Music – The Golden Calf #5 – A Response

Part 5 of “Music – The Golden Calf” can be found here.

The Desert Pastor (DP) begins by making some very true statements about worship and music. Music can indeed be the object or even the driving force behind much of Christianity’s so-called “worship.” It should never be about what “feels right” or based on some emotional experience brought about by listening to certain styles of music. To this I would also add that it should never be about what “feels wrong” either. If we are going to exclude what drives our feelings (and we should!), then both sides of the equation should be negated, both what feels right AND what feels wrong. Music in and of itself should never, I repeat NEVER, be the impetus or driving force behind our worship. When it becomes that, as D.A. Carson once wrote, we start worshipping worship instead of worshipping Him who is worthy of all worship.

DP also makes what is perhaps a true statement in that many church attendees could not accurately analyze the theological content of the song they just sang. This is certainly a sad statement about the condition of the church and one that we should be constantly fighting against in teaching and instructing believers. If we are unable to judge the theological content of a song, then there is definitely room for someone to slip a song into the musical line-up that does not reflect truth.

As an aside, I find two things interesting about the quote from Bob Kauflin. First is that DP quotes him in the first place, given that Sovereign Grace Ministries – of which Bob Kauflin is a leader – is very charismatic in their style of church and corporate worship. A quick perusal of their music offerings (which I would highly recommend, by the way) would reveal that the music is most definitely not of the conservative stripe. Second, is that DP does not also quote Bob Kauflin when he states in the same interview that “Looking throughout the history of Scripture and since then, it seems that God doesn’t have a particular kind of music that he likes or a particular era of music that he likes. [It seems] that God likes music of all kinds. That’s the way he created the world. [Just to] celebrate the diversity of music that God has given us with which to praise him….Truth transcends tunes.

But once again, DP is trying to confuse matters here by comparing apples with oranges. The controversy has not ever been about the content of the music. As I’ve stated before, I will continue to completely agree with DP on the issue of lyrics. I’m sure there will be very few in evangelicalism that would disagree with his statements on the content of music. But that is not the issue that DP started with, nor the one that he keeps bringing into the discussion. Even in 4 questions of his 6-question test, he comes back to the issue of musical style. He tries to throw out the question of “Why can’t I take any style or genre of music and use it for the glory of God?” when this question is THE question that should be asked. I am more than a little shocked that he would attempt to throw this question out and replace it with 6 others that simply do not address the bottom line. It almost implies a reluctance to deal with the question and since he cannot come up with a Biblical answer, he simply throws it out as irrelevant when it is anything but irrelevant. The Westminster Shorter Catechism rightly places this issue first and foremost when in the very first question it asks: “What is the chief end of man?” to which we should reply “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever!” So to ask what can be used to glorify God is exactly the issue. If you can answer that question, the 6 questions he poses will answer themselves.

Allow me to demonstrate. I firmly believe that, because the Bible is absolutely silent on the issue of musical style, I can take any style of music (again, NOT lyrics) and use it to glorify God and encourage others to do to the same. My answers then would be:

1) What does God require of me in my worship of Him? Quite simply, to honor him, not just with my lips (Matt.15:8-9), but with my whole self (Ro.12:1-2), worshiping with gladness (Ps. 100:2), recognizing that he alone is worthy of worship (Rev.4:11)

2) What is there in the world’s music that I must use in order to worship the God Who has called me to be separate from the world? There is nothing there that I must use, but I recognize God can and will be glorified in everything. I recognize that there is no such thing as a difference between “worldly” musical styles and “Christian” musical styles, but that all styles should be brought under the dominion of Christ to bring honor and glory to him. This is also why I can appreciate all kinds of art (not simply music) because all beauty should cause us to think on Him who is Beauty.

3) What is there in my music selections that I choose because of the way it makes me feel instead of whether it is theologically correct? Musical style does not have theological content. Further, all music, by its very nature, is designed to cause an emotional response; to state otherwise is to show a lack of knowledge of the subject of music. However, the content (lyrics) that I choose to listen to should reflect truth and beauty as Christ Himself is Truth and Beauty. I can appreciate Steve Green songs just as much as I can appreciate Josh Groban songs, but on two separate levels.

4) How can I take the name of Christ and use it as a label simply for the purpose of approving what my mind tells me is not truly honouring to Christ? This question unfairly assumes that whatever “worldly” music I choose (again, not sure how this music is defined as DP has not given any answer to this) is chosen against what I know is “right.” This is simply incorrect. If something is truly not honoring to Christ, then it should not be participated in. But again, I believe that the name of Christ can be honored in any kind of musical style.

5) Does the so-called silence on the issue of music style give me the liberty to violate other biblical principles in order to seek my own pleasure? If there is a Biblical principle that is being violated in order to satisfy my own flesh, this is absolutely wrong and is sin. But if I am truly seeking to honor God and “present my body a living sacrifice (Ro.12:1-2), then the silence on music does indeed give me the liberty to choose a musical style.

6) Have I allowed music to become my own little idol, and in doing so violated the command not to have any other gods before the God of heaven? This is a very legitimate question and one that should be asked continually. It is most definitely idolatry when we want to have our music simply to satisfy our flesh and not for the purpose of bringing glory to God.

(to be continued…)

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6 Responses

  1. I’ve read through (a bit quickly, I admit) most of what you’ve written in response to DP’s blog articles, and I find your thoughts to be really good.

    Let me explain myself a bit, please. I come from a background that is much like DP’s. In my youth, my family went to a church which thought all pop and rock music was intrinsically evil in itself, and at that time I accepted what they said. It wasn’t until I was in college that I found some who thought different, so I did research and listened to the music and the lyrics, and I was a student in music at that time too, and came to the conclusion that there was nothing in any style of music (with the possible exception of some of the more bizarre artsy music) that is in itself wrong. It came down to how the music was used and what the songs are saying.

    That was years ago, and much of the research I did at that time I no longer remember for certain. I suppose some of those books are still around in my book collection, and can find them if I must.

    I think that you have it mostly spot-on. The problem hasn’t been the music, but the theology and lack thereof in too many of the songs. On top of that, I’ve had experiences with some of the more charismatic views on music, and frankly the emphasis they put on it is rather frightening.

    Which is why I think that DP has chosen the wrong front to fight on. I can’t see how he can make a good case from Scripture for or against any particular style, and that silence he is filling with his own opinions and ideas.

    For the record, I couldn’t care less what music he and his church use to worship. The point is that they worship, and do so rightly, in both spirit and truth. From me, his church has freedom to use the style of music they find best for that. I only ask for the same from him.

    Frankly, it’s a fight I’ve been in before, and don’t wish to continue fighting. There’s too much out there that needs dealt with for either him or us to keep fighting over this.

  2. jazzact13,

    Thanks for your comments both here and on my blog posts regarding music.

    You said, “Frankly, it’s a fight I’ve been in before, and don’t wish to continue fighting. There’s too much out there that needs dealt with for either him or us to keep fighting over this.”

    I appreciate your making the statement you did. My purpose in writing was never about starting a fight. If people disagree (as I do with Eskypades in a few areas), we are free to do so without coming to a slugfest.

    Sadly, though I find that fighting is what happens when somebody’s personal preferences are stepped on. They take it very personally and automatically begin defending their own positions.

    I doubt seriously that I would have had the kind of negative comments and emails I have received lately if I were on the other side of the spectrum.

    It is good to debate, but not to argue. As they say, variety is the spice of life. Each person is ultimately only accountable to God, and not you or I.

    Kind regards,
    The Desert Pastor

  3. DP stated: “Sadly, though I find that fighting is what happens when somebody’s personal preferences are stepped on. They take it very personally and automatically begin defending their own positions.”

    You are sadly mistaken if you believe that the “fighting” is simply because of a difference in personal preferences. As I have stated repeatedly, I have absolutely no issue with someone whose preferences differ with mine. What I do have a problem with is someone like yourself who attempts to label anyone who disagrees with you as doing it out of some contrived attempt to hang to “worldly” principles. You continually claim the Biblical high ground, but consistently have failed to show how using “worldly” music is sinful. But you apparently are too caught up in your own opinions to recognize this. You accuse others of having their minds already made up when this description fits you perfectly.

  4. Stephen,

    You said, “This is also why I can appreciate all kinds of art (not simply music) because all beauty should cause us to think on Him who is Beauty.”

    Out of curiosity, to say ‘all kinds of art’ would imply a blanket statement. I have met some who call themselves believers who would include sculptures and paintings of the human body in such a belief or statement.

    I don’t think you are saying this, but would such sculptures and paintings (of naked individuals) fall under your appreciation of style and/or your statement that “all beauty should cause us to think on Him who is Beauty”?

    If not, then my question would be what is the difference as it seems to only be a matter of style? You said “God can and will be glorified in everything.” If all styles can be used and all art forms equally in their styles, this seems a very dangerous path to walk.

    On one last note, you seem to have added an additional part to this equation in your comment, “You continually claim the Biblical high ground, but consistently have failed to show how using “worldly” music is sinful.

    This is the whole point of my thoughts on the matter of worship. I have used a number of verses which show that the usage of that which is “worldly” is sinful. Where we disagree is exactly what is defined as “worldly”.

    The Desert Pastor

  5. DP,

    “All kinds of art” is indeed a blanket statement to include all types/kinds. I would indeed include paintings and sculptures of the human body (Michaelangelo’s “David” for example”) is a beautiful piece of art that can be appreciated by Christians. What I would not include in this is pornographical “art” designed to stir up sinful lusts and temptations as this is in clear contradiction to Biblical commands.

    My statement that you have copied is no different that what I have repeatedly said. I put the term “worldly” in quotations simply to signify that this is a term that is nonsensical in its origins as it is associated with musical style. There is no such thing as a difference between “worldly” and “Christian” music as it relates to the style. As such, no, you have not once shown from Scripture where the Bible discusses a “worldly” style.

    Further, you have not yet defined what is “worldly” in musical style. Yes, you have indeed addressed heart issues; but heart issues are not to be confused with the style of music itself, as has been pointed out to you numerously and subsequently ignored by you numerously because it doesn’t fit into your narrow (and incredibly legalistic) point of view. As I (and others) have also pointed out, you continue to berate those who choose a style of music not to your liking without any room for the allowance of those who are indeed God-honoring and who use such styles.

  6. I appreciate your making the statement you did. My purpose in writing was never about starting a fight. If people disagree (as I do with Eskypades in a few areas), we are free to do so without coming to a slugfest.

    If all were stating were your own opinions about styles of music that you like and don’t like, there would be nothing to fight about. Instead, you have tried to say that there are ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ styles of music, based on what I can only think are your own personal experiences and opinions.

    As I said, I come from that mindset, and haven’t gotten away from it, I have no wish to be bound by those chains again. It’s simply legalism prettied up a bit with spiritual rhetoric.

    Understand, DP, I believe in biblical absolutes. I’m not some kind of emergent relativist. I think that when God says “Thou shalt not”, He means it.

    But there are many things about which “Thou shalt nots” are not made; rather, in the NT we are told that there are things that are matters of the individual’s conscience.

    If your conscience disapproves of contemporary music, even with Christian lyrics, by all means don’t listen to it. But you also have no right to judge any whose conscience has no problem with that style of music, if you can find no absolute prohibition in the Bible of that style.

    I’m dealing with music style only there. The lyrical content of songs is certain open to being examined and approved or not, as well as the character of the musicians and how they present themselves.

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