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.”
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.
“…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.