Does Reformed Theology Lead to CCM? Part 2

Read Part 1.
Musical SymbolIn these two articles, I am asking the question of whether certain soteriological or hermeneutical positions necessarily lead to a particular philosophy of worship and music. In Part One I briefly defined each position since confusion about connections between these positions and a specific music philosophy usually stems from misunderstandings of the positions themselves.

Now in Part Two I will quickly define each side of the worship or music debate and then examine whether either has a necessary connection to one of the theological positions explained in Part One.

Positions on Music in Worship

We have surveyed the various soteriological and hermeneutical positions, but we must also define the two primarily polarizing positions on music in worship before we can observe any necessary connections. I use the terms conservative and progressive to describe these positions.[12]

Conservative [13]

A Christian conservative believes in absolute standards of truth, goodness, and beauty. He rejects relativism in these three areas since they are transcendental principles flowing from the very nature of God. The fact that something is true, good, or beautiful depends on its relationship to the ultimate true, good, and beautiful. Therefore, the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and beautiful and ugly may be determined by observable standards and is not merely subjective. Furthermore, these transcendental principles are revealed in the written Word of God and natural revelation (creation and conscience). While natural revelation is certainly a lesser authority than the Bible, it is a real authority nonetheless. The Christian conservative believes, therefore, that he has the biblical responsibility to parse the meaning of cultural idioms. Based on transcendental principles, he will judge some idioms as unable to carry biblical truth because their messages are incompatible with biblical truth.

Second, recognizing that Christians have sought such transcendental principles for centuries, Christian conservatism is committed to preserving the best traditions of the past; therefore, it is suspicious of new cultural idioms. It does not necessarily reject anything new, but since it takes time to evaluate the meaning of new idioms to discern if they please the Lord, a Christian Conservative will resist adopting the newest cultural idioms in worship.

Progressive [14]

A Christian progressive believes that since the Bible does not specifically address particular culture idioms like music, believers are free to adopt whatever idioms they think best for the worship of God. He believes in the value of engaging the culture and celebrates diversity, freshness, and relevance in musical choices for worship.

A Christian progressive sees benefit in cultural progress, culture existing merely as a neutral vehicle for the transmission of propositional truth. He values contemporary forms of music for one of two reasons, rooted either in evangelistic concerns or contextualization of worship. One with evangelistic concerns values contemporary forms of music wedded with biblical lyrics due to their ability to attract and affect unbelievers with the truth of the gospel. One concerned with contextualizing worship desires to allow God’s people to respond to Him in the languages and mediums with which they are most familiar and comfortable. Either way, a Christian progressive would not hesitate to use pop culture idioms for the transmission of sacred truth. He would, in fact, value such practices because of the ability of pop culture to relate to common man. Church music (aimed at either the unbeliever or believer) must be accessible, he believes, and the most accessible forms of music are those currently used by pop culture.

Do Connections Exist?

Usually when I’ve heard others make connections between soteriological or hermeneutical positions and music philosophy, such arguments have been based on misunderstandings of what the particular positions actually teach. Hopefully my simple definitions of key positions have cleared up some of that confusion. However, let’s briefly consider whether such positions necessarily lead to a certain music or worship philosophy.

Arminianism and Worship or Music

Does Arminianism necessarily lead to a particular position on worship and music? One may be tempted to argue that guilt by association is evidence of this. Or one may point out that most church marketing leaders who argue for the complete contextualization of the church’s music into contemporary forms are Arminian in their views of salvation. However, we can easily list Arminians who have written and promoted rich, conservative church music both in text and tune. Perhaps the most obvious example would be the Wesley brothers.

Furthermore, belief that God’s choice of man is dependent on man’s unaided choice for God does not necessitate a particular view of the church, the purpose of worship, or a specific stance toward culture. While an Arminian argues that all men have been given prevenient grace whereby they may freely choose God, he also affirms the depravity of man. Therefore, he would be rightly suspicious of any cultural idioms produced by sinful people.

Calvinism and Worship or Music

Does Calvinism necessarily lead to a particular position on worship and music? Again, one may be tempted to argue guilt by association. Many of today’s prominent Calvinists are strong promoters of a progressive view of music in worship. [15] However, again, we can easily list many Calvinists—including Kevin Bauder, Mike Barrett, and Dave Doran—who aggressively defend a more conservative understanding of music and worship. Someone might insist that their position is simply inconsistent. However, like Arminianism, there is no necessarily theological connection between the conviction that God chooses people based on the counsel of His own will alone and a progressive music philosophy.

In fact, Calvinism’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man would more naturally lend itself to a desire for musical forms magnifying the unique excellence of God, an emphasis on the transcendent, and a distrust of pop culture. Since Calvinists do not believe that people naturally seek after God without an effectual work of grace, they would not be seeker driven.

Covenant Theology and Worship or Music

Does covenant theology necessarily lead to a particular position on worship and music? Again, some may make similar comments about guilt by association and lack of theological connection here. There simply is no one-to-one correspondence between one’s hermeneutic and his view of music and worship.

A possible exception might be a covenant theologian who is also a postmillenialist or someone who understands the millenial Kingdom to be already inaugurated. With the former, the proponent may see a need to redeem culture and “usher in the Kingdom,” which may lead him to adopt contemporary forms of music in order to redeem them. But such practice is not necessary with a postmillenialist. With the latter, the proponent may expect miraculous wonders to be happening today and would thus interpret religious experience as something physical and experiential, leading him to use musical forms that more readily stimulate such experiences. But again, this connection is not necessarily true of all postmillenialists, and certainly not all covenant theologians are postmillenial.[16]

Dispensationalism and Worship or Music

Does dispensationalism necessarily lead to a particular position on music and worship? Again, there are dispensationalists on both sides of the music or worship debate, and no hermeneutical reasons exist as to why there should not be.


So does one’s theology affect his philosophy? Absolutely. But from both analysis and anecdotal evidence, it seems clear that one’s positions regarding soteriology or his hermeneutic don’t necessarily lead him toward one position or another.

12. Note that it may be possible for someone to be conservative in his theological views while at the same time progressive in his views of culture. In this essay, I am specifically describing these positions in relation to worship and music.
13. Sometimes this position is called “Traditional.”
14. Sometimes this position is called “Contemporary.”
15. Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries, for example.
16. Michael Barrett, for instance, is Premillenial.

Appendix A: Anecdotal Evidence

Kevin Bauder1

C.J. Mahaney2

Michael Barrett3

Bill Hybels4

Arminian (4 or 5 point)


Calvinist or Amyraldian




Covenant Theologian











1 Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN), has written extensively in defense of conservatism.
2 C.J. Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries, which produces gospel-centered, progressive music.
3 Michael Barrett, president of Geneva Reformed Seminary (Greenville, SC), has written in defense of conservative worship.
4 Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church (Barrington, IL), is a leading church marketing leader.

aniol_scott_09.jpgScott Aniol received a bachelor’s degree in Church Music at Bob Jones University and a master’s degree in Musicology at Northern Illinois University. He has taken seminary classes at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and did graduate work in choral conducting and church music history at Concordia University in River Forest, Illinois. As the executive director of Religious Affections Ministries, Scott speaks on the subjects of music and worship at various churches and conferences. His most recent speaking engagements include the Great Lakes Conference on Theology, Central Seminary’s Foundations Conference, International Baptist College, and Bob Jones Seminary. Scott’s book, Worship in Song, was recently released by BMH Books. Check out his Web site at Religious Affections Ministries.
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