We live in an age of rapid change—perhaps faster than we can keep up with. The communication revolution and its associated technology  is changing our world. Instead of a carefully written letter composed with thoughtfulness and attention, our letters are more likely to go by fax or e-mail from one side of the world to the other in minutes, instead of transport upon the seas.

Some say that tradition is outmoded. We are told we need to do things in new ways—ways which are up to date. The “tradition of men” was certainly condemned by our Lord (Mark 7:3–13). Quite rightly we also believe that the churches of our day have nullified the Word of God by replacing it with their traditions, which cannot save (1 Pet 1:18,19).

But there are good traditions. The apostle Paul said: “Stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess 2:15). He also commends those at Corinth: “I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions, as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor 11:2 mrg). Clearly the teachings and practices of the apostles are indicated in these passages.

It would be an unwarranted encumbrance for us if we were, for the sake of tradition, to insist on writing with quill and ink, or walk to the meetings as our pioneers did. These are but matters of form.

But other traditions signal a much needed stability— and God is constant and unchanging in His ways. In this respect it is good to note that outside observers have remarked on the very strong musical tradition within the Christadelphian community— see for example the article, “Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs” on page 111.

Today our society envelopes us with music. It is not possible to enter a shopping complex without the ever present throb of modern music commercially designed to condition the senses. In this issue our Feature focuses on our use of music—personally and ecclesially.

We have set out the place of music in Israel’s worship with its Levitical singers and instruments of David. Two articles address the great value of our Christadelphian Hymn Book, both historically and in our present worship. A thoroughly researched article by two brethren shows the effects of some forms of modern music which challenge traditional values. Parents need to know about the effects of such music on their children. Our Feature concludes with suggested methods of building a positive musical environment in our families.

It is a fallacy to say that the classical music of today was the popular music of 200 years ago. By its very definition, classical infers “enduring”—“a work of the first rank and of acknowledged excellence” (Shorter Oxford Dictionary). Such music is not transient—it has stood the test of time. The composer adheres to traditional forms striving above all for beauty of design and proportion—he leans towards order and poise with cycles of tension and serenity.

The famous conductor, Antal Dorati, giving his personal reflection on a recording of Smetana’s composition Ma Vlast wrote: “It is revolutionary music of the best kind. What a pity that kings and politicians are so generally unmusical. Would— could!—the Emperor of Austria or his ministers (Metternich & Co) have listened to these pieces and could have heard what is inside them, perhaps the entire history of Europe would have taken another course…. ”

Despite the fact that King Saul rebelled against Yahweh—it is still true that the effects of David’s music calmed his spirit. What did he play on his harp? A battle piece would no doubt arrest the warlike monarch’s attention. Then perhaps a change to a plaintive, meditative air would begin to effect a calming influence. His wisdom and skill in following this with a tune full of animation and sprightliness would complete the musical tonic. “Saul was refreshed and was well” (1 Sam 16:23).

David’s music was then a necessary part of the health and happiness of the king. Except in later times, his playing always dissipated the clouds of melancholy that enshrouded his soul. If only Saul had, in those better moments, set his heart to develop a Godly faith, the story would have been so different.

How important then that our use of music—in the ecclesia, in our homes, in our hearts—always reflects a fitting and joyous response from those called to reveal themselves as “sons of God”. It is a good tradition.