“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath, Praise the Lord.” —Psalm 150:1-6a
The Birth of Georg Philipp Telemann,
March 14, 1681
he Protestant Reformation produced two different approaches to worship among those who left the Roman Church. The “Calvinistic” Reformation sought a return to apostolic Christianity, developing the idea of the “regulative principle” of worship—only worship God in the way He specified regarding particulars—preaching the Gospel, singing, two sacraments, etc. As part of the reform of the Church, the “Calvinistic” reformers prohibited musical instruments from formal worship, believing that Christ had fulfilled or completed what the Levitical musicians of the Old Testament had been but a shadow, now unnecessary and absent in the Apostolic and post-apostolic Church until after the sixth Century, when the papacy introduced organs to assist in the singing. Reformed Protestants a thousand years later removed instrumentation as a papal innovation and violation of the regulative principle.
The title page to the First Lutheran Hymnal, published in Wittenberg, 1523/24
The other Protestant branch, following Martin Luther, were not interested in jettisoning the use of musical instruments, even though their deployment and development within the Roman Church had reached a complex combination of musical instrumentation through the Middle Ages, especially the use of organs. While both Protestant groups believed whole-heartedly in congregational singing in worship, especially the Psalms, Lutherans were quite willing to keep instrumentation as a help. They believed that if not specifically prohibited in the Bible, extra-biblical worship practices were (technically) allowed. Both traditions developed theological arguments supporting their beliefs regarding music in worship.
A 1913 postcard of Wittenberg, showing Wittenberg Market with town hall in the center left and the Stadtkirche Wittenberg (Luther’s preaching church) towering on the right. Two memorials can also be seen in the square, one to Luther and one to Melanchthon.