Archives For Music

Should the music used in missions be in the “heart language” of the people being evangelized? This parable presents an important test case for assessing this notion about music used in missions.

Discovery of a New Tribe

Researchers discover a new tribe of people in a remote island that they had thought was uninhabited. They find out that these people are cannibals. The cannibals are also idolaters who sacrifice people as part of their worship of their idols.

Moreover, as part of one of their yearly feasts, the entire tribe gathers to eat people that they have sacrificed to an idol. After having sacrificed those people to an idol, the worshipers sit down to eat the people that they had sacrificed to the idol and to do so as part of their worship.

Following their meal, the cannibalistic idolaters rise up to play. In their playing, they fornicate ritually, sing, and dance wildly. They do so to music played by musicians who also participated in the eating of the sacrifices.

The researchers secretly document all that takes place in this feast with top-notch drones that produce high quality audio and video recordings of all that took place in the feast. They release the recordings in an international news documentary. Some Christians see the horrific documentary and decide that they have to reach these people for Christ.

Music Used in Missions

Some missionaries decide to take a missions trip to reach these people. God works marvelously and some of the cannibalistic idolaters become believers!

The newly converted people have a burden to reach the rest of their own people. They plant a church and invite some of their own people to their services.

The missionaries teach the people that they should use music in their own “heart language” to reach people in their services. Because of what the missionaries teach them, the former idolaters decide to use in their services the same styles of instrumental music that they know the idolatrous musicians played in those idolatrous feasts. Of course, they use that music to accompany godly lyrics.

Based on what Scripture reveals, what should we think of what these converted idolaters did musically in their church? Was their use of that music to evangelize something that is legitimate? Did the missionaries correctly teach these people about using music to evangelize people?

In First Corinthians, Paul emphasized that the Corinthians must not be idolaters by playing idolatrously as the Israelites did in the Golden Calf Incident (1 Cor. 10:7), which including their producing demonically influenced music on that occasion (1 Cor. 10:18-20 applied to Exod. 32:17-18). In addition, the Pauline emphasis in this passage included a command to flee idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14).

Moreover, we find this emphasis reiterated in Second Corinthians when he again instructed them that they must not have anything in common with the unrighteousness and darkness of idolatrous unbelievers:

A Reiterated Pauline Emphasis

2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Because Paul reiterated this vital emphasis, we must heed what he emphasized to the Corinthians by properly applying it to our music!

Application to Our Music

Like the Corinthians, we must reject all the unclean things (2 Cor. 6:17) that reprobate idolaters as inventors of evil things (Rom. 1:30) have made, including musical forms sourced in demonic influence upon them in their idolatrous worship (Exod. 32:17-18; cf. 1 Cor. 10:7). We must not have any fellowship with such unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11).

The Battle for Kingdom Music

The vast majority of biblical content about music is not explicitly pertaining to music in the Church. Properly understood, all that the Bible says about music, however, is about music in God’s eternal kingdom. Therefore, we need to engage in The Battle for Kingdom Music because engaging in the battle for Christian music is too narrow a focus to treat properly what Scripture reveals about music.

Of course, in the battle for kingdom music, we must use Scripture to address the problems that we have in Christian music today. In particular, we must explain why God does not accept in His kingdom the use of rock music and music related to it.

Why Rock Music Is Not Acceptable Kingdom Music

To do so, we must help believers understand that the Bible does not teach that God created all musical styles or genres. We also need to explain to them why it is not biblical to hold that music without words is inherently neutral, amoral, or good.

Beyond that, we must make known that God has given categorical prohibitions to His people that completely preclude them from borrowing any music from wicked people who have crafted their music for wicked purposes or used it for wicked purposes. Many rock musicians have testified that they have designed their music to promote evil so we must reject it entirely.

Furthermore, we have testimonies from rock musicians that their music is demonic or sourced in demonic influence on them. God commands Christians not to have anything to do with anything sourced in or connected with human contact with supernatural evil. We must therefore completely reject all rock music and music that is derived from it or based upon it.

In order to fight the battle for kingdom music properly, we must give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of what God says about music that is fit for His kingdom. As God brings it to mind, I would appreciate prayers for God’s good hand to be on me for this ministry.

What does ungodly worship music sound like? Two verses describe the sound of the music on a premier occasion of ungodly worship, the Golden Calf Incident:

Exodus 32:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. 18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

Scripture reveals here that the idolatrous playing in the GCI (cf. 1 Cor. 10:7) included corporate shouting that was an aspect of their singing. To understand why this was the sound of ungodly worship music, consider what these two men said about that sound.

Joshua’s Remark about the Sound of Their Idolatrous Worship Music

Joshua did not identify this composite musical sound emanating from the camp as music at all. Instead, he said that it was the noise of war.

Joshua certainly had heard godly Israelite worship music in the past (Ex. 15). He was was very familiar with its sound. His not identifying this sound as music shows that these idolaters were not playing instruments and singing in any godly Israelite style(s).

Moreover, the people, in fact, were not engaged in any battle yet their worship music sounded like war to Joshua. The Bible never says that any godly Israelite worship music sounded like war.

We know that these people were partnering with demons in their idolatrous playing (1 Cor. 10:20 applied to 1 Cor. 10:7). They were co-participants with demons in their unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11).

Certainly, therefore, the Spirit did not energize or control any of these idolaters to produce godly music (Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 3:16-17). Joshua’s testimony about their music shows that it did not display any of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Joshua’s testimony about the music of the GCI points to its being ungodly music.

Moses’ Response to Joshua Illumines What Ungodly Worship Music Sounds Like

Concerning the music of the GCI, Joshua remarked, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” Moses responded that the sound was not two specific sounds of war that they could recognize accurately, even from afar.

Moses first said, “It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery.” He explained that when people in a battle gain mastery over their opponents, they respond by shouting in a manner that communicates their victory in the battle.

The sound emanating from the camp was not the recognizable sound of people shouting in their singing to celebrate their mastery. Such people sing joyfully with a shout of triumph that has a distinctly recognizable sound even from a distance.

Moses then added, “Neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome.” Moses explained that there is a distinctively recognizable sound that people produce when they have lost a battle and are mourning at their defeat.

People defeated in a battle do not sing joyfully with a triumphant shout because they did not win the battle. Their shouting is the mournful sound of people bemoaning their having lost the battle.

The Combined Force of the Remarks of Both Joshua and Moses

Taken together, the inspired revelation in Exodus 32:17-18 about the sound of the singing in the GCI shows us that the musical composite sound emanating from the camp was neither the sound of people joyfully shouting in celebrating their victory nor the sound of people mournfully shouting in lamenting their defeat. This revelation, therefore, tells us that the war-like musical composite sound emanating from the camp sounded like the uncertain, indistinct, chaotic sounds of people engaged in a battle where neither side is winning the battle and the battle is still raging.

These musical sounds were not at all the distinctive sound of godly Israelites worshiping God with the joyful sound of people praising the Lord in a religious feast that pleased Him. Moses’ response to Joshua illumines Joshua’s remark by further showing that the musical sound emanating from the camp in the GCI was the ungodly composite musical sound of people celebrating in an ungodly way.

NT Revelation That Shows the Ungodliness of The Sound of Their Music

Explicit NT revelation shows us that the composite musical sound emanating from the camp was an ungodly sound because it did not at all meet the divinely revealed criteria of producing sounds that are distinctive such that they communicate clearly the meaning of those sounds:

1 Corinthians 14:7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

When worship music has an indistinct, uncertain sound, it does not meet God’s criteria for the proper use of music.

By comparing Scripture with Scripture, 1 Cor. 14:7-8 applied to Exodus 32:17-18 decisively shows us that the musical sound of the people shouting in their singing in the GCI was not the godly sound of people celebrating a religious feast in a godly way with singing and the use of musical instruments that produced a distinctively recognizable composite sound.

Instead, the composite musical sound emanating from the camp was an ungodly sound of people singing and playing musical instruments in ungodly ways. Their music did not sound like any of the godly worship music of Israel.

Believers disagree sharply on whether it is biblical to use music to evangelize unbelievers. To know what the correct view is concerning this important matter, consider the following verses from biblical songs:

Deuteronomy 32:43
Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Judges 5:3 Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.

Psalm 2:10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Psalm 117:1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

In light of this data from biblical songs, is it biblical to use music to evangelize unbelievers?

In addition to in the Psalms, Scripture records the lyrics of several key songs at considerable length. The song in Deuteronomy 32 has 43 verses; the songs in both Judges 5 and Isaiah 5 have 30 verses; and the song in 2 Samuel 22 has 50 verses.

Second Samuel 22:2-51 and Deuteronomy 32:1-43, the two longest songs in Scripture (outside of the Psalms), share a common feature that is noteworthy—Scripture records that both of these songs were spoken:

Deuteronomy 31:30 And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.

Deuteronomy 32:44 And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun.

2 Samuel 22:1 And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul.

Strikingly, both 2 Samuel 22 and Deuteronomy 32 lack any mention that these songs were sung on the first occasions of their use.

Moreover, David spoke the words of his song “unto the LORD” (2 Sam. 22:1).

Based on this data, we learn that oral recitation of the lyrics of entire songs is biblical, both to one another (cf. Moses to the people [Deut. 31:30; 32:44]) and to the Lord (2 Sam. 22:1)!

Do any ungodly ways of playing music exist? How can we know if there are any such ways?

By considering whether demons influence humans to play music in ungodly ways, we can answer both of these questions definitively!

Do Demons Influence Humans to Play Music in Ungodly Ways?

Demons incorrigibly and irredeemably oppose God. They are especially intent on denying Him the glory and worship due His name.

On every possible occasion and in every possible way, they seek to influence humans to worship in ungodly ways.

God has commanded that humans use musical instruments to worship Him. We, therefore, must hold that demons unceasingly seek to influence humans to play worship music in ungodly ways.

Only by presupposing that there are no ungodly ways to play music in worship can we deny that demons influence humans to play music in ungodly ways. Holding such a presupposition, however, does not have any biblical basis.

When, therefore, humans engage in activities that put them in fellowship with demons and subsequently produce music, we must hold that they play it in ungodly ways. Of course, we could not hold this view if a passage provides explicit biblical evidence that humans played music in godly ways in spite of demonic influence on them.

A Biblical Account of Demonically Influenced Music

In the Golden Calf Incident (GCI), humans in a worship context consumed what was offered to an idol (Ex. 32:6). When they did so, they came into fellowship with demons (1 Cor. 10:18-20).

After they had consumed the sacrificed foodstuffs, they produced music (Ex. 32:17-18). Because Exodus 32 does not provide us with any evidence that they played their music and sang in godly ways, we must hold that they did so in ungodly ways.

Again, the only way to escape this understanding is to presuppose that there are no ungodly ways to produce music in worship. Because such a presupposition does not have any valid basis, we must hold that the people in the GCI played demonically influenced music in ungodly ways.

Conclusion

Demonically influenced music does exist; in fact, the Bible provides indisputable evidence that demons have influenced humans to produce music in ungodly ways. Holding that there are no ungodly ways to play music, therefore, is an indefensible presupposition and position that we must reject.

Few believers understand that Scripture provides us with an inspired record of demonically influenced music!

To understand where and how it does so, see my posts in this thread: We Must Heed the Vital Message of 1 Corinthians 10:18-20.

Genesis 4:21 provides the earliest recorded information about human musical activity. Consequently, I have been studying it extensively to probe what it reveals to us about music.

Recently, God has provided me with much additional illumination related to interpreting this revelation properly. Therefore, I would like to invite you to profit from this ongoing discussion: What Does Genesis 4:21 Teach Us about Music?

The early Christian writers aimed no polemic at the nobler art music or the folk music of their day. Had they been opposed to it, they would no doubt have spoken against it. Their denunciations of music were not general; rather, they were aimed at a few well-defined targets: the music of the popular public spectacles, the music associated with voluptuous banqueting, the music associated with pagan weddings, and the music of pagan religious rites and festivities. As we have already seen, they were not alone in their denunciations. They joined their voices with those of pagan Romans who were painfully aware of the decay of their civilization.

—Calvin R. Stapert, A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church, 145