Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Thinking about music. No, I mean, like really thinking about it.

Blogger Frank Turk has begun to sound off on what makes good and bad music, and he's setting his sights on rap in particular. Well and good. Frank's one of my favorite thinkers. But he's thinking on my turf, so I'm going to weigh in from a different angle. We'll see where our conclusions end up.

And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
(Isaiah 6:5 ESV)
Because I am talking about music in our culture, I give the caveat that I am a musician in our culture. I'm not pretending that I stand outside its influence to be a critic. But I can take what God has commanded us clearly and objectively in Scripture and apply that to music. Sound fair?

Here we go:

"'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "'You shall have no other gods before me.
(Deuteronomy 5:6-7 ESV)

Music does not exist for its own sake. Because it is in the realm of creation, it exists by the will of and for the pleasure of Jesus Christ (Col 1:16). And that doesn't mean just "worship music." That means all music, period. It accomplishes what He wants it to accomplish. God loves music and has a wonderful plan for its life. Heh.

So here's a question. How is it possible for music to have a god? Is it possible for music to be idolatrous in any sense (remember: just the music, not the lyrics)?


Sir Aaron said...

Ho do we put an objective rating on music as being evil or not evil without knowing the intent? How Many have said that a beat is inherently evil (which is all fine and good, except we know that in the OT they used instruments that also carried a beat). Some people thoroughly believe that certain music leads to feelings of "excess and violence." Ok, how do we know it objectively? That is, without knowing the author, the intent of the music, or anything about it whatsoever. If I was raised on a desert island by myself, with only my Bible, how would I know that certain music is inherently evil?

Tell us what you think.

David said...

Israel had some faithful kings who did right in the sight of the Lord, but they left up some of the high places. I think we're in the same place.

You weren't raised on a desert island with just your Bible, and if you had been, the Bible would have made no sense to you. Instead, you were raised by real people in a real culture, and most likely came to faith through some of Christ's ambassadors in this world.

Can music have a god?

Sir Aaron said...

I wasn't raised on a desert island, which is precisely the point. Music is inanimate. It cannot have a God because it is a thing. It is a reflection of the author and to some extent the culture. Therefore, it is not completely out of the question to believe that a Christian could take music or forms thereof, and make it a reflection of something else. This is precisely what we've done with many of our holidays.

David said...

You're not far off. Try reversing your reflections. Music reflects a culture far more than it reflects an individual composer.

The raw materials of music are always handed down from the culture to the musicians. The musicians may reconfigure, refine, combine, fold, spindle, or mutilate, but they're dealing with what they've been given.

An idolatrous culture makes idolatrous music.

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mind my commenting here - this sort of thing interests me.

What makes music idolatrous? Just being made by idolatrous people shouldn't necessarily make the music inherently idolatrous, though people may undoubtedly idolise music or use music to idolise other things.

David said...

I want to make a note of something here. There is a process involved. It takes time. It is not as if a musician has an idolatrous thought, and out pops idolatrous music.

There is leaven involved. That's why we're talking about culture.

What makes music idolatrous is that the music begins to reflect the false gods the people believe in.

It does this in a remarkable way, and I will begin to unravel that in my next post.

Sir Aaron said...

I think we're close to being on the same page. But I would say that things can't be idolatrous. Things don't worship. Yes, they are products of worship, but they, in an of themselves, don't worship.

An evil man build a theater for pornography. He builds it in a fashion specific for this industry. Of course, a Christian would never think to build such a building. But later the building is vacant and the Christian sees it and says, "Wow, this would make a perfect church building." Suddenly a thing which was used to the worship of evil is now being used for the worship of God.

Now there are some who would say, that building was idolatrous and should be destroyed. Others will say it can be redeeemed.