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Posted May 13, 2010

Book: The Sacred in Music
Author: Albert L. Blackwell
Westminister John Knox Press. Louisville, KY. 1999. Pp. 255

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Religion and music are complementary resources for interpreting our lives. Music serves the sacred in ways that can be specified and articulated; some believe it can help us appreciate Godís greatness. Yet the connection has been neglected in the scholarly study of religion. The Sacred in Music brings the two subjects together in a celebration of the rich Western musical tradition, both classical and Christian. Albert Blackwell shows how appreciation of music can help interpret theological traditions with greater sensitivity to their insights and applications. He then presents a description of the concept of sacrament experience, and describes and explores two great Christian sacramental traditions, showing their regard for music as a gift from God ó who thus places the essence of the divine in human minds.

Excerpt from Book:

Why is it possible to hold that Mozart has a place in theology, especially in the doctrine of creation and also in eschatology, although he was not a father of the Church, does not seem to have been a particularly active Christian, and was a Roman Catholic, apparently leading what might appear to us a rather frivolous existence when not occupied in his work? It is possible to give him this position because he knew something about creation in its total goodness that neither the real fathers of the Church nor our Reformers, neither the orthodox nor the Liberals, neither the exponents of natural theology nor those heavily armed wit the ďWord of God,Ē and certainly not the Existentialists, nor indeed any other great musicians before and after him, either know or can express and maintain as he did. In this respect he was pure in heart, far transcending both optimists and pessimists.

Barth, theologian par excellence of the eminent creator God, hears in Mozartís music the immanence of divine goodness in creation.

The Wisdom tradition intimately associates Godís three traditional attributes of wisdom (sophia), word (logos), and spirit (pneuma), and in doing so implies an immanence for them all. We see this intimate association suggested in the synonymous parallelism or thought-rhyme so characteristic of Hebrew poetry, echoed in the Greek translation, the Septuagint, which has transmitted these texts to us. Godís word is paralleled with Godís wisdom:

O God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy,
who have made all things by your word (logos),
and by your wisdom (sophia) have formed humankind. (Wis 9. 1-2)
Similarly, Godís wisdom is paralleled with Godís holy spirit:
Who has learned your counsel,
unless you have given wisdom (sophia)
and sent your holy spirit )to hagion sou pneuma) from on high? Wis 9. 17.

The theological imagery of these texts ó three parallel divine attributions, wisdom, word and spirit ó informs the later Christian doctrine of God as Trinity, three in one.

Table of Contents:

1. Sacramental traditions

2. Creation: transcending contingency

3. Creation: manifesting transcendence

4. Fall: enduring time

5. Salvation: sustaining harmony

6. Final bliss: surpassing language