Intentional, Fervent Worship, Part 3

Music and the Sufficiency of Scripture

One of the assertions I made in my workshop on music at the Preserving the Truth Conference addresses the sufficiency of Scripture and our measuring of music. We must be more intentionally biblical in our evaluation of music that glorifies God.

Colossians 3:16 is a classic New Testament text on the source of our songs:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

The text moves from the command to allow the Word of God to be lavishly at home in our lives and tells us that such meditation is aided by and results in teaching and singing. Our songs, then, are to grow out of the Word of Christ. We think about the Scriptures, we teach the Scriptures, and we sing the Scriptures. Our songs are to be overtly biblical.

So far so good. However, we who champion the centrality of the Scripture in Christian worship are, I fear, a bit careless about actually making them our “only rule of our faith and practice” when it comes to music discussions. I think we get a bit squishy in our commitment to “Sola Scriptura” when we address worship. Even respected expositors are noticeably less exegetical when addressing music than when addressing other issues. For example, we rightly warn against worldliness on the basis of Romans 12:1-2, but then make what appear to be arbitrary (or at least unproven) connections to music. We supplement the Scriptures with observations from culture, especially the culture of the western world in the last 500 years. We use extrabiblical arguments, which means we use non-authoritative arguments.

Michael Barrett—my friend and mentor, and a leader in the Free Presbyterian Church—is no friend of Contemporary Christian Music. Yet, he notes the problem of extrabiblical arguments in his recent book on worship:

“Advocates of contemporary methods charge traditionalists with dead formalism, and traditionalists accuse those who use modern methods with appealing to the flesh. Unhappily, the whole controversy has degenerated into arguments based on personal preference. Far too frequently, advocates on both sides, while giving verbal testimony to their concern for God’s glory, defend their positions with man-centered reasoning” (The Beauty of Holiness, 1).

“[T]he criterion for conducting or evaluating worship cannot be in terms of tradition. I know this is going to sound simplistically pious, but the only legitimate criterion for evaluating and determining worship is the Scripture, our only rule for faith and practice. If being biblical is the standard of worship, then there may even be cherished aspects of ‘traditional worship’ that have to be adjusted or abandoned. Being biblical means having the resolve to either change or not change depending on what the Bible says.” (The Beauty of Holiness, 178).

I agree with Barrett. At the risk of sounding “simplistically pious,” I think we need to be ruthlessly biblical when addressing the question of music, especially if we are presuming to tell what kind of music glorifies God. Failure to do so will be disastrous. At best, those we teach will dismiss us when they see that we’re relying on arguments and authorities outside of the Scriptures. At worst, we’ll win a Pyrrhic victory, convincing those under our care of our position on the music issue at the cost of undermining their confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture.

God has not been silent regarding music that glorifies Him. There is biblical data. There are inspired instructions about the texts, tunes, and tones which He has sanctioned in the past. I commend the approach Douglas Sean O’Donnell put forth in his recent book, God’s Lyrics. My heartbeat on the matter is this: Let’s determine the music which God prefers by studying the music which God inspired.


Previous posts in this series:

Note: John M. Frame recently addressed the same concept: “These aesthetic and historical criteria are often used in place of Scripture, leading to the condemnations of practices that Scripture permits and commanding of practices that Scripture does not command. That, too, in my judgment, violates the principle of sola Scriptura, the sufficiency of Scripture.” (The Doctrine of the Word of God, 237–38).


86 Responses

  1. Chris,

    I think your are mistaking music for lyrics. Music is not words. Words are not music, unless one is into mind numbing rap. Your view of “Sola Scriptura” sounds more like “Nuda Scriptura”. When Van Til argued that “all truth is God’s truth,” he meant that the Scriptures were the foundation for interpreting accurately factual information in the various academic disciplines. He did not argue as Schaeffer that brute factual information, if true, was equal to God’s truth. In the end Van Til redacted his axiom by saying that “true Truth is God’s truth”. Music like other academic subjects is a science. There is voluminous information about music not recorded in the Scriptures. The same is true in virtually every other academic subject. The Christian apologist uses “Jerusalem” as the foundation to interpret the information found in “Athens” (Acts 17:13ff). He doesn’t simply bury his head in the proverbial sand and ignore legitimate extrabiblical learning altogether on a subject in the name of “Sola Scriptura” (Jerusalem versus Athens).

  2. “We supplement the Scriptures with observations from culture, especially the culture of the western world in the last 500 years.”

    Doesn’t any preacher who seeks to aid his hearers in applying the text do the same to one extent or another?

    Doesn’t Paul model applying principles in light of culture?

  3. @Pastor Harding, re: “Music is not words.”

    All the poets in the room just got the wind knocked out of them. :^)

  4. I agree, Chris, but this is what happens when a group’s socially defined position starts looking for objective support. Then all manner of fallacious arguments come to the rescue to confirm the group’s position. The group’s ideology ends up cramming the data into predetermined conclusions, and those who do not conform are ostracized and vilified. As a result, the social implications of any change are made to be so costly that conformity is almost guaranteed.

    There are, indeed, good arguments to shape our musical choices, and the anything-goes view of music is demonstrably naive both culturally and biblically. However, these arguments lose force when they are not divorced from the social dynamic that plagues this discussion. And tragically, words that allow for divergence, without actions that demonstrate it, eloquently undermine the conservative position and open the door to the anything goes position.

    The problem is that when the fallacious arguments begin to be breached and the cultural pressure begins to lose its power, those who have stood safely in the defense of the group’s position lack credibility in trying to balance the argument – even where they are right.

  5. Chris,

    Can you elaborate on this statement a little: “There are inspired instructions about the texts, tunes, and tones which He has sanctioned in the past.” Particularly the part about tunes and tones. You’ve stirred my curiousity.

  6. Here is Dr Barrett’s recommendation on Scott Aniol’s book – Worship in Song – which he elaborates some more about style.

    “Unhappily, the whole controversy about worship style has degenerated into arguments based on personal preference, particularly regarding what kind of music is acceptable. Far too frequently, advocates for both “contemporary music” and “traditional music,” while giving verbal testimony to their concern for God’s glory, defend their positions with man-centered reasoning. Although proponents of neither position would admit it, what pleases people often takes precedence over any consideration of what pleases the Lord. Scott Aniol’s treatment of this hot topic is refreshingly and delightfully different. Throughout, his analysis is God-focused, biblically based, thought provoking, and practical. He argues convincingly that music is not neutral and that there are indeed music styles that have infiltrated the church that are absolutely inappropriate for acceptable service unto the Lord. I highly recommend Worship in Song for any who are serious about worshipping the Lord in keeping with the beauty of His holiness, especially in song–an integral element in biblical worship.”
    – Michael P. V. Barrett
    President of Geneva Reformed Seminary (Greenville, SC)

  7. Hi, Mike. Thanks for chiming in. A few clarifications and thoughts in response to your comment:

    1. Regarding your sola/nuda point: I’m not suggesting that extrabiblical arguments are irrelevant or untrue, just that they don’t carry the same authority or certainty as Scripture itself.

    2. We’re not just talking about “truth” in general, which obviously isn’t limited to the Scriptures. We’re talking about worship, as vital a matter “of faith and practice” as there is. Frankly, it seems like those of us who argue for conservative worship practices want to have our cake and eat it to: we appeal to the Regulative Principle when it suits us and then to the need for extrabiblical evidence when it suits us.

    3. Back to point 1: Though it might look like I’m leaving the barn door open (which isn’t my intent), if we acknowledge that extrabiblial arguments are (at best) less authoritative than Scripture, our dogmatism should decrease as our reliance on extrabiblical argumentation increases. We should be honest when we’re stepping away from the trunk of Scripture itself and onto the limb of other evidence. If we want to be dogmatic on the issue, we’d better be sure our biblical data allows it.

    4. I’m not intending to equate lyrics and music (though I admit that O’Donnell’s book focused primarily on the former and I used it as an illustration for a wise treatment of both). Scripture says more about lyrics than musical forms, to be sure, but it’s not silent on either one. If it speaks with less consistency and clarity on music than musical texts, that may be instructive for us as we address the topics, as well.

    5. I definitely land on the conservative side of the “worship wars,” as should be evident from the music CWM produces. I just think we should be tougher on ourselves and our reasoning.

    6. Being more dependent on the Scriptures would only help the case of those who are concerned about the direction of worship music in modern times. It will hone our own understanding of the issue, and it will make our arguments more convincing. To be crassly pragmatic, citing extrabiblical evidence in support of conservative worship isn’t working. :)


  8. Dave, by tone I mean mood—triumphant, joyous, sorrowful, etc. By tune I just mean musical elements. (I’ll often speak to composers about the entire musical side of our collaboration as “tune” and the lyrical part as “text.”) My point is that while we don’t know what the particular sound of biblical songs was, there is at least some data regarding varieties of moods, sounds, instrumentation, etc.

    I addressed the idea briefly in the lecture, and I’m planning to post on it here in the future,

  9. Tom, I agree that weak argumentation hurts even a strong position. And this issue has seen plenty of weak argumentation over the years—famously so. That’s one reason why utilizing biblical vs. extrabiblical evidence is so important, IMO.

    d4, I’m not sure I’m understanding your first comment.

  10. Today, Scott Aniol posted Ken Brown’s DBTS Journal review of Aniol’s Worship in Song. It contains a long paragraph on the very issue under discussion here. Here’s the beginning and end of it:

    “While Aniol clearly wants to help us make God-honoring choices for music and worship based on biblical sufficiency and authority, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, for him, our choices in this area are not only informed by extrabiblical data, but they are sometimes dependent on such data. . . . [A]t the crucial point of practical application many will still be left to wonder how the quotations above (and others like them) can be squared with these words from the very first page: ‘The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture…contains all the words of God we need…for obeying him perfectly.’ ” [emphasis original]

  11. Chris,

    My understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture includes the idea that the Bible gives us everything we need to respond properly to all the various things that confront us in this world, even if those specific things were not around when the Bible was written or not specifically dealt with. The Bible doesn’t say anything about R rated movies, or wearing a hat with a Playboy bunny logo on it, or using crack cocaine, or what specific English words are dirty or foul. Nevertheless, if my son starts cussing, it is not undermining the sufficiency of Scripture to tell him that he is wrong, even though I can’t appeal to a specific text that says those specific words are sinful. No, I evaluate what those words mean in English, our culture, etc and apply Scriptural principles to their use. I think we must do the same thing with music. So, when we look at the “voluminous information about music” that Pastor Harding refers to, it is right then to apply the Scriptures to that data and I think you can do that authoritatively. Granted, because we are human and can err, our information can be wrong, we can be overly strict or overly loose…but I still think we have to go through the exercise, otherwise we neuter the Bible’s ability to be relevant to our modern world. In the case of cussing, there are some words that I’m going to be pretty dogmatic about and others that I’m going to say we need err on the side of being safe. The same goes for music and a host of other topics.


  12. I’ve found the following by Frame to be very helpful in determining how sola scriptura works with present day application (in many areas):

    We learn the meaning of Scripture as we apply it to situations. Adam learned the meaning of ‘subdue the earth’ as he studied the creation and discovered applications for that command. A person does not understand Scripture, Scripture tells us, unless he can apply it to new situation, to situations not even envisaged in the original text (Matt. 16:3; 22:29; Luke 24:25; John 5:39f.; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim 3:16f; 2 Peter 1:19-21 – in context). Scripture says that its whole purpose is to apply the truth to our lives (John 20:31l Rom 15:4; 2 TIm. 3:15ff.). Furthermore, the applications of Scripture are as authoritative as the specific statements of Scripture. In the passages referred to above, Jesus and other held their hearers responsible if they failed to apply Scripture properly.” DKG, 84.

    On the same page, Frame notes that we can be wrong in our analysis of the situation, but, he notes, we can also be wrong in lexical studies or exegetical arguments. The possibility of error does not negate the importance of the situational perspective.

  13. I wonder with Mike whether this discussion suffers at points from the lack of a definition of biblical sufficiency. As I understand the Reformed principle of sufficiency (as revived by Van Til and Bahnsen and issuing from texts like Proverbs 1:7 and Colossians 2:3), sufficiency means that Scripture speaks to everything–not about everything, but to everything. It informs every discipline as the queen of all the arts and sciences, without exception. There is no neutral area to which Scripture does not speak.

    So for instance, while it doesn’t tell me the techniques whereby I do geology, it does tell me that if the “assured results of science” flow from philosophically aberrant presuppositions, or results in factual or moral deviance as defined in Scripture, then that science was “done” incorrectly. Same thing with art. The Bible doesn’t tell me how to write music or draw pictures, but if the forms involved issue from philosophically aberrant presuppositions or results in factual or moral deviance as defined in Scripture, then that art was “done” incorrectly.

    Most Christians agree with this at some level. In fact, there has just been a flurry of blog traffic condemning nudity in Christian art, which I applaud. Why? Because the Bible says it’s wrong? Nope. Nowhere. But we all know that some kinds of art comunicates something inexplicably sinister to the some observers–something intangible that we all know to be morally reprehensible. In this case it triggers an illicit desire born of depravity, and perhaps enhanced by a memory, an association, or an abandoned worldview. It’s very complex, involving physiological and psychological intricacies that are not always shared–not everyone is affected the same way (or at least they think they aren’t).

    But when the art form is music, some of the same people who rage against pornography adopt blank looks. Sure, visual arts can be evil, but not audio arts. “The Bible doesn’t say anything about this,” is the adage, so anything goes.

    Something seems peculiarly inconsistent here.

    Now I am no expert on the physiological and psychological effects and embedded worldviews in music. I’m even open to the possibility that there are art forms are OK for some people and are not OK for others. But at some point, if we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture (i.e., that Scripture speaks to everything), there is something other than personal preference that informs this decision. Like all the arts and sciences, musical forms issue from philosophies and worldviews and have physiological and psychological effects. And the Bible most definitely has something to say about these.

  14. 1. It’s unclear to me how Frame’s statement that “the applications of Scripture are as authoritative as the specific statements of Scripture” is compatible with his concession that “we can be wrong in our analysis of the situation.”

    2. Call me a relativist, but it strikes me as fairly obvious that the less clearly our particular application is supported by the text of Scripture, the less we are able to insist dogmatically that our particular application is universal.

    3. Finally, I’m wondering if the reality that there’s some level of disagreement even within the DBTS family over how sufficiency applies here might not suggest that this is an area in which we ought to speak and write with some reserve. That’s NOT to say that these issues are unimportant.

  15. Thanks for the discussion, all. I respect those who are making comments and I’m grateful for the back and forth. Too often such discussions are immediately muddied with assumptions that those who are pressing for more overt biblical authority have a hidden agenda. That’s not the case. Ben, for example, is downright archaic in his views on Christian music. :)

    Frankly, though, I’m surprised that an appeal to be more obviously biblical in our weighing of worship practices is so controversial. Huh.

    The comparison to porn (made a couple times) really isn’t helpful. That’s such a black-and-white issue. But portraiture in general isn’t so obvious. What Mark is stating regarding musical dogmatism vs. discernment would be like saying that we can clearly and authoritatively forbid painting women in short sleeves because porn is wrong. Huh? Establishing the morality of art doesn’t remove the need for discernment, nor does it insure agreement among those genuinely desiring godliness. Sure, there is a morality to music, and some is obviously inappropriate for worship. But how short can “musical sleeves” be? Is Scripture clear? Is data outside of Scripture clear? Or might we speak a little more reservedly on such questions than we do on issues where the Bible itself speaks dogmatically, like, say, the virgin birth?

    Or, for a shorter version of what I’m trying to say, see Ben’s point 2 above. :)

  16. “Ben, for example, is downright archaic in his views on Christian music.”

    Thanks Chris. That may be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

  17. @Chris, Yeah, that wasn’t clear probably because I wasn’t clear on the apparent distinction you (at first) assumed between the extra-biblical/cultural material as basis vs. (what I would call) bridge.

  18. this article by Kevin Bauder is somewhat relevant to this discussion

  19. Actually I was more of the assumer there, not picking up that distinction.

  20. […] of information about music in the Bible (though music itself is found throughout the Bible).  One of the articles I read recently was written by Chris Anderson.  He argues that in fact we do have a very helpful […]

  21. @Observer,

    I’m not sure I agree with Bauder that non-fundamentalists are the ones who are ambivalent to the theater. Fundamentalists send their practitioners to Hollywood to learn how to do it better!

    Nevertheless, he makes this crucial observation:

    “Precisely because they do not come from Scripture, second premises are always subject to evaluation. To question a second premise is not to question biblical authority. Second premises can and should be examined.”

    I find that statement much more clarifying and helpful than Frame’s statements noted above. And I’d also be interested to see Bauder (or someone else) develop his arguments relative to 1) a doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture and 2) the prospects for dogmatic, comprehensive, universal conclusions.

  22. Chris,

    I’m not so sure that the nudity in art question is such a bad point of comparison. In fact, to brush off the issue as “obvious” and “black-and-white” actually makes my point far better than anything I’ve written.

    The argument that seems to be made here is that one should hesitate to claim that a given musical form is immoral unless the Bible specifically substantiates that claim. If it doesn’t, we should be cautious about expressing our concerns, realizing that this is very possibly just a matter of personal preference.

    So I applied this argument to painting, which, like music, is a non-propositional art form the specifics of which the Bible does not address. Let’s change “musical form” in the preceding paragraph to “art form” (specifically, nudity in art, which BTW was my critical point of comparison):

    One should hesitate to claim that a given art form is immoral unless the Bible specifically substantiates that claim. If it doesn’t, we should be cautious about expressing our concerns, realizing that this is very possibly just a matter of personal preference.

    You found this comparison unpersuasive, instead dismissing as “unhelpful” because at some point art becomes an “obvious” and “black-and-white” issue. Oh really? Says who? Not the Bible–at least not directly. It seems to follow at this point that this discussion about nudity in art has “degenerated into arguments based on personal preference,” and your objection should be dropped.

    In reality, we are probably in farily close agreement on the art issue. Porn is immoral. You might also share my opinion that Michelangelo’s paintings smack of immorality too, because we know what happens when we linger over paintings like his. Is this just a matter of personal opinion because the Bible is silent? I don’t think so. And I don’t plan to take my teenage and nine-year-old sons to THE art gallery any time soon.

    Why? Because I believe that my sufficient Bible does speak to this issue–even though it doesn’t speak about it.

  23. […] recent internet discussions, some sprung from Ken Brown’s very fair review of my book, have once again led to all sorts […]

  24. It always amazes me to see the number of comments a good post on music can accumulate :)

    I think I agree though Mr. Anderson; it sounds as though you’re saying we should primarily use biblical criterion for evaluating our music and use extra-biblical arguments only secondarily.

  25. Perhaps there is a via media that accepts both Chris’s point about the primacy of biblical data and Mark’s about the necessity of extrabiblical data (which is true in any attempt at application). There’s a great distance between absolute dogmatism and absolute relativity, and I think most viewers of this blog are closer to each other than they are to either extreme.

  26. Mark,

    Since you interacted a bit with the art/nudity thing, I wonder if you might interact a bit with Chris’s comments/questions:

    But how short can “musical sleeves” be? Is Scripture clear? Is data outside of Scripture clear? Or might we speak a little more reservedly on such questions than we do on issues where the Bible itself speaks dogmatically, like, say, the virgin birth?

    Perhaps Scott or Pastor Harding or someone else might chime in as well.

  27. @Mark,

    Would you argue that the scope and specificity of biblical data on musical forms is comparable to the scope and specificity of biblical data on public display of nudity as shameful?

  28. @Taylor,

    FWIW, I don’t really see this as a thread on music. Music is really tangential to this conversation. It’s actually a thread on something much more important—the nature of the authority of Scripture and the nature of obedience as worship, not only in music but in all of life.

  29. Larry, i’m comfortable maintaining a fuzzy middle on which I do not speak dogmatically. That goes for music and “sleeve length” in art. Partly because I’m ignorant; partly because I’m not convinced it’s the same for everyone–some people can eat meat in faith listening to Elvis in a room full of sleeveless paintings. Some people can’t.

    But while I refrain from dogmatism on some of the finer questions, it still seems to me that the Bible still speaks to issues it does not directly address. that’s what seems to be missing here, and it’s a hole big enough for a proverbial Mack truck.

  30. Ben,

    You make a salient point that Scripture does associate nakedness and shame on multiple occasions, and also indicates that nakedness can precipitate sin (Noah, Bathsheba). The same can’t be said for music (there are a few ‘maybe’ passages, but they are not sufficiently clear in my mind for anything but the most tentative appeals).

    I’m not sure this changes anything in my argument. What makes it “obvious” to me that nude art forms are wrong is not a conscious appeal to the biblical association of nakedness and shame. It’s a physiological and psychological analysis of the evil it awakens in me.

  31. Mark,

    Thanks … I am not sure Chris is saying anything different than that, or anything different than what Ken suggested in his review, namely, that we should be cautious in some of these applications. Though perhaps I am misreading him.

    I don’t dispute that the Bible speaks to these issues, but what it says to them or about them is a matter of some debate, even among good people. IOW, the application of the Bible to these issues is not always entirely clear, which I think you are acknowledging.

    And, with great caution (and probably the risk of being injudicious), we have to be careful about taking a quasi-Catholic type of approach that holds Scripture and culture/tradition on the same level of authority (I am not accusing anyone of that). I think both sides can do this and neither side should. The authority of our understanding of culture is at least a bit tenuous in some areas.

    Our limited understanding or ignorance (as you put it) might as well lead us one direction as the other. Until we have more understanding, we don’t know. We might hold something to be an absolute (or almost absolute) when it is only a matter of preference or conscience. IOW, we are wrong but in good conscience. That might put us in a Romans 14 situation, or in a sinful situation. On the other hand, we might hold something to be a preference when in fact it is a matter of truth. In other words we are right, but for the wrong reason.

    But I am staying out of internet controversy though I welcome input or correction.

    But I am curious about one more thing: Did Elvis ever sing in a room full of sleeveless paintings? I didn’t even know that paintings had sleeves.

  32. Has the contradictory nature of this statement appeared to anyone, “I believe in a strict adherence to Sola Scriptura, I only use the scripture to make my decisions”. To those who argue this point, the statement itself is a violation of the principle because the Bible nowhere says that we should never use other truths outside of scripture. Many places in scripture point to our responsibility to analyze the world around us and compare it to the principles of God’s word.
    a) The very use of broad terms like “worldliness” placed next to words like “adulterer” would indicate that we need to analyze the world around us.
    b) Passages like Phil.1:9-11 where Paul prays that their love will abound in knowledge (could be discernment) and in all judgment (discernment or perception) SO THAT they may approve (test, examine) things that are excellent (things that bear through – pass the test), THAT they may be sincere (pure). To me it seems that Paul desires a thorough study (testing) of the world around us in an effort to be pure by scriptural standards.
    c. Some things ought to be clear to us based on nature 1 Corinthians 11:14, “Doth not even nature itself teach you…”
    Clearly the fallen nature of man sometimes prevents him from seeing what God intended that man see clearly. Is it possible that we as Christians are so much affected by our culture that without realizing it, we are not seeing what ought to be clear?

  33. Chris said, “To be crassly pragmatic, citing extrabiblical evidence in support of conservative worship isn’t working.”

    This is true but not because all the arguments are invalid (though some are). The problem appears to be that most opponents have simply not responded to the arguments. John Makujina makes some very good arguments in “Measuring the Music”. He may be right or wrong, but the fact is I don’t see where his opponents are attacking his “extrabiblical evidence” at all, rather that have not really interacted with it. Instead they’ve run away and hid behind a wrong view of “Sola Scritpura” saying; the Bible doesn’t say anything about this so we can do whatever we want.

  34. Chris, you said a few comments up:

    “Frankly, though, I’m surprised that an appeal to be more obviously biblical in our weighing of worship practices is so controversial. Huh.”

    Frankly, right there is your problem, my friend. Appealing to biblical authority is not controversial. I don’t know anyone involved in the worship debates who would deny that the Bible is our ultimate authority, and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t agree that their applications should be tested by Scripture. I don’t know anyone who would claim that the extra-biblical information they use in the interpretation and application of Scripture is as authoritative as Scripture. This is only controversial to straw men.

    Can you name me one example of someone who has raised their application about music above the authority of Scripture? I don’t think you can. Can you name me one example of someone who has raised extra-biblical information to the same level of authority as Scripture? I doubt it.

    Have people made silly arguments? Certainly; I’ve pointed out many of them myself. Have people grossly misinterpreted and misapplied Scripture? I think so. Have people come to conclusions that you (or I) disagree with and held them dogmatically? Sure.

    But deal with the applications and interpretations on that level. Debate the applications, show how the interpretations miss the point. Don’t just throw down the “Sola Scriptura” trump card. Don’t imply that the practice of discernment and making clear decisions about issues like music is illegitimate.

    No, appealing to biblical authority in the music issue is not controversial.

    What is controversial is your implication that the sufficient of Scripture means that the Bible is all we need to live obediently. It is not. Those of us writing on music (or alcohol, or entertainment, or nudity in art, or whatever) recognize that in the application of the all-sufficient Word of God to contemporary issues, we need to understand the issue at hand, and sometimes that is going to require additional information outside the Bible.

    I am certain that you are not so naive as to insist that we use nothing but the Bible in the interpretation and application of Scripture. You use historical-grammatical tools every day as you interpret and apply. You use tools outside of Scripture every day as you seek to understand contemporary issues in order to be discerning about them.

    And as to the issue of dogmatism and authority with regard to applications, every one of us who writes on this issue is very clear that our arguments and applications are subject to disagreement. I made this very clear in my book, in which, by the way, I do not make one single direct application (well, I do mention “In the Garden” as a terrible congregational song, and incidentally, it got me in trouble with some of the older fundamentalists). I simply offer biblical principles and reasoned arguments toward the end of being discerning in our musical choices. I do exactly what you propose in this post.

    It’s not controversial.

    What I rarely see is people who are willing to interact with my biblical interpretations and reasoned applications themselves. Few people engage me on that level. Most people just throw down the trump card and walk away.

    This has really got to stop. If you agree that active application of the Bible to issues like music is a must (and I think you do), then lets discuss the issue at the level of interpretation and application instead of denying the process itself by some kind of appeal to a misguided understanding of Sola Scriptura.

  35. Brother Snoeberger wrote: “[Ben] make[s] a salient point that Scripture does associate nakedness and shame on multiple occasions, and also indicates that nakedness can precipitate sin (Noah, Bathsheba).”

    Actually Ben’s point is anything but salient. The Bible speaks of actual human nakedness. Will someone please point me to a scripture that addresses visual media representations of nakedness.

    Is any application forbidding the latter extra-biblical in nature?

  36. @Mark,

    I agree with what you said in response to my point about nudity. And my argument is certainly not that we need to restrict our applications exclusively to what Scripture specifically affirms. (When Paul said, “Don’t get drunk on wine,” he wasn’t saying that we’re free to go crazy with the jello shots.)

    My argument is that not all applications are as easily associated with clear Scriptural principles. The biblical data on nakedness is one of the things that, IMO, clarifies the issue of nudity in art more than the issue of musical style (at least some/much of it). So, I’m not dismissing physiological and psychological analysis. I’m suggesting that it’s nature limits our prospect of dogmatism and universality. And my increasing sense is that you’re not in total disagreement with that.

  37. Scott, I wonder if part of the problem is that the kind of understanding you’re advocating simply does not match the reality in most of fundamentalism. You and I grew up in very similar backgrounds. How many sermons did we hear on this subject that relied upon (indeed, were dependent upon) extrabiblical information, without any clarification that the conclusions were applications based upon extrabiblical information and were subject to debate? On the contrary, the applications were (and are) usually presented in authoritative, “thus saith the Lord” kind of ways, and the entire ethos/culture of the church/institution shaped around those applications.

    In other words, I wonder if what Chris is appealing for is simply more of an expressed reliance upon Sola Scriptura in HOW we hold these things. Our dogmatism is based in the “trunk” of Scripture and we posit applications based upon the “limbs” of extrabiblical evidence.

    I assume you would agree with this and claim that it is not controversial. Perhaps not, but it does seem that in both the preaching and culture of Fundamentalism this kind of understanding has not seem to prevailed. Thus, Chris’ appeal is welcome.

  38. Greetings, Chris (and all). Ever come out our way? The west-central prairie of Minnesota has to have great tourist appeal this time of year. :) Seriously, if you ever get out our way (in the warmer months, it’s beautiful), you and your family have a standing invitation to stay with us for as long as you like.

    Here’s something that might be of interest:

    In this video, Kauflin states well the argument that aesthetic judgments are extrabiblical and therefore disallowed — and then unwittingly demonstrates the fallacy of this argument. (By the way, I did correspond with Kauflin about this. He was gracious in taking time to respond and in his civility toward me.)

  39. Hey, Dave. I understand what you are saying, but I don’t agree. Even with the most far-fetched arguments I heard growing up, there was still always an attempt (at least) to appeal to Scripture. Looking back, many of those appeals stretched the Bible way beyond legitimate bounds, in my opinion, but it was an appeal to Scriptural authority nonetheless.

    My point here is that we need to debate the actual issue instead of cutting the debate off before it even begins by claiming to hold a most strict view of Sola Scriptura. I can disagree with someone’s interpretations, extrapolations, and applications of Scripture without claiming that they don’t emphasize the authority of Scripture enough.

    In other words, we can and we should talk about how the “new song” doesn’t really prove anything about music (I have). We can and we should talk about how experiments on plants and mice seem a little bit far fetched when attempting to prove musical morality (I have). We can disagree with one another’s decisions about music. But let’s get beyond this trump card stuff. We all believe and practice the doctrine of the Scriptural authority.

    Of course an appeal to the authority of Scripture is welcome in this discussion. It is interesting to me that the heart of all 3 Preserving the Truth workshops on worship (Chris’s, mine, and Riley’s) was an appeal to biblical authority.

    But as is clear from many of the comments here is that everyone is discerning something more than that.

  40. Chris,

    Thank you for your clarifications. Believe it or not my concern about the original article was not music at all, but rather one’s approach to the concept of “Sola Scriptura”. Barrett’s endorsement of Aniol’s book indicates to me that he understands that the use of extra-biblical information is indeed an important and legitimate subject of the believer’s responsibility when applying biblical, systematic, and exegetical theology to our ever changing world.

    How does the Bible apply to one’s use of technology, the internet, math, the drug culture, bio-tech, scientific discovery, etc? All of these questions require careful research in their respective fields from the perspective of Sola Scriptura.

    In light of “Sola” I can say that 2 plus 2 equals four, not five. And I can say it dogmatically– even bull-dogmatically in this case. However, such a statement requires a knowlege of math (my son is a math major; I’m not!). Frankly, we have too many people speaking about music who know neither theology or music (theory, history, composition). They are ignorant on both sides of the equation or perhaps at least one side of the equation. None of us can be experts in all fields; however, it is wilful ignorance to dismiss the experts out-of-hand in the name of “Sola Scriptura”.

    Music (non-verbal) is a very complex form of communication. For some to suggest that all such communication is simply neutral and therefore has no influence on the feelings, thoughts, emotions, volitions, or the intellect is contrary to theological principle and to a wealth of information that speaks to the contrary.

    In a few weeks we are having Dr. Terry Mortenson in to speak on young earth creationism. One of his lectures speaks rather dogmatically to the subject that information from the Grand Canyon argues for recent creationism and a universal flood. I’m certain he will be somewhat dogmatic in his interpretation of the “facts” on display in the Grand Canyon even as the secular apologists are equally dogmatic that their interpretation of the same facts argue for atheism and and evolution.

    The same mindset that Mortenson has toward science also applies toward the arts for the Christian apologist. Our interpretation of the artistic “facts” must lead us to Phil 4:8 and square with the doctrine of creation and the fall.

  41. @Scott,

    “We can disagree with one another’s decisions about music.”

    I’m trying to understand that accurately in the context of all that I’ve read from you. Would you affirm or deny that there are universal, comprehensive, objective standards for musical forms that are acceptable in the context of gathered worship?

  42. Let me just push that one step further, Scott. Would you be comfortable, as Mark has described it, “maintaining a fuzzy middle on which [you] do not speak dogmatically”?

  43. 1. I do believe there are universal standards.

    2. I do believe that they are knowable.

    3. I do not believe that discerning such standards, or rather, applying such standards, is at all clear or easy.

    4. Therefore, I am perfectly comfortable “maintaining a fuzzy middle” as long as people are willing to have the conversation.

    5. What I am most opposed to is (a) those who are unwilling to have a conversation about musical choices at all, and (b) a denial that there can even be such a thing as music that is inappropriate for gathered worship.

    6. I have found by experience that those who don’t realize that this is my perspective haven’t really read what I’ve written.

  44. Let me preface this by saying I am what is to be considered as very conservative musically. I am not advocating anything goes or anything by my statement.
    My question is – how does the 2nd premise/extrabiblical argument fit into the ‘human wisdom’ vs “God’s wisdom’ that Paul talks about. Just asking. Again – this is coming from someone who doesn’t listen to CCM or plan to – but my desire is to honor the Lord and not be divisive or add to Scripture.
    I don’t listen to CCM because of my applications and realizing others don’t have the same conscience or upbringing I do.

  45. Thanks, Scott. That’s helpful. Though, I’d argue that what is unacceptable in one context might be acceptable in another (and vice versa). IOW, I would not affirm universal, comprehensive objectivity, though I’m all for having the conversation you describe.

  46. I’d like to make a comment in defense of both Chris and Scott (though both are perfectly capable of defending themselves). I think this is the only post I’ve ever made on any blog, because I haven’t had the time for the interaction, and I don’t now. So please accept my apology for not participating beyond this. (I may start a blog, but I’m evaluating whether I’ll have time).

    Anyway, as I have read and heard Chris, I have no where found him suggesting that extra-biblical data is without value for application of biblical principles. I attended his workshop at PTC, and I’ve read his article here, and in both he’s simply urged that we be ‘more obviously biblical’. His intent was clear to me, both in the workshop and in this thread: “We need to shift the weight of our arguments away from the extra-biblical stuff and rely more heavily and obviously on Scripture.” That in no way denies the value of extra-biblical data, but it issues a helpful and needed warning about it. I don’t think it’s fair to lump Chris in with those who claim they use nothing outside the Bible.

    I’ve read and heard Scott say many times that he’s comfortable allowing others to draw lines differently, as long as they’ll engage the issues rather than simply dismissing them as preference or extra-biblical. It’s not fair to lump Scott in with those who do not make allowances for legitimate difference of application. Now, I think one reason that folks assume (wrongly) that Scott allows no latitude in application is that David Crabb’s experience (described in a post above) is not unique to him. I too have heard applications of musical style given with the authority of ‘Thus saith the Lord’. If I didn’t know Scott personally and thereby have the benefit of knowing his approach, I might well make the same erroneous assumption about him, without taking the time to read all or even much of what he’s said.

    Ken Brown

  47. @Todd
    How does Kauflin demonstrate the fallacy of his argument? It seems to me that he was not speaking of aesthetic judgments, but cultural ones. He then goes on to discuss how much of what we prefer about music is culturally learned.
    Does having an influence on my emotions, thoughts, etc automatically make something moral or immoral? You used the word neutral and I’ve never heard anyone use that as an argument. Pizza tends to influence my emotions, feelings,thoughts, etc. But that doesn’t make pizza moral or immoral does it? I will concede that it could for some people. If you can’t see or smell a pizza without overeating, that would be sinful. But again, is it the pizza? The crux seems to be not if it influences our emotions et al., but does it meet scriptural criteria.

    I’m sure you are quite educated with all the books you’ve written and the apparent fear you have instilled in people so as to make them not want to engage you on the appropriate levels. But it comes across as a bit naive to claim no one is arguing from a base other than Scripture. You can’t honestly believe that reading a proof text at the beginning of a sermon (or event throwing a few in throughout the message) makes the argument based on Scripture. You stretch reality a bit by labeling it as misapplication or misinterpretation. Yes, no one would make the statement, “I hold my stupid opinions above the authority of the Scripture.” But in reality they speak as if they do. All of us act in ways we would claim do not match our beliefs, but belief determines behaviour.

  48. lhwyco:

    To help me answer your question, would you please tell what you mean by “aesthetic judgments” and what you mean by “cultural ones?”

  49. Dear Observer (?)

    All legitimate facts are God-interpreted facts. Van Til says “all true truth is God’s truth.” There are no legitimate facts that do not belong to God’s domain. He is the creator of all facts and thus only God can properly interpret the meaning of those facts and their correlation with all other facts (“the one and the many” [where is Mike Riley when I need him?”]). Thus our only means of interpeting the vast information available is by interpreting such information through special revelation, not by creating a false dichotomy between two different sets of information.

    If one interprets God’s wisdom solely as God’s recorded facts in the Bible and the world’s wisdom as the world’s facts not contained in the Bible, then one has essentially assigned all facts not recorded in the Bible as non-theistic facts. The difference between God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom is the failure of the world to recognize that all facts are theistic facts and must be interpreted as God has said, could or would say about those facts, perfectly consistent with his inspired, inerrant, and infallible speical revelation. Therefore, there is no arena that is off limits to the Christian apologist. Bauder addressed this issue in his opening message at the Truth Conference dealing with a true, Christian humanism.

  50. Todd,
    I read your ‘aesthetic judgments’ to be ‘Is this beautiful, appealing, nice to me?’ What I meant by cultural judgments (and I used the word ‘cultural’ b/c Kauflin did) is more of a ‘Is this acceptable based on its connections, locale, style, etc.” Maybe I didn’t get what he was saying. Ask my wife, it wouldn’t be the first time I heard something and didn’t understand it!
    The distinction is my mind is like this: I enjoy Lecrae, Flame, Trip Lee (Christian rap artists), but many I know do not. Some who do not like it because the style does not appeal to them. That’s cool. Some want to claim it does not glorify God. I would take issue with that based on personal experience with the artists, testimony, lifestyle, lyrics, etc. In my mind it is similar to the version issue. I don’t have a problem with someone using only the KJV. But I do have a problem with them calling my ESV ‘trash’ or ‘heretical’. Hope that helps clarify my question/position.

  51. lhyco:

    Thank you for the clarification. I encourage you to listen closely to Kauflin again. He does use the word “cultural” — that is so important to notice that I emphasized it by putting the word in the foreground — and he is arguing strongly (and persuasively) for what the minor key means to everybody in the room, without exception.

    He is making a dogmatic, propositional (and correct!) statement about the meaning of the music, a statement that he knows no sane person will challenge — and he knows that he is right not because of anything that the Bible tells him, but because of his extra-biblical knowledge.

  52. Todd,
    I agree with everything you said. But the point I’m hung up on is the question of his first illustration being one of culture or aesthetics. I’m not sure Bob was trying to use his first illustration to prove that extra-biblical facts are not to be used, but that in matters of preference we must go with the Scriptures. Swooping is not on the same level as the major/minor key. As you stated, the ‘key’ truth was recognized by everyone in the room. I doubt if the same could be said about the swooping. Of course, I didn’t have the pleasure of hearing the entire message, so I can’t assume the context of the snippits. But based on his overall ministry, I would have to say his point is probably that we need to differentiate between our opinion and what can be universally accepted – whether addressed specifically in the Scriptures or not.
    I guess it all goes back to the title of the clip for me. Here’s a video claiming that Kauflin contradicts himself (why the author felt it was necessary to try and point this out, I’m not sure) and then the clip ends with a Desiring God promo link. I doubt if they posted a video claiming that Kauflin contradicts himself. I guess I’m also assuming that the author inserted the text into someone else’s video. It just seems that the obvious contradiction is really not that obvious unless you want to make it so.
    But I will watch to it again.

  53. Todd,

    In “Music Through The Eyes of Faith” by Harold M. Best, Dean of Music at Wheaton College, the author says: “There is nothing un-Christian or anti-Christian about any kind of music” (p. 52). “The Christian is free of the moral nothingness of music … .” (p. 59).

    Galatians 5:19-21 teaches us that the works of the flesh are obvious, listing fornication, impurity,
    lasciviousness, etc., and then the text adds “and things like these,” indicating this list of vices was only representative and not exhaustive.

    Hebrews 5:11-14 tells us that those who are inexperienced in the word of righteousness are infants who do not have their senses trained to discern between good and evil.

    Ezekiel 33:32 says, “And behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them.”

    “Sensual song” is the Hebrew expression “sher ‘agabim,” which is literally
    translated as “song of lusts, inordinate affections, sensualities” (BDB, p. 721). BDB informs us that this grammatical usage is an “intensive plural,” meaning
    that the subject is characterized by the quality in the genitive construct (Waltke and O’connor, pp. 122–24). In this particular case the song (subject) is
    characterized by sensuality. Another example of this grammatical usage is Hosea 1:12 where Hosea is commanded to marry a “wife of harlotries
    (zinubim).” Here, the plural (harlotries) indicates that Hosea’s wife was characterized by unfaithfulness. Ezekiel uses the same term, ‘agabim” (Ezek
    33:32), in Ezekiel 23: 5, 9, 12, 16, 20. In each of these usages the term is translated in NASB as “lust.”

    In this example music can have a moral influence. Of course, music can have many other influences both positive and negative. I don’t think music and pizza are parallel categories.

  54. Mike:

    Thank you for your comment. If what you’re saying is that the Bible gives us principles that apply to music, then I agree with you wholeheartedly. My point is simply that the Bible does not give us even one clue about the particulars, e.g. keys, tempos, intervals, etc. We’re expected to understand them, and understand them we can — extra-biblically.

    This same expectation is clear in the commandment not to take the Lord’s name in vain (Dr. Bauder preaches a great sermon on that here: and in the commandment, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers” (1Ti 5:1, ESV). The Bible doesn’t tell us precisely what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain, nor does the Bible tell us precisely how to speak to a father. We’re simply expected to know — extra-biblically.

    If I missed your point, please pardon the wasted words and correct me.

  55. Here is some evidence that contradicts Kauflin’s assertions:

    Dr. Peter Wicke, Director of the Center of Popular Music Research at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, writes in Rockin’ the Boat: Mass Music and Mass Movements, “Music is a medium which is able to
    convey meaning and values which … can shape patterns of behavior imperceptibly over time until they become [the] visible background of real political activity” (p. 81).

    Deryk Cooke, distinguished musicologist, writes in his classic book, The Language of Music, “Of course, rhythm and form play a large part in moral expression” (p. 271).

    The leading musicologist of the New York Times says, “So when you play music, you also embrace a style. A style suggests ways to sit, ways to sing, ways to feel rhythm. It also suggests ways to think” (Rothstein, Emblems of Mind, p. 89).

    David Brackett is highly regarded in music education circles. He writes in his highly acclaimed book, Interpreting Popular Music, “we remember a
    piece of music and return to it again and again because it means something, because it has the power to change our lives” (p. 201).

    In a PBS documentary (“Jazz”, January 10, 2001), music critic Gary Giddins described the instrumental music as “hot, exotic, and sexy”. He continued his comments by saying that “the music itself becomes erotic. And so the band becomes a kind of participant with the dancers. They’re just as erotic. They’re just as seamy … .”

    In light of the above, consider the implications of what Time reporter and music critic, Christopher Farley, writes in his article, “Motown with Angels’s Wings”:
    “Really great gospel sometimes sounds like the Devil. There are howls, whoops, shrieks, stomping feet, menacing bass licks and [word intentionally
    omitted] musical undulations that would be downright sinful if they weren’t being done in the name of the Lord” (April 8, 1996).

  56. Mike,
    Perhaps you were replying to me. I hear you, bro. The point I would make is that the immediate context of the Ezekiel passage seems to be one of the song’s performance- including the words. Now, I don’t have all of the language tools and commentaries that you do, but could it be that BDB, Waltke and O’Connor would support the idea that the sensual song is term inclusive of the entire performance and not just the notes and their arrangement? I mean, pizza aside, do you think God had in mind Ezekiel just playing notes in a certain way? Of course not. In fact, the passage even states that the people hear his words. I really think this comes down to more than just – to use your words – music (non-verbal) being the problem. Its the whole song.
    I think you made some great points that would make for a great sermon. But I think your points leave out some of the truths that could be gleaned.

  57. Todd,
    Now it is just down to the opinions of learned men. My point is not that there aren’t people who would disagree with Kauflin, but that Kauflin is not contradicting himself.
    Now I have to go to a Newsboys concert with my son – catch you later!

  58. Mike, that is an excellent point regarding the Hebrew usage. I’ve never heard that before.

    Your quotation from Hebrews 5 is very important in this debate because one way the question might be stated is, “should we use our minds to rationally evaluate the world around us when trying to determine moral application of Bible truth”. The answer seems simple to me – of course. But by arguing as Best has that, “there is nothing un-Christian or anti-Christian about any kind of music” (p. 52) and “the Christian is free of the moral nothingness of music … .” (p. 59), it is as though no thinking is necessary.

    I think that is the opposite of what Hebrews 5:14 means when it says “by reason of use, have their senses exercised. The words “senses” and “exercised” both point to rigorous mental work being needed to figure out good and evil. I would argue that there is no category in the world to which we must not apply this rigorous mental work of discernment.

    Interestingly, I recently read John Pipers new book, “Think” in which he argues for use of the mind in all of life. He is highly critical of Christians who practice what he calls “practical relativism”. This he defines as Christian taking the stance that something can’t be know because the Bible does not explicitly state it. He is so angered by this position that he calls it something like mental prostitution. (I don’t have the book in front of me so these are not direct quotes.)

  59. In Ezekiel God is telling the prophet that the apostates in Israel are treating his message as if it were a entertaining song that appeals to their sensual appetites (performance style, musical content, lyric). The Lord is using “sher agabim” as a very negative simile to describe the non-illumined mindset of the unregenerate Israelites.

  60. Wow. I’ve been unavailable all day. I’ve got some catching up to do, apparently. Nothing like a host who skips out on company.

    I should note that all the porn talk started with Mike’s “nuda” comment. Thanks for that. ;)

  61. Is this the first time that Mike Harding has ever been called “bro”?? Maybe it’s the old Chicago thing that has been hiding all these years.

    That may be better than Elvis singing a room of sleeveless paintings.

  62. Todd,
    Sorry about the last reply. That was apparently supposed to be addressed to Mike. In response: you may have missed my point, but no biggie. My point is that I’m not sure Kauflin contradicts himself. But I will stop with saying that we agree with your point. ;)
    Great post and pretty clear. I didn’t see you playing any cards or even ruffling the deck. Your point has been well taken.

    Thanks for the clarification on Ezekiel. So it seems that sensuality needs more than just music to be well communicated. So if we can use the Bible to guide how we put all the different elements together, we should be able to agree on (to an extent) on what is Scripturally based music.

  63. So, with Egypt all in upheaval–and recognizing that God is controlling all these things and loves to show Himself to hurting, frightened, lost, unreached people–what can we be doing to try to flood those unreached peoples with the Gospel of true worship?

  64. All:

    I appreciate the discussion. I think, however, that my original post was read quite severely by some. I’ve not denied that there is truth outside of Scripture or that we need to consider it regarding Christian music. One who wants to write hymns might study English grammar; one who wants to compose hymn tunes might start with piano lessons. Both will need more than a Hebrew Bible as they proceed. Those who judge whether their songs should be used will, as well.

    Arguing for the sufficiency of Scripture doesn’t negate other considerations. My point has been and continues to be that Scripture is our only absolute authority on a matter like worship, and certainly the one on with our evidence should most firmly rest. I’m urging believers to be more obviously biblical on the matter, especially when making dogmatic conclusions. I’m of the opinion that we don’t do so enough—that we’re prone to make extrabiblical conclusions (at least practically) as weighty as Scripture itself. This can lead to a number of problems, not the least of which is undermining biblical authority.


    It doesn’t serve the discussion well for you to suggest that those who call for Scripture to be the central authority in discussions on music are “playing a trump card.” Not everyone that raises such concerns is (a) trying to score a point on you personally, (b) trying to find a loophole so they can justify using less conservative music, or (c) trying to avoid thoughtful consideration of the issue. That’s not the case here. There are people on the conservative side of the discussion who really care about the basis of authority—as a conviction, not a “card.” On the one hand, you seem to acknowledge that when you respond kindly to Ken’s critique, but then you wag your finger at others for saying essentially the same thing. I’ve heard you speak; I’ve read materials on your site for years. I’ve appreciated much and recommended much. I hope we can labor together in the future. But I believe that the church will be better served if you address the topic of worship more intentionally from Scripture rather than unpacking kinds of culture, etc. You can disagree with me on that point, but don’t misrepresent concern for biblical authority as some kind of game.

    All, again:

    I have a weekend full of ministry and family responsibilities. This may very well be my last comment, though I do expect to continue the discussion in future posts. Grace to you. Point people Christ-ward tomorrow.

  65. David, thanks for the dose of perspective. Grace to you.

  66. Hi, Chris. Thanks for your comments.

    My only point with the “trump card” reference was that when someone raises thoughtful arguments parsing the meaning of culture or music, others often simply shout “Sola Scriptura!” as if it ends all discussion. I think that’s an illegitimate play. As a friend recently said to me, it seems like the appeal to Sola Scriptura is just an excuse for every man did what was right in his own eyes.

    I do appreciate Ken’s review of my book, but I don’t agree with him on this one point of critique. I think he misses what I’m doing, for what it’s worth. I’m saying, here is truth that fits the biblical data and is helpful for the understanding and application of that data to life.

    Finally, if you really do read me carefully (for instance, if you had read my book), you would know that my discussion of culture, aesthetics, etc. are always done with the attempt to (1) shed light on a particular principle in Scripture, (2) discern how to apply a principle of Scripture, and (3) is always done under the ultimate authority of Scripture.

    What I and others are doing is no different that what Answers in Genesis does with regard to creation, or what you do in studying/preaching when you highlight information that is not in the text itself in order to illumine the meaning and application of the text. We must understand (to use your example) what culture is (and what kinds of culture exist today) before we will every be able to apply Scripture to cultural issues.

    In fact, I would argue that such discussions are absolutely necessary because we live in a different culture than when Scripture was penned. So, just as an example, it would be prudent to know what dancing was like in ancient Israel before insisting we copy it. That is information you will not find in Scripture itself, but is essential to a responsible application of those texts.

    Anyway, once again, I do appreciate the appeal to biblical authority, but I firmly believe that a respect for the profitability of Scripture must by necessity include thorough discussions of relevant issues related to but not necessarily contained in the pages of God’s Word.

    May the Lord grant you a blessed day of worship tomorrow.

  67. I wonder (thinking out loud here) if we might be wise to avoid the both 1) the language that implies Scripture speaks to every issue and 2) the language that suggests we should “supplement Scripture with observations from culture.”

    I’m suggesting we should replace that with something along these lines: “Scripture sufficiently equips us to critique culture and apply biblical principles to it so that we might live/worship in a way that honors God.”

    IOW, though we cannot expect Scripture to speak specifically to every situation of decision, the Word renews our minds, or “trains our senses” (picking up on Mike’s citation from Hebrews). Observations from culture are not, then, a parallel source of authority. They are a Word-shaped assessment of “the world”—a work we’ve been equipped to do by the Word itself. Obviously, broader and deeper extra-biblical knowledge of the world would be helpful, but it would not be a locus of authority, any more than expertise in Greek rhetoric or Hebrew dance.

    It does seem that we need to leave room for this renewal/training to be a product of progressive sanctification. That may be part of what Chris and others (myself included) have experienced while listening to preaching that makes specific applications to cultural issues. Sometimes, the problem is flawed analysis or unwarranted dogmatism. But other times, the real problem is that this preaching doesn’t really train senses, but merely imposes rules. We who are shepherds need to equip the saints, not merely pronounce our conclusions (even if they’re correct).

    That might involve trusting the sanctifying work of the Spirit in their lives even when they reach conclusions we find imprudent. And it might mean we invest our equipping efforts more at the cognitive level than the behavioral level.

    Maybe half of you disagree and the other half are saying “Duh, I already knew that.” But it was helpful for me to put words to it.

  68. I think there are some differences between what AIG is doing and what we’re talking about here. Most importantly, the case for or against creationism (or even a particular strand of it) doesn’t rest on extra-biblical information.

    Also, I am not sure it is really accurate to say that science, in this case, is helping us with the application of biblical truth–iow, is there really a parallel between how geological information is being used and the way musicological information is being used? I don’t see it, but maybe I’m missing something. This seems like apples and oranges.

    A different, but somewhat related, issue is the fact that interpreting Scripture involves probability, but the possibilities are limited by the text itself. I am less confident about the limitation of possibilities and certitude we can have when one begins to parse the meaning of culture or music. I think that is what leads people to question the authority of conclusions regarding extra-biblical info. It’s not that people think it doesn’t matter or is irrelevant, but that our ability to make judgments is affected by the nature of the data and the amount and variety of alternative judgments.

  69. Ben, how about this:

    “Since the Bible is sufficient as an authority for all of life, the believer must strive to apply its principles even to situations not directly addressed within the pages of Scripture. When studying any passage of Scripture, the believer must ask, ‘What would the original author say to contemporary situations?’ He must correlate extrabiblical information about the contemporary issue and let the Bible’s universal moral principles determine his stance toward that issue” (Worship in Song, 17).

    Here are some others I quote in the chapter on biblical authority:

    “Before we can properly apply any biblical statement to our culture or another, we must seek a deeper understanding of the specific cultural environment” (Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, 454).

    “Faithful application of the Bible to new context requires that we become as earnest in our study of the contemporary world as we are of Scripture
    itself” (Klein, Blomberg, Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 425).

    In other words, we are not saying anything that has not been said by anyone talking about biblical interpretation and application.

    Dr. Doran, you said,

    “It’s not that people think it doesn’t matter or is irrelevant, but that our ability to make judgments is affected by the nature of the data and the amount and variety of alternative judgments.”

    But that’s just the problem: the alternative judgments about music amount to, “It ain’t in the Bible, so I ain’t gonna believe it.” Using your own helpful categories, they seem to be mere opinions rather than judgments.

    Perhaps you’re right about comparing geology or archeology to musicology; perhaps it’s more similar to the field of bioethics. Either way, I do think there is a parallel. And just like there are silly argument in bioethics or creationism, so there are silly arguments in music philosophy. But that doesn’t invalidate the practice itself, does it?

    I’ll close my part here with a quote from Sound Worship. Who here would disagree with this:

    “The Bible does not explicitly tell us what kind of music pleases the Lord or what kind of music does not or even if such categories exist. The Bible does not explicitly tell us how music works or how we relate to music. But this does not mean that our musical choices are left to mere whim or preference. Just like with many other issues, we may draw certain implications from biblical statements about music and examples of music, and we may look to extrabiblical informational authorities to gain necessary understanding of music so that we may apply the Bible’s clear principles to it. We must “test everything” and “hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)” (32).

  70. Scott, those quotes aren’t what I’m attempting to say. They may actually be closer the language I’m suggesting we should avoid. I don’t mean that those quotes say false things, but that they don’t say enough. I’ll try to explain better what I’m describing, but not tonight.

  71. I suggest an analogy between clothing and music. Making decisions about music is similar to determining what is modest in women’s clothing.

    The bible says some things about women’s dress as it says some things about music. In both cases there is a vast amount of room for personal choices and cultural factors. One thing that we would probably all agree upon is that women can dress in a way that creates a stumbling block of lust for men (Rom.14:13). The problem is that this stumbling block may be different for various men and vastly different in differing cultures or time periods.

    Therefore, we cannot determine the one and only appropriate dress style that God allows for women, but this does not mean that there are not right and wrong choices for women. The way to determine what is right will require knowledge of biblical principles, a heart for God, surrender to the Spirit, and a study of all the options available within our culture and how they affect people. The result of this will be that sincere Christians disagree on some particulars but should agree that they are all regulated by the principles of scripture (don’t be a stumbling block to a brother, etc.).

    We would be wise to teach people these principles and then teach them some things about the world in which we live so that they can make application.

    This process is essentially the same process that should take place in the area of music.

  72. Two thoughts (using that term loosely):

    First, I don’t think that the quotes you offered, Scott, really support your point as much as you might think. The gist of their point is that the proper application of the Bible demands finding the points of similarity (and/or differences) between two contexts, so we need to understand both contexts well enough to do that. I don’t believe that this kind of contextual analysis requires as much specialized knowledge as is often brought to bear on the music/worship issue. I think it is very doubtful that the men you’ve quoted would argue what you’re arguing. They would be saying something like, “You have to understand what honoring your faither might look like in the receptor culture before you can properly apply the command.” I certainly don’t think they would suggest we need a sociology course before we can apply it. Perhaps I’m a neanderthal, but I think the same thing about the music debate–if the only ones who get the argument are ones with specialized training, then something is wrong.

    Second, I’d simply like to object to the notion that teh biblical concept of a stumbling block can be framed as it was in the preceding post. I seriously doubt whether that concept properly fits in a discussion of music. I don’t think I’ve ever yet encountered anybody who was led into soul-condemning sin over the music issue. Maybe my circle of experience is too narrow, but I’ve never seen it yet.

  73. Well, we’re going around in circles again, but I do think the conversation has been helpful. I’ll end with two things:

    1. I would never say one needs specialized knowledge in order to discern musical meaning. I haven always argued that musical meaning is tied to universal human expressiveness, and thus anyone can discern the basic meaning of music if he tries. Although I might add that Martin Luther would not ordain a man who did not understand music, so perhaps there is something to a bit of specialized knowledge for church leaders at least.

    2. The following summarizes what I think is a proper understanding of Sola Scriptura and application, from John Piper:

    “The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean that the Scripture is all we need to live obediently. To be obedient in the sciences we need to read science and study nature. To be obedient in economics we need to read economics and observe the world of business. To be obedient in sports we need to know the rules of the game. To be obedient in marriage we need to know the personality of our spouse. To be obedient as a pilot we need to know how to fly a plane. In other words, the Bible does not tell us all we need to know in order to be obedient stewards of this world.

    The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge. All other knowledge stands under the judgment of the Bible even when it serves the Bible. For example, the English language serves the Bible by making it accessible to readers of English. But even as English does this, it stands under the Bible and is governed by the Bible. So the English word ‘yes’ cannot translate the Greek word for ‘no.’ The Bible is sufficient to prevent that misuse of English.

    In this way the Bible is served by our extra-biblical knowledge in many ways. For example, the word ‘ant’ occurs twice in the Bible (Proverbs 6:6; 30:25). It is never defined. The Bible expects us to know what an ant is from our experience. But if we say that the lesson of the ant is that we should all be lazy, the Bible is sufficient to prevent that error.

    So it is with language in doctrinal disputes. Non-biblical language serves the Bible by ruling out some meanings and including others. The word ‘trinity’ and the phrase ‘one substance with the Father’ are extra-biblical terms. But they contain essential biblical truth. To affirm with extra-biblical language that God is ‘one essence in three persons’ (=trinity) and that the Son is ‘one substance with the Father’ is more biblical than to use biblical language to call Christ God’s creature. The sufficiency of Scripture does not dictate the language we use to interpret the Bible; rather it governs the meaning of the language we use. For that it is wholly sufficient.”

  74. I am not sure how we are going back in circles, but I guess that’s your call. Can I make a suggestion, Scott? When you affirm, on one hand, that there is no need for specialized knowledge, while, on the other hand, commending Luther’s position regarding not ordaining men without musical knowledge, it both: (a) sounds mildly contradictory and (more significantly) (b) evidences the kind of non-Sola view which concerns some of us.
    IOW, it sounds like nobody but leaders need it and those without it can’t really lead the church. I don’t think that is what you want to communicate, but that is what it seems like you’re saying. Whereas you think people play the trump card of Sola, you seem to play the trump card of specialized knowledge. Maybe these are the circles to which you refer.

  75. I apologize for my lack of clarity. My point was simply to say that I believe people can discern musical meaning at its most basic level without specialized knowledge. But since music is such an important issue (it is one of the biblically-approved elements of worship after all), it seems prudent that those leading the church should make efforts to understand more than just the basic level (which was the point of the Luther quote and the point of any efforts I make to explain how music communicates).

    But even when people parse the meaning of music at its most basic level, without specialized knowledge, they are doing so not based on Scripture, but based on other knowledge.

    I’ll state my position as clearly as I can: the Bible is not all we need to live the Christian life in a way that pleases the Lord, and this statement does not contradict the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.

  76. So if someone just uses the Bible, they cannot live the Christian life in a way that pleases the Lord?? I’m lost on that one.

  77. DMD wrote “I’d simply like to object to the notion that teh biblical concept of a stumbling block can be framed as it was in the preceding post. I seriously doubt whether that concept properly fits in a discussion of music. I don’t think I’ve ever yet encountered anybody who was led into soul-condemning sin over the music issue.”

    While I agree that the post you reference didn’t make best use of the stumbling block term, you don’t think that noone who believes it would be wrong for them to listen to Christian artist x has been encouraged to do so by being in the presence of an acquaintance while the latter did so, or, worse, been forced to because a soloist at their church presented one of their songs using a cd/tape accompaniment?

    And if Christian artist x is an actual artist, I didn’t mean to single him/her/them out, I was using x in the algebraic sense.

  78. I have enjoyed reading the exchange and have, so far, exercised the restraint to stay out of it for the most part.

    But a couple of things come to mind as questions/thoughts/whatever.

    1. Is it true that knowing ants or math or even pornography is the same as knowing the meaning of music? I think our human experience, if it teaches us nothing else, teaches us that not all things are known or understood in the same way or with the same confidence. Aren’t there some things we can have a great deal of confidence in and others not so much. (I think most here have admitted that, but I see Scott appeal to “ants” and so I wonder how he might discuss the differences between applying Proverbs/Ants and applying biblical principles to music. Is it true that most of us would not connect ants with hard work according to our knowledge of nature? Isn’t the only specifically natural thing there is knowing what an ant is.

    2. A friend of mine suggested that there is some element here of a two-book theory of knowledge.

    3. Should we apply the ladder of abstraction here, so that things that are more concrete (like math) are more easily known and dogmatized about (is that even a word) than things that are more abstract (like a good novel, a good photograph, or good music)? We like to say that beauty is objective, but what does that really mean? In math, a beautiful equation is pretty easy to see. In architecture, a beautiful building is much more difficult. Is music closer to math or architecture?

    4. I wonder about the “Anyone can discern the meaning of music if he tries.” What if someone disagree with us about the meaning? Are we tempted to say, “You aren’t trying or you would agree with me?” Is that similar to saying, “If you really understood beauty, you would think my wife is beautiful?” Or “If you really understood Calvinism you would be a Calvinist”? Please don’t misunderstand that as an attack. It’s not. I just wonder how, when the rubber meets the road (or the guitar meets the electrical outlet) if we will end up assuming our conclusion and and saying that others “aren’t trying,” as evidenced by the fact that they don’t agree with our obviously studied conclusions. How do we avoid that?

  79. d4,

    I don’t believe that the situations you list fit what the NT calls stumbling block issues. Do the thinks you cite happen. Yes. Are they the equivalent of what Paul or Jesus meant by stumbling blocks? No.
    We’ve dumbed down the concept in order to make applications that seem fitting, but really don’t fit. To put a stumbling block in someone’s way is to spiritually destroy or ruin them (Rom 14:15; 1 Cor 8:11) because, as the Lord taught, stumbling results in being cast into eternal fire/fiery hell (Matt 18:8, 9). To make someone stumble is to turn them away from the Lord and toward God’s judgment.

  80. I am probably the least equipped of all the participants in this discussion to wrangle the finer points of doctrine, so I’ll just say it seems self evident to me that that when Paul says “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother,” he is talking about someone who is no longer in danger of destruction of the hellfire variety. But I will have to look into it further.

  81. Concerning Larry’s point about the objectivity of beauty in his #3: An opinion has been previously expressed in this thread that rap is “mind numbing.” Though I wouldn’t try to convince Mike that rap does not actually numb his mind, I would argue that mind-numbing is not a universal experience. IOW, not ALL rap causes ALL people’s minds to be numbed. I think I can argue that with some level of objectivity, because I’ve observed the effects of rap that is not numbing. To the contrary, SOME rap meshes rich theological content with rhythm and melody in such a way that SOME (many?) people are driven to deeper reflection on truth about God, the gospel and worship.

    That’s not to dismiss any conversation about whether rap is an appropriate or ideal medium for Christian truth, but I do intend for it to advance the idea that judgments of beauty are not as simple or universal as they might seem to some of us.

    Now, I realize that may destroy any shred of credibility that I may have accrued, but what do I care, right? Credibility is for neo-evangelicals . . .

    And on the lighter side . . . @dv…

    “If Christian artist x is an actual artist, I didn’t mean to single him/her/them out, I was using x in the algebraic sense.”


  82. One has to cover one’s bases, yo!

  83. DMD and d4v34x,
    The stumbling block example was used simply as an illustration. It was part of an analogy. My point was that the Bible does not give explicit regulation concerning appropriate women’s dress, but that other Biblical principles do govern her decisions, and that a woman has a responsibility to understand the truths of her world (certain clothes will fail to cover me in a proper way and may foster lust) and she must discern good and evil.

    In a like manner the Bible does not tell us everything about music, but good and evil exist in music and we must seek to understand the truths of our world concerning music.

    Regarding the sub-issue of the appropriate application of the stumbling block texts, I agree with d4v34x, both the Romans 14 and the 1 Cor. 8 passages appear to be dealing with believers.

    However, I would suggest that we would all profit by dropping further discussion the “stumbling block” and focus more upon larger discussion.

  84. Ben,

    I was in Atlanta last week for a board meeting and to help my inlaws with their recent move.

    My reference to the nature of rap music being mind numbing is no different than Doug M.’s reference to hard rock as “an orchestra of Jack Hammers” — an appropriate metaphor. From a musical viewpoint rap has virtually no melody, no harmony, and no artistic, tasteful use of rhythm. From a literature viewpoint it does not qualify as good prose or good poetry. From a social viewpoint it has the worst connotations imaginable. From a Phil 4:8 viewpoint it is unacceptable. Message and method should be compatible. Some methods do an injustice to the message. When college students wore the American Flag on the seat of their jeans, I don’t think that method of communication honored the ideals of America. I realize I can’t always judge the motives of those who would do so; however, the method of communication is contrary to a positive reflection on this country. The same is true when it comes to communcating God’s truth. Frankly, when one has a wrong view of sola Scriptura, this is where we end up!

  85. Ben,
    Point well-made and taken.
    You are showing your ignorance and lack of connection with the community and culture in which you live. I agree that Doug M.’s reference and yours are no different in that they are both opinions passed off as fact. But you don’t get much better in your continued explanation. Every culture has its own style and acceptable form of music, but you want to corner music into a style that you think is representative of what is ‘good’ or ‘tasteful’. You don’t have to like it. But when you can’t find any solid Scriptural support for condemning it, don’t resort to using your opinion to make your point.
    And now we are back to Chris’ point from the beginning.

  86. 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

    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 arehonest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things arelovely, 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 Godıs 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,

    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 petal 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

    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 manıs 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.

    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, ıI 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.ı 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.

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