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On Music

“The music you use ‘positions’ your church in your community. It defines who you are.
Once you have decided on the style of music you’re going to use in worship, you have set
the direction of your church in far more ways than you realize. It will determine the kind of
people you attract, the kind of people you keep, and the kind of people you lose.” 1
This quote from popular author and one of America’s most celebrated mega church
pastors, Rick Warren, of the Saddleback Community Church in California is, sadly, an
accurate assessment of how things are in American church life today. It is a fact that
music is a key factor, if not, the key factor in why people choose churches today and
why people leave churches.
This has been increasingly the case over the last 25-30 years as the seeker sensitive /
church growth movement has gained momentum. Music has been the primary method
used in this movement to attract outsiders. Numbers minded pastors and laymen have
implemented, among other things, pop music into the worship format. The result has
been that multitudes of churches during the last two decades have divided over the
music used in the services. Music is the bottom line in the so-called “worship wars” that
simmer or rage in churches across the nation and around the world.
Many churches try to avoid the division and collisions by having two, three or more
services catering to the tastes, especially the musical tastes, of the various generations.
Some churches have separate services for the Builders (WW II generation) the Baby
Boomers (post WW II generation) the Generation Xer’s, and the Net-gen’rs (The
Internet Generation)- all of whom have unique musical tastes and cannot seem to relate
to or worship to the music of the other generations. Churches that have not gone to
separate services have tried to have “blended” services that incorporate something for
everyone musically. However, even in this blended worship atmosphere there is some
sanctified “teeth grinding” going on.
Some have come to believe that the music used is key to real worship taking place. The
seeker sensitive church philosophy is very dependent upon the music used to get those
worship feelings up and running on Sunday morning. Many worship “experts” freely
admit this. They will advise up and coming worship leaders to use certain upbeat
numbers to kick start the service and get the energy up. Then, to maintain that mood
they advise them to use certain other pieces that have a certain tempo, volume and
key. “Instruments, arrangements, chords and beat should be woven into a pattern that
will bend and sway the feelings of the people to maximize their feelings of worship.”2
In this writer’s opinion, no single issue has polarized, divided and sometimes destroyed
congregations more than the music used during worship services.
We have determined that it will not happen here at Calvary Baptist for two reasons:

#1 We Will Maintain a Balanced Biblical Perspective in Relation to Music

While acknowledging that the Scripture has much to say about music and that it is a
prominent part of the worship of our great God, we will not be driven by or subservient
to the current cultural infatuation with musical expression. Though music is prominent
in worship, it should not be dominant. It is evident that the emphasis that many
believers put upon it does not have a comparable emphasis in the Bible. Music, even
good music, can become an idol. Instead of ameans of worship, it can become
an object of worship.
As noted, the Bible says a lot about music. Music is mentioned over 600 times in the
Bible. There are numerous references to praising God in song. However, in comparison
to the bulk of Scripture, especially what the Scripture says about proclamation and holy
living, it is minimal. While not downplaying music’s significant role in worship, it is
evident that there is today, an inordinate emphasis on music that does not reflect the
emphasis that the Scripture places upon it. As one writer has observed, “Music has
always been the handmaiden of the Word of Jehovah. Historically, it has been a helper
and a means to an end – not the end.”3

Consider the following:

One does not see among the offices of the early church the position of “gospel
musician” or “worship leader” listed along side pastor/teacher and evangelist. Someone
making their living as a gospel singer was unheard of until the last part of the 20th
century. There was no Contemporary Christian or gospel music industry making mega
millions as there is now. The office of “worship leader” in churches today is little more
than the master of ceremonies for a largely musical presentation.
One pastor has rightly pointed out that “this is the day of the Christian
entertainer.”4 The church now has professional singers, clowns, comedians, actors and
bands that make their living off the saints. Yet keep in mind that none of these even
existed until the last five or six decades! Music and musicians used to be thought of as
having a supplementary role in ministry. Now music and musicians have “stolen the
show” so to speak. What used to be thought of as supplemental to worship is now
central in the minds of people. The musical portion of many church worship services is
often as long or longer than the preaching of God’s Word.
Moving music is now considered essential to “warm up the crowd”….. excuse me,
“prepare the hearts of the worshipers to receive the Word.” Where did that talk come
from? Let me give you a clue. It did not come from the Scripture. The idea that the
music “prepares the hearts of the people to receive the Word” has no biblical
foundation at all. Yet it is accepted as a fact among many musicians in ministry! The
Bible is clear that faith comes by hearing the preached Word. It says nothing about
music eliciting, promoting or encouraging faith or tenderizing the heart. Today,
Christian musicians- pardon – “artists” are held in far higher esteem than Bible teachers
and theologians. Their ideas and opinions often hold more weight and often find
uncritical acceptance by their followers. What the musical artist says often has the
credence of a papal pronouncement to the music fan.
This is true despite the fact that many of these professional musicians practice a cross
denominational inclusivist ministry that ignores or downplays doctrinal truth. Many
Christian musicians cross major doctrinal lines, are dismissive of biblical separation and
even are inclusive of cults in violation of clear biblical warnings not to do so. (II John 1:9-
11; Romans 16:17-18) They have to be this way. They make their living by attracting to
their concerts a wide cross section of religious people regardless of faithfulness to God’s
truth.
Where are the masses of Christian young people that would come out for Bible
teaching services as opposed to a Christian rock concert. Throngs of people will attend
Gospel concerts who would find a Bible conference to be boring. The fact is that a large
part of Christian music fans will buy tickets and drive great distances to hear their
favorite performer’s music.
They will loyally purchase recordings of their favorite Gospel or Contemporary Christian
performers or bands. Yet many of these same folks are not faithful in attendance or
their giving to their local church. This, in itself, is proof that something is amiss.
Scripture just does not attach the importance to music that is being attached to it by
multitudes of believers who claim they need their style of music to feel like they are
worshiping.
The sad fact is that one believer’s music is often so offensive to another, that they
cannot worship God in the same church auditorium. Many will become emotional if
their music or favorite gospel performer is criticized. All of these factors prove that
music has too prominent a role among believers today compared with the biblical
emphasis. While agreeing that music is an important part of ministry and worship, we,
at Calvary Baptist will try to maintain a balanced biblical perspective in regard to it.

#2 We Will Maintain a Biblical Philosophy of Music

While maintaining that music’s importance is overemphasized in our day, that does not
mean that music is not important. Music, from the beginning has been prominent in
biblical worship. Obviously the Bible does not comment directly upon specific forms of
music – Handel and Bach as opposed to jazz and rock.
However, the Bible gives us principles that can be applied to the musical aspect of
worship. These are principles that we believe apply to both musical content, musical
style and musical performance. While these philosophical principles can be applied
differently by sincere believers to the variety of musical styles, it is our contention that
these principles are unknown or being outright ignored in our day. The only question
today as to music used in worship seems to be what pleases and appeals to individual or
generational tastes. The fundamental issue, however, is whether a style of music and its
performance is pleasing to God.
We believe that there are Scriptural principles for ascertaining what is acceptable to
Him. While not being able to detail extensively on this topic in this article, the reader
will find at the end a suggested reading list of helpful materials dealing with this vital
issue. These principles here stated in brief will guide the musical decisions of Calvary
Baptist Church.

Biblical Distinctions in Christian Music in the Church

Old Testament-Distinctions Between National and Worship Music


Though there are similarities between Old Testament worship and New Testament
worship, there are distinctive differences as well. In the Old Testament, music that was
practiced in a national feast or celebration was much different than what was practiced
in the temple during worship. Singing, dancing, playing timbrels and other instruments
were a regular part of national life and celebrations in the theocracy that was Israel.
Everyone could be involved as the nation celebrated its feasts or God’s deliverance
through military victory.
However, the worship of God in the temple was another matter altogether. The music
performed in temple worship, both instrumental and vocal, was limited to the
Levites (I Chronicles 15:16-24). The different kinds of instruments used in temple
worship was limited to just a few kinds of instruments as opposed to many that were
allowed to be used in national and civic celebrations.

New Testament – The Primacy of Congregational Singing

The Scripture emphasizes, in the New Testament dispensation, congregational vocal


music. The New Testament admonitions in the Scripture about singing have to do
specifically with a local assembly of believers singing together rather than what is
commonly thought of as “special” music or vocal or instrumental musical performances
. Eph 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and
making melody in your heart to the Lord; Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Bible students will immediately recognize in the above passages the two primary
references to singing in the New Testament. The ideas latent in these verses are that
we teach and encourage one another in addition to worshiping the Lord when we sing
together. The practice of the New Testament churches was that they sang collectively
as assembled believers when they gathered together for worship. This is not to say that
it is wrong to have what is usually thought of as special music: ie: solos, duets, quartets,
ensembles, choirs, instrumental pieces etc. We want to be clear that the Bible does not
forbid special music. However, the primary emphasis in the New Testament is on
collective singing.
The practice of gathering to hear a gospel concert or Christian performing artist is a
modern phenomenon that has come to be preferred in many circles over
congregational singing. It has taken center stage. However, from a biblical standpoint
of New Testament practice, it shouldn’t matter to believers if a church has gospel
concerts, singing groups or choirs. What should matter is whether there is Christ
honoring congregational singing when the believers assemble for worship! That is the
Bible’s emphasis. A church with weak congregational singing is a spiritually sick
congregation.

The Purposes of Congregational Singing in the New Testament


The Education & Admonishment of Believers

Christian music is a vehicle for teaching believers God’s truth. In other words, it is to
impart information that is conforming to and saturated with the word of Christ. “Let the
word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one
another…..”(Col 3:16)The lyrical content should be accurate in its biblical content, rather
than merely descriptive of the performer’s feelings or sentiments. It is also to admonish
believers.-….”teaching and admonishing one another…..”(Col 3:16) The idea latent in
admonishment is to correct deficient areas in our Christian lives and
encourage believers to live holy and godly lives for the Savior.
Perhaps it is fitting to point out here that nowhere in the Bible is music the means of
evangelizing unbelievers. That comes by simple verbal proclamation – the simple
declaration of God’s Word. (I Cor 1:21; Romans 10:14-17) God ordained that simple
proclamation be the means of reaching the lost so that the power of the gospel could
be demonstrated through a simple unremarkable way. He ordained it to be spoken so
simply and frankly that the resulting decision would not be in influenced or corrupted
by secondary or purely human influences. (I Cor 1:17-23; 2:1-5; Romans 10:14-17)
This understanding is important in considering the role that music will have in our
attempts to lead the lost to the Savior. Music can very well be a decision-corrupting
influence. No serious Christian musician could disagree that “Music has powers of its
own, powers of persuasion and sentimentality that often counterfeit the work of the
Holy Spirit.”5 Even contemporary Christian music promoters admit that music could
influence people to make a decision that, in their hearts, they were not cognitively and
volitionally ready to make. J. Nathan Corbitt, a Contemporary Christian Music
promoter acknowledged:
“Because of its power to motivate, music has a tremendous appeal. For this reason,
music is often used as an attractive part of proclamation events. Crusades, evangelistic
rallies, and revivals often feature a soloist or music group who will appeal to the musical
tastes of the audience. At the same time, music can also be manipulative. The power of
music can create an atmosphere in which people respond solely out of emotion without
cognitive understanding. Like people who may be motivated by advertising to change
brands because the tune is catchy, people may be motivated to change religions
because they like the music- and they never understand the meaning of their decision”6
Another Christian rock promoter, Al Menconi, observed, ”If the music, the
environment, and the attitude all say, ‘Rock out,’ how can that encourage a deeper
commitment to Jesus or a rational decision to repent?” Menconi recognized “where the
sheer volume, penetrating rhythms, pyro-technics, frenzied gymnastics of the
performer and the carnival atmosphere block out intellectual and rational faculties as
the individual is swept away in a torrent of blistering sound to a decision that is
contaminated with secondary influences.”7
Great care and discretion must be used in musical choices not only in relation to our
efforts to evangelize but also in relation to its use in our assembly for worship. Music
was never meant to be a means of winning the lost. It was, though, a means through
which believers could be taught and reminded of their commitment to live consecrated,
holy lives.

The Praise and Glory of the Lord

The other and most important objective in Christian music is to glorify the
Lord. “…singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” (Eph 5:19); “…. singing
with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col 3:16) Nothing in the music ought to detract
from the Lord. If special music is performed, nothing in the performance ought to rob
the Lord of glory and give it to the performer. The Lord is primary; the talents and
abilities of the performer are secondary at best.
This is not to say that there is not a case to be made for excellence in music for the
Lord’s sake. However, worship music should not be performed or chosen in order to
showcase the musical talent of the performer. Too often among the current Christian
culture, musical artists “are visited with unabashed adulation, idolization, and celebrity
worship.”8 Christian music “should always function as a musical offering to God and
not a musical entertainment for the people.”9
We must always remember that it is the Lord who is our primary audience in music.
While one of the purposes of Christian music is ministry to the saints, its primary
objective is to honor the Lord. This is not only in what is said in the lyrics but how the
music is performed. The manner of how it performed is important so that the attention
and glory for the ministry of music is not stolen from the Lord. Glory can be stolen from
the Lord in three ways:

 When the music is geared to gratifying the audience either in lyrical content or in
musical style, God is robbed of glory.

The character of the songs we sing is given to us as “…psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs…,”(Col 3:16; Eph 5:19) The songs we are to sing are of a distinctive kind – psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs. They are not simply random religious thoughts or
someone articulating what they feel God is like. The content of the music is regulated,
not by our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, but by the word of Christ.
The character of the music we are to sing can be determined by analyzing Biblical
psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. What we are saying is that these words- psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs are not defined by an individual musician’s perceptions and
opinions. We have examples in the Scripture of what psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
are. The definition of these words is given to us and their boundaries set in God’s word.
In short, there are both content and character ingredients in Christian music that take
precedence over emotions. Sadly, for many professed Christians, the bottom line is not
whether the music is doctrinally and biblically faithful and honoring to the Lord, but
whether it moves them emotionally or makes them want to tap their foot, sway or even
dance.

 God is robbed of glory when the performer’s performance or expertise is showcased so


that the congregations attention and admiration is to the performer.
One pastor told of a conflict that he had with an instrumental rendition of the classic
hymn, The Old Rugged Cross. “Halfway through the song,” he said, “our saxophone
improvisation “tore it up.” Even at the rehearsal the choir had begun cheering,
captivated by the performance and oblivious to the song’s theme. I thought, They’re
cheering the death of Jesus Christ! They’re not cherishing the old rugged cross. They’re
cheering a guy having a fit on a horn! I was furious.”10 That pastor should have been
furious. Regardless of the appropriateness of jazzing up that classic hymn and
regardless of the musician’s intent, the glory due the Lord was stolen by the performer.

 When the performance is provocative and worldly God is dishonored

There are sincere folks who believe that one should reach the world on the level of the
world. In conjunction with that belief, some Christian musicians dress like, act like, and
perform like the secular world’s counterpart. The dress may be immodest, their stage
actions and vocalizations may imitate the sensual with breathy vocals and close mouth
contact with the microphone. All one has to do to see the world’s influence on
performance is watch many teenage singers. One can readily see and hear the vestiges
of some pop diva or pop idol they are trying to imitate. It is inappropriate and wrong to
imitate the carnal techniques of the secular world

Biblical Principles for Music Appropriate for Worship

With the wide variety of music that is dubbed as “Christian music” it is often difficult to
make musical choices. But there are guidelines that believers who desire to honor the
Lord can use to help us make these choices.

 The Principle of Distinctiveness

The Bible is clear that the music and worship practices employed in the worship of God
ought to be different in kind in two senses. First, it was to be distinct from what was
commonly used in the unregenerate society around it. In the Old Testament, especially,
there were stipulations that the worship practices of the Israelites be different from the
heathen around them. There was to be no similarity to the worship practices of the
heathen nations. They were not even to ask what these lost nations did in reference to
their false worship (Deu 12:30) They were not to pattern their worship after the
heathen around them.
There was also to be a distinction even from the ordinary practices of life in Israel.
Certain practices were acceptable in daily life but were not acceptable in worship
life. Today, it is argued that anything we might listen to or sing in our private or social
life is acceptable to use in our worship. Hence, it is argued that since there was a wide
variety of instrumentation and even dancing in the Old Testament, this can and should
be used today in the worship of the church today.
What is forgotten is that many practices that might be acceptable in daily living of the
Israelites were not acceptable in worship. Peter Masters rightly observes that “We
should never forget that the Israelites were a nation state as well as a church. There
were many things they could do as a state which had no place in their formal, direct
worship. Special processions, victory parades, and Thanksgiving days were open air
civic activities organized by God’s people in their capacity as a state. The little girls
would lead these processions dancing and shaking their tambourines. But these
tambourines were never allowed in the Tabernacle or the temple. A direct act of
worship was quite different from a civic anniversary celebration.” 11
Actual worship was regulated in the Old Testament. Little girls did not play
tambourines in the temple. Even flutes could not be played in the temple worship. It
was not that flutes were wrong in and of themselves. However, God’s intent was that
worship be distinct from everyday life. Other excluded instruments in temple worship
were the timbrel or tambourine and the Hebrew equivalent of “pan pipes.” God only
allowed certain instrumentation to be used in temple worship such as cymbals,
psalteries, harps, and trumpets. (I Chronicles 15:16, 28; 16:5-6, 42; 25:1, 6) 12 Everyone
could not participate. Only certain people, from among the Levites were authorized to
do temple music.
The point that is often argued based upon Old Testament passages is that anything
goes in worship. That idea is patently false. There was to be a distinction between
sacred and secular in reference to worship.
It is often argued that many of the tunes in traditional hymns were once tavern songs
that the church borrowed. It is maintained that reformer and hymn composer, Martin
Luther, simply put Christian lyrics to barroom and popular tunes for use in worship. It is
argued that the church has always incorporated secular tunes into Christian hymnnody.
In point of fact, most of Luther’s melodies were his original compositions or existing
church melodies that he put biblical words to for congregational singing. 13 From the
very beginning there was a concern among Christian leadership about the use of
heathen musical forms by believers, a concern that is noticeably absent today. 14
The goal today is to attract unbelievers and gratify the musical tastes of the culture
through integration of every musical form, style and performance into modern worship.
Whether that integration is appropriate is not factored in. In many respects, there is
absolutely no distinctiveness in sound from what the secular world listens to. There
should be. Just because one can sing the words of that wonderful hymn, Amazing
Grace to the tune of Gilligan’s Island does not mean that we should. There would be loss
of distinctiveness and an identification with the frivolous in doing so. That is unworthy
of the reverence we are to display in our musical worship.

 The Principle of Melodic Clarity

The Bible assumes that there were be an identifiable melody in any song and that this
melody is what stands out as its dominant quality. That assumption is reflected in the
example the Apostle Paul uses about the need for understanding in what is being
communicated via language in a church service (I Cor 14). He uses the example of an
identifiable melody. He argues that even the pattern of notes played on a musical
instrument must convey meaning through the melody of what is being played. If the
instrument does not play an identifiable melodic progression, the meaning and identity
of a song cannot be communicated.
Here is how the text reads: 7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or
harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or
harped? :8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the
battle?:9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how
shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. (1Co 14:7-9)
While acknowledging that this passage is not directly addressing the topic of music, it is
addressing clarity of understanding. Music with an identifiable melody is used as an
illustration of how imperative understanding is. One cannot tell what a song is or
what military directive is being given if there is not an identifiable melody being
played. Indeed, the writer under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses the illustration of a
military trumpet playing a specific note progression to give the soldiers direction.
Barnes writes: “It was used for various purposes in war – to summon the soldiers; to
animate them in their march; to call them forth to battle; to sound a retreat; and to
signify to them what they were to do in battle, whether to charge, advance, or retreat,
etc. It therefore employed a “language” which was intelligible to an army. An uncertain
sound was one in which none of these things were indicated, or in which it could not be
determined what was required.” 15
For those that would argue that there are no rules for worship, this is a foundational
principle about music that is presumed as true in Scripture: Melody is essential for
understanding in music. It can rightly be inferred that if we are to worship God by
making melody in our hearts to the Lord, then there must be melody for there to be
music. Melody is a means through which God carries His truth to the heart and through
which is carried praise from the heart to God. Melody must not be absent, obscured,
competed with or dominated by other aspects of music.
The application of this regulative principle certainly would apply to a variety of musical
contexts. It would apply to some classical composers who arrange such
elaborate counter melodies and harmonies that one cannot tell what the melody is or
discern what the lyrics are saying. It would apply to rock styles that accent a driving
beat, screaming vocals, blistering decibels, distorted sound and booming percussion. It
would apply to rap and hip-hop which contains little or no melody and is almost
exclusively defined and dominated by rhythm.
This principle would even apply to modern vocal performance styles that employ what
is called “flipping”- vocalizing over, under and around the melody so that the melody is
obscured. If most vocalists that do this were honest, they would have to admit that this
is not done to enhance the song or communicate meaning. It is done to demonstrate
the vocalist’s ability. In short, any styling that omits, obscures or overwhelms melody is
not the communicative tool that should be used to convey God’s truth to the heart or
relay praise from it.

 The Principle of Proximity


The meaning of the word proximity refers to how near something is. It refers to how
close something is in space, time, or relationship. Proximity as a principle in the
Christian life has a two-fold aspect. First, as believers we are to have close proximity to
God. Salvation in Ephesians 2:12-19 is depicted as God bringing those who were far
away from Him near to Him. We have been made close to God positionally and
relationally through the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work. That aspect of nearness
has been accomplished for us.
We are also to be close to God experientially. That closeness is to be reflected both in
our hearts devotion and in our lifestyle. Peter’s admonition is for us to “sanctify”- set
God in a special place – in our hearts. 1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your
hearts:….
Jesus talked about this kind of nearness when he spoke to someone about where the
proper place to worship God was. He maintained that the location where worship takes
place was not as crucial as worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) God’s people
have always been commanded to set God in a special place and be close to and close
like Him:Lev 20:7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your
God. 1Pe 1:14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former
lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all
manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. There is a
proximity that we are to maintain to God.
There is also a proximity that we are to have from the “world.” There is a
“separateness” from the world in conjunction with our proximity to God that believers
are to be characterized by. Indeed, God commands that separateness. 2 Co 6:
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch
not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall
be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 1Jo 2:15 Love not the world, neither
the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in
him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the
pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
The “world” mentioned in the verse above can refer to a world system at odds with God
– the world outside. It can also refer to that fleshly nature that desires to be gratified on
the inside (Mark 7:15). The principle of proximity affects our relationship with the
“world” in both the outside and inside senses.
There is a sense in which believers in maintaining their proximity to God must maintain
a proximity from the ungodly. If that is what we really desire, proximity to Him, then
that will mean a degree a separateness from unwholesome relationships with the
ungodly.(I Cor 5:6-13)
II Corinthians 6:14-18 says “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for
what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath
light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he
that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?
for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in
them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from
among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I
will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters,
saith the Lord Almighty.”
Proximity also affects our actions and attitudes toward certain practices of life. Simply
put, we are commanded in the Bible to follow after some things and run from other
things. We are to be in close proximity to God and those qualities and attributes that
are like Him. We are to be in far proximity to those qualities, characteristics and
practices that are not like Him. (The principle really is not hard to understand.) The
scriptural testimony is abundant:1Co 10:14 ….. flee from idolatry. Rom 14:19 Let us
therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may
edify another. 1Co 6:18 Flee fornication……1Co 14:1 Follow after charity,……2Ti
2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them
that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 1Th 5:15 ….. but ever follow that which is
good,….1Ti 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
Follow, flee, follow, flee, follow, flee – Get the picture? We get as close to good stuff as
we can and as far from bad stuff as we can. Separation from the ungodly and
ungodliness, not integration with that which is against or unlike God is what God is
telling us He wants from us as a people in close proximity with Him.
In all of this, the goal is to honor God with our lives. He and his purposes are what we
have set our affections upon. Those who practice the principle of proximity….seek those
things which are above, (Col 3:1) They have their coordinates set “….on things above, not
on things on the earth.” (Col 3:2) They value their relationship with God and they know
that “…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. “(Mat 6:21) They know that
whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, it can all reflect upon God and His honor. (I
Cor 10:31) Those in close proximity to God care. This is the Principle of Proximity.
This challenge of applying this principle is ever before us and its application is not
always that easy. As believers we are to be in the world but not of the world. We must
minister to unbelievers without being contaminated by their values. The question
surrounding proximity issues has always surrounded the issue of how close is too close?
If you knew or suspected that someone had a contagious disease, how close to them do
you want to be? The question is not as easy to answer as it may seem. There are factors
that may cloud the issue. For example, many years ago the author had an illness that
affected every major organ of his body and nearly killed him. The doctors did not know
what it was and so did not know whether it could be communicated to others. I was put
in isolation. Staff had to dress in gowns, masks and gloves. I could not see my children
and my wife was not allowed to have any personal contact with me even though she
wanted to comfort me. It was difficult for everyone but everyone knew that keeping at
a safe distance was the best plan. But it was complicated by relationships. The doctors,
on the other hand, had a responsibility to treat me as their patient. That meant that
they had to have contact with me, thus endangering themselves and potentially their
families.
The issues are similar for believers. We are in this world. We cannot avoid the lost nor
should we. (I Cor 5:9 -10) We are not to hide our light (Mt 5:15) We cannot and must not
avoid having relationships with unbelievers if we are to be a witness. But we must never
forget that our primary concern is to honor the Lord. Our obligation to people is always
offset by the principle of proximity to God. But the tension between the two will always
be there.
There will always be a tension as well in making decisions as to what glorifies or does
not glorify the Lord. Nowhere is that issue more intense in the Christian world then over
the issue of the music used in worship. However, biblical principles mandate that we
make decisions about this important arena of life. If the music we use to edify each
other as believers and to honor God is indistinct from what the lost world listens to; if it
has no clearly identifiable melody; if the melody is dominated or blurred by other
musical factors; if it is noisy and chaotic; if it is associated with ungodliness and
wickedness; then God’s people must not use it to communicate God’s truth or attempt
to honor Him with it.

 The Principle of Biblical Integrity

Integrity is soundness of character. If something disintegrates, it comes apart. Biblical


integrity in reference to Christian music is how the lyrical content mirrors the biblical
content. This principle simply places the Scripture in its prominent place in biblical
music.
Are the lyrics of the text faithful to the Scriptures? Since the stated biblical purpose of
Christian music is to be a vehicle for teaching believers God’s truth. “Let the word of
Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in
songs…..”(Col 3:16) the lyrical content should certainly be biblically accurate. It should
not be merely descriptive of the performer’s feelings or sentiments. Songs about
grandpa now singing in heaven’s choir or the little brown church in the wildwood may
stir up precious memories, but they are not songs that teach biblical truth or focus on
glorifying God.
“Sentimental Christian folk narratives that describe someone’s Sunday school teacher,
old stringed instruments, or some other human-interest story should be kept out of
worship services. Their place is elsewhere” (Singing and Making Music 278) Although
one wonders if one song the author heard stating, “They Don’t Serve Cap’n Crunch in
Hell” is worthy to be sung in any context.
Biblical faithfulness also comes into play when the lyrics of a song are not teaching
sound doctrine. If music is for teaching believers, then what it is teaching is important.
Songs that teach or imply, for example, that one earns one’s salvation by good works or
human efforts should not be sung by any believer. One “Christian” song heard over the
radio described a man who had lost a loved one in death and who went (presumably) to
heaven. The vocalist sang that he was hanging on to Jesus with all his might so that he
could see his departed loved one again! That may be heart wrenching, but it is not
biblical.
Biblical faithfulness would apply to lyrics that are muddled, mumbled, muffled, or
mangled. If instrumentation or percussion smothers the vocals so that the message is
not communicated, that musical style should be avoided. The best and most biblical
lyrics are useless if they cannot be understood. The author has sat in church cantatas
that featured a choir with an orchestra. The orchestras drowned out the choirs every
time! Not only did this cancel out any blessing to God’s people through the message of
the music, it wasted the hours of rehearsal of those choir members.
A standard practice in many traditional churches is to play the organ and/or piano so
loud that one cannot hear the voices of the other believers thus, effectively canceling
out the “teaching one another” through congregational singing.

 The Principle of Congruity

The principle of congruity, simply put, is that everything in a particular song agrees with
itself, considering all the factors of Christian music. Does the music agree with the
message? Does it reflect biblical integrity and is it musically clear? Does it fit together?
The principle of congruity simply asks the question of whether the “musical text and the
musical setting agree in tone, quality and character – ultimately, then, in
meaning.”16 Amazing Gracesung to the theme song of Gilligan’s Island is not
congruent. This is not only because that theme song is identified with the zany antics of
the crew and passengers of the S.S Minnow. The music simply does not “fit” with a self
described wretch glorying in the saving grace of God! Certainly, the song’s association
with a 1960’s comedy is a factor. But, musically, it does not fit. It lacks congruity in both
its character and its association. The same could be said about applying Christian words
to the song “The Stripper.”
A second aspect of the issue of congruity is whether music that is identified as Christian
is congruent with something that is identified with God. This question is not purely
subjective. For example, God is a God of order. He is not the…. the author of confusion,
but of peace, (1Co 14:33) The phrase “the author” is not in the original text as the italics
show. Literally, the verse says God is not “of confusion.” The word confusion is the
Greek word that means commotion and tumult. It is a word that speaks of instability,
unpredictability and disorder.
What the author, under inspiration, is saying is that God is a God of order, not chaos.
On the basis of this characteristic of God, all the things we do as assembled believers
including our worship is to be done “…decently and in order.” (1Co 14:40) The music we
use is not exempt from this principle.
From a biblical standpoint, music is not whatever we say it is. The sound of a train
wreck is not music. Screaming, yelling, raucousness or barking out words to a beat is
not singing. Music that is melodic and orderly mirrors the character of God. Certainly
music that is directed to God’s people and done to worship God ought not to contradict
its message with its character. Music that’s design and effect is to cause emotional
frenzy and disorder clearly violates this attribute of God. It is not congruent with God
Himself!

Summary
Music’s biblical ministry is not for entertainment. It is for reinforcing in believers the
teaching about God and His Word and expressing our worship to God. There are biblical
principles that ought to regulate local churches in musical decisions:

 The Principle of Distinctiveness


 The Principle of Melodic Clarity
 The Principle of Proximity
 The Principle of Biblical Integrity
 The Principle of Congruity

The music ministry of Calvary Baptist Church is regulated by the above principles. We
will attempt to apply them consistently but we lay no claim to perfection in any arena of
ministry. We acknowledge that there is a degree of subjectivity in the application of
these principles that brethren from other churches could see differently. But we believe
that the principles are present in Scripture and we determine by God’s grace to be
faithful to what we believe He has expressed about this vital area.
Invariably, we are asked about the issue of rock music in its multitude of forms. Suffice
to say that we do not incorporate rock music into our ministry. There are many good
books listed in the bibliography that the reader is encouraged to read about this vital
subject. However, the following statement states in brief why Calvary does not use
Christian rock or more popularly known as Contemporary Christian Music in our
worship.

The Issue of Rock Music and Worship

A debate has raged for decades about the purity and appropriateness of certain kinds of
music used for worship- specifically this debate rages about rock music in its various
forms. Some are arguing that rock is simply a neutral cultural musical form. Others say
that it is tainted.
There is no question that the issue is complicated by Rock music’s almost universal
appeal in society. Those who like this music tend to love it. Rock, for most, is appealing
because of its energy. In short, Rock music is exciting and its pulsating rhythm has a
visceral appeal that any “headbanger” would attest to. A casual observer at any rock
concert- Christian or otherwise- can tell by the body language that restraint and control
are not what are being communicated musically.
Many testify that this music liberates them to express what is inside. Rock, especially in
its more raucous forms, pumps up the adrenaline. Many rock musicians describe their
music as rebellious, aggressive and projecting attitudes of “anger, defiance and
aggression” A Christian rocker, Brian Duncan, said that performing rock was a positive
way to express his anger.17 “If I was angry I could play rock n roll. That certainly
expressed anger better than anything else.”18This begs the question of whether
venting his anger is an appropriate biblical response.
“Harder” styles of rock certainly have an emotional and physical effect on its fans. But
rock, even in its softer forms, does not just make the foot tap. It makes the body want
to move. This is consistent with what rock musicians say about their own music. They
certainly are not shy about expressing themselves about what they see as their music’s
appeal. Rock Manager, Malcolm McLaren described rock this way: “Rock ‘n roll is pagan
and primitive, and very jungle, and that’s how it should be! The moment it stops being
those things it’s dead…the true meaning of rock…is sex, subversion and style.” 19 Rock
musician, Stuart Goldman, said “rock stands essentially for the liberation of emotion
from the tyranny of reason.”20 If what Goldman says is even partially accurate
concerning making emotion govern over reason, that in itself is a good reason why
believers should not indulge in it, let alone use it for worship!
“One Contemporary Christian rock music sympathizer acknowledged that “some
Christian bands are as grungy and loud as any of their secular counterparts… Their
styles are almost indescribable, but all emphasize a driving drum beat, harmonic
distortion, and very little melodic content. The vocal lines contain at least as much
screaming as true singing…”21
This writer could cite literally dozens of quotes of this type by both Christian and secular
rock performers and promoters in the music industry. They acknowledge the sub-
Christian and often anti-Christian character of this music. Frank admissions as to the
sensual character of rock could be cited from a wide cross-section of rock artists from
country to rock artist, Garth Brooks to rock icon Mick Jagger- all of them describing
their music in words directly contradicting the holiness expressed in God’s Word, the
Bible. There is absolutely no question in this writer’s mind that sexuality, sensuality,
aggression and adrenalin are all part of the rock world. Good grief. One popular group is
called “Smash Mouth.” Another is called “Bare Naked Ladies.” That ought to tell us
something!
However, this writer has found that quoting a multitude of secular or even Christian
rock artists does little to convince someone who is caught up in this music culture. Rock
music, in its various forms and in varying degrees of intensity, saturates the culture at
large. The bottom line is that people like it. Even many born again Christians like it and
desire to use it in the worship of God. Truly “modern worship is a total artistic
identification with that culture” says one writer.22
But the fact that rock has been assimilated into modern worship begs the question as
to whether it should be this way. Have those who have incorporated rock into worship
exercised biblical discernment when doing so? Did it ever occur to them before the fact
whether it was good to do so? Does rock used in worship violate biblical principles on
any level? This author believes that it does on a number of levels. Mentioned above
were just a few principles that this form of music runs afoul of. Remember what they
were?

 The Principle of Distinctiveness


 The Principle of Melodic Clarity
 The Principle of Proximity
 The Principle of Biblical Integrity
 The Principle of Congruity
Rock, especially in its harder forms, is defined by the dominance of rhythm over
melody. With the emphasis on heavy bass backgrounds, rhythm is further accented
over melody. Much Rock uses musical distortion and decibels to pound home its
impact. As someone said, “It ain’t good unless its loud.” But in all of this, melody is lost
or greatly impeded. When sound is distorted or overwhelmed by other factors, biblical
principles are being violated.
A multitude of rock performers today scream out lyrics rather than sing them to the
point that there is, at best, impaired communication of a message. The methodology
of the performance dominates and overwhelms the message. In the secular world that
is of little concern. However, in a Christian context, it means much.
The primary question that we are left with in reference to Rock and Roll’s use in our
churches is also one of proximity. Our culture is permeated with a musical form that
this writer believes, to varying degrees, is corrupt. Its leading practitioners admit this.
Rock icon Little Richard, said “I believe this kind of music is demonic.”23 Yet, many
believers have uncritically embraced this musical form and incorporated it into the
worship of God. In this writer’s opinion it is neither glorifying to God nor ultimately
edifying to the body of Christ.
Does rock affect some listeners negatively more than others? Probably. Some people
are more musically inclined and affected than others. There are always the people upon
whom it seems to have little effect. One wonders, in the end if that is relevant. It is
pretty much a given that the use of tobacco is not healthy. The smoker who says as he
puffs away, “My grandpa smoked all his life and he lived to be 98,” is fooling himself if
he thinks that this means that tobacco is harmless. There are too many studies, too
much research and too many gravestones to the contrary proving that it is not good for
most people. In reality, even grandpa would probably have admitted that it was not
“good” for him. His leather lungs could just tolerate it better than most. To be sure,
grandpa probably was not going to be the champion sprinter he would have been if he
had not started puffing! We believe that the same holds true for the deleterious
spiritual affects of the “ingestion” of rock.
Are there degrees of egregiousness in regard to this music? Clearly. Obviously, some is
borderline and other musical pieces are clearly over the line and over the top. However,
our stance on the issue is not to see how close we can come to this musical genre
especially in our worship of our holy God. We believe that we need to limit our
proximity to it. While acknowledging that some forms of Christian rock music are
milder than others, the safe course of action is to keep our distance from it. Certainly,
that is consistent with the Scriptural warnings that we have looked at already. (2 Co 6:
17-18; 1Jo 2:15-16 )
We will not take the course of one gospel preaching church which had to inform some
ladies in the choir to quit moving their hips to the rock choir specials. It just did not look
godly to the leadership. It was interesting to this writer, that the church leadership was
telling these ladies not to do what the music was prompting them to do. It would have
been better not to use that musical medium in the first place rather than issue
conflicting directives.
For our part we have decided here at Calvary that we will not use rock music in any of its
varied manifestations in either hard or soft forms. We believe that there is acceptable
music that is a blessing to all and glorifying to God without getting close to that which
is wicked at worst and questionable at best.