Toward a Biblical Understanding of Music, Part 3


In previous postings on this subject, I have tried to lay a biblical foundation for approaching this subject of which the Bible speaks over 800 times.  In this section, I am going to focus more on some of the practical considerations that I use in my own musical evaluation.

I greatly appreciate the feedback I am receiving, both general and specific, both here and at SharperIron.  It is very useful and the tone has been very constructive.  I have spent a good deal of time studying this topic over the last 6 years, but I am dedicated to the truth of the Scripture.  I WANT to know if any of my reasoning is faulty or could be explained more clearly.  I am interested in hearing about areas I have not addressed that might be beneficial to include in this study.  I am highly interested in any relevant Scriptural passages or principles that could shed further light on these issues.  Having said that, this section is more practical in nature.  There is less Bible; there is more opinion.  Consequently, I do not value it as authoritatively as some of the earlier subject matter.  However, the discussion is, I think, profitable in both learning how to use discernment and in understanding other points of view in areas of doubt.

PART THREE: Practical Considerations

1. What about association in music?

a. Two of the key passages on association in the New Testament are Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8.

b. The association issues of the day were meat offered to idols, observance of holy days, and even drinking of wine.

c. Are there cultural associations that Christians should avoid?  YES

i. I'm not going to use the latest pop song in our worship service; but what if someone in that industry came up with a great song about the Christian life?  Does the association make the good song bad?  NO  Did the association with the idol make the meat bad?  NO.  It was the use of the meat and the relationship between believers that came into question.

ii. Good music is good music regardless of who composes it or popularizes it.  It is not bound to a time period or selected styles.  If we are not consistent with this principle, we will be hypocrites everytime we sing a song by Martin Luther (Catholic) or Charles Wesley (Arminian) or Fanny Crosby (woman preacher) or listen to Beethoven (drunkard) or Tchaikovsky (homosexual).

iii. Popular culture is morally wrong and worldly only when it violates the principles and doctrines of God’s Word.

d. Do cultural associations change over time? YES

i. We’re not fighting today over meat offered to idols in our culture.

ii. Music changes over time as well.  We are wrong to lock ourselves into a box where only music that is reflective of the years 1600-1900 is allowed.  Why do some of us do it?  Sometimes, it is due to good biblical separation at various times from immoral people in our society (Elvis, Beatles, etc.).  Sometimes, however, it is due to bad teaching.  Some of us have even added to God’s Word what is not there.  We have elevated man’s wisdom to the level of God’s inspired Word.

2. How can we discern what is good/bad?  Where do we draw the line?

a. Nobody on earth knows where the line is.  Anyone who tells you they do is lying.  God knows exactly what is good and what is bad.  We don’t.  That’s okay.  God intended that a large part of the Christian experience be discerning what is good/bad outside the specific precepts of Scripture.

b. Even though we can’t draw the line in exactly the right place, we must still draw the line.  Why?  Because there is a place where whatever is not in faith is sin (Romans 14:23).  Will the line move as you mature in Christ?  Yes.  Will your line be different than my line?  Yes.  Is it God’s line? No.  It’s my best guess.

c. So where do we draw the line?  We must struggle with this statement: “To the best of my knowledge of the Scripture, this is where I cannot cross in faith and is what will please my Lord.  Others will draw the line differently and I accept them as brothers/sisters in Christ.  I must also be willing restrict my liberty in some of what I consider acceptable if it is leading my brothers/sisters to sin.”

3. My Journey

a. I have grown up in a fundamental home, and graduated from a fundamental school, college, and seminary.  I have no regrets about that.

b. I quickly bought into the traditional philosophy of music.  This was due primarily to my desire to be a people-pleaser and because I recognized the true evil in much of the music (songs) in the world (lust of flesh, lust of eyes, pride of life) and wanted to fight it vigorously.  Hopefully, I have matured to the point of being more concerned with God’s thoughts of me than people’s thoughts of me, but I still hate much of the music in the world and still will fight it vigorously.

c. The problem is I bought into this philosophy without studying and comparing  Scripture with Scripture.  As I advanced through education, I was given more and more responsibility in musical areas, from leading college traveling teams to checking music for college dorms to preaching seminars in local churches and high schools.  I still didn’t compare Scripture with Scripture.  I continued to use the same texts, the same principles, and even found new ones to complement my presentation w/o comparing Scripture with Scripture.

d. As a result, I committed great sin.  I misinterpreted verses; I took verses out of context; I led people into error.  This, I regret with all of my heart.

e. I am not the only one in error though.  I had to wait until my last year of seminary, 24 years of education gone, to take my first course on biblical worship.  The reason I had to wait so long is that it was the first course on worship ever offered to me at any of these educational institutions.  In fact, it was the first time the course had ever been offered in the history of the seminary I attended.  It changed my life.

f. Not the course.  The Word.  God’s Word.  Because for the first time in my life, I was challenged to look at all of the Scripture that relates to worship.  It took us all semester, over 4 months, and I was just getting a taste of what would lie ahead.

g. Two years earlier, my pastor had started a series preaching through the book of Romans.  And wouldn’t you know it—the same time I was being challenged in the classroom, God was challenging me in the pew through Romans 14-15.

h. That’s when the pain started.  My musical philosophy I had developed was more than just a philosophy; it was my identity.  It reached into every area of my life.  And it hurt as God began to cut my mask away and leave me with nothing for security except His Word. 

i. I had two choices when I was confronted with Scripture: (1) Reject it and continue in my very comfortable, very wrong philosophy or (2) Embrace it and start building my identity all over again—this time built on His words, not mine.  Every step of the journey hurt, left me feeling confused and disillusioned, but when He was done exposing me for who I truly was, I was free.  For the first time in my Christian life, I was truly liberated from the bonds of legalism which I had willingly cuffed to my wrists for so many years.

j. By the way, it was legalism.  I was trusting that my good works and my squeaky clean outside would somehow make me more holy.  I was wrong.  The best I have ever offered God always ends up looking like filthy rags compared to His goodness and greatness.  And yet, somehow, His grace transforms my offering into something that pleases Him and edifies others.  Amazing Grace!

k. In regards to music, the one truth that changed me more than anything else was when I came to the realization that musical style was a doubtful thing as explained in Romans 14.  Confronted with that truth, I had to abandon my carefully constructed philosophy of errors and embraced His truth.  I don’t regret it and I’m not ashamed of it.

Part 4 will deal with rhythm and syncopation in music.


One response to this post.

  1. […] I won’t take the time here to lay out my personal journey that has brought me to a different perspective on musical style and men like Steve Green.  I have previously blogged about it, which you can read by clicking here.  […]


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