Music Standards, Part 2

Music in Christian worship Based on the foundation explained in Part 1 we will now look at the importance of purity in music used for Christian worship. There is a raging battle in the Christian life between the Spirit and the flesh (Romans 6-8). Paul stressed that Christian liberty is no license to gratify the flesh (Gal. 5:13) and made it clear that “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24) Wrong music is centered on the fulfillment of carnal passions (through techniques described in Part 1) and gives the emotional message of “do whatever you want to do” rather than helping to “put off concerning the former conversation… which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:22-23). It is no accident that certain styles of music originated in certain cultures for the purpose of cultivating the depraved nature. According to Little Richard, “My true belief about Rock ‘n’ Roll – and there have been a lot of phrases attributed to me over the years – is this: I believe this kind of music is demonic…. A lot of the beats in music today are taken from voodoo, from the voodoo drums. If you study music in rhythms, like I have, you’ll see that is true.” (Little Richard; Quoted in Jeff Goodwin, Dancing with Demons, pp 126-128.) To take the disordered beats and sensual vocal techniques that we enjoyed in the flesh, and change the words so we can justify it as “Christian”, is to “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Jude 1:4) and imply that the character, or name of Christ Himself is violent or erotic. An assault on the name of God is serious, “for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.” (Ex. 20:7 and Deut. 5:11) Quite simply, music is a form of communication, just like language and art, which can essentially be used for both good and bad. “Be not deceived. Evil communications corrupt good manners.” 1 Cor. 15:33 According to William Kilpatrick, Professor of Education, Boston College, “Rock can’t be made respectable…. The music will simply subvert the words…. No matter how many reforms are attempted, rock and rap will always gravitate in the direction of violence and uncommitted sex. The beat says ‘Do what you want to do'” (from Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong, pp. 178, 182). The more counter-rhythm and syncopation there is, the stronger the impulsive feelings of the “flesh” become. The amount of disorder is a minor issue because “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Leaven represents moral compromise in 1 Cor. 5:6-8 and failure to focus on circumcision of the heart in Gal. 5:5-9/Rom. 2:29.

As Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) said, “Sometimes I need to reject the music proposed for my songs because the musicians misunderstand that the Fanny Crosby who once wrote for the people in the saloons has merely changed the lyrics. Oh my no. The church must never sing it’s songs to the melodies of the world.”

Though used in saloons, a piano is set apart for holiness in the sactuary of God. I am quite sure that the melodies she rejected would be considered the mildest of worldly music by today’s standards. What fits in a saloon does not fit in the sanctuary of God. That’s why the sanctuary exists – a place set apart only for holiness. Obviously, it is a shame for immoral music to be included on otherwise good recordings just because “that’s what makes it sell”.

And that brings me to my original motivation for writing this whole post. It occurred to me while I was working in the garden not long ago that if my motivation for performing music is to please people, I am doomed to eventually perform music that is displeasing to God because “if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” Gal. 1:10. The nature of God and the godless nature of people are irreconcilable (Rom. 8:5-8). If music is beautiful in the eyes of God, those who love what He loves will love it, while those who dislike what He likes will dislike it. Since we cannot solidly base anything on the ever-changing preferences of people, we would do better to walk as children of light in the fruit of the Spirit, “proving what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Eph. 5:8-11. What really matters to me in an artistic message is how well it helps me to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal. 5:16-25) while putting on the “new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” Eph. 4:24.

I suppose one reason, among others, that religious leaders are sometimes afraid to reject carnal musical styles is for fear of seeming to be too pious and “holier-than-thou” (click there to read why this is actually a self-contradictory concept). Also unfounded is the fear that music will be boring if it’s not “livened up with a little beat”. Just as there is infinite room for dynamic expression of God’s love within the bounds of holiness, there is also infinite room for Godly expression in music within the bounds of order. In fact, you cannot express God’s love outside of His holiness, and you cannot express God’s holy name in music without “decency and order” (1 Cor. 14:40). The goal is to display the powerful, dynamic love of God without mixing it with anything counterfeit. Love is not lust. Joy is not foolishness. Peace is not depression. Longsuffering is not compromise. Knowing God makes the distinction clear.

2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 “…for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? …And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 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 Cor. 6:14-7:1.

This post has focused on the wrong kind of music and the importance of separation from the evil of the world for the sake of sanctification and holiness (John 17:15-17). Part 3 will focus more on the right kind of music.

9 Comments

  1. Jamie Parfitt September 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

    You are doing a good job of explaining this. God bless you for writing it. I especially noticed the part about how people who love what God loves will love the kind of music He loves. It’s so true. I look forward to the next part. I imagine it is hard to write it in a way, but writing about what God wants written will help those of us who want to think godly thoughts and make godly decisions. It also helps us explain a subject that we haven’t exactly collected our own thoughts on yet to friends, our children, or other family members.

  2. Michael September 9, 2009 at 7:00 am #

    Praise the Lord. I’ve seen that this is really needed. God is primarily concerned about our inward being, that we are able to overcome the world, that we be like Christ Who ordered His steps in perfect compliance with Father, was meek and lowly in heart, poor in spirit etc. As servants of God we must set all music preferences aside and seek God’s face, letting Him reveal through His word what will best accomplish this, and when He does we can then express it to others and be committed to it.

  3. Esther Staddon September 9, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    This really rings true!

  4. Sarah Stelzl September 10, 2009 at 8:17 am #

    This is so accurate! It is amazing how in the past so many believers as well as non-believers have been able to identify a dramatic difference in the effects of good/bad music. Where you draw the line is indeed a big debate in the world. However, someone once pointed out that in situations where you cannot necissarily say good vs. bad, you can choose between good and best! We ought to all strive our hardest to live by God’s highest standards, which takes self denial and sacrifice. The verse that speaks of every man’s way being right in his own eyes, seems to indicate that unless we approach this matter determining to seek out God’s will, and purposing to obey it without compromise, we will eventually find a way to accept whatever we want by human reasoning and debate. Anyone can make anything “right” in their own eyes.
    Thank you Michael for taking the time to explain the importance of pure and godly music in such detail. This has been so helpful and inspirational!

  5. Michael September 11, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    Thank you for you comment Sarah. It is true that receiving God’s ways requires self-denial. If God has no will for us in music, then our reasoning and debate is really just based on preference or deception. But if God does, then our debate is based on holiness.
    Before I knew God, I liked “beat music” and couldn’t help it. It was impulsive, just like me. After Christ filled my life I desired only what was most pure and holy in His sight. That was when the hymns came alive to me. I knew there was something wrong with some music that gave me a feeling of rebellion or self-will or impulsiveness or arrogance. But I couldn’t debate music because I didn’t know what it was in the music that caused those feelings. So I asked the Lord to teach me. It soon made perfect sense to me that rhythm orders a song in its progression through time, communicating rightness and dignity, and that “off beats” were a form of rebellion against that order. It’s not just chaos or completely random; it is setting up a beat for the purpose of countering it and violating it with syncopation. As I listened to music I noticed this was true with all the music that stimulated wrong feelings. Add a sensual voice and the seductive feeling of bent pitches and you have “Rock ‘n’ roll has a message and it is the message of sexual permissiveness” – Richard Taylor in A Return to Christian Culture.
    We know this about music intuitively and that’s why Christian parents of past generations were so distraught about their children getting involved in it. But it’s not easy to explain why except for the lyrics. So when the same music came out with Christian words it became harder to articulate why it was wrong. Meanwhile parents are also battling the temptation to compromise with wrong attitudes in their own hearts. At the same time the music (which is a universal language that communicates the same thing to everyone) was associating a whole new meaning to the Christian words (which are a subjective language with meaning only through association). Since the rebellious beat appeals to the flesh and the flesh is never satisfied, the rock beat is extremely addictive. Big music companies are motivated to promote “Christian rock” to expand their business into a large Christian community.
    So the Church accepts it, using it to attract the “new generation”, forgetting the duty to hold up God’s righteousness so that His Spirit will bring people to repentance and holiness. It is short-sighted to attract them for the sake of numbers. It is also deceptive to attract young people with carnal entertainment and then switch gears and preach repentance and death to sin and freedom from the old nature. The future of the Church depends on holiness. Purity precedes power. What kind of Lord are they coming to at the same time that they enjoy rebellious and sensual drives?
    Would people actually refuse to worship if there was no “contemporary service”? Would they not be able to worship God in the preaching of His Word and the wholehearted singing of hymns? Why would people react so strongly to a music standard? Do they have a moral conviction against Charles Wesley’s hymns, or Fanny Crosby’s, or Rudy Atwood?
    I am realizing more and more that spiritual music and carnal music are polar opposites that repel each other. Love is at war with lust. Joy is at war with silliness. Peace is at war with rebellion, and I find music a key player in the battle.

  6. Sarah Stelzl September 11, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    Michael,
    There is so much truth in what you mentioned in your last paragraph. For someone to say they have a moral conviction against Charles Wesley’s hymns could be compared to a firm belief that wearing skirts is wrong, or that NOT having a TV is wrong! I can see how a person would go as far as possible towards the world without violating “Christianity”, yet how can they not acknowledge that there are at least some benefits of being more conservative? You asked some very challenging questions in your last paragraph regarding worship and hymn singing. It seems that not all who compromise in their music standards believe hymns/conservative music to be wrong. Yet it comes back to the sacrifice issue. They are not willing to admit that the ways of the world are wicked, or that we are to be in this world and not of it. I believe that the average “Christian” today is not willing to give up the lusts of the flesh, to surrender to God. They are offered the truth, but they will be blind to it until they are willing to surrender all for Jesus. I believe that all the verses that speak of how we are to suffer for Christ, do not just include physical persecution, but also a denial of self and a sacrifice of what our flesh desires!
    There is a natural desire to sin, and the flesh is carnal. We cannot teach our flesh to hate the music of this world, but if Christ be in us, we can love the truth, because He loves the truth!
    I think we also need to try the fruit! Studies have shown the different results of different types of music, and I think it is rather obvious which types are benefiting to our bodies and which are not! If we view our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit, as we ought, there should be no question of what is harmful/beneficial to us!
    Lastly, we ought to remember that we do not war against the flesh itself, but against principlaities, darkness, spiritual wickedness, and the power of Satan. (from Ephesians 6). The darkness cannot just be removed. It has to be replaced – with the light!
    I think every Christian should spend so much more time thanking God for the victory He has given us over sin! Think what bondage we would all be in, if we had to rely on ourselves to discover the truth, and desire it.

  7. Crystal September 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    Great job on part two. It was good to point out that one of the reason’s people reject (or maybe it’s just an excuse?)the message on Godly standards for music is due to those who present it with the wrong attitude. Oh, may we always present God’s truth with the right attitudes whether it’s on music, salvation, dress, or any other area!
    I’m looking forward to reading part 3.

  8. Debbie July 16, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    You people are absolutely crazy!!!!! Its astonishing to discover that people like yourselves who are intelligent and articulate can actually think like you do!! […]Thank goodness I have the right to vote against crazies like you, the right to educate myself and my daughters, the right to wear pants, and the right to choose!! I’m going to crank up some tunes by Little Richard now and dance around like a sinner.

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  1. StaddonFamily.com » Blog Archive » Music Standards, Part 3 - January 6, 2010

    […] Part 2: The importance of rejecting wrong music […]

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