Harold Best was for many years dean of Wheaton College’s Conservatory of Music. He is by training an organist, a composer, an educator, and a theologian. He helped guide and mold students there, not so much into “Christian musicians,” but into musicians who are Christians. It’s an important distinction.
He exported his convictions and his deep faith across the nation and around the world in part in his role as president of the National Association of Schools of Music. Not many days go by that I don’t recall something he taught us.
He is a gifted writer. One of his earlier books bears the title: Music through the Eyes of Faith. In this unsettling season of pandemic and anguished racial tension, and on this second day after Pentecost, a short passage from his work seems germane. Dr. Best writes,
Pentecost is Babbel turned right side up: All speech is unified
because it is God, no longer people, who is building toward the heavens.
Pentecost goes farther than its historical reality. It is also a story
that urges us into the knowledge that the gospel is comfortable in
any culture, and its message finds easy residence in the languages,
cultural ways and thought styles of countless societies. In other words,
whoever seeks to move a culture towards transformation by Christ must
join it, participating in the transformation from within.
God is not western. God is not eastern. God is not exclusively the God of
classical culture or primitive culture. God is Lord of the plethora, God of
the diverse, redeemer of the plural. Likewise, God calls for response in
different languages, dialects, and idioms, accepting them through the Son.
Pentecost tells us that one artistic tongue is only a start, and a thousand
will never suffice. There is no single chosen language, or artistic or
musical style that, better than the others, can capture and repeat back
the fullness of the glory of God. This truism cannot be avoided: Cultures
are not infinite. No single one can hold the wholeness of praise and
worship, or the fullness of the counsel of God.
“O for a thousand tongues to sing,” may indeed express Charles Wesley’s poetic and hyperbolic call for praise, but it also surely points to how it truly is and ever will be in the Kingdom of God.
 Harold M. Best, Music through the Eyes of Faith (New York: Harper Collins, 1993, 66.