MUSIC AND CHRISTIANITY

In this chapter I will address two subjects. First will be whether or not instrumental music is permissible during the worship service and secondly whether or not certain types or styles of music are inherently evil and should be avoided.

There are a few groups out there who forbid instrumental music during their worship services. This was more common during the nineteenth century (even the local Methodist church were I live banned instrumental music at that time) though a few groups still hold on to this practice today. There are several reasons given for this. The most common being: First, nowhere in the New Testament is there authorization to use musical instruments during the worship service. Secondly, even though there were musical instruments used in the Old Testament, that was part of the law, which was nailed to the cross and has been done away with by Christ sacrifice. Thirdly, there are records of objections to musical instruments being used in some early Christian writings.

Although it is true that there is no direct endorsement for instrumental music in the New Testament, I will remind people of my BSH #3 (Absence of scripture, or perceived absence of scripture, though maybe a cause for concern, is not the basis of sound doctrine.) And I will refer people back to the chapter on Scripture to dig on this further. There is not a direct command banning the use of instrumental music or a hint of it in the New Testament either. So as far as I am concerned we are at ground zero. When I consider this subject, I refer to this verse.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Tim 3:15-17

As I stated in my chapter on scripture, what Paul is teaching Timothy is about the worthiness of the Old Testament Scriptures and how he should utilize them. The Old Testament is profitable in the areas of doctrine, reproof, correction, and instructions in righteousness. The Old Testament also allows us to be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. I will warn those who use phrases like "nailed to the Cross" with frequency that they should be very careful not to discount the Old Testament more than God intends us to. It is true that the Old Testament saw its completion in Jesus Christ but the New Testament is squarely founded on the Old. (Matthew 5:17, Romans 3:31) The New Testament is not contrary to or contradicting of the Old Testament. Any basic truth in the Old Testament will be a basic truth of the New Testament. A simple reading of almost any portion of the New Testament will be chock full of quotations from the Old Testament usually to lay a foundation and show authority for the point being made. What I am getting to is this, that when we do perceive silence on a particular subject in the New Testament, it is a good, right and scriptural method to look back to the Old Testament for answers. Not to reintroduce the Old Testament law, for that has truly been nailed to the cross. The purpose of the law was to show perfection and our inability to achieve this perfection. (Romans 3:20, all ch 7) We do not look for requirements but for guidance, for the law is holy, just, and right. (Romans 7:12) For an example letís look at the subject of Tithing. Nowhere in the New Testament is it commanded that we tithe, only that we give to the best of our ability with a glad heart. (II Corinthians 9:6-7) If the tithe has been truly nailed the cross, then by our friends system it is forbidden. Thus if I stretch the logic even further, it is legal for me to give 9% or 11%, but if I give 10%, I have sinned against the Cross. I pray that you see how silly this is getting. Often my week gets busy, bills pile up, and I arrive to church on Sunday with no idea of what is my best ability to give. A good and right and simple formula is to give 10% of my income that week. In doing so, I neither cheat God or myself and I have sought Godís wisdom towards a good work. Likewise when confronted with the issue of whether or not to have instrumental music during worship services, if I find no direct command against it or even a hint of negativity toward it. It is good and right that I consider the total of scripture for an answer. In the Psalms we find this passage.

Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. Ps 33:1-3

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King. Ps 98:4-6

 

So David, by the Holy Spirit, affirms that it is good and pleasing unto God that we utilize musical instruments when we sing and give him praise. This solidly attests to the general nature of God who does not Change. (See my chapter on the nature of God) Also, there is a New Testament command that the Psalms are to continue to be part of our worship services.

 

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Eph 5:19

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Col 3:16

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. James 5:13

Notice that we are to admonish with Psalms. The Psalms are clearly a vital source for direction and guidance when we seek answers in our Christian age. Please also note that since the Psalms are to continue to be part of our Christian worship, it would be quite contradictory to recite and sing Psalms commanding us to praise God with musical instruments all the while banning them. The Psalms are chock full of references about praising God with musical instruments beyond the two I quoted. Even if one were to use a limited set of Psalms it would be hard to avoid using a Psalm that did not refer to a musical instrument and praising God. Lastly if we look on to the book of Revelation:

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou were slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; Rev 5:8-9

And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. Rev 14:2-3

And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Rev 15:2-3

We see that in Heaven and in the times to come, musical instruments are and will be utilized in the worship and praise of God. The general witness of scripture is that it is good, right and pleasing unto God to worship and praise him with musical instruments. There is not a hint anywhere that this is to cease, even temporarily. If one chooses to worship and praise God without the use of musical instruments, I will not fault them for it. I think that Romans ch 14 addresses this issue in particular verse 5. I personally am a huge fan of acapela music. There have been Gregorian chants and Gospel quartets that have sent chills down my spine. The human voice is often described as the perfect instrument. It is good and right to worship and praise our God with the unaccompanied human voice. It is also good and right to praise and worship the Lord our God with musical instruments as well.

Now let's go on to the historical objections. Yes indeed you will find a handful objections to instrumental music over the first five centuries of Christianity. You will have a hard time though linking these objections to any universal doctrine. Many objections were centered on the use of musical instruments by pagan worshipers and a few did not want to share such an association. One of the earliest references to instrumental music in early Christian writings comes Clement of Alexandria who wrote in the later part of the second century. He in fact endorses the use of musical instruments. I would keep to the teachings of the Holy Spirit on this subject and shy away from looking through History and picking the writings that seem to support my view and ignoring the ones that donít.

Now, let's go on to the second part of our topic. Are there styles and types of music that are inherently evil? For three years I lived in Waco Texas, which is fondly called by not a few locals "Jerusalem on the Brazos." There was a particular church there that was quite vocal about the evils of Rock and in particular Heavy Metal music citing the use of distorted guitars and certain beats and rhythms. The pastor of the church asserted that Heavy Metal was a creation of the Devil. They would have gatherings were people would bring records and other paraphernalia and set it in a large pile. The participants would jump and stomp on the pile smashing the records and then they would light it on fire. If this seems odd to you please note that these actions are not unusual in history. There have often been superstitions connecting Satan and music way before Rock & Roll came along. Jazz music enjoyed the same reputation when it was popular and you may recall the popular song were the Devil proclaims. "I bet you didnít know it but Iím a fiddle player too." I have read some folk tales were fiddle players sought to make pacts with the Devil in order to ensure that they became great players. There is a popular Classical composition called the Devils trill where the composer allegedly dreamed that he gave the Devil a violin and he started to play and this composition is what the composer recalls as to the music he heard come from the instrument. The famous violinist Paganini actually had his bones exhumed from a graveyard in a church because of his alleged satanic connections. There is a musical interval called a tri-tone that was banned from being played or composed at certain times and areas because of its alleged Satanic qualities.

Well first and foremost we must note that the Devil has the power to create nothing! Satan is a created being and Satan can only do what God allows him. Creation is of God and only God can create. When God made his creation, "he saw that it was good." There is nothing inherently evil about any part of creation. What Satan can do is corrupt and alter our perception. It is how we utilize something that can make it evil, not the thing itself. To me, this issue is just like many others. It can be different for different people. I am quite sure that there are some people who are better off not listening to Heavy Metal music. I am also quite sure that there are people it does not mean a hill of beans to and it has little if no effect on their lives. I recall a young woman in particular who boasted to me that she had thrown away all her Rock albums as though she cast out an evil in her life. Well the truth was she was not a fan of Rock music in the first place. All the Rock records she owned she got inadvertently and not because she went out and bought them. Rock music was not a corrupting factor in her life. As I recall, she was quite addicted to soap operas and was a little bit of a gossip. Yet she was not even close to throwing away her TV set or telephone. If she felt that she was doing a good and Godly thing by throwing away her rock records, then she had been truly diverted to what needed attention in her life. If I use myself as an example, over the years occasionally a will get a deck of cards as a gift. These cards have never been out of their packages because I am just not a card player. If I hear a sermon on the evils of gambling and come home and throw away all my cards, I do myself little good. I have played poker once maybe twice in my life but I have no secret desire to start a regular habit. There are other areas in my life that I need much work on and Satan would be fooling me if I thought I was doing a considerable good work by throwing away my cards. My time and effort are best spent in other areas, not hunting down a few sets of cards that I have forgotten where I put them. Music can affect a personís mood. David was able to sooth King Saul with his playing. Music is a great communicator. It is art. But no form or style of music is inherently evil. If the use of distorted guitars is satanic, I wonder at what point of the volume knob of the guitar amp does Satan take over? If it is set on 6, I can use it as a tool to praise God. If it is set on 8, watch out, Iím possessed! Any sin committed in conjunction with music is our own fault. If I see an attractive woman, it can trigger lust in my heart. This does not make attractive women inherently evil. Should we ban attractive women? Different things affect different people in different ways. Certain kinds of music do affect some people in negative ways. I have no problem with a person throwing away or destroying a record, deck of cards, or anything else if it is a stumbling block in their life. But what may be a stumbling block in one personís life may be a mere pebble in anotherís. If one wants to look for evil, you will in no doubt find it. Our fleshy existence is wrought with evil. If I spend my time cutting evil out of my life then it will soon consume me and I could do nothing else. I personally think that if Rap, Heavy Metal or any other style of music is the tool of the Devil, then usually it is an instrument of distraction. We spend our time and energy dealing with or exposing the evils of something small while unknown to us Satan is able to reap great havoc in our lives in other areas. (Matthew 23:24) I personally think that much of the music that is objected to is not a source of evil. It is a symptom of the greater problems we have today. I can recall watching a news report about a group of parents and church leaders who were objecting to the macabre nature of band that was scheduled to play in the area. I also recall that the same news broadcast had a host of reports and pictures about car wrecks, murders etc. that made it much more macabre than the band in question. Why are we shocked when the art and music of our time reflects the world we live in? Do we use art and music as a scapegoat and avoid the real issues that are causing us problems? We can clean up the outer portions of our lives and give the appearance of being squeaky clean but then we will be no better than the Pharisees that Jesus called "whitewashed tombs" (Matthew 23:27) Clean on the outside but rotten and dirty on the inside.