Because I have been closely following recent online developments concerning “Christian” rap music, I have been thinking a lot recently about the claim that music without words cannot be inherently sinful. An analogy from photography helps to show how this claim is false.
How Photographs Themselves Can Be Inherently Sinful
Based on what I have read and heard in recent years, it seems that many Christians in our day apparently believe that no arrangement of things that are in and of themselves inherently good can be inherently sinful. Applying this belief to photography, many would probably argue that no photograph could in and of itself be sinful.
Based on the clear teaching and implications from many biblical passages (Gen. 3:21; 9:21-27; 2 Sam. 11:2-4; Hab. 2:15; Matt. 5:28; 18:6), however, any nude photograph of a very precocious but prepubescent girl in a sexually provocative pose is inherently sinful. The materials from which the sinful image of the girl is created are not inherently sinful, but the sinful image created when such a photograph is taken renders the end product inherently sinful.
According to Scripture, God has not authorized anyone to see such an image (cf. the clear implications of passages such as Hab. 2:15)—neither a parent, nor a doctor, nor any other human being has any right to create, see, or possess any such image. In fact, not even the girl herself has the right to pose for or in some other way create such an image.
It does not matter whatever good intent someone may claim for creating such an image—making such an image is sinful. The “style” of photography that creates such pornographic photos is inherently sinful and the photos themselves are also inherently sinful.
Although unbelievers may reject this position, Christians who believe the Bible are bound by Scripture to hold that such pornographic images are inherently sinful. No claim of Christian “liberty” can legitimately justify rejecting such a view simply because Scripture does not explicitly talk about pornographic pictures being wrong.
How Music without Lyrics Can Also Be Inherently Sinful
Just as it is false to say that no photograph can ever be inherently sinful, it is also false to say that music without lyrics cannot be inherently sinful because its constituent elements (such as musical tones) were created by God as good entities. If those tones are intentionally arranged in a way to create music for wicked purposes, although the tones themselves remain good, that combination is inherently sinful.
Scripture shows that this view is correct by recording several instances of people producing music that was wicked (Exod. 32:17-18 [see the articles in point 11 here]; Ezek. 33:32 [see this treatment]; Amos 6:5 [see this explanation]), including a key passage about instrumental music used for idolatrous worship (Dan. 3:7 [see this treatment]). Furthermore, Scripture is not silent about musical styles that are unacceptable to God, and it also supports in other ways that it is right to hold the view that music without lyrics can be inherently sinful.
It is understandable that unbelievers would hold the view that neither music without lyrics nor a photograph can be inherently sinful. Based, however, on a thorough treatment of what Scripture reveals both explicitly and implicitly, believers should reject this false view.
For more help with many important issues concerning music that is acceptable to God for Christian worship, please see all the resources here.