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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.  I thought long and hard after listening to him explain it and did some research. After more study and 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.


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

Clearly 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 also 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 morality, in some cases, may only last for a few moments.  The music most often determines moral behavior for those 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 and those musicians can certainly be very different under different circumstances. This is easiest seen in some examples. Note the behaviors of the artists in these examples.

Example 1.

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.

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.


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, who's 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.

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