IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 4, Number 2, January 14 to January 20, 2002

Music Matters
Show 11

by Robert Barnes

Originally aired Monday at 5:50 P.M. on WTLN 950 AM in Orlando, Florida, Music Matters is a weekly radio show that explores the nature of and antidote for the worship wars that exist in the church.

This is Music Matters, and I'm Robert Barnes. As well as being the host of this show, I'm director of worship at Covenant Presbyterian Church, a conservative Presbyterian church in Winter Park, Florida. You can find us on the web at cpconline.net.

People disagree about what makes worldly worship services. But one thing we don't disagree on is that we have our own favorite choices, our own preferences, and no one can change that. But we can judge our preferences by the Bible and common sense, and determine whether one or the other does not permit them.

There are four different sins that people commit when approaching their musical preferences. I'm grateful to Frank Brown in his book "Religious Aesthetics" for pointing these out. We must look at our musical tastes and judge them by the Word—and not accept our own opinions we usually formed as teenagers. We'll cover the first two today, and the final two next week.

First, there is the Music Lover. This is the person who loves their Bach straight up. They couldn't care less if the music they hear is designed to enable the actions of worship, such as repentance or faith or taking the sacraments or hearing the Word. Their chief goal is not to enjoy and glorify God, but to enjoy and glory in the delights of creation, especially music.

The Music Lover is in sin because they have made excellent music the end, rather than the means to an end. Rather than coming to church to enjoy God, they come to enjoy music. This is subtle and completely unbiblical and those who are aesthetes (es-theets) must repent of this idolatry of worshiping creation rather than Creator. The Music Lover will recommend things like bringing in outside musicians (who may or may not be converted) to perform in the worship service, so the music can be as excellent as possible. The sinful Music Lover is not worshiping God on Sunday anyhow, so they see nothing wrong with allowing non-Christians to help lead the worship service.

The second kind of musical sinner is the Philistine. The Philistine does not value or appreciate anything artistic that cannot be understood also in practical or moral or very religious terms. This is the sin of the movie, "Left Behind." The nice people who made this movie had no intention of making an artistic film. They made a bad movie for the good reason of propagating a certain religious and moral message, but it's a message that I'm almost ashamed to say I agree with because the movie is so horribly acted, directed, scripted, and filmed.

Modern church music is often absolutely horrible, because it is basically a Jack Chick tract with a beat. The true Philistine doesn't care about music and is offended that anyone would say that music matters, because the Philistine thinks the only thing that matters is the message.

The Philistine is in error because the Bible teaches that music does matter. God set certain people aside to pursue artistic beauty for God's glory under the Old Covenant, and He still gifts and calls some of His people to artistic excellence. That is, if the Philistine's don't run them off from the church first. Philistines hate most musicians, except for the ones who write ham fisted lyrics.

What can you do if you have people who take their unsanctified musical tastes and try to force their own sinful preferences on you and your church? First, you pray for them. Second, you repent of your own sin. Third, you speak with them as Matthew 18 teaches, first going by yourself, then taking a brother with you. Remember that we are talking about sin, not tiddly-winks, and if we are going to fix what is wrong with the church, we need to fix sin in the church the way the Bible says to.

I've got two more groups of musical sinners to identify, so tune in next week and find out that musical preferences can and must be judged by God's Word and common sense, because Music Matters.