MMF - Biblical Principles for Church Music

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by rlvaughn, Jun 9, 2001.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Most of the posts that I have read in the "Music Ministry" forum seem (in my opinion) to deal mostly with opinions rather than scripture. I am starting this post to deal with specific scriptures by which we may derive principles for Church Music.

    I Corinthians 14:15: "...I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with understanding also."

    Singing should take place with the mind engaged. Therefore, the words should be meaningful and intelligible. We should take thought of what we are singing. Think on it. Meditate on it. We should not be singing by rote - if we are not careful we are singing just by memory with no real thought of what we are saying. We also should not adopt a song merely because it has a catchy tune. The words must be meaningful. BUT, while unintelligible songs are worthless, so are those driven by intellectualism alone. Singing is a spiritual exercise, and even the best words become lackluster if there is no "feeling", no "reality", no "spirit". To sing spiritually we must first have the Spirit, and then be in a worshipful attitude toward God. The mind does not exclude the Spirit, nor the Spirit the mind. This could also include the idea of a Spirit-led song service, not just something totally planned out weeks or months ahead.

    Colossians 3:16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly with all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." [Parallel passage - Ephesians 5:19]

    First, notice that in Colossians singing is associated with the Word and in Ephesians with the Spirit (v.18). This is in agreement with I Cor. 14:15, and emphasizes that the Spirit and the Word are complimentary, not contradictory. The tri-directional purpose may be seen both in Colossians and Ephesians: (1) to others "teaching and admonishing one another"; (2) for one's self "in your heart"; (3) to God "to the Lord". Singing is a congregational exercise, not merely for the enjoyment of a single individual or a few individuals. Even those who can't or won't sing may be taught, admonished, and spoken to through the song. It must have a meaning, and through the song the congregants speak to one another. Though singing can and will be enjoyable, it is not merely for entertainment. Also, one is not singing just for the benefit of others; it must come from the heart. Singing is worship, and worship must be real. It is more than a form. It wells up inside and flows out. The song should be in our heart before it touches our lips. Finally, the song that springs within us and flows toward others must also be directed toward God in deliberate and sincere worship, praise and honour of Him. Even though the words may be good, and we may be feeling it in our heart, in the final analysis, the song is lacking if not directed to God. All three of these elements should be present in the music of the Lord's churches.

    Consider also that these passages are vitally connected with John 4:24: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

    These principles suggest:
    1. Songs should have meaningful content.
    2. Songs should engage both mind and spirit.
    3. People should think about what is being sung.
    4. Keep in mind the edification of the WHOLE congregation.
    5. The heart, more than the voice, should be "in tune".
    6. God must be the focus of the song service.
    7. Songs that are unintelligible (whether because of senseless lyrics or sounds that overpower the words) should be avoided.
    8. The church music should aid and not impede us in worshipping God in spirit and in truth.

    Other suggested scriptures: James 5:13; Acts 16:25: Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26. This is about all I have time for now, but maybe these will get the discussion started.

    [ September 14, 2002, 07:39 AM: Message edited by: Clint Kritzer ]
     
  2. ervin

    ervin
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    I agree with the 8 stated principles you have based on the scriptures given. But I do not think they prove any particular style of music over another, such as traditional vs. contemporary.
     
  3. rlvaughn

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    It is a mistake to lump songs into categories (based on style or whatever other criteria), and then make generalized statements concerning these styles being right or wrong. The best approach to church music is to develop principles based on the Bible's teachings, and then apply those principles to an individual song to determine if that song is scriptural and appropriate for the congregational worship context. This may be more work, but it is better than the approach that has been taken in most of the discussions about church music on the Baptist Board. May I add that controversy over music has a long tradition in Baptist circles. Some of the past controversies were: whether to sing or not; whether to use the Psalms or "hymns of human composure"; whether usual singing (lining out hymns) or regular singing (using musical notation); whether to use round or shaped notes; and whether to use instruments or not.

    More Scripture

    Matthew 26:30: "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives." Hebrews 2:12: "...in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee."

    The "they" of the Matthew 26 is the Lord Jesus and His apostles. After the Lord instituted His supper, He and the apostles sang an hymn and departed into the mount of Olives. The Hebrews passage alludes to Jesus and prophecy concerning Him, and indicates He sang praise in the midst of the church (congregation). In light of this, and the Eph. & Col. passages, it is amazing to me that Baptists had a controversy over whether to sing when gathered as a church. Beginning in the old country and ending in the new, Baptists in the 1600-1700's were divided over whether or not to sing. The Philadelphia Association even added a statement concerning "Of Singing of Psalms in Public Worship" to the 1689 London Confession (concluding that it was ordained of God for public assemblies).

    Some Conclusions:
    1. Jesus put His stamp of approval on audible group singing by the church when He instigated and participated in it in gathered worship.
    2. The tradition of closing the Lord's supper with an hymn is good one based on precedent.
    3. The gathered church should sing songs that praise God.

    James 5:13: "Is any among you afflicted? let him PRAY. Is any merry? let him SING psalms." Acts 16:22,24,25: "...beat them...and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas PRAYED and SANG praises unto God..."

    Singing is most often associated with happiness and merriment (cf. Matt. 11:17). We must keep in mind that Christian joy differs from that of the world. In Philippi, in jail, Paul and Silas were both afflicted and merry, as revealed in their prayers and singing. Jesus sang an hymn with His disciples just before going into agonizing prayer in the garden. Paul and Silas sung in jail after being beaten and put in stocks. With the peace that passeth all understanding and joy unspeakable offered to us by our Lord, we find reasons to praise God in all situations. "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Habukkuk 3:17,18

    Some Conclusions:
    1. The contented Christian will find reasons to praise God in all situations.
    2. Singing is appropriate on occasions that may seem inappropriate by worldly standards. (Might James 5 imply that singing is not always appropriate, such as singing when one ought to be calling the elders of the church?)
    3. Singing outside of the gathered church is acceptable to God as well as that in the congregation.
    4. Praying and singing are a powerful combination.
    5. Singing with a musical instrument does not inhere in the Greek word "psalmos". (I was taught that "psalmos" MEANS to sing with musical accompaniment. It may allow for that, but does not MEAN that)

    [​IMG]
     
  4. superdave

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    So if we use the principles above, we cannot eliminate certain genre just because they are not "traditional", we have to evaluate each song on an individual basis, not only in regards to the particular style of the written music, but also take care that our actual performance/interpretation of the written music also follows the guidelines in scripture for Godly music. The fact that I can sing a song that the particular artist may have sung/played in a way that is innappropriate for a worship service does not neccesarily condemn that song as unfit. These are very good guidelines, and I think illustrate the broad spectrum of music that I believe is fully able to stand up to Biblical scrutiny, but not to the scrutiny of many Baptists.

    That is not a condemnation by the way, since I have heard many say, "I just stay as far to the right as I can" which is a fine personal or even individual church stance. But many churches that would not follow that particular stance IMHO are still well within the Biblical guidelines for music. Even if they use *gasp* anything by the Gaithers.

    ;)
     
  5. Daniel

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    Super Dave, you're more on track than you think. The particular danger we have in independent Baptist circles is not being independent. We look to a Christian college or university for our standards rather than the Word of God. We adopt lists of acceptable and unacceptable music from those places (as well as other sources) rather than consult the Lord, His Word and His Holy Spirit on the matter. We say we are independent Baptists, but don't we sometimes act like we are in a hierarchical system? Now, lest you think I use or accept all forms of music in our local church, think again! We test our music against many standards and principles--but these are Bible-based standards and principles, not man-made devices. Much of what is out there calling itself Contemporary Christian Music is actually the secular music industry remarketing itself to a demomgraphic group for mammon's sake. You all know that. Surely that's a no-brainer! (And no, I am not lumping all Contemporary groups or artists into a sweeping generality...I obviously know better than that!)What I'm saying is, let's get back to the Bible rather than a quasi-papal system for determining what music we should use or not use in our local churches. Then and only then will be on target to receive the blessing of God on our music ministries in our respective local church assemblies.

    [ June 12, 2001: Message edited by: Daniel ]
     
  6. Eric B

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    Wow, the posts on this thread so far really display great balanced and biblical ways of thinking! I pray this would spread among the independant fundamentalists.
     
  7. Dr. Bob

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    There MUST be something terribly wrong when a bunch of Baptists agree (on anything, much less music)! :eek: :eek: :eek:

    Use Scripture
    Be balanced
    Don't "adopt" someone else's standards
    Separate good songs from poor artists

    Sounds like lots of "AMEN'S" echoing off the Rockies on this one! [​IMG]
     
  8. Daniel

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    Hey Dr. Bob and all of you fellow Baptists--we should be handling the music issue the way this thread has been going. (And may it continue in the fashion!!) The WORD OF GOD is our standard. Why shouldn't we approach ALL church issues in this fashion? May God help us to keep it moving in this direction!

    [ June 12, 2001: Message edited by: Daniel ]
     
  9. Pennsylvania Jim

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Daniel:
    The particular danger we have in independent Baptist circles is not being independent. We look to a Christian college or university for our standards rather than the Word of God.

    [ June 12, 2001: Message edited by: Daniel ]
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Good point, and I agree. Just to throw a wrench in the gears, though, we are also not independent if we allow our worship habits or church practices to be driven by the latest fads whether from the local "Christian" radio station or those sweeping from church to church from who knows where.

    To ilustrate my point here are a few examples:
    worship leaders
    worship teams
    praise choruses
    small group ministries

    Now I realize that these things are neither inherently good or bad. It's just that, as I see them, they have all the marks of a fad, which makes me wonder 1) what's behind them and 2) where did they come from.
     
  10. Larry

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    Man! This is a good thread.

    People from both sides of the fence, no doubt, read this and say, "that’s what I have been trying to say".

    When it all boils down, what is left is a difference in how these standards are applied.

    PA Jim, you hit the nail on the head.
     
  11. preacher

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    Ain't this what satan hates to see?
    One mind and accord!! :D
     
  12. Daniel

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    PA JIM---You are right on with what I said yesterday about the Christian colleges, etc. We want our music to reflect the character of God and not the character of the world (in the cosmos sense). Why? Our aim in life is to bring GLORY TO GOD and to reflect the character of Christ. Let all areas of life, music included, be part of this Biblical mandate. That's why you're correct to say that we must be wary of fads or trends. Fads and trends are usually man-centered and not God-centered...and they don't last, I might add! Let the discussion continue...I agree, this is good stuff on this thread!!!
     
  13. superdave

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    Larry talked about the difference in how the standards are applied, and another question would be, how would we specifically draw the line and say "This is right, and anywhere left of here is wrong" That seems to be the tendancy among Baptists and Conservative Evangelicals in general. Yet, our musical choices are many times made with non-Biblical factors. One point I was trying to make above is: musical styles, and their appropriateness are influenced by many things, Background, Culture, Ethnicity, Association, etc. Although these should not be our primary means of determining what is good or bad music, they do influence our decisions either consciously or otherwise.

    Dr. Bob, I have to shout pretty loud for y'all to hear my amen echo off the rockies, but I'm yellin it all the same.
     
  14. Daniel

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    Super Dave: You are so right about those factors that do influence our music decision-making process. The problem I see goes back a step from your point--people don't start making music decision BASED ON SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLES. The Bible is only consulted much later rather than sooner. That's sad! It's like putting on gloves AFTER you've already developed a blister. Why not put them on before you start the job? The same with music. The "gloves" are the Bible principles. Then we can "get the job done" for the Lord in a much better fashion. Oh, well, wishful thinking, I'm sure...but nonetheless very true...let's keep shouting in the Rockies. Maybe someone will finally say, "OH, I GET IT!!" God help us!

    [ June 15, 2001: Message edited by: Daniel ]
     
  15. PreacherBoy

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    I like the topic of music seeing that I LOVE music. :D

    I aggree with most things posted. I would like to add to a coment on something. We have no right to say where the line is bettwen good and bad, exept the Bible. Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world". This is a guide line, there are two parts of music:
    1) Lyrics
    2) Music
    If one is of the world than the music is wrong. I have heard some wonderful words in a song, but the heavy music was similar to that of Jimi Hendrix. What I am saying is, a christian's music should be of God of this this world. Music is meant to glorify God, that is why He created it. That is why He created us, to glorify Him.
     
  16. Daniel

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    Preacher Boy....you were a little hard to understand in that last post, but I get the general idea of what you were trying to say. Be careful trying to ABSOLUTELY PINPOINT what is worldly or not. That is highly dangerous in the music world. You have to find the core principles (see earlier posts in this thread) and apply them as the Holy Spirit instructs you. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14) Don't do anything that causes you to have doubts about doing or not doing that thing. If you do have doubts, stear clear until you have done a careful Bible study of the issue and have prayed for the wisdom of God on the matter. Let us know if we can help you any more...(either in a post or a private e-mail)...God bless, MK. Your position as an MK is not an easy job, but I trust God gives you JOY IN SERVING JESUS. Really.
     
  17. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    PRINCIPLES VERSUS LAW

    Many people would rather have a law than a principle because it is easier (requires less thought and less work), and, like the Pharisees, when it is performed we can feel like we have done what God requires of us. What in the world do I mean? Let me give an example that may illustrate. The Baptists that originally came to east Texas did not believe that tithing was a New Testament command, but rather that it was part of the Law of Moses. Instead of teaching tithing they taught the principle of giving as God prospered and giving out of love. The law said 10%, but the principle did not tell the individual exactly how much to give; he had to work it out himself. Some (misers) did not want anything at all to be taught concerning giving. Along came preachers (first, the SBC'ers) and taught that the tithe was a command for the N. T. church. At first, many fought it, but it was gradually accepted. Where once people did not apply the principle and give as they should, now many ONLY give 10% and believe they have done all God has required them to do!

    I think this mentality applies in the question of church music. Some want a law that explicitly says what music may or may not be used. They are comfortable with that. Others do not want anyone to mention anything about music being good or bad. Let everyone decide for themselves and do what they want. A Biblical principle requires work and thought about how it should be applied. It places great responsibility on us. With music, if we honestly and inwardly deeply consider principles such as the ones we have discussed here, we will at times find songs that we love and enjoy do not really fit God's principles for music. We may fight it, because there is no law that says we can't listen to it. But remember, we know these principles (at least some of them), and we will give an account to God.

    Why didn't God just lay down laws for all these things? Wouldn't that have been much easier? If He had, He would have given a law for every single situation in which we might find ourselves, and we would have to know every law for every situation. Principles may be applied broadly as we run into the different situations and problems of life. This also allows us more room to grow, and more individual soul liberty. But let's not use that liberty for license.
     
  18. Daniel

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    Rl...excellent explanation of what this thread has been all about! Way to go! We have tried fastidously to avoid laying down a command. We have laid out Biblical principles and starting points. This is what we must do in these tricky, emotional areas such as music. God help us to keep on this road (or thread, should I say! [​IMG]
     
  19. Psalm145 3

    Psalm145 3
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    The Bible says there is a type of music that evil spirits do not like(1 Sam. 16:14-23).
    The Holy Spirit likes this type of music.

    By simple deduction there must be a type of music the devil likes. After all, Satan is the greatest musician ever, although in a perverted way now(Ezekiel 28:13).

    Satan and the fallen angels like the opposite of what the Holy Spirit likes. What kind of music do they like? They advertise! Just go through the record store and look at the CD covers filled with Satanic symbols.

    I don't believe listening to rock music is a sin, but I believe it is dangerous. Music is a very powerful influence. It has the power to drive demons away or to attract them.

    There is a wide spectrum of types of music with the Holy Spirit on one side, and Satan on the other side. I think it is wise to stay as far away from Satan's side as possible.

    Realistic, not legalistic, Amen.
     
  20. Eric B

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>The Bible says there is a type of music that evil spirits do not like(1 Sam. 16:14-23).
    The Holy Spirit likes this type of music.
    By simple deduction there must be a type of music the devil likes. After all, Satan is the greatest musician ever, although in a perverted way now(Ezekiel 28:13).
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    But this says nothing about "contemporary" versus "traditional" styles, both of which would not even exist for thousands of years to come. Other Scriptures show that lively danceable (rhythmic) music was accepted by God as worship (it was the Hebrew (mid-eastern style), so we can't deduce from this "All rhythmic music is what Satan likes, so then God must like only plain music". There is alot of plain simple music that has false religion behind it (think of New Age), so the line must be drawn primarily according to what the words are saying, and who or what is being praised.
    This is not to say that the sound and other gimmicks don't matter at all, but if CD's have Satanic Symbols, than they are bad primarily for that reason. Then we can judge the music as having unclean spirits behind it, and it usually turns out that the stuff with Satanic symbols on it is the acid style which I do believe does cross the line in the area of the sound. (discordance, excessive noise & screaming/moaning, etc.)
     

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