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Why can’t Christians admit that music has meaning?

There has been a growing consensus among philosophers of music that, contrary to the skeptical claims of [Edward] Hanslick, it makes perfect sense to describe music in expressive terms, and that, again contrary to Hanslick’s skeptical claims, there is more or less general agreement, among qualified listeners, as to what the music is expressive of, in any given instance, if, that is, it is expressive of anything (which need not necessarily be the case). More specifically, there has been a growing consensus that music can be, and often is, expressive of the garden-variety emotions, such as sorrow, joy, fear, hope, and a few other basic emotions like these.

As well, the consensus generally is that, when we way a passage of music is sorrowful, or fearful, or the like, we are not describing a disposition of the music to arouse such an emotion in us, but ascribing such an emotion, as a perceived property, to the music itself.

– Peter Kivy, Introduction to a Philosophy of Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 31.

This consensus among philosophers of music, I would suggest, is certainly not a reality among Christians.

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 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.

60 Responses to Why can’t Christians admit that music has meaning?

  1. I think that Peter’s quote in itself answers the question “Why can’t Christians admit that music has meaning?”

    1) Peter admits upfront that there is not agreement across all music philosophers “growing consensus….contrary to the skeptical claims…”. Why would one expect Christians to all follow a man devised philosophy when not clearly articulated in the Scriptures?
    2) Peter articulates well that music does not have a universally understood expression “there is more or less general agreement…as to what the music is expressive of”, which indicates that there are others who don’t understand what the music expresses.
    3) Peter clearly states that only the “qualified listeners” can understand what the music expresses. Which leaves most of us Christians out, or at least puts us on the defensive when a “qualified authority” tells us that our music expresses something that we didn’t understand.
    4) Peter finally indicates that not all music has meaning “if, that is, it is expressive of anything (which need not necessarily be the case)”. So, who gets to say which music expresses something and which does not? And how can we with any authority determine what it expresses — if in fact it expresses anything at all?
    5) And finally (and probably most important), Christians have no Biblical answer to the question. So, indicating that scientists have agreed on how old the earth is, so “why can’t Christians admit it”, may be the wrong question.

    Bottom line: based on Peter’s analysis alone, the idea that music has meaning is irrelevant. And Christians spending time trying to analyse the musical notes that we listen too (outside of the lyrics), is a waste of time. And further, trying to impose a Christian doctrine of thou shalt not, is….


  2. If there’s something I appreciate of James White’s way of debating if that he points out how people selectively apply methodologies to their opponent’s world view that they would never apply to their own world view.

    For example, Muslim apologists will quote “scholarly consensus” from liberal bible critics against the Bible. But the some Muslim would never apply those liberal methodologies to the Koran. That Muslim apologist really doesn’t believe in the critical methodology – he’s just quoting liberals because they happen to agree with him.

    There is “concensus” among most paleontologist, anthropologists and biologists about evolution. And they actually deal with a “hard science” (versus philosophy). Yet you do not believe in evolution, do you? Neither do I. The lenses through which the empirical data is interpreted makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

    I am skeptical there’s such a thing as consensusin philosophy, but if something can be learned from the history of philosophy is that such “consensus” will not last. Will you change your mind then once there is no consensus? Do you base your theology on secular philosophies so that your theology vary depending on the philosophical mood of the day?

    The better question is: Why do some Christians believe the concensus of secular philosophers is a strong argument?

  3. Maybe it has to do with lack of musical training. Most CCM and other musicians who dominate the scene are young. There are programs to turn young Christians into rock stars that don’t even provide any training whatsoever on theology or musicology; it’s only focused on joining young musicians together to form bands and produce recordings – a rock band factory.
    Given the style (rock or whatever) is usually predetermined by the musicians, they will simply add whatever lyrics they fancy to that style without first asking whether the style is even suitable for what they wish to express. This is undoubtedly resulting in bad art. It also means that musicians will presume that the style is neutral and can be used to express pretty much everything. The emphasis is more on ‘does it sound well’ (in the sense, do I like it?) than ‘does this express well what I want to bring across’.

    I think the above is true but others may want to comment whether it can account for why Christians think music itself has no meaning. This may also be an exaggeration since when you talk to someone who holds that music is ‘neutral’ they will usually say it’s morally neutral but may agree that it can be eerie, nice, rough, etc. in the sense of communicating something. Yet, as we’ve seen, when you get down to discussing specific examples, there is little consensus.

    The latter is also due to the subject matter. Aesthetics and artistic judgment is necessarily somewhat fuzzy. Like morality, there is some training and thinking required to make good decisions. Although we believe in moral absolutes, not everyone will decide the same way in a specific situation unless they “have their senses sharpened” to discern good and evil (Heb 5:14). These areas do have God-given laws but these laws are not as clear-cut as physical laws and cannot be calculated. Still, our sense of aesthetics yearns for sharing our enjoyment (or rejection) and thus, there is a clear desire for uniformity of aesthetic judgment among humans. This, however, can only be achieved when we follow common criteria, which brings me back to the musical training issue. We all should be art critics but post-modern thinking is discouraging any judgment since your taste is just as valid and just as good as mine. So I think it’s due to the youngest generations being exposed to certain ideas and not to others which brings this lack of discernment about among Christians (and probably, most everybody else as well).

  4. Some of the discussion might center around the importance of a Christian’s music preference. Do I like this or not? Often when we meet someone for the first time, after the questions “what do you do for a living?” and “what are your hobbies?” We get around to asking “what kind of music do you like?” The answer often times only deals with surface feelings or qualities of a particular style. For example, someone might listen to rap because they like the beat, or to a particular artist because of the sound or manner of their performance style. I think that sometimes we are looking to fulfill musical preferences only, not necessarily wanting to dig deeper.

  5. As someone involved with a rhythm-section driven worship music program, I would say that most of the lay Christians I work with do believe that music expresses garden-variety emotions. However, I think most would fall into a modified “arousal” based philosophical structure: music serves the lyrics (or prayer, etc) for an ultimate purpose of enhancing the expression of the text/prayer/etc (mostly by virtue of exciting the emotions). So, as opposed to mimicking or representing speech, music enhances speech… and, in the case of instrumental music, provides a supportive atmosphere or context for the speech. As Western culture shifts towards pictographic communication, this idea still holds: the music enhances the meaning of the images, etc. James 5:13 could loosely support such a philosophy…

  6. Most of the Christians that I know do believe that music express’ this ‘garden-variety of emotions” The music that is played supports the lyrics of the song that brings together the whole worship and enhances the emotions of the congregation. The way the music moves through a melody is infused with the lyrics and most Christians I know would agree that the music helps with worship and being able to lock out the world and the distractions and to focus on God and enhance the emotions to draw near to God.

  7. I would tend to agree with the beginning statement by Martin. I think a lot of our issues are derived from Rock Star worship leaders. When I say this I am not knocking immediately to Passion or Casting Crowns but the wannabe’s. For some time I have watched as churches push along a guy wanting to go into music ministry and focusing on the guy that wants to do youth or head pastor. Some how some where music has gotten this stain of a reputation that to lead all you have to do is be talented. Yes that is true and all but we also need to have a good theological background and a lot of the minister’s now days are not getting this so they think leading worship is just getting up there and signing a song that has the same genre sound of today’s popular music to be successful and this is not at all correct. If you don’t have the proper training and understanding of what the music you are being apart is meaning then how is your congregation.

    I also agree with John on the fact that the problem some Christians have is getting over the preference of music they want for worship.

  8. For those Christians who do accept music as conveying emotion, I can see where Jared is coming from when he says that there is a modified “arousal” basis to their philosophy. However, for those Christians who don’t believe that emotions can be perceived in music, I would say that they either simply do not want to delve into the philosophy as John mentioned or they are afraid of the conclusion that might confront them if they were to consider music as emotional.

    This conclusion would bring about a state of newfound vulnerability as well as call into question the type/style of music that is used within worship. How is the music appropriating an emotional response? Are these responses God honoring? Is He pleased with the emotions that are being expressed? Wrestling with these questions is scary and could be life-altering.

  9. I don’t think it is that Christians don’t think music has meaning. Most people understand that. I think the problem lies in the fact that Scripture doesn’t address the interpretation but culture does. In other words Scripture never tells us what “godly” music sounds like. So when people say “good”music there’s general disagreement. Who gets the privilege of saying what it sounds like?

  10. To answer the question, I believe that music does have meaning (or at least a means). If meaning can be considered purpose. I believe that all music’s purpose is to glorify God. And God being sovereign gets glory from all things. Man’s chief end is also to glorify God. Man being totally depraved uses music for purposes other then glorifying God. Man, in their sin places carnal text, and meaning to music designed for God’s glory.

    This being said, Music does seem to cause the majority of people to have emotion (especially the passions). This allows some to feel like they were in a spiritual situation, even if the text of the music was contrary to that in scripture. I believe that if someone is lost the Holy Spirit is not within them, so it can not be a truly spiritual situation.

    Music in and of itself, I believe, does not contain passions or affections, but it does work as a strong tool to speak to the passions and affections (if used with the appropriate text).

    This brings me to the conclusion that music is a tool or art made to glorify God. Man in his carnality uses it for other means. Man’s passions (and sometimes affections) seem to be stirred by music, but music does not have emotions. Thus the problem and flaw is that of man’s flesh (not whether music is traditional or contemporary).

  11. To further comment on your post Ben, I would agree that for many Christians, when dealing with the issue of emotions being perceived in music, “ignorance is bliss.” Many Christians don’t want to address the issue because it is much easier to rationalize “styles” of music for corporate worship based on personal preference rather than deciding on music that will generate appropriate responses. But even with this conclusion, there are debates as to which emotions are appropriate, and more specifically, what is meant by the term “emotion”. For Christian’s to say that music in and of itself has no meaning, it relieves them of having to discern these issues.

  12. It is interesting that many of you who object most strenuously to the assertion that music has inherent meaning can’t seem to express yourselves without making humorous typological errors.

  13. I think that one of the biggest issues is the fact that Christians can’t get past the idea that there preferred style is the only way to worship. I believe that most Christians I know would agree that these garden-variety properties do exist in music. An argument for this position is that one should not put a sorrowful text to music that could potentially be viewed as happy or joyful. A good example of this particular situation is the refrain traditionally used for “At the Cross.” With this said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that music in itself has the properties of garden-variety emotions but, as the general consensus states, music can portray these qualities. However, one particular style may not necessarily portray the same emotion for the same people group or culture. If Christians can get past the idea of a particular style being a requirement for worship, as long as accessibility, doctrinal accuracy, and fitting melodies for particular texts are accounted for, I believe Christians can join the general consensus of music philosophy.

  14. I agree with Eric’s statement. I think that Christians get wrapped up into a certain type of worship because it is what they are used to and comfortable with. It is how emotions are aroused.
    To answer the question, I think a lot of Christians have trouble with thinking music has meaning because it is a worldly/cultural issue.

  15. Many Christians who come to corporate worship-especially those who are not musically educated, I am sure, their main focus is on sermon. Worshiping God with music is just a little part of the whole service, which they pay little attention on. If that being the case, I believe that they hardly even think of the deeper relationship between music and emotion. Undoubtedly, they do realize that music and emotion are connected. However, whether or not our emotion is aroused by music or emotion is perceived property of music is another level of thinking.

  16. Music does have meaning for Christians. Music does express our “garden-variety” of emotions and it can entertain us at the same time. In terms of “Christian music”, it should not be to entertain in order to engage the people, but only to worship and express our affection to God. The only purpose for Christian music is to glorify His name. For Christians, music is an unique language to express our affection, adoration, and praises to God. Music can express the feelings that we can not describe by words and movements, and it is within us. Music can express one’s feeling and it can also make people to experience others’ emotions and feelings. Although people use music for different purposes, I believe that music is the tool God created for us to communicate with Him in the very beginning.

  17. Brandon…you took the words right out of my mouth! I would agree with Brandon that the attitude of “ignorance is bliss” is prevalent among Christians who do not believe that music has meaning. I agree with what Ben says in regards to individuals not wanting to answer the question about what meaning their music is communicating. As long as they ascribe no meaning to their music, anything is fair game. To ascribe meaning to it would mean that would have to look at their music honestly and objectively and determine what it is communicating. I think some Christians might be afraid to admit that their music (whether worship preference, radio preference, etc…) has a particular meaning. I believe some simply do not what to confront the meaning their music has. Sadly, I believe that the Christians who won’t admit that music has meaning, secretly do believe that but are unwilling to publicly acknowledge it for fear of confronting that meaning.

  18. The consensus among philosophers of music suggest that music itself can convey emotion. If this is the case, music may have the power to control peoples’ emotion. This consensus is not a reality among Christians because it is dangerous to let music alone to lead our mind.
    Some people may think that music is too abstract to convey a definite meaning. From a religious point of view, text is always superior to music because it is the most direct and reliable way to convey biblical truth.

  19. Most Christians can’t admit the meaning of music. However, I believe that Christians do not know how music is influential in worship. The most music that we listen to could be expressive without lyrics. However, I think music with lyrics has more power than without music because it has a purpose. For example, when a chapel orchestra plays hymn arrangement, we are not impressive by melody and music itself. Our emotions are moved by the recall of lyrics through music. Christians can move their emotions through music because they know the lyrics and purpose of music.

  20. They do not want to admit that music has meaning insisting that they cannot admit the fact because if they agree with it, there would be many limitations to use contemporary music in worship without any filtering.

  21. I am in agreement with Bradley and Brandon. If worshipers of this day and age thought about what music they use in worship, where they got it from and what it communicates they would have to redefine worship and more importantly who they think they are worshipping. They are comfortable in their ignorance and want to default to personal preference of popular opinion for the sake of reputation. Music is without a doubt expressive of emotion and if we are directing our worship toward God, shouldn’t it be reverent and holy? By denying the emotion music conveys, we deny what is due to God in worship and ultimately the true character of God.

  22. Music does portray garden-variety of emotions. And to apply that to a worship is one of the practical and essential part. Music does portray the images of different emotions and feelings. Such feelings like happy, joy, sad, nervousness can be shown through different types of music and the way it is expressed through music. For example, If you put a film on mute, there’s limited sources produced to the audience. However, when the music is added in the film, it arouses different feelings depedning on the scene. If you add music to a written passage, some parts can be strongly stated even more so, through the effect of the music.

  23. Christians admit that music has its own meaning until music meets with the word of God. This fact does not change their values and their faith without the word of God. I believe the music can be influence human’s emotions(sad, happy, joy, fear, hope…) and perceive human’s emotions to the music its own.

  24. Music, like a language which has its rise and fall in speech, is able to indicate surprise or disappointment, sadness, anger, joy, etc. They are captured and absorbed by composers and become meaningful musical expression. This being said, it does not necessarily mean music is a universal language, but would be fair to say that music is a universal expression. Since the gospel can be preached in any spoken languages, in the same way, it can or will even be preached through music eventually. As a Christians, however, we have to be careful to guard our mind when it comes to the association that comes with certain style or genres of music.

  25. I agree with the primary 2 theories that there is certain relationship between music and emotion. The music resembles emotions and it has been used as means of expressive of human emotions. By the way for Christians, music is means of offering. Music doesn’t exist just to express human feelings or personal experiences. The music is not for pleasure of a singer or player but to glorify God. The emotions that Christians feel while they sing is not aroused just by music but there should be spiritual value that communicates word of God.

  26. To answer that question, the foremost thing to state is the purpose of music. The relationship between music and emotion has been studied only in philosophical way but Christians see music as tool to worship God. Weather music arouses emotions or not, music doesn’t exist to express emotions but to express word of God. Christians considers music is a gift that they use to draw near to God. The emotions that music arouses it not occurred only by music itself.

  27. Music has the expression of the garden -variety emotions. Most elements of music obviously stimulate the human’s emotion. It has the power to move our feeling. If people are sad or gloom, angry, they might be try to listen to the music with the bright and energetic style to change their mood. That is the invisible power that music has. Also that influences spiritually to listener. Therefore the music in worship must be crucial part the text rather than the stimulation of the physical emotion. It should focus on the representation of the subject of the worship, God, and the worship’s purpose for the glory of God.

  28. I believe music can convey emotions while also agreeing that it is not a reality among Christians to ascribe certain emotions to music due to circumstances. A couple weeks ago, after a sermon by my pastor, I cried through the song of response, not because of the emotional representation from the song; but rather, I felt convicted by the preaching, which when followed with the song, manifested a physical response to what I was feeling inside. The song of response was “Amazing Grace,” and even though there were others around me, their response to the song was not the same as mine. In relation to Bradley’s comment, I agree in order to ascribe meaning to music, it would require an honest and objective view. Since we have departed from modernism, there is no longer a truly objective view as we all bring our own personal inclination, whether or not we are aware of it, when we present our observation. Hence, ascribing certain emotions to music is not possible because of circumstance in our lives that distracts us from truly unraveling the emotion behind the music.

  29. Music, it can not holding any meaning by it self.
    Peter states that only the qualified listeners can understand what the music contain of meaning.of course, some foreign country, they introduce korean song Arirang as beautiful love story. but Arirang is not beautiful love story. which is sadness story for korean. as like that music cannot holding any meaning by it self. only Christians admit that music has meaning when music contain of word of God.

  30. First, most of the music used at church has a text, and the meaning of music usually attaches to the text. Christians in general at church seldom think about if music alone has meaning, and they probably are not encouraged to do so. Second, when talking about music, most people, Christian and non-Christian alike, would focus on feeling rather than meaning, and it shows that they do acknowledge there is some kind of relationship between music and emotions.

  31. I really appreciated what Brandon and Bradley brought to the discussion table with their considerations. I would add that in addition to “ignorance is bliss” as a common problem, a failure to consider how form affects the content is common in the worship scene. I think that both of these are put in a very serious context when considered next to the warning for ignorance that God provides in Hosea 4:6. He warns “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests.”

  32. If music has meaning, which I believe it does, then that would cause Christians to dig deeper into what their music of choice means. Digging deeper might then cause the Holy Spirit to convict us and that might lead to an action that we don’t necessarily want to take.

  33. I love where Brandon and Bradley went with previous comments. I know when I’m afraid that my opinion may be flawed, I tend to sweep it under the rug as long as I can so that I don’t have to change immediately. We as humans like what we like, and don’t want to change for the sake of any other opinion so we ignore it.

  34. I think one of the biggest reason we need to conclude that music has meaning is because, if we don’t, there is no reason for music at all in the church. We could merely proclaim truth through prayer, congregational readings, etc. Music allows us to express truths about God in ways that no other medium can. This is why music has to have meaning. And when one comes to this realization, he will then dig deeper into why certain music is chosen for worship.

  35. Bradley and Brandon both have good points on this topic as well. If Christians will not admit music has meaning and choose to remain ignorant on the topic, they are probably doing so because they don’t want to question their “preferred” style of music. All music that is used in a worship service should be given much thought. Questions such as the following are appropriate to ask our self: Why are we singing this particular song? Does this text portray what we believe and are trying to say? Does the music fit the text we are using?

    I could go on and on about the considerations that should be made when choosing a song but these are just a few and until Christians are willing to question their “preferred” style this consensus will not be made.

  36. Music arouses emotion?
    “ “Spirit filling” does not come as the result of singing. Rather, “Spirit filling” come first; singing is the response.” Stapert makes this statement based on Ephesians 5:18-20 and Colossians 3:16. Referring to this statement, I strongly agree that music does not arouse emotion. Music is an aesthetic form that helps us to better respond our thanksgivings.

  37. Most of the music used at church have texts, and when Christian think about the music in church, it probably combine both music and texts. Although people do not usually think about music and texts separately, but music itself do have meaning in Christian music. When we comparing a hymn with the same texts and different tune-set, we do know which one is more appropriate to fit the content. Thus, music do have meaning for Christians.

  38. Ben, I think that it is not far fetched to say that music does tend to affect a persons emotions. I do wonder though if the music conveys certain emotions.

    A persons passions and affections may be inspired differently then those of another individual after hearing the same piece. An objective point is that parallel fifths do exist. Do they convey a certain emotion, or is emotion based upon a persons life experience. I personally do not think that it sounds negative, but historically people have been affected by it in a different way. So yes music does seem to affect people, but not always in the same exact way. Look at the way a sixteen year old is affected by hearing rock vs a senior adult. I do not believe that they will have the same passions and affections because of life experience (and what they are used to). Now it may be argued that this piece of music sounds sad because it is in minor or has a slow tempo, but happiness could come if it makes me think of a happy memory. Therefore, I believe that building something upon how it makes one feel is subjective.

  39. After thinking about this further, I think it is unfair to say that most Christians do not view music as having intrinsic emotional content. To quote Scott Aniol, “interpreting music’s relation to [emotional responses] is fairly simple” (p.96, “Worship in Song”). Most Christians “experience” the emotional content of music on a weekly basis (monthly, if we’re being honest) and understand it insofar as it is a concrete experience. The only reason there isn’t a Christian consensus on the topic may be because there isn’t an articulated majority Christian opinion on the topic in the first place. If questioned, I think most would say music has emotional content, but they probably won’t have thought of it before that moment. The majority of Christians are probably ignorant that this is even a subject in the first place. They know the Bible says to sing and make music … so they do and they experience the emotional content as they participate.

  40. Most Christians, like unbelievers, seldom give a serious consideration about whether music carries meaning. If they do, they have to investigate which is the appropriate emotions for corporate worship. They do not want to wrestle with issues like whether the emotion expressed in the music is suitable for worship or whether it is God honoring. Back in my high school senior year, I came across an album, released by one of the most famous CCM bands in my home country, that had a song which was originally written for popular love song in the west. They just simply altered the lyric and made it sounded good. It came out as a big hit even in secular music circle.

  41. In Appendix C of Makajina’s book, Measuring the Music: Another Look at the Contemporary Christian Music Debate, he argues a bioacoustics model in examining the interpretation of musical meaning through the Bible; where music derives its meaning through “musical signs and syntax [that] have some sort of natural or analogical relationship to their extramusical referent”(312). In other words, human experience reflects meaning in the music contrary to the music itself asserting a particular meaning. Even though music is a universal phenomenon, culture shapes the interpretation of emotion in the music (330). The Christian culture will not admit that music has meaning due to rejection of evolution, which Nick had mentioned in his post. Makajin explains: “symbols should be viewed as a divinely-ordained human activity”(330). Hence, music does not impose meaning for Christians because music derives meaning through human experience, since “human personality and emotions are imprints of the [God]” 307.

  42. I agree with what John Grey and Jared Longoria asserted. Music itself or of itself does not have meaning. Music is just the ‘instrument’ of expressing meaning of the words effectively. Based on the music in the early church, people believed that “music was the servant of religion, and only music that opened the mind of Christian teaching and holy thoughts was worthy of hearing in church.” (p. 25) Early church leaders believed that music without words cannot work as the servant, thus most church fathers rebuked instrumental music. This concept depicts the Christian view on accepting music. If music has a meaning on itself, that is to say that music has a ‘spirit’ within itself. Strictly say, it is satanic power of today absorbed in human sinful nature, which disturbs to discern the right meaning of music from God. It distorts the right meaning on one’s mind what music is, and replace with distorted meaning. Today, people misunderstand that music itself conveys meaning. However, music itself has no power to do it. Only through the meaning of the word, it could work as a tool. Maybe the mood of the music or melody deceives people since people are so used to it. It is our responsibility to contemplate on the right meaning of everything in life. So as music.

  43. I just want to add more thoughts on Daniel Nu’s comment. Daniel said that most of Christians and unbelievers seldom give consideration about the meaning of music but I think even unbelievers do take consideration of the meaning of music. They even put their personal meaning to a song. Many people listen to music just for fun and to chill and they begin to “like” a song by its catch melody or by one’s own taste, which is now very universal for world-cultural reason.

    As Daniel mentioned, there are many Christian artists who became famous even in secular music field and when we here their songs, we can notice that they contain popular music style, rock based form. Sometimes when we listen to a CCM song and if we feel “good” or “happy”, it is hard to discern or distinguish whether it’s by musical elements or it is by spiritual reason. That is why when we repeat some part of the worship song or choosing styles and instruments, there should be reason why so. We have to be cautious not to follow new fashion just because it sounds pleasing to our ears.

  44. Kaitlyn, I love your mention of Hosea 4:6. It is so important for every individual to come up with their own philosophy of worship. The problem is that so many see no need to systematically come to an understanding of Scripture partly because they do not hold as high of a view of Scripture as they should. We are forewarned in Scripture that ignorance is not bliss but rather sin. It’s one thing to research in depth a subject of debate and come to a conclusion, but to just pick a side without any true knowledge involved is simply a form of lazy ignorance. Many of the laypeople in church today just want to get along so they pick what seems the less offensive side. But the truth is that God does care about how he is to be worshipped and certain forms are inappropriate for worship simply because they do not accurately reflect the holiness of God. The view of music being a symbol of emotion supports this.

  45. Music conveys a variety of emotions. That is why some pastors are wary about loud rock music or New Age music. (Some of the music can have bad effects on Christians.) However, music is a tool to worship God. And many Bible verses are proving it. (Exodus 15:21, Psalms 95:1, Psalms 100:2 … etc) Just like Keji, John, and other people’s opinions, the purpose for music is to glorify God’s name. Therefore, Christians must not lose sight of our original purpose, whatever the reasons.

  46. (supposed to be between the brackets:)
    Derald Daughtery, lead singer and guitarist for a Christian rock choir, said, “The music is basically a cultural thing (presupposes all culture to be amoral) and God can use anything. We have chosen this kind of music as a vehicle for God.” When justifying the jet engine volume of his band (120 decibels and up), Glenn Kaiser of the Resurrection band and pastor in the Jesus People USA Fellowship, said, “God speaks loud … Why is it that Christian bands sound like wimps compared to secular bands?”

  47. I like Daniel’s expression that “music is a universal expression” because music carries meaning and emotion. Music can carry what a composer intends and thinks, and that intention influences on audience because music has a meaning. Worship leaders and music ministers need to be careful to use music in worship service because music can carry influence on congregation’s emotion by its own meaning.

  48. I believe a number of Christians take music used outside of church as a kind of recreation or entertainment. They recognize a certain connection between music and emotions because they indeed feel relaxed, soothed, or excited, etc. when they listen to music. However, they rarely consider this connection in terms of “meaning” in music. In addition, we live in a time which does not encourage people to think seriously to find out meaning. The mass media uses music as a functional tool to achieve their certain goals. The owner of a cafe or a restaurant plays certain types of music to set people in certain moods. Music seems to become a neutral tool for a specific purpose rather than having inherent meaning. A lot of Christian are affected by this mindset and therefore are not aware that emotions are in the music and music itself has intrinsic meaning.

  49. Yes! The Music has its own meaning! But…

    When you think of just a music, it does not sound like has its own meaning but,
    music means something and deliver writer’s intentions.
    I would like to state that Music has its own meaning! If we hear what the
    composer/writer said.

  50. I agree with this point that music itself contains the meaning. Music is just tool that carry the purpose that people intend to something. The Origin of music began with the signal for hunting and the expression to deliver people’s intention like their dangerous state, celebrations and feast, lamentation. The importance of music depends on what the purpose is for, rather than the meaning of music itself. “What is the message in the music?” or “who is this music for, who does do the music?” The answer of these questions tells us the obvious meaning in the music.

  51. In nowadays society, music has a strong connection with popular culture. This is the major reason why Christians deny the meaning of music. The values that reflected in some pop songs are always contradict with biblical values. Therefore, many Christians think that religion should be separated from secular thoughts. Believers who are more conservative prefer music with text, which can convey biblical truth effectively.

  52. There are sereval reasons for the issue. Some would not feel anything by listening to the music not only because their lack of musical training but also because they simly are not sensible of appreciating music. For them, music is merely some kind of background sound that keeps the text sound rhymed and less boring. They have no consideration of music at all while singing. Their focused only on words.
    Lack of traing can be another reason, since most of lay people are not informed how music is powerful and influential that might man’s feelings and emotions.
    Also, since the Scripture does not explicitly describe what kind of music is appropriate to use for praising God or would please God, Christians do not take this issue seriously whether it has considerable meaning or not.
    With no doubt, music does represent garden variety emotions. Although, it is important that Christians should be able to discern whether one made certain conviction as a result of extreme emotional movement due to the strong influence of musical atmosphere or as a result of strong power of the Word of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit.

  53. It is true that music has its own meaning, but the intention of composer is not always conveyed as he originally intended to. If it were a song with lyrics, music can be used as a great tool to express the text more expressively. Text/word painting is one of these examples. However, music should not overshadow the text.
    Sometimes words have limitation that cannot express one’s particular feeling or sentiment sufficiently as one seeks to. Sometimes music can express better than words in more accurate way.

  54. Is this the answer?

    “As I suggested above, the timing of the triumph of the great modern assumption across the range of American cultural institutions is remarkable, because it coincides with a decisive lowering of barriers of suspicion about secular culture on the part of many evangelicals. One consequence of these simultaneous movements is the inability of many evangelicals who came of age after the 1970s to appreciate the extent of the deep disorder that now characterizes American society. Having been raised with an essentially uncritical attitude toward culture as such (which is healthy) they find it easy to adopt a posture of cultural relativism and difficult to discern between good and bad or better and worse within cultural expressions (which is not). Knowing that cultural activities of all sorts can be an opportunity for delight and blessing for those who love God (and for those who don’t), and knowing that unbelievers often surpass believers in creativity, commitment, and skill in cultural activity, they seem eager to regard all cultural forms as neutral or innocent. Unless a cultural artifact is explicitly blasphemous or relentlessly salacious, it is apparently safe for Christian consumption and incorporation into the personal and corporate life of believers.”

    (Ken Myers)

  55. Hi Scott,
    I think it’s because a lot of Christians realize that worship is very personal between them and God and that as long as their heart is right, then it doesn’t matter the music and only the words matter anyway. It all seems to boil down to pride. God loves me and accepts me and will accept my worship if it’s from a right heart. The music is subjective and doesn’t have any effect on the message of the words. Thoughts?

  56. Wow Jesse – I don’t mean to reply on behalf of Scott but this entire website aims to prove that music is NOT subjective. I’d recommend reading some of the articles from past years.
    While I personally agree that God will not “reject” your worship since it is indeed your heart that matters, worship has many functions, among which the formation of the worshiper’s ideas about God, and his/her feelings about biblical truth in the lyrics, as expressed in the music. So it teaches you something and if the music does impact on how the lyrics are communicated in an inappropriate way then we should not use such songs in our worship.
    Also, worship is NOT just between you and God; this is a common misconception. In church, we are engaged in CORPORATE worship and so we do things as a community, not as individuals. Look for articles on the normative versus the regulatory principle on this site to understand better, since the regulatory principle is meant to ensure that the way we worship and what we do in our corporate worship of God, is scriptural and can then be supported and freely engaged in by all those attending.

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