Loving God with All Your...Music?

GuitarDetermining what music is or is not appropriate for the Christian is a hard nut to crack. We’ve all heard of the “Worship Wars” that have been going on for decades (and, it could be argued, even going back to the Reformation), and the rise of fundamentalism this past century has really escalated the issue.

In separating from the world, fundamentalists have taken measures to build a defense of their music standards, but sometimes that defense comes across as somewhat abrasive. Instead of shooting other sheep in the flock, is it possible to reach a level of cordiality among Christians of different backgrounds? Here are a few principles that I believe can help us determine what kind of music is appropriate for the personal lives of Christians.

1. Be committed to whatever the Bible requires

If all of our thoughts are to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), then there’s not a square inch of real estate in our lives that is available for rent. Even in our private lives, we need to be concerned about what God wants in worship, because every act is to be an act of glorifying God (1 Cor. 10:31). There’s no time that is truly “me time” during which we can unplug ourselves from our dedication to Christ.

Having made that somewhat obvious point, I have a hard time deriving many specifics from the Bible regarding musical choices. I hate to rain on the I-get-my-personal-music-standards-from-the-Bible parade, but the truth is that the Bible has more than 600 vague references to music, and none at all to musical styles. We know that some music can refresh our spirits (1 Sam. 16), and maybe the case can be made that some music can make sounds similar to that of war (Ex. 32). But does any of that information give us guidance for particular styles? I would say no, though there are several other points that can guide our thinking on this issue. Read more about Loving God with All Your...Music?

Book Review - The Glory Due His Name: What God Says about Worship

Image of The Glory Due His Name: What God Says about Worship
by Gary R. Reimers
JourneyForth Academic 2009
Paperback 110

Not many Fundamentalists have written on the subject of worship, specifically. Scott Aniol has authored a couple of excellent books as well as many articles. A few others have written on the subject of worship, but Fundamentalists have typically written on the subject of music in particular. Because books on worship by Fundamentalists are rare, I decided to read the book through carefully, put it down for about a month, then reread it to obtain a better understanding of Dr. Reimers’ thinking.

Dr. Reimers has written a slim volume of 100 pages, dividing his work into three parts plus an introduction and a conclusion.

   Part One: True Worship’s Essence and Elements

   Part Two: Multi-Generational Impact: Worship Style and Your Family

   Part Three: The Dangers of Deviant Worship

Part One is the longest section (46 pages) and deals with the essence and elements of true worship. Dr. Reimers begins with the essence of worship—that worship must focus on the right Person. He states, “Worship is an event where God should be the center of attention and the guest of honor” (p. 5). He then roots this in the teaching of Psalm 135. He also reminds us that “Right worship must accomplish the right purpose” (p. 7). The purpose is to give to the Lord the glory due His name—worship is giving God glory. Dr. Reimers makes an excellent distinction when he says, “The dilemma, of course, is that God already has everything He needs, and we have nothing of value to give. Clearly worship cannot actually contribute something to God, but it can attribute something to him” (p. 8). He follows this up with a contrast between two questions: “Did you get anything out of the service today?” (p. 8) compared to the more appropriate question, “Did God get anything out of your worship today?” (p. 9) The author concludes the study of the essence of worship by saying that “Right worship must conform to the right pattern” (p. 10). Read more about Book Review - The Glory Due His Name: What God Says about Worship

Book Review - Worshiping with the Church Fathers

Image of Worshiping with the Church Fathers
by Christopher A. Hall
IVP Academic 2009
Paperback 280
Worshiping with the Church Fathers seems to reflect a growing interest among Protestants—especially Evangelicals—in early Christianity. Hall is an associate editor for IVP’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, as well as the author of the series of which this book is the third installment. The other titles are Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers and Living Ethnically with the Church Fathers.

The present volume focuses on “baptism, the Eucharist, prayer and the spirituality of the desert fathers” (p. 13). Throughout the book, Hall inserts personal experiences that help keep the book from being a boring string of facts. To help prepare readers for the strangeness they will encounter, he concedes that our world is different, that we are personally resistant to many of the themes here,that we offer “aesthetic resistance,” and we listen to the fathers in a negative fashion (pp. 14-15).

By “aesthetic resistance,” Hall is referring to the fathers’ use of allegory and the dislike of many for that practice—including, he expects, some of his readers (p. 15). He does offer sound advice regarding “negative listening.” We often “ignore all that is positively said in a text and [draw] our attention to what is not said and what we think should be said” (p. 16). I decided to listen before I drew any conclusions. Read more about Book Review - Worshiping with the Church Fathers

What Fear and Trembling?

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work, for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13, NASB).

My study of Philippians has been in progress for some time now, and having reached chapter 2:12-13, I have found some ideas that may be of interest to SI readers.

The general lack of fear and trembling

Many of the problems in our Lord’s church arise from a lack of proper fear and trembling when people work out their salvation (by which I mean they are attempting to make right decisions in light of their understanding of God and His purposes).

Despite this plea of Paul, many people overlook the second half of the phrase, while acknowledging the first. I suspect that most of the people filling the churches in America, if asked whether they are working out their salvation, would affirm that they feel they are on the right path, moving forward spiritually, in tune with God, doing what they feel is right, etc. If asked, however, about daily fear and trembling before God, honesty would compel most to admit that they have little or none.

Christians make decisions of all sorts every day about music, activities, food and drink, clothing, manner of speech, attitude, deportment, ministry, schooling, entertainment, destinations, goals, and many other things. How many of those decisions really reflect proper fear and trembling before God? Do people show fear of abusing God’s grace and patience in American church business meetings? How many decisions are made with selfish, pragmatic or economic motives? Though failure to fear God is associated with wicked persons (Rom. 3:18, Ps. 36, etc.) the church is rife with people who make countless decisions with no fear of God before their eyes. Read more about What Fear and Trembling?