Deus Ex Musica is an ecumenical project that promotes the used of a scared music as a resource for learning, spiritual growth, and discipleship.
Welcome! I’m Delvyn Case, founder of Deus Ex Musica.
I founded Deus Ex Musica because my heart is breaking over the divisions between Christians, and I think that music can bring us together.
We are all doing our best to understand our faith and to follow Jesus. Yet we fight wars with each other, close our ears to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and generally fail to live out the message of the Prince of Peace.
Luckily, there is much that unifies us: most importantly, the Bible. We all believe it to be the inspired word of God. It is central to our faith. But nothing divides us like it, either. Because we love it so much, we usually feel like we need to protect our own interpretations of it.
Something else that unifies us is music. We all believe that music is a powerful way for us to experience God. Though we may disagree about the types of music to use in worship – or even just to listen to – all of us turn to sacred music in some way as a means of approaching the Divine.
So what if we could take advantage of our shared love of the Bible and of sacred music in order to find common ground?
That’s what Deus Ex Musica is trying to do. We create opportunities and resources for Christians of all stripes to gather together and talk about the Bible in ways that unite us, not divide us.
That way is by listening to music.
But it’s not by experiencing music in worship together – for as we all know, if there’s one thing that divides Christians more than the Bible, it’s the style of music that we use to worship!
Instead, we create events and resources in which Christians engage with sacred music as part of their church’s ministries of discipleship, Christian formation, or adult education. This allows us to put aside our differences about worship styles and instead come together around a belief that we all share: that music can speak to us in powerful, spiritual ways.
Central to our work is the practice of listening to music – but not just listening to it in order to be entertained, or to boost our mood, or even make us feel closer to God. Instead, we advocate a deeper type of listening, in which we carefully attend to the music to with our hearts open to the insights about Scripture that it can give us.
I believe that this type of listening – accompanied by conversation and fellowship within Christian community – can lead us to a deeper understanding of Scripture. Though this kind of “understanding” is similar in some ways to the type of wisdom and knowledge we get from, say, a Bible study or a sermon, it is also distinctly different.
When we hear a musical setting of a Biblical text, we are led to an experience of Scripture that emphasizes the emotional, dramatic, and – some would say – even more “spiritual” dimensions of the text. For example: when we hear the opening of Haydn’s great oratorio The Creation (setting Genesis 1) the proper response is not to debate the issue of evolution. (That’s something that certainly divides Christians!) Instead, Haydn’s music leads us down a different path. The dissonance and mystery of the opening music doesn’t make a claim about the doctrine (or science) of creation ex nihilo. Rather, by dramatizing that “face of the deep” in musical terms, it asks us to consider the spiritual meaning of God’s decision to create the world out of “darkness.” That leads us directly to consider questions about how we might conceive of God’s identify of as Creator, and then – of course - how we as Christians should respond to the fact that the Lord has made the world and declared it good.
The questions that sacred music asks us to consider are deep, personal, and spiritually powerful. And as is the case for most of these kinds of questions, the music doesn’t provide clear answers. For Christians who are used to looking at Scripture for those answers, the Deus Ex Musica project may be challenging. Since sacred music is a form of art, it actually asks more questions than it answers – by opening up our hearts and minds to deeper and deeper dimensions of Scripture.
So though I believe that the Scriptures point us toward Truth, I also believe that we Christians need to maintain an attitude of humility when we approach the Bible – especially when we discuss our faith with our spiritual sisters and brothers. In a time when Christians are deeply divided by our own beliefs, I think that the Deus Ex Musica project is valuable because it creates an environment that promotes open, honest, and humble questioning and discussion – the kind of environment that allows true ecumenical conversation to happen.
Maybe, if we learn how to listen to music, we can also learn how to listen to each other.
May God be praised!