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