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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Morality or Neutrality

The Morality or Neutrality of music?

To be honest, I've always felt a little uneasy with the whole premise of that music is moral arguement. I have never been able to put my finger on it, until recently, while listening to messages from Tim Fisher from his "Noise in the Camp" series (found at smsrecordings.com.....link on right hand side). I thought long and hard after listening to him explain it and did some research. After finding that it is consistent with scripture, I am more convinced of the term neutrality of music rather than morality of music. In this post, you will find some Biblical evidence and some helpful analogies.

Morality.

There are plenty of Bible passages that support the fact that morals are associated with music.

Bible references

Isaiah 23:15. Sing as a harlot

Psalm 69:12 Song of the drunkards

Lamentations 3:14 Song of derision

Proverbs 25:20 Songs to a heavy heart

Ecclesiastes 7:5 The song of fools

Even instruments can have good morals associated with them.......Psalm 81:2- the pleasant harp

Cleary these references indicate that there are moral associations tied to certain music, but since we have no idea what this particular music sounded like, one can only speculate what type of music goes with these different styles. It is very likely that most all of the music in existence today, was not in existence when these passages were written. The morality found in these passages is not sourced in the music itself, but in the people that sang or played these songs. Music is only as moral as the original composer of that song (or genre) and that, that morality, in some cases, may only last for a few moments.  The music most often determines moral behavior for that few moments. In other words, the well composed and calm behavior of classical musicians may ony last for those 4 or 5 minutes of the piece. Who knows what those musicians are like under different circumstances. This is easiest seen in some examples. Note the behaviors of the artists in these examples.

Example 1.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6P3cIJHWjw

Jean Sibelius wrote beautiful music. The genre that he wrote in (I'm not sure who created the genre of classical music) was beautiful and elicited good emotions. This musical genre was written to produce good morals in the behavior of those who play it. Notice the behavior of the orchestra and the restraint displayed. This music also allows the listener to think and wonder about the music and where it will go.

Example 2.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=christian%20metal&sm=

I am not sure who created the genre of rock, but as you can tell, it is not eliciting good emotions, which are being expressed so evidently.  There is no restraint displayed by the ones performing and there is no way the listener has room to think of where the music is going, in fact the listeners are most likely acting in the same, unrestrained way. The music doesn't "take" you anywhere, but sticks with the same rhythms and melodies. I realize that this is an extreme example, but using extreme examples make the points more clear.

The point remains the same, that the music is only as moral as the original composer. The group, COLLAPSE, may be the lyricists of this song, and may have even wrote the music arrangement of that song, but they are not the original creaters of their genre. in fact, any song found within the realm of todays popular christian bands, is not an original genre. Within that piece of music, is found the morality of the original composer/creator.

Neutrality.

Music notes, in and of themselves, are not moral. I can not play a Bb or a G and know if it is good or bad. It is just a note. This is also understood better with the aid of examples. For this example, however, we will not use music, but a somewhat extreme example that undoubtedly makes the point clear. Most stores have a magazine rack. At the counter, unfortunately, one of the magazines is of the pornographic genre, but all that magazine is, is colors of ink on white paper. There is not anything inherently sinful about colors or ink. They are neutral. The morals start to come into perspective when a person, a moral agent, picks up that magazine and looks through it. The nonmoral ink in that magazine now enters into a moral agent, whos thoughts and intents have become evident. Another simple analogy is the alphabet. There is a letter "e". There is nothing inherently sinful or morally good about the letter "e". It is neutral. The morality starts when that letter is put next to other nonmoral letters. Perhaps, some would write the word "love", in which case, there are morally good things that are associated with love. Someone else may write "hate", in which case, there are morally bad things that are associated. In the same way, music notes are not inherently sinful and do not elicite any type of emotion or morality. They are neutral.

However, when played with other notes, the morals of the original creator of the type of music that is produced can be seen in the moral agent(s) it enters. The above examples show the morality of the original creator of that type of music.

In reading the passages of scripture that describe false worship, like the account of Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego, we have no way of knowing what type of music the King commanded to be played, we know that it contained various instruments so it was most likely loud, but that is all we can know about this passage, and others. King Nebuchadnezzar's music could have been the classical music of his day. We saw above that the Bible does make a distinction among different styles. (the song of a harlot,

Songs of the drunkards, etc) We know from modern day examples what some of those look and sound like, and the song (genre) is only as moral as the original creator and, obviously, by the intent (Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego).

With all the access to information today, anyone can go to any one else's website and find out an abundance of information. Most all christian bands post on their website their mission or vision for their music, but their music is not an original genre.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hymn books and devotions

Part 8 of RELIGIOUSAFFECTIONS.ORG blog series The Tozer Collection: Worship Music

The Hymnbook and the Devotional Life

In order to express myself more freely on a matter that lies very near to my heart, I shall waive the rather stilted editorial we and speak in the first person.

The matter I have in mind is the place of the hymnbook in the devotional life of the Christian. For purposes of inward devotion, there is only one book to be placed before the hymnal, and that of course is the Bible. I say without qualification, after the Sacred Scriptures, the next best companion for the soul is a good hymnal.

For the child of God, the Bible is the book of all books, to be reverenced, loved, pored over endlessly and feasted upon as living bread and manna for the soul. It is the first-best book, the only indispensable book. To ignore it or neglect it is to doom our minds to error and our hearts to starvation.

After the Bible, the hymnbook is next. And remember, I do not say a songbook or a book of gospel songs, but a real hymnal containing the cream of the great Christian hymns left to us by the ages.

One of the serious weaknesses of present-day evangelicalism is the mechanical quality of its thinking. A utilitarian Christ has taken the place of the radiant Savior of other and happier times. This Christ is able to save, it is true, but He is thought to do so in a practical across-the-counter manner, paying our debt and tearing off the receipt like a court clerk acknowledging a paid-up fine. A bank-teller psychology characterizes much of the religious thinking in our little gospel circle. The tragedy of it is that it is truth without being all the truth.

If modern Christians are to approach the spiritual greatness of Bible saints or know the inward delights of the saints of post-biblical times, they must correct this imperfect view and cultivate the beauties of the Lord our God in sweet, personal experience. In achieving such a happy state, a good hymnbook will help more than any other book in the world except the Bible itself.

A great hymn embodies the purest concentrated thoughts of some lofty saint who may have long ago gone from the earth and left little or nothing behind him except that hymn. To read or sing a true hymn is to join in the act of worship with a great and gifted soul in his moments of intimate devotion. It is to hear a lover of Christ explaining to his Savior why he loves Him; it is to listen in without embarrassment on the softest whisperings of undying love between the bride and the heavenly Bridegroom.

Sometimes our hearts are strangely stubborn and will not soften or grow tender no matter how much praying we do. At such times, it is often found that the reading or singing of a good hymn will melt the ice jam and start the inward affections flowing. That is one of the uses of the hymnbook. Human emotions are curious and difficult to arouse, and there is always a danger that they may be aroused by the wrong means and for the wrong reasons.

The human heart is like an orchestra, and it is important that when the soul starts to sound its melodies, a David or a Bernard or a Watts or a Wesley should be on the podium. Constant devotion to the hymnbook will guarantee this happy event and will, conversely, protect the heart from being led by evil conductors.

Every Christian should have lying beside his Bible a copy of some standard hymnbook. He should read out of one and sing out of the other, and he will be surprised and delighted to discover how much they are alike. Gifted Christian poets have in many of our great hymns set truth to music. Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley (possibly above all others) were able to marry the harp of David to the epistles of Paul and to give us singing doctrine, ecstatic theology that delights while it enlightens.

—We Travel an Appointed Way

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hymns are Musical Echoes of His Voice

Part 7 of RELIGIOUSAFFECTIONS.ORG blog series The Tozer Collection: Worship Music

We can come and sing hymns in this church and only enjoy the dignity of the music as a relief from rock’n'roll. (Sermon, “Doctrine of the Remnant,” Chicago, 1957)

—Tozer on Worship and Entertainment

Just as the book of Psalms is a lyric commentary on the Old Testament, set to the music of warm personal devotion, so our great Christian hymns form a joyous commentary on the New Testament.

While no instructed Christian would claim for any hymn the same degree of inspiration that belongs to the Psalms, the worshiping singing soul is easily persuaded that many hymns possess an inward radiance that is a little more than human. If not inspired in the full and final sense, they are yet warm with the breath of the Spirit and sweet with the fragrance of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces.

In the hymns all the basic doctrines of the Christian faith are celebrated. Were the Scriptures to be destroyed or made inaccessible to the Church, it would not be too difficult to extract from our hymns a complete body of Bible doctrine. This would, of course, lack the authority of the inspired Word, but it might well serve in a dark hour to keep alive the faith of our fathers. As long as the Church can sing her great hymns she cannot be defeated; for hymns are theology set to music.

Hymns do not create truth, nor even reveal it; they celebrate it. They are the response of the trusting heart to a truth revealed or a fact accomplished. God does it and man sings it. God speaks and a hymn is the musical echo of His voice.

—The Warfare of the Spirit

There fell into my hands some time ago a new hymnbook. It came from a far country and looked inviting. I opened it eagerly with the hope of finding some rare psalm or hymn or spiritual song that I had not known before, but my hope was short-lived. The book was published by a Christian group of the sand-counting school of doctrine and I soon discovered that each hymn was a prosaic lesson intended to indoctrinate the user in a narrow, one-eyed view of Christianity. The breath of sacred poesy was absent from the book. It did not mount up on wings as an eagle but walked solemnly and awkwardly along the ground. What original songs it contained were stuffy, joyless, unlovely and weighed down heavily with the half-dozen doctrines this particular group has chosen for constant and monotonous emphasis. Worst of all, many of the old favorite hymns were there but so mangled and emasculated as to be almost unrecognizable. The editors did not play on David’s harp; rather they used it as a sledge to hammer hard, angular doctrines into the heads of their followers. They did not intend that the hymns should give the singer joy, only that they should bring him into line and make him correct in his doctrinal position.

—God Tells the Man Who Cares

Religious productions which come into being during times of great spiritual blessing are to be valued above those which appear during times of spiritual decline. Especially is this true if the production is a fair reflection of the spiritual state which prevails at the time it is written.

Examples are not hard to find. Take for instance the hymnody that sprang up around the Methodist revival of the nineteenth century. One hymnal put out by the Methodists lies at hand as we write. It was published in the year 1849. It contains 1,148 hymns, 553 of them written by Charles Wesley, and the amazing thing about the book is that there is hardly an inferior hymn in it. One quality which marks the hymns is the large measure of sound doctrine that is found in them. Quite a complete course in theology could be gotten from the hymnal alone without recourse to any other textbook.

The Holy Spirit was upon the Methodists in fullness of grace, and they sang of God and Christ and the Scriptures and of the mysteries and joys of redemption personally experienced. The hymnal is lyric theology, a theology that had been strained through the pores of the men and women who wrote and sang their joyous songs. The hymns are warm with the breath of worshipers, a breath that may still be detected fragrant upon them after the passing of a century.

Lay this hymnal beside almost any of the productions of the last fifty years and compare them. The differences will be found to be pronounced, and to the devout soul more than a little depressing. The last half-century has been for the most part a period of religious decline, and the hymnody which it has produced has expressed its low spiritual state. With the coming of the great religious campaigns, with their popular evangelists and their mass appeal, religious singing started on a long trip down, a trip which from all appearances has not yet ended. Experience took the place of theology in popular singing. Writers became more concerned with joy bells than with the blood of sprinkling. Ballad tunes displaced the graver and more serious type of melody. The whole spiritual mood declined and the songs expressed the mood faithfully.

At the risk of being written off as hopelessly outmoded, we venture to give it as our studied opinion that about the only good thing in the average modern songbook is the section of great hymns which most of them carry in the back—hymns which for the most part were written when the Church was at her flood and which are included now as a gesture of respect to the past, and rarely sung.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

We must get the message out......but in the Biblical way

Part 6 of RELIGIOUSAFFECTIONS.ORG blog series The Tozer Collection: Worship Music

The Problem of Numbers

The question of numbers and their relation to success or failure in the work of the Lord is one that disturbs most Christians more than a little.

On the question there are two opposing schools of thought. There are Christians, for instance, who dismiss the whole matter as being beneath them. These correspond to the lovers of high-brow music who firmly refuse to admit that there is anything of any real value other than that composed by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. They know they are in the minority and glory in the fact, for in their opinion it is a very, very superior minority and they look down their noses at all who enjoy anything less complicated than a symphony.

Of course this is cultural snobbery and tells us a lot more about such persons than they would care to have us know. They remind one of the un-learned of whom Colton wrote,

So much they scorn the crowd that
if the throng
By chance go right, they purposely
go wrong.

Now among religious persons I have met a few who are guilty of a kind of spiritual snobbery of which they are doubtless wholly unaware. These have recoiled so violently from popular, cheap-Jack Christianity that they simply have no longer any sympathy with crowds. They prefer to sit around the Lord’s Table in a select and tight little circle, admiring the deep things of God and, I very much fear, admiring themselves a wee bit also. This is a kind of Protestant monasticism without the cowl and the beads, for it seeks to preserve the faith of Christ from pollution by isolating it from the vulgar masses. Its motives may be commendable, but its methods are altogether unscriptural and its spirit completely out of mood with that of our Lord.

The other and opposite school is the most vocal and has by far the largest following in gospel circles today. Its philosophy, if it can be called a philosophy, is that “we must get the message out” regardless of how we go about it. The devotees of this doctrine appear to be more concerned with quantity than with quality. They seem burned up with desire to “bring the people in” even if they have not much to offer them after they are in. They take inexcusable liberties both with message and with method. The Scriptures are used rather than expounded and the Lordship of Christ almost completely ignored. Pressure is exerted to persuade the people (who, by the way, come to the meetings with something else in mind altogether) to accept Christ, with the understanding that they shall then have peace of mind and financial prosperity, not to mention high grades in school and a low score on the golf course.

The crowds-at-any-price mania has taken a firm grip on American Christianity and is the motivating power back of a shockingly high percentage of all religious activity. Men and churches compete for the attention of the paying multitudes who are brought in by means of any currently popular gadget or gimmick ostensibly to have their souls saved, but, if the truth were told, often for reasons not so praiseworthy as this.

Now the serious Christian wants to escape both extremes. Yet he is much concerned about the whole matter of numbers and is eager to find the will of God for his life and ministry. Should he go out for larger crowds or accept smaller ones as the will of God for him? Does success in the Lord’s work depend upon numbers? Is it possible to make up in quantity what is lacking in quality and so accomplish the same result?

Perhaps an illustration or two might help. If our country should be visited by a famine and you were put in charge of feeding the starving in your section of the city, would numbers matter? Most surely they would. Would it not be better to feed five hungry children than two? Would you not feel obligated to feed hundreds rather than tens, thousands rather than hundreds? Certainly you would. Or if a ship sank and your church were given a rescue boat, would numbers mean anything? Again the answer is yes. Would it not be better to save 10 than two, 100 than 50?

So with the work of God. It is better to win many than few. Each lost one brought home increases the joy among the angels and adds another voice to the choir that shall sing the praises of the Lamb. Plainly Christ when He was on earth was concerned about the multitudes. And so should His followers be. A church that takes no interest in evangelism or missions is subnormal in every way and desperately in need of revival.

Our constant effort should be to reach as many persons as possible with the Christian message, and for that reason numbers are critically important. But our first responsibility is not to make converts but to uphold the honor of God in a world given over to the glory of fallen man. No matter how many persons we touch with the gospel we have failed unless, along with the message of invitation, we have boldly declared the exceeding sinfulness of man and the transcendent holiness of the Most High God. They who degrade or compromise the truth in order to reach larger numbers, dishonor God and deeply injure the souls of men.

The temptation to modify the teachings of Christ with the hope that larger numbers may “accept” Him is cruelly strong in this day of speed, size, noise and crowds. But if we know what is good for us, we’ll resist it with every power at our command. To yield can only result in a weak and ineffective Christianity in this generation, and death and desolation in the next.

— The Size of the Soul


Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Double-Edge of Beautiful Music

Part 5 of RELIGIOUSAFFECTIONS.ORG blog series The Tozer Collection: Worship Music

The Double-Edge of Beautiful Music

The created world is to be prized for its usefulness, loved for its beauty and esteemed as the gift of God to His children. Love of natural beauty which has been the source of so much pure music, poetry and art is a good and desirable thing. Though the unregenerate soul is likely to enjoy nature for its own sake and ignore the God whose gift it is, there is nothing to prevent an enlightened Christian who loves God supremely from loving all things for God’s dear sake. This would appear to be altogether in accord with the spirit of the psalms and the prophets, and though there is less emphasis upon nature in the New Testament much appreciation of natural things may be found there also.

—The Set of the Sail

I want to warn you against the religion that is no more than love, music and poetry. I happen to be somewhat of a fan of good music. I think Beethoven’s nine symphonies constitute the greatest body of music ever composed by mortal man. Yet I realize I’m listening to music; I’m not worshiping God necessarily. There’s a difference between beautiful sounds beautifully put together and worship. Worship is another matter.

—  Worship, the Missing Jewel

I am of the opinion that much in our Christian ritual and liturgy does not come to grips with its basic meaning. I have listened to the great musical renditions of Bach, Beethoven, Handel and others. The music written for use in services such as the mass is sublime and the language beautiful. But I cannot escape the feeling that something is missing. The prayers and the appeals are there—”Lord, have mercy!” “Christ, have mercy!” They are voiced again and again.

Could it be that this prayer, this appeal to God for mercy, is but the shadow of the truth? Do these prayers never approach to the reality of saving faith and confident assurance in God’s promise and provision? There must come a time when petition becomes reality and we shout, “It is done! The great transaction is done! I am my Lord’s, and He is mine!”

—Jesus, Our Man in Glory

In the light of this it will be seen how empty and meaningless is the average church service today. All the means are in evidence; the one ominous weakness is the absence of the Spirit’s power. The form of godliness is there, and often the form is perfected till it is an aesthetic triumph. Music and poetry, art and oratory, symbolic vesture and solemn tones combine to charm the mind of the worshipper, but too often the supernatural afflatus is not there. The power from on high is neither known nor desired by pastor or people. This is nothing less than tragic, and all the more so because it falls within the field of religion where the eternal destinies of men are involved.

To the absence of the Spirit may be traced that vague sense of unreality which almost everywhere invests religion in our times. In the average church service the most real thing is the shadowy unreality of everything. The worshipper sits in a state of suspended mentation; a kind of dreamy numbness creeps upon him; he hears words but they do not register, he cannot relate them to anything on his own life-level. He is conscious of having entered a kind of half-world; his mind surrenders itself to a more or less pleasant mood which passes with the benediction leaving no trace behind. It does not affect anything in his everyday life. He is aware of no power, no Presence, no spiritual reality. There is simply nothing in his experience corresponding to the things which he heard from the pulpit or sang in the hymns.

— The Divine Conquest, The Spirit as Power