Should Christians Listen to Secular Music? Why I said “Yes”

should christians listen to secular music

Is secular music something Christians should avoid? Should Christians listen to secular music?

When discussing what music Christians should listen to, I’ve come across various opinions in lectures and talks. While I find some of their points valid and interesting, there are also several aspects I don’t quite see eye to eye with.

However, before diving into this complex subject, it’s crucial to establish a few key points to guide our conversation, ensuring we stay on track.

  1. Should Christians avoid secular music altogether? This question is at the heart of much debate, asking whether music not explicitly created for worship or with religious themes is off-limits for Christians.

  2. What does the Bible say about secular music? Understanding scriptural guidance or the lack thereof on secular music is essential. It helps us navigate the difference between personal conviction and biblical mandate.

  3. What are the concerns I have with the current stance on secular music among Christians? Here, I plan to outline specific points of contention I have with the prevailing views on how Christians should interact with secular music, aiming to spark a thoughtful discussion on the topic.

Non-musicians setting the guidelines!

I’ve seen something that bothers me a bit. I’ve noticed it after listening to a lot of talks, going to seminars, and watching videos online. Here’s the problem: most of the people talking about music aren’t actually musicians. They are often pastors, regular folks, or people who don’t really play any music themselves.

Imagine asking a basketball player for advice on how to make spaghetti, instead of asking a chef. It doesn’t quite make sense, does it? That’s because there’s a big piece of the puzzle missing when it comes to understanding how music really works on us, on our minds and feelings, if you’ve never actually played music yourself.

This is where I see a big issue with how these folks are trying to tell us what’s good music and what’s bad music. It’s like they’re trying to build a house but they don’t really know the first thing about architecture.

What is secular music in the first place?

Secular music, let’s talk about that for a moment. It’s a type of music that steps away from religious themes or messages. You can think of it as the music you hear in everyday life, be it pop, rock, jazz, hip-hop, or classical. It’s about the human experience. It covers many topics: love, relationships, social issues, feelings, and personal stories.

Now, compare that with religious music, which is all about worship and expressing faith. Secular music, on the other hand, dives into the stories of life, not religion. It’s a rich tapestry of stories and feelings. It’s designed to make you think and feel. It might help you understand a bit more about others’ diverse experiences. Or, at times, it’s simply there to entertain you, to provide a momentary escape or enjoyment.

What is secular music according to the Bible?

The Bible doesn’t specifically talk about what we call secular music today, because that concept didn’t really exist when the Bible was written. It’s a new idea compared to the age of biblical texts. Yet, when Christians today think about whether it’s okay to listen to secular music, they often look to some core guidelines that can be found in the Bible itself.

These guidelines are about checking if the music matches up with certain values: Is it true? Is it honorable and fair? Is it pure, beautiful, and worth talking about? Is it the best of what’s out there, something that really deserves praise? These questions come from a bit of advice in Philippians 4:8 in the Bible.

So, the point isn’t to automatically say no to all secular music. Instead, it’s about being thoughtful and using these biblical values as a way to decide what music fits with your beliefs. It’s about using wisdom to see if the music talks about things that are good and right, instead of just accepting everything without thinking.

What are practical uses of secular music other than worship?

I’ve noticed a big problem with how some people talk about music. They say music is only for two things: worship and entertainment. Then, they tell everyone that worshiping with music is more important than just enjoying it.

But here’s where they’re getting it wrong.

This way of thinking misses out on so much more that music can do. Music isn’t just for these two things. It’s for a lot more.

Music can do many other things that aren’t about worship or just having fun. Most of these things are what we call ‘secular’, meaning they’re part of everyday life, not just religion. Music is way bigger and does a lot more than what they’re saying.

Communication and Expression

Music is a powerful means of communication. It lets people share emotions, intentions, and meanings. This is true even when they speak different languages. It expresses many emotions, from happiness and pride to sadness and grief.

Therapeutic Use

Music has a long history of healing. It was used in indigenous tribes. And, it is used today in music therapy. Research has focused on how music can improve speech. It can also help with mental illness, pain, dementia, and many other physical ailments. Music therapy is now a rapidly growing clinical field.

Social Cohesion and Community

Music bonds individuals in families, communities, and societies. It is a social cohesion factor. Some have suggested that music came before language. It was essential for forming and surviving in groups.

Entertainment and Leisure

Music is a source of fun. People listen to it in many places. They listen at live performances, concerts, and on personal media players. It is used to amuse listeners and is a staple at celebrations and social gatherings.

Education and Development

Music education can improve learning. It can enhance language and reasoning, and build spatial intelligence. It can also foster creativity. It also helps build discipline, teamwork, and self-confidence among students.

Mood Regulation and Emotional Well-being

Music can greatly affect mood and emotions. It helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can induce relaxation, improve mood, and even facilitate emotional expression.

Enhancement of Physical Performance

Music is used to improve physical performance in activities like exercise and sports. It can boost endurance, improve motor skills, and motivate people to be active.

Cultural and Artistic Value

Music is integral to culture, reflecting and shaping cultural identities. People value its artistic merit. It adds to the culture and beauty of societies.

should a christian listen to secular music

Music has other purposes outside of the church building.

Through studies and references, it’s clear that music’s reach extends far beyond just church services. This raises a question I’ve been pondering: Did God really create music solely for the purpose of worship?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against worship music and its importance in church. In fact, I strongly support it.

But let’s remember what Ecclesiastes 7:18 teaches us: “…those who fear God avoid all extreme.” The Apostle Paul echoes this sentiment in Philippians 4:5, advising, “Let your moderation be known unto all men.”

My worry is that some speakers who set the rules for what music should be, are pushing their views to the extreme.

With this in mind, let’s explore examples of secular music that can still align with Christian values.

School Hymns and National Anthems

Not every piece of secular music is off-limits or harmful; in fact, many secular songs serve valuable purposes. Take, for example, school hymns, as well as anthems for cities and provinces. These compositions are crucial. They shape and express the identity of communities within a country’s societal structure.

Consider the Olympics, where the national anthems of medalists are played during the award ceremonies. This isn’t just about music. It’s a deep moment of honor for the athletes’ countries. The event celebrates their sports achievements on a global stage. Such uses of music go beyond mere entertainment. They embed themselves into the fabric of cultural and national pride.

Culture and Arts Music

When certain individuals take to the pulpit to promote a very limited view on music, suggesting it should serve only specific purposes, it’s a cause for concern. Across the nation, dedicated efforts by organizations, including government-established commissions on culture and arts, work to preserve our rich musical heritage.

Questioning whether such efforts are misguided because they don’t solely focus on worship overlooks the broader value of music.

Consider the song “Paraiso” by Maestro Ryan Cayabyab. It’s a standout piece in Filipino music, not because it’s a hymn, but because it speaks to the stewardship of our environment. It highlights the beauty and paradise found even in hardship.

Historic love songs like “Bituing Marikit” (1926) by Nicanor Abelardo and “Ang Maya” (1905) by Jose Estrella, along with modern classics like “Karaniwang Tao” by Joey Ayala, are invaluable contributions to our culture and the arts. These pieces reflect the divine gift of music, meant not just for worship but to enrich our understanding of humanity and our cultural identity.

To narrow down music’s purpose to a singular aspect not only underestimates its potential but also overlooks the divine intention behind this versatile gift. Music, in its essence, is a means to explore, celebrate, and preserve the depth of human experience and cultural heritage.

Instrumental Music (Songs without words)

Music, including tunes without any singing, from classical pieces to movie soundtracks, shows us that music is not just for church worship. This idea challenges what some very strict Christians believe—that music should only be used in church.

Classical Instrumental Music

Great composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky have made music that can make us feel all sorts of emotions without needing words. Their music lets us feel happiness, sadness, calmness, and excitement just with the sounds of instruments. For example, Bach’s “Air on the G String” makes us feel peaceful, while Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” can make us feel thoughtful and sad.

Modern Music in Movies

Today, music in movies does the same thing. It helps tell the story and makes us feel things deeply. Composers like John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Ennio Morricone create music that goes perfectly with the action on screen, making the movies much more powerful. The music from movies like “Schindler’s List,” “Inception,” and “The Mission” can make us feel hope, and excitement, or even take us to another place, without saying a single word.

Let’s not digress and jump to the discussion on movies as this is about music, but film scoring or soundtracks are things that even Hope Channel and several Christian Media centers are doing.

Arguments Against Secular Music by Conservative Christians

Moral and Spiritual Concerns

Some Christians worry. Secular music talks about things that don’t match Christian values. These things include violence, greed, and bad relationships. 

They believe that what we listen to can affect our hearts and minds. The Bible verse Philippians 4:8 encourages believers to focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Based on this, they argue that music that doesn’t fit these categories might not be good for Christians to engage with.

The concern here is that secular music can lead people astray. This is especially true for young Christians. It can lead them to think or behave in ways that doesn’t align with their faith. 

The worry comes from verses like 1 Corinthians 15:33. It says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” The idea is that the people we spend time with can influence us. The same goes for the music we listen to.

Arguments for Secular Music by Liberal Christians

Other Christians believe God allows art creation and enjoyment. This includes music that isn’t explicitly religious. 

They see the creation and appreciation of music as part of being made in the image of a creative God. A verse often mentioned supporting this view is Psalm 150, which praises God with various musical instruments. While the Psalm is about worship, these Christians see it as an encouragement to use all forms of music to celebrate life and God’s gifts.

The argument suggests that music isn’t good or bad; it’s the message that matters. They argue that, like Jesus, used relevant stories (parables) to teach spiritual truths. Christians can wisely engage with secular music. They can find beauty, truth, and even spiritual meaning in it. 

The key is discernment. It means wisely choosing what to listen to. This choice is based on principles found in the Bible, like those in Philippians 4:8. But, it applies more broadly to all kinds of art.

Christians debate secular music. They balance moral and spiritual concerns with recognizing music as a gift from God. Both sides use the Bible to support their views. They emphasize the need for wisdom, discernment, faith, and character.

How to identify bad secular music for a Christian?

When considering whether secular music aligns with Christian beliefs, it’s crucial to delve into the lyrics, learn about the artist, and understand the music’s genre. Here’s how you might approach this:

Lyrics Matter

Examine the Lyrics: Investigate whether the song’s content clashes with Christian teachings, such as promoting harmful actions, violence, drug use, or lifestyles contrary to biblical principles.

Focus on the Positive: The Bible, specifically in Philippians 4:8, urges us to dwell on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. If a song’s lyrics don’t align with these virtues, it’s likely not beneficial for a Christian listener.

Artist’s Background

Consider the Artist: Look into the artist’s personal life and public statements. Artists whose actions or beliefs significantly diverge from Christian values might reflect those differences in their music.

Assess Their Impact: Reflect on the artist’s influence over their audience and the types of messages they convey through their music and behavior. Artists who propagate negativity may not be suitable for Christians.

Music Genre

Variety in Music: Be aware that certain genres, like specific strands of metal or hip-hop, often carry themes or messages that could be challenging for Christians.

Origin and Culture: Recognize the origins and cultural underpinnings of the music. Some genres have roots or associations that Christians might need to consider carefully.

Your Own Feelings

  • Consider Your Beliefs: Reflect on the impact music has on your emotions and thoughts. Does it clash with your core values? If a song leads you down a path of unproductive or negative thinking, it might be wise to steer clear of it.

  • The Impact on Your Faith: Think about whether the music distances you from God or dampens your spiritual enthusiasm. If it does, it’s likely not beneficial for your spiritual journey.

General Tips

  • Avoid bad music. This type involves music that starkly contradicts Christian principles, containing harsh language, showing disrespect towards God, or portraying negative behaviors as acceptable.

  • Find a Balance: Remember, not all secular music is bad. There are secular songs with positive and uplifting messages too.

Selecting music as a Christian involves more than just picking any song you like. It means paying attention to the lyrics and understanding what the song is really about. You also need to think about who created the music and how it influences you and your relationship with your faith. The goal is to choose music that doesn’t pull you away from God but aligns with the positive values and beliefs you hold dear.

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