Many believers today hold that Scripture does not have any teaching about musical styles that are inherently unacceptable to God. This post treats several passages to assess the validity of this common viewpoint.
The Singing of Fools
Solomon declares, “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools [Heb. kesil]” (Eccl. 7:5). Many will argue that he does not say that it is wrong to hear the song of fools; it is just better to hear the rebuke of the wise. In addition, they will also argue that “the song of fools” refers to the foolishness of the people doing the singing and the content of what they sing, but it does not say anything about the style with which they sing.
We know from other Scripture that these fools [Heb. kesil] reject the truth that God hears and sees (Ps. 94:8-9). Thus, they sing without taking any heed to divine accountability for what and how they sing.
These fools hate knowledge (Prov. 1:22) and reject the reproof of God and His offer to pour out His Spirit upon them (Prov. 1:23). What they sing, therefore, certainly is not the product of the Spirit’s filling.
Doing mischief is like a sport to them (Prov. 10:23) and their hearts proclaim folly (Prov. 12:23). To depart from evil is an abomination to them (Prov. 13:19).
These fools rage and are confident in their evil ways (Prov. 14:16). The hearts of these fools are in “the house of mirth” (Eccl. 7:4), signifying that they are eager seekers of pleasure. We can be certain that such fools would pursue and employ perverse ways of singing and even seek to devise conspicuously evil music.
Based on the teaching of Scripture about fools, we can be certain that “the song of fools” is something that the Spirit would never produce in people whom He fills (Eph. 5:18-19). Any singing, therefore, that mimics or tries to adapt “the song of fools” somehow for Christian worship would clearly be unacceptable to God.
The Singing of Drunkards
David testifies that he was “the song of the drunkards” (Ps. 69:12). As with Ecclesiastes 7:5, some people will argue that this statement only speaks about those who did the singing and the unacceptable content of what they sang and not about the style of their singing.
Because being drunk, however, entails not having proper mental awareness and a lack of proper control of oneself, this statement does not just refer to the unacceptability of the people who sang and what they sang. Their style of singing was also unacceptable because it was produced by people whose minds could not properly control their bodies to sing acceptably.
Amos 6:4-8 records the musical improprieties of people who were in Zion who drank wine abundantly. Correlating Psalm 69:12 with Amos 6:4-8 points to the ungodliness of both what these drunkards (Ps. 69:12) sing and how they sing it. (For more on the teaching of Amos 6 about music, see The Relevance of Amos 6 for the Music Debates of Our Day.)
Obviously, “the song of the drunkards” was not the product of Spirit-filling (Eph. 5:18-19). Mimicking or adapting their style to Christian worship certainly would be unacceptable to God.
The Singing of a Harlot
Isaiah prophesied that Tyre would “sing as an harlot” (Is. 23:15). He provides further information about such singing by saying, “Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered” (Is. 23:16).
A harlot, by biblical definition, engaged in immoral behavior. In keeping with the mercenary goal of her activities, she used every means possible to enhance her sensuality and seductive appeal to maximize her earnings (cf. Luke 15:13, 30).
To “sing as an harlot,” therefore, cannot be limited only to the identity of the woman and the sensuality of the lyrics (cf. Prov. 6:24; 7:21) that she sings. It necessarily entails as well the maximized sensuality of her dress (Prov. 7:10; Jer. 4:30; Ezek. 16:16) and her makeup/ jewelry/hairstyle/ facial expressions (Prov. 6:25; 7:13; Jer. 4:30; Ezek. 16:39; 23:40; cf. Is. 3:16-26).
Moreover, her bodily movements (cf. the unstated but clear sensuality of the dancing of Herodias’ daughter [Matt. 14:6-7]) and vocal techniques were specifically designed to maximize her sexual appeal (for an example of the sensual use of vocal techniques, listen to this audio of a woman who sings Happy Birthday sensually).
It also involved her playing a musical instrument (“take a harp”) and having an extensive repertoire (“sing many songs”). She was one who in fact was skilled “to make sweet melody.”
Thus, her singing was skillful and beautiful to hear, but it was also sensual to the core. Such music patently could never be the product of the Spirit’s filling a believer.
From this analysis of biblical teaching about harlots, we certainly can conclude that to “sing as an harlot” is a style that is unacceptable to God because of its sensuality. Any Christian music, whether traditional or CCM, that has even the slightest similarity to the music produced by those who “sing as an harlot” is unacceptable to God.
Contrary to much popular thinking among believers today, Scripture is not silent about musical styles that are unacceptable to God. The Spirit-filled music that God demands from believers who seek to worship Him corporately does not have any likeness to the songs of fools, drunkards, or harlots.
Those who have created and popularized worldly styles of music such as rock ‘n’ roll display numerous characteristics of the fools whose song Scripture refers to (Eccl. 7:5). Typically, the producers of these worldly styles are also given to drunkenness, and immorality abounds among them.
Christian churches should not imitate the musical styles that any such fools, drunkards, and harlots employ when they sing in ways that manifest the flesh at work in man (Gal. 5:19-21). Filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), those who have allowed the word of Christ to dwell in them richly (Col. 3:16), including the passages about music that were treated above, will sing in a style that is distinct from these reprobates and is acceptable to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).