Perspective on Music
Purpose & Motive
In the Bible, we see two main purposes that God has given for the use of music in a gathered church: (1) singing to God to praise, thank, and express joy to Him, and (2) singing to one another to instruct, admonish, and encourage fellow saints in God’s Word. Our music should originate from the filling of the Holy Spirit and having God’s Word richly dwelling within us, and it should be sung with God’s grace in our hearts.
The lyrics of anything we sing should, of course, be in accord with Scriptural precepts regarding speech – loving, pure, sound, wise, gracious, edifying, instructive, beyond reproach, etc. The words should be God-centered, and the theology expressed should be thoroughly Biblical and God-honoring. Songs with lyrics that are vague, shallow, man-centered, full of meaningless repetition, or based on false and deceptive ideas of the world should be avoided.
The Scripture specifically commands us to sing:
· psalms (from the OT book of Psalms)
· hymns (songs which laud God and celebrate His attributes and works)
· spiritual songs (probably songs of testimony about God’s gracious work in salvation and life)
The Scripture indicates that musical form (style or arrangement of melody, harmony, and rhythm) is not a morally neutral medium. Even allowing somewhat for variety in taste and styles, music has essential qualities of good or evil, truth or error, wisdom or foolishness, beauty or ugliness, skill or sloppiness; and it can strongly influence our spirit and emotions. The Bible does not name specific lists of acceptable styles, so we must therefore apply Biblical discernment to decide whether a particular musical form is consistent with the heart of God or not. This process of musical discernment should include:
· reliance upon the Holy Spirit to give wisdom, and willingness to submit to the will and wisdom of God, even if it would mean changing our musical choices
· rigorous and honest inquiry into the origins, intrinsic nature, emotional and physical affects, and long-term behavioral and attitudinal affects of involvement with the musical form
· study and spiritual understanding of Biblical principles that would apply to the moral aspects of our life
· taking action to change our musical listening habits and prayer that God would re-train our musical tastes to conform to His holy and loving will
This is especially important to us living in this age because our generation has experienced an unprecedented inundation of popular music through mass distribution and constant exposure. This has resulted in a dulling of our spiritual senses, an addiction to some unhealthy musical forms, and lack of discernment.
Musical forms should be majestic, joyful, evocative of healthy emotion under God’s control, encouraging, comforting, etc. – all in all, supportive of the spirit and message of what is being sung. The components of the music (melody, harmony, rhythm) should be in proper balance and concert with one another.
Music in the Church
Age, per se, is not a determiner of how good or poor a piece of music is. However, we find that there tends to be much more depth, richness, goodness, and conformity with the principles above in older hymns of the faith. We very much enjoy singing from our common hymnals, and that is the mainstay of our congregational singing. We desire to learn the singing of the Psalms. We will also sing some more modern compositions and choruses that are done Biblically, thoughtfully, and worshipfully (if the musical arrangement is appropriate). We stick by conservative yet joyful and inspiring music.
We avoid using musical forms derived from blues, jazz, and rock and roll (even milder versions). That would include much of what is played in modern churches as contemporary worship music. The reason: particular rhythm patterns that naturally (and sometimes subtly) tend to foster feelings of sensuality, chaos, pride, or rebellion. To us, it seems incongruous to use one of these musical forms to carry words of praise to God when it actually undermines true worship of the wonderful, holy, and loving God. There are many commands and examples of the use of instruments in Old Testament worship. There are also the New Testament commands to sing psalms (songs accompanied by the plucking of an instrument). So, we believe it is appropriate to use instruments in church gatherings, provided it does not overpower the singing, is done skillfully, has good motivation, does not use inappropriate forms, and supports the whole musical piece. Sometimes we have instrumental accompaniment, and sometimes we sing without it.
(Exodus 32:17-19; 1Samuel 16:14f; 18:10f; 1Chronicles 15:22; 1Kings 1:39f; Psalm 33; 87; 92; 95; 150; et al; Proverbs 10:21; 15:4; 16:23; 25:20; Isaiah 12:2; 51:3; Ezekiel 33:32; Daniel 3:4; Amos 6:1; Matthew 9:23f; Mark 14:26; John 5:30; Romans 13:14; 1Corinthians 9:27; 14:15, 26; Ephesians 4:22-29; 5:10-11; 18-21; Philippians 1:9; 4:8; Colossians 3:2,16; 4:6; 1Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:8; Hebrews 3:13; 5:14; 12:1; James 3:3-18; 1John 2:15-16; Revelation 5:9f; 15:3f)
Perspectives on Marriage Preparation
The physical, spiritual, and emotional union of a man and a woman is a wonderful gift of God – provided it is done within the covenant of marriage and in God’s ways. The weaving of a man and woman’s hearts in a romantic relationship prior to a marriage is also a wonderful thing – provided it is done within God’s boundaries of a betrothal commitment to marriage and staying within the protections He has given.
However, within the church and society at large, we are seriously out of bounds on these matters. We are so accustomed to young men and women casually trading and developing emotional and physical affections with one another, we see it as normal and healthy, part of growing up. But this pattern is largely absent from the Bible, excepting some negative examples. It is far from God’s norm. Refer to it as “dating”, “just being friends”, or whatever you choose, the building of affectionate ties between a man and woman without a betrothal-marriage commitment is outside the loving principles that God has given us in His Word. Both physical and emotional purity are important to the Lord.
We believe that parents should be very involved with their sons and daughters in preparation for marriage. Sons and daughters should joyfully trust the Lord to use their parents to provide oversight, protection, wise counsel, help in evaluating character of potential partners, vetoes, and approvals.
We believe that a son, as a general pattern, should first focus upon his own relationship with Jesus, becoming a young man maturing in the character of Christ, growing in the fruit of the Spirit. He should then focus on prayerfully forming a vision and desire for a life work through which he will glorify God on earth and support a family. Necessary training and practice should be sought. Once on this road, it is a good time to start seeking a wife, in the timing and ways of God. Through all of this process, even with developing a manly drive and initiative, he should gladly seek the guidance and direction of his parents.
Likewise, a daughter should seek the Lord to build in her a lovely, biblical femininity, in the character of Christ. In her father’s house, she can develop the skills, knowledge, and heart necessary to be a hospitable, gracious, and industrious worker at home. Other intellectual and skillful pursuits can be beneficial, as deemed appropriate by her and her parents.
We think marriage preparation is best started in family-to-family relationships and activities. This gives the young man and young lady and their parents opportunity to observe one another and learn about their character, personality, convictions, beliefs, etc. in group settings, over an extended time. This allows a more objective investigation into potential spouses without the emotional entanglements of dating, prior to any commitments.
Discussions about a possible courtship and betrothal should be had between son and parents, between daughter and parents, and between the two sets of parents. All should be earnestly seeking the wisdom of God, and if all agree together that it would please the Lord, the young man should initiate by seeking the permission and blessing of the lady’s father. If her father gives the go-ahead, an investigative courtship commitment can be made, and the young man and lady, under the wise and careful oversight of the parents, can spend much time in conversation and observation, careful to let the Lord keep emotions under control and maintaining purity. After sufficient time is spent in this mode, the parents and couple should determine whether it is wise in God's eyes to proceed with betrothal to marriage, or to determine it is not suitable for them to marry. If suitable and with the blessing of the fathers, the young man can propose marriage to the young lady. If she accepts, there is a solid betrothal commitment to marry in as short a time as practical. In a betrothal commitment we believe it is appropriate to start some emotional bonding as they plan their wedding and their married life together. However, emotions should still be moderated and guarded so as to maintain purity until their marriage is actually consummated. Then there can be full emotional and physical release under the blessing of God.
These are principles and guidelines; there is no exact formula in the Bible. There is still a great need for seeking the wisdom of God in each situation. What we have described above is only in summary form; parents will need to discuss and agree on a proper approach for their particular son and daughter.
(Genesis 2; 20:4-6; 24; 26:8-9; 28; 29; Exodus 22:16-17; Numbers 30:3f; Deuteronomy 22:13-29; Psalm 45:13-15 Proverbs 31; Song of Solomon; Hosea 2:19-20; Ezekiel 16:8; Malachi 2:14; Matthew 1:18-25; 5:28; 19:3-12; 22:2f; 25:1f; Luke 1:27; 2:5; 20:34;John 14:2-3; Romans 13:14; 1Corinthians 7:1; 7:36-38; 2Corinthians 11:2-3; Galatians 6:8; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1Thessalonians 4:3-8; Titus 2:4-5; 1Peter 3:1-7; Revelation 19:7-9)