Friday, July 06, 2007

Evil, Suffering, and Samuel Barber

Today, while eating breakfast, my oldest daughter asked why God created people if He knew that some would go to hell. Nothing like a little light breakfast conversation! Rather than go right to a study in Romans 9, the Lord gave me an idea.

I told Hannah I would answer her question in a few minutes after having her listen to something. I went to the computer and downloaded Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber and following breakfast, had her sit and listen to the majority of the song. Before she listened I asked her to close her eyes and try to visualize whatever the music made her feel or think about.

Once the song was over, I asked her to describe what she felt while the music played. In short she shared that the opening represented dancing, that the middle sounded like a great battle, and that the end represented peacefulness. At that point I tried to explain the principle behind Romans 9:22-23 in musical terms where consonance or resolution (God’s glory) can only be fully appreciated and understood if presented in contrast to dissonance or tension (wrath, evil, suffering). After my brief explanation Hannah’s questions were satisfied and she went about the rest of her day.

I share this experience because it really impacted me. Good music is an amazing illustration of this great mystery. The suffering and evil (the dissonance) around us accentuates the brightness and beauty (the consonance) of God’s glory. There is no question that music illustrates the powerful means by which God is glorified even in the context of a world subject to sin and condemnation.


j lassen said...

what a lovely illustration - and a good song choice for it. you're a cool dad, Scott! :D

blond violinist said...

Also a great illustration of how music can express totally different things than the composer originally intended. I much prefer your daughter's interpretation to Barber's own.

Rachel B said...

OK, whatever book you got when your kids were born on how to answer their difficult questions, we'll be needing a copy :)

Scott Sterner said...

Thanks for the comments friends. I don't know much about Barber's intent behind the song, but know it was written during a time of great turmoil in our nation. I am curious now to look up his intent. As was said, I'm sure I'll prefer Hannah's interpretation. :)

Rachel... Parenting is much more failure management than innovation. Thank God for His grace.