That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Music Part 1

Because I'm a musician, people often ask me what my favourite kind of music is.  I find this a very difficult question to answer.  There are countless genres, styles, and types of music that make it impossible to choose a favourite! Generally I like well constructed music that has beautiful melodic lines, a complementary rhythm, and creative harmony (but not too creative... :).

I've spent a long time studying music (I started piano lessons around the age of 6).  I've learned how to play piano and how to sing, and I can play several other instruments although I've never taken formal lessons with them.  I've studied music history, theory, and philosophy.  I've performed, composed, and taught.  Although I don't consider myself an expert in all areas of music by any means (there's just too much to absorb in one lifetime), I think I have enough knowledge to give a valid opinion and criticism of music.  I am also always seeking to increase my knowledge of music.  A musician never stops learning!

Music is a big part of our world.  Technology has placed music at our fingertips.  It used to be that only the wealthy and talented could enjoy music, but now ipods and mp3 players make it possible and affordable for just about anyone to access all kinds of music.  Music plays everywhere!  No matter where we go we are inundated with music.  Every public venue plays music.  Every home has a radio or sound system playing music.   As a music teacher I play/listen to music for up to 8 hours a day!  I often joke that my favourite music is actually silence!

Just as I believe that God created everything, I believe He created music.  Just as I believe that Satan has tried to corrupt every aspect of God's creation, I believe he has corrupted music too.   If God created music and Satan has corrupted music, that can only lead to the logical conclusion that there are good and bad types of music.  Ask anyone and they will affirm that music makes them feel something: joy, sorrow, comfort, despair, hope, sadness.  This very fact disproves the notion that music is amoral.   When judging good and bad music the Christian must remember several things.

1.  Music is not  amoral.
2.  God has created music for us to enjoy.
3.  Satan has corrupted God's perfect creation.
4.  Man's sin has corrupted God's perfect creation.
5.  The Bible is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.

It seems that many Christians have trouble when it comes to the music they listen to.  For some reason they believe that music is something on which God has not given us a clear instruction in His Word.  There's much confusion, darkness, and plain denial surrounding music in the Christian world.  I wrote in my beginning paragraphs about my experience as a musician.  The reason I did that is because I wanted to share some things about music from a Christian perspective, but I wanted my readers to know that I do have an understanding in this area.  Now, does that mean you have to be a musician in order to understand what God says about music?  Not at all!  My conviction about music comes mostly from studying God's Word, and God will reveal His will to any diligent seeker.  I simply believe that as a musician I have looked at music with perhaps a different perspective than some others.

When a Christian is choosing music to listen to, he cannot base that choice simply on preference.  Even though a saved person has the Holy Spirit living in them, the Bible is clear that the old nature does not simply disappear.  A saved person is in a constant battle between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:17; Rom 7:18).  In choosing musical styles to listen to, we must be careful that it is the new nature (the Spirit) that is making that choice and not the old nature (the flesh).  How is the Christian to know whether it is his flesh or the Spirit making the choice regarding right music?  The answer is very simple.  Once he realizes that his two natures are at war with each other, he must then realize that musical style cannot simply be a  matter of preference.   Even the spiritually mature Christian will have "preferences" that come from his fleshly desires.  He must base his choice of music on clear, biblical teaching.

Many will argue that the Bible nowhere specifically addresses the issue of music.  Those who say this have obviously not studied the issue in light of the Scriptures.  The word "musick"  (old English spelling of music) appears in the Bible 16 times.  Sing, singing, sang, and sung appear in the Bible 143 times.  Song is in the Bible 44 times.  Hymns are mentioned 4 times (numbers from Strong's Concordance on the King James Version of the Bible).  The Bible mentions musical instruments such as the harp, organ, pipe, tabret, trumpet, psaltery, dulcimer, timbrel, viol, cornet, flute,  and sackbut.  The Bible also mentions specific instances when music was used properly, and when it was used improperly.

Consider the following:  I Samuel 7:6 (chapter 6 gives context).  Solomon was dedicating the temple to the Lord.  At the dedication we know that the Levites played on instruments of musick.  God accepted Solomon's sacrifice, and it was a great day of praising and worshipping God.  Obviously in this case the music was pleasing to the Lord.  It was performed in a worshipful way, and God was honoured.

Now consider Daniel 3:5, 7, 15 (chapter 3 gives the entire account).  Here we have Nebuchadnezzer's image that he was compelling his kingdom to worship.  The signal to bow down to the image was the sound of the music.  We know that God views idolatry as sin (Ex 20:1-3).  This music did not please God because it was being used to assist the people in worshipping and idol.  Many instruments are listed in this passage.  Please do not misunderstand, the Scripture is not saying that the specific instrument is wrong, but what the instruments were being used for was definitely wrong!

These are just two examples of specific Scriptures that deal with music.  One who studies the Bible and seeks to learn from what he reads can clearly see that the Bible does address music.  Many other passages could be quoted and studied more in depth, but my point is illustrated.  There are many issues that the Bible does not deal with specifically.  For example drug use, obedience to traffic laws, and smoking, and yet most Christians would make judgements on these issues and rightfully so.  My point is, is that while the Bible is not specific in some areas, music is definitely NOT one of those areas.  Those who say this are simply ignoring what the Word is really saying.

Those who say musical choice is a matter of preference I believe are in error.  I say then, it is my preference to smoke marijuana.  The Bible is not specific on this matter.  It is my choice to disobey the speed limit.  The Bible is not specific on this matter.  Can you see how ridiculous this is?  If I followed my preference and drove at 150 kph up the highway, I would end up with a fine or even in jail.  Such a testimony is obviously not appropriate for a Christian.  But why is speeding wrong?  Because it is against the law.  What in the Bible tells me I have to obey the law?  Romans 13:1-3.  In this passage the Bible gives a principle of obeying governments.  It does not specifically say I cannot speed, but if I am to live by this passage I will not speed because the law instituted by the government says speeding is wrong.  The key to finding out what the Bible says about music is not so much the specific direction given about music, but applying Biblical principles to the type of music.  Just as the Biblical principle of obeying those that have the rule over you is applied to speeding.

Many Christians say the Bible is their final authority in all matters of faith and practice, but they refuse to apply this belief to the music they listen to.  They refuse to seek out Biblical principles that help to guide them in wise musical choices.  They are pleasing the flesh with their choice of music, and they do not want to be convicted that they need to change.  If you ask most people why they listen to a certain type of music they will reply, "Because I like it."  Doing something because you like it is very dangerous for a Christian.  David liked the way Bathsheba looked, and he ended up committing adultry (II Sam 11:2). 

One of the tests of music for a Christian is to use music in a way that glorifies God.  This can be seen from the previous Scriptures I mentioned in I Samuel and in Daniel.  However, this becomes a problem is when it is used as an excuse.  Many will excuse the use of rock-and-roll/contemporary pop (praise and worship) music in church services because they say they are using that music to glorify God.  However, when the Christian's music copies that of the world the red flags should go up!  I John 2:15 tells us to "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world."  One of those "things" is music.  If the world is using a particular style of music then the Christian must be extremely careful when also using that style.  Sometimes it is better just to avoid certain types of music rather than try and sift through all the bad in order to find the little bit of good.  I believe that the Bible directs this way when it comes to much of the praise and worship music used in many churches today.  This music is much to close to the worldly styles heard on the radio and while some if it may be good, it takes much effort and time to sift through all the bad to find that little bit of good.  We've all heard the saying "it's never right to do wrong in order to do right."  This is so true for the Christian.  To use something that the Bible indicates is sinful and then say that it's not sinful because I'm using it to glorify God is taking wrong and making it right.  Isaiah 5:20-21 mentions this exact thing!

In my next post, I will give specific biblical principles that can help guide the Christian in making musical choices the please the Lord.  Music is powerful!  It's power is not something that the Christian shoud take lightly.  We need to be discerning and careful in this area. 

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