I love music. I love to listen to it. I love to sing it. I love to watch it being performed by skilled and passionate people. I even love to study about it. I find it to be a fascinating subject. Its history is almost the history of the universe itself. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?...When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?(Job 38.3,7) Its impact on human behavior is well-nigh immeasurable. It plays an enormous part in the life of every person reading this blog. It has played and will continue to play a large part in my own life. It is both secular and religious. It is both comedic and dramatic. It is both simple and complex. It is at once reflective of whom you are and predictive of whom you will become.
Several years ago I decided to do an extensive discussion of the subject during the Wednesday night Bible study hour in our church. When I happened to mention this subject to a group of online friends I was unpleasantly shocked by their negative reaction.
“Boy, that will REALLY help God's children to grow spiritually. Maybe a series on the sins of flannel graph would be just as helpful.”
“To my knowledge the bible doesn't speak against any kind of music anywhere. Why do Baptists find this to be such an important topic? It seems rather silly and futile to me.”
“Not necessarily something that will feed the sheep.”
“Of ALL the Scripture to preach and teach and you are going to devote precious time to styles of music?! Really? I ask you to reconsider.”
“I can't imagine that the sermon could be any longer than 15 minutes!”
As you can imagine I was rather nonplussed by the hostility displayed. I am no longer puzzled by that hostility. In fact, I expect to get a fair amount of it hurled my way over the next several months on this blog. The subject is deeply personal yet at the same time corporately public, at least in contemporary American Christianity.
Why then would I choose to willingly enter into such a meat grinder? The short answer is I believed then and believe now that the subject is incredibly important. The typical young person in America listens to two and half hours of music every day. Hundreds of hours of music per year are pouring into the minds of the average person and yet it is not worth addressing? I beg to differ.
Beyond the personal side there is also the corporate side. Music makes up a significant percentage of every church service. Cumulatively, our church, for example, sings twenty Scripture songs and another thirty hymns and choruses in the average week. The average church in America spends much more time in music than it does in prayer, in witnessing, or in fellowship.
Above all of this, however, looms the fact that the largest book in the Bible is a songbook. Beyond that alone, Scripture speaks specifically of music more than five hundred times. Surely any serious student of the Word of God would want to know what God thinks about something He talks about so often, and something that is such a large part of our personal life and the church’s life.
For the balance of the next year I intend to do just that. I intend to discuss what music is, how it ought to be used, and where the dangers and blessings are in its use. I will discuss how to choose good music, the purpose of church music, and how to choose and perform church music. I intend to build for you a philosophy of music that is both personal and corporate, and one that is firmly grounded in Scriptural principle and practical considerations. Along the way I will use hundreds of Scripture verses and hundreds more selected quotations from various musicians, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, historians, researchers, and biographers.
I will endeavor as well as I know how to be transparent with my sources. At the same time I must admit that since the initial preparation for this series was done as sermon notes I will often be guilty of overlooking a needed citation. This is my attempt to cover that as clearly as possible up front. I did not generally footnote my sermon notes back then. In the interests of full disclosure here is the list of books I have read in preparation for this series (and please understand here I am not trying to impress anyone with this list; I am simply trying to avoid a criticism I have gotten in other series regarding my sources):
-The Spiritual Song, The Missing Element in Church Music, Mike Foster, 153 pp, 2011
-Drumming at the Edge of Magic, A Journey Into the Spirit of Percussion, Mickey Hart, 263 pp, 1990
-Can We Rock the Gospel?, Rock Music’s Impact on Worship and Evangelism, John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini, 267 pp, 2006
-Music in the Balance, Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzel, 204 pp, 1992
-Music and Morals, Dispelling the Myth That Music is Amoral, Kimberly Smith, 157 pp, 2005
-A Song in Your Heart, Music’s Role in the Christian Life, Mike Zachary, 166 pp, 1997
-Contemporary Worship Music, A Biblical Defense, John Frame, 212 pp, 1997
-As I See Church Music, Elaine Colsten, 120 pp, 1969
-Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, Dan Lucarini, 141 pp, 2002
-Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal, T. David Gordon, 187 pp, 2010
-Sing for Joy, Interactive Bible Studies, 60 pp, 2010
-Shout!, The Beatles in Their Generation, Philip Norman, 414 pp, 1981
-Last Train to Memphis, The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love, The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, Peter Guralnick, 576/768 pp 1995/2000
-The Pied Piper of Rock Music, Dennis Corle, 224 pp, 2000
-The Rock and Roll Rebellion, Why People of Faith Abandoned Rock Music – And Why They’re Coming Back, Mark Joseph, 316 pp, 1999
-A Complete Manual for The Ministry of Church Music, Lindsay Terry, 175 pp, 2002
-Big Beat Heat, Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock and Roll, John Jackson, 400 pp, 1991
-Shining Trumpets, A History of Jazz, Rudi Blesh, 410 pp, 1958
I have also purchased and plan to read the following two books in the next month:
-Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution, Music and Social Change in America, Dick Weissman, 370 pp, 2010
-Worship Wars, Robert Bakks, 302 pp, 2015
In addition I have read numerous essays and articles online and watched dozens of hours of historical documentaries on various musicians and music styles. I have also examined every verse in the Bible that mentions music.
I do not mean to imply that because of the amount of study I have done on the subject I will be completely correct. Nor do I mean to insinuate that others – including some who will no doubt comment on these posts – may not know more than I do about the subject of music. But it does mean I have endeavored to do my homework. As much as I know how I have sought, ironically enough, not to approach this subject emotionally. Instead I have sought to build a rational, educated, scriptural philosophy of music. It is that I wish to share with you.
Welcome to this journey of mine. As always, I invite your participation along the way either here on this blog or on my facebook page. I do not generally moderate comments other than for what I deem to be foul language. I hope this study will inform you. More than that, though, I hope it will edify you. I hope it will give you a deeper understanding of why we hold the positions we do. Together may you and I learn to better please the Lord in this vital area.