Now that we’ve spent, oh, 30 years on this, let’s see if we can sum it up:
- All living things retain the old, and add the new. So, let’s do both. Retain the old, add the new.
- Tradition is good, except when it doesn’t work. There is no reason to throw out the old because it is old, nor keep it because it is old. That said, it is fundamentally a good thing to have new songs in the churches. Every church ought to write their own. It is also a tragedy to abandon your traditions.
- Let’s agree there is very little of contemporary praise music that is noteworthy. Little of it will live on for a hundred years. That which does will be the songs that are most biblical. So what else is new? Every artistic subculture produces 99 pieces of junk for every jewel. You discourage the production of junk, you lose the opportunity to find the jewel.
- Since the Tradition is important because it is the conversation we entered, and the New is important, since it is what we add to the conversation, do both. But let’s stipulate that few generations ever get it just right. They either hold on to the past in a death clutch, or throw it out in a tantrum. The arguments come mostly from (a) those who really want nothing but what grandpa said in church, fighting with (b) those who want nothing that grandpa said in church.
- Underneath all the normal tension the most serious real problem is when the old people can’t communicate what is it about the old stuff that is so vital and important. In other words, when the young people simply don’t see it working. You have no right to expect the young people to like your stuff just because it was yours.