Leonard J. Seidel

 

One of the concerns in our study of God’s New Song would certainly be that music which is intended for Christian worship. In the past fifteen years we have seen a tremendous proliferation of available music for use in religious activities.

Many Companies...

The major publishing companies of sacred music up to the middle and late fifties were Shawnee Press, G. Schirmer, Inc., Abingdon Press, Hope Publishing, Galaxy, Concordia, and Broadman Press. As these companies were continuing their services, several small publishing firms were growing their roots and expanding their directions. One that made great strides was the Zondervan Publishing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Alfred B. Smith, affectionately know as “Mr. Singspiration”, greatly encouraged and lent expertise to Pat Zondervan and John W. Peterson in the late fifties and early sixties. The beautiful cantatas of Mr. Peterson set a mold that is still used widely today.

The Lillenas Publishing Company in Kansas City, Missouri, has made great contributions in the past twenty years. Other companies entering the market were Word Publishing in Waco, Texas; Light/Lexicon in Los Angeles under the direction of a most gifted individual, Ralph Carmichael; and the emergence of the music of Bill Gaither and his publications out of Alexandria, Indiana. In addition to these major publishing companies, scores of independent publishers have begun throughout the United States and Canada.

Many Choices

A result of these numerous publishing companies is a multiplication of available materials with many styles and types from which any single church can choose. Today one is overwhelmed with the choices and numbers of printed octavos, cantatas, youth musicals, hymn books and sheet music. The diversification found in what is commonly called “sacred music” has been humorously called “from Bach to Rock”—music from the masters of the 16th and 17th centuries to the wild sounds of a degenerate 20th century.

Many Conclusions...

Wide opinions exist as to the inclusion of the latter but basically the justification for the use of heavy rhythmic, repetitious music forms is based on the theory that music is amoral. That is, music has no inherent influencing moral characteristics within itself; therefore any musical style can be fused with words that are correct from a theological point of view.

It is at this very point where most of the concern has been focused. Increasingly, pastors and music directors are expressing consternation over the use of such “music” available to the Body of Christ through the printed page, the recording industry, concert tours and Christian radio.

Delineating a guideline is essential in our discussion of recordings, performances or radio programming. Pertinent questions may be:

      How do I know I am using the right music?
      How do I know that what I am doing is pleasing to the Lord?
      How do I make decisions concerning what I listen to and provide for my family?

Answers to these questions are available, answers which are biblically sound and logical.

Some people eliminate music purely on the basis of the year in which it was written or who wrote it. This view represents the opposite end of the spectrum from those who make claims for the amorality of music. The answers that we will give in this chapter are in the middle of these two wide-ranging views and, we believe, are biblically sound and logically consistent with the history of music and the theory of music.

The Bible Classifies Music...

In Ephesisans 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, Paul gives us a three-fold classification of sacred music types. The same Greek construction is used to express the phrase, “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” While not intending to push Paul’s reasons for including these divisions, it is interesting to note that he did use it twice and that all three categories can uniquely fit three basic divisions which we use today.

Psalms

The book of Psalms (psaio) was the hymnbook of Israel and is, of course, included in the canonization of scripture. So we might say that this division can be called “scripture set to music.” This has been done effectively by the masters of old (Handel, Bach, Brahms) as well as the contemporary creators of folk choruses. The beautiful chorus “Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God” (Matthew 6:33) may stir the innermost recesses as deeply as Handel’s “Messiah” or Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”

Hymns

Hymns (humneo) means “to celebrate God in song” and would certainly be a category into which we could fit all music of praise and worship. We call this music “hymns” and “anthems,” with the differentiation determined by their structure, use and performing medium.

A “hymn uses the same music for all of the different changes of stanzas. Examples:

    All Hail The Power of Jesus Name (Oliver Holden)
    And Can It Be That I Should Gain (Thomas Campbell)

An “anthem uses different music for each new set of words. Examples:

    Now Let Us All Praise God and Sing (Gordon Young)
    All Ye Saints Be Joyful (Katherine Davis)

Note that the latter two pieces of music have musical phrases which are constantly changing in order to follow the change of text: different keys, different meter and different interpretation. When a particular word-phrase is returned to, then the same musical-phrase is used.

Spiritual Songs

The third category is “spiritual songs” (odaiospneumatikos) into which we can fit any “gospel music.” That is, music that reflects the experience of knowing God. The birth of the Lord, His death and resurrection, His blood and salvation, the Christian experience, the missionary call here and abroad; all find their expression in “spiritual songs,” from the Wesleyan revivals to the music of Bill Gaither.

Is It. . .or Isn’t It?

Our problem arises when we attempt to determine what is right music and what is wrong music. Though hundreds of manuscripts have endured through the years, there is no doubt that thousands have ended up in the fireplace. Or should have. How do we evaluate what has lasted or what is available today? We do this by applying three questions to any piece of music under consideration:

    1. Is the music well-written?
    2. Does this music match the words?
    3. Are the words theologically correct?

1. Is the Music Well-Written?

All good music, that is, music that has stood the test of time or will endure forever, is characterized by five things: a beautiful melody, supported by a rich harmony, carried along with a subtle rhythm, that comes to a conclusion or a resolution, and has meaningful communication. Sounds dogmatic, but we challenge you to think with us.

A Beautiful Melody

The melody is the most important part of music for it is, so to speak, the personality by which the piece is identified. The melody is synonymous with the title, for they are essentially one and the same. If you were to hear ten measures of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” you would respond in one of two ways:

“Oh, I love that melody!” or “That’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.’” Both express the recognition of a particular creation in the same way that you might say: “I know that man.” or “That’s George Washington.”

Melody Moves

It is important for us to note that a melody may move in three directions: up, down or the notes may repeat. Each produces a different effect and a beautiful melody makes use of all three.

    Up...

Psychologists tell us that if a melody follows a repetitive pattern of starting low and traveling high it can create tension and confusion. Some music is purposely written this way to produce those results.

    Down...

If the melody starts high and reaches low depths and repeats that pattern, depression and heavy thoughts pervade.

Repetitions

A repeating melody, one that covers only three or four notes over several measures, will create a lethargic mood or a hypnotic atmosphere. A good example would be Gregorian chants or music from some Masses.

A Beautiful Melody

When a melody is constructed of octave leaps, unusual intervals and colorful accidentals (sharps and flats) the result is a marvelous creation that sets it apart. One only has to mention “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” “Clair de Lune,” “Bali Hi” (from the musical South Pacific), the “Theme from Exodus,” or “Lara’s Theme” and immediately the musical inner ear recalls those beautiful melodies that are so unique because of the varied movements of intervals and the addition of accidentals.

“Bali Hi” is probably one of the most unique melodies ever written (Richard Rodgers) in that the leap of the octave stepping downward a half step into the major seventh locks it into the musical ear in such a way that it is unforgettable. This is a perfect example of what a beautiful melody can and should do.

A Rich Harmony

The second characteristic of good music is a harmonic structure that is rich in color. A truly perfect harmonic structure is one that is totally supportive of a beautiful melody.

The word harmony comes from a Greek word “armos (pronounced “harmos”), the definition of which is “joint” or the “joining place.” It is found in Ephesians 2:21, where it refers to parts of a building framed or joined together; in Ephesians 4:16, where it refers to the whole body fitly joined together (sun-armo-logeo); and in Hebrews 4:12, where it speaks of the “joints” and marrow.

This is exactly what harmony is — the joining place for the melody, totally supporting what is happening in the melodic progression. An excellent example of this is found in the collection of the Bach chorales. Herzlich Thut Mich Verlangen, a hymn written by Paul Gerhardt in 1656, is commonly known today as “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” Bach harmonized this beautiful melody nine times and each is totally different. He used a variety of key signatures, suspensions, open and closed structure and rich altered harmonies. However, in the midst of all this variety he never allows the listener to lose the melody.

You talk about rich modern 20th century harmony! Listen sometime to the harmonization he used in Cantata 153, Schau’ Lieber Gott, Wie Meine Feine. There are wild altered sounds such as two six-five sharp-four and sharp-six sounds, five four-two, and all sorts of chromatic passing tones. All of this is thrilling to the ear but never do you lose the melody. It is always “up front” in its superior place.

This is a characteristic of well-written music, both original and arranged. Much of the music written for worship is in the basic one-four-five-one progression with no surprising deceptive cadences, pivot modulations, German sixths, or common chord progressions.

Of course, there is a place for the simplicity of basic-chord-structured religious music (our hymnbooks are full of it). But it is refreshing now and then to hear the unusual. If the music director of a school or church searches he will find these nuggets of musical gems. Those are the musical compositions that will be as unique years from now as they are today.

A Subtle Rhythm

The third characteristic of well-written music is a subtle rhythm that is servant to the beautiful melody and the rich harmony. We derive our word “rhythm” from a Greek word “reo which means “to flow.” It is found in John 7:38:

    out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

An expansion of that root word is the Greek word “rhythmos from which we get our word “rhythm.” The function of rhythm in any musical composition is precisely what the definition declares: to move the piece along, to help it flow, to pulsate from measure to measure.

We consider it to be subtle for the following reason: The pulse of a human being is quite important. However, important as it is, pulse usually goes unnoticed and that is considered normal and correct.

A visit to the doctor usually involves two immediate things — taking the body temperature with a thermometer and taking the pulse count. If the pulse count is erratic or abnormally fast the doctor knows something is wrong.

This exact situation exists within music. Without rhythm, the music is dead — no life! However, that rhythm must remain below the surface so it does not overshadow the melody and the harmony. We can syncopate the rhythm with an irregular movement from barline to barline for special effect and this is creative. A repetitive, unnatural rhythmic beat over a long score of music, however, will create tension.

Dr. Howard Hanson, famed American composer, formerly with the Eastman School of Music, makes an interesting statement in Volume 101 of The American Journal of Psychiatry:

The further the tempo is accelerated from the pulse rate toward the upper limit of practical tempo, the greater becomes the emotional tension. As long as the subdivisions of the metric units are regular and the accents remain strictly in conformity with the basic pattern, the effect may be exhilarating but will not be disturbing.

Rhythm is necessary for music to be complete but it must remain a subtle servant to the primary melody and the secondary harmony.

A Conclusion — A Resolution

All well-written music communicates great thoughts and ties them together in a fitting ending. In theory we call this resolution. The gifted composer with a variety of musical tools can bring his creation to an end. This doesn’t mean that you will hear a crescendo of crashing chords which certainly indicates the end is near. It can be as simple as normal chord progression with a ritard. In either case, it is apparent to the listener that the composition has concluded.

The very nature of music is to drive to an ending. Take, for instance, the seven steps in a scale. There are natural tendencies for each of those notes when played in conjunction with one another. This is also true with chordal progressions. A natural flow of music tends to take it back to its beginning. In theory class, we teach students to go to the five-chord before we end the musical composition because of the natural tendency of that particular chord to help bring the piece to its conclusion.

To further illustrate this point, try this experiment. In the presence of several people play on an instrument a major scale, but stop when you get to the seventh step and watch what happens. Regardless of the level of musical knowledge in the room, everyone will insist that you complete your mission. If you don’t, it will cause your friends to either complete the scale in their own way by humming or singing or silently hearing in their inner ear.

One of the critical observations that can be made of musical trends is the use of repetitive phrases that never resolve. You will hear this device constantly used in the “pop” music of the day. Usually there is a fading away of the sound in order for the composition to end. Music that is well-written never does that!

In the life of a biblical Christian, there is finality. We know our destiny and our music should reflect that fact. In this regard our music is not like that of a lost, unregenerate society whose music is laced with constant repetition and lack of resolution.

A Meaningful Communication

Our fifth characteristic of well-written, eternal music is the use of a wide variety of interpretive tools. An artist who begins a painting has at his disposal many tools to create his masterpiece. There are paints, brushes, a canvas, palette, a can of turpentine, a knife, and so forth. When he is finished we admire his creation with words of adulation.

This is also true of great music. Any music dictionary will enlighten you as to the hundreds of possibilities regarding the tempo of the musical composition. There are also numerous words for the degree of loudness or softness. A manuscript is usually filled with all kinds of symbols and lines indicating crescendos, decrescendos, phrases (musical sentences), stop and go (fermata), repeats (Da Capo, Dal Segno), movements of slow-to-fast, back to slow (rubato, “to rob”), and a gradual slowing of tempo (ritard). All these allow the composer or arranger to communicate effectively. Any great score of original material or arrangement of existing material is going to take full advantage of these interpretative tools.

Music that lasts for a season has the prominent characteristic of being performed or recorded at one dynamic level or locked into one tempo. The rock culture is full of examples; however there Is no need to explore this obvious point.

In summary, all great music of any century is well-written. Its ability to stand the test of time is based upon a number of factors working in complementary fashion. This should be the first consideration when evaluating a piece of music intended for use in the church or just pure listening pleasure.

2. Does the Music Match the Words?

Now let’s consider our second major question to determine the value of music. Is the music saying something totally different from what the words are trying to communicate? In order for sacred music to be effective, there must be a consistency between the music and the words — both must communicate the same idea and emotion. Many believe that it does not matter what kind of music is used as long as the words are biblically correct. This trend in the field of sacred music brings us to a discussion of the amorality of music.

Music and Morals

We have stated our contention that music does have moral values. We realize that morality dwells in human beings — not in black ink on white paper! However, we believe music serves as an emotional trigger that can be used for good or evil purposes. Certain lifestyles contrary to Christian principles are going to be characterized by a definite kind of music that is inconsistent with the teachings of New Testament biblical Christianity.

The view of the “amorality of music” has opened the floodgates to a torrent of so-called “sacred music” in which biblically correct doctrine has been fused with music that by its very own nature tells a different story. Such a creation is two-faced, pulling in opposite directions. We need to look carefully at this controversy engulfing the Christian assembly.

You Can Tell the Scene by the Song

Perhaps you have had the following experience in your home: While located in one part of your home, you can hear the television set playing and you have immediately known something of what was happening in the situation being portrayed because of the type of music you heard. A cartoon has its own style of music, a mystery thriller has a distinct sound, and the afternoon soap operas have their type of music.

One of the most interesting facts concerning this revolves around a production company known as Major Records. They are in the business of providing background music for motion pictures, television shows, commercials and documentaries. They have made a fortune supplying “mood” or “background” music.

The owners have found that producers require a certain type of music for a particular scene. In looking through their catalog one will find musical settings that are recommended for use in setting the scene and triggering the very emotional feelings connected with the sins that you find in lists that the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches at Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi and Colosse: adultery, fornication, drunkenness, partying, jealousy, lying, stealing and murder.

While living in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity on several occasions to observe recording sessions involving the technique of laying down 24 tracks of recorded sound. It is amazing to watch these engineers at work creating wide spectrums of sound.

An interesting article involving this very technique was found in a 1978 issue of Jet Magazine. It involved a dialogue between soul music composer Barry White and his recording engineer as together they assembled the sound track to Barry’s big hit, “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me.” (No explanation needed regarding the subject matter of this song!) At one point, Barry took over the control board and began to mix the sound. The interviewer for the magazine asked what he was doing and Mr. White replied:

What I do with music is to put you in the mood for love. And how do I do this? I have to say to myself ‘What instruments put people in the mood?’ Do you use a lot of horns and no strings? A lot of strings and no horns? Just rhythm? Just violins? My combination is, you need a little of all of it, because you’re not dealing with just one person. You’re dealing with the masses of people worldwide. Women love strings — cellos, violas, violins, harp, that’s the women. The horns — French horns, trombones, trumpets, flutes, saxophones — that’s the man. The rhythm — guitars, bass, drums and piano, that’s the bed where you’re gonna make love at. The rhythm lays out the bed.

We do not intend to imply that what Mr. White has said about the various instruments always applies. But we do know that Barry White firmly believes that your emotions and thought patterns can be triggered and manipulated by music alone. (If you have listened to this recording you know there are very few words but the message of the song really does get through!)

No New Thing...

Today’s musicians have not stumbled onto a new revelation. Every successful composer has recognized the potential and has been able to communicate emotional feeling through creative writing. There is no greater example than J.S. Bach. He could describe the despondency of the cross with a single chord.!

In his book The Interpretation of Bach’s Keyboard Works, Bodky lists the various emotions which can be used as a guide when interpreting Bach’s music. Over 60 various emotions are found in his music, such as sadness, gladness, contentment, repentance, hope, confidence, fright, anxiety, sympathy, indifference, favor, and guilt.

We have stated that the spiritual decline or the total absence of Christianity’s influence is going to be exhibited in music. The Word of God gives several examples relative to this.

The Sound of Sin

Probably the most convincing is found in Exodus 32:17-21. Moses had been with God on the mountain receiving the law. His friend and colaborer, Joshua, was left halfway up to wait for Moses’ return. In chapter 32 the reunion takes place.

If I had been Joshua I believe my excitement would have made it well-nigh impossible to refrain from asking all sorts of questions of the leader of Israel concerning the hand of God and the tables of the Law. No doubt Joshua was interested in those things. However, such thoughts are pushed aside by an ominous sound. Verse 17 says:

    And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.

Moses responded by saying that the noise was not people hailing a great leader, nor was it the cry of those being persecuted. Verse 18:

    but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

What they were hearing was music and these sensitive men of God knew that something was wrong.

Moses and Joshua continued their journey back down to the camp. Verse 19 says that when they came upon the camp they saw the calf, the dancing, and though the text does not state it, probably many sins of the flesh. God’s people were corrupted and it was their music that alerted Joshua to that fact.

When God’s people stray, their music parallels their backsliding. There is music that goes hand-in-hand with perversion, drunkeness, idolatry, and the rest of the sins of the flesh. There is music which reflects the position of the new man in Christ.

The prophet Amos gives another clear example. Amos was sent to preach against the sins of the people of the Northern Kingdom in the 8th century B.C. Chapter 6 of Amos gives us an insight into their condition: They were rich and spoiled. With plenty of leisure time they lay on beds of ivory (6:4). They ate the best cuts of meat — tender veal (calves out of the midst of the stall) and lamb. They pretended to be right with God but they were bankrupt spiritually and far from Him.

Their music apparently went down the tube with everything else. God said through Amos:

    Take away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy harps. (5:23).

God tells them in chapter 8, verses 2 and 3, that He will never pass their way again and warns them that their music would be wailings in that day.

Spiritually debased individuals have adhered to music which fostered their immorality. We cite two biblical examples:

    The false worship of Nebuchadnezzar’s five-story-tall image in the plain of Dura was triggered by music. Four times in Daniel 3 (vss. 5, 7, 10, 15) music is closely connected with enforced state religion.

    Mark, chapter 6 records Herod’s birthday party. Included in the celebration was a wicked dance by Herodius’ daughter. This little number, performed for the pleasure of those attending the party, precipitated the murder of John the Baptist.

The Song of Salvation

It is unthinkable that any honest student of music theory or history and the Word of God would believe that music is in itself amoral — that it does not have the power to move the passions to evil or lift the spirit of man to praise and worship of God. Just as our examination has revealed the evil side of this question, so there is a glorious positive side where music reflects the highest spiritual plane in those composers and arrangers who have experienced the richest thoughts of the God of the Bible and His plan of salvation in His Son.

To link together the highest possible thought (which is of God Himself) to the language of music (the most expressive of the arts) is to present to mankind the greatest gift known. From the wealth of history come hundreds of examples that are analyzed and imitated today.

Accent on the Positive

One would have to start with the spiritual quality of J.S. Bach’s music. For instance, the words of Christ in the St. Matthew Passion are set to a soft string section; the incarnation of God in the flesh is portrayed by a slow descending chromatic passage in the B Minor Mass; the subject of death is treated in his cantatas as a “porthole thorough which we pass.” Even his secular works seem to evoke spiritual qualities, such as the Air For the D String or the Violin Concerto in E Minor.

Haydn, whose music was dedicated to God, wrote Seven Words On The Cross, which ends in an earthquake. Handel wrote what is probably the greatest choral work ever composed, The Messiah. This glorious music perfectly matches the words of scripture.

Mozart used various keys to portray the various spiritual decisions of life. Beethoven, whose life was quite frankly mixed up in mysticism, gave us the Ninth Symphony which portrays faith overcoming grief and anxiety. Mendelssohn’s music pours forth praise to God. The Reformation Symphony has a glorious Dresden Amen and a theme from “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. He wrote the magnificent oratorio Elijah, probably his greatest achievement.

Brahms, who had a deep knowledge of the Word of God, wrote the Requiem using scriptural texts which speak of the Christian’s hope in Christ, not normally found in the Mass. His last work, Four Serious Songs had to do with death and the triumph of faith, hope, and love. The music certainly reflected that view.

The music of all these composers reflects the spiritual quality of the texts they were using. The listener is able to detect in the works of a composer the quality of his relationship and fellowship with an Almighty God. There is probably no greater example than a quotation from Haydn, who said at the time of the writing of The Creation:

      I prayed to God for strength every day.

His music, as well as the music of others, certainly matched the words.

Harnessed in Harmony

Music, then, has a message, with or without words. The message heavy rock conveys is one of sensuality, base emotions . . . To attempt to portray biblical truths in such a vehicle is as contrary as hitching an ox with a donkey to plow a field. The team is unmatched in some very basic ways which can only lead to confusion. God is not the author of confusion!

3. Are the Words Theologically Correct?

The last question that we ask of music being evaluated for use in Christian worship would naturally be concerning the words. After a discussion of the music, and then the wedding of that music to the words, we focus the attention upon the words themselves.

This is important, for it is a fact that people frequently learn their theology (the study of God and related truths) from songs that they sing. For instance:

      You ask me how I know He lives?
      He lives within my heart.

This is, of course, taken from the well-known gospel song. Fine sentiment, but weak theology! We had better know why Christ is alive today from the various scripture texts, both Old and New Testament, rather than sentimentality.

Never Too Young

Strong theology in music should start with children. Many of the choruses that are taught in Sunday School and children’s church are really meaningless, focusing on climbing a “ladder” or “sunshine mountain” or putting oil in lamps to keep us burning! What is wrong with teaching children to sing:

My faith has found a resting place
Not in device nor creed.
I trust the Everliving One,
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.”
—Lydie Edmonds

Many gospel songs refer to the theology of the Holy Spirit with phrases like:

      Take not Thy Spirit from me.
      Come, Holy Spirit, and descend.

These are not supported by New Testament teaching. Many hymns are tainted with the social gospel, the most glaring of which is “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Certainly you cannot fault the music which comes from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. However, one line reads:

      Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
      All who live in love are Thine.”

Certainly that is not what Paul taught!

Consistent Content

A discussion such as we have been having can become quite negative and that is not our purpose. However, what we are emphasizing is an examination of the text to be sure it is consistent with Holy Scripture. We need to be aware that danger lurks in the repetition of words not true to the Word. They can seem to be true. Let us cite an example:

“We Three Kings Of Orient Are” is a tradition. Probably every manger scene and occasional Christmas card depicts three kings coming to visit the Christ child. Scripture does not reveal the number, nor did they come at the time of Christ’s birth. Three gifts are noted, the incident is relevant to the event, but the human mind tends to accept the depiction as complete.

Positively, let us teach our children and adults songs that contain strong and correct theology. When you are choosing an anthem, be sure that the words square with the teaching of scripture. This, coupled with the two previous evaluations, will provide music that you can totally trust.

Conclusion

In conclusion, let us be sure that we cannot eliminate music based on who wrote it, the year in which it was written, nor for what purpose. When we begin to make our decisions based on personalities, circumstances, or the calendar, we find ourselves trapped and playing the role of the hypocrite for it is impossible to be absolutely consistent.

Charles Wesley’s music for “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” came from a cantata written by Mendelssohn in praise of Gutenburg’s printing press! The music was well-written and the theologically correct words certainly matched the music. That same thing can and is being done today.

“O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing,” sung to “The Happy Wanderer” makes for enthusiastic singing. “How Great Thou Art” sung to “Londonderry Air” engenders a new appreciation. The criteria is the music itself, not the association.

There is another side to the coin. Those who would promote the use of any kind of music fused with scriptural truth invariably argue that Luther, Watts, and Wesley used the barroom tunes of their day. That is simply not true. Martin Luther used only one melody taken from the plain living of his day and then he changed the notes in a couple of places. [See Martin Luther, His Music, His Message, published by Musical Ministries, Box 6524, Greenville, SC 29606.] You can be sure that spiritually sensitive men such as Isaac Watts or Charles Wesley would have been careful to use well-written music even if they were to occasionally “lift” a melody from the popular tunes of their day.

We must do the same thing today. There is such a thing as throwing out the baby with the bathwater! Discard the poorly written music, don’t waste your money on it! It will, like so many other pieces of music, pass into oblivion. That music which is well-written and is a perfect union with the words will last forever. Stick with it and you will be greatly enriched for doing so.

Finally, we must not forget the message of Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8. Because we’re children of The King, we’re charged with the responsibility of functioning within certain principles. You — and I — must not offend any weaker brother by our choice of living, decisions of conduct, or tastes in the arts,

lest by any means this liberty of yours becomes a stumblingblock.


Author

At the time of this writing, 1980, Leonard Seidel lived in Springfield, Virginia. Following 14 years as an associate pastor of churches in Indiana, Connecticut, and California he began Grace Unlimited Ministries in 1975 to encourage and aid churches in their music ministries.

The Biblical exposition found in the book from which this article was taken is from a series of lectures Mr. Seidel gave in his choral seminars and at Bible conferences and colleges. He began his study of the piano at the age of six and performed 125 concerts a year.

This article is taken from God’s New Song: A Biblical Perspective of Music [Grace Unlimited Publications:Springfield, 1980, pp. 63-82].


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