John Vaughn (FBFI President/CEO): "one thing is clear: this video ends the fiction that 'Northland has not changed.'”

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dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Brent Marshall wrote:

1. How would you complete this sentence: "Scripture clearly and forcefully says that the substance and content must be ...."? I am thinking of the primary attributes of right substance/content. What do you think they are?

2. How is substance or content a different matter than musical style?


Since Dan doesn't want to answer these, I'll take a stab at it.

1. Philippians 4:8 would give a pretty good answer to this one. It's not a complete or comprehensive treatment of all scripture has to say on this point, but it's a pretty good starting point.

However, I doubt that anyone involved in this discussion believes that content should be different from being true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report. Obviously, any lyrical content falls in this jurisdiction. The disagreement is in the music itself.

2. How are content and substance different from style? For one thing, I've never seen a solid treatment discussing how musical style can be directly mapped to concepts like truth, honesty, and justice. The few arguments I've seen that even start basically talk about mapping certain musical concepts to emotions, but not only is that something that's also pretty much agreed on, it's not very helpful.

If you take the so-called "negative" emotions like anger, jealousy, hatred, and derisiveness, God expresses those, so they all have a righteous component as well. God never has fear, of course, but even that emotion has a positive aspect for us -- "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." So mapping music simply to emotions is not particularly helpful, as we have no way to discern, for example, righteous anger vs the unrighteous kind in music itself.

But once you get past emotions, abstract concepts are practically impossible to map to sounds. That's why something like truth or honesty is not something that even those who truly believe in intrinsic musical value are able to say with certainty is part of a song or isn't.

Where this gets interesting (at least for me) would be in the 2nd half of the things we should think on in Phil 4:8, which would be purity, loveliness, and things of good report. I see music that is too closely associated with worldly styles as not being able to fit the "good report" category, at least until far removed in time. Clearly, those in the more "progressive" camp have a different take on this. Loveliness is harder, because we don't all see the same kind of loveliness in everything. I'm certain that God has a standard of what he believes is lovely, but he hasn't told us that for all things. Many times we can determine something that is truly ugly, but once you get a little ways from that, the perception of beauty goes in many directions. And of course, on top of that, our perception can certainly be a problem because of the curse.

Purity of something like music can be even harder than loveliness, or at least in the same general area of difficulty. I can hear something, and "feel" that it is somehow impure, but I can't always come up with a good reason why it is or must be.

All of the 6 categories from Philippians 4:8 can be easily determined with something like lyrics, but cannot as easily be determined with something like style. For me, that evidence is enough to separate content from style.

Dave Barnhart

Dan McGhee's picture

SamH wrote:

but what if the matter truly is a matter of conviction (conscience) and not preference? Going beyond Riley's example, and using your own words, is it legitimate to credit Vaughn, FBFI, et.al.'s motives as actually only being a preference, when they seem to project that they are driven by conviction?

 

Hey Sam, another really great question. Well, let me answer this by telling you about a friend of mine who is a fellow pastor in our area. He has the habit of occasionally enjoying a cigar while relaxing in his backyard on a warm summer night. In fact, his church knows this about him. Now, you won't find a guy who is more passionate about the Gospel than he is. He believes it, preaches it, and has even fought battles over it that have been personally costly to him. 

So, here I am and I really don't like cigars. Personally, I think they stink. In fact, I have a certain conviction about them that I wouldn't smoke one myself. But, I wouldn't rail against him for doing it, especially when I probably do more harm to my own body when I drink corn-syrup based Pepsi Cola. You see, it is my conviction that I personally wouldn't smoke a cigar, but I wouldn't preach that those who enjoy an occasional one are necessarily sinning. This also wouldn't affect me inviting this man to preach at my church. 

When it comes to some personal convictions I think its important to admit when they are being driven by personal preferences regarding a given issue. Otherwise, we will tend to force these personal convictions upon others even when we have very little Scriptural warrant for doing so. And this is why I'm arguing for charity and a willingness to give good brothers the ability to practice differently in this area without castigating them for it.

 

SamH's picture

but, to be clear, is cigar-smoking a sin for you to contemplate doing, as regards your conscience? Is that what you mean by "conviction?" If you said that, forgive me...

SamH

Scott Aniol's picture

Dan, here's the point of all this:

There are certain Christians today (me, Mike Harding, John Vaughan, or whomever) who believe that certain musical forms are inappropriate for worship at best, and displeasing to the Lord at worst.

We believe this, not out of personal preference (i.e. we don't like it), but out of conviction that it is so, and we have based our convictions on (what we believe to be) reasonable application of God's all-authoritative, all-sufficient Word.

We (or I, at least) am quite open to anyone disagreeing with my interpretation of Scripture or how I apply Scripture to musical choices. I welcome discussion on these matters. Anyone who reads me honestly will have to admit that I welcome such discourse. That doesn't mean I will agree, of course. But if someone is willing to say, "Here is why I think the form of rap is fitting with biblical principles" (for example) I am more than willing to hear him out.

Yet you are denying us even the right to claim that we have these convictions based upon Scripture. You insist, rather, that we admit that our judgments are based on personal preference alone. Folks like you are unwilling to disagree with us on the basis of our interpretation or application; rather you shut down any discussion by claiming that the Bible doesn't say anything about musical style or that we are defending preference.

So which is the more charitable option? (a) Take us at our Word that we have with all honestly attempted to rightly apply the Word of God and have based our judgments on those applications, and therefore engage us on that level, or (b) insist that our convictions are baseless and based on preference alone?

If this whole debate were founded only on preference, then I would agree with you wholeheartedly that we should allow each to have his preferences (you prefer steak? I prefer tofu! eh, who cares!)

But at least allow us the right to hold (what we truly believe are, at least) biblical convictions and engage us on that level.

Scott Aniol 
Executive Director Religious Affections Ministries
Instructor of Worship, Southwestern Baptist

Dan McGhee's picture

SamH wrote:

but, to be clear, is cigar-smoking a sin for you to contemplate doing, as regards your conscience? Is that what you mean by "conviction?" If you said that, forgive me...

 

Wow, you've really got some good questions... Well, let me answer this for you as honestly as I know how - "I'm not sure." Smile

I really believe that much of this for me has been how my conscience has been trained over the years. Having grown up in fundamentalism where drinking, smoking (of any sort), movie attendance, pants on women, etc., were regularly preached against, I'm quite sure that some of my conviction is based in this upbringing. 

I know that Romans 14:23-24 tells me that "whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." Yet, I know that the human conscience can be trained, and even at times, retrained according to correct knowledge and input from the Word of God. This has happened in my own life over the years as I've grown in Christ and my understanding of His Word. For example, I used to really think that translations of the Bible other than the KJV were sinful and wrong. Yet, with study and training, sitting right next to you in many of those classes I might add Smile I learned differently. My conscience was retrained according to correct knowledge. 

Yet, I have to admit, I can remember the first NASB I bought... There was this twinge deep down inside... Yet, I knew that I was freed from a wrongly trained conscience in this matter. So, did I sin when I first bought that NASB and experienced that "twinge?" Did I fail to act in faith at that moment? I don't think so.

I really do see this matter of music in a similar way. For some of us, we have heard certain things railed against all our lives, even when there is so little Biblical support the positions. My plea is for us to recognize this and show grace to our brothers whose consciences are different than ours in this debatable area - musical style/genre.

Michael Riley's picture

Dan,

You're being a good sport here; I see that Sam has also begun to engage you in a thread of questions. Hopefully, we won't have too many scenarios going simultaneously.

Let me also add that, from the distance of social media, I greatly admired the way that you and your ministry handled the controversy with James MacDonald. Whatever else may be said in this conversation, I want to insist publicly that you are a separatist, in the best sense of that term. You've had to take a strong stand in a way that some of us, who have largely stayed within a certain theological neighborhood, have not.

Now, back to our illustration of preaching styles. I definitely agree with you that there are a host of preaching styles that are compatible with faithful shepherding. I also agree that cultural expectations play some role in framing the kind of styles likely to be acceptable in a given church.

I want to press this discussion in two different directions. First, the principle, and second, the institutional.

First, are there any styles of preaching (this is an intentionally ambiguous term) that you would consider utterly out of bounds for a preacher? Or, to be more specific, are there any styles of preaching that you would consider to be utterly out of bounds given a specific passage? So, for instance, say the stand up comic preaches Isaiah 53, or the hollerin' preacher preaches 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (the God of all comfort)? Ought they modify their styles for these sermons? Who says? On what grounds are we to say that a hollering style isn't comforting? Or that comedy is not, for some, a faithful way to contemplate the substitutionary atonement?

Institutionally, let's offer another hypothetical. Suppose that Detroit Seminary, after years of having one direction of homiletics instruction, decided to hire a staff evangelist to promote the school who was of the hollerin' evangelist style. Indeed, Dr. Doran has decided that the best way to reach a new generation for Christ is to adapt to the current culture of extra-combatant talk-radio personalities. He's not going to change the theological positions of the seminary (except for a tweak here and there which appeals to the new constituency), just the method of delivering the message. Now, I'm not suggesting that you'd sign the next resolution against Detroit Seminary. I wouldn't either; I'm just not a resolutions kind of guy. But I imagine you would be deeply disappointed with the direction of the school. You might even decide that, given their new direction, there are schools you'd more highly recommend than them. And you'd be doing so, it seems to me, for reasons of style.

Now, I would be right with you. I would be arguing that this new approach to homiletics, because of the way in which it communicates, is at cross-purposes with the message that they're trying to proclaim. It seems to me that my move here would be consistent with my principles. My obvious question to you, then, would be: "What would your response be to the new Detroit Seminary? And again, on what grounds?"

Jay's picture

Scott Aniol wrote:
Yet you are denying us even the right to claim that we have these convictions based upon Scripture. You insist, rather, that we admit that our judgments are based on personal preference alone. Folks like you are unwilling to disagree with us on the basis of our interpretation or application; rather you shut down any discussion by claiming that the Bible doesn't say anything about musical style or that we are defending preference.

If I had two small kids that were quarreling and each demanding their 'right' to the toy they owned, I'd take it away and put them in separate rooms for a while until they calmed down.  Then I'd have to have a long talk with them about loving others and setting aside their selfish demands.

Just saying.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Dan McGhee's picture

Scott Aniol wrote:

Dan, here's the point of all this:

There are certain Christians today (me, Mike Harding, John Vaughan, or whomever) who believe that certain musical forms are inappropriate for worship at best, and displeasing to the Lord at worst.

We believe this, not out of personal preference (i.e. we don't like it), but out of conviction that it is so, and we have based our convictions on (what we believe to be) reasonable application of God's all-authoritative, all-sufficient Word.

We (or I, at least) am quite open to anyone disagreeing with my interpretation of Scripture or how I apply Scripture to musical choices. I welcome discussion on these matters. Anyone who reads me honestly will have to admit that I welcome such discourse. That doesn't mean I will agree, of course. But if someone is willing to say, "Here is why I think the form of rap is fitting with biblical principles" (for example) I am more than willing to hear him out.

Yet you are denying us even the right to claim that we have these convictions based upon Scripture. You insist, rather, that we admit that our judgments are based on personal preference alone. Folks like you are unwilling to disagree with us on the basis of our interpretation or application; rather you shut down any discussion by claiming that the Bible doesn't say anything about musical style or that we are defending preference.

So which is the more charitable option? (a) Take us at our Word that we have with all honestly attempted to rightly apply the Word of God and have based our judgments on those applications, and therefore engage us on that level, or (b) insist that our convictions are baseless and based on preference alone?

If this whole debate were founded only on preference, then I would agree with you wholeheartedly that we should allow each to have his preferences (you prefer steak? I prefer tofu! eh, who cares!)

But at least allow us the right to hold (what we truly believe are, at least) biblical convictions and engage us on that level.

Scott, I'm really not trying to be uncharitable to you or others in this matter. In fact, I believe that you believe that your convictions are based on Scripture alone. And you believe that these convictions are not the result of your personal preferences, which have been shaped by your background, upbringing, and personal experiences.

But, having said that, I also believe that your personal convictions in the matter of style/genre of music have the same type of Biblical support that the personal conviction of "a woman ought not to wear pants" or "Christians ought not to go to the movie theater" has. I'm not saying that you ought not to have convictions.  

But I am saying that those convictions that must be arrived at principally ought to be held with much charity. Much grace must be shown towards those who have drawn different conclusions. Why? Because if God wanted us to know specifically that we should all only be singing in the Southern Gospel genre, He would have specified this to us. But He didn't and this is undeniable. 

So, instead of labeling others as using "worldly methodology" and participating in "sinful practice not adorning the Gospel of Christ," I'm urging grace and charity towards those who see it differently. I'm urging a willingness to partner in the Gospel knowing that we probably have many secondary matters where we won't completely agree. Please, stop elevating this secondary matter of the preference of specific musical style/genre to what it has become - the true fundamentalist litmus test. 

dmyers's picture

Scott Aniol wrote:

Dan, here's the point of all this:

There are certain Christians today (me, Mike Harding, John Vaughan, or whomever) who believe that certain musical forms are inappropriate for worship at best, and displeasing to the Lord at worst.

We believe this, not out of personal preference (i.e. we don't like it), but out of conviction that it is so, and we have based our convictions on (what we believe to be) reasonable application of God's all-authoritative, all-sufficient Word.

We (or I, at least) am quite open to anyone disagreeing with my interpretation of Scripture or how I apply Scripture to musical choices. I welcome discussion on these matters. Anyone who reads me honestly will have to admit that I welcome such discourse. That doesn't mean I will agree, of course. But if someone is willing to say, "Here is why I think the form of rap is fitting with biblical principles" (for example) I am more than willing to hear him out.

Yet you are denying us even the right to claim that we have these convictions based upon Scripture. You insist, rather, that we admit that our judgments are based on personal preference alone. Folks like you are unwilling to disagree with us on the basis of our interpretation or application; rather you shut down any discussion by claiming that the Bible doesn't say anything about musical style or that we are defending preference.

So which is the more charitable option? (a) Take us at our Word that we have with all honestly attempted to rightly apply the Word of God and have based our judgments on those applications, and therefore engage us on that level, or (b) insist that our convictions are baseless and based on preference alone?

If this whole debate were founded only on preference, then I would agree with you wholeheartedly that we should allow each to have his preferences (you prefer steak? I prefer tofu! eh, who cares!)

But at least allow us the right to hold (what we truly believe are, at least) biblical convictions and engage us on that level.

This is more than a little ironic, isn't it?  Scott Aniol, Mike Harding, John Vaughn, et al. treat music style as a separation issue -- the current target of their pillorying being NIU.  But when challenged on the absence of a biblical basis for their "conviction" (or even a direct, non-treatise-length line of reasoning from Scripture to their "conviction") and on their consequent separation/criticism of fellow Christians who don't agree with their "conviction," they ask to be treated charitably. Whaaat?

TylerR's picture

Editor

You wrote:

There are certain Christians today (me, Mike Harding, John Vaughan, or whomever) who believe that certain musical forms are inappropriate for worship at best, and displeasing to the Lord at worst.

 

We believe this, not out of personal preference (i.e. we don't like it), but out of conviction that it is so, and we have based our convictions on (what we believe to be) reasonable application of God's all-authoritative, all-sufficient Word.

Your whole post expressed my feelings exactly. Well said. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Greg Linscott's picture

It seems to me that Jay would be insisting on what could compare to an Evangelical Free position, with Scott rigidly insisting on a pre-trib, pre-mil dispensationalist approach- only with music and worship instead of Eschatology.

Which leads me to wonder (out loud)- Is there coming a day where something like a denomination will form around a conservative theology of music and worship? Bauder has observed (and I think to some degree rightfully so) that essentially "doing church separately" can actually result in greater unity than one or both having to surrender their conscience and beliefs for the sake of others' contrasting beliefs.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

TylerR's picture

Editor

GregL:

Is there coming a day where something like a denomination will form around a conservative theology of music and worship?

I certainly hope not! Talk about missing the forest for the trees . . . !

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Scott Aniol's picture

Thanks, Dan, and I very much appreciate the tone in which you have engaged in conversation here. Thank you, brother.

But here's the thing: if you think our convictions are misapplications of Scriptural principle (like forbidden women to wear pants, etc), then tell us why; don't just tell us our convictions are baseless, tell us why. Show us how we have misinterpreted Scripture. Show us how we have misapplied Scripture.

The issue really isn't one of application, because you (and others!) deny that Scripture even applies to musical style. That's really where the debate lies.

I, on the other hand, believe that the Bible speaks to everything, including musical style.

So, at the end of the day, we are quite likely never going to agree, not just on application, but on method!

Scott Aniol 
Executive Director Religious Affections Ministries
Instructor of Worship, Southwestern Baptist

Michael Riley's picture

Scott,

You know that we have nearly the same position on music and worship. Let me, for a moment, play progressives' advocate.

The argument is going to be this: we cannot show you why you conservatives are misapplying Scripture, because you have not (in any concise way) shown us how in the world Scripture does apply.

Now, your last statement is one that I think we can all agree on: the disagreement is one of method. In other words (as was mentioned earlier in this thread), we would want to insist that some of the terms in Philippians 4:8 have definite application to musical styles. We would also say that, as with all matters of application, we must go outside the text of Scripture to connect the application. This is the move that I suspect is at the heart of the problem.

EDIT

Let me add this, as a second foundation-level concern in this discussion: what is clear or obvious in Scripture is often a dangerous, slippery standard for whether something is correct. I say this, because what we find obvious in Scripture is so often influenced, if not determined, by what we expect to find in Scripture. We all have experienced this, at one point or another. What this means is this: those who insist on a simple and concise defense of conservatism, in a day in which conservatism is not the bent of the culture, are asking for something that might be impossible. It is akin to the Arminian who asks for two simple proofs that Calvinism is true, or vice versa. You know how that conversation is going to go.

Joel Shaffer's picture

when someone is disobedient, but treat him as a brother -- limited fellowship.

The purpose of separating from the disobedient brother (context is a person who refuses to work) is for them to feel shame for their sin so that they eventually repent and then to be restored.  So because I listen and even utilize Christian hip-hop within our inner-city ministry, those who will treat me as a disobedient brother for doing so, are you trying to shame me into "repentance?"   So that I stop doing what I believe based on my careful study of God's word(viewing culture and music through the lens of Creation, Fall, Redemption and the final Consummation), agonizing prayer, and godly council about music, and my rejection of "functional dualism?" 

 

 

___________________________

http://www.utmgr.org/blog_index.html

Dan McGhee's picture

Scott Aniol wrote:

Thanks, Dan, and I very much appreciate the tone in which you have engaged in conversation here. Thank you, brother.

But here's the thing: if you think our convictions are misapplications of Scriptural principle (like forbidden women to wear pants, etc), then tell us why; don't just tell us our convictions are baseless, tell us why. Show us how we have misinterpreted Scripture. Show us how we have misapplied Scripture.

The issue really isn't one of application, because you (and others!) deny that Scripture even applies to musical style. That's really where the debate lies.

I, on the other hand, believe that the Bible speaks to everything, including musical style.

So, at the end of the day, we are quite likely never going to agree, not just on application, but on method!

 

Scott, this will be my last reply for now because I have a meeting to get to here in just a few minutes. Maybe more later, but doubtful because Julie will kill me if I do this at home Smile

Maybe my illustration wasn't best. Let's use the analogy of a conviction against smoking cigars. I believe that I can make a Biblical argument, based upon principle, for not doing so. However, I realize that Romans 14 comes into play here. So, when I preach about Christians caring for their body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, I have to consider many other aspects as well such as types of food we eat, exercise, etc., Smoking could be included in a sermon of this nature. In fact, I would probably even say, "I have a personal conviction against smoking cigars. I choose not to do it. Its probably wise for you not to do it." However, I would stop short of saying, "Its sin if you do it." I can definitely preaching against addiction because the Scriptures teach us not to be controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit. But, an occasional cigar in one's back yard, doesn't necessarily mean that person is addicted. 

So, here's my point - I will not elevate my personal conviction regarding cigar smoking, which I have drawn based upon the application of certain Biblical principles, to the degree that I say that others who disagree with me are actually sinfully degrading the Gospel of Christ. I won't break fellowship with those who see the matter differently. I will teach what I believe, but I would also stand shoulder to shoulder in a cooperative effort with someone who saw it differently.

That's all for now. I really have to go to this meeting. I love you in Christ, Scott. To all my brothers, I love you in Christ. 

Michael Riley's picture

Dan,

You've said you have to go. That's probably a wise piece of counsel for me as well; other things call for attention.

Let me offer this one piece of disanalogy in this illustration: what if this pastor believes that he can smoke a cigar to the glory of God, and so he wishes to lead the church in a moment of corporate cigar smoking before the message? Romans 14 applies fairly neatly (although not without controversy!) when we're speaking of personal holiness and private devotion. But this discussion is different: we're speaking of the corporate worship of the church. Difference of conscience here aren't nearly so simple.

Anne Sokol's picture

I was recently reading James over and over, and as I though about how I need to apply the themes to my life, I was really convicted about my tone of voice talking to my kids.

However, James doesn't say one single word about tone of voice. He just talks several times about arguing, divisions, factions, etc. And I don't think anywhere in the Bible is tone of voice mentioned directly. I thought about the "contentious wife" in Proverbs. Tone of voice is maybe implied.

So anyway, my point is, I think musical style is perhaps like this. It's just somehow implied all around, and we have to take those implications and apply them individually and corporately. And in other settings.

So I personally lean to the more conservative side of the music seesaw, but not as much as Aniol, Harding, et al. I can't really handle casting crowns at this point, but if others thoughtfully like it, I think that's wonderful.

I personally like a few well placed drum beats when I'm singing about God's righteousness and rule and sinlessness, and I think about the wickedness of the s`x trade going on in my city, the children being ... abused is too good a word.

... yak, yak.

My point is that musical style seems to be addressed like tone of voice is. It's indirect. It's application of a lot of things--knowledge of God, current culture, etc.

End of thought.

OK, for further interest, I found some insights here:

Gregory I ... developed the Gregorian Chant which
modified the scales and all voices sang in unison. All musical
instruments were banned during this time and only men were
allowed to sing in worship.

John Huss ... opposed all polyphonic
and instrumental music and only would support the singing of
devotional and simple songs in unison. 

Luther, however, took a position of adapting the use of popular, secular tunes with the truth of Scripture. He also believed that  there was room in the church service for the use of instruments,  especially the organ, polyphonic choir singing as well as congregational singing in the venacular.

Zwingli reacted against the use of any instruments that had association with the Catholic church.  Calvin went even farther in his opposition to Luther's 'liberal' use of  music in worship. Calvin felt that instruments were only tolerated in the Old Testament because the people of God were only infants then. He opposed the use of instruments and the singing in parts.
He also eliminated any lyric not found in Scripture. He allowed only the singing of the Psalms in worship

...

Jay's picture

Scott Aniol wrote:
But once again, Jay, your analogy implies that we have not based our judgments on what we truly believe to be reasonable application of Scripture. Your analogy is demeaning and uncharitable to those who hold convictions about music.

Scott Aniol wrote:
But here's the thing: if you think our convictions are misapplications of Scriptural principle (like forbidden women to wear pants, etc), then tell us why; don't just tell us our convictions are baseless, tell us why. Show us how we have misinterpreted Scripture. Show us how we have misapplied Scripture.

The issue really isn't one of application, because you (and others!) deny that Scripture even applies to musical style. That's really where the debate lies.

I, on the other hand, believe that the Bible speaks to everything, including musical style.

So, at the end of the day, we are quite likely never going to agree, not just on application, but on method!

Scott,

It might do you some good to read some of the very many posts I've written recently on this topic.  Check out the Big Daddy Weave thread, this other thread, and the thread that we're currently in.  

If you honestly think that I've been arguing that the Bible doesn't speak to musical style...well, I don't know what I can do to help you.  I've never argued that Scripture doesn't apply to musical style.   That's an ignorant and foolish claim, and you ought to know better than that.

Yes, we disagree on method and I doubt I'll ever convince you of my position (or vice versa).  But you clearly haven't been reading what I wrote, so maybe you ought to start there before you start ascribing things to me that aren't true.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Mike Harding's picture

Dmyers,

 

I have not requested to be treated charitably. 

Pastor Mike Harding

SamH's picture

@Mike,

I'll leave off for now--your line of argumentation is likely going to be better than mine.

@Dan--thanks for your answers--I have more questions, but I am satisfied with your answers for now. (Now to go steal a Mike Riley sermon to preach tonight)...

SamH

Ron Bean's picture

Is there coming a day where something like a denomination will form around a conservative theology of music and worship?

 

I would suspect that are many individual churches and a number of fellowships that already make a conservative theology of music and worship a test for fellowship.

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

Greg Linscott's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
I would suspect that are many individual churches and a number of fellowships that already make a conservative theology of music and worship a test for fellowship.

But if that happened, would that be any worse than, say, having both BJ Seminary and Geneva Reformed? If the "conservative" denomination would maintain its distinctives, but recognize a capacity for wider fellowship in some limited areas, what would be the problem with that?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Mike Harding's picture

It is important that we consider what standards we should employ for good art in general and good music specifically.

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen 1:26).  God, the creative genius, spoke all things into existence and then made man analogous to God.  Like God, man is inventive, imaginative, creative and thus able to arrange and depict God’s world in an orderly way. 

“God saw all that He had made; and behold it was very good” (1:31).  The biblical basis for the production and enjoyment of artistic expression is simply that God declared it to be very good. All of His creation is very good including man’s sanctified creativity which is part of the image of God in man.

When man sinned, however, by wanting to be God, his creative imagination was no longer perfect or holy, but instead was marred by sin.  Apart from the grace of God, both common and saving, man no longer necessarily reflects the order, beauty, loveliness, or virtue of God and His creation in his artistic creations.  Now we have the possibility of good art and bad art on a continuum.  Man struggles to produce good art and music.  We, therefore, must use the special revelation of God to interpret God’s general revelation in order to discern good artistic expression from bad artistic expression.

How can we judge good artistic expression from the bad?  Good art is the work of man by which man uses his God-given creativity to produce artistic expressions for the enjoyment of man and the reflection of God which meet God’s standards of contemplation.

Philippians 4:8 gives us a divinely inspired formula which authoritatively guides us when choosing those artistic expressions in the world which are conformable to the virtues of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8 is unique in Pauline literature and is similar to Hellenistic moral literature.  These six adjectives and two nouns are the objective standards by which we “take into account” these virtues in the world which are conformable to Christ.  We are to examine, consider, evaluate, reflect upon, and take into account (logi,zesqe) the artistic expressions of man in the world and see if they are praiseworthy in the light of Christ and His Gospel message.  Whatever is right for the Christian must be defined by God and His character.  We are to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:21-22).

I. Good Music Must be True  (avlhqh,j—true, truthful, honest; real, genuine) 

Truth and truthfulness are the first standards by which we are to judge an artistic work.  In secular pop culture many songs croon about the pleasures of one-night stands and sinful relationships while ignoring God’s moral viewpoint of those relationships and the tragic consequences of guilt, illegitimate births, abortion, divorce, violence and the welfare state.  We must remember that the so-called “real world” is not the temporal one which will be judged by God and burned with fire, but is the eternal one where we strive for God’s ideal in the present age and will experience in its maturity during the age to come.  Truth is what God has said or would say about any fact in the universe.

Truth and truthfulness are particularly necessary in sacred music.  Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.”  We must not communicate in our musical lyrics that man is his own ultimate savior as he arrogantly decides whether or not he will open the door of his heart to a weak and powerless “Jesus”.  It is God who ultimately opens hearts and illumines human minds, drawing men and women to His Son through the Gospel and the effectual work of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:1-4).

Denice Williams sings, “Somebody Loves You” from her album Special Love:

  He’s waiting for you.  Oh, he understands the pain you’re going through.  There is no problem that my Jesus just can’t help you solve.  For he can do wonders.  Won’t you open up and let him touch you?

This Christian song is about salvation from the pain and trouble of life with no mention of sin, redemption, repentance, or eternity.

Another common deception in sacred music is the “easy love” syndrome.  Love is described by many Christian artists in every possible way except as obedience to God: “If you love me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15).  Such a shallow and varied understanding of God’s love leads to marital unfaithfulness and emotional sentimentality which has plagued the Christian music industry in particular and the Christian Church in general.  Theologian, Alva McClain, once defined biblical love as “That quality in God which moves Him to give of Himself and His gifts to creatures made in His own image – to give sacrificially, eternally, righteously, and unconditionally, without regard as to merit or response.”   You seldom hear of Christian love sung in those kinds of terms today on the typical Christian radio station.

II. Good Music Must be Honorable (semno,j— noble, of good character, honorable, worthy, respectable) 

Good music goes beyond mediocrity.  It has outstanding musical qualities.  It is well-crafted, polished, inspiring the hearts of its listeners to noble character and affections.  The opposite of nobility and honor is to be shallow, banal, simplistic, and trivial.  Too often Christian music aims for the lowest common denominator in a hedonistic pop culture resulting in the loss of aesthetic beauty.

If Christian music fulfills its so-called mission of evangelism by adding salvific Christian cliches to poorly crafted music, then the very question of the quality of the music itself is ignored by Christian leaders today.  The assumption is that the Lord has no aesthetic concern for excellence, beauty, loveliness, attractiveness, or an honorable reputation.

III. Good Music Must be Righteous and Just (di,kaioj—conforming to the standard, will, or character of God; upright, righteous, good; just, right; proper; fair, honest; innocent)

Much secular music today could not be considered righteous or just when it comes to social issues, egalitarianism, multi-culturalism, or environmentalism.  Nature worship, the noble savage, the insightful street bum are all common themes in pop, rock, and modern country.  Popular music in Western society usually reflects the wrong ideas of our culture, the unjust notion of calling good evil and evil good.  Right from wrong is mitigated as relativism is propagated resulting in the graying of absolutes.  We should not be surprised that suicidal music became very popular in the styles of grunge and metal. 

IV. Good Music Must be Pure (a`gno,j —pure, holy; chaste; innocent)

Good music should promote purity in thought, word, and deed.   The MTV video clearly demonstrates that most pop, rock, modern country is impure.  Immodesty, sensuality, vulgarity, and brutality abound in the visual displays of these musical performances.  The music videos embody a chaotic, fragmented view of God’s world where the moment is all that matters, and sex and death are what sell best.  There is little portrayal of human relationships or the world as God would view them.  Art communicates ideas through the mind to the affections and ideas have consequences.  One famous secular musician defined MTV as “vulgarians entertaining barbarians.”

V. Good Music Must be Beautiful (prosfilh —lovely, that which causes delight)

This concept applies to well-crafted, poetical lines and to the melody, arrangement, instrumentation, and performance of the piece of music.  There has been a neglect of training young people, particularly young men, in music because we have a deep misconception about the true nature of beauty.  Young men are well-trained today in a culture of blood, but they are largely ignorant regarding beauty, music, art, and literature.  The word on the street is that aesthetic appreciation is at best “for sissies”.  However, beauty is beyond sugar and spice and everything nice.  Beauty reflects both masculine and feminine qualities.  Beauty is born of divine, almighty power.  There would be no creation, no flowers, no birds, no mountains, no oceans and no stars were it not for the power of God’s voice calling them into existence and sustenance.  Both the rose pedal and the mighty redwood were made and sustained by the beauty of God’s almighty imagination and creative power.  The power of God’s voice was so great that the Israelites asked Moses to speak with them himself lest they die (Ex 20:19).

What makes a song lovely, delightful, and beautiful?  Melody is the key to the beauty of a song.  Arrangement, instrumentation, and performance follow the beauty of the melodic line.  Great production cannot redeem a poorly crafted melody.  A good melody is gripping and memorable so that it may be recalled for meditation.  Beauty which is easily forgotten is not very beneficial.
 

Secondly, melody must be well crafted into a finished arrangement decently and in order according to the accepted principles of music theory and composition.  It takes a great deal of musical skill and training to have dominion over the art of music and thereby produce songs that are lovely.

VI. Good Music Must be Admirable (eu;fhmoj —worthy of praise, commendable, with deference to the transcendent, out of respect for those of high status)

When the standard of Christian music becomes evangelism rather than excellence, then the art is no longer categorized as being good or bad, excellent or mediocre.  Rather, it is simply categorized as being secular or sacred.  Those who have an appreciation for good art and good music often lose respect for the Christian music world simply because Christian music sometimes lacks excellence in melody, craft, composition, and skillful performance.  It is simply not admirable, worthy of praise or deferent to that which is transcendent. Admirable music stimulates one’s thoughts and emotions in edification and sanctification.  It captures one’s attention in a positive and relevant way.

VII. Good Music Must be Virtuous (avreth, — moral excellence, goodness) and Worthy of Praise (e;painoj —commendation, approval; a praiseworthy thing)

These two terms summarize the six previous excellencies.  Virtuous, praiseworthy music leads man toward God and an appreciation of His attributes.  It communicates God’s view of the world as opposed to man’s view of the world.  God’s Word provides the spectacles with which we can properly interpret God’s world and thereby accurately reflect the biblical world view in our artistic expressions and appreciation.  Rather than pitting God’s Word against God’s World, we should reflect God’s World through the lenses of God’s Word.

In a materialistic universe paintings are mere collections of different molecules.  Musical notes are merely different frequencies of sound.  For the materialist there are no absolutes at all, no truth, no virtue, no right or wrong, no beauty or ugliness, because in a purely materialistic world there is no Creator. To a secular materialist a cesspool and a garbage dump are theoretically as lovely or unlovely as a rainbow and sunset.  Only in a Christian world view can truth, beauty, loveliness, and laws be accounted for as reflections of the character of the God of the Bible. 
   
Conclusion

On account of common and saving grace, both unbelievers and believers can produce good art.  The distinction, however, is that good art produced by an unbeliever cannot be considered a good work.  Nevertheless, the art itself can still be objectively good.  Good works, however, must be done in faith for the glory of God.  On the other hand, the believer may at times be deceived by the world in which he lives and actually produce art based on a non-Christian world view, thereby reflecting the meaninglessness, ugliness, and relativism so prevalent in a non-Christian world view. Those who constantly reiterate that artistic expression does not have moral influence over the affections, thoughts, ideas, and values of its audience fall into this category.

Christians should endeavor to produce good art which is also a good work (Col 3:23; 1 Cor 10:31).  We need Christians that will work at their craft with intelligence, skill, beauty, creativity, and virtue.  John Adams once said, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy . . . in order to give their sons a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”  Adams knew that in a lawless and pagan society good art and good music do not flourish.  Art is religion externalized— a reflection of the values, beliefs, and ideas of a culture.  For this reason we must encourage Christian artists to achieve their calling with excellence and virtue.

 

Pastor Mike Harding

JD Miller's picture

Mike, I think most of the people on both sides of the issue who have posted here would agree with most of what you have just posted.  I know I appreciated it.  The problem is that as different people on this site apply those same principles they come to different conclusions.  How much leeway should we give each other in those conclusions?

Mike Harding's picture

JD,

 

I agree with you. Still if we meditate on the principles it will help everyone to make decisions on a more objective basis.  I have a detailed exposition of Col 3:15-17 and Eph 5:18-20 that helps quite a bit as well.

Pastor Mike Harding

JD Miller's picture

Mike wrote:

Still if we meditate on the principles it will help everyone to make decisions on a more objective basis.  

I think this is one of the best points I have read on this post.  We are not all going to agree on where the line should be drawn, nor will we all come to the same conclusions on what is pure, but we should at least examine it.  For example, I read about Joel S using rap.  I don't like rap and it was not long ago that I could find no redeeming value in it.  Further I am very bothered by the associations that it has, but then I heard how he had weighed a very specific group of rap songs and felt he could use them.  Now would I come to the same conclusions he did.  I doubt it, but he did not just approach the issue with an anything goes attitude.  He weighed the issue and came to a conclusion.  I applaud him for that, and though I do not want his music, I am not willing to condemn him either. 

dmyers's picture

JD Miller wrote:

Mike wrote:

Still if we meditate on the principles it will help everyone to make decisions on a more objective basis.  

I think this is one of the best points I have read on this post.  We are not all going to agree on where the line should be drawn, nor will we all come to the same conclusions on what is pure, but we should at least examine it.  For example, I read about Joel S using rap.  I don't like rap and it was not long ago that I could find no redeeming value in it.  Further I am very bothered by the associations that it has, but then I heard how he had weighed a very specific group of rap songs and felt he could use them.  Now would I come to the same conclusions he did.  I doubt it, but he did not just approach the issue with an anything goes attitude.  He weighed the issue and came to a conclusion.  I applaud him for that, and though I do not want his music, I am not willing to condemn him either. 

JD:  Good attitude to have.  I'm sure there are plenty of people on both sides of the music wars who are simply going with what they're used to and/or what they prefer.  But there are folks on both sides (or everywhere along the continuum) who are where they are after much thought and Bible study -- and who may "move" one way or the other as they continue to think and study.  

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