Home > Music, Voegtlin, Worldliness > The Fat Lady

The Fat Lady

July 30, 2007

First, a general statement about generalities. Anyone can find an exception to a generality. But, generalities are generally true because, generally, they apply to the majority of the particulars. Someone who denies the general truth by pointing out a particular exception is more comfortable with the doubt and uncertainty of human reasoning and is not being honest with the truth.

Second, while I have not made this application in any of the posts I’ve made this month, others have turned the focus of my writing toward music for worship–music used in church. But I’m not talking about worship music. I’m talking about all music. I don’t want to separate the sacred from the secular. I assure you that I understand that some music that is appropriate for any part of life is not appropriate for worship. But my conclusion would be, that music that is NOT appropriate for any part of life is surely NOT appropriate for worship. Except that, in a way, all music worships something.

Finally, to bring together my first post and my second post, if we are not to love the world, neither the things in the world; and if we can observe how the context of our culture/world through music expresses its love of, or worship of its things–the flesh, the eyes, and pride; we should be able to see what music we should not love.

Now let’s be honest. Have you ever seen the music on MTV or vh1; CMT or BET? It doesn’t take long to plainly see and hear music that worships the lust of the flesh – sensuality, sexuality, women, promiscuity, etc. You can also see music that worships the lust of the eyes – eyes that are never satisfied, eyes that are covetous, desiring materialism, cars, things, etc. And you can see and hear music that worships the pride of life – it pays homage to good old number one. It serves self. It is in rebellion against authority. In our culture, it is easy to see and hear these types of music and it should be easy to then stay away from that worldly music.

In another culture, they may use different music to worship its worldly elements — the flesh, the eyes, and pride. But honestly, seeking Christians, in any culture should be able to apply these principles to their own culture and their own music.

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Categories: Music, Voegtlin, Worldliness
  1. July 30, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    I agree, Jeff, that these things should be easy to see. A lot of the arguments against are just red herrings.

  2. Anvil
    August 1, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    I guess the fat lady has sung, so I’ll keep this short. I generally agree with what is said in this post (don’t die of shock), but it is ultimately not very interesting or helpful for a couple of reasons.

    1. While we can use “obviousness” for a quick judgment, it doesn’t actually help determine the actual morality of the music or how to judge it more generally. What’s more, that judgment is not (for at least 98% of the population) a musicological one. The obvious cases are the easy ones. Knowing some of what would not be pleasing to God, doesn’t tell me what would. Which leads to:

    2. I can’t speak for you guys, but I don’t get my music (either for personal use or for worship) from the pool of music represented by VH1, MTV, or anything similar from the various rock, pop, etc. genres of music. So if I want to judge something that’s much more difficult and/or nuanced (like the banjo music mentioned earlier this month, or classical music, much of which may have been popular 250 years ago, or cultural music from say Germany or Ireland), throwing away the “obvious” bad choices doesn’t help me do that. It *really* doesn’t help with worship music.

    I completely agree with you that discernment is necessary, and that we don’t just accept everything, though I obviously judge it on a different basis than all of you.

    On to law and grace!

  3. August 5, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    OK, Anvil, I’ll bite.

    First, there must be a reason why you don’t get your music from VH1, etc. Maybe that reason is obvious. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it should be. But I’m thinking that, well, apparently you think something is obvious there. And since you don’t get your music in those places, apparently you don’t think the church should either. So, throwing away the “obvious” bad choices must, on some level, help you.

    Second, when determining what music is appropriate for worship, is the question “what can we do” as in “what is forbidden, what can we get away with doing,” or is the question, “what will most please God and bring him glory?” Should we be asking “what do I want” or “what does HE want?” And, how can we know what he actually does want, as opposed to what he absolutely doesn’t want? (Hint: see Psalms)

  4. Anvil
    August 6, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Pastor Mallinak,

    I think I’ll start with your second paragraph, because it holds the key to why I believe the “obvious” cases won’t be of much help. Considering only the obvious cases leads more to a “what can we get away with?” view than a view of “What does God want?,” which I believe is the right way to look at the question, but also the most difficult. I stated that knowing some of what God would not like is not that helpful because I see it as similar to someone who thinks that because they don’t steal, murder, commit adultery, rape, etc. (the “obvious” wrongs) then everything is OK between them and God. Yes, eliminating those is helpful in a small sense, but those are obvious to practically every Christian, so there’s not really any new information there, and eliminating the “obvious” sins is nowhere near what is needed to live a life pleasing to God.

    As I stated early in this discussion, I don’t evaluate music based on its inherent morality (which I am not convinced exists, except in the sense you mentioned in your post — everything God created is good, but man can misuse it, though I still don’t see that can actually make the music inherently morally wrong), but on association and appropriateness. The music on VH1 and MTV (the little I’ve seen of those channels) features songs with corrupt lyrics, immodest performers, both in dress and attitude (you don’t even need the music to evaluate those characteristics), and music associated with the baser parts of the world and its system, rebellion, etc. I don’t want to assume too much, but unlike what probably you and many with your position on music would hold, I don’t necessarily think that *every* song that appears on MTV would always violate at least one biblical command/principle. Nevertheless, I still wouldn’t choose music from those sources because I don’t generally “dumpster dive” just so that I can find a choice morsel that isn’t bad. Even if I would finally find something, it still would be tainted with the overall association and I certainly would not want to violate Romans 14 and cause someone else to stumble because I insisted on using something that my conscience would personally be clear about, but that would cause problems for others.

    Also, in my experience, most of those who eliminate those “obvious” choices are not judging the morality of the music itself any more than I am, even though they believe it to be wrong inherently. No one has ever been able to explain to me why certain combinations of notes, chords and rhythms are wrong, exactly in which way(s) they are inherently immoral, and how to do an accurate evaluation of any music using those elements, and I would argue that they are actually doing the judging the same way I am, whether they admit it or not. There may be an extremely small percentage of folks out there who hear a song on the radio and think about the musical elements and attempt to make a judgment on that basis, apart from the factors I mentioned using. The rest of us think about the associations it has, how the song affects us emotionally, or what it reminds us of when we hear it, and so on.

    The hard question is “What music does God like?” Again, leaving out VH1 doesn’t help me answer this question, because it leaves a lot from which to choose (including the choices I listed above), not all of which may please God. My problem is that when I ask what will please God, the answer I usually get is the the typical “Supreme Court” answer — “I can’t define it for you, but I will know when I hear it.” Or I might get examples of what they think is wrong. In other words, what fits the criteria for that person is what THEY think is right, not what God thinks is right. That gives me no help whatsoever in learning to judge the music itself. When what is “right” can’t be defined from the scripture, it represents man’s opinion, not God’s.

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