This article is about the purpose of music and about Christian music.

Source: New Horizons, 1994. 1 pages.

What is Music?

Materially, of course, music is arranged sound (punctuated by silence!). It is produced through a variety of means: in nature, by animals (particularly birds), wind, a babbling brook, or a storm; and by man, both vocally and instrumentally. Vocal music is extended speech (think about it!). Musical instruments are manifold: strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, reeds.

For there to be music, there must be a composer, a performer, and a listener. All of us, without exception, are one, the other, or all three, at some time or other.

Music notation (those notes, of which the emperor said Mozart wrote too many!) enables us to duplicate what the composer had in mind. They describe the pitch, meter, tempo, dynamics, harmony, melody, mood, rhythm, and phrasing of the music, measure by measure.

It is not surprising that people ask, Just how does music fit into a Christian worldview? For sure, it's not something neutral, since the Scripture says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

But how should a Christian decide whether or not to perform and/or listen to a particular musical composition? Even though a comprehensive answer cannot be given, the Bible does provide us with a principle here. Romans 12:2 describes how believers are “to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” They do that by “not conform[ing] any longer to the pattern of this world, but [by being] transformed by the renewing of [their] mind[s].” Now music – all music – is “good”; in itself, it is just arranged sound and as such does not violate God's law. But, is a certain piece of music “pleasing” (that is, appropriate)? Even more, is it “perfect” (that is, well motivated)? These are questions that must be answered if we are to discover God's will for our music making.

There is no such thing as “Christian music” in any rigid or absolute sense. Everything depends on how the various factors come together: mechanics, venue, mood, lyrics, dynamics, implications, and motivation!

In Genesis 1:28, God commands man to subdue the earth. The secular humanist does not think of all of life as religious, but the Reformed Christian does. That includes music. True, I can go to heaven without ever having heard a Mozart symphony. But I must not think of culture, and especially music culture, only as something that snobbish people with wealth, leisure, and interest dabble in.

Piano lessons aren't for everyone. But no one can escape music entirely. God created it, after all. We just play and sing his songs after him.

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