The ability to worship God with music is one of the greatest gifts that He has bestowed on us. When we think about it, there is only one physical being created that can make music — man.1 The problem is that many of us differ on what is worshipful and what is not. Some tend to take a more free approach, saying that any sort of music can be used for worshipping God. Others, on the other hand, say that music in and of itself is moral and so only certain styles can be used to truly worship God. But in all of it, both sides try to focus on one thing: wanting to worship God in purity and to the best of their abilities.
Not having had too much exposure to the latter idea, I was surprised when some of my friends and acquaintances made mention of this subject in passing. As our choir director and some people I highly respect espouse the music-is-moral view, I figured it would be worth checking it out, simply to form an opinion on the subject. And so I came across Kurt Woetzel’s article “An Imortant Question for Our Times — Is Music Moral?” on Majesty Music’s web site. I read it with curiosity at first, but then with a twisted feeling in my stomach. Both my emotional and intellectual responses to this were so intense that I felt compelled to sit down and write a critique of the article. Here I would strongly recommend that you first read Mr. Woetzel’s article before continuing on with this evaluation of it, because you need to make your own assessment before you look at mine.
In this response I want to first take a look at my presuppositions going into this brief treatise. Then I will look at the underlying presuppositions that Mr. Woetzel evidences in his article. After that I want to look at the Scriptural background he presents and consider some of the implications of those, as well as of the secular sources that are cited regarding this issue. Following that we’ll take a quick look at some of the unmentioned history regarding the music debate and then discuss the music is a language analogy. I would like to close the discussion with a communication-based model of the morality of music and a quick look at the all-important human element in the making of music.
- 1. Pastor Paul Overdorf, Jr. in his sermon “The Expressions of Worship.” Delivered 08/03/2003 in Canterbury, CT.