November 22, 2017

THE SOUND OF THE MUSIC

(DISTINGUISHING GOOD AND BAD MUSIC)

by John Mincy

It would be an understatement to say that music is dividing all kinds of churches in this first part of the 21stcentury. It is important for all Christians and church leaders to be informed about the fundamental issues involved.

We should first ask ourselves, “What makes something good or bad?” The answer to that question for the Christian is fairly simple, the character of God. If something is in line with or agrees with the character of God, it is good. If it is not in line with God’s character, it is bad. But, “How do we know God’s character?” The answer again is quite simple; He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible.

The Bible is full of lists of things that God does not like, things which are contrary to His character, things that are bad or sinful. Galatians 5:19-21, is one such list:

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The underlined words have something in common. They all deal with some form of illicit sex.

One thing in our world today which includes all of these sins is rock or pop music. Rock music, therefore, is sinful and should be avoided. We could list hundreds of statements by rock musicians frankly saying that rock music is sex. Notice, we are talking about the music, not lyrics. There is a message in the sound of the music, and that message is illicit sex.

“OK,” you say, “so what is it in rock music that makes this sensual sound?” There are several key objective and recognizable elements that are purposefully used in music to get a sensual sound (check out the rock and jazz history). There are many singers, of course, who simply copy the style of rock musicians and are not aware of what they are really doing. They just like the style, and they pattern their music after it. Others know exactly what they are doing and purposefully include certain elements to produce the sensual sound.

The first of these objective elements is the over-powering rhythm. The rhythm or beat is dominant over the melody and harmony. Another element is the misplacing of the beat, what is often called an offbeat. This is an abnormal rhythm which causes sensual movements of the body. Similar to this is the excessive use of syncopation. Added to these are elements such as excessive repetition, unhealthy volume, undue use of dissonant chords, and sloppy intonation (especially sliding around on notes).

There is a lot of good music in the world and a lot of bad music and everything in between. Assessing music can sometimes be very subjective, but just because there may be some subjectivity does not mean that there can’t be any objectivity. Most musicians, whether Christians or non-Christians (except Contemporary Christian Music defenders) recognize that the above mentioned elements promote sensuality, and most music, if tested by the presence or absence of these elements can be determined to be good or bad. If the music is somewhere in between, then the best advice comes from the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:19-23,

19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 22 Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

In other words, if it is in between or doubtful, don’t listen to it. There is enough good music in the world to take more than a lifetime to listen to it all or to perform it all!

Dr. Monty Budahl, long-time musician at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, said that “you must want the right thing or no argument will cause a person to change his music.” May the Lord help us to want the right thing, good music that is in line with His character.


Dr. John Mincy, now retired, was pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Antioch, California.


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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