An extract from ‘Can we rock the gospel?’ by John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini – a new book from Evangelical Press on music in worship and evangelism
God loves music. We say this not because either of us has a vested interest in securing God’s backing for our ministries nor because we want to get God onside as a help in promoting some kind of musical enterprise. Our claim rests on the solid foundation of Scripture. Simply put, God says so!
There is more than a hint of this when we are told that at the dawn of creation, ‘the morning stars sang together’ (Job 38:7). This is not meant to be a scientific description of origins, but it surely means something. If God uses a musical metaphor in telling us of the wonder and glory of his creation, we can be certain that he has music in his heart.
What is more, the created elements themselves are commanded to join in God’s worship and the Bible tells of times when ‘they break forth into singing’ (Isaiah 14:7).
With the whole of creation called to unite in a musical tribute to its Maker, we should expect God’s people to be under special obligation to express their praise – and this is what we find, on page after page.
‘Sing to him a new song; play skilfully with a shout of joy’ (Psalm 33:3) and ‘Sing out the honour of his name; make his praise glorious’ (Psalm 66:2) are just two of many places at which believers are told to sing to God’s glory. As these exhortations come from God’s chosen spokesmen we can be sure that their words have his endorsement.
Israel’s King David goes even further and testifies that music is not only for God but from God: ‘He has put a new song in my mouth – Praise to our God’ (Psalm 40:3). Moses sees an even closer link between music and his Maker and cries out, ‘The Lord is my strength and song’ (Exodus 15:2).
Singing with grace
New Testament believers also used music to express their faith. Imprisoned at Philippi, the apostle Paul and Silas are found ‘praying and singing hymns to God’ (Acts 16:25), while Jesus and his disciples made their way to his betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane ‘when they had sung a hymn’ (Matthew 26:30).
Elsewhere in the New Testament, Christians are told to express their common faith ‘in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord’ (Colossians 3:16).
Nor does the theme end here on earth, as the apostle John’s visions of heaven included one in which all of God’s redeemed people ‘sang as it were a new song before the throne’ (Revelation 14:3).
With all of these data, it is small wonder to find the great reformer Martin Luther saying that anyone who does not see music as a gift from God is ‘truly a clod’!
An urgent question
Yet an important question needs to be asked. Does God endorse music of every kind, regardless of its structure or features? Put another way, is there any music which does not get his seal of approval? Tightening this even further, are there musical forms or ways of using music that violate biblical principles and which Christians should therefore reject?
We sincerely believe that there are and that the question takes on an even greater urgency in these days as many influential church leaders and popular Christian musicians have recently claimed that God endorses all kinds of music without distinction.
This book is an expression of our convictions and concerns. In writing it we have drawn heavily on research undertaken for Pop goes the gospel, first published in 1983, and Why I left the contemporary Christian music movement, first published in 2002, as well as on our experience in handling the vast amount of feedback that both titles generated.
In spite of their wide circulation, it had not been our intention to add to these titles, but we have been persuaded that in the present church scene there is an urgent need to revisit the subject and to pool our research and experience in a new book.
This is it. We are aware that it is likely to be praised by some and pilloried by others; we trust that God will give us grace to cope with both responses. Our sole motive in writing is that God himself will be glorified as Christians of every stripe come to a fuller understanding of his ‘good and acceptable and perfect will’ (Romans 12:2) and commit themselves to it in unqualified obedience.