Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Religious Education, PhD

First Advisor

Roy C. Naden

Second Advisor

George A. Akers

Third Advisor

C. Warren Becker


Problems. The conscious conservation of religious music style in most cultures contrasts with the stylistic pluralism of Western Christian worship music. This study addressed the problem of decision making within the diversity of music available for Christian worship.

Purpose of the Study. The study's purpose was to explore a core aspect of worldview concerning the nature of ultimate reality--the concept of divine transcendence/immanence--as a transcultural determinant of sacred music style. The focus was the music rather than associated lyrics.

Methodology and Sources. This interdisciplinary study followed a philosophical approach to develop a theoretical paradigm. Documentary research from the fields of historical musicology, sociology of music, sentics, philosophy of music, theology of music, ethnomusicology, phenomenology of religion, and religious studies was incorporated to support the line of argument.

Findings. Evidence that music style is not religiously neutral is extensive. Documentation from the Islamic and traditional African contexts strongly suggests that their respective perceptions concerning divine transcendence or immanence are translated into aesthetic sensibilities that determine stylistic features of musical form, content, and performance practice. The inherent Christian paradox regarding divine transcendence/immanence is a significant factor in the musical pluralism of Christian worship. The simultaneous manifestation of polar extremes in sacred music style, and the gradations in between, indicates the difficulty of maintaining the tension between polarities in Christian belief regarding the divine. There is evidence of a gradual shift from a transcendence to an immanence orientation in Western Christian belief, and a corresponding reflection in chosen worship music style. The extremes in emphasis can be related to the Islamic and traditional African religious contexts suggesting transcultural correlations.

Conclusions. Religio-philosophic determinants of sacred music style deserve wider acknowledgement and investigation in the sacred music debate. Rather than merely assessing cultural acceptability or aesthetic excellence, Christian evaluation of sacred music style should proceed on the basis of the worldview that birthed the expression. Given the significance of conceptions of the divine in the formation of sacred music style, Christian worship music should integrally embody the Christian concept of God, maintaining the inherent tension between transcendence and immanence. Hence, church music education is inseparable from religious education.

Subject Area

Church music; Music--Religious aspects--Christianity.


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