Little interest in discussing what the Bible says about music

Because God has commanded the use of music to worship Him, knowing and doing what He wants us to do musically is not optional. Because the Bible is the only infallible source for knowing and doing what He wants us to do musically, what the Bible says must be the center of everything that we say and do musically.

Why then are seemingly so few people seriously interested in discussing in detail what the Bible says about music?

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josh p's picture

Speaking only for myself Rajesh, I think you are starting with a premise and trying to prove it. Also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, SI has spent hundreds of pages discussing what the Bible says or does not say about music. People are pretty settled in their positions. I much prefer conservative music in church and would, in all honesty, find it difficult to attend somewhere that had a full on rock band. That being said, you really come across as having a hobby horse. Anytime someone joins a forum and almost exclusively devotes themselves to a particular issue, it’s hard to see it any other way. I do believe that you want to honor God in promoting music that honors Him and I’m thankful for that. I would recommend writing an actual article with your positions. That would probably engender more discussion.

RajeshG's picture

josh p wrote:

Speaking only for myself Rajesh, I think you are starting with a premise and trying to prove it. Also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, SI has spent hundreds of pages discussing what the Bible says or does not say about music. People are pretty settled in their positions. I much prefer conservative music in church and would, in all honesty, find it difficult to attend somewhere that had a full on rock band. That being said, you really come across as having a hobby horse. Anytime someone joins a forum and almost exclusively devotes themselves to a particular issue, it’s hard to see it any other way. I do believe that you want to honor God in promoting music that honors Him and I’m thankful for that. I would recommend writing an actual article with your positions. That would probably engender more discussion.

Hmm. If more people started actually discussing the stated subjects of the threads instead of bringing their own agendas to the thread, things could be very different.

I've looked through previous threads on the subject that preceded my coming to SI. I do not see much actual in-depth discussion of the Bible itself. I see mostly interest in discussing application, musicology, culture, etc.

This has been my experience in other settings as well. Whether you agree with someone's position or not, if you are a Christian, you should have a strong interest in discussing the Bible itself.

I also wonder if there are not many other people on SI who are interested but remain silent on the subject of music because they see how anybody with a traditional/conservative music position is treated and do not want to endure such treatment.

Kevin Miller's picture

Yes, the Bible is the "only infallible source," but my interpretation of "what the Bible says" may be different from what some other person is thinking the Bible is saying. Take Ephesians 5:19, for example. "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" This verse is explicit in commanding us to sing, but nowhere in this verse, or anywhere else in the New Testament, is the Church commanded to use musical instruments. So If I interpret this verse as ONLY allowing singing with no instruments, then my interpretation is going to differ from someone who believes instruments are allowed by God. Is it okay to have differing interpretations of the same passage? If the Bible isn't explicitly clear as to which interpretation is correct, then we have to be okay with different Christians differing about these specifics. The same thing is true about styles as it is about instrumentation as it is about any other facet of music. People are going to have differing viewpoints, and that's okay. I don't really see a lack of discussion on this topic here at SharperIron. As Josh pointed out, there are already a lot of threads dealing with music, and people have discussed Bible verses in those threads.

Ron Bean's picture

Considering the results  of this poll it may be that the majority hold to the position that the Bible does not address the subject of music in a clear, dogmatic, and defined manner. This may lead to many making this an individual liberty issue.

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

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

Yes, the Bible is the "only infallible source," but my interpretation of "what the Bible says" may be different from what some other person is thinking the Bible is saying. Take Ephesians 5:19, for example. "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" This verse is explicit in commanding us to sing, but nowhere in this verse, or anywhere else in the New Testament, is the Church commanded to use musical instruments. So If I interpret this verse as ONLY allowing singing with no instruments, then my interpretation is going to differ from someone who believes instruments are allowed by God. Is it okay to have differing interpretations of the same passage? If the Bible isn't explicitly clear as to which interpretation is correct, then we have to be okay with different Christians differing about these specifics. The same thing is true about styles as it is about instrumentation as it is about any other facet of music. People are going to have differing viewpoints, and that's okay. I don't really see a lack of discussion on this topic here at SharperIron. As Josh pointed out, there are already a lot of threads dealing with music, and people have discussed Bible verses in those threads.

In your specific example, you are asserting that only what is in the NT is authoritative for the Church. Have you discussed the validity of that assertion on a previous thread?

Has the no-instruments position been discussed in a previous thread? Even if it has, what if someone new has useful insight about the Bible that was not brought up in any of the previous discussions?

More broadly, your response seems to me to show what is part of the problem. Thinking that nearly every thread that I begin must have to do with issues pertaining to musical styles is a seriously wrong notion.

RajeshG's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Considering the results  of this poll it may be that the majority hold to the position that the Bible does not address the subject of music in a clear, dogmatic, and defined manner. This may lead to many making this an individual liberty issue.

Whether the majority holds to a certain position is not justification for hijacking threads that seek to directly discuss the Bible. If the majority believes that it already knows everything that there is to know about the Bible, they should just stick to commenting on other threads of their interest and allow those who are still interested in discussing the Bible itself to have courteous, respectful discussions among themselves in detail about the Bible itself.

Ron Bean's picture

You asked:

Why then are seemingly so few people seriously interested in discussing in detail what the Bible says about music?

I answered:

 may be that the majority hold to the position that the Bible does not address the subject of music in a clear, dogmatic, and defined manner.

 

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

RajeshG's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

You asked:

Why then are seemingly so few people seriously interested in discussing in detail what the Bible says about music?

I answered:

 may be that the majority hold to the position that the Bible does not address the subject of music in a clear, dogmatic, and defined manner.

 


 

Maybe that is true for SI as well. My comments were based on applying your answer to my situation on SI.

JD Miller's picture

RajeshG asked,

what if someone new has useful insight about the Bible that was not brought up in any of the previous discussions?

RajeshG, may I encourage you to share some scripture and some of your insights on music so that others can interact with them on this thread.  Perhaps you have on earlier threads, but this one is fresh today, so the opportunity for others to interact is right here and now.  I am curious to hear which passages most guide your thoughts on music and look forward to hearing what your thoughts are.  I am hopeful that others will interact with your thoughts as well.  Welcome to Sharper Iron.

 

RajeshG's picture

JD Miller wrote:

RajeshG asked,

what if someone new has useful insight about the Bible that was not brought up in any of the previous discussions?

RajeshG, may I encourage you to share some scripture and some of your insights on music so that others can interact with them on this thread.  Perhaps you have on earlier threads, but this one is fresh today, so the opportunity for others to interact is right here and now.  I am curious to hear which passages most guide your thoughts on music and look forward to hearing what your thoughts are.  I am hopeful that others will interact with your thoughts as well.  Welcome to Sharper Iron.

 

Thanks for the welcome, JD. Here's something that I have written elsewhere:

Has God Changed His Mind about How He Wants All the Earth to Worship Him?

Did God ever make known how He wanted all the earth to worship Him? Has He changed His mind about that subject after the coming of Christ and His finished work of atonement?

God’s Demand of All the Earth

Psalm 98 provides clear revelation that helps us answer both of these questions. Through an unnamed psalmist, God made known when Psalm 98 was written how He wanted all the earth to worship Him at that time: 

Psa 98:4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

 5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

 6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.

God commanded that all the earth would sing unto Him with the harp (98:5) and make a joyful noise before Him with trumpets and a cornet (98:6). These commands make clear that God demanded that all the earth worship Him with singing accompanied by musical instruments.

Has God Changed His Mind? 

All the earth has never obeyed these commands, and many of the peoples of the earth have never even known specifically that God has commanded them to do this. Are these commands still the will of God for all the earth or has He changed His mind after the coming of Christ?

Based on my study of Scripture, I do not find any basis for holding that these commands no longer apply. I also find no basis for holding that the coming of Christ and His completed work of atonement somehow has done away with these commands.

The lack of specific NT mention of instrumental worship in the first-century Church does not constitute proof that Christians today should worship God by singing without the use of musical instruments. On the contrary, Matthew 28:18-20 compared with Psalm 98:4-6 teaches us that it is part of the Church’s mission to disciple all nations to worship God with singing accompanied by musical instruments!

JD Miller's picture

Thank you for reminding us to both joyfully sing and to play instruments before the Lord.  May we use our talents for His glory and to remember to do it in worship to our Lord and savior.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

In your specific example, you are asserting that only what is in the NT is authoritative for the Church. Have you discussed the validity of that assertion on a previous thread?

Has the no-instruments position been discussed in a previous thread? Even if it has, what if someone new has useful insight about the Bible that was not brought up in any of the previous discussions?

More broadly, your response seems to me to show what is part of the problem. Thinking that nearly every thread that I begin must have to do with issues pertaining to musical styles is a seriously wrong notion.

Please don't accuse me of asserting things I haven't asserted. I did NOT assert that only what is in the New Testament is authoritative for the church. In talking about instruments, I gave a hypothetical situation. I said, "So If I interpret this verse as ONLY allowing singing with no instruments, then my interpretation is going to differ from someone who believes instruments are allowed by God." My assertion was that someone would disagree with that position, not that that position was the correct one. Secondly, you accused me of thinking every thread you start is about styles. Where did I specifically mention your threads in my post? I said people are going to have differing viewpoints about instrumentation and styles and every other facet of music. That includes every thread on SharperIron about music. I even said "there are already a lot of threads dealing with music." I certainly wasn't singling you out or saying anything about specific content of any of your posts..

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

In your specific example, you are asserting that only what is in the NT is authoritative for the Church. Have you discussed the validity of that assertion on a previous thread?

Has the no-instruments position been discussed in a previous thread? Even if it has, what if someone new has useful insight about the Bible that was not brought up in any of the previous discussions?

More broadly, your response seems to me to show what is part of the problem. Thinking that nearly every thread that I begin must have to do with issues pertaining to musical styles is a seriously wrong notion.

 

Please don't accuse me of asserting things I haven't asserted. I did NOT assert that only what is in the New Testament is authoritative for the church. In talking about instruments, I gave a hypothetical situation. I said, "So If I interpret this verse as ONLY allowing singing with no instruments, then my interpretation is going to differ from someone who believes instruments are allowed by God." My assertion was that someone would disagree with that position, not that that position was the correct one. Secondly, you accused me of thinking every thread you start is about styles. Where did I specifically mention your threads in my post? I said people are going to have differing viewpoints about instrumentation and styles and every other facet of music. That includes every thread on SharperIron about music. I even said "there are already a lot of threads dealing with music." I certainly wasn't singling you out or saying anything about specific content of any of your posts..

 

My apologies. It sure seemed that you were speaking with my threads in view.

josh p's picture

RajeshG wrote:

 

Hmm. If more people started actually discussing the stated subjects of the threads instead of bringing their own agendas to the thread, things could be very different.

I've looked through previous threads on the subject that preceded my coming to SI. I do not see much actual in-depth discussion of the Bible itself. I see mostly interest in discussing application, musicology, culture, etc.

This has been my experience in other settings as well. Whether you agree with someone's position or not, if you are a Christian, you should have a strong interest in discussing the Bible itself.

I also wonder if there are not many other people on SI who are interested but remain silent on the subject of music because they see how anybody with a traditional/conservative music position is treated and do not want to endure such treatment.

Rajesh,

If you don’t make a clear statement about your position it’s hard to make a clear response. Since you are interested in in-depth discussion why don’t you post your exegesis of passages that you think are relevant? I would personally  be interested in a direct statement or even a solid inference from a passage directed to the church. 

RajeshG's picture

josh p wrote:

Rajesh,

If you don’t make a clear statement about your position it’s hard to make a clear response. Since you are interested in in-depth discussion why don’t you post your exegesis of passages that you think are relevant? I would personally  be interested in a direct statement or even a solid inference from a passage directed to the church. 

Josh,

The Psalms are foundational to the theology of the whole NT. They are directed to the Church (1 Cor. 14, Eph. 5, Col. 3, James 5, etc.). Psalm 98 is as much for the church as it was for OT Israel.

JD Miller's picture

What a wonderful text to study as we reflect on music.  I noticed that although we are to sing a new song, there are a lot of old ideas that have been repeated in other Psalms as well (remembering that the Psalms were actually songs).  For example I noticed that the song talks about the wonderful things God has done.  It also speaks of His salvation, righteousness, steadfast love, and faithfulness.  As we focus on these characteristics of God, no wonder the Psalmist calls for us to make a joyful noise.  The more we know about God the more reason we have to be joyful.  I love the Psalms for this very reason.

Another thing I noticed from this Psalm was that in vs 6, our Lord is referred to as King.  Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords.  Then in the last verse of the Psalm it talks of Him coming to judge the world in righteousness.  That makes me think of our King Jesus Christ coming on the white horse in Revelation 19.  I think I might be able to come up with a new song about this if I keep studying this passage.  -Not that I would come up with new ideas, but just sharing these same ideas in a new way would bring joy to my heart as I sing it to the Lord. 

  I think of my 11 year old son.  After one of the morning sermons he put the events that we had covering into a song and sang it.  It was his way of retelling the wonderful story of what God had done.

   

Ps 98:1 (A Psalm.) O Sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
 (NASB)

 

RajeshG's picture

JD Miller wrote:

What a wonderful text to study as we reflect on music. 

Great thoughts. Psalm 98 is one of at least 10 times in the Bible when God commands all the earth to worship Him with music. God is not given the full glory that He deserves until He is praised with singing accompanied by musical instruments. Someday, the whole world will give Him all the glory that He is due by worshiping Him with singing accompanied by musical instruments.

Psalm 98 is one of the premier passages that highlights the worldwide importance of music. The biblical witness concerning the importance of music is far richer than probably a vast number of believers have ever understood.

JD Miller's picture

I look forward to spring when I can again hear the birds singing.  Do you think that is part of what Ps 98 and others are referring to?

 

RajeshG's picture

JD Miller wrote:

I look forward to spring when I can again hear the birds singing.  Do you think that is part of what Ps 98 and others are referring to?

In context, Psalm 98 has to do ultimately with what will take place when Christ returns as the King to judge the earth. There are other passages that do talk explicitly about birds singing. Because the Bible uses the same Hebrew verb to speak of birds singing as it does of humans singing, we know that birds do not just make random noises--they actually sing. Hearing them sing is one of the ways that God testifies to us that music is not ultimately of human origin and limiting one's theology of music to only what humans do musically leads to a deficient understanding of music.

JD Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote

In context, Psalm 98 has to do ultimately with what will take place when Christ returns as the King to judge the earth. There are other passages that do talk explicitly about birds singing. Because the Bible uses the same Hebrew verb to speak of birds singing as it does of humans singing, we know that birds do not just make random noises--they actually sing. Hearing them sing is one of the ways that God testifies to us that music is not ultimately of human origin and limiting one's theology of music to only what humans do musically leads to a deficient understanding of music.

I believe this answers the question as to why the whole world is not singing joyfully now.  

 

RajeshG's picture

JD Miller wrote:

RajeshG wrote

In context, Psalm 98 has to do ultimately with what will take place when Christ returns as the King to judge the earth. There are other passages that do talk explicitly about birds singing. Because the Bible uses the same Hebrew verb to speak of birds singing as it does of humans singing, we know that birds do not just make random noises--they actually sing. Hearing them sing is one of the ways that God testifies to us that music is not ultimately of human origin and limiting one's theology of music to only what humans do musically leads to a deficient understanding of music.

I believe this answers the question as to why the whole world is not singing joyfully now.  

 

We know that the ultimate reason they are not doing so now is because they are in rebellion against the one and only true and living God. Someday, all of that will change!

Bert Perry's picture

Well, because we Baptists really don't want to confront the fact that Psalms 149 and 150 seem to prescribe music with a heavy beat, percussive instruments, to which one might dance.  (smile)

Seriously, I think that I'd be very interested in discussing what the Scripture clearly says about music, but to be blunt, Rajesh, you've made a habit here of trying to shoehorn any kind of passage in with the music issue, and that's frankly getting tiresome.  Almost as tiresome as guilt by association arguments.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Well, because we Baptists really don't want to confront the fact that Psalms 149 and 150 seem to prescribe music with a heavy beat, percussive instruments, to which one might dance.  (smile)

Turns out that's not actually true. Many have addressed that and all believe it. 

You can read one of the most conservative men deal with the psalm here: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/in-the-nick-of-time/loud-clangin...

Here's another particularly on the issue of dance: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-worship/shall-we-dance/

These articles and many others are freely available which should prevent us from claiming that people don't like them, don't deal with them, or are scared of them. 

Again, we need to abandon the all too common idea that if someone doesn't agree with us, then they haven't dealt with the passage. That's cheap and easy. It doesn't deal in reality. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Like this:

https://apeopleforhisname.org/2019/01/poll-results-and-analysis-is-exodu...

No, not like that. He actually made a case using the text to show his point as opposed to those who simply say they didn't deal with it. He disagrees with them and shows why. The quality of post (argument aside) is entirely different than what Bert did, and Bert's was easily disproven. Whatever else you might say about Rajesh's point in his post, he made an argument from the text in support of his understanding. 

Bert Perry's picture

Larry wrote:

Well, because we Baptists really don't want to confront the fact that Psalms 149 and 150 seem to prescribe music with a heavy beat, percussive instruments, to which one might dance.  (smile)

Turns out that's not actually true. Many have addressed that and all believe it. 

You can read one of the most conservative men deal with the psalm here: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/in-the-nick-of-time/loud-clangin...

Here's another particularly on the issue of dance: http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-worship/shall-we-dance/

These articles and many others are freely available which should prevent us from claiming that people don't like them, don't deal with them, or are scared of them. 

Again, we need to abandon the all too common idea that if someone doesn't agree with us, then they haven't dealt with the passage. That's cheap and easy. It doesn't deal in reality. 

Larry, there are two important points to be made here.  First of all, neither source you link is from here, which is what I was referring to.  Second, everybody says they "deal with" a passage, but in the same way that all fundamentalists will reject liberal "dealing with passages" in such a way as to destroy their obvious meaning, I reject such attempts on the fundamental side.  Neither source really gets to a couple of points that I'd consider core; that at times, the love of God probably ought to get our feet moving, and moreover if Temple praise involved music with a beat and dancing, then certain criticisms of modern music styles are out of bounds.  

And it's precisely that kind of criticism--generally guilt by association fallacies--that are central to every defense of "traditional music only" that I've ever seen.  For that matter, in his article, Aniol uses a few of them by noting that the dance referred to could not possibly resemble pagan dancing, MTV dancing (whatever that is)....implicitly, again, that's guilt by association, an association that's especially tenuous in that he doesn't really define what on earth he's talking about in terms of either music or dance.

Really, it's "dealing with the passage" in a way that makes it a dead letter, which is precisely the criticism we fundamentalists rightly level at our theologically liberal friends.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Why would you suggest that someone doesn't actually believe what they wrote? Again, the fact that they disagree with you doesn't mean they haven't thought about it and doesn't mean they don't believe it. They simply believe it means something other than you do, and they (unlike you so far as I can tell) actually made a case for it. And they appear to live and worship in accord with what they say. So interact with the case they made. Show us where they are wrong. 

First of all, neither source you link is from here, which is what I was referring to. 

Both have been here in the past I believe, and it has been addressed here. So you are incorrect on that front.

Second, everybody says they "deal with" a passage, but in the same way that all fundamentalists will reject liberal "dealing with passages" in such a way as to destroy their obvious meaning, I reject such attempts on the fundamental side.

But you have to demonstrate that is what they did. You have given no indication that musical conservatives reject anything in Psalm 149 or 150, and in fact, I know that a great many don't, because I have been in their churches where they have all those instruments and use them, loudly at times. You have also given no indication that Psalm 149 and 150 have in view modern musical styles and their use and meaning. The obvious meaning of Psalm 150 is to use a lot of instruments, sometimes loudly, in praise of God. In fact everything is to do that (which means it may not be temple worship) at all. 

So far as I can tell, you have yet to tell us what part of Psalm 149 and 150 they disagree with. Your statements here indicate that they disagree with you, which is different than disagreeing with Psalm 149 or 150. 

Neither source really gets to a couple of points that I'd consider core; that at times, the love of God probably ought to get our feet moving, and moreover if Temple praise involved music with a beat and dancing, then certain criticisms of modern music styles are out of bounds.  

You might reconsider whether your evaluation of what is core is actually core. "Get our feet moving"? One of the articles addressed that very topic. But what does that mean? And how and when? And by what method? Is all feet moving acceptable? 

As to your second, again you fail to demonstrate that Psalm 149 and 150 have in view anything resembling "modern music styles." You can't just declare something to be true. You actually have to argue for it. 

It's almost like you saying God approves speaking and therefore we are wrong to condemn certain tones of voice or certain words. It's not a sound argument, no pun intended.

And it's precisely that kind of criticism--generally guilt by association fallacies--that are central to every defense of "traditional music only" that I've ever seen.  For that matter, in his article, Aniol uses a few of them by noting that the dance referred to could not possibly resemble pagan dancing, MTV dancing (whatever that is)....implicitly, again, that's guilt by association, an association that's especially tenuous in that he doesn't really define what on earth he's talking about in terms of either music or dance.

Your logical fallacies arguments have become somewhat humorous, both for the frequency at which you trot them out and for the way in which you frequently misuse them. As I said before, if you think this is guilt by association, then you don't understand the argument, and the more I have read from you, the more I am convinced that you are well intended and yet don't understand the argument. 

Really, it's "dealing with the passage" in a way that makes it a dead letter, which is precisely the criticism we fundamentalists rightly level at our theologically liberal friends.  

Far to the contrary. When someone takes time to explain the text and what it means, and then apply it, it is not a dead letter.