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Morality

Should Christians Listen to Secular Music?

Afro music headphones (Credit: Daxiao Productions by Fotolia)A mother's words melt a child's countenance. Mom not only knows best, but she wants the best. So when she offers her solicited or unsolicited advice, she expects her child to listen. "Stop hitting your brother." "Slow down when you eat and put your napkin in your lap." "What did I say?" "Quit slouching."

When my posture is slouched, my gestures are limited. But when my posture is upright, I can extend a greater number of gestures. Gestures are more temporary in nature, whereas postures have more of a permanence. Someone who is slouching in a chair is a type of unwelcome sight. They are not inviting you to a conversation but are positioning themselves for comfortable solitude. In essence, they are either closed off or opened up.

Andy Crouch, in his book Culture Making, elaborates upon the idea of postures and gestures. Postures are our inherent attitudes towards the culture. "Our posture is our learned but unconscious default position, our natural stance." But gestures are temporal in nature, they allow us to reveal or conceal our posture.

I gesture with my hand to open a door, but do not keep that gesture once I walk through the door. Unless, of course, I am striking the Heisman pose. My posture is upright, with shoulders back and head up. I am ready for whatever may come my way, including glass doors.

For the Christian, should they permanently posture against secular music? Or should it be a gesture, being against it every now and then?

Argument against Secular Music

The argument against starts with the basic understanding that we are to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). One of the ways we can glorify God is through music, singing songs to him (Psalm 76:1) and about him (Ephesians 5:19). From the harp (Psalm 4:1, 6:1, 54) to the drums (Ezra 3:10, Psalm 68:25), the biblical narrative is replete with various kinds of music and instruments used to glorify God through organized sounds.

This music reverberates in our ears, flutters in our hearts, and causes us to think with our minds. Relative to the mind, the Christian is to think about the things above (Colossians 3:2), not below, by taking every though captive for Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Coupled with this is the admonition to think about certain things:

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8)."

When "secular" music enters through this filter, it often does not go very far. The person who is against secular music often typecasts the music as failing to glorify God because it celebrates lewd behavior or selflessness. In essence, this music is not safe for the whole family, or for you.

Arguments for Secular music

The person arguing for secular music would begin with the same foundation. They understand that everything they do must be done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). They are to love the Lord with their mind, heart, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:36–40).

However, loving God does not include them closing themselves off to his creation, including secular music. Instead, they assume a posture that welcomes all music. In this posture, they presuppose that all of creation is groaning for redemption (Romans 8:18). So with open ears, they are listening for the echoes of eternity in secular music.

As C. S. Lewis noted, this person is receiving the art (specifically the music from the artist) in order to better understand it and them. They are listening to the nuances, the slights that have caused dissatisfaction, the groaning for something more that is implicit within the song.

Instead of using the song for their own purposes, they are receiving the song in order to better understand the artist. After they have received it and better understand it, then they begin to see how those longings and groaning are universal to the human experience. But more than that, they can find their satisfaction in the God of the Universe. When speaking of God, Abraham Kuyper found that He has littered this broken world reminders of Himself. These "few precious stones that we discover on earth are merely the scattered signposts of a new Jerusalem constructed simply with precious stones."

While the song may not explicitly mention God or directly sing about his grace, the Christian for secular music functions as a child on an Easter egg hunt, looking for those stones. Does it require diligence and creativity? Yes, but as Francis Schaffer said, "the Christian in the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars."

Conclusion

Should the Christian listen to secular music? Maybe this is the wrong question, forcing you into a false dichotomy. If you say no, then you blind yourself to the God who is redeeming all of creation. If you say yes, you open yourself to certain songs that can be unprofitable for the spirit and toxic to the heart. Maybe Brittney Spears has the right answer: "Sometimes."

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