Cultural context and appropriate music styles

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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
In the "dealing with contemporary worship" thread Austin posted:

I'm sure that one could find examples of hymns set to tunes derived from Arabic, African, or South American sources that most Americans would see no problem with. BUT, for Christians coming out of Islam or African or S. American paganism, those tunes would be wholly inappropriate.

Could it not be that for many of us Christians in the West that we find certain styles offensive, in bad taste, or 'inappropriate for worship' b/c of our own cultural baggage?

In seems our cultural background and the corresponding ideas we have about types of music does enter into the way we think.

I grew up worshipping with Native American believers. Their language is tonal, meaning that Western hymns translated into their native language don't really work when sung with the traditional Western tunes. The melodies mess with the tonality of the Native language. Their language really ought to be chanted in order to be sung and still be intelligible. This was suggested more than once, but the Native believers would always protest that chanting was completely inappropriate for Christian worship. In their minds, chanting belonged to the medicine man's healing ceremonies of the false religion they were leaving behind.

Well, I'm not convinced there's anything inherently wrong with chanting in worship, especially if that's the only intelligible way to sing in your own language. But for them, coming from their cultural context, is it indeed wrong? Could it be redeemed for those whose consciences allow it? Or could it be that chanting is inherently wrong?

And what about my cultural context? It's hard for me to see how, let's say, heavy metal music could ever be appropriate for Christian worship. But is that because there's something inherent with the music itself (perhaps it's clearly rebellious and angry or intentionally dissonant)? Or do I think of it that way because of the cultural trappings that come with it? Might someone from another culture find it perfectly appropriate for corporate singing (at least for the imprecatory Psalms)?

What role, if any, should our cultural backgrounds play in what music is appropriate for worship in our churches? Thoughts?
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Jack, I've thought about this quite a bit. I believe it is situations such as you've mentioned that we are commanded to sing a new song. While certain types of chanting remind Native American christians of their pagan roots, the church has chanted music for centuries.

In our day, heavy metal and other forms of rock remind today's believers of their "pagan" roots. For two reasons, I have problems with heavy metal in the church 1) It's associations with rebellion and wickedness and 2) (and far stronger for me) the screaming and yelling and apparent disorder seems to speak against the very message of Scripture.

Music does not have to be solemn to be holy, much of the music of the church is joyful and upbeat while not being irreverant. In fact, there are a few hymns in the hymnal which have melodies that are simply depressing, and I wonder what place they have in the church.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
Apart from the issue of the exclusivity of the Psalter in Christian worship, we might just address the subject of musical instruments in New Testament (NT) Christian worship.

If
one were to assert that the use of instruments in Old Testament worship was ceremonial and shadowy in nature (and not a mere circumstance), then it would follow that their exclusion would be manifest in NT worship. This (i.e. that their usage was Ceremonial in nature), coupled with the New Testament data that there is no command for use of instruments, nor any regulation thereof (what instruments should be used, what church office should be in charge in the creation and utility of said instruments), then that would do away with the problem of "music."

If
, however, one doesn't hold to the aforementioned distinctions, then it becomes a wholly subjective set of arguments between the traditionalists and the contemporary music person(s). In that case, on what biblical basis can one say that a piano or an organ is more "reverent" than the electric guitar? The conga drums versus a full set of "all out" drums? So on, so forth, etc. At that point, it gets messy, and I don't see how dogmatic conclusions can be drawn, other than cultural relevance, etc. which doesn't do much for the unity of Christian worship across tribe, tongue, and nation.

In the former case (no instruments) there is at least unity in that of acapella praise, while there'd still be debates on what style is appropriate (rhythm, harmony, speed, chanting, etc.). Even then, how does one avoid subjectivity? I'm not sure, although it doesn't absolve us of reforming to the Word of God, right? We do know this: NT Christian worship should be simple enough that the whole congregation can join in, that it should be sung with grace and with melody in their hearts, and in unity one with another.

Well, I think what I said was about as clear as mud and didn't help any. :)

Josh,

I sympathize with your views, but I think this is a very separate issue. A discussion about what music is appropriate is an important discussion for instrumental accompanimentalists and a capellists alike. Either way, you are still using music composed by someone from a specific cultural context. There are a few musical settings in the Book of Psalms for Singing which I think are highly inappropriate.

---------- Post added at 12:31 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:28 PM ----------

In the "dealing with contemporary worship" thread Austin posted:

I'm sure that one could find examples of hymns set to tunes derived from Arabic, African, or South American sources that most Americans would see no problem with. BUT, for Christians coming out of Islam or African or S. American paganism, those tunes would be wholly inappropriate.

Could it not be that for many of us Christians in the West that we find certain styles offensive, in bad taste, or 'inappropriate for worship' b/c of our own cultural baggage?

In seems our cultural background and the corresponding ideas we have about types of music does enter into the way we think.

I grew up worshipping with Native American believers. Their language is tonal, meaning that Western hymns translated into their native language don't really work when sung with the traditional Western tunes. The melodies mess with the tonality of the Native language. Their language really ought to be chanted in order to be sung and still be intelligible. This was suggested more than once, but the Native believers would always protest that chanting was completely inappropriate for Christian worship. In their minds, chanting belonged to the medicine man's healing ceremonies of the false religion they were leaving behind.

Well, I'm not convinced there's anything inherently wrong with chanting in worship, especially if that's the only intelligible way to sing in your own language. But for them, coming from their cultural context, is it indeed wrong? Could it be redeemed for those whose consciences allow it? Or could it be that chanting is inherently wrong?

And what about my cultural context? It's hard for me to see how, let's say, heavy metal music could ever be appropriate for Christian worship. But is that because there's something inherent with the music itself (perhaps it's clearly rebellious and angry or intentionally dissonant)? Or do I think of it that way because of the cultural trappings that come with it? Might someone from another culture find it perfectly appropriate for corporate singing (at least for the imprecatory Psalms)?

What role, if any, should our cultural backgrounds play in what music is appropriate for worship in our churches? Thoughts?

To answer your question, I think that native chanting styles probably could be redeemed, if the consciences of the native Christians would allow it. But this is not to say that musical choices for worship are entirely culturally bound. There is an objective quality that makes music appropriate or inappropriate, good or evil. Cultural sensitivities play a part, but they are not the end of the story.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
There is an objective quality that makes music appropriate or inappropriate, good or evil. Cultural sensitivities play a part, but they are not the end of the story.

What would be that objective quality? I have heard that so many times, but in order to make that an argument rather than an assertion, you would need to list objective criteria by which to judge music appropriate or inappropriate.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
There is an objective quality that makes music appropriate or inappropriate, good or evil. Cultural sensitivities play a part, but they are not the end of the story.

What would be that objective quality? I have heard that so many times, but in order to make that an argument rather than an assertion, you would need to list objective criteria by which to judge music appropriate or inappropriate.

Joel, I am fairly certain that such objective criteria exist, but I am at this time unqualified to specify what they are. I'm going to have to punt for now and read a book which has been highly recommended to me, "Why can't Johnny sing hymns" by T. David Gordon. May I suggest that you do the same?
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
Joel, I am fairly certain that such objective criteria exist, but I am at this time unqualified to specify what they are. I'm going to have to punt for now and read a book which has been highly recommended to me, "Why can't Johnny sing hymns" by T. David Gordon. May I suggest that you do the same?

A couple of thoughts:

(1) It seems to me that you've made pretty certain claims in several threads that there is such objective criteria. It seems to me that if you can't provide them, then to be dogmatic that they exist isn't really an appropriate way to discuss such an issue.

(2) I haven't yet read "Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns," though I would like to. But I've read Hart and Muether's "With Reverence and Awe" where they try to make such a claim, and it simply isn't made with any sort of objective criteria. I've also read other books such as "Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement" that try to make such a claim, and it fails to provide any sort of objective criteria. I don't think they exist.

(3) To lay all my cards on the table: I used to hold the very view that you describe. I argued it quite strongly. And yet after reading a lot on the subject, I simply have not found anyone that makes a compelling case for such objective criteria. I knew people that tried, and they asserted that there were certain chord progressions that were evil. When asked why, they couldn't defend it. Others said that plants withered when exposed to certain types of music. That doesn't cut it in my opinion. I eventually changed my position because I simply don't think that holding that such objective criteria exists is tenable.

Having said that, at least for my own cultural situation, I feel some serious sympathy with what Joshua has said above. It seems to me on a practical level that a capella singing eradicates many (not all) difficulties. I do get frustrated with the performance attitude that seems prevalent. I do get frustrated with everyone complaining (myself included) that the musical style doesn't work for them. So sometimes I think practically the easiest thing to do would be to get rid of instruments. But I'm simply very unconvinced that that is the Scriptural position on instruments. So I have to figure out what is and isn't appropriate. And within that context, I simply don't see any objective criteria existing.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
Joel, I am fairly certain that such objective criteria exist, but I am at this time unqualified to specify what they are. I'm going to have to punt for now and read a book which has been highly recommended to me, "Why can't Johnny sing hymns" by T. David Gordon. May I suggest that you do the same?

A couple of thoughts:

(1) It seems to me that you've made pretty certain claims in several threads that there is such objective criteria. It seems to me that if you can't provide them, then to be dogmatic that they exist isn't really an appropriate way to discuss such an issue.

(2) I haven't yet read "Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns," though I would like to. But I've read Hart and Muether's "With Reverence and Awe" where they try to make such a claim, and it simply isn't made with any sort of objective criteria. I've also read other books such as "Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement" that try to make such a claim, and it fails to provide any sort of objective criteria. I don't think they exist.

(3) To lay all my cards on the table: I used to hold the very view that you describe. I argued it quite strongly. And yet after reading a lot on the subject, I simply have not found anyone that makes a compelling case for such objective criteria. I knew people that tried, and they asserted that there were certain chord progressions that were evil. When asked why, they couldn't defend it. Others said that plants withered when exposed to certain types of music. That doesn't cut it in my opinion. I eventually changed my position because I simply don't think that holding that such objective criteria exists is tenable.

Having said that, at least for my own cultural situation, I feel some serious sympathy with what Joshua has said above. It seems to me on a practical level that a capella singing eradicates many (not all) difficulties. I do get frustrated with the performance attitude that seems prevalent. I do get frustrated with everyone complaining (myself included) that the musical style doesn't work for them. So sometimes I think practically the easiest thing to do would be to get rid of instruments. But I'm simply very unconvinced that that is the Scriptural position on instruments. So I have to figure out what is and isn't appropriate. And within that context, I simply don't see any objective criteria existing.

The convincing evidence for me is the effect that various styles of music have on those who are participating or listening to it. Take Saul as an example. This points to an ethical quality in music that goes beyond just personal taste. And there is a universality to it which transcends cultural context due to the commonality in the design of the mechanics and make-up of the human ear and mind.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
The convincing evidence for me is the effect that various styles of music have on those who are participating or listening to it. Take Saul as an example. This points to an ethical quality in music that goes beyond just personal taste. And there is a universality to it which transcends cultural context due to the commonality in the design of the mechanics and make-up of the human ear and mind.

First of all, that falls far short of providing objective criteria. Even if you could say that some music is good and some is bad, you have asserted that there is a set of objective criteria that enables us to determine which is which. I haven't seen such criteria provided anywhere, and I've read quite a bit from both sides on it.

Secondly, the example that you provided (Saul) shows only that music affects people. No one disputes that. Music affects me. The fact that David could play music and sooth his soul doesn't mean that there are objective, universal criteria for determining which music is good and which is bad. I suspect that you would find much Middle Eastern music inappropriate. You would only be able to prove your point if you can (1) have people from many societies and cultures listen to the same music that Saul did, (2) have all of those people have the same reaction to the music, and (3) determine what aspect of the music causes such a reaction among them. And that wouldn't really fully prove it. You would really need that situation in reverse, in which people from many cultures have the same reaction to one type of music. You would then to prove (not sure how) what aspect of the music caused such a reaction.

Lastly, I'm not sure how you are convinced or how you would prove that such a universality exists. Sure, music does always communicate something. But what it communicates will be wildly different across cultures. There is the whole discipline of ethnomusicology that studies the music of peoples around the world. They can be vastly different. What some Chinese music communicates to me is vastly different than what it communicates to its creators (and vice versa).
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
That an objective standered exists is a wieghty question for sure but it would solve the delemia to have an objective method for determining whether a style of music is ok or not. This method is necessary because no matter what list you come up with it will always be abstract in nature. Qualities like reverence are not concrete enough to readily point out which things are reverent or not. This is why God in his omniscient wisdom gave us church goverment to deal with and wrestle with these considerations to determine whether or not something is ok or not. Theological and practical considerations should be used in this method. Pure subjectivity as well as pure rigidness should both be avoided.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
The convincing evidence for me is the effect that various styles of music have on those who are participating or listening to it. Take Saul as an example. This points to an ethical quality in music that goes beyond just personal taste. And there is a universality to it which transcends cultural context due to the commonality in the design of the mechanics and make-up of the human ear and mind.

First of all, that falls far short of providing objective criteria. Even if you could say that some music is good and some is bad, you have asserted that there is a set of objective criteria that enables us to determine which is which. I haven't seen such criteria provided anywhere, and I've read quite a bit from both sides on it.

Secondly, the example that you provided (Saul) shows only that music affects people. No one disputes that. Music affects me. The fact that David could play music and sooth his soul doesn't mean that there are objective, universal criteria for determining which music is good and which is bad. I suspect that you would find much Middle Eastern music inappropriate. You would only be able to prove your point if you can (1) have people from many societies and cultures listen to the same music that Saul did, (2) have all of those people have the same reaction to the music, and (3) determine what aspect of the music causes such a reaction among them. And that wouldn't really fully prove it. You would really need that situation in reverse, in which people from many cultures have the same reaction to one type of music. You would then to prove (not sure how) what aspect of the music caused such a reaction.

Lastly, I'm not sure how you are convinced or how you would prove that such a universality exists. Sure, music does always communicate something. But what it communicates will be wildly different across cultures. There is the whole discipline of ethnomusicology that studies the music of peoples around the world. They can be vastly different. What some Chinese music communicates to me is vastly different than what it communicates to its creators (and vice versa).

If there were not a universal quality to music, it would not be able to speak across cultural lines, which it undoubtedly does. No, I do not have a problem with Middle Eastern music. I enjoy it. I disagree with you when you say that there is no commonality in music which speaks the same to different cultures.

To say that there is evidence pointing to an objective criteria is not the same as saying that I know what those criteria are. I can state the former with certainty based on what I have seen and learned without being able to describe with words precisely what they are. The difficulty in explaining verbally comes because music is a non-verbal form of communication.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Someone recommended: Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns, and I've just completed it. The criterion T. David Gordon makes, drawing from a number of other social commentators, are sensible. Music in worship should focus on timelessness, emphasize wisdom and knowledge, is not cut off from the past, is deliberately chosen (instead of just drifting with the culture), is capable of repeated, careful attention, and is communal in nature -- meant to be sung as a group, not as a solo. More could be mentioned, but this makes a good start.

Some native American traditions might very well meet these criterion, but we should also be sensitive to what the music means within their cultural setting. For example, I worked one fire on a particular reservation that had been very influenced by the church. Every meeting was closed with a prayer circle in Christ's name. I noticed a distinct humming sound being made by people throughout the prayer. I've always wondered if this was a synthesis of Christian with pagan. (I honestly don't know, so that's why I don't name the group.) If a group sees a pagan connection to their past music, that should by all means be respected.
 

littlepeople

Puritan Board Freshman
Meaning no disrespect to anyone, this thread would benefit from some precision in terminology. It also might be helpful to look at the history of the Medievil church and its shaping of western music, the systemic differences between Eastern and Western music, the musical roots of CCM. For instance, I'm not sure how we can exclude heavy metal on any musical/cultural grounds that wouldn't likewise apply to contemporary, acoustic, singer-songwriter, or folk styles typically embraced by CCM
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Make a joyful noise disqualifies a whole lot in the Trinity Hymnal. More like funeral dirges.
 

littlepeople

Puritan Board Freshman
communal in nature -- meant to be sung as a group, not as a solo.

This, to me, is the failing point of most contemporary worship songs and also a failure in the "performance" of many worship leaders. I can testify to the ease of writing a song that sounds great for me and my guitar. Writing a song that can be sung corporately requires long hours and blood, sweat, and tears.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
If there were not a universal quality to music, it would not be able to speak across cultural lines, which it undoubtedly does. No, I do not have a problem with Middle Eastern music. I enjoy it. I disagree with you when you say that there is no commonality in music which speaks the same to different cultures.

You say it undoubtedly does, but you don't provide any examples to show that it is beyond doubt. I highly doubt that a Mozart piece communicates the same thing in Native American culture as it does in a Middle Eastern culture or in a Western culture.

And even to say that music communicates something across cultures doesn't mean that it communicates the same thing. Of course music communicates universally. Of course music does affect people. But in order to make your argument work, it would have to communicate the same thing across different cultures. I contend that you haven't proven that, and that to this point, I haven't seen anyone else prove it either.

To say that there is evidence pointing to an objective criteria is not the same as saying that I know what those criteria are. I can state the former with certainty based on what I have seen and learned without being able to describe with words precisely what they are. The difficulty in explaining verbally comes because music is a non-verbal form of communication.

But if you can't define what the objective criteria, then it seems like one ought to consider the possibility that no such criteria exists. Particularly if no one else provides such criteria either. Even the criteria that jwithnell provided from Gordon's book doesn't determine whether a song is good or bad (i.e., right or wrong), it only provides advice on whether or not it is suitable for public worship.

Basically, your argument goes as follows: (1) Music communicates something to people. (2) People are affected by music. (3) All cultures are affected by music in some way. (4) Therefore, there must be objective criteria for determining which music is right and wrong. (5) I don't know what those criteria are.

I simply don't see how that follows. The jump from 1-3 and 4 isn't warranted. And making an assertion that you can't back up seems like special pleading because you don't like something. Yet you have stated quite certainly that music is objectively good or evil ("There is an objective quality that makes music appropriate or inappropriate, good or evil.") I have seen nothing to back that up.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
If there were not a universal quality to music, it would not be able to speak across cultural lines, which it undoubtedly does. No, I do not have a problem with Middle Eastern music. I enjoy it. I disagree with you when you say that there is no commonality in music which speaks the same to different cultures.

If that were the case, then why has the whole world embraced Mozart in the modern age? Why are many of the best classical musicians and conductors Asian? I submit that this phenomenon points to a universal quality of the music that even people from the opposite side of the world can understand and appreciate just as those from the culture which spawned it.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
If that were the case, then why has the whole world embraced Mozart in the modern age? Why are many of the best classical musicians and conductors Asian? I submit that this phenomenon points to a universal quality of the music that even people from the opposite side of the world can understand and appreciate just as those from the culture which spawned it.

Several thoughts:

(1) You haven't seriously responded to the things that I have said. You've just picked a few things out each time without truly dealing with my argument. My central point came when I laid out your argument and showed that it did not follow. To convince anyone (including me), I would think that you should respond to what I've said.

(2) I'm not sure that that "whole world" has embraced Mozart, but sure, even if it had, that doesn't mean that it is "good." That is the classic naturalistic fallacy, arguing an "ought" from an "is." Simply because many people like Mozart does not mean that is objectively good. People from many cultures around the world like the Beatles. Does that mean that they are morally good? I'm sure there are cultural and other reasons (genetic, hard work?) why so many Asians are good at classical music. But that says nothing about whether the music is morally good or not.

(3) You are trying to go from a "universal quality" to moral goodness. And you are trying to say that there are objective criteria by which that goodness can be evaluated. I'm contending that this is an unwarranted leap (the naturalistic fallacy), and would like to see any evidence that shows that (a) such objective criteria exist, and (b) that if they do exist (which I do not currently accept), how we could determine what they are.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
If that were the case, then why has the whole world embraced Mozart in the modern age? Why are many of the best classical musicians and conductors Asian? I submit that this phenomenon points to a universal quality of the music that even people from the opposite side of the world can understand and appreciate just as those from the culture which spawned it.

Several thoughts:

(1) You haven't seriously responded to the things that I have said. You've just picked a few things out each time without truly dealing with my argument. My central point came when I laid out your argument and showed that it did not follow. To convince anyone (including me), I would think that you should respond to what I've said.

(2) I'm not sure that that "whole world" has embraced Mozart, but sure, even if it had, that doesn't mean that it is "good." That is the classic naturalistic fallacy, arguing an "ought" from an "is." Simply because many people like Mozart does not mean that is objectively good. People from many cultures around the world like the Beatles. Does that mean that they are morally good? I'm sure there are cultural and other reasons (genetic, hard work?) why so many Asians are good at classical music. But that says nothing about whether the music is morally good or not.

(3) You are trying to go from a "universal quality" to moral goodness. And you are trying to say that there are objective criteria by which that goodness can be evaluated. I'm contending that this is an unwarranted leap (the naturalistic fallacy), and would like to see any evidence that shows that (a) such objective criteria exist, and (b) that if they do exist (which I do not currently accept), how we could determine what they are.

I think Aristotle has some good insights, here. I'll have to get back with you with the kind of information you're looking for. I just don't have time to have a really thorough debate right now.
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
As I've been reading through these posts, I can't help but think of Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

Putting aside the arguments about whether to be EP or not, I see some criteria here:
1) It should teach and admonish
2) It should be corporate (to one another)
3) It should done with wisdom
4) It should be psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (however you interpret that)
5) It should be done with thankfulness in our hearts to the Lord

The last point says something about heart attitude, and I think this is the missing element in this discussion. I am personally persuaded that heart attitude has a lot more to do with how music is communicted, than the music itself. If the music can be run through the above list (given to us by God Himself), the actual music has only small amount to do with it.

If the music distracts from what God has given in Scripture, it should go out. As I said in a previous, what goes in my congregation would never work in other congregations. In my church the occasional bluegrass style music makes some folks more comfortable and actually aids their worship. In some churches, that style would be a huge distraction from the words.

This is why I personally believe that God did not give exact details of how music should be played. He has given us His Spirit to guide us. This might sound scary, but much in the Christian life is like that.
 
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heartoflesh

Puritan Board Junior
Personally I'm tired of the same old, same old, bad acoustic guitar playing. Why not more fiddles and pedal steel, Texas style? Have the worship leader become more of a Bob Wills type leader. I'll bring my Tele.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
As I've been reading through these posts, I can't help but think of Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

Putting aside the arguments about whether to be EP or not, I see some criteria here:
1) It should teach and admonish
2) It should be corporate (to one another)
3) It should done with wisdom
4) It should be psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (however you interpret that)
5) It should be done with thankfulness in our hearts to the Lord

The last point says something about heart attitude, and I think this is the missing element in this discussion. I am personally persuaded that heart attitude has a lot more to do with how music is communicted, than the music itself. If the music can be run through the above list (given to us by God Himself), the actual music has only small amount to do with it.

If the music distracts from what God has given in Scripture, it should go out. As I said in a previous, what goes in my congregation would never work in other congregations. In my church the occasional bluegrass style music makes some folks more comfortable and actually aids their worship. In some churches, that style would be a huge distraction from the words.

This is why I personally believe that God did give exact details of how music should be played. He has given us His Spirit to guide us. This is might sound scary, but much in the Christian life is like that.

I think you give very helpful advice. And I think that this is my point: we're not given objective criteria by which to determine musical style. We're given God's Spirit, and we need to cultivate godly wisdom to know how to use music in biblically and culturally appropriate ways in worship. That will vary from place to place.

Determining what is appropriate/inappropriate for different contexts, though, is not the same thing as determining whether one style is morally good or bad. It is the criteria which you mention (including heart attitude, which, as I examine myself, may indeed be the most important issue involved in how we think about worship music) that ought to guide us (even if it looks different in different places), not some external criteria for determining which music is morally good and bad.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Because Scripture does not provide tunes for us, but gives us general principles to guide us (i.e. Col 3 cited above), the music must be governed as a circumstance of worship, governed by the light of nature, Christian prudence, and the general rules of the Word (WCF 1.6). That is what governs musical composition, whether it's finding a meter for a Psalm or a tune for a hymn.

The temptation is to just make a blanket rule, "none of that kind of music..." because that removes any need for argumentation, but when you do that, you've just violated the RPW. It's not a matter of elements but circumstances, and must be discussed in that way. Is it reasonable or prudent or does it agree with the general rules of the Word to sing praise to God in that way?

You may not get the same answer depending on the situation of the local congregation. But that's the beauty of the RPW. Each session is responsible to ensure the local congregation worships (and sings) in a reverant, joyful, and profitable way. That may look a little different from culture to culture, depending upon their history, expressions, and sensativities. This calls for prayer, study, and wisdom, not fixed man-made rules. :2cents:
 
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Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
Because Scripture does not provide tunes for us, but gives us general principles to guide us (i.e. Col 3 cited above), the music must be governed as a circumstance of worship, governed by the light of nature, Christian prudence, and the general rules of the Word (WCF 1.6). That is what governs musical composition, whether it's finding a meter for a Psalm or a tune for a hymn.

The temptation is to just make a blanket rule, "none of that kind of music..." becuasse that removes any need for argumetnation, but when you do that, you've just violated the RPW. It's not a matter of elements but circumstances, and must be discussed in that way. Is it reasonable or prudent or does it agree with the general rules of the Word to sing praise to God in that way?

You may not get the same answer depending on the situation of the local congregation. But that's the beauty of the RPW. Each session is responsible to ensure the local congregation worships (and sings) in a reverant, joyful, and profitable way. That may look a little different from culture to culture, depending upon their history, expressions, and sensativities. This calls for prayer, study, and wisdom, not fixed man-made rules. :2cents:

That says it far better than I could have hoped to. In fact, I think the connection to the elements/circumstance distinction is quite helpful in this regard.
 
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