A Case for Traditional Music, Part 2

Read Part 1.

How to Judge Worship Music

At this point someone will certainly raise the objection that judging music is terribly subjective. For example, some musicians have taken traditional hymn texts and reset them in a contemporary style. Who is qualified to say whether the older or the newer style better accords with the truths in these texts? If serious and devout people cannot agree on these issues, is that not an indication that these are merely matters of opinion? There are several answers here.

Sustained disagreement, even among sincere believers, is far from an adequate reason to declare a matter to be mere preference.

Surely we realize that in matters of doctrine and practice, Christians of tremendous intelligence and piety have unresolved differences. The fact that such disagreements have not been settled—and show little prospect of ever being settled before the return of our Lord—does not justify our concluding that there is no truth of the matter. While reasons may exist for thinking that music is a matter of preference, a lack of consensus alone is not one of those reasons.

Scripture itself calls us to make exactly these kinds of judgments, and our progress in them is a decisive mark of spiritual maturity.

Consider here two passages from Philippians. The first is Paul’s prayer for that church: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9–11). Learning to love with discernment, giving our approval to that which truly is excellent, is sanctification. In an important sense, we make progress in Christianity, not merely when we believe the right things and do the right things (out of a sense of duty), but when we come to love what is truly worth loving.

Paul makes a similar point in a familiar passage: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8–9). I am not going to make the claim that you might expect. I am not going to tell you why I think traditional music is honorable and pure and lovely and excellent, and then tell you these verses mean that I am right and you need to love what I love.

No, all I want to say here is that Philippians 4:8 means something. Whatever Paul is saying, he simply cannot be admonishing the Philippians to embrace the notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. He is not telling the Philippians to think on whatever things they think are beautiful or they think are lovely. His language explicitly rejects the supposition that value judgments are purely subjective: if there is anything worthy of praise, he says, think on it. Such a statement presumes that some things are indeed worthy of praise.

Again, I am not making an argument for what is lovely; I am only saying that these verses (among others) make clear that loving specific things rightly is an aspect of Christian discipleship. Christian duty is not exhausted in merely knowing God or obeying God, for delighting in God and His good gifts is a core component of discipleship and progress in maturity. This goal cannot be accomplished without making “subjective” judgments.

Those who argue for contemporary worship recognize distinctions in music that undercut their own claim that musical meaning is esoteric.

Even within contemporary music, there are genres and stylistic differences; everyone recognizes these differences and takes them into account when choosing songs and planning worship services. Indeed, much of the rejection of traditional worship music takes the form of critiquing what that music communicates: stiltedness, formalism, a distant God. It cannot work both ways: musical meaning cannot be waved off as a mere subjective interpretation on the one hand and then employed as an objection to traditional music on the other. Advocates of contemporary worship cannot claim that their music communicates the very same emotions as traditional hymnody while simultaneously disparaging what traditional hymnody communicates.

In defending traditional worship, I am compelled to defend one last claim.

The style of traditional worship best expresses the proper affectional responses to the truths of Scripture.

I have suggested some reasons that we cannot simply call this whole thing a matter of opinion. But if I am correct in my larger argument, I must give some account for why so many sincere Christians believe that contemporary music is not only an adequate but indeed a superior expression of Christian affections.

Pastor Mike Augsburger and I agree that no musical style is uniquely Christian in the sense that it has been produced and used only by Christians. But this does not mean that all musical styles that “the world” produces are therefore interchangeable and express the same range of emotions. Every human culture has characteristic virtues and vices when measured by Scripture. Paul recognizes this, for after quoting the proverb “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons,” he says, “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:12–13). As cultures express themselves in the arts, we expect them to be displaying their virtues and vices.

In the panel discussion that Mike and I participated in at the 2015 Midwest Congress of Baptist Fundamentalists, Mike argued that American popular music has indisputably changed meaning. There was a day, he contended, in which rock (and related genres) intentionally and successfully communicated sexual liberation and aggression against authority. But now that our bank commercials employ the same music—and what is more staid than a bank?—how can we deny that this music has been emptied of its rebelliousness? From one perspective, Mike’s point is irrefutable: the people to whom we minister no longer see rock music (or other contemporary genres) as expressing sinful values.

My contention in the panel discussion was, and remains, that this music no longer seems to communicate what it once did, not because the music has changed, but because we have. The antiestablishment won the day; the counterculture has become the prevailing culture. I do not think this is seriously contestable. From a broad historical perspective, we do not live in a uniquely depraved culture. But the common grace restraint of lawlessness is certainly less evident in our day. The sexual libertines are increasingly running out of boundaries to transgress. Only darkened minds deny obvious realities, yet denied they are.

To put it bluntly, while our culture may indeed have laudable features, reverence and honor and sobriety and self-control are not high among them. Self-indulgence and strife and disrespect are. Therefore, I see no reason to trust that the popular artistic expressions of our day are likely to express the virtues we want them to express. This has absolutely nothing to do with the origins of any musical genre; it has to do with where we are right now.

Regarding books, C. S. Lewis wrote, “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.” I have found that the same is true for church music. The music of Luther and Bach, the Genevan Psalter, and the American folk hymn tradition are not saying the same things as contemporary American popular music. The errors to which we are particularly liable are reflected in our contemporary hymnody. The prior ages had their errors, but they understood reverence and judgment and deliverance from judgment, the central themes of worship and the gospel. On this, they are the more trustworthy guides.

From Baptist Bulletin, May/June 2018, with permission. © Regular Baptist Press, all rights reserved.

Michael Riley 2018 bio


Michael Riley is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Wakefield, MI. Before coming to Wakefield, he served at Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, Minnesota and International Baptist College of Chandler, Arizona. Pastor Riley received his undergraduate education in Bible from Bob Jones University, his Master of Divinity from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. in apologetics from Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, PA.

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TylerR's picture

He gives us nothing to work with, here. This is the crux of his argument:

while our culture may indeed have laudable features, reverence and honor and sobriety and self-control are not high among them. Self-indulgence and strife and disrespect are. Therefore, I see no reason to trust that the popular artistic expressions of our day are likely to express the virtues we want them to express. This has absolutely nothing to do with the origins of any musical genre; it has to do with where we are right now.

Ok ... intent has still not been touched. I appreciated the effort when it was published in the Baptist Bulletin, and I appreciate it now. But, there isn't anything here to grab hold of and use. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JNoël's picture

Michael Riley wrote:

Those who argue for contemporary worship recognize distinctions in music that undercut their own claim that musical meaning is esoteric.

Excellent point.

Michael Riley wrote:

My contention [is] that this music no longer seems to communicate what it once did, not because the music has changed, but because we have.

So he believes music played everywhere is still communicating rebellion and sexual liberation, we just don't realize it. Which probably ends the conversation with many as those who disagree with his opinion will walk away, regardless any agreement with his first article.

 

Side-note: Mr. Riley should spend some time defining his terms; what does he mean by "contemporary?"

 

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Andrew K's picture

More sophisticated and well-argued vagueness. 

As someone who strongly affirms the RPW, as well as being very conservative in my musical tastes, I should be--and am--highly sympathetic to any case for traditional music. And yet, I've never found myself even close to convinced. The arguments have superficial substance which evaporates on contact.

It's like Scott Aniol telling me in his book that harsh music can make me sin by evoking the emotion of "boundless rage"... when the only emotion I'm actually feeling is boundless annoyance that nobody will turn off the boundless cacophony.

Bert Perry's picture

I'll agree with "vagueness", but this part really boils down to a guilt by association fallacy.    If your argument is going to be used in informal logic class as an example of what not to do, it's time to reconsider.  It's that simple.

And really, if the core premiss (almost but not quite spoken by the author) is that music in the church exists primarily to communicate the Word of God to the people of God in lyric/musical form, then we have something probably approaching an objective standard for music; does it communicate the Word of God to the people of God in lyric form?  We can review the lyrics, read the poetry and look at its poetic devices and whether we think they're used effectively, look at the abilities of our musicians and see if they can play that particular genre well, and finally run it through the acid test of actually singing it in church.  If it communicates to people, it's a go.  If it doesn't, rip it out of the hymnal, so to speak.

Really, the advantage I see with using older hymnals is twofold.  First of all, somebody else already did the hard work of getting rid of the forgettable songs.  To draw a picture, the Wesley brothers composed something like 8000 hymns, and even the Methodists and Wesleyans only sing a couple dozen of them.  A lot of winnowing has been done.

Second, there are a tremendous number of church members out there who can play them passably.   So that's a great head start--though this head start is diminishing along with the number of kids actually learning the piano and other instruments, sad to say.  

That noted, it still doesn't lock out other genre.  If I'm at a church where there are no pianists, but the guitarist and bassist are virtuosi, well, is there a reason we can't take good, solid lyrics with good, solid poetry and let them play?  Put gently, if their command of their instruments, dynamics, pace, and other elements of musicality are superior, we're going to be far more likely to achieve our goal of communicating God's Word to God's people in lyric form.  

(my church had a guy with an electric bass on the stage last Sunday, and my only complaint is that they didn't let him do more.  Great step forward, really)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

At my church this past Sunday, we sang two contemporary songs (along with two older hymns) as a congregation and had a woman lead it. Talk about heresy ... 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler, you wouldn't believe your good luck--my wife just bought some firewood, so you can come here so we can burn you at the stake!  (I'll get one of the longer t-posts, since you're a taller guy)  :^)

(on the chance that there are some humor impaired people out there, yes, this is a joke....)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Really, the advantage I see with using older hymnals is twofold.  First of all, somebody else already did the hard work of getting rid of the forgettable songs. . . . A lot of winnowing has been done.

True, but I have a bin full of hymnals and every one of them has countless numbers with the aforementioned vacuous lyrics in them. But I guess publishers play a part in that, too - you won't sell a hymnal if it doesn't have Love Lifted Me and Saved, Saved in it, after all.

I really appreciate Heart Publications' Hymns Modern & Ancient. One of the best attempts (successes, really) at publishing a hymnal that lacks gospel-era fluff.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

TylerR's picture

Thanks for the tip on that hymnal. I love the Trinity hymnal and I often use it; not for singing, but I often read the lyrics from an appropriate hymn to close my sermons. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

dcbii's picture

TylerR wrote:

He gives us nothing to work with, here. This is the crux of his argument:

while our culture may indeed have laudable features, reverence and honor and sobriety and self-control are not high among them. Self-indulgence and strife and disrespect are. Therefore, I see no reason to trust that the popular artistic expressions of our day are likely to express the virtues we want them to express. This has absolutely nothing to do with the origins of any musical genre; it has to do with where we are right now.

Ok ... intent has still not been touched. I appreciated the effort when it was published in the Baptist Bulletin, and I appreciate it now. But, there isn't anything here to grab hold of and use. 

I think there is something there, but it's nebulous, and really appears to be a "time" argument.  Still not really easy to use, though.  If we throw out popular artistic expressions of today just to be "safe," then at what point does that music lose its connotations for us?  Sounds like he thinks 60-70 years or so (the birth of "rock and roll") is not enough.  How about 100?  Or is it 200? Or 300?  Is all music from 1718 completely usable?  Was there no music written in that year that expressed the opposite of "virtues" that we would be unable to use?

I'd certainly agree that the scriptural meaning of "worldly" should mean something to us, even about "popular artistic expressions," but without a solid, objective way to evaluate melodies, harmonies, and rhythms as to their level of worldliness, we're still at "not much to work with."

Personally, as a practical standard, I'm probably not far away from the author.  I think it's pretty easy to just avoid stuff that sounds like it could be played on the the various genres of popular radio today, and stick with things that seem to have timeless beauty for use as worship music.  Is that a perfectly "clear" standard?  Far from it.  Will everyone apply it the same way?  Hardly.  But it's what I do.  Maybe it's my form of "objective subjectivity."  But let's not pretend that there's a clear line.

Dave Barnhart

CAWatson's picture

I have an opinion, but I don't have the time to keep up with an SI debate. 

Mike Riley (as well as Aniol, and his friends at Religious Affections) have published a pretty good hymnal:

http://religiousaffections.org/hymns/

Steve Newman's picture

Michael Riley wrote:

My contention [is] that this music no longer seems to communicate what it once did, not because the music has changed, but because we have.

So he believes music played everywhere is still communicating rebellion and sexual liberation, we just don't realize it. Which probably ends the conversation with many as those who disagree with his opinion will walk away, regardless any agreement with his first article.

In reference to this quote, it is not the fact that music played everywhere is "communicating rebellion and sexual liberation (and) we just don't realize it," but I would say that the music is played everywhere and we have codified it. In other words, in a general sense, we now expect rebellion and sexual liberation. In other words, among the world, adults expect teens and young adults to rebel. They expect sexual immorality. It is the Christian counter-culture that seeks to not hold to those expectations. 

I approve of the idea of the article, but it is harder to do the implementation of it. We are all aware that we must build a stronger Christian culture in our families, churches and individual lives. While it is still vague, I believe there's something here that should not be ignored.

JNoël's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

It is not the fact that music played everywhere is "communicating rebellion and sexual liberation (and) we just don't realize it," but I would say that the music is played everywhere and we have codified it. In other words, in a general sense, we now expect rebellion and sexual liberation. In other words, among the world, adults expect teens and young adults to rebel. They expect sexual immorality. It is the Christian counter-culture that seeks to not hold to those expectations. 

"What does music communicate" is still the key dividing question. There are three basic elements that determine what music communicates: the lyrics, the instrumentation, and the vocalization technique (some would say that third one is just another instrument - vocal chords produce sound just like a musical instrument). If we remove lyrics from that list, because lyrics are very easy to define what they communicate, and just focus on the vocalization technique and the instrumentation, you are left with the key question: does music (instrumentation / vocalization) itself actually communicate morality? Rephrased using the by now wearisome question: Is music amoral?

One's answer to that question will drive his entire music philosophy, as it does with Michael Riley:

Michael Riley wrote:

My contention in the panel discussion was, and remains, that this music no longer seems to communicate what it once did, not because the music has changed, but because we have.

The moment he made that statement he revealed his defining belief which brings into focus his entire philosophy of music.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Steve Newman's picture

We have changed as a result of music, as I wrote above. 

By and large, rebellion and sexual immorality, as described in the content of the music of the past is expected, not the exception. To not be rebellious or immoral is the exception today. The reason those songs have become background noise is because those battles have already been fought in the world's mind. They won. We lost. 

I agree that the question is "what does music communicate?' So is your answer, "nothing?" or what is it. ?

JNoël's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

We have changed as a result of music, as I wrote above. 

By and large, rebellion and sexual immorality, as described in the content of the music of the past is expected, not the exception. To not be rebellious or immoral is the exception today. The reason those songs have become background noise is because those battles have already been fought in the world's mind. They won. We lost. 

I agree that the question is "what does music communicate?' So is your answer, "nothing?" or what is it. ?

So you believe music (instrumentation, specifically, and probably the vocalization technique, too) does, in itself, communicate morality.

I do not believe it does.

There is no answer to the question, despite countless attempts to prove it from scripture. All of them are subject to human interpretation, and so we must all come to our own personal conclusions on the matter.

If one believes the music itself actually communicates morality, then that person must be extraordinarily disciplined to flee from virtually all music in our society; a parent would be wise to protect his children by never taking them to any restaurant or other retail business (except Hobby Lobby, perhaps), because "immoral" music is played everywhere. (Sarcasm intentional.)

I do not believe music itself communicates morality; I do not believe my children are being damaged by hearing the music played at the grocery store or in a Pixar movie; they are not being trained to be rebellious or sexually immoral because of it; they aren't being desensitized to rebellion or immorality. But that's just my opinion; I cannot prove my position from scripture any more than those who believe music communicates morality can. We must agree to disagree on the matter.

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Larry Nelson's picture

JNoël wrote:

If one believes the music itself actually communicates morality, then that person must be extraordinarily disciplined to flee from virtually all music in our society; a parent would be wise to protect his children by never taking them to any restaurant or other retail business (except Hobby Lobby, perhaps), because "immoral" music is played everywhere. (Sarcasm intentional.)

...but I go pretty regularly to a local Chick-fil-A.  There, the background music consists of instrumental-only versions of CCM songs, the majority of which I recognize. 

Since according to some here on SI CCM (even when instrumental-only) is "objectively evil," perhaps Chick-fil-A needs to be added to my personal "I won't go there" list.....   (Sarcasm likewise intentional.) 

JNoël's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

Since according to some here on SI CCM (even when instrumental-only) is "objectively evil," perhaps Chick-fil-A needs to be added to my personal "I won't go there" list.....   (Sarcasm likewise intentional.) 

I believe those who believe CCM communicates sin are no different from those who believed it was sin to eat meat that was offered to idols. They are okay to believe that way, and I am okay to believe "it's just meat." Likewise, if it would offend a Christian brother for me to listen to CCM (or any other rock-sounding music) in the presence of a Christian brother who believes it is wrong, then I do not. Doing so isn't Christian love.

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Larry's picture

So you believe music (instrumentation, specifically, and probably the vocalization technique, too) does, in itself, communicate morality.

I do not believe it does.

I don't want to delve too deeply here, but do you believe that Norah Jones and Kathleen Battle are interchangeable for all occasions and purposes? That their music communicates exactly the same thing?

Ron Bean's picture

Steve said:

We have changed as a result of music, 

Are we sure those changes didn't come about because of post WW II prosperity, the population movement from rural to urban and suburban,increased  ease of transportation, television, mass media, access to higher education..................?

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

JNoël's picture

Larry wrote:

I don't want to delve too deeply here, but do you believe that Norah Jones and Kathleen Battle are interchangeable for all occasions and purposes? That their music communicates exactly the same thing?

You already know the answer to your own question, of course. DaVinci and Money communicate different things, too. But it is also objective, to a degree. Battle is high culture, Jones is popular/jazz. I can think of times when I'd enjoy listening to either (I honestly don't listen to Norah Jones and had to listen to a couple of tracks). I can say that neither style inherently points me to God, so they are both secular expressions of music. But I can also say that both are excellent artists, so I can appreciate that the music they are creating is beautiful, and I can be thankful for the gift of music. Without doing a deep dive, I can guess that some (much?) of Norah Jones' music contains content which would not be useful for the purpose of edifying. But what about jazz music (or any music, for that matter), do you believe non-lyric music can actually edify / point one to God?

In short, there is no easy answer to your question without "delving too deeply." 

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

Since according to some here on SI CCM (even when instrumental-only) is "objectively evil," perhaps Chick-fil-A needs to be added to my personal "I won't go there" list.....   (Sarcasm likewise intentional.) 

 

 

I believe those who believe CCM communicates sin are no different from those who believed it was sin to eat meat that was offered to idols. They are okay to believe that way, and I am okay to believe "it's just meat." Likewise, if it would offend a Christian brother for me to listen to CCM (or any other rock-sounding music) in the presence of a Christian brother who believes it is wrong, then I do not. Doing so isn't Christian love.

 

Should we even go this far?  Is it really unfair to ask the person who believes that modern (or ancient I guess) music styles are inherently sinful to come up with some evidence for their position that stands a basic test of Scripture and logic?  That avoids simple fallacies like "guilt by association"?  

This question is especially important as one considers that a huge portion of the "modern music is sinful" crowd are not content to quietly avoid it, but are rather fomenting dissension with nonsense arguments like those from Frank Garlock's The Rock Generation, Six Decades of Decline.  Really, all too often, "Romans 14" arguments amount to little more than theological hostage-taking, whereby someone conjures up an un-Biblical, illogical argument and uses their "Romans 14 issue" to compel the rest of their church (or even entire denomination) to bend to their will.  

That doesn't mean that we ought to blow off legitimate examples of food actually offered to idols and the like, but it does mean that we at least owe the person who comes to us with a "Romans 14 issue" the due diligence of asking him "why do you believe that?"--and to gently confront bad logic and false evidence if that's part of what's going on.  

Finally, anyone who thinks that we are uniquely on the road to moral perdition today, and were not 50, 100, or 150 years ago, seriously needs to read some history.   The 19th century laws against abortion, "unnatural acts", prostitution, and the like were not enacted because the works of Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain had no resemblance to the society of the time--or quite frankly, even from the more fundamental camp, because the works of Martha Finley didn't say a lot about our society.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

You already know the answer to your own question, of course.

I actually don't know the answer to my question because I don't know what you believe. I know what I believe, but that's not my question.

In short, there is no easy answer to your question without "delving too deeply." 

You answered it quite well, I think. And I think in so doing, you admitted that music does have meaning. The two artists, however good they might be, are not interchangeable for occasions and purposes because their music does something very different. That doesn't necessarily make it right or wrong. It simply formally acknowledges what is self-evident. By the way, it's why movie music works and it's why the wrong music in a movie is laughable.

My point is only a wish that we could dispense with the idea that music has no meaning at all and is completely without morality. It is (again) self-evidently wrong and we all know that because we choose different music for different occasions.

Larry's picture

Is it really unfair to ask the person who believes that modern (or ancient I guess) music styles are inherently sinful to come up with some evidence for their position that stands a basic test of Scripture and logic?

This has been done over and over again by people who aren't Frank Garlock and who reject Garlock's arguments. We all get that you don't understand or accept the argument. But that's not the same thing as not making an argument. 

JNoël's picture

Larry wrote:

... you admitted that music does have meaning.

Meaning, yes. But having meaning and having morality are not necessarily the same thing. 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Is this really how we ought to do things?

Just curious - do you believe the meat-offered-to-idols passage is limited specifically to the question of whether or not a Christian is okay to consume meat that was offered to idols? Or do you believe that it is just an example of something that can be applied to various cultural situations?

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

Larry wrote:

Is it really unfair to ask the person who believes that modern (or ancient I guess) music styles are inherently sinful to come up with some evidence for their position that stands a basic test of Scripture and logic?

This has been done over and over again by people who aren't Frank Garlock and who reject Garlock's arguments. We all get that you don't understand or accept the argument. But that's not the same thing as not making an argument. 

Making an argument means first of all avoiding the slippery slope and guilt by association fallacies, Larry.  Read it for yourself if you doubt me on this, but this isn't an issue of me not understanding it, or simply not agreeing.  It is the complete lack of Biblical evidence for his position combined with a reliance on the genetic fallacy that quite frankly ought to get his books removed altogether from BJU.    

And along those lines, that's why we need to love our brothers enough to gently confront them when they try to abuse Romans 14 with crackpot claims.  For too many years, brothers and sisters in Christ have been hammered into abandoning freedoms Christ gave us this way.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

JNoël wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

Is this really how we ought to do things?

 

Just curious - do you believe the meat-offered-to-idols passage is limited specifically to the question of whether or not a Christian is okay to consume meat that was offered to idols? Or do you believe that it is just an example of something that can be applied to various cultural situations?

The trick regarding Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 is that there is no guilt by association; the meat does not just resemble an offering to Zeus, but rather was an offering to Zeus in a culture that attached great significance to that.  The holy days did not just resemble the Jewish holy days, but were the Jewish holy days.  Does a Gentile have a part in that or not?  (certainly we ought not assume that it would be a matter of debate whether a Christian ought to honor pagan holy days, of course!)

Are there places where we can apply this?  Certainly.  I'm simply saying that using guilt by association and slippery slope to shoehorn Romans 14 into this is not a legitimate argument that we ought to honor--we should rather rebuke it.  Paul does precisely that in Colossians 2:16-23, and for that matter in Romans 14:16--do not let what you know is good to be spoken of as evil.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

The trick regarding Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 is that there is no guilt by association; the meat does not just resemble an offering to Zeus, but rather was an offering to Zeus in a culture that attached great significance to that.  The holy days did not just resemble the Jewish holy days, but were the Jewish holy days.  Does a Gentile have a part in that or not?  (certainly we ought not assume that it would be a matter of debate whether a Christian ought to honor pagan holy days, of course!)

But even though the meat was actually offered to Zeus in a culture . . . , it is still only meat. The meat itself has no inherent morality, and offering it to a false idol does not make the meat any different than being just meat. Eating a piece of meat that wasn't offered to Zeus is no different than eating a piece of meat that was offered to Zeus, and we can know that's true because of I Cor 10:27. The meat isn't in itself immoral, and it isn't even immoral if it was offered to Zeus. Therefore, the guilt comes by the fact that it was used in a pagan practice of offering it to an idol, so we heed the warnings to not offend a Christian brother if he believes a Christian should not consume it. I believe this is one reason why a pastor is wise to avoid introducing controversial music into the church if he knows there are members who would be offended. You don't need to do that; there is plenty of God-honoring music that is without controversy, even if a "majority" would like to hear more pop-centric music in church.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Larry Nelson's picture

JNoël wrote:

I believe this is one reason why a pastor is wise to avoid introducing controversial music into the church if he knows there are members who would be offended. You don't need to do that; there is plenty of God-honoring music that is without controversy, even if a "majority" would like to hear more pop-centric music in church.

"The smaller church by its nature gives immature, outspoken, opinionated, and broken members a significant degree of power over the whole body. Since everyone knows everyone else, when members of a family or small group express strong opposition to the direction set by the pastor and leaders, their misery can hold the whole congregation hostage. If they threaten to leave, the majority of people will urge the leaders to desist in their project. It is extremely difficult to get complete consensus about programs and direction in a group of 50–150 people, especially in today’s diverse, fragmented society, and yet smaller churches have an unwritten rule that for any new initiative to be implemented nearly everyone must be happy with it. Leaders of small churches must be brave enough to lead and to confront immature members, in spite of the unpleasantness involved."

http://seniorpastorcentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Tim-Keller-Size-Dynamics.pdf 

Larry's picture

Meaning, yes. But having meaning and having morality are not necessarily the same thing. 

Yes, they essentially are. That's the problem here. People are taking positions without understanding the conversation and the fundamentals of it.

JNoël's picture

Larry wrote:

Yes, they essentially are. That's the problem here. People are taking positions without understanding the conversation and the fundamentals of it.

Meaning and morality are not the same thing. To me, a certain work of art - perhaps the architecture of the Chrysler building in NYC, for example, may have meaning. But it has zero morality. Art can have all sorts of meanings to people, and those meanings are complete opinion. But morality is entirely different. If something possesses morality, then it is either moral or immoral, and we need truth to tell us whether or not something is moral or immoral.

If we're going to go down this road, we are going to have to get really specific in our definitions. Otherwise, we risk talking across each other.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

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