Thursday, December 05, 2013

Proving the Music Issue in the Worship War: Is there Holy Hip Hop? pt. 4

My Music History

I didn't grow up with the music I believe is fit for worship.  I grew up in Southern Indiana with country.  I never heard sermons about music -- our church wasn't that type of church.  Songs I remember from church:  Get All Excited (and it was sung about like this) and Turn Your Radio On.  This was in church.   A little old lady named Tilly would raise her handkerchief and scream.  The Klaudt Indian Family came to our church on a special Sunday.  My unsaved friend, who came to that service, really, really liked it.  He didn't come back the next week, but he really liked our church the one week he came.  We had Eddie Arnold records (yes, records, those black plastic discs) in our home as a child and one of the songs was Take a Little Time.  I still hear it in my head on occasion when there is some kind of memory cue, like now.  My mother had just been converted when I was growing up.  Our church didn't talk about what was right or wrong music.

I played trumpet in our public school band, starting in 5th grade.  For music class, kids could bring a record to school and a teacher would play one of our songs every week.  A few that kids really liked at that time was Alice Cooper's School's Out for the Summer and Jim Croce's Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.  Our high school put on the blasphemous musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, and I remember sitting with my head down, eyes closed, and my fingers in my ears during the performance.  I don't recall the words "baroque" or "classical" music when I was growing up.  The concept of "sacred music" wasn't in my head.  I write all of the above, because, it seems, that if you grew up with sacred and baroque and classical, then you can't understand other stuff.  My parents never told me this was wrong.  We really weren't a big music listening family.  Sometimes my dad would turn the radio on when we were on the road to help him stay awake.  We had those records, but we rarely played them.

No one told me that certain music was wrong.  I knew it.  I kept my head down almost the entire Klaudt Indian family service.  I was 10 or 11 years old.  I really do not know how I discovered good music.  When I was 12, we moved, and we came to a church with sacred, reverent music.  We sang hymns.  I don't know how I developed a taste for baroque and classical, except that I remember purchasing with my own money audio tapes of trumpet concertos and other orchestral music.  We began only playing sacred music in our home.  Those records were gone.  We knew they were worldly.  I don't remember hearing any sermons on it.  You could say it was my fundamentalist upbringing, but I wasn't raised like that.  I came to my music convictions based upon my own understanding and study.  What I'm saying is that I don't accept my music.  I don't accept my own culture.  I'm finding now that my music was "white."  Leroy Brown might not have been white.  I don't care.  I didn't judge it like that and still don't judge it like that.  It shouldn't be judged like that.

After I became a pastor, my music standards didn't get looser.  They got stronger.  They didn't get stronger because of hearing a music seminar.  A growth in an understanding of God will strengthen your music.  My growth came because of a better knowledge of the Bible, music, and history.  I was forced to start studying out what I believed because of what I encountered as I began to lead a church.  As I began writing out what I found from the Bible and from my reading, it became a pamphlet, then a booklet, and finally a book, which was published  in 1996.  If I was going to update it now, it would be at least twice the size.  I never even heard of a psalter or the Trinity Hymnal (Baptist edition) until I was out of college and grad school, but we've been singing from the psalter 10-15 years in our church.  We've sung through every psalm a few times.  This is what we believe and we have detailed, thorough reasons for all that we do with our worship music.

What we believe represents what Christians have believed about music for much of written history.  Other men have contributed much to validate this through their study and writing.  It isn't a majority today who believe like we do, but it is many, and at one time, it was almost all Christians.  There wasn't even an alternative of what we have today.

More on Proving the Music Issue

Just to review:

One, we are to prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Two, music has meaning.
Three, as an addendum to two -- since music is a means of communication, it can communicate moral or immoral.

Now for one more new one.
Four, we determine what is moral, sacred music by applying biblical principle.

Obviously there is no play button on the Bible, but scripture is sufficient to decide what is appropriate music to worship God.  Most of what we practice from God's Word, we do based upon an application of biblical principle.  A large amount of our obedience to the Word of God is not obedience to explicit statements, but to implicit ones.

What I'm saying is that the Bible doesn't say, "Thou shalt not use grunge to worship God."  Or, "Thou shalt not use rap to worship God."  When people talk like this, I'm thinking, "Come on!"  I know that they practice the same way.  For instance, the Bible doesn't tell us, "Thou shalt not smoke crack pipes."  These musical relativists hate that one, because it really ruins their defense or their music.  Why?  I've never met one of them who will say that it's permissible to smoke crack pipes.  So they're doing no different than what I'm doing in the way of application.  They can call me a legalist or someone who goes beyond what is written, but then so are they.

The truth is, most of biblical application comes down to a second term or a minor premise.  In one of the pro-rap comment sections, I said to someone something about this, and told him, "The Bible doesn't forbid abortion."  He answered that it does prohibit murder.   I never got back to him, but, of course, I know that.  But there is no direct statement that abortion is murder.  There is no direct statement that abortion is wrong.  We've got to piece together several teachings to come to that position.  It is clear, but the Bible never says anything about it explicitly.

A good illustration is:

Major Premise:  Let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth.
Minor Premise:  Four letter words are corrupt communication.
Conclusion:  Let no four letter words proceed from your mouth.

The Bible never forbids those words.  They are forbidden by applying principles.  They are, however clearly forbidden.  You are not going beyond what is written by applying the Bible.

The Bible assumes certain truth in the real world.  For instance, God's Word assumes that you know what the attire of a harlot is (Proverbs 7:10).  It also assumes that you will know what strange apparel is (Zephaniah 1:8).  The Bible does not explain it.  I believe that people know what their music means.  However, there is no particular standard or style of music that is mentioned.  You've got to follow certain principles in order to decide what is moral communication in music, and what is immoral.  We can know.  God wants us to know.

More to Come


Ken Lengel said...


I would like to add one note to your example, if I may:

You wrote:

"A good illustration is:

Major Premise: Let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth.
Minor Premise: Four letter words are corrupt communication.
Conclusion: Let no four letter words proceed from your mouth."

One other item Bible-believing Christians must consider when applying biblical principles is the neglect to see the impact of culture on these principles. To keep with your premises, many today in the world have no problem with four letter words, and so Christians influenced by the culture begin to see this as "not corrupt communication" and acceptable in normal conversation and gulp, in preaching and teaching. Mark Driscoll is a prime example of this.

We cannot allow the culture's understanding of certain premises to change ours, (for ours is based on the Word of God) or we too will begin to accept things like homosexual marriages and female pastors. (I know these have explicit biblical support prohibited them primarily, but I think the analogy of the impact of culture is correct.) William Webb's Redemptive Hermeneutic comes to mind that supports allowing the change and progress in culture to accept a change in positions found in God's Word.

For His glory!

Joshua said...

I grew up with nearly wall to wall CCM, apart from a few years when my church sang hymns before going charismatic. My sisters would play Hillsong CD's on repeat day in and day out. Throughout school I was known as the "kid who hated music" because my primary musical experience was CCM. I wasn't saved but still hated it, and felt embarrassed by it - it was pathetic and lame.

When I discovered worldly rock music around 15 (which I enjoyed greatly, and lost me my reputation as a music hater) it hit me that this was what lame CCM was trying to imitate. I remember telling my family that they should just give up with the music at church and start rewriting the lyrics of the rock I was listening to and use that instead because they were obviously trying to ape it and doing an embarrassingly poor job at it.

When I got saved at 21, the first song I wanted to sing to God was "And Can It Be". I remember looking up the lyrics on the net, then putting them in my pocket to sing on my way to work. This even though I headed straight back to the charismatic type of Baptist church I grew up in. This even though I'd never read a book nor heard a sermon on music.

Just putting this out here to confirm that you're not alone in the "I wasn't raised fundamentalist/classical, and I still reject CCM" boat.

Joshua said...

Just to add to your second point, before we get to proving things and determining which music is appropriate and not, if God is being sincerely sought after, a lot of music doesn't even really need to be brought to the table for serious evaluation.

Take for instance a man who wants to buy his wife a present. She likes horses, cooking and spending quality time with him. He likes video games, so he settles on buying her an X-Box. He gets the pink X-Box because it's for her, not him. She's never specifically said she didn't want an X-Box. There are many people who enjoy playing X-Box, and all his friends are having a great time with theirs. There are even some ladies who do enjoy playing X-Box, although she's never indicated a desire for it. Surely she will be pleased with his expensive gift?

Alarm bells are already screaming for most people. Everyone observing this situation would say that he is actually selfishly buying something for himself and pretending it's for her. If this man had truly started out with his wife's wants in mind, X-Box wouldn't have even made it onto the list of gifts to consider for her. He would have dismissed it out of hand the second it entered his mind if he really wanted to please her. She's going to reject it outright, and it would have been better for that man to have bought her nothing at all.

So too it is with worship to God. If you start out looking to please Him, and using the Bible to determine what you should be looking for in music to offer him for worship, then large swathes of music don't make it onto the list. You don't even get close to debating the finer points of whether or not death metal cuts it on a Sunday morning. How did rap, grunge and death metal get on the list in the first place if you started out looking to get God something he wants? Without knowing in-depth technical details of music, which Biblical criteria of "God-pleasing" were they fulfilling to get come up for consideration? The debate never starts off on those terms though.

Anonymous said...

I find myself encouraged and confused by these articles. Encouraged that others are still concerned; discouraged about where to draw the lines of concern. There is an incremental downward slope as churches try to stay a few steps distanced from the culture but try to be relevant to it. It is getting more difficult to know when it is okay to be "shocked" by the church.

When entering a fundamental Christian college, I had already done away with secular rock music in my life. It wasn't long after attending that I was willing to acknowledge how CCM was such an insult to the Lord's holiness--As one of your other commenters said, "hypocritical". I remember the college president forcefully defending why the university would not allow students to attend a Steve Green concert in town. He played "Let the Walls Come Down" and gave the traditional fundamentalist discourse on CCM.
It wasn't because of that message that I did away with CCM in my life, but it was an encouragement in my journey with music choices. After graduating, I remember the "musical temperature" of a church was taken by seeing if they sang Maranatha! music/choruses. That was the "questionable" music in conservative fundamentalism...anything beyond that was clearly off limits.

So fast forward 20 years. Now what do we have? I cringe but try to be gracious as we worship with Michael Card, Steve Green, Sovereign Grace, Getty, etc. albeit "at least not with" a worship team or in an unsanctified manner.

Imagine my disappointment as I've spent some time in my old college town. I feel betrayed now knowing that fundamental Christian college openly uses Twila Paris songs in chapel -- lyrics and name displayed on the screen (contemporary of Steve Green and still performing the same way she did years ago in the off-limit days). It's not that I've come to believe what I do only because they preached it. It's that I had the hope that there was some place that would stay constant. How can that former college president sit there? How can the board, faculty and area pastors let that pass? Do they not remember where they once stood as they hear a chapel choir singing a Getty song? Do they no longer believe in the association/passage of time principles much less the world's music/God's holiness principle they still have printed in their guidelines and handbook? How far do they go before we say they are off-limits?

Is the now accepted "music thermometer" the Rejoice Hymnal that is full of contemporary association issues? We can now go that far but anything beyond is off-limits?

So as we reflect on Mohler's predictable path, I wonder why the turning of a blind eye to those closer to us. If we believe this is okay, then we need more discourse in the music wars to clearly realign ourselves.

I just looked up the lyrics to "Let the Walls Come Down".

How fitting.

Joe Cassada said...

"I've never met one of them who will say that it's permissible to smoke crack pipes."

And this is where all of my discussion about improper worship music breaks down. When I use such illustrations, the usual response is, "smoking crack is obviously wrong."

"And so is worship rap," I say.

"No it isn't," is the reply I get.

"Music has meaning. Rap is a narcissistic, angry genre that has no place in reverent, submissive worship," I say.

"It isn't to me; rap makes me happy and makes me want to glorify God," is the reply I get.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Larry said...

Ken, You say "To keep with your premises, many today in the world have no problem with four letter words, and so Christians influenced by the culture begin to see this as "not corrupt communication" and acceptable in normal conversation and gulp, in preaching and teaching. Mark Driscoll is a prime example of this."

Do you have any source for Driscoll believing this?

Larry said...

Ken, You say, many today in the world have no problem with four letter words, and so Christians influenced by the culture begin to see this as "not corrupt communication" and acceptable in normal conversation and gulp, in preaching and teaching. Mark Driscoll is a prime example of this.

Do you have any source for Driscoll believing this or being an example of it?

Larry said...


The problem with your syllogism is in the minor premise. Four letter words only have meaning in the language in which they are used. A certain set of four English letters would have no corrupt meaning in other languages. That means it undermines the point I think you are trying to make.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for your comment.


I liked your x-box illustration.


I do think the problem is not mainly, not knowledge, but rebellion. I agree with that.




The syllogism works for me. It's not an exact fit, but it is showing three or more things: 1) The morality of communication, 2) The necessity of the second term in application, 3) how we are expected to judge, and can judge. I was only arguing for one point though, and that was illustrating that one point, not something about music per se. I've got more to come.


Scott has Shai Linne discussing the meaning of various types of rap, some appropriate, some inappropriate, after Shai Linne argued that you can't judge. Shai Linne took the bait and is contradicting himself. We'll see if that's what it's about.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Pastor Brandenburg,

I just saw this article posted, and I thought you might be interested in seeing it, in light of your series on music. I appreciate your articles about the right kind of music!