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The Essential Dimension & Quality for Theology and Practice

 

Discovering the Function of Music as Basic to Significance in Life

 

 

   Studying the Sound of the Word


 

T. Dave Matsuo

 

©2019 TDM All rights reserved

No part of this manuscript may be reprinted without permission from the author

Contact: tdavematsuo@4X12.org

 

 

Chapter 1     The Amplified Word

 

Sections

 

Knowing Our Beginnings

Hermeneutic Harmony and Fidelity

Amplifying the Language of the Word

The Musical Harmony and Fidelity of the Word

The Pivotal Word

 

Printable pdf 

(Prelude - Chap.3)

Prelude

Chap. 2

Chap. 3

 

 

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

Psalm 119:130[1]

 

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

 

 

            My mother made me take piano lessons until I was 12 years old—for what became six laborious years of classical study cloistered in a conservatory instead of having more time to play outside with my friends. Rather than develop the skills of my first love (sports), I was constrained to the repetitive sounds of 88 keys; and these unrelenting keys always demanded my full attention in order to play the right sounds. Since playing the right sound required more than merely not playing the wrong notes, the sound of my playing became evident to my conservatory piano teacher that my heart wasn’t into the piano, and that my mom shouldn’t waste money on my lessons any more. Thankfully, without compromising, she didn’t confuse the sound of music with my piano sounds. What a relief to be freed to have more time with my friends and develop my sports skills.

            As I accelerated in sports, my physical development kept unfolding beyond my expectations. Yet, there always seemed to be a part of me that was different from the athletes around me. Curiously, as I excelled in sports (notably American football) I never became a “jock” nor considered myself to be one. There was a person inside of me that was different and never really wanted to live within those limits. I wasn’t a Christian during that period of my life, so I really didn’t understand what I was thinking and feeling. What do you think was going on inside me; how would you explain this distinct difference that I felt?

            Interestingly, if not paradoxically, there was some quality inside of me that heightened a sensitivity to the qualitative beyond the prominence of the quantitative in life—whatever the quantity and however it was quantified. When this qualitative sensitivity was amplified, I felt different. Here’s the irony to these dynamics: what amplified this quality is music; and, therefore, the primary amplification in my life can be directly linked back to my development in music. Little did I know at the time that music was wiring my brain with a quality not apparent to me. Without my musical development (albeit limited), my sensitivity to the quality of life would not have emerged in a context dominated by the quantitative. That dominance also exists in the human brain when the quantitatively oriented left hemisphere of the brain is more prominent in its development, and thereby assumes more control over the qualitatively oriented right hemisphere.[2]  In other words, without this distinct quality I would have functioned within the limits and constraints of pervasive quantities in life, thereby not being free to be different in my person. However, any identity conflicts in our thoughts or identity dissonance in our feelings open the door that can (1) tell me who I am as a person, (2) distinguish for me what I am as the true person, and (3) challenge me in how to be that person. How so?

            Music, when not reduced to quantitative sounds, expresses a quality that is usually not expressed by most persons. Typically, persons are constrained from sharing deeper, but music penetrates such constraints to trigger brain synapses that transition persons from quantitative control to qualitative vulnerability. Such vulnerableness then provokes deeper connections to persons and evokes inner-out expressions from persons, which bring out the quality in persons otherwise constrained, buried or lost. What’s happening can be understood as a law of nature:
 

When this quality emerges, the whole person emerges; anything less is a reduced person, not whole but fragmentary, who is unable to function beyond the limits and constraints of such reductionism, thus whose identity and function are defined and determined by the quantitative.
 

            The nature of the person has not evolved to resolve the difference between the quantitative and the qualitative. What has evolved is a more complex quantitative life, which we keep deferring to at the expense of the qualitative. The human default mode is dominated by the quantitative until redeemed by the qualitative. The context of this qualitative, when integrated with its relational process, together form the context and process that point us to how basic music is to everyday life. And their uncommon relational quality will lead us to understand how integral music is for our theology and practice to be significant. What will unfold in this context and process distinguished by the Word are the wholeness of life, the whole person and relationships in wholeness, all of which are constituted by the qualitative image and relational likeness of the Trinity. What unfolds, therefore, can only be defined and determined by God, whose whole and uncommon revelations in the Word are the constituting basis for all theology and practice of significance.

 

 

Knowing Our Beginnings

 

            Knowing the laws of nature depends on the scope of our knowledge about the universe. Understanding creation also depends on the breadth of our knowledge, but it further requires a depth of knowledge about the creator. These two epistemic fields of human knowledge and understanding are not mutually exclusive, yet, for example, the universe is often conflated with the breadth of creation and further confused for the depth of the creator. This is most consequential for all persons, human and divine.

            When sound is amplified and light is intensified—for example, in the outer universe—what emerges can make us more knowledgeable. But such knowledge doesn’t necessarily give us more understanding because it is merely referential information. Such limited information, of course, has quantitative value that may lead to more quantitative understanding; but this narrowed-down knowledge and understanding should neither be confused nor conflated with the quality of life. It is this quality that should have priority, and thus that needs to be pursued for the significance of life—that is, pursued for the whole of life, persons and relationships.

            So, where do we turn for the breadth of this qualitative source? And what do we look for to understand its depth? Moreover, how do we ensure this outcome in this discovery process?

            For this discovery to unfold we need to return to our beginnings. For our discovery to reflect reality and not our theories or assumptions about it, we must return to the beginning of life in order for our life beginnings to be known, renewed and then restored. Piano was part of my beginnings, yet that only stimulated the music basic to the quality of life underlying my beginnings. This connection is not my assumption since I disliked practicing the piano; the initial explanation for the quality that emerged in me is linked to functional workings of music. But this discovery cannot and doesn’t stop here for our understanding to be complete. For this quality to emerge it has to be distinguished in its constituting beginning, the origin of which has to be definitive in order for the full nature of life’s quality to be known, understood and experienced in its original condition. This distinguishing process has been elusive in human history, and even most Christians have only theories and assumptions about its reality in everyday life.

            The origin of the human person has been defined in two different contexts with two different processes. Simply stated, one context is science that employs the process of evolutionary biology. The other context is the realm of God that engages the process of creation. The former context is based on the limits of human inquiry and thus depends on a limited epistemic source to define the parameters of life. The latter context is based on the scope of God’s revelations and thus depends on the breadth and depth of God’s disclosures to define the whole of life. The former process postulates in probability, thus posits only degrees of certainty about life. The latter process constitutes in absoluteness, thereby only constitutes what is of life. Having said this, the two are not mutually exclusive, not necessarily in conflict, but also not interchangeable, and thus must by their nature be engaged accordingly. Therefore, knowing the difference between them is critical for our beginnings, and maintaining their difference is essential to get to the beginning of life’s significance.

            Christians commonly make assumptions about God’s revelations, the disclosures of which are distinguished in the Word. These assumptions don’t amplify the Word but more often than not they obscure the Word, if not displace it with what amounts to human terms speaking for God. A prime example of speaking for God is heard in Job. Basically, Job tried to understand his bleak circumstances by postulating from his limited beginnings and related narrow-down knowledge, in order to regain significance to his life. He certainly had reason to speculate about what was happening; but he had no absolute basis to draw conclusions definitive about both God and his life. Though unaware to Job, he was not at an inescapable crossroads for his life. In spite of his apparent self-assured beliefs in the face of contrary views posited by his friends, Job needed clarification and correction (1) so that he would indeed understand the significance of life, and (2) such that he would experience fully this significance constituted in its original beginning. For this clarification and correction to unfold, Job needed (1) unmistakable ontological humility about his source and (2) uncompromising epistemic humility in his thought process. In other words, Job had to come vulnerably face to face with the Word and listen to the Word amplified to him in the original relational terms of God’s relational language communicating to him in the primacy of relationship together (as unfolds in Job 38:1-2 through 42:1-3).

            Pause now for your own clarification and/or correction. Like Job, we are all faced with the crossroads of either having the Word amplified for our theology and practice to be significant, or diminishing the Word (“darkens my words,” 38:2, NIV) on the basis of our knowledge and understanding (often signified merely in our assumptions).

            The who, what and how of God that Job proclaimed “but now my eye sees you” (42:5) is the relational outcome of vulnerably engaging God with ontological and epistemic humility. Job’s beginnings have now been reconstituted ‘in the beginning’ constituting the significance of all life. In subtle contrast to and direct conflict with Job’s relational outcome, there are the variable substitutes by human terms for ontological and epistemic humility, which widely assume a quantitatively similar outcome yet one that is qualitatively different in its nature: the recomposed beginning for human persons that “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Gen 3:5). This consequential outcome is ‘the beginning of reductionism’, whose counter-relational workings recompose the human beginnings of all persons who are not ongoingly constituted in the only beginning integrally significant for life and for life to be significant.

            Reductionism is an inescapable reality for all human beings. It encompasses the scope of sin amplified by the Word, which all Christians need to account for in their beginnings and to address ongoingly for the relational outcome with the Word to keep unfolding. Yet, Christians in the church and academy have not fully grasped reductionism, addressed the scope of its workings in life, and thereby redeemed its consequences on their own persons and relationships. Instead, the subtle workings of reductionism have accessed our theology and practice to bias our interpretive lens to render that theology and practice to subtle illusions and simulations of so-called significance. The human condition of reductionism, our human condition, never goes unnoticed in the Word and is always exposed by the Word for what it is. Jesus confronted this bias and exposed its illusion and simulation in theology and practice, for example, as practiced by some Pharisees and prominent teachers (Mt 15:6-11; Mk 7:5-8). In such theology and practice, the Word is not amplified but nullified, made void of its significance. This is not readily recognized—as observed in the primordial garden beginning—nevertheless, in the bias of their tradition, priority is given to the outer-in quantitative in place of (or as a substitute for) the inner-out qualitative. Illusion and simulation have even shaped their music as an end in itself without its intrinsic quality, and composed their singing without amplifying the Word—perhaps even with the intensity of the music and the repetitive singing of words as commonly heard today.

            Jesus labelled those persons as hypocrites (hypokrites, hypokrinomai),[3] but not necessarily because they were willfully trying to deceive. We can more fully understand this term from its beginnings in ancient Greek theater, when persons take on a role different from their true identity and play it out as if it were. In the reality of everyday life, we all are ascribed roles as well as embrace our abilities, resources and titles, which all serve to compose our identity. And we roleplay this identity as if it signified our true persons, even without any willful deception. Jesus calls all such persons hypocrites (cf. Paul on Peter, Gal 2:11-14), and we are rightfully labelled if this is how we function. How common does this condition exist in our theology and practice today, do you see and hear this roleplaying in churches today?

            This subtle reduction of life is the pervasive reality facing us that is critical to address vulnerably in our beginnings—that is, if we expect our discovery process to unfold beyond illusions and simulations. We are ongoingly facing this crossroads.

 

 

Hermeneutic Harmony and Fidelity

 

            The words of any language have a particular sound. To interpret a language properly requires having harmony with the sound of that language; dissonance, for example, makes a language sound unintelligible. Both listening to that language and speaking it involve this harmony in order to connect with its sound. Furthermore, the sound of the words of any language has a distinct fidelity. To interpret a language correctly requires reproducing the fidelity of the particular sound of that language; without that fidelity a language can sound ambiguous or even incomprehensible. Both listening and speaking that language involve this fidelity in order to fully embrace its sound.

            For no other language is this more true than for the words of the Word:

 

Integrally having harmony to connect with the language of the Word’s sound and having fidelity to fully embrace the Word’s sound is simply irreplaceable for our biblical hermeneutic, and therefore irreducible for our theology and practice to be significant according to the Word.

 

            In his classic words about knowing the truth and thereby being set free (Jn 8:31-32), Jesus raised the penetrating question that exposed the hermeneutic problem many current and potential disciples have with his words: “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear the sound of what I say” (Jn 8:43, NIV). That is to say, they neither had harmony to connect with the sound of his language, nor had the fidelity to reproduce that sound to fully listen to his words. How often do the lack of harmony and the absence of fidelity with the Word exist among Jesus’ followers?

            Perhaps you have or are experiencing what his main disciples did in the following interaction. When Jesus vulnerably shared some deep words with his closest disciples, which he made imperative for them to listen carefully to (“Let these words sink into your ears,” Lk 9:43-45), their lack of harmony and fidelity with his language rendered their hermeneutic incapable to “understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it.” And they didn’t have the ontological and epistemic humility to pursue Jesus for the harmony necessary to connect with his words and for the fidelity to embrace him in those words. Consequently, in spite of all their time spent together, the Word wasn’t amplified for them, such that near the end of Jesus’ earthly days the Word vulnerably disclosed his sad frustration: “Have I been with you all this time, and you still do not know me?” (Jn 14:9)

            What is revealed about the common gap in the disciples knowing the Word is not about a lack of referential information about the life of Jesus; the disciples possessed that information, as do many in the church and academy today. Rather what is missing and thus absent in their presumed close relationship is distinctly the relational connection in harmony with the Word, consequently the lack of knowing the person of Jesus and not merely information about him. As is common in human relations, they were acquainted with fragments of Jesus from outer in, but they didn’t know his whole person from inner out. In other words (specific words), the Word was not amplified for them in the fidelity that distinguished this critical difference: between the primary relational language of Jesus’ vulnerable communication of his person to them (and us) and the secondary referential language of common discourse merely transmitting information—the inherent difference essential for harmony with the Word. With their interpretive lens centered on the Word from outer in, the disciples lacked the primary quality of relational language expressed from the inner out, even though they had the secondary quantity of referential language.

            Past or present, this is the pivotal lack of harmony and fidelity that reduces the significance of the Word and its corresponding theology and practice. Compared to those disciples closest to Jesus, how much does this lack exist among his followers today, including among those in the academy and church leadership who possess an abundance of referential information about the Word? And how much of that information has become primary for the Christian faith, displacing what is truly primary for knowing and understanding the Word (cf. Jer 9:233-24)?

 

 

Amplifying the Language of the Word

 

            Consider your beliefs (even theology) at this time, their beginnings and your Christian identity that has emerged from them. What is their source, and why is that source a valid basis for them? Also, how do you know when you stray from them?

            In the poetic expression of the psalmist, we hear the rhythmic sounds that
“The unfolding of God’s words give light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps 119:130). Light is essential to live in the darkness, therefore in further harmony the psalmist amplifies the fidelity of the Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105), in order that we truly know where we are and where we are going. Without this knowledge and understanding human persons are left in the dark, unable to distinguish what is significant for life in general and their life in particular.       Certainly, then, light is necessary for life and must not be reduced but intensified for its function to be fulfilled. This fulfillment, however, is only complete in the context of the light’s source. Whenever light is disconnected from its source, that light is extinguished and no longer has functional significance—though it still may have symbolic value for those who live “as if.”

            As the psalmist resounds, light emerges only in the context of the Word. Similarly, the dark matter of the universe will only come to light in the context of the creator and cannot be assumed to exist on its own. At the same time, the context of light only unfolds in the process engaged by the Word/creator. In the context and process of the Word, light gives us understanding of the significance of life. Apart from this specific context and process, light is extinguished. Therefore, the context and process unique to the Word are irreplaceable and irreducible for us to know where we are and where we are going.

            The Word’s context and process are distinguished in specific terms that are not interchangeable with other terms. Of course, since the beginning this has not stopped persons from substituting other terms, even with good intentions (Gen 3:6-8). What distinguishes the Word is that it is always engaged in communication, which is always distinguished from mere discourse and its function to transmit information. Communication not only implies function addressed to others but its purpose necessarily involves connection with others. Moreover, this connection is not merely assumed but by necessity involves the true nature of connection: relational, not circumstantial or situational. Relational connection is often assumed, but that assumption is based on illusion or simulation—as characterizes participation in social media or occupies the activity in many families. When we examine the relational significance of communication on social media and in many families, the quality of relational connection is lacking in the quantity of those so-called connections.

            By the Word’s relational nature, the context and process of the Word’s communication are only and always relational; and its communication purpose is just relational and its outcome is foremost relational, that is, for nothing less and no substitutes but reciprocal relationship together. Any light unfolding from the Word only illuminates, intensifies and embraces the primacy of the relational and thereby functions for the primacy of relationship together (cf. Jn 8:12). When this becomes just referential information in our beliefs, the light is extinguished in our identity and, at best, we are reduced to life “as if” (cf. Mt 5:14-15).

            What is revealed by the Word is the reality, truth and fact that the communication in the Word’s relational context and process is constituted solely by relational language. Referential language is incapable of composing the communication of the Word, unable to go beyond the nature of its limits and constraints. Only relational language amplifies the Word, while referential language reduces those communicative words to the limits of discourse and the constraints of transmitting information. Job highlights this difference in the experience of his beginnings, and the consequence of referential language in contrast and conflict with the relational outcome of relational language: “I had heard much about you by the hearing of the ear in referential language, but now my eye sees you, your whole person in relational language” (Job 42:5). All the referential information Job had accumulated about God didn’t add up to truly knowing God; yet, in his lack of harmony and fidelity with the Word, Job still practiced discourse that “uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (42:3). Not until Job humbly and vulnerably entered into God’s relational context and process did God’s relational language become distinguished and thereby the Word amplified to communicate for this relational outcome. Yes, indeed, the unfolding of the Word gave Job the light to see the whole of God, and thus to know the relational context of where he was and to understand the relational process of where he was going in the significance of relationship together. This primacy of reciprocal relationship together only unfolds and has significance in the Word’s relational language.

            Any and all truth from God only has validity on this basis: Communication from God does not emerge unless it is composed in the relational language of the Word. Knowing and understanding God are based solely on the quality of God’s self-disclosures communicated distinctly in relational language—distinctly over and beyond the quantity of referential information accumulated about God that is variably transmitted in referential language (the difference in Jer 9:23-24). Moreover, the relational language amplifying the Word also unfolds in relational response with direct communication—for example, face to face (as in Num 12:5-8)—in order to illuminate where our person is in life and where we are going for the relational purpose to direct our feet in the path of life’s significance (as the psalmist connects in Ps 119:133). Therefore, this relational communication from God is ongoing and always distinguishes God’s intimate relational involvement with us—as opposed, for example, to a strict Father dominating his children.

            Accordingly in this uncommon relational context and process, all of God’s commands, laws, statutes, ordinances, decrees, etc., are not designed to control the human person. Contrary to what would be unilateral relationship, their integral purpose is for the human person to be whole (not reduced or fragmented) and thereby be whole-ly involved in reciprocal relationship together, and thus flourish in the wholeness of being created in the qualitative image and relational likeness of God. When amplified, the Word always distinguishes these directives beyond, for example, a code of conduct or identity markers to their qualitative function as the irreducible and irrevocable terms for reciprocal relationship together—God’s relational terms distinguished in God’s relational language. When so constituted, what emerges from them is the motivating basis for their communication in, with, and for the sake of love.

            The language of love has been ambiguous since human beginnings, with much of that language rendered insignificant in human relations. Sadly but not surprisingly, such language of love has also been applied to the Word, even unknowingly and with good intent. Typically, referential language reduces God’s law to a code of conduct without the Word’s qualitative relational significance. By default, therefore, referential language quenches the love constituting God’s law, even while highlighting its importance and promoting its obedience. Since love is disconnected from its source, its qualitative relational significance is obscured and its function reduced to a code of conduct about what we are obligated to do. This reduction may be subtle but its consequences are far reaching, as witnessed in the history of God’s people.

            For example, based on a referential hermeneutic, the book of Deuteronomy is perceived as the referential (albeit important and necessary) Book of the Law. This interpretive lens is contrary to God’s relational language communicating directly to us the Book of Love for the relational purpose of our life having irreducible and irreplaceable significance in the relational quality of life together (as communicated in Dt 4:7; 7:8; 10:15; 23:5; 33:3). The reality unfolding from this is unmistakable:

 

When not amplified in relational language, the sounds of the Word have a different harmony and fidelity that lack the relational quality of love.

 

            The clarification and correction we hear from the Word are not arbitrary or intermittent. They are the natural response expressed from the relational quality of the Word. Unfolding always from the ongoing relational involvement of love, the Word’s feedback can only be and is always communicated in the Word’s qualitative relational context and process. However penetrating the communication of the Word’s feedback might be, there is always this issue:

 

The nature of the Word’s response and the fidelity of specific feedback communicated are only fully discerned and can only be rightly responded to according to the Word’s relational language.

 

This can be understood as another law of nature that is not subject to other terms, though from the beginning it has been subjected to the subtle reduction from variable human terms.

            Therefore, the reality facing us, and that we need to face up to, is unmistakable. When the Word is not amplified in the nature of its relational quality, then (1) the sounds of relational language are silenced, (2) the relational terms of the Word are transposed to human terms, and (3) by default the Word is rendered to referential language and terms without relational significance. Our default mode routinely operates, for example, when our brains have been conditioned to favor the referential over the relational and become dominated by the quantitative in place of the qualitative—thus brains rewired from their original beginning. This is the inescapable reality of reductionism and its counter-relational workings that emerged from the beginning to compose the human condition, and that continues to evolve from the beginnings of many Christians into their default condition today.

            In this reduced condition of the Word, what of significance will we see, hear and find in the Bible? What unfolds from the Word under these limits and constraints, conflations and revisions? Jesus made it axiomatic: “The measure of the Word you use will be the Word you get,” nothing more unfolds, therefore “pay close attention to what you hear from the Word” (Mk 4:24; cf. Lk 8:18).

            We will not be able to answer these questions with the depth of knowledge and understanding necessary to get to the heart of the matter until the following emerges:

 

1.     We vulnerably know where we are in our person from inner out, not centered on outer in.

2.     We fully understand where we are going as that vulnerable person.

 

            These are ongoing issues that we typically don’t address in depth or fail to answer openly because of a bias from our terms competing with God’s relational terms. Regardless of why, the Word is never silent on these issues and pursues us directly with feedback regarding them, always because of God’s ongoing intimate relational involvement of love. God’s relational response of love for the whole person also emerged from the beginning, in order to expose reductionism and redeem it in our persons. Whenever we are willing to listen carefully to the Word, we will experience the Word’s relational response of love amplified in the following questions:

 

1.     “Where are you in your person and relationship together?” (Gen 3:9)—the persons in the primordial garden conflated God’s relational terms with their own terms, thereby reducing the wholeness of their persons and relationship together.

2.     “What are you doing here, given our relationship together?” (1Kgs 19:9,13)—Elijah strayed off the path of God’s purpose for him and didn’t know where he was going, even as he served God.

 

            Amplified in relational language, God is ongoingly communicating the response needed for our person, relationships, and life together in the church and academy to have the significance necessary to be whole, live whole, and thereby make whole, that is, whole in the qualitative image and relational likeness of the Trinity. Nothing less and no substitutes amplify the Word or will unfold from the sound of its words.

 

 

The Musical Harmony and Fidelity of the Word

 

            Love is not some enhanced bit of information, technology notwithstanding. Nor is love a reference to some valued quantity, contrary to social media. Love is the uncommon relational quality that cannot be reproduced no matter the quantity. The mystery of love is how to resolve the existing quandary between the quantitative and the qualitative.

            When Jesus questioned Peter about his love for him, it was about the relational quality of Peter’s love for him and not Peter’s situational denial of the Word (Jn 21:15-19). When Jesus confronted the church at Ephesus about forsaking their first love, he was not questioning the quantity of their dedication and service to him, but exposing the lack of their relational involvement of love primary to relationship together (Rev 2:2-4). According to the Word in referential terms, love is merely what we do for God and others, and the greater the quantity the greater the love; in relational terms love is first and foremost the relational quality of our direct involvement with God and others in the primacy of relationship together, and the greater the intimate involvement the greater the love. The Word is amplified by love, yet this love only has harmony and fidelity with the Word in the irreducible relational terms of the Word’s irreplaceable relational language.

            The relational quality of the Word is routinely reduced, and thereby commonly misinterpreted, nullified of its relational meaning and made void of its qualitative depth, thus subtly rendered without its primary significance. To regain this relational quality, the Word has to be restored to its constituted nature and original composition.

            When you hear the Word or any other words, what resonates in your heart and reverberates in your mind?

            Words can reverberate in our minds when their volume is high—a common practice in modern worship music. But that reverberation is only temporary and should not be confused with words having high fidelity that linger in our minds. Words that resonate in our hearts have to have a certain harmony, that is, be consonant and not dissonant with our person—the ostensible issue about the use of traditional or contemporary music in worship. Without that harmony we would not pay attention to or just ignore those words. For example, how would you define the difference between a lecture and a song? And how would you describe the difference in listening to both? Each has a purpose and can fill a need. Based on all this, what do you think has had more significance in your life, lecture or song?

            A lecture (or sermon) certainly contains more information (important or not) than a song, but it rarely has the quality of most songs. Now, what if we combined the best of both for a singing lecture. This could be the most significant if the quantitative secondary is integrated into the qualitative primary in order for integral expression in the relational process intrinsic to the communication of the Word and all words. The Word that resonates in our heart and reverberates in our mind must have the harmony and fidelity for this qualitative relational outcome. This brings us back to music because music is basic to the relational quality of life. Unlike any other medium, music can have the harmony and fidelity that resonates and reverberates in the depths of life—that is, the whole of life created in the qualitative image and relational likeness of the Trinity.

            Music is not a human creation but a human expression that has evolved among all human beings. When not constrained to favorite genre or reduced to an end in itself, the intrinsic relational quality of music expresses the harmony and fidelity of the Word to deeply resonate in our hearts and ongoingly reverberate in our minds. The Word speaks of the central function of music (e.g. 1 Ch 6:31-32; 25:6-7; Ps 45:8; 95:2; Lam 5:14-15) and of the primary response to “make music to God” (Jdg 5:3; Ps 27:6; 33:2; 92:1; 98:5; 147:7; Eph 5:19). The Word isn’t transmitting information about God that in effect assumes God likes to listen to music. On the contrary, the Word’s relational language communicates that music is the qualitative key to making heart-level connection with the Word’s relational context and process, so that the Word’s relational terms can be known, understood and responded to.

            The outcome of this harmony and fidelity is the relational significance inherent to the Word, which is now connected, embraced and consummated in whole persons and their relationships together in wholeness. Therefore, the Word is amplified in the beginning and for our beginning with the significance distinguished by musical harmony and fidelity. Accordingly, any theology and practice related to the Word only have significance when compatible with its harmony and congruent with its fidelity. This is the theology and practice of the Word that resonates in the hearts and reverberates in the minds of those not reduced in their persons and relationships.

            We don’t really need singing lectures/sermons to amplify the Word. We only need the inherent relational quality of the Word distinguished in the musical harmony and fidelity of the Word—“the Word in the beginning, who was with God and who is God” (Jn 1:1), and who continues to unfold to give us light to understand where our person is and where we are going in nothing less and no substitutes.

 

 

The Pivotal Word

 

            This opening chapter presents us with the pivotal word in our examination, which challenges (if not confronts) us with the following:

 

We cannot expect the Word to unfold with the light necessary for our understanding and path to be significant, if we engage in the subtle workings of reductionism that (1) reduce the relational terms of the Word composed only in relational language,  (2) disconnect us from the Word’s relational context and process and thus from having the relational quality of the Word’s communication, (3) render the harmony and fidelity of the Word to illusion and simulation in our theology and practice, whereby our persons and relationships are reduced to be without the significance of wholeness constituted in the qualitative image and relational likeness of the Trinity.

 

Whether or not we recognize the signs of reductionism, this is the human default mode that we all fall into, that is, unless we counter the inescapable human condition of reductionism ongoingly with our whole person from inner out so as to function in and live by the relational quality of the Word.

            Therefore, as you engage this in-depth examination of the harmony and fidelity amplifying the Word, what in the Word up to now faces you? Based on your beginnings, “Where are you?” and “What are you doing here?” Do you truly have light for your understanding, so that what unfolds in your theology is significant, and do you truly have light for your path so that what unfolds in your practice is significant? That is, significant unmistakably for God, for you and others in the qualitative primacy of relationship together constituted in the intimate involvement of love—just as the Word amplifies.

            The unavoidable reality facing us from the beginning currently follows:

 

We either engage the Word in the illusion of harmony and thereby simulate its fidelity by conflating or substituting our terms with God’s relational terms.

Or we submit to the Word with ontological and epistemic humility, whereby we vulnerably involve our person from inner out to respond to the Word in the relational quality signified in the Word’s musical harmony and fidelity.

 

            Anything less and any substitutes for the Word reduce the Word and nullify its significance in the composition of our theology and practice. Since nothing less and no substitutes for the latter above are significant, therefore all Christians, churches and related academy face this crossroads (either-or) and must make pivotal decisions that will determine what unfolds ahead.

            This pivotal word waits for our transforming decisions and awaits the relational quality of our response to the vulnerable Word facing us. This heuristic examination will unfold only on this basis. “And the Word came to those who were of his own relational quality but his own people did not listen¸ accept, receive and respond to his person amplified in the relational terms of the Word’s relational language” (Jn 1:ll).

            Accordingly and decisively, in order to continue this examination, we need to pray ongoingly: “Direct my footsteps according to only the relational quality of your word; let no sin as reductionism control me and thereby determine the outcome” (Ps 119:133).


 

[1]  Unless indicated differently, all Scripture quoted are from the NRSV; any italics in the Scripture quoted throughout this study signify emphasis or further rendering of terms.

[2] For the scope of this discussion on the functional differences in our brain, see Iain McGilchrist in The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Modern World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).

[3] Hebrew and Greek word studies used in this study are taken from the following sources: Horst Balz, Gerhard Schreider, eds., Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990); Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975); R. Laid Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce Waitke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980); Ernst Jenni, Claus Westermann, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. Mark E. Biddle, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997); Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974); Harold K. Moulton, ed., The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978); W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1981); Spiros Zodhiates, ed., Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (Chattanooga: AMG Publ., 1996).

 

 

 

©2019 T. Dave Matsuo

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