Review: Music in the Bible, Music on the Radio, and Music in the Church
Music in the Bible, Music on the Radio, and Music in the Church by Gregg Strawbridge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Strawbridge urges Christians to engage with and transform all the music on the radio, rather than reject certain genres. Here is a summary of the 30 page booklet.
The Bible urges music and singing as a form of speaking and praise in a variety of contexts.
Contra Bill Gothard, including a certain beat in music does not make it immoral. Gothard says putting the element Copernicium in water yields poison, but he is begging the question whether a certain beat is analogous to poison. Strawbridge: “what is poison in large quantities, may be medicine in small quantities” (10).
The problem isn’t that hatred is present in rock music, by itself. If the hatred is directed at something God call us to hate, what is the problem? Of course there is rock music that glorifies hatred and calls us to hate what is good, but the problem isn’t the beat or music style itself.
When the music is so rhythmic it promotes a physical response Gothard and others see a problem. But this implies a physical response is bad – that sin is always involved when some physical aspect becomes prominent, which is untrue. Flesh in the Bible isn’t always sinful or negative (Romans 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:11). The Bible encourages the use of rhythmic instruments (Psalm 150:4). Music moves us, and it is meant to. This can be dangerous but is also a gift.
One particularly ugly line of reasoning here is that the origin of the demonic beat is African, and came over with the slaves. This is just untrue, “quite dubious and probably racist” (14). And even if true it would still commit the genetic fallacy, that a bad origin of something makes the thing itself bad.
We can’t take what we call good music in Western culture and say it’s the Biblical standard. Christ transforms cultures, and a new song will arise from every nation. This is preferred to imposing Western music as the superior style. Musical language of praise should be in the vernacular, like the Scriptures should. What we consider “the sacredness sounds is quite culturally conditioned” (21).
“Art without utility was ordained by God in worship” (24). Strawbridge cites Exodus 28; 35:30ff. Evangelicals don't like to admit this, but it is true. Every element of art doesn't have to teach something, everywhere. God wanted some things just "for glory and for beauty." He Himself is not only pure, but beautiful (Ps 50:2; 27:4).
Just because no musical style is inherently sinful, doesn’t mean they should all be used in worship. There is a time and place for everything. Some genres and instruments for praising God individually aren't conducive to corporate reverent worship.
Pop culture music has its roots in church music. Elvis Presley himself said he stole his music from the black gospel church he grew up in (30). This point may be overstated, but at the same time the truth of it is too much ignored today. Strawbridge encourages us to listen more to these roots of pop music, and listen less to the fruit coming out today.
This summarizes Strawbridges points. I have not proven or supported these much, but he does. So if this provokes you to disagree, or spurs you to persuade others of these truths, pick up a copy today at
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