Last week I wrote a number of posts on the improper application of genuine truth. In that regard there is another area I would like to comment on; the sometimes contentious area of music in the church. Over the years I have heard people advocate all sorts of things when it comes to music. Some believe you can actually define a godly musical beat and that anything that smacks of syncopation has escaped from the abyss. Others operate as if only hymns that are more than one hundred years old are proper to sing in church, even though some of these same people listen to very contemporary Christian music when they drive in their cars or relax in their homes. Then there are those who will sing only the very latest music no matter how trite and self-absorbed the lyrical content. And then there are the "psalm singers," some of whom allow instrumental accompaniment and some of whom do not, but no matter, each tend to be convinced in their own minds that they are a cut above ordinary Christians when it comes to the worship hierarchy, singing as they are the inspired text.
What are we to make of these things? Is there a godly music that Christians should sing? What is appropriate in church and when it comes to music in general?
My own thinking is that first emphasis should be placed on the lyrics. What is being said? Is it true and right and honoring to God? No one would argue that we cannot put the psalms or other portions of the Scriptures to music. Indeed we should and it is often a great way to help us memorize the word of God. But there is no biblical reason why we need to restrict the words we sing to the words of the biblical text. The Bible itself speaks of speaking to one another with "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19) and no amount of exegetical gymnastics can properly interpret that to mean "psalms, psalms, psalms!" However, the passage does alert us to the need of singing truth whether we are speaking about the triune God or about our relationship to him. What we say matters! We are to speak and sing the truth in love at all times.
In terms of the music itself this is largely a matter of personal taste and tradition. This is not to deny the common sense observation that some musical forms do not fit the message we are seeking to convey. There is happy as well as sad music, beautiful as well as sensual music, majestic as well as light and airy music. If we are going to glorify God in our songs, the words and the music must be in synch with one another. But having said that, what appeals to one person or group may not appeal to another. When it comes to music many people tend to have very strong likes and dislikes and there is nothing inherently wrong with that as long as they do not absolutize their particular musical tastes and insist that everyone conform to their preferences.
It is important to remember that God is a God of variety. Just look around at the natural world he has made. Birds, for instance, come in a huge variety of sizes and colors and each has their own distinctive song. If this is true of birds, how much more of those who are made in the image of the Creator himself. Music is a wonderful gift of God. Without a doubt he is the greatest musician of all and he has given human beings the priviledge of being able to appreciate and use this gift in his service. It is a tragedy when music divides Christians. We all need to expand our musical repertoires and learn to enjoy the array of gifts that God has given to his people.