One of the most dangerous, yet easy pitfalls one can fall into when discussing music/worship issues is to misrepresent the opposing view (most likely unintentionally). This is easy to fall into because it’s always easier to blow down an opponent’s position if you get to invent a pretty weak caricature of his actual view!
I’d like to just briefly list some of the straw man arguments I’ve heard on either side of the debate. I’m doing this largely for my own benefit since I’ve certainly been guilty of this from time to time. I think discussion and debate over these issues is important, but we must fairly represent the positions of our opponents for there to be any profitable discussion.
In each of the cases I’ll mention, I’m sure there has been someone somewhere who has held positions like these, or with some of these they may have even been positions held by a group of people in the past. But to represent either side of the debate today in any of the following ways is, in my opinion, unhelpful in these discussions. I’ll list these with little comment, just in order to stimulate some thought.
When we set up these kinds of straw men in order to discredit opposing positions, it is usually because we are unwilling to take the time and effort to intelligently engage with the deeper philosophical issues underlying each position. Now admittedly, on both sides of the debate, there are plenty of arguments being made that are unworthy of engaging. But to characterize everyone on a given side of the debate by one or more of the sillier arguments is dishonest.
Again, I truly believe that having discussions and debates about music is a healthy and important practice. But as we discuss these issues, let’s be sure that we are charitably and accurately representing our opponent’s positions.
What kinds of straw man arguments have you heard on either side of the debate?
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is on faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He has written two books, dozens of articles, 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 two children.