J.S. Bach and J.A. Ernesti: Similarities Today

J. S. Bach

by Brian Hamer
Pastor, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Bayside, New York

In 1736, the Lutheran Kantor J.S. Bach issued a complaint to the Leipzig Town Council over the results of the decision of the rector of the St. Thomas School to replace a musically competent student assistant with a musically incompetent pupil: "If such irresponsible conduct continues the services may be disturbed and the church music fall into the most serious decay, and the School, too, within a short time, suffer such deterioration as shall make it impossible for many years to bring it back to its former estate."1

Two and one half centuries later, Lutheran pastor John T. Pless published the following statement of concern over similar incidents on the campus of a Lutheran seminary after the administration removed the musically competent Dean of the Chapel and replaced him with a musically incompetent faculty member:

It is claimed by the seminary president that the liturgical life of the seminary campus should be reflective of what is happening in the parishes of the Synod. If that is the case, then we know what we can expect in the coming years from [the chapel].  We are astonished that a seminary president would demand that his faculty forsake that which is excellent in favor of mediocrity.2

This manuscript will examine the parallels between J.S. Bach's conflict with J.A. Ernesti and similar events on the campus of a Lutheran seminary in the mid-1990's.  The following case study in tentatio in Lutheran higher education will explore the documents related to the conflict between Bach and Ernesti, examine similar episodes in the worship life of Concordia Theological Seminary, and draw theological conclusions for Lutheran higher education.

J.S. Bach's conflict with J.A. Ernesti in the 1730's was rooted in the selection of the General Prefect of the St. Thomas School Choir, who was expected to assist with conducting the choir. Johann August Ernesti, principal of the St. Thomas School, removed the General Prefect, Gottfried Theodor Krause, for having chastised one of the younger students too vigorously. After Krause fled the school to avoid the public whipping that Ernesti threatened him with, Ernesti took it upon himself to replace G.T. Krause with Johann Gottlieb Krause, who was incompetent in musical matters. Bach insisted on a different choice, noting the need for a musically competent assistant. The ensuing conflict revealed two different approaches to the relationship between music and theology.3

Bach's first complaint to the Leipzig town council (12 August 1736) addressed the realistic threat that a musically inept prefect posed to the church music in Leipzig:

Although according to the Regulations of a Noble and Most Wise Council concerning the School of St. Thomas here it is for the Cantor to choose as Prefects from among the schoolboys those whom he considers capable, and in choosing them he must keep in mind not only that they must have a good clear voice but also that the Prefect  (especially the one who sings in the First Choir) must be able to take over the direction of the chorus when the Cantor is ill or absent.4

According to Bach, the appointment of the prefects is traditionally done in Leipzig "without the concurrence of the Rector and by the Cantors alone." Nevertheless, Ernesti "has, as a new departure, sought to effect the replacement of the Prefect of the First Choir without my previous knowledge and consent, and accordingly has recently appointed [J.G.] Krause...to be Prefect of the First Choir."5 Bach noted that the curious placement of a musically inept Prefect to the First Choir would lead to the disharmony and disadvantage of the students and begged the town council to instruct Ernesti to leave the appointment of prefects in the hands of the Cantor.

Bach's second complaint to the town council (13 August 1736) detailed the antics already in motion due to Ernesti's ill-advised appointment of a prefect of his choosing, during a time Bach believed Ernesti should have waited quietly for the town council to render its decision:

[Ernesti] nevertheless, disregarding the respect he owes to the Most Noble and Most Wise Council, yesterday made bold again to give all the students to understand that no one was to dare, on pain of expulsion and whipping, to take the place of [J.G.] Krause, the boy mentioned in my most humble memorial of yesterday, who is incapable of the direction of a chorus musicus (but whom he wishes to force on me by all means as Prefect of the First Choir), either in the chanting or in directing the usual motet.6

Bach recounted to the town council how the day before (12 August 1736), during the afternoon service in St. Nicholas Church, "there was not a single pupil, for fear of the threatened penalty, willing to take over the chanting, much less the direction of the motet."7 Bach knew that Ernesti's opposition to good church music would have both immediate and lasting effects on the preached gospel as the state of church music gradually deteriorated.

Bach's third complaint to the town council (15 August 1736), delivered only three days after his first complaint, focused on the incompetence of J.G. Krause to assist with the First Choir.  According to Bach, Krause was not only musically inept, but had earned a reputation for disorderly living and unpaid debts. Despite this, Ernesti showed a fondness for Krause and wanted to appoint him as Prefect of the first choir. Bach replied that Krause was simply not fit for such a post. In an effort to conciliate, Bach offered to give Krause the post of prefect of the second choir, where all the conducting duties are handled by the professional organist. But entrusting the direction of church music to Krause was not an option for Bach:

I am accordingly fully convinced of his incompetence; therefore it was impossible for  me to entrust the post of Prefect of the First Choir to him, especially since the concerted pieces that are performed by the First Choir, which are mostly of my own composition, are incomparably harder and more intricate than those sung by the Second Choir (and this only on Feast Days), so that I must be chiefly guided, in the choice of the same, by the capacité of those who are to perform them.8

Ernesti's lengthy reply to Bach's complaint (17 August 1736) cited a passage in the school regulations which stipulated that the Cantor shall accept eight boys, including the Prefect, "with the consent of the Rector," and in addition "shall always present the prefects to the director" [of the school] and request the consent of the Rector. According to Ernesti, Bach never followed the last step of asking for his consent for his selection of eight prefects to lead the four choirs.  Ernesti conceded that "in the filling of a post of Prefect the Cantor has the most important part, inasmuch as he must judge their ability in singing."9  Nevertheless, Ernesti thought the Rector was ultimately responsible for the prefects since complaints about them were to be addressed to the Rector and subsequent punishments were under his consent.

After a lengthy summation of the events leading to the series of complaints filed by Bach, Ernesti claimed that the "complaint of the Cantor is unjustified, pretending as it does that I have newly taken it upon myself to appoint the Prefect in the first Choir without his previous knowledge or consent, and have made the Prefect of the Second Choir Prefect of the first." Ernesti said that he thought the appointment of a Prefect was not sufficient cause for vexation and that he only claimed the right of concurrence according to the school regulations and nothing more.  Therefore, Ernesti requested that the council "dismiss the Cantor with his untimely and unfounded complaint...[and] earnestly reprimand him for his disobedience and insubordination to the Director and me" and encourage him "to attend to his duties more industriously."10

Bach's fourth complaint to the council (19 August 1736) mentioned the disturbances caused during the services eight days prior to the fourth complaint and on the day the complaint was filed, no doubt encouraged by the rapidly declining state of church music under Ernesti. Since the Prefect was not musically proficient and because Ernesti threatened to punish anyone who took over the duties of the Prefect, Bach decided to conduct the motet himself and delegate the responsibility of intoning the motet to a university student. Bach urged the council to prayerfully consider the deteriorating situation, noting that "without the most vigorous intervention on the part of You, My High Patrons, I should hardly be able to maintain my position with the students entrusted to me, and accordingly should be blameless if further and perhaps irreparable disorders should result from it." Therefore, the council should stop the actions of Ernesti and let Bach select his own prefects to prevent additional damage, "such as further public annoyance in the Church, disorder in the School, and reduction of the authority with the students that is necessary to my office and other evil consequences."11

Ernesti's rebuttal of Bach's third complaint (13 September 1736) claimed that Bach's concerns were neither complete nor truthful. Ernesti reasoned that if J.G. Krause was "unequal to the posts of First Prefect, then he is most certainly unequal to the other posts as well." From Ernesti's simplistic perspective, each prefect had the same basic responsibilities:

            1. Conduct the motets in the church

            2. Begin the hymns in church (intonation)

            3. Conduct a choir at the New Year's singing in the homes.

According to Ernesti, Bach himself was conducting the more difficult pieces performed by the first choir. Moreover, Ernesti noted that the previous prefect, a certain Mr. Nagel, never did anything but play the violin.  "And how does it happen, then, that [Bach] now wants to have a First Prefect who can conduct a difficult piece in the First Choir, since he never had one before, or at least never took care to have one, if he had a liking for the person in other ways." Ernesti further assessed that he never asked Bach to make J.G. Krause the Prefect, that it was Bach's idea, and they discussed it together as they rode home from a wedding during the Advent season.12

The decree of the town council (6 February 1737) cited the school regulations in which "The Cantor is to accept the eight boys for each of the four choirs with the consent of the Rector, and from them to choose four choir Prefects with the foreknowledge and approval of the Director." Moreover, "For the General of Inquilinorum Prefect the first students or, if he be not sufficiently capable in musicis, the next one is to be chosen." Therefore, Cantor and Rector were "bound to conduct themselves accordingly, and to refrain from suspending by themselves one or another of the students from an office once entrusted to them, or to exclude them, or to give instructions to the entire student body under the pain of exclusion" without fulfilling the necessary requirements in the school regulations. This decree probably pleased neither Bach nor Ernesti, as Bach was forbidden from employing a university student to assist with the first choir and Ernesti was limited in his freedom to punish students who demonstrated loyalty to Bach.13

Dissatisfied with the ruling of the town council, Bach made his first appeal to the Saxon consistory at Leipzig on 12 February 1737.  After rehearsing the damaging effects of Ernesti's actions (probably new information to this higher council), Bach made two key points in his defense: (1) according to the school regulations, "the choice of the praefecti chororum from among the schoolboys belongs to me, without the concurrence of the Rector, and has always been so made not only by me but by my predecessors;" (2) Ernesti's "forbiddance of the students not to sing under any other Prefect is highly improper," for "if the students are not to give me their obedience in the singing, it is impossible to accomplish anything fruitful." Therefore, in order to uphold the Cantor in his office, Bach asked the consistory to order Ernesti to leave the selection of Prefects to him alone and thereby to reinstate the respect he needed from the school children.14

The following day, 13 February 1737, the consistory sent a communication to Dr. Salomen Deyling, superintendent of the diocese of Leipzig, noting that Bach had filed a formal complaint against Ernesti. Bach, Ernesti, and Deyling were notified of some action taken by the council the following April, the nature of which is unknown. However, the action did not settle the issue for Bach, as he issued a second appeal to the consistory on 21 August 1737. Bach noted in this appeal that he had attached a copy of the action taken by the council which "does not give me satisfaction in respect to the humiliation to which I was subjected by the said Rector." The memo is non-extant, but Bach was clearly unsatisfied with the decision of the town council and therefore repeated his urgent appeal to the Leipzig consistory to uphold him in his right to select his own Prefects and to preserve the obedience of the students.15

On 28 August 1737 the consistory informed Deyling and the council of Bach's letter of 21 August and ordered a reply on the matter within a fortnight. However, it took almost six weeks (4 October) to receive a reply as the council decided to table the matter. Bach finally took his appeal to King Frederick Augustus on 18 October 1737. After a brief summary of the precedent and rationale for the selection of musically competent Prefects by the Kantor, Bach tried to trump both the council and the consistory by entreating the King to (1) order the council to uphold the Cantor in his right to select Prefects and (2) order the consistory to compel Ernesti to apologize to the students, thereby encouraging the students to show due respect and obedience to the Cantor.16

The King's brief decree (17 December 1737) stopped short of fulfilling Bach's request to give marching orders to the council and consistory, but the King did manage to subtly side with Bach.  After a brief "whereas" statement summarized the essence of Bach's complaint, the King simply told the consistory, "We therefore desire herewith that you [the consistory] shall take such measures, in response to this complaint, as you shall see fit. This is Our Will."17 On 5 February 1738, the consistory again requested Deyling and the council to draw up within a fortnight the report originally requested on 28 August 1737, nearly six months after the fact. Then the flood of documents in this prolonged case comes to an abrupt halt. Bach scholars suspect that when the King came to Leipzig for the Easter Fair in 1737, he personally intervened and settled the issue on behalf of Bach. Bach performed music in the King's honor on this occasion, probably in response to his decision to rectify the dispute with Ernesti in Bach's favor.18 Robert Stevenson summarizes the resolution of the conflict and its enduring effect on the working relationship between Bach and Ernesti:

By 1738 the original students involved, both Krauses and several others, had left the school. But although Bach seems to have received some kind of order verbally delivered from the King that the Cantor was to be left alone, nevertheless relations between Bach and Ernesti had in the intervening period so deteriorated that any further understanding or cooperation between the men proved impossible.19


A brief description of the liturgical life of a certain Lutheran seminary on American soil before the installation of the fifteenth president (and, subsequently, a new administration and vision from 1993 to 1996) will establish the parameters to study contemporary similarities to Bach's conflict with Ernesti.

The typical chapel schedule in this conservative seminary before 1993 included daily chapel in the mid-morning hours-- usually Matins, Morning Prayer, or Morning Suffrages--and the occasional use of The Divine Service and Luther's catechism offices. Strong, Christ-centered hymns were selected based on the lessons of the day, the season of the church year, or the time of the service (e.g. morning or evening). The daily offices were prayed in all their fullness and splendor, including chanting the liturgy, singing the canticles, utilizing Anglican chant settings, and singing responsive Psalms. Official choirs of the institution or other capable choirs sometimes sang appropriate church music for the chapel services. Occasional evening services in the chapel usually consisted of Compline with preaching and incense, but no instrumental accompaniment to preserve the solemn character of the evening hours. Seasonal choral services (Reformation, Advent/Christmas, Epiphany, Passiontide) involved the campus choirs as well as guest preachers and professional musicians from the surrounding community. The annual presentation of a Bach passion was one of the highlights of the academic year.

However, the installation of the fifteenth president in 1993 was the beginning of a sea change in the liturgical and musical life of this historic Lutheran school. The introductory notes to a chapel booklet entitled "Sixteen Short Offices for School and Home"revealed the new president's view of Lutheran liturgy and hymns. The compiler of the booklet noted in the preface that the book of short offices was prepared at the request of the seminary president to keep the morning chapel time to twenty minutes, consisting of ten minutes of liturgy and a ten minute sermon, allowing twenty-five minutes for doughnuts and coffee before the start of the next academic hour. The sixteen offices include three morning prayer services (Morning Prayer, Morning Suffrages, and Responsive Prayer II), seven hymn offices (Hymnic Matins, Prime, Lauds, Suffrages, Missions, Advent Luther-Hymn, and Christmas Luther-Hymn), and one catechism office for each of the six chief parts of the Small Catechism.

A survey of the sixteen short offices reveals the difference between the Lutheran heritage of this school before 1993 and the new administration's emphasis on adjusting the chapel life to match the general scheme of Lutheran worship life in the typical parish. Since the offices were edited by a confessional representative of a previous administration, they still reflected the catholic and evangelical natures of Lutheran worship. However, the request of the President that chapel be limited to twenty minutes challenged the campus to maintain a vibrant chapel life that would utilize the rich resources at their disposal. For example, a service entitled "hymnic matins" was an abridged service that retained some continuity with the historic office of matins. The service consisted of spoken versicles, one Psalm, a lesson, office hymn, homily, metrical Te Deum, and spoken prayers. To be sure, there was no false doctrine in this service. But the approach was to retain only the bare essentials of the gospel in liturgy and hymns instead of exploring the fullness of the gospel. (The rubrics in the Office of Lauds indicated that the canticle was to be sung "if time permits.")

Perhaps the most striking parallel between Bach's conflict with Ernesti and events in this Lutheran school was the replacement of the Dean of the Chapel, an inherently musical position, with a faculty member who lacked musical credentials. A video and bulletin of the annual Order of Vespers with the Distribution of Calls into the Lutheran Ministerium (April 1995) shows how the most important and visible services of this seminary changed under new leadership. After the processional hymn, the new Dean elected to delay the invocative phrase "O Lord, open my lips" in favor of the secular greeting, "Good evening," followed by a warm welcome to the guests and visitors. The Dean then took a few moments to correct the mistakes from the prior evening's Vespers (with the distribution of vicarage assignments) in which the directions for chanting the Psalm were vague and resulted in liturgical chaos. He then invited anyone who did not have a service folder to raise their hand so the ushers could provide one. The newly appointed Dean then spoke the versicles ("O Lord, open my lips") while the congregation sang their responses ("And my mouth will declare your praise"). The lessons were introduced with the words  "Our first reading this evening comes to us from I Timothy where St. Paul speaks of the duties of the ministry." Candidates who received their Calls normally wore clerical collars and reverenced the altar after receiving their call documents. However, one member of the administration politely informed the candidates that a suit and tie constituted the appropriate dress for this occasion and the new Dean of the Chapel encouraged the candidates not to reverence the altar because the service was over by the time the candidates received their Calls. 

The hiring of professional orchestral players to accompany the volunteer seminary choirs also changed at the hands of the new administration. The most visible service involving orchestra and chorus was probably the annual Choral Matins that was held during a theological conference that attracted Lutheran pastors and laity from all over the United States. In the tradition of maintaining the highest possible standard for Lutheran church music, the conductor of the SATB choir-who stood in continuity with J.S. Bach's theology of sacred music--requested funds to hire professional instrumentalists to play for a service that lasted about forty minutes. However, the new Academic Dean refused to approve the funds, even though the funds were within the auspices of the SATB choir and its director. In a letter to the choir, the Academic Dean indicated that the request to spend that amount of money for one church service was "frivolous."

Hymnody also took a different direction under the new administration. To be sure, most of the hymns sung in chapel were still from the approved hymnals of a confessional Lutheran church body, but the selection was geared toward the more Protestant fare for the sake of mission. A glance through chapel bulletins during the years of the new administration reveal hymns such as "Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling," "Crown Him With Many Crowns," and even one attempt to schedule "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me," but this was later abandoned because it was not long enough for the mission offering that was collected during the mission hymn. Stronger hymns such as Luther's metrical settings of the ordinaries and catechism hymns were difficult to find under the new leadership.

But why this impatience with church music? The late choral conductor Robert Shaw used to say that if Christianity is the word made flesh, then music is the flesh made word. In other words, as sure as Christ was made flesh to live among us, so in church music the flesh of Christ is physically present as an expression of the preached gospel. The pastor stands in the stead of Christ when he preaches the gospel and church musicians echo the preached Word in the sacrifice of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The reaction of the administration to a sermon preached by one confessing pastor on St. John 14:8-14 (2 May 1994), which espoused this incarnational view of the preached gospel, revealed the impatience of the administration with the Christological character of the ministry and its sung confession. The sermon, preached by a guest pastor from the surrounding community, described pastors as those "who bear in [their] bodies the divine office of the sacred ministry." A short commentary on the Hebrew word shaliach (messenger, angel, authoritative representative) applied the concept of shaliach and its Greek companion, apostello (to send [with authority]) to Christ as the shaliach of the Father and pastors as the shaliach of Christ. Quotes from the Talmud, Luther, Chemnitz, and C.F.W. Walther indicated that pastors preach in the stead and by the command of Christ himself as his shaliach. In short, this guest pastor preached an incarnational view of the office of the ministry as he taught that pastors bear in their own bodies the person and work of Christ as they baptize, absolve, and feed the flock of Christ. However, the administration indicated that pastors talk about Christ (rather than standing in his stead) and subsequently banned this pastor from preaching on campus.

However, as King Frederick Augustus once settled Bach's conflict in his favor, the installation of the sixteenth president of this seminary signaled a return to the right doctrine and confession. A booklet entitled "Seminary Prayer Book" (22 July 1997) revealed the richness and renewed vigor of chapel life at this school after suffering a few years of tentatio. After the appointment of a competent and tenured Dean of the Chapel, the worship life was elevated to a richness that even surpassed the chapel life before 1993.  "Seminary Prayer Book" offered a brief glimpse of what Lutheran worship can and should be on a seminary campus. The introduction to the missal stood in contrast to the introduction to "Sixteen Short Offices": "This booklet [1997] was written with the encouragement that the Word of Christ dwell in us richly, providing many opportunities for listening to the Gospel and singing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, as His holy Word exhorts us to do." The booklet contained the skeleton and propers for the three main daily offices: Matins, Vespers, and Compline. A chapel schedule in the front portion of the booklet indicated the following daily schedule of corporate prayer:

            7:30-7:45 a.m.                 Matins

            8:30-9:30 a.m.                  Private Confession (Communion days only)

            10:00-10:30 a.m.            Morning Offices (Communion on Tue or Wed)

            11:30-a.m.-12:30 p.m.  Private Confession (non-Communion days)

            4:00-4:15 p.m.                 Vespers

            10:00-10:20 p.m.           Evening Offices (Tue & Thu)

            11:00 p.m.                          Compline (in the dormitory or at home)

John T. Pless summarized the conflict on this campus in 1994 in an insightful and, in retrospect, prophetic analysis:

It will not be so easy, however, for [the president] to eradicate the good heritage  that [the dean of the chapel and the kantor] have implanted on the Fort Wayne campus.

The members of the faculty who are most influential on the students are those who are most committed to a Christological understanding of church and ministry set in the framework of high doxology. They are, in the words of their detractors, "high church," and they are not ashamed of the church's song. Throughout the church the song will go on. The majority of the students have been captured (not brainwashed) by the rich melodies of the church's song. It is a song far sweeter than the assorted pragmatisms that are offered in its place as it embodies the treasures of the saving doctrine in noble vessels that will endure long after the shallow songs have faded away.20


In an essay entitled "J.S. Bach and J.A. Ernesti: A Case Study in Exegetical and Theological Conflict," Paul S. Minear asks two questions of the enduring legacy of Bach and Ernesti that will shape the third and final portion of this manuscript: (1) Should secondary education continue to be grounded in Christian theology?  (2) If so, should music be given a central place in such training in theology?21

Lutheran theological education traditionally divides the seminary curriculum into four facets of theology: exegesis, systematics, history, and pastorale (so-called "practical theology").  The strength of this approach is the balance between languages, theology, catholicity, and the application of these three disciplines in the daily rhythm of the pastorate. The danger of the traditional nomenclature, however, is the temptation to believe that the first three disciplines are not practical. If a seminary has an entire department devoted to pastoral theology (often called "the practical department"), it may send a message to the future pastors of the church that exegesis, systematics, and history are not practical in and of themselves.

This is precisely the notion promulgated by Ernesti and his spiritual children in theological education. The fifteenth President of the aforementioned seminary wanted to make his school a place where pastors would learn how to function as a pastor, how to run a church, and how to make their church grow. The watchword of this President and his administration was "tolerance," as they called for pastors who would be sensitive to people's feelings and willing to tolerate false doctrine as long as it did not blatantly subvert the gospel. A brief essay in Concordia Journal entitled "Able Ministers for the ‘80s" subtly promoted this ephemeral view of theological education: "Synodical higher education must always be reformed. That is, it must be open to adaptation, alteration, modification, or perhaps even transformation as it seeks to respond to the challenges laid upon it."22

How might one respond to efforts to reform theological education to make it more practical? In other words, how might one defend the place of theology in theological education? Perhaps our understanding of the traditional four-fold division of the seminary curriculum is the key. It is often said that exegesis is the heart of seminary education, systematics and church history are supplements to exegesis, and pastoral theology is the application of all of the above. This is not wrong, as far as it goes; but it risks creating an artificial bifurcation between doctrine (exegesis, systematics, and history) and practice (pastorale). This manuscript wishes to suggest the following formula for understanding the traditional four-fold division of the theological curriculum:

          exegesis + history = systematics = pastorale

The example of the Trinity, the first topic of the Christian faith, will suffice to elucidate this formula. The exegesis of the word "trinity," though the word is not present in the Scriptures, indicates three of something (tri) and one of something (una). But one cannot settle the issue entirely by etymology. Three of what? And one of what? Church history (e.g. Nicea) informs us that the concept of the Trinity is used to describe one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Systematic theology (AC I) combines exegesis and history to place the Trinity first in theology proper (rather than prolegomena) to establish who makes, saves, and keeps us. Pastoral theology applies the systematic view of the Trinity to the church in the creed (word) and baptism (sacrament).

This approach stands in contrast to Ernesti. As an exegete, Ernesti wrote an influential book on hermeneutics in which he stressed a mechanical, face-value exegesis. Minear cites Ernesti's hermeneutical principles as seeking the one, literal sense of each word (sensus literalis unus est), understanding language in strictly philological terms, and attaching greater weight to grammatical considerations than doctrinal ones.23 It is difficult to say whether Ernesti was the spiritual progenitor of Liberalism (exegesis without faith) or Evangelicalism (faith without doctrine). Perhaps one can sense elements of both trends in Ernesti's hermeneutic. In either event, Ernesti treated overtly literal, "show me a passage" exegesis as the apotheosis of theological education and was impatient with systematics, church history, pastorale, and church music. Lutherans today can sense a similar trend among Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and Biblicists who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, but are impatient with the Christological content and ecclesial context of Scripture.

How might one overcome Ernesti's monotheism of exegesis and his spiritual step-children's separation of doctrine from practice? The formula suggested above unites the four schools of theology in an integrated whole in which each one is distinct from its counterparts, avoiding the twin evils of separating or muddling each aspect of Christian theology. If systematic theology is an alloy of exegesis and history, and if pastoral theology is the application of systematic theology, the whole of theological education will be inherently grounded in theology. Exegesis, systematics, and history are practical in and of themselves. Similarly, practical theology is inherently exegetical, systematic, and historical, or it is no longer worthy of being called "theology." The answer to Minear's first question, then, is affirmative: secondary education must be grounded in Christian theology.

Before answering Minear's second question about the place of music in this scenario, a brief word is necessary about the context for music in Lutheran higher education. Minear asks if music should be given a central place in theological education. Is Minear speaking of music in general as a first article discipline or specifically of church music as a servant to the gospel? Minear and this manuscript are speaking of the latter in the spirit of Erik Routley:

For while church music is not exempt from the requirements music in general must meet, it stands also under the discipline associated with its being used to further the aim of worship. It is always used in a context where the performers are not exclusively, and hearers are not even primarily, concerned with music itself. It seems reasonable to assume that a musically informed church authority and a theologically informed musical authority can between them work out a counterpoint of criticism and precept in these matters. I am afraid, however, that this has very rarely happened and does not appear to be happening at all in our time.24

In other words, music is not present in the church as music, but precisely as a servant to the preached gospel, as sure as people are not members of the church as people, but precisely as believers. Having established the appropriate context for Minear's question, one may now ask what place church music has in the worship life of schools of higher theological education.

In his essay, "Liturgy and Theology," Maxwell Johnson identifies three distinct understandings of Prosper of Aquitaine's (c. 390-463) famous dictum, ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi ("The law of prayer may establish a law for belief") from the writings of three influential liturgical theologians:

          Alexander Schmemann: lex orandi lex est credendi

          Geoffrey Wainwright: lex orandi, lex credendi

          Aidan Kavanagh: ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi25

Johnson identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and, in my estimation, does more to further the argument about the relationship between the church's prayer and the church's doctrine than to settle the debate per se. However, the common denominator between these three variations on a theme is the mutual influence of worship and doctrine. Johnson says:

The law of praying is the law of believing (Schmemann) and the law of praying constitutes the law of believing, providing a kind of theologia prima, "pre-reflective perception of the life of faith" (Kavanagh). But, just as importantly, the law of believing cannot be allowed to function in isolation from other legitimate theological principles without distorting the theological quest for an articulation of truth (Wainwright). Therefore...both the lex orandi and the lex credendi must and do function together in the development of doctrine and in the theological reflection...of the Church Catholic.26

If the rule of prayer and the rule of faith complement one another, then one might ask why Ernesti and his spiritual offspring were apparently teaching the right theology in the classroom yet impatient with good church music and its place in the worship life of Lutheran education. At first glance, it is tempting to think that the foes of good church music had so radically isolated exegesis from doxology that they did not believe in the mutual relationship between lex orandi and lex credendi, between chapel and classroom. This is true to a point. However, the antagonistic involvement of Ernesti and his spiritual step-children in the worship life of their respective academic communities suggests that both Bach and Ernesti believed in the mutual relationship of lex orandi and lex credendi, but in a different way and for a different purpose. Minear describes the difference between Bach and Ernesti:

One [Bach] used an artistic mode, the other [Ernesti] a rationalistic perspective; one used a musical, the other a non-musical, mode of expression; one was concerned to do justice to the multiple meanings of the text, the other sought out the single meaning; one stressed the uniqueness of the Bible, the other exploited its kinship to other books; one wanted above all to comprehend the mind of the ancient author, the other sought to share the responses to the event on the part of the ancient audience.27

According to Minear, Bach sought to express exegesis in good church music. Ernesti sought to leave exegesis in the classroom. Therefore, the conflict between Bach and Ernesti was over theology, not merely personal taste. The prayer of the church (worship, church music, sermons, etc.) does teach the church, as Bach and Ernesti would certainly agree. But Bach wanted good church music to express in concrete ways the doctrine the students learned in the classroom. (Minear makes the intriguing observation that about one-fifth of the students' typical day at St. Thomas was devoted to church music and about one-fifth was devoted to theology.28)  Ernesti did not care about good church music and considered it at best a matter of personal style or at worst a mere distraction to learning hermeneutical principles. His lack of care for church music reveals that at heart he believed the wrong doctrine and sought to promote false teaching by gutting the worship life at St. Thomas.

If music is to have a place in theological education (as per the precedent at St. Thomas), then where might church music fit into the traditional four-fold division of theological studies? Using the formula already mentioned above, this essay suggests including church music under the realm of pastoral theology and, by implication, systematic theology. Placing sacred music under the realm of systematic theology will guard it from becoming dislodged from theology. If pastoral theology and sacred music are separated from systematics, then the theology is no longer pastoral and the music is no longer sacred. Pastoral theology will disintegrate into the latest Pandora's Box of clever methods to help the church grow and church music will become music eo ipso. Again, church music is more than a garnish to Christian theology. Rather, it is the living expression of the doctrine learned in the classroom. Similarly, worship is the school of the church where she learns the Christian faith and life. To take a lead from Robert Shaw, pastoral theology is the word made flesh and sacred music is the flesh made word. The answer to Minear's second question, then, is also affirmative:  Music should be given a central place in theological education.

To be sure, our insistence that secondary education continue to be grounded in Christian theology and that music be given a central place in such training will invite tentatio from the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. What John T. Pless said in the midst of the battle at the aforementioned Lutheran seminary also applies to tentatio in the broader scope of Lutheran theological education:

In his putsch to transform [this seminary] into a missions institute, there is another factor with which [the fifteenth president] has not reckoned. The church's song thrives under pressure. The liturgy may have to go underground at [this institution],  but it will not be eliminated. It will, in fact, shine with renewed glory in the face of these puny efforts to silence its confession of the faith once delivered to the saints. The pressure is on at [this school]. Thanks be to God!29

Satan loves to tempt those involved in Lutheran higher education to make our schools a place where future church workers learn the pragmatic tricks of the trade instead of learning Christian theology. Satan will continue to try to seduce us into believing that church music is an optional extra to Lutheran higher education instead of an integral part of receiving a theological education set within the context of a high and holy doxology. To ground secondary schooling in Christian theology, and to give sacred music a central place in theological education, is to invite tentatio from all sides. But in the midst of persecution, our theological pedagogy and our well-regulated church music will ring with a renewed vigor.

The tentatio is on in Lutheran higher education. Thanks be to God!

1. The New Bach Reader: A Life of Johann Sebastian Bach in Letters and Documents (hereafter TNBR).  Edited by Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel.  Revised and Expanded by Christoph Wolff.  (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), 174-175.

2. John T. Pless, "On Silencing the Lord's Song," Logia III:3 (Holy Trinity1994), 85.

3. TNBR, 172.

4. TNBR, 173.

5. TNBR, 173.

6. TNBR, 174.

7. TNBR, 174.

8. TNBR, 176.

9. TNBR, 177.

10. TNBR, 181.

11. TNBR, 182-183.

12. TNBR, 183-185.

13. TNBR, 189-190. It is interesting to note that the decree was dated 6 February 1737, several months after the initial complaints of Bach and rebuttals of Ernesti. It is also intriguing that the decree mentions the forthcoming end of  J.G. Krause's stay at the school (Easter 1737) and encourages Cantor and Rector to keep in mind the school regulations as they select the next Prefect. Perhaps the council was trying to avoid the conflict by their delay and their refusal to take definitive action.

14. TNBR, 190-191.

15. TNBR, 192-193.

16. TNBR, 194-195.

17. TNBR, 195-196.

18. TNBR, 196-198.

19. Robert Stevenson, "Bach's Quarrel with the Rector of St. Thomas' School," Anglican Theological Review 35 (1951), 223.

20. Pless, 85-86.

21. Our Common History as Christians: Essays in Honor of Albert C. Outler.  Edited by John Deschner, Leroy T. Howe, and Klaus Penzel. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975), 134.

22. David G. Schmiel, "Able Ministers for the ‘80s," Concordia Journal 8:1 (January 1982), 2.

23. Minear, 135-136.

24. Erik Routley, Church Music and the Christian Faith (Carol Stream, IL: Agape, 1978), 65.

25. Maxwell Johnson, "Liturgy and Theology," Liturgy in Dialogue (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994), 203-227. Kavanagh's version of Aquitaine's dictum is the only one in Johnson's list that duplicates Aquitaine's original saying. However, this does not imply Kavanagh is the only one with a right understanding of the rule of prayer and rule of faith, as Johnson is summarizing each theologian's interpretation of the saying, not their ability to repristinate the Latin dictum.

26. Johnson, 227.

27. Minear, 143. Minear's talk of Bach's "multiple meanings" refers to multiple audiences (i.e., the church ancient and the church modern), not the Medieval concept of multiple layers of meaning.

28. Minear, 133.

29. Pless, 85.