Toward a Biblical Understanding of Music, Part 2

trumpet5.jpgPART TWO: Building on Principle

1. What is godly music?

a. If music is indeed part of God’s nature, His being, then we can easily come to a broad definition of godly music.

b. Godly music is music that in its composition and performance reflects God’s character as revealed in His Word.

c. So is there a “gray area” in music? Of course there is. There is because we are not God. Our knowledge of Him is so small and yet ever growing. Believers are at all different levels of knowledge of God. Thus, our discernment in the area of music will be in direct proportion to what we know of God.

2. What is the purpose of godly music?

a. As in all of life, the singular broad purpose is to do all things to the glory of God.

b. There are many specific purposes of music in Scripture:

i. Worshipping God (Psalms)

ii. Teaching/Admonishing fellow believers

Ephesians 5:17-19 – Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

iii. Prophecying about God’s truth to others

Psalm 40:1-3 – I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.

1 Chron. 25:1-3 – Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals: and the number of the workmen according to their service was: Of the sons of Asaph; Zaccur, and Joseph, and Nethaniah, and Asarelah, the sons of Asaph under the hands of Asaph, which prophesied according to the order of the king. Of Jeduthun: the sons of Jeduthun; Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD.

iv. Personal healing and enjoyment (1Sam. 16:23)

1. But isn’t personal enjoyment self-centered?

a. It can be. We are told over and over again in Scripture to live “to the Lord” and “sing to the Lord”. So we must be careful that when we listen to music we are feeding our spirit and not our flesh.

2. Does God want us to enjoy music?

a. Absolutely! He wants our joy in the Christian life to be overflowing, including in music. But remember: He wants our joy to be His joy, not the satisfaction of our sinful flesh.

John 15:11 – These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

b. Also remember: you are what you think. We must extremely careful about what we put into our minds.

Proverbs 23:7 – For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:

3. What about musical style? (Romans 14)

a. The Scripture defines two kinds of people: weak and strong.

i. The strong is the believer who does not have sensitivities about doubtful areas of life.

ii. The weak is the believer who does have sensitivities about doubtful areas of life.

b. Is musical style addressed in Scripture? NO

c. Does that put musical style into the category of doubtful things according to Romans 14? YES

d. The first command in Romans 14 is to start accepting and stop judging each other over doubtful things.

e. Does that mean that all musical styles are acceptable in the life of the Christian? NO

f. What guidelines do we have in Scripture to make musical stylistic choices?

i. Any musical style which would contradict the character of God is clearly to be avoided.

1. Music does communicate feelings as we noted in last week’s message. As such it is not a neutral entity.

2. Musical feelings and emotions are morally neutral in and of themselves. There is a proper and improper expression of all emotions.

3. Musical styles can be used by a performer or a listener to promote morality or immorality. It is a subjective issue.

4. The difficulty is that all Christians are at different levels of spiritual maturity. As such, our knowledge of God is incomplete. Our challenge is to work together to promote unity by accepting one another in these areas and not separating over them.

ii. Any musical style which would cause another Christian to sin is to be avoided.

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your's become a stumbling block to them that are weak. –1 Corinthians 8:9

iii. Any musical style which becomes a stronghold in our life is to be renounced.

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. –1 Corinthians 6:12

iv. Any music style which does not build us in our walk with Christ should be avoided.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. –1 Corinthians 10:23

v. Any musical style that cannot be used in faith by an individual must not be used by that individual.

And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. -Romans 14:23

Francis Schaeffer, made this clear: "Let me say firmly that there is no such thing as a godly style or an ungodly style . . .And as a Christian adopts and adapts various contemporary techniques, he must wrestle with the whole question, looking to the Holy Spirit for help to know when to invent, when to adopt, when to adapt and to not use a specific style at all. This is something each artist wrestles with for a life time, not something he settles once and for all." This is the spirit of Romans 14.

g. Isn’t the real problem the rhythm of music?

i. Dr. Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzal, co-authors of Music in the Balance put forth this argument:

“The part of music to which the spirit responds is the melody.” “The part of music to which your mind responds is the harmony.” “The part of music to which your body responds is the rhythm.” (pp. 57-59)

“The emphasis of most of contemporary sacred and secular music is on the rhythm. Rhythm is that part of music which elicits a physical response. Therefore, most of today’s music, secular and sacred, feeds and satisfies the self-seeking, self-centered, and self-worshiping part of man.” (p. 67)

ii. This connection of the sinful flesh spoken of in the New Testament with the physical flesh of humanity was known in the early church as the Gnostic heresy and we must beware of such teaching.

iii. The Bible clearly tells us that all aspects of man were cursed by sin.

The “flesh” is the sinful nature of man in all of his being. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. – 2 Corinthians 7:1

iv. The problem with connecting melody, harmony and rhythm to the spirit, soul, and body is that the Bible doesn’t teach this. And if the problem is rhythm, then good music would have no rhythm at all, which is ridiculous because music itself is “sound in time.”

v. The real issue that men like Dr. Garlock, Tim Fisher and others are trying to raise is the problem of rhythm-dominant music and specifically, the beat. This will be the subject of Part 4 of this series.


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by steve bradley on May 2, 2006 at 7:39 am

    Thanks for these posts – I have enjoyed seeing your biblical articulation of this subject. I am looking forward to the other posts.


  2. Posted by Eddie on July 1, 2006 at 3:47 am

    I admire people who take a serious look at the subject of music “from God’s perspective”. Without getting deep into the mechanics of music, or the scriptures needed to back up the comments, let me simply say this. #1 If you are saved, have been given the Holy Spirit, you recognize Godly vs ungodly, if you refuse to grieve and quench the Spirit. #2 Even as saved Christians we will go at great lengths to find a way to pander the flesh. The flesh is always at odds with the Spirit. Ungodly music is one of the last (along with food) things we hold on to. Obese Christians (gluttony) and “hip hop” Christians. Deep into your soul you know that the enchantment of CCM is pandering to the flesh, even though some words of the songs are Biblical. You “feel” it, not in your Spirit, but in the flesh. It is like pulling a thorn deeply driven into your soul to get CCM out of your heart. When you lie taking your last breath, about to cross over, flesh dying, soul alive, do you really believe you will want to hear CCM or hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. Be assured that when you get to that most sacred point of being in Heaven with God, you will have no flesh as we know it now to get excited, be sinful, or desire to “feel” good. We will be spiritual beings, not confused by the flesh. We will constantly be glorifying God and it will not be to a beat, rhythm or meter that has anything to do with fallen flesh. In a moment of rare total honesty before your Savior, peer deeply into Him. You will find no CCM there.


  3. Eddie,

    I don’t know if you have read my section 4 on this topic. If you do, you will readily see I disagree with you on this issue. To say that people intrinsically “know” that CCM is catering to the flesh is simply not an acceptable argument for the Bible-believing Christian. It is, in fact, more in the line of existentialism than Christianity. We are told in the Bible that we can’t trust our feelings. Our heart deceives us. So, we operate based on divine revelation. Now, I’m not saying at this point that you’re wrong that CCM is “fleshly”–I’m saying you’re argument is faulty.

    You seem to have also bought into the heretical view of gnosticism that teaches that the physical body is intrinsically evil. Do you not believe that the spirit and soul are also affected by the Fall? Can you really determine that the rhythm of “fallen flesh” as you stated is any more evil than the melodies or harmonies of fallen man?

    The flesh exists, make no mistake. But to relegate the flesh to the response of the physical body is heresy. There is no music in any form that is affected by sinful man. Period. So, we have to be very careful about broad-brushing issues like this. It is a much more precise and laborious discipline than just feeling something from your gut.


    • Posted by Eddie on December 2, 2010 at 5:25 am

      Isn’t it interesting. James says that a gospel that doesn’t produce a difference in our behaviour (included a physical response) is faulty. Existentialism…i doubt it. Read Paul. Ro 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Sound existential to you? How about Ro 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
      25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. Move over flesh, move in Spirit controlled life. Try it. If you can’t feel the physical responses your own body gives to ungodly stimuli, you and I are in bad shape. If you cannot tell what excites the flesh and what thrills the spirit (in tune with the Spirit) you are driven by intellectualism and preference. Ro 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.


  4. Posted by Tom on March 12, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    I just recently read part III and found these other parts. Having left a very, very conservative ministry a few years back and church, in Greenville, SC, I have found the music in most churches is very different.

    For the first time I have been exposed to what most would call a blend of traditional and CCM music. I had to study this out for myself as I was exposed to not just the music, but other believers who actually love God, but who see music differently than I was raised.

    I appreciate your honest look at the ‘beat’ of music because for years I was taught much of what you shared.

    After all my research and reading, I feel similiarly to what you have shared. While most Rock music is not what I would consider acceptable, and while a lot of CCM music I do not accept for myself, I no longer can just write a blank check and write them all off.

    Life just isn’t so black and white and there are good Godly Christians who see things differently. I appeciate your honest look. I

    If we as believers were more honest with the scriptures and hence we would end up being more consistent, the world perhaps would be more drawn to the Gospel message. Unfortunately, much of our do’s and don’t’s are not consistent in the light of scripture and the world sees that and discounts the what is so clear in the Word.

    Best wishes.


  5. Posted by Gary on August 4, 2009 at 11:08 am

    To Schaffer, I would say: Man’s styles in art and music are designed for specific purposes. When those purposes include creating physical addiction, mental confusion, or in Bible-speak, a ‘stronghold’ of evil, the style should be rejected. The Bible and history are useful in making this assessment.

    Not long ago, Spurgeon smoked cigars But, at this point, we’ve properly put the issue of tobacco to rest as a bad input to our body, even classifying it as an addictive drug. This conclusion was reached by clear thinking and a body of historical data. Still, believers debate smoking and drinking today as they did in Spurgeon’s day. But smoking and drinking was never a part of the worship of Almighty God as rock music now is.

    There is a lust of the ear (like the lust of the eye):
    …the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. Ecclesiastes 1:8
    The degenerative craving of the pop/rock cultures and their music are readily observed over the decades. Yet we pretend it will be different in the sacred assembly of believers. Still, believers debate rock music today as we did in the days of the Beatles and Elvis. But today it has become a common part of our worship, and the degenerative lust of it is readily observable. Is it not?



    • Posted by Eddie on December 4, 2010 at 5:45 am

      Without a doubt! So glad to see people who will admitt the fallen nature of man apart from the regenerative work of the Spirit.


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