By Jimmy Tuten
The Psalmist speaks of “singing a new song” to Jehovah (33:3). The apostle counseled the Corinthians not to separate the heart from the mind in their worship in song: “I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Cor. 14:15, NIV). Throughout history, music has been regarded as an effective means of controlling human behavior. In 1 Samuel 16:14-23 one can find an example of the therapeutic value of pleasing melodies to ease anxiety. That which was evil plunged Saul into a deep depression. David was called in to play the harp and the soothing melodies communicated an emotional language that helped chase his blues away, leaving the king refreshed. In our day music is used to calm patients in doctor’s and dentist’s offices. The lyrics of music are used by Malls and Shopping Centers to discourage shoplifting, though the average response to music is emotional and not rational. Music can bring both peace to our hearts and heat to our discussions. This is because most religious people feel secure with depersonalized discussions of doctrine and do not understand the emotional element in human situations.
Psychologists tell us that music influences us whether we like it or not. In one study of its effect upon people’s feelings, a number of individuals were exposed to a series of brief classical excerpts that moved from one mood to another: depressed to happy, agitated to serene, bored to active, and lighthearted to majestic. In every case the emotional response of the subject paralleled the spirit of the music. When the seriousness of our subject is recognized to the point that an editorial in U.S. News and World Report devoted a whole page to the influence of music or to the fact that “some of these lyrics reinforce all the wrong kinds of values for children at a very early age,” it is time we adults took notice of the music our children are listening to. A growing number of parents are doing that very thing! It is now recognized that the generation that grew up with the first fifteen or so years of the hard-rock age are said to have found that rock gave them a communication of their own, and a release from harsh or routine lives that many, many of them lived. They felt also that hard-rock attacked the sham and hypocrisy of a world gone sour. So great was this influence that one could say that “rock made her feel like a free spirit,” another said the music sang of personal and sensitive things” that helped her understand her own feelings,” and yet another said rock “represented his generation more powerfully than anything else” (Families, Oct. 1981, p. 120). Rock music does indeed influence a pattern of thinking and behavior that comes from three aspects: the rock music itself, the visuals used in shows and the lives of the performers idolized. Space permits merely a few of the illustrations of the influence of rock music in the lives of people today:
(1) Rock music tends to glamorize drugs in both music and the lives of the performers.
(2) Rock music influences that which is immoral by poking fun at morality with bodily gyrations, suggestive clothing, weird hair styles, messages of rebellion and rejection, etc.
(3) Rock music in some cases promotes the occult (the worship of Satan and the glorification of evil).
(4) Rock music says and does what the world wants and is by far more popular than preaching the gospel of Christ.
Since feelings affect thoughts and thoughts affect actions, all Christians everywhere must be careful about what they listen to. Just because we like a certain type of music does not make it right. If it stimulates emotions and creates impure thoughts, or if it keeps us from doing what is pleasing to God, it is wrong no matter how much we enjoy it. God wants us to avoid “every kind of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). We should seek to do this to show love, faith and trust in Jehovah. If as an individual I seek to honor God, I must let him define evil for me. The six adjectives in Philippians 4:8 gives God’s standard for evaluation. Is this music true? Is it noble and right? Is the lyric morally pure? Is the music lovely and admirable? Only what is excellent and worthy of praise should pervade the thoughts and feelings of the people of God. Of course this means little to those who do not love the Lord. Surrounding oneself with rock music, posters, records, tapes, etc. that depicts evil as good, and good as evil is not God’s way of influencing our lives.
The terms of our vocabulary are defined by God in his Word and his definitions of what is ethical and what is evil are ageless. They represent neither youth nor adult and outlast any unstable fad. Through his Word God seeks to bless, encourage and strengthen our lives. But he cannot do it if we do not let him. A beautiful love relationship with the Son of God is the answer to the Rock music question. We need to listen to the kind of music that helps us feel, think, and act in harmony with the composition God has written for our lives. Please read again Philippians 4:8.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 17, p. 520
September 3, 1987