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Mark Minnick gives real wisdom concerning music philosophy

I’ve posted several times about a three message series that Mark Minnick recently preached on biblical discernment, but after just listening to the third message again, I cannot urge you to listen to these enough.

In the final message, Pastor Minnick specifically applies biblical principles to the issue of musical choices in worship, and takes the Sovereign Grace/Getty/Townend controversy head on. With characteristic balance, wisdom, care, and respect for biblical authority in these matters, Pastor Minnick offers very helpful counsel concerning what has become one of the most controversial issue amongst self-proclaimed fundamentalists.

Probably the biggest weakness of his presentation is that he assumes that musical style is not neutral. It was not his goal to present arguments as to why this is not the case, although he does offer a brief explanation. To be honest, I’m not convinced that most fundamentalists pastors even believe this anymore, and this is what fuels the confusion.

But if you agree with that assumption (which I do, of course!), then what Pastor Minnick offers is just really wise counsel.

Download these quickly. Sermons on Mt. Calvary’s site don’t stay free for long:

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 Culture, 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 four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

18 Responses to Mark Minnick gives real wisdom concerning music philosophy

  1. You've got connections with him Scott. Perhaps you could encourage him to preach on the non-neutrality of music. I've been thinking through our non-neutrality as it relates to our view of the world. Presuppositionalists can't be neutral on anything.

  2. Scott:

    Thanks for making these available. I spoke to Dr. Minnick at our church a few weeks ago. Among other things- we discussed this subject briefly. His concerns are genuine and I encouraged to keep getting out in front on this and similar issues that are working their way into IFB circles from outside influences. His voice is not easily dismissed by those who are moving away from safe harbors.

    Anyway, in what order should we listen to these three?


  3. Kent, don't get me wrong. He does come out very strongly in favor of the fact that music is not neutral, and presents a brief explanation. I'm not faulting him at all! This wasn't really the venue for a full-orbed argument along those lines. My only point was to say that if someone doesn't buy that presupposition, then most of the reasons Pastor Minnick gave for not using "cleaned up" versions of certain songs will fall on deaf ears.

    Lou, they were preached in the order I have them listed above, and they certain build on one another.

  4. Scott:

    Thanks for the order in which to listen.

    May I ask, do we actually have men who are part of historic Fundamentalism saying today that music is neutral?

    I am not a music professional, but was saved at 23 in part from the world’s Rock culture. And when I hear CCM I hear the world’s anti-god music and culture all over again. Even from my limited experience I’ve figured this much: From Mozart to Mick Jagger- no musician I am aware of, until the CCM crew came along, ever made the absurd claim that the music is neutral.

    I’d recommend to your readers Tim Fisher’s, The Battle for Christian Music, 2nd Edition. The foreword, by Dr. John Vaughn, includes the following,

    Is music “neutral” as the CCM crowd claims it is? Is music an effective tool to spice up our otherwise dry and lifeless services? Is music primarily a means of evangelism- a way to reach with the gospel those who would not come to church or listen to a direct witness? Tim Fisher declares emphatically, “NO!” It is none of these. Music is the gift of God to use in praising Him…. The battle has raged for years, and we are losing territory weekly as those who should know better are growing weary in the fight.

    I am hearing that we have men who are caving in to the CCCM movement because they’ve lost the will to fight the good fight on this field any longer. Is this true, Scott? You are well connected. Are mature IFB pastors surrendering the high ground for the CCM movement and allowing it move into their own local ministries?

    Kind regards,


  5. I have heard fundamentalist leaders argue things like, we can only determine what music means to us, or we can't say that a certain kind of music could never be used for worship, things like that. I know of influential pastors and college administrators who are actually struggling over whether Christian rap is a legitimate form.

    I've also been interested in observing what preachers are very careful not to say in their presentations of a music philosophy. They'll say things like, "Because of our particular church makeup, we have chosen not to use contemporary music forms," etc. They are very careful not to say that they have rejected such forms because they're wrong, just because it doesn't fit the preferences of their church family at that time. I've also heard and seen many fully endorse Kauflin's writings on the matter, and of course Kauflin is very clear that he thinks that no musical form is off limits.

    So that's why I'm not surprised that these churches don't even think twice about using "cleaned up" versions of songs originally written, published, and produced in pop forms. If the only argument for not using them is that it might lead some folks to like the pop forms, and if they don't see the pop forms as communicating corrupt messages, then there is no reason not to use them.

    And, yes, I do think we've lost the fight in big ways. I've seen influential leaders of significant fundamentalist churches openly endorse and promote Sovereign Grace recordings. Not the songs; the recordings. Not the soft stuff; the hard stuff.

    The issue is no longer about using "cleaned up" versions of songs. It's about whether any music communicates corrupt messages at all.

  6. Scott:

    I really appreciate what you’ve just posted.

    What you’re revealing here is highly disconcerting, but not at all unexpected. What is more frustrating is (as you are demonstrating) that these men and/or institutions are being political about where there true allegiances are in this matter. Speaking in veiled terms. Whatever happened to being straight forward in unvarnished terms?

    I suspect they do not want to be publicly, irrefutably identified with the forms of music they've embraced for fear of the obvious fallout if they were to be transparent.

    You wrote, “ I know of influential pastors and college administrators who are actually struggling over whether Christian rap is a legitimate form.

    Two reactions- First, I immediately think back to John Piper bringing in that RAP artist to his church, and barely was there a whisper of rebuke from IFB men about it. Those who raised the alarm were ignored, treated as troublemakers or vilified. Second, we are, as I have warned, becoming desensitized by the exposure to conservative evangelicalism, which is where much of these worldly music choices are emanating from and obviously making their way back to what are for now IFB ministries.

    Last question: You obviously know who the, “influential pastors and college administrators” are. Can you link to any documentation from the who they are and/or what institutions are that are moving toward CCM that you’ve referenced here? Documentation (audio or print) that verifies what you are observing?



  7. Two factors: (1) Much I what I know to be true about certain individuals was told to me in confidence, so I cannot relate that. (2) Things I have observed myself are my own interpretation of things written and spoken, and I'll admit that I have applied a level of interpretation to what was said and how it was said. How, after all, can I be sure why someone didn't say something?

    So in no case have I read or heard an explicit statement arguing against universal meaning, and therefore I don't feel at liberty to name names.

    Were I to hear or read a clear statement to that effect, I would likely point it out. And any time I have seen a message or article on the subject written by fundamentalist leaders, I have usually linked to it here. So the messages/pastors I have in mind are probably ones that I have pointed out in the past on this site.

  8. I listened to that third message on the way to church and back last night. My kids were not paying attention until the music samples were played and they perked right up and scolded me for listening to it! “Dad, turn that off! That’s bad music! Daddy, you are being bad!” It certainly got their attention and they were very interested to hear why “Mister Minnick” was playing those songs and what he had to say about them. I have to say I didn’t anticipate how extreme-sounding those songs would be. I obviously don’t get out of my bubble much.

    I tend to agree that music has universal meaning but I doubt that I could argue for it effectively. One thing that I don’t think is debatable is the clear association of certain styles with the ungodly, lascivious segment of the world and especially its entertainment. I thought that Dr. Minnick did a great job highlighting that aspect of this issue. I know that we have “lost the fight in big ways” as you say, but it still blows my mind that people can listen to that stuff without it bothering their conscience.

  9. Hello Andy:

    Enjoyed your illustration. Children will say without hesitation what many of know to be true when we hear these CCM Rock-n-Roll songs. I have stories like that from my years on deputation and in South Africa when my kids were young.

    You wrote, “I know that we have ‘lost the fight in big ways’ as you say, but it still blows my mind that people can listen to that stuff without it bothering their conscience.”

    I understand your meaning, but IMO those who know the importance of resisting the anti-god Rock culture’s making inroads into the NT church through CCM have not grown weary. And BTW, God has always been in the remnant business. There are those among us who have not lost the fighting spirit and will not cave in and surrender to the insidious spread of CCM. Our brother Scott is one of them and we need to encourage and support him in his efforts. There are others who have, however, lowered the banner and thrown down their arms on this one.

    I think you get my drift, which is this has always has been a spiritual battle and there are those who got up one day and decided that they would no longer put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-11) for this one anymore. Some were simply worn down by allowing for exposure after exposure to the CCM Rock culture and the flesh likely got energized with the tragic result of a liking for it.

    Having been saved at 23 and out of deep entrenchment into the Rock culture I understand the allurement of the world in the genre.

    IMO, most who have caved in know in their heart they have erred grievously, have this before them when they pray, but don’t care to respond to the convicting work of the Spirit on this issue any longer.

    All given in my humble opinion.


  10. The last two posts are important. We have Andy saying (and Lou agreeing) that even his kids know that the music is bad instinctively. Some would say that supports the idea of universal meaning. But that is not the case. It simply reflects the cultural conditioning of his kids.
    Lou seems to be suggesting that the music would even be wrong in Africa. I appreciate the honesty of that because few in his camp will admit their bias toward Western music. Well Lou, take your Majesty hymnal and straighten out the music of the Africans if you want but you will not be teaching the Bible. You will simply be trying to force your culture on theirs. And that is ridiculous.

  11. Scott:

    Have you ever served long term as a missionary in South Africa? Did you ever visit the field God placed me in and see the various ministries to nationals in the city and in the bush I and my co-worker had there?

    Unless you spent a few months on my field, and I don’t recall seeing you there, or at least first approach me for some further details, you might refrain from posting woefully uninformed commentary such as yours above.

    That said, if you want to e-mail me with questions to initiate some discussion- feel free.


  12. Scott R., I didn't say they knew it was wrong instinctively. My wife and I have tried to teach them. It was just inconceivable to them for me to be playing that type of music in the car. To be honest, it was very uncomfortable and I could not bear to let me or them listen to it at regular volume.

    Do you disagree that the music styles Minnick played are strongly associated with the base, ungodly, lascivious culture of our age?

  13. Andy, I hate that music. I would listen to about anything else before I listened to what Minnick was playing.

    But is it strongly associated base, ungodly and lascivious culture? No, I see no reason to believe that it is. Maybe at another time and culture, yes. But today, it is just a style without any real baggage.

  14. I think it is part of our culture like say McDonalds is part of our culture. Not sure of your definition of pop is so can't comment if it is part of pop culture.

    Is every aspect of our culture characterized by base, ungodly, lascivious ideals? No.

  15. I used the term "pop culture" because we are talking about music and I thought it would be clear that I meant the culture that surrounds it, such as its personalities,magazines, radio stations, TV, entertainment outlets, lyrics, etc. I'm talking about the culture of Brittany Spears, Rolling Stone magazine, top-40 radio stations, MTV, nightclubs and dance clubs, etc. On on hand you are correct — that culture is pervasive and shows up in venues outside of itself, like McDonalds, malls, and church! Your argument is that if the style is everywhere, then it can't be associated solely with just a small portion of culture that is base, ungodly, and lascivious. But I would counter that a cancer that spreads throughout the body is just as objectionable, if not more, as a cancer that is localized. It hardly makes sense to say that a corrupting influence is bad, should be avoided, and not copied until it infiltrates all of society and then it's OK.

    So, does this pervasive style of music

  16. Hi Scott,

    This line of yours really brought back the memories:

    So that’s why I’m not surprised that these churches don’t even think twice about using “cleaned up” versions of songs originally written, published, and produced in pop forms.

    I remember when 'rock music' came into the church in the early 70s. One of the 'cleaned up' songs we used started life as a Coca Cola commercial. "It's the Real Thing" became "He's the Real Thing." I am afraid that as a youngster I really didn't appreciate the cheapening of the truth that represented. In a way, it is to me the defining piece of embracing the world that is behind everything that has happened since.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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