The Role of Discernment in the Issue of Music
Almost three thousand years ago, Solomon wrote in his Divinely-inspired book of authoritative wisdom, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).Â Get understanding after you get wisdom.Â Get wisdom after you get knowledge.Â We get knowledge from God’s Word.Â We get wisdom from the Holy Spirit to accurately apply the Word of God.Â We get discernment from regularly and consistently applying God’s Word accurately, so that right decisions become the pattern for our life.Â Job put it this way:Â “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
A Satanic Attack
The history of mankind reads also as the record of Satan’s attack on the Word of God.Â From the Garden of Eden to the Wilderness of Temptation, Satan has opposed God’s plan by undermining God’s Word.Â He questions its inspiration, “How do we know God said it?”Â He questions its preservation, “How do we know this is what God said?”Â He has been recently gaining a foothold with “How can we know what God meant?”—the attack on the clarity of Scripture.Â A corollary toÂ this recent conspiracy of SatanÂ is:Â “How can we know the application of what God said?”
The conscience works off the law of God, written or in the heart (Rom. 2:14, 15).Â Satan opposes by confusing God’s righteous standard.Â He damages the combined conscience of a nation and of mankind.Â Satan himself rejects God’s law and influences all people to do the same.Â He blurs the boundaries to harm the operation of man’s God-given, inbred warning-device.Â Â The negation of the lawÂ lessens the work of theÂ conscienceÂ over sin.
Satan replaces God’s direction with toleration.Â HeÂ persuades men not to judge.Â His world systemÂ has takenÂ on this ungodly philosophy, and now it has spread into churches and religious organizations.Â He attacks the principles of God’s Word.Â He convinces men that they no longer have Scriptural authority to apply Biblical principles to their way of life.Â Â When we can’t consistently apply the Bible to our lives, we don’t have wisdom, and when we lose the ability to do this, we lose out on discernment (“understanding”) too.
Satan would love more than anything to take away from the worship of God.Â To do this, He would gladly confuse men about what pleases the Lord in worship.Â The devil happily nullifies the kind of music that God enjoys, songsÂ that match His character or nature.Â He can sabotage the worship of the Lord by causing doubt about someone’s ability to judge what God likes and doesn’t like.
An Issue of “Liberty”
Within this new Satanic assault, if someone cannot provide a text of Scripture that plainly cites the wrong action, the deed now becomes a Romans 14 “liberty” issue.Â Â An appropriate subject of this new tactic writes on his blog:
We find essential silence. Scripture never discusses the lasting qualities which make certain kinds of music inherently superior to others. Scripture doesnâ€™t teach that certain associations make certain music styles inherently evil or unredeemable. Scripture never points out a specific cultural variety of music for our emulation. . . . From our New Testament vantage point, living in the age we live in, we are to abstain from things or actions which are clearly revealed in Scripture to be immoral or evil. In the absence of Scriptural teaching as to which music is unclean, we have liberty in that area, as long as we do all to the glory of God. . . . It must be a clear teaching from Scripture. If not, we are left with individual applications of principles, and a command in Rom. 14 to get along with other believers though they may differ with us on the particulars of how they use music, (sic) as how they distinguish (or not) days or how they use various foods/drinks.(1)
The position is that since the Bible doesn’t use the terminology ‘rock,’ ‘rap,’ ‘pop,’ jazz,’ or ‘country-western,’ we can’t judge those musical styles to be wrong.Â Â With the absence of those terms, we areÂ bereft ofÂ the ability to discern what kind of music God wants to hear from us.Â They would say that we can only judge the words of a song, not the musical style.
Using the Same Understanding of “Liberty”
Based upon this same standard, can they or anyone else prohibit (they’re Rom. 14 issues):
- Smoking a crack pipe? (Scripture doesn’t say anything about crack pipes.)
- Sculpting a Bible or crossÂ out of dung (human waste)? (Dung is an amoral substance.)
- Saying a four letter word? (No verse says that these are wrong to say.Â Words are just symbols that depend on context, so it comes down to man’s opinion.)
- Listening to a married couple in the act of physical consummation?Â (As long as you can’t see their nakedness, nothing in Scripture expressly prohibits this.)
- Doing a public reading of Scripture with a voice like a robot or alien or like Bulwinkle of Rocky and Bulwinkle? (Scripture says nothing about the style of Bible reading.)
- Drinking the grape juice of the Lord’s Table in optic-coloredÂ NFL insignia cups with curly straws?Â (Scripture is silent on the container to drink from.)
- Shaping the unleavened bread for the Lord’s Table like animal crackers and choo-choo trains? (Scripture is silent on the shape of the bread.)
- Writing poetry and prose explicit of the act of marriage? (Nothing in the Bible says this is wrong.)
- Producing a coffee table book of eviscerated animals of all types? (Nothing in the Bible says this is wrong.)
- Drinking a coke and then belching loudly during church?Â (The Bible doesn’t prohibit this.).
- Preaching behind a pulpit that is designed to look like a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken? (The Bible says nothing about pulpits).
- Seeing who can throw their Bibles the furthest in the church parking lot? (The Bible says nothing about this.)
You could probably add to the list.Â Â Based on their standards of judgment, none of these are wrong because nothing in the Bible says that they are.Â Â In their point of view, you might be able to apply principles, but then human opinion would come in, there would be disagreement, and you would need to defer to Romans 14 on this.Â The purveyors of this false view of liberty will argue that these issues are entirely different.Â I don’t believe so.Â Most of them are exactly like the music issue in the application of Scripture, except that Scripture has more to say about music than the above issues.
We Can and Should Discern Right and Wrong Music Using Biblical Principles
Of course, I believe that we can apply Biblical principles to all of the above activities.Â Perhaps sometime I’ll let you know what I think of each of them using verses of Scripture.Â We can know what God wants us to do regarding each one of them, using the Bible.Â This is actually where wisdom and Scriptural discernment come in.Â To make every principle of the Bible amoral or a liberty issue takes away almost any need for discernment. No one needs wisdom or discernment if obedience to God relates only to explicit statements of Scripture.Â This continues the attack of Satan on Scripture, his assault on discernment and the ability to apply the Bible to a believer’s life.
Music communicates.Â Psalm 92:3 speaks of a “solemn sound,” Psalm 89:15 a “joyful sound,” and 1 Corinthians 14:8 an “uncertain sound.”Â Those areÂ by no means the only sounds music can communicate.Â As a means of communication, just like speech, it can be filthy, corrupt, proud, sensual, fleshly, and blasphemous.Â Â If we don’t know what corrupt communication is, which requires discernment, then we can’t even judge words, let alone music.Â Music can exalt God or degrade Him.Â Â Words can be wrong.Â Music can be wrong.Â Both need to be judged.Â Both need discernment, and the Holy Spirit through the Word of God will give that kind of understanding to a genuine believer.
God expects us to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” and “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22).Â Â In other words, He wants us to have wisdom and understanding, that is, discernment.Â When God says “be not conformed to the world” (Rom. 12:2), He means that we have to discern the spirit of the age and not be like it.Â When He commands us to “abstain from fleshly lusts” (1 Pet. 2:11), He expects us to discern what fleshly lusts are.Â When God exhorts us “not [to be] brought under the powerÂ of any” (1 Cor. 6:12); it isn’t optional.Â We are required by Scripture to practice discernment.
Since music is a worship issue, hardly anything is more important than our discernment concerning music.Â Tolerating all styles as adequate or acceptable for worship not only lacks discernment but destroys it as well.Â Worst of all, God isn’t praised.Â God expects us to learn what is good and bad music, and test all of it, especially that used in worship of Him.
(1) Fundamentally Reformed.