Monday, April 11, 2011

Music, does it really matter?

Recently, I raised a fire storm on Facebook by posing a simple question. Here is my question, "what sort of music do you REALLY want to hear at church on Sunday morning??? Screaming guitars played by guys in jeans or a choir dressed nicely in either robes or dress clothes singing hymns??? This is a fairly serious question...please give appropriate answers!" So far, there have been over 100 comments, you can see that this is a very volatile issue.

For the serious Christian, the bottom line should always be, what does the Bible have to say about music? It is my understanding, that most of the approximately 600 references to music in the Bible, are speaking of praise to God. If this is the case, we can be quite sure, that music should lift us in praise to God. Can we glorify God while listening to other styles of music besides religious? I believe so. Try listening to a CD of Bach music and tell me if it does not cause you to give honor to our Creator who could not only create music, but bring into being individuals, such as Bach, who would be enabled to write such magnificent music!
We could give that test to other types of music...why don't you try it some time? Can you praise God while listening to headbanging rock music? Can you praise God while listening to something sensuous and self serving?

Speaking of our Creator, if we believe Genesis 1:1 that God created the earth, do we not believe that He created music also? That He created humans with the gift of writing music and creating wonderful arrangements of tones which can draw our hearts to praise Him? If He created music, and I believe that He did, then, would it not stand to reason that He should have the ultimate authority over our music?

Mr. Richard Peck writes in his book "Rock, Making Musical Choices," about a way we can "test" music. Here is part of his outline involving the letters in the word "test."
T-Test-Is the message true according to scripture? John 4:24, II Timothy 2:15
E-Exalts Christ or man? Psalms 89:1, Psalms 147:1, Acts 2:25-21
S-Separate from the world? I John 2:15, II Corinthians 6:14-17, Romans 16:17, Galatians 1:8
T-Teaches and builds up the body of Christ? I Thessalonians 5:11, II Timothy 2:2, Colossians 3:16.

If unsure of a certain song or musical style, try applying Mr. Peck's "Test" to it and see how it measures up. Let's try an example and see how it measures up.
What about the very well known hymn, "How Firm a Foundation." Here we have the first verse..."How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord. Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word. What more can He say than to you He hath said? To you, who for refuge, to Jesus have fled."
Test-is it true? Yes, the Bible is our firm foundation and there we find that God is our refuge in time of trouble, Psalms 46:1
Exalt-Does it exalt Christ or man? Clearly, it does exalt Him as our refuge!
Separate-Is it separate from the world? Yes, this musical style is certainly acceptable and does not promote a love for the world.
Teach-Does it teach me something about God, His character? Does it build me up? Does it build up the body of Christ? Yes to all of these questions. It shows me that God's character is trustworthy, even in times of trouble, it encourages me to seek Him in times of trouble, it encourages the body of Christ to trust Him.

I would challenge you to respond to this post with some "test" observations of your own. Even bring your hard cases!

Keep in mind also, "The New Song Principle." We see this in Psalms 40:2-3 where the Psalmist is praising God for bringing him up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, placing him on the solid rock, and establishing his goings. This amazing "salvation experience" brought the Psalmist such joy! He was given a "New Song" to sing! The meaning of the word "new" here is "fresh, new thing." Can you honestly say that all musical styles would be acceptable as "new" for a newly saved individual? Or a saved individual who has been around for awhile? One who has just come from the pits of sin? He is set up out of that, should his old music styles remain? Should he endeavor to use a style of music which was written PRIMARILY AS A MEANS TO STIR UP SENSUALITY, as his worship mode?
Garen Wolf writes of the "New Song Principle" in his book, Church Music Matters, in this way...{The New Song Principle} connotes music making that is of a higher or renovated character that always renders praise to God-not man...part of the old things that pass away is the 'old song' and the old self-engrandizement and worldly musical performance practice." He also quotes II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
According to Wolf, the nature of the new song is "to praise...God that is of a higher renovated character. New song in the Bible means 'new character,' not just something produced now."
So, we cannot say that we must only sing newly written material. No, this is clearly speaking of a newness in character which should characterize ALL aspects of the Christian life, not just music. Good music can be hundreds of years old, or just days old. The important thing is to determine if it is appropriate, based on the Word of God, for the child of God to sing. Is it fresh, new?

These are just some thoughts that I hope will stir others to evaluate their musical choices in a new way, and be open to making changes as the Lord leads! I welcome comments!


Chris said...

Okay, I'm going to try the song "Happy Birthday to You."

T-Is the message true according to Scripture? Ermm, well, not specifically according to Scripture, but I suppose God isn't opposed to you having a happy birthday.

E-Exalts Christ or man? Uh, I guess man. If you sing the "May you feel Jesus near" version, I guess it... well, it's still mostly about people.

S-Separate from the world? Most definitely not. I would guess that almost every rapist, murderer and scumbag in America knows this song better than any other.

T-Teaches and builds up the body of Christ? No, I don't think it really meets that standard.

I guess my point is, what's the point of this test? I'm not being sarcastic now; I really want to know what the proposed application is.

Miss Music said...

Well, Chris, I had a great comment for you, and somehow it was lost...