09 June 2006

The Christian and Music (1): No Neutrality

To begin the suicidal discussion of music, I want to make my starting places clear. My underlying assumption through this discussion is that music is not amoral. What I mean is that even when considered without the words, music itself has a moral quality.

Someone might say, “What you are saying is that the individual notes on the page are either morally good or morally bad?” I would answer “Yes, of course.”

Here is my reasoning: On one side, everything in the world is created by the Moral Person who is himself the very definition of moral good. This Moral Person claims that the universe he created speaks (though without words) of his glory. Music is part of God’s creation, and nothing in God’s creation can be said to be morally neutral.

On the other side nothing humans do is devoid of moral quality because we are God’s image-bearers. For instance, everything unregenerate humans do is tainted by their rebellion against God. Unregenerate persons can do nothing which is not an expression of their depravity. In addition, regenerate persons will not be free from the effects of sin throughout their being until they are glorified. Music, at least as we know it, is an expression of human creativity, and nothing from a human’s mind can be said to be morally neutral.

To elaborate briefly on how image-bearing relates to music. I see music as an art; the objective of art, according to the Christian worldview, is to emulate the beauty of the Creator in appropriate creaturely venues. That humans were created with a capacity to appreciate beauty is evident from the account of the fall in Genesis 3. There, the text recounts that before Eve sinned, she “saw that the fruit of the tree was…pleasing to the eye” (Gen 3:6).

So how does this capacity relate to morality? In the end, it is absolutely wrong in every situation to love as beautiful that which is ugly in God’s eyes. God is Beauty, and his affections form the standard by which we should evaluate our own affections. Where is that standard revealed in the Scriptures? It is revealed throughout them, and it emerges as an integral part of the Christian world and life view. It is crystallized in a couple of passages like this one: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Disobedience to this verse is sin out right; it is not morally neutral (Application of this verse—well, we aren’t there yet. Keep in mind that this is only a starting point. Specific musical genres and venues have not been considered at all. The only assertion which has been made is that music cannot be morally neutral because nothing in the universe is morally neutral.)

Sorry Switzerland! No Neutrality here.I will close with a quote from C. S. Lewis, who can sum it all up better than I can. “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” C. S. Lewis, “Christianity and Culture,” in Christian Reflections, p. 33.

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