What Happened to Christian Art?


I woke up this morning feeling euphoric. For once I had one of those mornings where everything seems ok and the world is nothing but the cheerful songs of birds and the lush canopies of summer. It is truly a feeling that I rarely experience instinctively, and whevever I do, I just want the good feelings to continue. So, naturally, I played "A Beautiful Morning" by The Rascals because the song perfectly described my sentiments about this particular morning.

To me, music is about feeling and experiencing. A great piece of music inspires one to emotion but at the same time does not inspire one to sinful passions. If there is no feeling obtained from the composition, then I feel as though there was nothing there. Now, this is not to say that music should not be technically inspired or theoretically adept (it should be), but it is to say that music itself should be an experience, and maybe even a therapy where the listener can connect with the pieces on a personal, emotional level.

However, as I was listening to The Rascals, I realized something that had been mulling in the back of my head for quite some time. Why is it that most of the musical pieces I enjoy come from secular artists? Why such an aversion to Christian music? Now, I already knew the answer to this: Christian music, in general, does not make me feel. Christian music is mostly uninspired. It is the same songs recycled repeatedly for years on end. From the time I began listening to Christian music as a young boy, the overarching structures and themes have largely remained the same. The instrumentals are perfect for background noise, for having a sound in the background so that you are listening to something rather than nothing. However, for someone like me, a person who views music as something more than notes on a sheet or as a catchy lyric line or two, Christian music is exceedingly stale.

Now I can already hear your rebuttals: But John! Christian music is about worshipping God! It's not about feelings and experiences! Well, truth be told, I never said that it wasn't about worshipping God. However, is the God that you know some sort of stale, emotionless, background noise kind of God? Or is God a wonderous God, filling Christians with joy, unexpressable peace and happiness, and emotionful life? I would care to believe that God is the latter, and I believe the Scriptures readily support that claim.

In the book of Psalms (the Christian song book, if you will), David makes many ties between experiencing God and making joyful songs to the Lord. We are not to be making the same old stale, emotionless pieces of music time and time again. Instead, we are commanded to sing to the Lord a new song, to bring praises to His courts, to worship God with our hearts. Even further, we are commanded to worship God with whatever we have available. These points I cannot stress enough. Music is more than some dull noise set to inspiring lyrics that were used in about 100 previous songs. Music is about making a new song to the Lord. Music is about praising our Creator. Music is about bringing praise to God's courts. It is about shouting for joy and leaping with praise at how awesome God is. THAT is good music, and it is the same music that the Psalmists wrote about repititiously.

However, music is more than merely shouting for joy. There are also Psalms of sorrow and Psalms of fear and worry, and the Song of Solomon is about love and its joys. I am inclined to believe that the Scriptures did not arrive by accident, and perhaps these pieces are teaching us something as well, since they came from the same Supreme Creator of this universe as the rest of the Scriptures did. In short, I believe the Bible shows us that it is ok to have emotion in music, so long as those songs of fear and sorrow and joy and peace point to God and His Truth.

In addition, though, I think it something to be recognized that David was considered one of the foremost musicians and composers of his day. The Scriptures plainly tell us that, as do additional outside sources such as traditions and other historians. I think this must be quite revealing concerning how God views music. Of all the people God had chosen to write the majority of the Psalms, he chose a man to whom the muse was natural, whose talents He gave for instrument and song were so blessed, that it caused demonic depression to be lifted from King Saul. Of all the people God could have chosen, He chose someone of immense musical talent and ability to write the majority of our Psalms in the Bible. This must tell us that God is not only ok with beautiful music, but promotes it through His choice of composer and lyric writer for a great portion of the music that had been preserved in Scripture.

Now, this does not mean that there is never a time for background music or peaceful music, or just uninspired noise. These forms of instrumentation have their time and place. However, I believe that true music, good music, worships God through lush strings and beautiful canopies of melodious sonnets and timbrous harmonies. I believe that good music makes one feel the praise and adore the Creator while worshipping Him with the mind. In short, I believe that good music inspires, and inspires us to focus on Him and what He would tell us.

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