Resounding Truth

Christian Wisdom in the World of Music

series: Engaging Culture

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Christianity Today 2008 Book Award Winner

"A real tour de force. Skillfully weaving together musicological, theological, and practical concerns, it offers a wealth of insights and a steady eye on the shaping of a wisdom that affects our practices of faith and of music. . . . Highly recommended."--David J. Gouwens, Modern Theology
 
From the iPod to the car radio, from movie soundtracks to Muzak at the shopping mall, from singing in the shower to the concert arena, music is an unavoidable part of our lives. Not only is music ubiquitous, it is powerful: creating moods, evoking memories and images, uniting people, and providing an outlet of expression for even the most tone deaf among us. Besides its prominent position in culture, music has obviously had a key role in the worship of God's people. Under Christ's lordship, such a pervasive and universal influence deserves informed theological reflection.

Resounding Truth is the next installment in the well-received Engaging Culture series. The author is both a respected theologian and a professionally trained musician. In this well-rounded study, he examines the connections between music and theology by engaging Scripture, musical history, and contemporary culture. He explores how God's truth sounds and how it might "re-sound" in the realm of music. Appropriate for classes in music, theology and the arts, and Christian cultural engagement, Resounding Truth will help the reader develop discernment and wisdom, both for thinking about music in the church and Christian life and for engaging with one of culture's most influential touchstones.

Books & Culture recently excerpted from Resounding Truth. The article can be found here.

About the series: The Engaging Culture series is designed to help Christians respond with theological discernment to our contemporary culture. Each volume explores particular cultural expressions, seeking to discover God's presence in the world and to involve readers in sympathetic dialogue and active discipleship.


Endorsements

"A profound, rigorous, and original work. Very few new books in theology or religious studies show this level of freshness and imagination. I hope it will be a landmark essay in this crucial field of reflection on theology and the creative arts."--Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

"Imagine a piano concerto: the dynamic soloist on the one hand, the great orchestra on the other, achieving together something more than the sum of their parts. Now imagine Music itself as the piano and the whole of Western culture, focused on Christian theology, as the orchestra. That might sound forbidding; but this book sparkles with so many tuneful insights, flashes with so much wit and anecdote, and resonates with such an exuberant joie de vivre that we are led inexorably forward by the surge of exposition, deeper and deeper into the rich harmony of life and faith. Jeremy Begbie is musician/theologian par excellence. Who else would bring together Bach and Boethius, McCartney and MacMillan, John Coltrane and John Zizioulas? Whatever music you enjoy and wherever you are on the journey of faith and understanding, Jeremy Begbie will delight, surprise, challenge, and inspire you. A wonderful book by a wonderful writer, thinker, and musician."--N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham; author, Christian Origins and the Question of God series

"This book resounds with the thoughtful, dynamic, and always engaging voice of Jeremy Begbie. At a time when Christian discussions of the arts begin and end with painting, poetry, and fiction, Resounding Truth strikes just the right note. Marked by a breathtaking range, driven by a creative vision, and packed with judicious insights, it will no doubt shape conversations about theology and the arts for years to come."--Roger Lundin, Blanchard Professor of English, Wheaton College

"Jeremy Begbie has published a number of fine books in which he, as both a Christian theologian and a practicing musician, reflects on music; but this is his finest. It is theologically acute, deeply informed by both the history of music and the history of reflections on music, and throughout displays Begbie's wide-ranging engagement with music of many kinds from both the past and the present. A rich contribution!"--Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University; senior fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia

"Jeremy Begbie's thinking emerges out of a fusion of the best musical thinking about theology and the best theological thinking about music. The resulting text is charged with energy and insight--and not just for musicians and theologians. This vital work is poised to energize and strengthen the entire Christian community for a way of life together that is marked by grace, truth, beauty, and genuine self-giving service."--John D. Witvliet, director, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; associate professor of music and worship, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary


The Author

  1. Jeremy S. Begbie

    Jeremy S. Begbie

    Jeremy S. Begbie (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. He previously served as honorary professor of theology at the University of St. Andrews; associate principal...

    Continue reading about Jeremy S. Begbie

Reviews

Christianity Today 2008 Book Award Winner

"Begbie does the church, pastors, and musicians a service in his encouragement to them to think theologically about the sound (the music) that supports the sung proclamation of that Gospel. Music is properly set in the context of world history and thought, the Old Testament 'Church' and Scripture. . . . This is a tour-de-force of music theory, history, and theology, a book designed for someone struggling with the questions of music in Christianity and Christ in music, as well as those trying to better communicate with those who uncritically use music in Christian worship. . . . This is a book that can and should be of great influence upon today's Church, if only Christians, theologians, and musicians like you would buy, read, and inwardly digest it."--Liturgy, Hymnody, & Pulpit Quarterly Book Review

"Jeremy Begbie has given us [an] extraordinary new book about music. As the title suggests, he is giving us wisdom, specifically Christian wisdom, about the field of music. Accordingly, the book is a wide-ranging set of wonderfully informed comments about many different aspects of this great gift from God. Begbie comes to the subject with expertise in theology and in the art of music. He is a first-rate pianist. Not just anybody even with such qualifications can put things together so lucidly and profoundly. Anyone who has heard Begbie give a multi-media presentation can testify to the dazzling and powerful ways he brings complex ideas to an accessible level. . . . So many of the insights in this book are wise indeed. . . . The book is truly marvelous. It is full of wisdom and insight. It will bless the reader, and even more, it will inspire the reader to go and listen to lots of music."--William Edgar, Reformation21

"This is the definitive serious study of a Christian philosophy of music, written by the world's leading musician-theologian. . . . It is the sort of ground-breaking foundational work that can inform anyone serious about culture, the arts, or faithfully engaging the world of music."--Byron Borger, heartsandmindsbooks.com

"A profoundly creative, wonderfully engaging reflection on the encounter of theology and music. Impressive for its thoughtfulness, theological depth, and balance. Offers a robust theology of creativity and worship. Begbie's book is as good a way as any to discover afresh how faith comes through hearing."--Christianity Today Book Awards

"Presents a way of thinking about music that both respects the intricacy and beauty of music itself, while also respecting the place of music in the overall scheme of things, not elevating it to the level of an idol, but showing ways in which it points beyond itself, to Jesus Christ and to the Trinitarian God found in the pages of the Bible and proclaimed in Christian churches all over the world. . . . Begbie's work is a persuasive and engaging exploration of the connections between theology and music, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic. . . . I found it a thoroughly enjoyable and edifying read from cover to cover, and learned more than a few things about theology, music, and the ways in which I might, as a Christian in the twenty-first century, interact well with both."--Cabe Matthews, TheOtherJournal.com

"There is much to delight the mind and the ear, including theological reflections on musicians such as Bach, Messiaen and James MacMillan, and musical reflections on theologians such as Luther, Zwingli, Schleiermacher and Barth."--Amy Plantinga Pauw, Christian Century

"Dig[s] deep into the relationship between Christianity and culture. . . . This engrossing book could help Christian musicians in various settings be more intentional about their work."--Steve Rabey, YouthWorker Journal

"A tour de force. . . . Resounding Truth is a good introduction to the ways [Begbie] is rethinking Christian ideas about music. Begbie takes us on a whirlwind tour of 'the Great Tradition,' the grand synthesis of theology and musical theory that animated Western thought from Augustine through the Middle Ages. . . . After all this historical work is done, Begbie still has a third of a book left to draw some remarkable connections between music and fundamental themes of Christian faith, like time and eternity, freedom and constraint, and the Trinity. . . . This book is indispensable--not just for musicians or theologians but for anyone who wants to participate seriously in 'engaging culture.'. . . The real measure of Resounding Truth's value is how much it makes you want to listen, to play, to sing--and to pray."--Andy Crouch, Prism

"Begbie's contribution to a theological understanding of music and music-making . . . passes beyond the specialized interests of church musicians to engage all who would think seriously and theologically about music as a constitutive element of human living. . . . Resounding Truth is a worthy successor to Begbie's earlier contributions to theological aesthetics."--Jan Michael Joncas, Worship

"On every page, Begbie offers helpful wisdom for the church. . . . This is a ground-breaking and extremely insightful book. It is well-researched, with abundant notes and a large bibliography, and will be a worthy companion for all who seek to know the mind of God through the creative arts."--William G. Carter, Interpretation

"This is, bar none, the best book on a serious theology of music. . . . It is a major contribution to our thinking about culture, the arts, music, and faith. . . . Amazingly profound, highly recommended."--Byron Borger, heartsandmindsbooks.com

"[Begbie] has contributed significantly to theological reflection upon Christian faith and the arts, and especially to theology and music. In this excellent book, Resounding Truth, Begbie complements and extends his previous work. . . . In this volume he gives a more detailed account of features of Christian faith as they shape what he calls an 'ecology' of central Christian beliefs for engaging the world of music. Begbie is amply qualified for this task, combining thorough knowledge of musicology and the history of music, theology, and not least training and experience as a practicing musician. . . . The book addresses a wide audience, while its detailed footnotes provide ample means for further research by professional musicians, musicologists, and theologians. . . . Resounding Truth is a real tour de force. Skillfully weaving together musicological, theological, and practical concerns, it offers a wealth of insights and a steady eye on the shaping of a wisdom that affects our practices of faith and of music. This book cannot be too highly recommended."--David J. Gouwens, Modern Theology

"Resounding Truth is a thinking book about music. . . . At times hard hitting, it is directed to an intellectually curious audience. . . . Resounding Truth provides the best theological read to date on the practicalities of music making and hearing in our late-modern or postmodern situation. While there have been a few serious accounts of the rise and fall of the Great Tradition . . . and one can find scores of books offering biblical and theological assessments of contemporary music practices, Begbie brilliantly connects the dots among these elements. . . . It is a compelling read for those who love theology and music. I certainly recommend it for all church musicians as well as for pastors who take seriously their role in shaping the life of their communities through music. In my opinion, it is required reading for all those who would study music--and particularly for those who would seek to compose music with Christian wisdom."--Martin Tel, Theology Today

"Begbie once again brings music into conversation with theology--a conversation that continues to yield fresh contributions. . . . I highly recommend his book to anyone interested in engaging theology and music in a refreshing, imaginative way. . . . Begbie has helped us to see the fruitfulness of bringing music into conversation with theology, and we are thankful for his fresh reflections."--Cynthia R. Nielsen, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

"As I moved through the book, I was increasingly surprised by how much Begbie was able to address in little more than three hundred pages. The book is unmistakably the by-product of a significant amount of time studying and thinking about the implications of the ideas presented. His development of music making and music hearing has helped me to better understand what music is and is not. Begbie's survey of ancient Israel and the early church's involvement with music was worth the price of the book and clarified some questions. . . . It is encouraging to see a work like this not lose sight of practical application, even if it is introductory in nature. . . . I would highly recommend Resounding Truth to anyone, whether musicians, music ministers, senior pastors, or anyone seeking to better understand how Christian wisdom applies to the varied and complicated world of music."--M. Grady Calhoun, Helwys Society Forum