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Why do we assume that music alone is immune from cultural decay?

Slash Record Release Show For "Slash" At The RoxyThat culture in America is decaying is no secret to conservative Christians. Recent events surrounding homosexual marriage has once again pushed this realization to the forefront for we who have high moral standards rooted in the Word of God.

But marriage isn’t the only cultural issue under attack; conservative Christians recognize the slow (and ever quickening) rotting of biblical values in any number of areas including politics, education, the sanctity of life, cinema, sports, and gender roles.

This leads me to pose a question that Ken Myers raised when he and I had a conversation a few months ago:

If Christians recognize anti-biblical values in just about every cultural matter, why do they assume that music alone is immune from this cultural decay?

Oh sure, they’ll quickly point to anti-Christian lyrics as examples of cultural decay in music, but what about the music? What about the form itself? The lyrics have been influenced by anti-Christian values, but not the music? The lifestyles of performers have been influenced by anti-Christian values, but not the music? The atmosphere and ethos of secular music concerts have been influenced by anti-Christian values, but not the music?

As Ken pointed out to me, most Christians will even recognize decay in other art forms, but somehow music is exempt.

Why is that?

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Cutlure, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and three children.

8 Responses to Why do we assume that music alone is immune from cultural decay?

  1. My contention is that everybody knows. It's the emperor wearing no clothes. Everybody knows, they just won't or can't say. So much depends on their music. It really isn't an argument of knowledge, but of will, which is presuppositional. Your problem is rebellion, not ignorance. We forsook transcendence for immanence, Without a proper view of God, or a shift to attention on men, utilitarianism and pragmatism. This relates to all sorts of problems relating to truth, goodness, and beauty, which is the cultural decay.

  2. Your argument finds its strength in the fact that music is the only exception (and therefore some kind of inconsistent concession or deviation).

    I would challenge you to evaluate the strength of that claim. Has our society decayed across the board? Certainly the slaves of the 1800's and the native americans of the 1700's would not think so. Upon closer inspection we may find quite a few "exceptions" to this decay in our culture–some that even look like progress toward the biblical model. [no doubt there are high profile and grievous examples of decay like abortion and homosexual "marriage."]

    This doesn't necessarily make your observation false, but it definitely calls for harder work at proving music has decayed than to say, "everything else has, why are people engaging in special pleading with music?"

  3. I think you perhaps make a valid point, but you're still admitting the presence of moral value in cultural matters, something musical relativists do not. So I can perhaps not prove that music has degraded using this line of reasoning, but I still think I make a valid observation with regard to the the fact that moral (or immoral) values are inevitably present in all cultural issues, including music.

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

  4. Great question, Ken. And well-chosen, Scott. I think your argument stands. You’re merely calling us to be on guard that even musical styles can be affected by depravity, and that is precisely the point that will not be conceded by the contemporaries.

    The possibility of corruption exists even in the form, therefore, let us ponder and write about what that corruption would look like. Though the publishing houses are ever busy, I can’t think of too many evangelical treatments of that subject.

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