Homo sapiens. Thinking man. That is, of course, the Latin phrase often used to describe and classify the human race. But does this description reflect a biblical way of thinking? Jim Jordan says no.
In “The Case against Western Civilization,” Jordan argues that man should be described, first and foremost, as homo adorans. Says Jordan:
“Human beings are not, as the Greco-Roman tradition teaches, homo sapiens, ‘thinking man.’ Rather, we are homo adorans, ‘worshipping man,’ something the Bible teaches and which the older pagans had not yet forgotten. Sadly, the Greek assumption seems to underlie most Christian education. Worship is basically left outside, and if included at all, is not foundational. As a result, education winds up being contextualized along a Greek, ‘thinking man,’ model.”
That doesn’t mean that learning to think and reason has no value; nor does it suggest that our worldly callings are simply what we do to kill time when not engaged in more “spiritual” things such as worship. Not at all.
The problem arises when we think of worship (whether consciously or subconsciously) as something extra tacked on to our regular lives, like pin the tail on the donkey. As Christians, we start the week gathered as the body of Christ to offer to him our praise and worship, where we are strengthened and fed. Then we go out to continue our labors. “Homo adorans” reminds us of who we are, and of the reason we can and should pursue our callings with zeal and joy, in service to the Lord who created us for himself.
This applies to our children as well. Jordan continues:
“True education flows from worship and back to worship, because that is how the world really is. True education is not merely a matter of learning the descriptions of reality, but is fundamentally a matter of learning to move as God has directed. It is song and dance. We start by singing around His table. We move out into the world, learning things and doing things, and then we return as more mature singers to gather at His table. In this way, all that we do and all that we learn are liturgically contextualized, set in a context of ever increasingly wonderful sabbaths week by week and year by year and age after age.”
The education of our children should reflect the fact that they, too, are homo adorans. Their training should be preparation not only for their future callings, but to be kings and priests in the kingdom of God.
So how do we go about putting this into practice? Many ways. Our children should be immersed in the stories and language of the Bible. Encourage them to participate, as much as they’re able, in worship. Teach them to sing and to read music.
“Hold on,” you might object, “we aren’t all called to be musicians, right? Just as there are some children gifted in athletics or drawing or with mechanical ability, so there are others gifted musically. No need to put everyone through the rigors of a musical education.”
That’s true to some extent. Not every child needs to learn music part-writing skills or has the endurance or drive to practice his violin for hours a day. God has, indeed, blessed some with special musical gifts.
The problem with the above objection is that although we aren’t all commanded do higher math or play soccer or learn to oil paint, we are called to worship the Lord with music. Here is a list of scriptures that call us to sing to the Lord.
We’re doing our children a disservice when we neglect their musical training. We want them to be better worshipers and to raise up those who will go on to write, arrange, and play music to the glory of God.
“Wait, a minute,” I can hear you saying now. “Are you suggesting that God won’t be honored unless the congregation sounds like a professional choir? Won’t the Lord be pleased even with tone-deaf cries of praise? Aren’t we called simply to make a joyful noise?”
Absolutely! God isn’t holding a scorecard, rating our worship for aesthetic quality before he’ll be pleased with it. At the same time, we want to offer our very best to him. God is honored when his people gather in an ugly warehouse, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start a building fund for nicer facilities. God’s people can be fed through the words of an uneducated minister, but that doesn’t mean the minister should neglect study and preparation for his sermons. So, too, with music.
Let’s assume now that you are convinced of the value of musical training for your children. How do you put it into practice? Taking piano lessons and participating in a school, church, or community choir are two good ways to do this. You can also do simple exercises at home with your children, even if you aren’t confident in your own musical skills. Below are a few ear-training exercises; most of these can be done even with preschool-aged children:
- Play a note on the piano–ask them to tell you whether the next note you play is higher or lower than the original note. Start with fairly large intervals so it’s obvious whether the pitch is going up or down, then move to smaller intervals.
- Sing or play a single pitch and ask them to hum it–just one pitch at a time.
- Sing or play two or three random pitches–have them hum it back (pitch only, don’t worry about rhythm just yet)
- Sing (using “la”) or play a familiar melody (hymn, nursery rhyme song, “Happy Birthday to You,” etc.) one phrase at a time, and have them sing it back to you (using “la”–no words yet).
- Do the above with a melody unfamiliar to them.
- Clap a brief rhythm; have them clap it or pound it on the table (it’s not a pitch exercise, of course, but good for getting them to listen carefully).
- Teach them what the various intervals sound like (e.g.: a perfect fifth sounds like the beginning of “Twinkle, Twinkle”; a perfect fourth like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” etc.).
- Have good music often playing at home
Your child may not end up being a Bach or a Mozart. But hopefully he will be able to say (or sing!) along with the Psalmist: “Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.”