This is an essay on the morality of music written by William Braden in October 2007. In light of my recent study on being UNacceptable, I thought we should take a look at our music choices, since they are such a vital part of our worship.
Musical styles are as varied as the local grocer’s ice cream section, but are all styles and types of music acceptable to God? The Scripture says, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31) but how does this apply to music? Clearly there are two sides to this issue: those who believe that music is amoral, and the only important element are the words, (We will refer to those of this belief as “Liberals”) and there are those who believe that Music does have moral or immoral insinuations therefore not all music is good (Conservatives).
Liberals have one main belief about music, the lyrics are the most important part of music, and they are specifically what set CCM apart from worldly music. Some Liberals even go so far as to say that the words are not important, as long as a good message is conveyed or that the artist is a known Christian artist.
Another Liberal belief is music is amoral – not admitting of moral distinctions or judgments; neither moral nor immoral. The argument is since a single note or tone cannot be morally right or wrong, than the pattern in which notes are played or combined have no moral insinuations.
The third belief held is that music’s main purpose is to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Conservatives also hold several beliefs about music, the main belief pertains the purpose of music. Music’s purpose, they believe, is to glorify God. Dial-the-Truth Ministries makes this statement; “Now, you would think this point is unnecessary for CHRISTian music… if it is truly Christian music, it should testify, praise and sing about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Conservatives generally believe music has definite moral associations. Although most conservatives do not believe any instrument is wrong (some go as far as saying that no instruments should be used in worship), they believe that the manner in which an instrument is played, or the style of music that is played, is wrong.
Thirdly, Conservatives believe Christian music lyrics should be doctrinally sound. The words should clearly convey what the song is about and more importantly, Who it is about. Some even go as far as to say that excessive repetition is not God-honoring, basing this on Matthew 6:7, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
Although both sides have their own opinions, views, and beliefs n the subject of music, there is only one final authority. The Bible must have the final say in all matters of faith and practice, or else every man will do that which is right in his own eyes (Deut. 12:8; Judges 17:6, 21:25) The Bible is God’s Word on this earth, it shows us the heart of the Father, the mind of the Son, and the will of the Spirit. The Bible is a history book, a science book, a mathematics book, and without question a music book. Since the subject of music is mentioned often in scripture, we will only look at basic guidelines for music.
The first guideline is found in Revelation 4:11: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Music is a unique creation of God, and like all of His creation it has one main purpose – to please Him and to bring Him Glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Jesus Christ must be the central point of music, whether vocal or instrumental, the music, as well as the lyrics must glorify Him. The Psalmist states in Psalm 33:2-3, “Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.”
A second guideline the Bible lays down for music, is that music is inherently spiritual. In 1 Samuel 16, Saul, the first King of Israel, has been rejected by God for his disobedience. The Spirit of the Lord then left him, and an evil spirit troubled him. After his servants counsel him, Saul sends for David to play the harp before him. Verse 23 of this chapter says: “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” This is the first definite mention of music with no words being played in Scripture and is it coincidence the music has spiritual effects? No, God specifically designed music to be able to glorify him, after all, one must worship God in “spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
The third basic guideline is that music must follow Biblical principles. Commands like: “be not conformed to this world;” “in every thing give thanks;” “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good;” “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;” and, “do all to the glory of God” – all of these and many more have an affect on what music is acceptable and what is not.
Finally, lets apply some common sense to the issue. Out of all the problems faced in life probably 90% of them can be solved by applying Biblical principles and a little common sense. The issue of music is no different.
After comparing the liberal and conservative stances and the Biblical guidelines, it is obvious that the conservative stance is closer to the Bible than the liberal. Although the liberal point of the lyrics being the most important part of music is valid, there are still spiritual and emotional ideas conveyed through music without words. Dr. Peter Ruckman says this about music:
Music speaks, without words. You do not have to know German or English to feel the thunder and waves of The Flying Dutchman; you do not have to know Italian or English to know that some bitter, desperate soul is singing with a broken heart, when you hear Pagliacci (a clown in an opera by that name) singing “Vesti la giubba.” Music is a language of its own.
Bob Jones Sr. said, “Every bad thing on this earth is a good thing twisted,” and this could not be any truer than in music. Both sides obviously agree that music is good, but only the conservatives, it seems, believe that music can be bad. Liberals believe that lyrics make music good or bad, but even according to contemporary Christian artists the Christian lyrics and message is often distorted or even completely removed!
Michael Card, a Contemporary Christian Music artist (CCM) said this about the lyrics:
“The lyrics of a good number of the songs don’t betray anything specifically Christian —they may have some moral message, but not a lot of the big songs are identifiably Christian. . . ‘What happens to the message when we start getting the music to as many people as possible?’ There is an essential part of the gospel that’s not ever going to sell. The gospel is good news, but it is also bad news: ‘You are a sinner, and you are hopeless.’ How is a multi-million dollar record company going to take that? That’s a part of the message, too, and if that’s taken out—and it frequently is in Christian music— it ceases to be the gospel.” (Can’t Buy Me Love, Christianity Today, May 20, 1996, p. 25)
Now combine that with the idea of the liberals that the lyrics are the deciding factor in music, and yet, it doesn’t matter what the words say! Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 (a “Christian” rock band) said this:
“A lot of bands, the reason they get so turned off, is because you have to put the word ‘Jesus’ in every line. . . That’s why so many bands get almost anti-Jesus in their lyrics, even though they’re Christians.” (HM, Mar/Apr 97 p. 21)
Does this seem something that Christ would be pleased with? Do you really think that this kind of music, and even music that associates with it, is acceptable in His sight?
Some say that the use of contemporary styles in Christian music has always been practiced and acceptable, but could it be that, though it has been practiced, it has not always been accepted. All the way back in the 1500’s, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594) made this observation and it is still true today:
“There exists a vast mass of love songs of the poets, written in a fashion entirely foreign to the profession and name of Christians. They are the songs of men ruled by passion, and a great number of musicians, corrupters of youth, make them the concern of their art and their industry; in proportion as they flourish through praise of their skill, so do they offend good and serious-minded men by the depraved taste of their work. I blush and grieve to think that once I was of their number. But while I cannot change the past, nor undo what is done, I have mended my ways. Therefore, I have labored on songs which have been written in praise of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
So what determines the acceptability of music in God’s eyes? Simply put, music should glorify God and follow the principles found in His Word. This issue will most likely continue as it did 500 years ago, but the truth will remain the same. Music is not a matter of our preference, but God through his Word reveals his heart and mind on these matters and at the end, all things were created by Him and “for His pleasure” they are and were created.
1. Bible Guide to Christian Music. 29 Nov. 2006
2. Christian Rock: Questions and Answers Page. 30 Oct. 2006
3. Is Christian Rock Music of the Devil? – Answers Depot. 10 Oct. 2006
4. RELIGIOUS ROCK: The Music of devils in the Church!!! 30 Oct. 2006
5. Ruckman, Peter S. Music and Musicians. Pensacola, Fl. Bible Believers Press, 1996
6. Smith, Kimberly. Oh, Be Careful Little Ears. WA. WinePress, 1997
7. Let Those Who Have Ears. WA. WinePress, 2001
8. Top Reasons Against Christian Rock – ANSWERED! 30 Oct. 2006