Home > Brandenburg, Music > The Role of Discernment in the Issue of Music

The Role of Discernment in the Issue of Music

July 24, 2007

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).  Get understanding after you get wisdom.  Get wisdom after you get knowledge.  We get knowledge from God’s Word.  We get wisdom from the Holy Spirit to accurately apply the Word of God.  We get discernment from regularly and consistently applying God’s Word accurately, so that right decisions become the pattern for our life.  Job put it this way:  “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.  From the Garden of Eden to the Wilderness of Temptation, Satan has opposed God’s plan by undermining God’s Word.  He questions its inspiration, “How do we know God said it?”  He questions its preservation, “How do we know this is what God said?”  He has been recently gaining a foothold with “How can we know what God meant?”—the attack on the clarity of Scripture.  A corollary to this recent conspiracy of Satan is:  “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).  Satan opposes by confusing God’s righteous standard.  He damages the combined conscience of a nation and of mankind.  Satan himself rejects God’s law and influences all people to do the same.  He blurs the boundaries to harm the operation of man’s God-given, inbred warning-device.   The negation of the law lessens the work of the conscience over sin.

Satan replaces God’s direction with toleration.  He persuades men not to judge.  His world system has taken on this ungodly philosophy, and now it has spread into churches and religious organizations.  He attacks the principles of God’s Word.  He convinces men that they no longer have Scriptural authority to apply Biblical principles to their way of life.   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.  To do this, He would gladly confuse men about what pleases the Lord in worship.  The devil happily nullifies the kind of music that God enjoys, songs that match His character or nature.  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.   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 doesn’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.   With the absence of those terms, we are bereft of the ability to discern what kind of music God wants to hear from us.  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 cross out of dung (human waste)? (Dung is an amoral substance.)
  • Saying a four letter word? (No verse says that these are wrong to say.  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?  (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-colored NFL insignia cups with curly straws?  (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?  (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.   Based on their standards of judgment, none of these are wrong because nothing in the Bible says that they are.   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.  The purveyors of this false view of liberty will argue that these issues are entirely different.  I don’t believe so.  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.  Perhaps sometime I’ll let you know what I think of each of them using verses of Scripture.  We can know what God wants us to do regarding each one of them, using the Bible.  This is actually where wisdom and Scriptural discernment come in.  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.  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.  Psalm 92:3 speaks of a “solemn sound,” Psalm 89:15 a “joyful sound,” and 1 Corinthians 14:8 an “uncertain sound.”  Those are by no means the only sounds music can communicate.  As a means of communication, just like speech, it can be filthy, corrupt, proud, sensual, fleshly, and blasphemous.   If we don’t know what corrupt communication is, which requires discernment, then we can’t even judge words, let alone music.  Music can exalt God or degrade Him.   Words can be wrong.  Music can be wrong.  Both need to be judged.  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).   In other words, He wants us to have wisdom and understanding, that is, discernment.  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.  When He commands us to “abstain from fleshly lusts” (1 Pet. 2:11), He expects us to discern what fleshly lusts are.  When God exhorts us “not [to be] brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12); it isn’t optional.  We are required by Scripture to practice discernment.

Since music is a worship issue, hardly anything is more important than our discernment concerning music.  Tolerating all styles as adequate or acceptable for worship not only lacks discernment but destroys it as well.  Worst of all, God isn’t praised.  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.

Categories: Brandenburg, Music
  1. July 24, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Brother Kent,

    This was dead-on. The argument of silence is silly at best. Your last paragraph explains the principles by which we should judge music very well.

  2. July 24, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks Brother Art.

    What I like about the comment section of the blog is that I can write things that I probably wouldn’t put in my post, personal things that don’t advance the argument. So let me say a few. One, this attack on application of Scripture is a devious, ungodly attack of Satan on the Word of God and He uses his minions to accomplish it. We’ve reached a point where preachers are afraid to make an application because they will be marginalized by this crowd. Second, I’m repulsed by the weak, pablum, and flesh-serving arguments of the pop music protectors.

  3. Gary Johnson
    July 25, 2007 at 7:47 am

    Very good article

    Now at the next preacher’s meeting I attend, I won’t be able to get the thought out of my mind of Bro. Brandenburg standing behind a KFC bucket pulpit as all the preachers drink coke and we have a contest to see who can belch the loudest, followed of course by the Bible throwing contest in the parking lot.


    Sorry to take from the seriousness of the article, but those last three examples just were over the top.

  4. July 25, 2007 at 7:56 am

    Can you belch AMEN, rather than shouting it?

  5. July 25, 2007 at 8:26 am

    The AMEN issue is interesting. Coming from a northern influence, much of what I’ve seen even in the “shouting” (sorry Jeff, never mind the belching) seems over the top to me- more about “enjoying one’s self” than it is pondering the truth proclaimed and contemplating what changes are necessary in my life because of it. This issue seems further compounded to me when some Christians begin to use the word as a general affirmative for just about everything (“You hear that bananas are on sale this week for $.25/lb? AMEN!”).

    I’m not condemning the action, necessarily- but wondering out loud if this is another area where some should examine the appropriateness of worship expression.

  6. July 25, 2007 at 9:16 am

    You are right on, Greg. When traveling, I’ve been in churches where it seems to be an Amen contest, followed by lighting up on the way out to the parking lot. At least they didn’t throw Bibles, I guess.

    Very funny, Gary.

    Belching Amen seems to be syncretistic, Jeff.

  7. July 25, 2007 at 9:50 am

    I have to agree with Greg. From time to time we will have a speaker come through who insists on coaxing Amens from the crowd. I always feel like these guys are looking for affirmation from the audience, rather than agreement with God’s Word. These guys seem to need the Amens to keep their batteries charged.

    And of course, they also ask us to Amen the silliest things (I can’t beat the banana sale example… I only wish that I didn’t have to say that it really does get that ridiculous). Amening becomes a test of spirituality, and if you aren’t Amening to excess, then “yer blesser must be busted.”

    But I would ask if someone could give a Scriptural warrant for Amening the speaker anyway? I have a guy in my church who violently disagrees with me on a couple of issues. If a guest speaker comes in and says something even close to what this guy thinks, or at least different than what I think, we can count on a very loud, hearty, and strategic Amen. Often, I feel that this kind of Amening is more about making a point than it is about agreeing with Scripture.

    Is this off topic? In the Bible, I see a warrant for Amening Scripture (not necessarily opinions about Scripture), I see a warrant for Amening the Psalms and Hymns that compose the musical portion of worship. I see corporate Amens. But where did all this individualistic Amening come from?

  8. July 25, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Brother Dave,

    I believe individualistic amening is a left-over symptom of “camp-meeting” mentality. Preachers are probably the worst offenders of this, particularly at a “Preacher’s Meeting.”

    Personally, I say amen, sometimes heartily, if some truth of Scripture is being proclaimed boldly, if the Lord is magnified in a particular way, or after the Word of God has been read.

    When I ministered in northern New England, I learned that sometimes a nod of the head had much more spiritual meaning than a loud amen.

    By the way, some of the preachers who “fish” for amens have a problem with applause after special music. But, in reality, the “amens” are a type of applause.

    Just a few random thoughts, amen?

  9. Bobby Mitchell
    July 25, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    It is a great testimony when the faithful men of the church say “amen” to this preacher when I am declaring Biblical truth. It is a verbal agreement and a standing with the pastor. It is particularly helpful for the young or more timid believers to see that the pastor is not the only one that believes these things and will publicly affirm them. This is especially true when doctrine is declared that is hard for the flesh to submit to.

  10. Thomas Ross
    July 25, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Scriptural warrant for saying Amen to good things:

    1 Kings 1:36
    And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: the LORD God of my lord the king say so too.

    Jeremiah 28:6
    Even the prophet Jeremiah said, Amen: the LORD do so: the LORD perform thy words which thou hast prophesied, to bring again the vessels of the LORD’s house, and all that is carried away captive, from Babylon into this place.

    Scriptural warrant for saying Amen after hearing Scripture read:

    John 21:25
    And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

    Mark 16:20
    And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

    Matthew 28:20
    Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    (see the ending of other NT books)

    Scriptural warrant for sticking an Amen into a discourse:

    Romans 1:25
    Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

    Romans 9:5
    Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

    Romans 11:36
    For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

    -note that these were not at the end of the book of Romans, nor after a prayer. Also:

    1 Timothy 1:17
    Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    Ephesians 3:21
    Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

    1 Peter 4:11
    If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

    Revelation 1:6
    And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

    Revelation 1:7
    Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

    NT example of Amen in churches after hearing spiritual discourse/preaching:

    1 Corinthians 14:16
    Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

    Scriptural warrant for saying Amen to preaching:

    Deut 27:

    16Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    17Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    18Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    19Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    20Cursed be he that lieth with his father’s wife; because he uncovereth his father’s skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    21Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    22Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    23Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    24Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    25Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    26Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.

    Scriptural warrant for saying Amen after hearing praise to the Triune Jehovah:

    1 Chronicles 16:36
    Blessed be the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the LORD.

    Nehemiah 5:13
    Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise.

    Nehemiah 8:6
    And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

    Scriptural basis for repeated Amens:

    Psalm 89:52
    Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.

    Psalm 41:13
    Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.

    Psalm 72:19
    And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.

    Heavenly worship and the Amen:

    Revelation 19:4
    And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.

    The Lord Jesus saying Amen:

    Revelation 1:18
    I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

    And there is far more evidence than this. Let’s say, “Amen,” AMEN?

  11. July 26, 2007 at 3:53 am

    The Scriptures Thomas provides actually strengthen my point. The use of “Amen” seems to be in a very solemn and submissive context. You also don’t see any examples of “fishing” for the “Amen?”

    It’s important, too, to note here that solemn does not necessarily equal somber– though sometimes it might be appropriate to be somber (and I would argue much more often than we generally are). “Amen” is not some kind of a spiritualized “woo-hoo.” My point is not that it should not be done- but that it use should be evaluated for appropriateness and consistency with Biblical usage- especially considering that this is a word that our Savior uses to name and describe Himself in Revelation 3:14-

    These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God…

    In light of that fact, I would argue that we ought to be very careful against flippant and frivolous usage of the term. This isn’t about affirming a pastor– it’s about affirming the source and basis of authority.

  12. Bobby Mitchell
    July 26, 2007 at 10:34 am

    “It is particularly helpful for the young or more timid believers to see that the pastor is not the only one that believes these things and will publicly affirm them.”


    Read again what I wrote. I am writing about publicly affirming the Bible doctrines that the pastor is preaching.

  13. Bobby Mitchell
    July 26, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Amen, Brother Thomas. Amen.

  14. July 26, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Right, Bobby- but what I am saying is that spontaneous outbursts of Amens are easier than affirming these truths through obedient living. Again, I’m not arguing that we should ban the “Amen”- but I am suggesting how it is commonly practiced is generally not reverent, not serious, not dignified, and not particularly affirming of truth as often as it is fiery delivery or something humorous, controversial, or otherwise entertaining.

    If that is different in your church, I rejoice.

  15. July 27, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    But what did anyone think of what’s in the article? Does it close the hole on the “music is amoral” or “music is a matter of liberty” issue?

  16. July 27, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    There was an article? 🙂

  17. Gary Johnson
    July 28, 2007 at 7:15 am

    Having been one of those who was very involved in the world’s music before salavation, having “played in a band”, I fully agree that music speaks very clearly. It can ‘persuade’ many to engage in activities they would never otherwise get involved in. A simple illustration, the nightclubs won’t play militant march music, and the reason is obvious.
    One is very dishonest (or possibly greatly deceived) when they take the seductive, syncopated sound of the world, and sing the songs of Zion to those melodies, then claiming that music is neutral.

    Now back to practicing for that Bible throwing contest I am entered in this morning.

  18. Sam Hanna
    July 29, 2007 at 10:33 am

    I would like to know where the militancy against the apostasy and the enemies of the gospel is in modern Fundamentalist music.

    The first song in the Bible is the Red Sea triumph in Ex 15 and at least 11 of the Psalms are Imprecatory Psalms. Why don’t we turn to the Bible for our pattern of Biblical worship instead of the Gaithers with their Unitarian Pentecostal, Romanist and Sodomite (Marsha Stevens) singers. When was the last time Maranatha, BJU, NBBC or PCC produced a non-sensual, non-effeminate and miltant CD?

  19. July 29, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    I agree with what you wrote Sam, and it is why I love the singing of the psalms. You get all of this when you sing them. We sing them Sunday AM and PM. I encourage anyone else to do the same.

  20. Anvil
    July 30, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Pastor Brandenburg, I agree with you about the singing of the Psalms. I have visited churches where this is done, and it was both a blessing and a challenge to me. I wish my church would do this as well.

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