Series - Music in the Bible

Music in the Bible and the Contemporary Music Styles Debate (Part 5)

Gregg Strawbridge continues his series about contemporary music styles in the church.

Toward a Truly Christian Aesthetics of Music

The Biblical Foundations

As has been demonstrated, music in the Bible is both emotive and fluidly connected to language. Yet Scripture strongly indicates the role of music in life and ministry, even apart from the function of the propositional word. The beauty of skillful music itself can remind us of the beauty of the Lord. Beauty without utility was ordained by God in worship (Exo 28ff.). In fact, the first person recorded as being filled with the Holy Spirit is not filled to give a verbal message in prophecy or teaching, but to create works of art (Bazelel, Exo 35:30ff.). The Psalmist reminds us, “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth” (50:2).

The beauty we perceive in this fallen world is merely a dim reflection of the “perfection of beauty, God.” The Psalter’s term, “Selah,” seems to even indicate times for musical, non-lyrical, expression. Thus, music as a non-verbal art can minister (1Sa 16:15-23) and can reflect the beauty of God (Psa 27:4).

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Music in the Bible and the Contemporary Music Styles Debate (Part 4)

Gregg Strawbridge continues his series about contemporary music styles in the church.

Christianity, Culture and Music

The larger issue in the entire discussion of CM is Christ and culture. How are we to see the basic relationship between the people of God and cultures in the world? To put it in Biblical terms, what are the full implications of being “in the world but not of the world” (Joh 17) and doing all things to the glory of God (1Co 10:31). Moreover, where do the Biblical principles of accommodation function - “And to the Jews I became as a Jew … I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” (1Co 9:20-22)?

For my own commitments here, I believe that Christ will largely transform culture. The Biblical support for this Calvinistic view may even be drawn in several distinct categories:

Missiologically

We have both the imperative and prophetic forms of world discipleship which implies that Christ will transform culture to some extent (Mat 28:19-20 (11) & Psa 22:27).

Eschatologically

Christ’s second advent is sequenced by reigning at the right hand of God “until He has put all His enemies under His feet,” the last of which is death which is demonstrably overcome at the resurrection (1Co 15:25, 54-55). Hence those of His enemies which have cultural manifestations shall be affected in the present progressive reign of Christ.

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Music in the Bible and the Contemporary Music Styles Debate (Part 3)

Gregg Strawbridge continues his series about contemporary music styles in the church. Here, he discusses critical arguments against contemporary music styles.

The Origin of the Beat

If the reader tends to agree with the premise that rhythm dominant music is inherently sinful, the implications are grave - since, the music of many cultures (Latin America, Caribbean, African) is “rhythm-dominant.” Perhaps someone will even be willing to argue that the “beat” is evil because it was derived from pagan tribalism and brought to America via slavery. This is what some call the African Connection. One proponent of this view says,

It is irrefutable that rock and roll music owes some of its roots to the tribes of Africa….To declare that these are the only roots of rock music is to mislead and to be less than honest. A careful study of rock music reveals it to be more complex than that; however, to deny that an African connection to the rock rhythms of our day does not exist, is to be equally misleading and dishonest. To declare that a certain rhythm or beat is ‘evil’ cannot be proved entirely. What is far more important is the historical revelation that demonic activity has been observed in connection with rituals where drums and rhythmic beats have been the catalyst. (Leonard J. Seidel, Face the Music: Contemporary Church Music on Trial, 1988, p. 41)

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Music in the Bible and the Contemporary Music Styles Debate (Part 2)

This series continues as Gregg Strawbridge examines some common arguments against contemporary music styles in the church.

The Natural Law Argument

Bill Gothard (1986), a well-known critic of CM says, “There is no such thing as amoral music.” He diagrams an analogy between other disciplines and music. “The following disciplines illustrate how the purity of an item can be corrupted by adding even a small amount of another element” (p. 124).

  • Chemistry: H2O + CN = poison
  • Language: truth + lie = untruth
  • Math: solution + 1 = incorrect
  • Art: figure + nudity = pornography
  • Music: rhythm + imbalance = acid rock

However impressive this line up is on first glance, this presentation actually begs the question; it assumes what must be proven. Namely, it has not yet been shown that “acid rock” music style (whatever it is) is, in fact, evil. The illustrated argument rests on an analogy between different disciplines.

Accurate evaluation of music is only possible as we integrate it with the related disciplines of mathematics, science, history, and medicine. The laws of these disciplines act as an authoritative reference to confirm that the musical expression is either following or violating established principles….Just as there is a balance of power in the three branches of United States government, so the laws of related disciplines provide checks and balances for music (p. 123).

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Music in the Bible and the Contemporary Music Styles Debate (Part 1)

By Gregg Strawbridge. Posted by permission from the author.

Abstract

As an analysis of music style, this paper offers a succinct theological synthesis of the Biblical information on music. The writer summarizes a mini-theology of music and addresses a current issue relevant to evangelical worship, ministry programs, missiology, and cultural impact: contemporary music styles. The paper argues that an exegetical and Biblical theology of music and a familiarity with the issues surrounding ethnomusicology are the foundation for any specific musical-genre critique. Moreover, some reflection on the larger issue of the relationship between Christ and culture are a necessary counterpart to this discussion. To accomplish this, the paper is divided into three sections: (1) a Biblical survey of music, (2) a dialogue with current critiques of contemporary music styles, and (3) directions and recommendations for Christian musicians.

“Why should the devil have all the good music?” - Martin Luther

A SURVEY OF BIBLICAL MUSIC

A Brief Biblical Theology of Music

The Scriptures1 recognizes music as a means for praise (Acts 16:25; Rom 15:9 [originally sung]), a means of expressing joy (Jam 5:13), thanksgiving (Psa 92:1-3), sorrow for sin (Is. 16:10), a means of prayer (1Co 14:15; Psa 72:20), and a means of teaching and spiritual communication (Col 3:16; Eph 5:19).

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