Secular music: good, bad, or indifferent?

Straight Talk

The Question

What does God say about secular music? Can you give me scriptures for or against it? My husband and I are at odds about this subject.

– L from Birmingham

The Answer
Part 1: What is secular music?
Part 2: A good way to divide music

What is secular music? (Part 1)

I’m not sure which side of this argument you are on but if you are looking for scriptures about “secular” music in the Bible, there are none–period. The word secular doesn’t even occur in the Exhaustive Concordance I use to check such things.

Actually, what do you mean by secular music? I think I know your answer, at least I’ll assume your answer. Would I be right that you are talking about the difference between the music produced by Christian artists versus non-Christian performers? Would we be talking about what is played on Christian radio stations and shown on Christians TV networks versus everything else? Secular music: not centered on God, praise and worship and Christian themes?

Am I right? If so I will begin by telling you that I don’t personally divide music that way, at least as far as my own listening choices. I know that for many years there has been hot debate about “cross-over” music and whether it constitutes compromise. Christian artists have often been accused of selling out if their songs get played on “secular” stations. I don’t join that criticism: I think it’s great when it happens.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand.” (Matthew 5:14-15) But, you might say, they have diluted the gospel message if their song is getting played on secular stations. My answer to that is this; music should not be required to have a gospel message for Christians to listen to it. There is plenty of wonderful music that has no gospel message but it moves our souls, it enhances romance, it’s tickles our funny bone or maybe it soothes and inspires us.

I happen to be a sucker for beautiful melodies in particular. I personally love most of the old standards, some classical pieces, anything Irish or Scottish—lot’s of stuff that would not find its way into a Christian radio play list (even if it were brand new). My observation is that God gives musical gifts to people who may never choose to serve him. When they use their talent to produce great music, I think God is honored anyhow. No matter where it is played, that’s fine with me.

A good way to divide music (Part 2)

So, is all music good? We can listen to anything out there? No, I certainly wouldn’t say that. Actually, we need to be very careful what we allow into our eye gates OR our ear gates. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

That scripture is a good guiding principle to govern our music choices since music is very powerful. It can influence for good or for evil. Some music is overtly demonically inspired with a goal to entrap listeners into drugs and sex. Some music has debased, pornographic or blasphemous lyrics and should be turned off. Some music just depresses us rather than lifts us up. Avoid that kind too.

I say, listen to good music whether it is secular or not. Listen to it on the radio, TV, in concert or on your iPod. Pay close attention to what influence it has on you over time and if there is a negative influence be honest about it. If so, change to a different style that will not pull you down or away from serving God wholeheartedly.

The highest call of music is this: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre. For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Yo