In some spirited online discussions that I have observed between evangelicals and fundamentalists concerning their differences about music that is acceptable for worship, evangelicals have often asserted that the fundamentalists are the root cause of the problems and disunity in worship that exist among Christians today. Of course, I categorically reject that assertion.
In support of my rejection of that assertion, I recently have seen that James 4 illumines key aspects of today’s music wars. The chapter also illumines how to end the music wars properly.
James first sets forth the reality of wars and fightings among God’s people and exposes the root cause of such problems—Christians who are seeking their own lustful pleasures and thereby creating strife and division (James 4:1-3).
Application: Concerning differences about music that should be used for Christian worship, believers who strive for the acceptability of music that appeals to fleshly lusts are the ones who are responsible for creating the music wars among God’s people.
James then challenges those believers who are causing strife— through seeking to satisfy their fleshly lusts— about their adulterously seeking friendship with the world (James 4:4-5).
Application: In the debates about what music is appropriate for Christian worship, believers who promote affinity to the world by setting forth as acceptable for worship music that the world has specifically created to promote fleshly lusts are the ones who are causing the strife and division among God’s people concerning worship music.
James further rebukes believers who cause strife for their arrogant lack of submission to God and their not resisting the devil. In effect, he counsels them that their seeking to fulfill their lusts by their friendship with the world is a manifestation of their proud resistance to God and failure to resist the devil (James 4:6-7).
Application: Concerning the disputes about worship music, believers who advocate as acceptable for worship music that the world created to appeal to fleshly lusts and that has strong ties to evil supernatural influences upon its creators and performers are the ones who are the root cause of today’s music wars.
James challenges believers who are causing wars and fightings among God’s people to humbly draw near to God and deal properly with their sins (James 4:7-10).
Application: Concerning the current battles about music that is acceptable for worship, believers who promote the use of music that was created by the world to feed fleshly lusts and that has strong ties to evil supernatural influences are the ones who must change if the music wars among God’s people today are to be resolved properly.
James next warns believers not to judge one another by speaking evil of one another (James 4:11-12). It is vital to note that the flow of thought in the chapter shows that James does not have in view speech that rightly assesses and confronts believers who through their lustful and adulterous friendship with the world are proudly resistant to God and failing to resist the devil.
Application: Those who advocate for the use of contemporary worship music often charge those who do not with judging them unjustly by what they say about the use of contemporary worship music. Such a charge is invalid because it is right to assess as wrong the use of music created by the world that feeds fleshly lusts and that is sourced in evil supernatural influences upon musicians.
James concludes the chapter by rebuking believers who arrogantly boast about what they are going to do in the future (James 4:13-16). He warns them that failure to do what one knows to be right is sinful (James 4:17).
Application: Some evangelical promoters of contemporary worship arrogantly speak assuredly of the future virtually complete triumph of contemporary worship among the people of God. Many of these people also profess that music choices are strictly about personal preferences and yet speak disdainfully of those who reject contemporary worship, which puts them in violation of what they know is right to do about how believers are to handle differences about things that they believe are disputable things.
If today’s music wars are to be ended properly, all believers must carefully and thoroughly examine themselves in light of how James 4 illumines these wars and fightings among God’s people concerning worship music. Through such an examination and a proper response to it, we can resolve these problems and the disunity among God’s people resulting from them.