Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

Music

I wrote this in 1983. The essay originally appeared as Chapter Six in J. M. Wallis, Chaos in the Classroom (Bullsbrook, WA: Veritas Publishing Company, 1984).

2565417 closeup of old sheet music with selective focus and very

Depending upon the ideas and values one holds, music and music education in Australia may or may not be in a dilemma. According to the values of this writer a real dilemma actually exists. In this article, I intend to point to the cause of the dilemma and offer suggestions for a solution.

THE PROBLEM

The initial cause of the problem is the adoption of a false philo­sophical base, out of which comes the values that people hold. Following in the wake of the philosophical writings of Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant, man in the twentieth century has denied the possibility of knowing that objective reality exists, and hence denies that objective criteria in any field of endeavour really exist. This is illustrated in contemporary slogans such as “do your own thing” or “if it feels good, do it” and “that’s just your opinion”. In other words, philosophical anarchy, resulting in anarchy in every sphere of life, has become the new ideal.
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(From the archives. Originally published August, 1992.)

12697858 Concert photo of male singer holding microphone

Rock music has received some publicity, both for and against, in recent articles in some of the religious press in Australia. This occurred because the head of the Unregistered Union of Churches in Russia has sent an “Urgent Message to the Churches in America from . . . the Persecuted Church in Russia.” The letter, from Peter Peters and Vasilij Ryzhuk, originally printed in Christian Info News, a monthly Christian newspaper from British Columbia, Canada, said in part:

For 30 years we have suffered intense persecution, and now freedom is bringing another great harm to our churches. This damage is coming from Christians in America who are sending rock music and evangelists accompanied by rock bands.

Our young people do not attend these meetings because we have all committed not to participate in secular entertainment.

This is a great burden on our hearts. Many come with the Bible in hand and rock music. We are embarrassed by this image of Christianity. We do not know what words to use in urging that this be stopped. We abhor all Christian rock music coming into our country.

Rock music has nothing in common with ministry or service to God. We are very, very against Christian Americans bringing to our country this false image of “ministry” to God. We need spiritual bread; please give us true bread, not false cakes. It is true that rock music attracts people to the church, but not to Godly living.

We were in prison for 15 years and 11 years for Christ’s sake. We were not allowed to have Christian music, but rock music was used as a weapon against us day and night to destroy our souls. We could only resist with much prayer and fasting.

Now, we have a time for more openness, and we are no longer in prison. However, now it is Christians from America who damage our souls. We do not allow this music in our church, but they rent big stadiums and infect teenagers and adults with their rock music.

We, the leadership and congregation of the Unregistered Union of Churches, and former Persecuted Church, have made an agreement not to allow rock music into our church. We urge you to join with us and we advise you to remove rock music from America.

Do not desecrate our teenagers with it. Even the unbelievers recognize it is unholy music and they cannot understand how American Christians can be so much like the world. We can give you the conclusion that after Russian unbelievers have attended rock concerts where Christ’s Word was preached, the people were very disappointed and disillusioned with Christianity.

We call this music from hell. We urge all Americans stop giving money for the organisation of such concerts in Russia. We want only traditional Christian music in our churches. This is the unanimous decision of all our leaders.

When this article was reprinted in Australian press, it was bound to create a reaction. It is an emotive topic. Many people just happen to like to rock music and can’t see anything wrong with it. A number of letters to New Life contributed to the debate, including one by myself. In nearly all instances, the authors were either against or in favor of rock music on merely subjective grounds. They happened to like it, and that was good enough for them. Naturally, if it is good enough for them, they thought it should be good enough for everyone else as well.
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little mouseThe neurological effects of music

Music has a powerful effect on people. Watch any movie and you will hear a very skillfull use of music, as the visual scene and the audible music are combined to make a powerful effect on the viewer.

You may have noticed that the music changes according to the scene. Sometimes the music is used to warn us of what is coming. That’s how powerful communication through music can be.

A number of experiments with sound and its effects have been conducted over the years. Perhaps the most challenging experiment was in 1997, when high school student David Merrill won a state science award with this experiment.

It appears that prolonged and unrelieved exposure to syncopated (off-beat) rhythms has a negative effect on the human neurological system.

The experiment involved mice and music, three groups, 24 mice in each group. Two groups were exposed to music, 10 hours a day every day for a week. One group heard the music of Mozart; the other group heard the music of acid rock group, Anthrax. The third group was the control group, so the mice heard no music at all. The experiment involved allowing the mice to navigate a 10-minute maze at the beginning of the experiment, then retesting a week later. This went on for three weeks, so there were four tests for each group. The results were staggering.

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Why is atheism so prominent among the children of Christian parents?

In an earlier article Government Schools and the Scorched Earth Policy of Atheism, I outlined how the government school system, designed to be secular, was no more than an engine of atheism. This is the only possible outcome of a secular education system.

In contrast, the biblical idea of knowledge is action—doing God’s commandments as a life of righteousness and holiness.

I quoted comments from the past that explained it is the government ‘secular’ schools that account for the rapid rise of atheism in our time and its broad acceptance through the community.

But that alone does not count for the fact that over 60% of kids will leave the church before they have finished high school. Ken Ham puts it like this:

We are losing many more people by middle school and many more by high school than we will ever lose in college. . . . They were lost while still in the fold. They were disengaging while they were still sitting in the pews. They were preparing their exit while they were faithfully attending youth groups and Sunday School.”[1]

They have, in effect, departed from the faith. Prof. Mark Hamilton, a teacher of philosophy in a conservative Christian college in mid-Ohio explains that the children who come to the college, even the ones from Christian homes and who had attended Christian schools, arrived with Nietzschean ideas and values firmly entrenched in their minds and hearts. Frederick Nietzsche (1844 -1900) maintained that historical research had shown the core teachings of Christianity to be false. So he gave up his religious upbringing, pronounced the death of God, and promoted nihilism as a way of life.

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Footnotes    (↵back returns to text)
  1. Ken Ham, Brit Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It (Green Forest, AR, 2009), Kindle Edition Loc. 227.↵back

My observation is not the fact that Johnny can’t sing — it’s that he doesn’t sing. Or if he does, he does not do it very well.

SYDNEY   JULY 27 2010 The Sydney Opera House viewed from the

I‘m reading the book, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. It’s a good read on the problem of religious music today, and offers some relevant suggestions.

But in my observation it is not the fact that Johnny can’t sing — it’s that he doesn’t sing. Or if he does, he does not do it very well.

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Trombones

How Subsidies Hurt Music and the Arts

In 1966 or thereabouts, I attended a TV recording of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. In the studio, behind the orchestra, a painter had a huge canvas, and as the music played, he painted. The painting was abstract—and so was the music. In fact, the music sounded just like the painting appeared—a childish mess. A friend in the orchestra confirmed the conductor’s instruction: keep playing until the artist finishes painting. If you get to the end, go back to the beginning. If you lose you place, start again at the beginning.

Now both the composer/conductor and the artist had received a government grant to allow them time in the Australian bush to get inspiration. This recording was the outcome—a cacophony of sound, an audible representation of what the eye could see.

Ten years later, the same orchestra had to abandon its series of twilight concerts dedicated to contemporary music. Why? Small audience. For what is an obvious reason to some people, contemporary music was not that likeable. So few turned up for the concerts.

More recently, governments big and small around the world have reduced their subsidies to the arts as a means of reducing deficits. Not surprisingly, the beneficiaries of those subsidies are trying hard to retain as much taxpayer money as they can.

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The world is in theological turmoil as the result of Pietism

When Luther “turned the world upside down” with his 95 theses, he brought to a climax a long period of radical changes. For a while, the Reformation not only offered people a new church environment, but also brought changes to the church of Rome. But time moves on and new influences began to emerge, in particular Pietism. While Pietism is perhaps better known for its neoplatonic and antinomian tendencies, it had other debilitating influences that remain to this day.

In this religious environment, reminiscent of the mystical movements of the Middle Ages, it became important to arrive at a revelation of God through subjective experiences that were not bound by the doctrines of the Church. In this sense, Pietism was matching that other great philosophical movement of its time, the Enlightenment, seeking truth subjectively. However, the Enlightenment, rather than seeking God inwardly, suggested God was just a figment of a person’s subjective imagination.

The Pietists significantly influenced theology which, in turn, led to a change in music, both inside and outside the church. Jaroslav Pelikan, in his book Bach Among the Theologians observed that “Pietist spirituality had, by the time of Bach, acquired an increasingly distinctive tone in its description of the relation between the individual soul and Jesus.”

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“All You Need is Love, Love, Love.” — The Beatles, 1967

The Romantic movement, following on the heels of the Enlightenment, brought a revitalized message about love. There’s not enough of it.

And Romantic art of all kinds—poetry, music, painting, etc.—indicates that the lack of love is the significant problem in the world. If only this girl or that man would love me, all my problems would go away. Romanticism in this vein, however, is even more likely to have the three-way love affair, with adultery mixed in the midst of it. There was a reason composer Richard Wagner used Tristan and Isolde as a key part of his operatic works with music designed to undermine Christian culture, for the story is a key representative of Romanticism. Hollywood, in our generation, perpetuates this belief about love.

Enter our churches and you hear an identical message called the gospel of love. “Honk if you love Jesus” was an old bumper sticker. Music, now the controlling influence in the contemporary church, is the music of the Romantic era. The use of melody and harmony are governed by the rules of the post-Baroque period, and when played on guitar and drums, the rhythm is highlighted and it becomes the dominant aspect of the contemporary worship service.

Now listen to the sermon that follows this kind of music.

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Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matt 5:48

A MUSIC SCHOOL, where students from age three upwards learn various instruments, is a great place to learn about perfection. A significant number of the students in this particular school learn either violin or piano, and for very young students, the violin has some added attraction. For a start, it’s possible to buy an instrument in fractional sizes so that the very young can fit their arms and hands around the instrument. No such ease exists with piano, and young students must simply learn to spread their fingers and extend their hand in order to cope with the physical dimensions of the instrument.

How difficult it is on the hearing of adults as these young students, especially the violinists, struggle to master their instruments. One of the few things more difficult to endure than someone learning the violin is a beginner on the bagpipes.[1]

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Footnotes    (↵back returns to text)
  1. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that a) there are no famous Scottish violinists, and b) there are no famous Jewish pipers?↵back