Introduction: The Importance of Philosophy | Part I: New Testament Passages
Excursus: Romans 1:5 | Part II: Holiness | Part III: Personal Separation
Part IV: Positional Separation

So what about music? We must always keep in mind that music carries an intrinsic quality that many disputable matters do not; morality. While a musical note is amoral, a musical composition is innately moral; due to the fact that a person artistically created it. Matthew records Jesus, “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b). This truism works both ways: for the heart of the composer/performer is manifest in their music; and the heart of the listener is evident by their choice of music. Consequently, while grounds for separation may not be found in a person’s preference of music, it does point towards a possible underlying carnality within that person.

Now, please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying that a person is not Godly if their worship or secular preference in music is different than mine; I am saying that music is a manifestation of who we are. I strongly believe there is a clear dichotomy (if not a trichotomy) in music; for our purposes music will be split into two spheres: 1) music for worship; and 2) music for personal enjoyment. Each of these areas must be evaluated individually and one’s personal philosophy arrived at differently. In the case of worship music, the theology and doctrine of the song/hymn/chorus is not the only aspect one must consider; while the music of the piece in question—harmonic and melodic construction—also matters, most people are not musically trained to arrive at an objective decision on this matter and therefore will not be considered in this discussion. Instead the focus of this essay will pertain to the primary focus of the music itself; i.e. is it man centered, or God centered.

You might think that the primary focus of worship songs is easy to notice, yet I personally believe that this aspect is often overlooked. For instance let’s look at Wonderful, Merciful Savior by Rogers and Wyse:

Wonderful, merciful Saviour

Precious Redeemer and Friend

Who would’ve thought that a Lamb could

Rescue the souls of men

Oh, You rescue the souls of men

Counselor, Comforter, Keeper

Spirit we long to embrace

You offer hope when our hearts have

Hopelessly lost our way

Oh, we’ve hopelessly lost the way

CHORUS

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for
Oh, our hearts always hunger for

Almighty, infinite Father
Faithfully loving Your own
Here in our weakness You find us
Falling before Your throne
Oh, we’re falling before Your throne

Note how the song leads the singer to no other focus then God Himself, you can’t get around it! This is an excellent example of a God centered song.

Now to illustrate the point I am attempting to make, let’s look at another contemporary worship song, He Has Made Me Glad by Von Brethorst:

I will enter His gates

With thanksgiving in my heart

I will enter His courts with praise

I will say this is the day

That the Lord has made

I will rejoice for he has made me glad

He has made me glad

He has made me glad

I will rejoice for He has made me glad, glad, glad

On the surface, a quick glance at the lyrics leads one to see that the song is about entering into heaven rejoicing. Of course we would all agree that is what will happen one day for all Christians. Yet, as with many contemporary songs, this song is all about what God has done for me; the song is not about God, but about the self. Please understand that I am not saying one should not thank God for their salvation, we very much should always acknowledge God as our savior; however, that is the very problem with this particular song. Nowhere is salvation mentioned, in fact all one gets out of this song is a superficial aesthetical response; in other words, it is fake. Unfortunately, this is the case with many contemporary Christian songs today; they are all about ‘I’ or ‘me’ instead of Him, they are used to make us feel good instead of dispensing truth. This is why I stated above that one’s personal preference of music projects something about their character. If one wants to listen and sing about ‘fluffy bunnies’ instead of focusing on God himself there is undoubtedly an underlying reason, most likely there is a hidden aspect of their personal life and walk with God that they are attempting to ignore and push back into the recesses of their mind.

Now at this point, many are probably thinking that I only push hymns in church and only listen to hymns in my car/iPod. This is not the case, for the standard of personal separation must stretch into the genera of hymnody as well as secular music, and second Wonderful, Merciful Savior—which is a contemporary song—fits nicely into my sphere of music for worship since it focuses your thoughts directly on our Savior and what he has done for all redeemed man. Furthermore, when determining music appropriate for public community worship one must always remember that there are often people who do not recognize Jesus as their personal savior. Hence songs such as He Has Made Me Glad don’t direct them anywhere, while Wonderful, Merciful Savior presents truth about God as any well written sermon does. In fact, I would argue that a properly directed song/hymn prepares any individual for the coming message. Lastly, I must add that there are even hymns which I would personally not chose for congregational or personal worship for the same reasons presented above.

Prior to a discussion in the realm of personal music, I would like to briefly mention the principal of association (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-23) as it relates to corporate worship. For instance, the Vineyard song Ancient of Days does direct worship toward who God is; however due to its association with the Vineyard church, one should take great precautions in using it as a congregational song in a conservative church. Many people in Baptist circles for instance are aware of the Vineyard/Emerging movement and even a slight association with said movement is not looked upon lightly. Now the hymn Here I am Lord is a Catholic hymn. Does this mean we should not sing it in fundamental circles? I would say no for a few reasons, first most people do not know of the association behind the hymn; and second, the hymn is strongly God centered coupled with a humility and servitude on the part of the sinner who sings it.

The sphere of personal music for enjoyment is different and yet at the same time similar to that of worship. This sphere is similar by the fact that discernment and separation still play a vital role; however, I would state that secular music would be allowed into this area (as it would in the realm of music for educational use). However caution must be strongly employed; for while classical music engages the mind and emotions, the negative and positive effects are limited to the imagination and training of the listener. To take this notion a step further, instrumental music that affects one’s moral inhibitions should be avoided. Now when words are thrown into the mix an even greater difficulty emerges; I personally believe that each person knows their limitations when it comes to listening to popular contemporary music, and ministering Christians should be extra careful to make sure they are unique. Please understand that I am not advocating a complete removal from all secular popular music of the day; I do listen to secular and contemporary Christian music, but my selections are carefully chosen.

My aim in this study is not to state an axiom that musical genera X should be avoided and genera Y embraced, what I am saying is that discernment, deference, liberty, separation, and grace all play a vital role in our personal choices and due to the strongly personal nature of music, a ministry will be strongly influenced positively or negatively by our choices.

One last thought, when discussing music one must always understand that it is highly personal. Therefore, caution is warranted never attack the song/artist/genera of the listener; this is a personal attack on a person. Music is that personal, music is a part of who we are. As Christians, progressive sanctification will occur in the area of music along with other areas of growth. If you absolutely must confront someone on music do it in love and focus on why they want to listen to or sing that music; I believe Matthew 12:34 is the key.

Please feel free to comment, I am by no means claiming to be an authority on this subject. Discussion is always welcome.

-Next, tying my thoughts together-


On a personal level I do recognize a third category of music. This sphere of music I would define as music which holds educational value. It is important to note that while a certain level of discernment applies to this category, music which holds educational value often will contrast greatly from the other areas in order to demonstrate a point. For instance, in this essay I utilize many songs for illustrating and explaining my thoughts; while some of the music presented in this study do not fall within either the sphere of worship or personal enjoyment, its use in this case would classify that musical work as holding an educational value. The same is true of many secular songs or classical works; as a music teacher I often employ songs that I do not fall into my personal sphere of musical enjoyment to get my students thinking about certain aspects of music that they may otherwise overlook. As a Christian it is also of sheer importance that my musical choices, even in the sphere of education, do not contradict any personal standards; else my testimony is nullified.

On the topic of Christian liberty, which music falls into, the aspect of association must come into play. We must always remember that an idol to a nonexistent man-made creation is nothing but an idol; yet, how certain individuals view that idol does matter. Therefore, the association of a song to an ecclesiastical organization or societal culture greatly matters.

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