Tony Cummings talked to award-winning worship singer/songwriter MATT MAHER
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Unfortunately, it's not like my kids' colouring books; it's not paint-by-numbers. I think of a song like "10,000 Reasons". Jonas and Matt brought their individual experiences, but what they created was a song the whole Church could relate to personally, and therefore sing together. This is why I don't get sick of singing "Your Grace Is Enough" 15 years after writing it. Every time I sing it, the context of my life is different. I want to bring that every time I come to the table. I think everybody is starting to realise, 'How do we recover lament in our worship? How do we recover wonder in our worship? How do we create a sense of mystery again?' There are things that are certain, and then there are things that are uncertain. I always say, 'God is the most certain mystery there is.'
Tony: I'd suggest that your Catholic theology allows for mystery, whereas the Protestant view often tries to wrap everything up in a box.
Matt: That's the appealing part about systematic theology, which is great, in a sense, because we do live in an ordered universe. It reminds us that there is a purpose and a plan for things. But I think you have to hold it, rejoicing in the fact that everything we need to know about God has been revealed; however, we don't need butterflies, and I don't need coffee to taste so good. There is a danger if everything's just functional. I got in this conversation last night with another friend of mine. The crossroads we're at right now is that music and art, when it comes to evangelism, have been mostly viewed through a functional lens; so art is only good if it has a function, which is it aids in the cause of evangelism.
Tony: Utilitarian art isn't art at all.
Matt: No it isn't. It's more like a shovel - necessary to get the job done. What happens is you're devaluing something that's good, true and beautiful. We've reached a tipping point in our society now where the culture we're in is already devaluing everything that's good, true and beautiful. 500 years ago, Martin Luther thought that beer was a fantastic invention. He saw things that were good, true and beautiful in the world; the problem now is that it's the job of Christians to reinforce things that are good, true and beautiful, because everything's being devalued. In some ways, this is what happened at the end of the Roman Empire. Civilisation started to fall apart and it was the job of Christians - and at the time it was mostly monks - to preserve the things that were important.
We find ourselves in the same place in that western civilisation is undergoing a crisis. It's a massive question of identity. Who are we? Whose are we? What are we? There's a tendency within the Church, because we haven't had to preserve culture as much as we've been able to create it - or create a cultural alternative people could exist within. But now it's the role of the Church. How do you curate culture? How do you point out things that are good, true and beautiful? If we don't start making this part of our language then everything gets devalued. A world that doesn't appreciate art doesn't appreciate the human person, and doesn't appreciate truth itself. That's the problem if you're using philosophy or the pursuit of truth to argue for the existence of God, or if you're using moral philosophy as a form of reasoning to arrive at the conclusion of why they need a Saviour, if there is no moral reasoning, and there is no truth because there's no love of it anymore. Because things had value, there was an ability to have a love for things. It's that love of things that grips people to want to say, 'Is this love a hint of a greater desire for things that are eternal?'
As Christians, we're like Jesus. We're supposed to be on the Road to Emmaus with people who are disappointed with life and saying, 'You know what? I've been disappointed too. Sometimes life is very disappointing,' - but helping people find consolation. This week was the 20 year [anniversary of the] death of Rich Mullins. He was a real prophet in the sense that he did this. Prophets comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I think that's part of the role of art in the Church - even worship music. It should bring comfort to those suffering with affliction and it should shake people out of their complacency.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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