Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Sounds of Acceptable Worship: Introduction

As of today, I will embark on a series of teachings about a highly controversial topic in modern day Christendom: Christian music. I hope to answer important and relevant questions for believers today—such questions as:

 “What does the Bible say about music?”
“What music and musical styles should we listen to as Christians?”
“Can I worship God through any type of music?”
 “Is music neutral?”
“What about Christian rap, metal and rock n roll?”

I will also respond to statements often made by believers, like:

“The rhythms and beats of a song aren’t important; the only thing that matters is that the lyrics are God-glorifying.”
“Many people are hearing the Gospel and being saved in [favorite artist’s name]’s concerts. There is so much fruit. The Lord is has to be pleased with their music.”
“We need to conform to the culture in order to reach them for Christ. That’s what Paul did!”

In reality, the question of how we should approach God in worship shouldn’t be so controversial. It is, however, because most Christians almost always engage this issue with much passion. This very often results in unreasonable behavior. Debates centered on the music controversy sometimes even result in personal attacks, unnecessary qualms and division between Christians. All this is owing to the fact that whenever the habits or practices so dear to one’s heart are called into question, it is hard for such a person to look at a matter objectively. Emotions are involved. Biblical, objective reasoning tends to give way to subjective opinions and attempts to justify one’s behavior, lifestyle and choices. When it comes to an issue like music, even a believer known for his consistent walk with the Lord and diligence to study the Word may go hermeneutically berserk, irrationally clinging to an unbiblical point of view—throwing away all biblical principles of interpreting Scripture by eisegetically mangling biblical texts to conform them to his point of view.  Rather than “test everything” (1 Thes.5:21) by searching the Scriptures diligently like the Bereans (Acts 17:9), this type of person may rather cling even tighter to his own beliefs without wanting to give them much thought or look deeper into the issue. He may become defensive toward those who dare question his point of view, and respond to any arguments against his views with accusations and ad hominem attacks aimed at the debater himself, rather than at the arguments his debater is propounding. Instead of sincerely seeking the Lord in prayer, and searching out wise counsel from godly men, he may rather run to, and surround himself with, those of his own persuasion—a “support group” of sorts.

I’m not a fan of modern psychology by any means, but this field of study has coined a term to describe the aforementioned dilemma: cognitive dissonance. When one comes across new information that directly contradicts one’s beliefs or behavior, such a person’s reaction will be to either: 1) conform to this new information, accepting it, however difficult and uncomfortable it may be, or 2) find some means to suppress the new information to reduce the uncomfortable tension—such as by attempting to justify his existing beliefs or behavior using inconsistent pretexts…or even by choosing to immediately dismiss and ignore the information altogether.  

I mention this because you, dear reader, may find yourself reacting in such a way to the information I am about to present. You may begin to feel uncomfortable, and even angry. You may feel like simply dismissing it as another rant from a “legalist”. Questions may begin to race through your mind, such as, “Is he saying such and such an artist is in sin?”, “Is he saying I am in sin?”, “Is he saying this or that instrument/music style is sinful?”, “Is he saying I can’t worship God through this or that type of music?” I kindly beseech you to please continue reading my posts before coming to any conclusions as to what I am actually saying. And please take the time to carefully examine everything I mention with the Bible. Our authority is God’s Word, and not man’s opinions.  Man can, and does, err—no matter how much he may be used of God. And the simple truth is that I can err, which is why you need to test everything I say with Scripture. If I write something unbiblical, please feel free to throw it out. If I write something that makes you feel uncomfortable, search the Scriptures to see if what I am saying is so, regardless of how you feel. Pray and ask the Lord for wisdom. 

One of the verses I quoted above says in context:

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:20-22)

I sincerely hope and pray you will heed to the above admonition.

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