Fleshing Out a Music Question

Terry McGovern asked a good question in the comments of my notes about a Christian and music. After I finished writing my response, I concluded that it was about as long as a whole post. So, I decided to put it on top.


The melody/spiritual, harmony/intellectual, rhythm/physical argument about the style of music seems to ring true to me also. But, as far as I can tell, it is not a Scriptural one in the sense of being able to find it articulated that way in the Bible.

Arguing for, or against, specific styles of music is difficult because we can’t hear the music that David sang or Paul referred to. I say that, just admitting that this is a reason CCM musicians cling to their style of music. Someone would be hard-pressed to convince a CCMer that their music is wrong.

On the other hand, someone who has been recently saved or turned back to the Lord should have little difficulty with the “worldly worship music” arguement I presented here. I believe it was probably clearer to hear the arguement than to read the notes I used to develop it.

Fleshing it out…

All styles of music designed to be used to worship the flesh, the eyes, and pride are worldly music. This is music that exalts sensuality, worldly pleasures, materialism, fornication, rebellion. There are many American titles that immediatly come to mind, but the principle should be applicable across cultural lines. I think this principle would be more easily applied than the melody/harmony/rhythm principle.

Look at the culture you are in. Determine what kind of music is used in that culture to worship the world (flesh, eyes, pride). Then refrain from singing, enjoying or employing that kind of music.

For those who would say that this limits the believer to only “sacred” music. Remember that other good, pure, lovely things can be communicated with words and they could also be communicated with music. If the theme of some music was love. Love that is represented biblically, it could easily be performed and enjoyed by a Christian. There’s a difference between love and lust.



  1. Jeff,

    Thanks for the response and help. I would agree with you about finding scripture to support the melody/harmony/rhythm is difficult.

    How do we determine the morality of music apart from lyrics when following the principal you have given (flesh,eyes,pride)? Let me explain where I am coming from. I agree with you any music appealing to these areas is wrong and needs to be avoided. Music is powerful, and I believe even controlling. When I was younger and not saved, I would go to roller skating rinks. The music being played determined if I was bold, anxious, sad, happy. It could control if I skated fast, or slow. I loved the music. My Dad was a Rock and Roll DJ in Cleveland and I grew up on it. I say that just to point out it this subject is very important. I think more than most realize. Yet, I admit getting confused about all the different types of teaching in music within my own circles. My knowledge of music lacks. I did not study music in High School or college. In Scripture I see where music was used for evil and good. (In Exodus 32 music is associated with evil and of course with David music was used in the worship of God.) I believe, but can not easily prove in scripture, the “style” of music in Ex 32 was vastly different than the “style” David used. For my day, perhaps the difference between Rock and Sacred. So I do believe music itself communicates its own message apart from words, but I admit, I do not know where to draw the line. I believe I know what is safe, and what it clearly wrong, but I do see gray areas. This worries me, because with the Lord I do not believe there are “gray areas.”


  2. We have to make these kinds of applications all the time, and people do not have a difficult time doing it when it is more convenient. Where does the Bible say “Thou shalt not smoke crack pipes?” When the Bible says “Love not the world,” what does it mean by that? We have to make applications. Part of postmodern influence, the leaven of Herod, is ‘I can’t interpret’ and ‘I can’t apply.’ Evangelicalism is at number 2 and the emerging church and apostates are at number 1.

    We can know what the proper Scriptural order of mind-body-spirit are. We know that rhythm is the physical aspect of music. We know what certain dominant rhythm does in feeding the flesh. We are required to abstain from fleshly lusts and worldly lusts. We can know what those are.

  3. Yes, we can know what they are, but they are not as clear as “not smoking crack pipes.”

    We are talking about communication, not an activity.

    Does clothing communicate? Yes. What is the difference between clothing that communicates beautiful, godly womanhood and sensual, ungodly womanhood? Could the same dress look like one on one lady and look like the other on another lady?

    Does music communicate? Yes. What is the difference between music that communicates “worship” of worldly things and music that communcates “worship” of godly things? A particular chord or rhythmic pattern may be acceptable in one place but not in another. The question comes down to what is being communicated.

    Personally, I don’t believe it can be narrowed down to music that has certain rhythmic patterns in it or certain harmonic progressions or melodic forms — like we can easily point to crack in a pipe.

    It takes discernment. Honest discernment!

    Terry, if you haven’t read it yet, it would help you to read Kent’s book about music. It is very thorough, and very helpful.

  4. The crack pipe illustration makes a point, that is, we don’t need a “thou shalt not…” to make an application. In my reading of recent arguments about this, I see three schools:
    1) Music is amoral; it can’t be judged at all—all styles are permissible.
    2) We can judge music, but only by associations, and if those associations change, the music itself becomes acceptable.
    3) We can judge the actual components of music, as to their rights and wrongs.

    I am in the number 3, believing also that assocations come in as well.

    I also believe science bears this out, and I’m not speaking just about the effects of rock music on plant life and growth, the time honored straw man of the anti-musical-component crowd, referring to an old Garlock point.

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