Titus 1 and the CCM Debate

March 8, 2012

The debate about the propriety of using Christian Contemporary Music has been going on for many years now. I recently was made aware of a dimension of the debate that I had not encountered before– some proponents of CCM who object to other believers’ using secular sources to address the issue.

According to this view, we should only use the Bible to decide whether or not music is moral or not. Almost immediately after I first heard of this objection raised against the use of secular sources, God brought to mind how Paul handled a serious problem in Crete.

Paul instructed Titus that he had left him in Crete so that he would “set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city, as [he] had appointed [him]” (Titus 1:5). He then related the necessary qualifications for such men (Titus 1:6-9).

He concluded his teaching about these qualifications by informing Titus that the elder must hold “fast the faithful word as he hath been taught [so] that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). He thus stressed the centrality of the elder’s adhering to and using sound doctrine from Scripture to both exhort believers in that sound doctrine and refute those who were contradicting it.

Paul then explained the necessity of such ministry by the elders by declaring the presence in Crete of “many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision” (Titus1:10). The destructive works of these evil men in subverting entire households had to be stopped by the elders’ skillful use of sound doctrine (Titus1:11).

In support of his own evaluation of the Cretians and of the necessity for the mouths of their false teachers to be stopped, Paul informed Titus that one of the Cretians’ own prophets had said, “The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” (Titus 1:12). The prophet thus confirmed Paul’s assessment of the Cretians.

Paul then affirmed the truthfulness of the witness of this secular prophet (Titus 1:13a). Finally, based on his preceding instruction and the corroboration of his assessment by that of their own prophet, he commanded Titus to rebuke them sharply so that they would be sound in the faith (Titus 1:13b-16).

Paul thus handled this serious problem in Crete by exhorting Titus about the necessary verbal ministry of elders to oppose the perverse work of the false teachers among them. He based his exhortation and instruction to Titus upon his own evaluation of the Cretians and the corroborating witness of one of their own secular prophets.

We thus learn that a Pauline approach to handling a problem issue at times includes the use of one’s own scripturally informed assessments of the problem and the use of legitimate supportive data from non-biblical sources. When, therefore, many Christian leaders today use both their own assessments and corroboration from secular sources to urge God’s people to reject the viewpoint that music is neutral, they are using a valid scriptural approach.

This analysis of Titus 1 in relation to the CCM debate has shown that contemporary critiques of using non-biblical perspectives to address the issue of whether music is neutral or not are invalid. In handling the difficult problem of the use of CCM in the Church today, we should employ a Pauline approach of using present-day sources to support our own Bible-based evaluations of the issue.

Rajesh

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6 responses to Titus 1 and the CCM Debate

  1. Several thoughts on this topic:

    1. Paul was applying clear Scripture to the exact thing which it condemns. Paul is dealing with false teaching and dishonesty on the part of the Cretians. This is something clearly condemned in Scripture (e.g., Exodus 20:16). So Paul does *not* need an external source of authority to call something sin that is not clearly condemned in Scripture. The act of lying and deceit for self-gain did not need to be grounded in an extra-biblical authority.

    2. Paul was using a recognized cultural authority to demonstrate that the clear biblical command was a common issue in the culture. Having identified a clear biblical command (“word as taught”, v. 9) and a clear violation in the society at large (vv. 10-11), Paul draws upon the self-assessment of one who is in that culture and demonstrates that they themselves know that they have broken God’s Law (cf., Romans 2:14). Note that the corroboration does not take place in the definition of what is right or wrong, but in corroborating the fact that the society struggles with obeying the clear commands of Scripture in this area.

    3. In conclusion, Paul relies on the authority of Scripture and then utilizes societal authorities to acknowledge that the commands of Scripture are indeed violated by people in that society. He does not make an appeal to extra-biblical authorities to define things as sin that are not defined as sin in Scripture. In fact, he goes on to denounce such practices in the following verse (v. 14). In application to the “worship wars” in the Church, there are those who would seek to ground morality in the aesthetic or propaganda claims of certain musicians or musicologists (many dated or unreliable) and make these claims to be binding on believers. I would argue that this approach is *not at all* what the Apostle is doing in this text. In fact, it is what the Apostle is condemning in verse 14. The works of the flesh are blatantly obvious (Galatians 5:19) because Scripture serves as the sole authority for our faith and practice. Just because societal figures claim that certain acts are bad doesn’t make their judgments reliable (e.g., Paul could have backed up Aristotle’s condemnation of meekness, but he didn’t because his source of authority came from Scripture and not culture). So I would question those who make arguments from extra-biblical sources regarding musical styles whether their arguments are grounded in clear Scripture with affirmations of the society or whether their arguments are grounded in society with tangential appeals to Scripture. In my estimation, most of the anti-CCM rhetoric comes from the latter position and even admittedly not from the former position (hence the need to write posts like this in order to open the door for extra-biblical sources of ethical authority).

    • Philip,

      I disagree with each of your points. What you claim in point 1 is only partially true because Paul was not dealing just with false teaching and dishonesty on the part of the Cretians. Yes, Scripture condemns lying, but where are the clear condemnations in Scripture of “evil beasts” and “lazy gluttons”?

      In point 2, as with your previous comment, this comment is also flawed because you have restricted your analysis to only one of the problems that Paul was dealing with. Furthermore, “word” in verse 9 does not refer to a specific command; it is a broader reference than what you assert it is. Yes, Gentiles know that they have broken God’s Law without having it, and those people who produce ungodly music also know that they are sinning against God by singing and playing music in sensual ways and in other ways that are ungodly.

      In point 3, you assert that people are making “arguments grounded in society with tangential appeals to Scripture.” Some may do what you assert, and you need to take that up with them. I have written in-depth about many Scriptural passages and do not make any unwarranted appeals to society in my treatment of those passages to show that CCM is not acceptable to God. Based on what Paul did, one part of legitimately showing that CCM is ungodly is to do what Paul did in Titus 1.

  2. >>>” but where are the clear condemnations in Scripture of “evil beasts” and “lazy gluttons”?”

    I’m surprised that you’re asking me this question, but keeping myself solely to the OT and not utilizing the Apostolic teaching that would fall under the scope of v. 9, I would include the following: (1) those who practice evil are condemned in Psalm 5:5; 10:15; 14:4, etc., etc., etc. (2) Laziness is addressed in Proverbs 10:4; 13:4; 18:9. (3) Gluttony is reproached in Proverbs 23:20, 21; 28:7. In other words, Paul isn’t using Epimenides to *add* new ethical teaching on top of Scripture, but is using it in some other way (which I’ve addressed already and will do again below).

    >>>”In point 2, as with your previous comment, this comment is also flawed because you have restricted your analysis to only one of the problems that Paul was dealing with.”

    See previous rebuttal. I focused on the key part of the Epimenides citation because it seems to be the of the key aspect in Paul’s discussion of what was wrong at Crete (viz., “truth” in v. 14), but the same argument I made regarding lying can be made about the other critiques that Epimenides offered. They are used by the Apostle Paul *not* because he didn’t have enough Scripture to make his case, *but* because one of their number and one without the written law admitted that the people in his society had problems obeying the moral law of God. Paul is using the poet/philosopher here because he *assents to* what Scripture says and not because he *adds to* what Scripture says.

    >>>”Furthermore, “word” in verse 9 does not refer to a specific command; it is a broader reference than what you assert it is.”

    The “trustworthy word” in view in this context certainly contains core apostolic doctrine and probably OT Scripture as well (cf. 1 Timothy 4:6). It was enough to provide positive instruction in sound doctrine and negative rebukes against those who would oppose the truth (2 Timothy 4:2). Further, the word “for” (Gk. gar) at the beginning of v. 10 is functioning in an explanatory sense. Those who contradict truth are revealed in v. 10. So what I’m saying here is that Paul didn’t make an appeal to extra-biblical sources in order to gain authority to condemn those who contradicted the truth. Those who contradicted the truth were *already condemned* because they didn’t align with the “trustworthy word” as taught in v. 9. That’s the argument of the text. What then is the use of Epimenides?

    As I’ve argued, Paul is *not* using Epimenides as a ground for his argument, but is using the statement as a self-assessment. Paul doesn’t need to add extra-biblical authority on the Scriptural side of the hermeneutical bridge. What he is doing is adding it to Titus’ side of the bridge. He’s using the Epimenides as a communication tool or an application device for the culture in Crete (much like he did on Mar’s Hill).

    If you take this passage as justifying the use of current extra-biblical material as grounds for ethical teaching which is not contained in Scripture (if I understand your argument here correctly), then you have a myriad of other hermeneutical and theological issues to wrestle with. So let’s assume that you’re right for a moment and ask a few questions of this approach: (1) Which current ethical teachings in addition to Scripture will you accept and which will you reject? Will I only select teachings that support my Christian sub-culture, or all cultural voices (e.g., condemnation of capitalism for corporate greed)? Will I only use the quotations of drug-hazed drummers that claim to conjure demons, or will I also use the statements of more sane and balanced musicologists like Meyers who say things that actually undermine my case? If my favorite musicologist gets significant ethical authority, shouldn’t Oprah be able to do the same as well? (2) Under whose authority will you interact with these extra-biblical sources? Paul is writing under apostolic authority and divine inspiration. Can we claim the same confidence in this regard as he did? (3) How do you add new ethical teachings from extra-biblical sources without eroding the teaching the Scripture has provided us all we need for faith and practice? Where and when do we need to add to Scripture in order to supply ethical teachings not otherwise provided or made clear enough? (4) How are we able to add extra-biblical ethical teachings (“commands of men”) and not violate verse 14? These four questions are absolutely *critical* for you to answer if you’re going to use Titus 1:12 in the manner I’m understanding you to use it in.

    In summary, your explanation of the passage adds more problems than it solves. I know that you want the passage to say what you want in order that you may add it to your arsenal of passages that allow you to make the extra-biblical case against a cultural communication form that you don’t like, but (1) the passage uses the quotation not as a ground for new ethical teaching, and (2) if it were to be thus used, we’d introduce far more problems via analogy of Scripture than we could ever solve.

    >>>”those people who produce ungodly music also know that they are sinning against God by singing and playing music in sensual ways and in other ways that are ungodly.”

    Since I listen to Christian music from the Gettys (contemporary Christian musicians) and have no awareness of it being ungodly in any way, what does that mean for the godliness of the music?

    >>>”I have written in-depth about many Scriptural passages and do not make any unwarranted appeals to society in my treatment of those passages to show that CCM is not acceptable to God.”

    I’ve reviewed a number of your articles and would be happy to address some in particular. The passages you’ve dealt with and the method you’ve used is clearly eisegesis. You’ve started with (a) something that you wish to condemn, (b) created a straw man out of that which you wish to condemn, (c) collected Scripture passages that address various aspects of this straw man, and (d) interpreted (sometimes out of line with the context) these passages to speak to this straw man. I’m sure you’ll maintain that my analysis is too broad reaching (and I’m willing to admit that I haven’t read *every single one* of your articles, so perhaps one has missed my eye). So to that end I’ll offer you the opportunity to suggest whatever article of yours you think to be the strongest biblical argument against said “CCM” and I will be happy to demonstrate the rhetorical or hermeneutical flaws from my perspective.

    • It’s obvious that you have not read what I wrote in my article on Titus 1 carefully. Go back and reread it. I am not going to engage any further with you until you have properly understood what I actually said.

      You are welcome to “educate” me all about the routine eisegesis that you think I engage in, one post at a time. Based on what you have offered so far, you would do well to go back and reread each article and the relevant passages carefully.

  3. >>>”It’s obvious that you have not read what I wrote in my article”

    Allow me to offer two quotations *from the article* (which I’ve read) that I would like to dispute (btw, these are the same critiques which I have been addressing in the previous comments and which you’re digressing from actually discussing):

    >>>”He [Paul] based his exhortation and instruction to Titus upon his own evaluation of the Cretians and the corroborating witness of one of their own secular prophets.”

    My argument in the posts above is that (1) Paul did *not* base his instruction upon “his own” personal or other “secular” evaluations, but on clear and authoritative teaching with its roots in Scriptural and apostolic teaching, and that (2) Paul utilized the witness of their prophets simply to demonstrate that the Cretians were well aware that they were in violation of Scripture.

    Contrast this with the following approach which you advocate in your article above:

    >>>”When, therefore, many Christian leaders today use both their own assessments and corroboration from secular sources to urge God’s people to reject the viewpoint that music is neutral, they are using a valid scriptural approach.”

    Let me break this down into elements:
    Subject: “many Christian leaders today”
    Action: “urge God’s people to reject”
    Object: “the viewpoint that music is neutral”
    Ground #1: “their own assessments”
    Ground #2: “corroboration from secular sources”
    Analysis: “they are using a valid scriptural approach”

    Assumption #1: That this passage is dealing with “personal assessments” and not authoritative apostolic and Scriptural imperatives.
    Assumption #2: That Christian leaders opposing “CCM” while at the same time devoid of clear Scriptural commands directly to this issue are following the exact paradigm of Titus 1.
    Assumption #3: That this passage is using “secular sources” as the ground for new ethical imperatives and not using them as self-assessments in relation to the pre-existing ethical and moral law of God.
    Assumption #4: That your opponents simply teach/believe that “music is neutral.”

    The first assumption is what I’ve addressed multiple times in my previous comments. Paul isn’t going out on a limb here. He’s dealing with specific sins addressed in Scripture. These aren’t just his “personal assessments.”

    The second assumption also doesn’t follow, because the situation is entirely different. As I’ve already argued: Paul was working from apostolic authority, and we don’t have that. Paul was speaking with divine inspiration and we can’t do that. Most importantly, Paul was starting with clear commands of Scripture against lying, evilness, laziness, and gluttony, and demonstrating that the people had, by their own admission, fallen short; however, the modern anti-“CCM” position starts not with clear commands of Scripture (there simply are no condemnations of rhythmic patterns in Scripture) but with personal preferences and tries to substantiate them with elements like secular musicians that prop up their man-made commands. On these three counts, how the secular analyses are being used by the anti-“CCM” proponents is wholly different from how Paul uses the secular analysis of Epimenides in Titus 1.

    The third assumption is what I’ve been dealing with in terms of how Paul is using the citation in the context. He isn’t using it as the *ground* for *new* ethical teaching, but as an *admission of guilt* in the face of *existing* ethical teaching. You’re therefore mistaken in using the text as a *ground* for your argumentation.

    The final assumption is part of where I conclude that your rhetorical approach to the issue is flawed. You misrepresent your opponents’ position by indicating that they believe that “music is neutral.” They actually believe that music is a thing which is created for good by God, and that some can misuse this medium to communicate sinful things because the text or performance includes things that directly violate Scripture, but this same medium can be used for good as well. This isn’t the simplistic “music is neutral” or “music is amoral” straw man that you’d like to erect.

    In conclusion: I can understand if you’d rather not dialogue on the topic you’ve raised or if you’re simply not interested in hearing the critiques of someone without a PhD. In this case, just ban me or tell me you’d rather not discuss the issue. But you can’t tell me that I’m not dealing with your argument in the above article when every point I’ve raised rests at the heart of your rhetoric. Either you said exactly what I’ve quoted or you didn’t.

    • Philip,

      I’m disturbed that you repeatedly insist that I have done something that I did not do. The quotes you have cited were pulled out of context. Prior to the first quote that you cite in this third set of comments, I wrote,

      “He [Paul] thus stressed the centrality of the elder’s adhering to and using sound doctrine from Scripture to both exhort believers in that sound doctrine and refute those who were contradicting it.”

      I assume that a reader will understand that I hold that Paul practiced what he instructed Titus to do. So, when I later say, “He based his exhortation and instruction to Titus upon his own evaluation of the Cretians and the corroborating witness of one of their own secular prophets,” I expect the reader to know that I meant that Paul evaluated the Cretians by practicing what he told Titus the elder was supposed to do.

      As proof that this is what I communicate, I later say,

      “We thus learn that a Pauline approach to handling a problem issue at times includes the use of one’s own scripturally informed assessments of the problem and the use of legitimate supportive data from non-biblical sources. When, therefore, many Christian leaders today use both their own assessments and corroboration from secular sources to urge God’s people to reject the viewpoint that music is neutral, they are using a valid scriptural approach.”

      You pulled the second of these sentences out of the context of the preceding sentence in which I specify that a Pauline approach is to use one’s own scripturally informed assessments of the problem. In the flow of thought between these two sentences, it is clear that I intend that Christian leaders do what Paul did by making their own scripturally based assessments.

      In your zeal to defend CCM, you were apparently unable to read my article objectively on at least one or more occasions. You also have had the audacity to write this very provocative statement: “I know that you want the passage to say what you want in order that you may add it to your arsenal of passages that allow you to make the extra-biblical case against a cultural communication form that you don’t like . . .” God mercifully granted me grace not to blast you for saying this when you were the one who misread what I wrote.

      Even in this third set of comments, you show that you misunderstand and misrepresent what I am doing. The fact is that many people have argued that music is neutral or amoral. I did not erect a straw man, as you assert. I have not misrepresented my opponents’ position because I was targeting those opponents who hold the particular views that I was dealing with here.

      I am aware that many people today have changed what they argue from a music-is-neutral approach to the approach that music is good, etc. I was not addressing that view in this article.

      In conclusion, I believe that you have repeatedly misrepresented me in your comments and your insinuations. Because I believe that your comments have not been appropriate, I do not want to have any more discussion with you about this subject for an extended period of time.