Six Positions on Church Music

There are 8 Comments

Jim's picture

  1. Music itself is amoral.  You should judge church music only by the lyrics, whether they are scriptural or not.  All music is acceptable.  Only the words could be unacceptable.  All musical style is totally preferential.
  2. Music might be amoral.  Christians can differ on that issue and they are not wrong to do so. Even if you cannot judge musical style, you don't want to use music that will cause disunity in the church.  Churches are right to choose only styles of music that will not cause disunity in the church, because some might offend certain people in the church.
  3. Music is moral, but non-essential.  Churches shouldn't judge in non-essential issues.  Music might be able to be judged, but whatever someone wants to use in musical styles is non-essential.  As a non-essential, musical style is a non-separating issue.
  4. Only certain musical style is acceptable for worship, since worship is regulated by scripture.  It must fit scriptural worship. However, individual listening of music is not regulated by scripture, so you can listen to any musical style outside of the church.  Only a certain style of music is acceptable for worship, but since it is also a non-essential, it isn't a separating issue, what kind of music a church will use for worship. 
  5. Music is moral and essential for biblical worship, and it can be judged.  Musical style isn't a basis for separation, but it can affect cooperation.  Since the boundary of fellowship is the gospel, musical style can't affect fellowship, but it can affect how each individual church might cooperate with another church.
  6. Music is moral.  Wrong musical styles are false worship.  Separation should occur over immoral music and false worship.  Immoral worship shouldn't be used for personal listening either.
dcbii's picture


As soon as anyone starts to categorize something like this into some number of discrete categories, they already have the wrong number.  But apart from that, it's also clear that some prejudices arise when making the categories.

It's quite reasonable to believe that music in the abstract is amoral (i.e. you can't judge good/evil based on some notes/rhythms), but believe that how it impacts people (whether through lyrics, association or other factors) can have a moral effect on them, and that music choice is not entirely preferential and can be judged in a number of ways.  It's also reasonable for one who believes to the previous to believe that some music can or should be avoided in some situations (even if not immoral in and of itself) to not cause other brothers to stumble.

I always find it interesting that many who can't actually demonstrate how to judge six notes with a certain rhythm to be good or evil will also immediately assume that those who argue that point also believe "anything goes," when nothing is further from the truth.


Dave Barnhart

Michelle Shuman's picture

Sensual music (that is music with a rock beat) is immoral since it causes sexual movement and expression.  Eph 5... It is hard to tell  how many young people have  been ruined by this music and it is creeping into a lot of Churches courtesy of Getty and others.  Much could be said and facts given, but this is a sacred cow and very few will respond to the facts. Look at Frank Garlock but unfortunately even even his organization has fallen into this trap in their new song book.

Michelle Shuman

dcbii's picture


Jim wrote:

As for me:

  • I'm NOT 1 or 6
  • Closest to 3,4

I understand.  I'm not directly 1 or 6 either, but I would agree with parts of both of those (as stated).

Dave Barnhart

Ron Bean's picture

I'm in the 2,3,4 area. I used to be a six until I realized that some of my "convictions" were based on "facts" that weren't true.


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

Andrew K's picture

Solidly #4

Bert Perry's picture

I'm closest to #1, but would note that not only should the lyrics be plausibly Biblical (which excludes both "In the Garden" as well as modern "Jesus is my Boyfriend" songs), but the music's "mood" ought to work with the lyrics as well.  A great example of this done poorly was a tape of Scripture set to song my kids used to have; "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord" was played in a totally bouncy, cheerful tune.  The gravity of the verse was, of course, completely lost.   Two songs that match mood and lyrics very well are "When I survey the wondrous cross" by Watts, and "Revelation Song" by Jobe. 

Regarding the notion that the musical styles have an intrinsic moral value, that's a nice idea, but I have yet in my 30 years as a Christian to see a single argument for it that is not based on the logical fallacy of guilt by association.  Moreover, a lot of the guilt by association arguments are really, in effect, directed against the root of rock & roll and blues--black gospel music.  Don't think our black brothers and sisters don't clue in to this. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.