine artistic sensibility the book presents. This book is both smart and classy. I loved it!