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The Sacred in Music

By Albert L. Blackwell

The Sacred in Music

The Sacred in Music

By Albert L. Blackwell

This clearly written and perceptively argued book brings together the two disciplines of theology and music to show how appreciation of music can help interpret theological traditions with greater sensitivity to their insights and applications.

Trade Information: LGEN
Available as: Hardback

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Religion and music are complementary resources for interpreting our lives. Music serves the sacred in ways that can be specified and articulated – some believe that it can help man to appreciate God's 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. The author 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 sacramental experience, and describes and explores two great Christian sacramental traditions, showing their regard for music as a gift from God who thus places the essence of the divine in human minds.

Attitudes towards music are discussed, including those of the Church, with special treatment given to the place of music in the search for salvation. The final chapter embraces eschatology, dealing with such themes as final bliss and mystical ecstasy.

A traditionalist, Blackwell opposes deconstructionalism and is honest in criticising music he thinks not worth much, but is generally fair and always generous to those with whom he disagrees. The work is consistently intelligent and perceptive, drawing on a wealth of reading with an extensive bibliography and much illustrative quotation. The author is particularly judicious in his sensitive treatment of the relationship between universality and cultural relativity.

A personal tone and clarity of style make the book accessible to non-specialists in music or theology, though it will also appeal to academics starved of books on issues coupling theology and the arts, to clergy and to musicians interested in theology.


I. Sacramental Traditions
II. Creation: Transcending Contingency
III. Creation: Manifesting Transcendence
IV. Fall: Enduring Time
V. Salvation: Sustaining Harmony
VI. Final Bliss: Surpassing Language

Notes and References
Index of Biblical Passages
General Index

Albert Blackwell is Reuben B. Pitts Professor of Religion at Furman University, South Carolina, and is director of a small church choir. A graduate in physics and divinity, he has written a book on Schleiermacher, edited one on Niebuhr, and is the translator of Hannsdieter Wohlfarth's Johann Sebastian Bach, also published by The Lutterworth Press.

Formidable study ... ranges extremely widely. ... The best feature is its quotations from the great fathers of the church, ancient and modern, on the subject of music. Church Times
This is a scholarly book and for the person whose qualification, life, and joy is in music this book will be a welcome read and it will stimulate discussion with fellow cognoscenti. Prayer Book Newsletter
Albert L. Blackwell seems widely versed in his chosen subject. The author is careful to apply aesthetic principles to his analysis. All those whom music touches in worship, be they musicians, preachers or congregation, could usefully read this book. It provides a challenge to take all music seriously as a vehicle of transcendence, as a sacrament. It would be wrong to say that this book is easy but the effort involved in entering into dialogue with author who is musically and theologically literate, yet whose first degree is in physics, well repays the effort. Methodist Recorder