How to Apply Romans 14:1-15:13 Properly to the Debates about Christian Music: Part I

March 21, 2015

Many evangelicals as well as other Christians use Romans 14:1-15:13 frequently to challenge the views of Christians who hold conservative music positions. Typically, these believers who hold non-conservative music positions regard themselves as the strong believers of this passage and view those with conservative positions as the weak believers spoken of here.

To apply Romans 14:1-15:13 properly to any disputed area of Christian belief and practice requires thorough attention both to the larger context of the book of Romans and to the nature of the issues under consideration in this passage. Through giving such attention to this passage, we are able to assess correctly the validity of the common contention that those with conservative music positions are the weak believers of this passage.

In Part I of this series, I consider how putting Romans 14:1-15:13 in its larger context of the book of Romans is necessary for determining its proper application to the debates about Christian music. In Part II of this series, I intend to examine how the nature of the issues under consideration in Romans 14:1-15:13 itself bears upon its application to the debates about Christian music.

Romans 14:1-15:13 in Light of Its Larger Context of the Book of Romans

God did not give Romans 14:1-15:13 as a self-contained revelation of His mind about how to handle the issues that Christians debate; He gave this passage as part of the whole book of Romans. We can only rightly understand and apply this passage, therefore, when we properly relate it to other teaching by Paul in the book of Romans that has direct bearing on what sort of issues are in view in this passage.

The following six points bring out various aspects of Pauline teaching in the book of Romans that directly relate to the debates about Christian music:

1. Inventors of Evil Things — Paul taught that reprobate humans are “inventors of evil things” (Rom. 1:30). I have previously discussed (in this post) the relevance of this statement for the debates about Christian music. Concerning what issues Romans 14:1-15:13 pertains to, we can be certain that the teaching of this passage does not apply to issues concerning musical styles that evil humans have originated as inventors of evil.

2. The Whole Creation is in Bondage to Corruption — Paul testifies that the entire universe is under the bondage of corruption:

Rom 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

To support their music positions, many Christian proponents of non-conservative music positions espouse views that in effect exempt instrumental music from the effects of the Fall of man. Scripture, however, provides no basis for holding that the bondage of the whole creation to corruption has not affected human creation of and use of instrumental musical styles.

3. Conformity to the World — Paul commands believers not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). Many of those who hold non-conservative music positions in effect argue that this teaching does not apply to the instrumental musical styles created by humans who oppose God because they hold that all musical styles are inherently good and fit for human use by virtue of their being divinely created. Not only is there no Scripture to support such a view about the necessary inherent fitness of all musical styles, but also Scripture provides revelation that refutes the validity of such an assertion.

4. Casting off the Works of Darkness — Paul commands believers to “cast off the works of darkness” (Rom. 13:12). Scripture teaches that Satan is the prince who is energizing and ruling over the darkness of this evil world (Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13).

Many rock musicians have testified to the controlling and originating role of demons in the production of their music. We can be certain that Paul never intended Romans 14:1-15:13 to be applied to things and practices that entail humans engaging in such demonically sourced works of darkness.

5. Turning from Dissolute Living — Paul enjoins believers not to live dissolute lifestyles:

Rom 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

Those who have originated rock music are infamous for their evil lifestyles, and they have testified that they created this music with the intent of promoting such wicked lifestyles. We can be certain that Romans 14:1-15:13 does not apply to music and other things that are so closely associated in these ways to people who live and promote such dissolute lifestyles.

6. Making No Provision for the Lusts of the Flesh — Paul directs believers not to make any provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts (Rom. 13:14). Because testimony directly from rock musicians abounds that they created their music for the purpose of influencing people to fulfill various lusts of the flesh, we can confidently hold that Romans 14:1-15:13 does not apply to such music that was specifically created to have these effects on people.

Conclusion

An examination of the larger context of Romans 14:1-15:13 within the book of Romans shows that Paul provides teaching in at least six passages that addresses considerations that show that issues that involve these considerations are issues to which Romans 14:1-15:13 does not apply. Because all six of these passages have direct bearing on certain aspects of key issues involved in the debates about Christian music, believers who hold conservative music positions because they heed the application of these passages to these issues are not the weak believers spoken of in Romans 14:1-15:13.

Rajesh

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