Frequently Asked Questions
There are many questions that immediately come up when a Christadelphian discussion begins on the subject of music. They are often answered with limited personal experience and with little or no scriptural backing. Some of those common questions are below.
Question 1: What kind of music is appropriate for Christadelphians to be listening to?
- The answer to this question very much hinges on the word ‘kind’. If by kind, you mean, musical style, instruments, or ‘sound’, the question becomes much more complex and very much depends on culture. But if by ‘kind’ you mean subject matter, I think the scriptures are very clear. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8) If we can fill our minds with lyrics, they should be in accordance with this verse.
Question 2: Is there really any danger in listening to the radio?
- As can be seen in question 1, there is a scriptural precedent for filling our minds with things that are profitable and do not take out minds away from God. But how do you know if listening to the radio does that? 1 Thes 5:21 says “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” If we put the radio through the spiritual vs fleshly content test, as I have find, most of what is on the radio is garbage in relation to spiritual content and in fact is one of the mediums through which marketing appeals to the flesh to ‘hook’ us. With that said, there are also many things on the radio that do not have lyrical content at all, for instance the local smooth jazz station or the classical station, yet there are still commercials and morning talk shows that just as vile as much of pop music. The conclusion of the question is just to use discretion and be aware that there are many subtle messages sent over the radio waves and the majority of pop music is not helpful.
Question 3: Should we only listen to Christadelphian produced music?
- There are some who would say that we should only listen to Christadelphian music and the reason they say that is a very wise one. We can be pretty sure that whatever content is being produced will be in accordance with the spirit and truth that is called for us to worship in (John 4). Also, many of the Christadelphian music CDs are sold to raise money to benefit furthering of preaching and various projects in the household. Now with that said, it would not be right to make a blanket statement about all ‘non-Christadelphian’ music being inappropriate but rather that we must ‘prove all things’ and spiritually discern whether the music is beneficial to the Spirit. For example, some people really study well listening to some instrumental music in the background. Now, there technically is not lyrical benefit to the music, but there is a positive yield because it helps stimulate the mind for spiritual things. Also, certain types of instrumental music are soothing to the mind and are used to relax the mind and refresh the thoughts as seen with David and Saul, (1 Sam 16:23). It also should be said that Christadelphians are not the only ones who put out music that is spiritual in nature and have content that is spiritually beneficial and helpful in stirring up scriptures and thoughts of God. But it must be said also that there is a danger in listening to something that is not known to be in accordance with the Truth because it requires one to have a strong doctrinal foundation so as to “follow not that which is evil, but that which is good”. The nature of music, as many will clearly see in their own lives, can cause one to like the ‘sound’ and have no regard for the content, or just to ‘look over’ the incorrect content because one likes the music. And we can easily disregard the scripture that says “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” (1 Cor 15:33) So the conclusion is really that it would probably be best to listen to only Christadelphian music, of which there are many varieties, but if we go outside of that, we must use spiritually discerning minds and truly make a point of not examining the content so that we may “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”
Question 4: How can listening to certain types of music be a sin? Or can it?
- Music can easily become an idol, especially for people, like the writer of this resource kit, who are musical themselves and can become ‘addicted’ to it. The most common way that music becomes a sin is when we agree with and are entertained by things that are sinful. Consider Romans 1:28-32 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder,strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent,haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless,heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give consent to those who practice them.” So often, it is easy for us to be entertained by other people sinning or listening to other people talk about their sins and separate ourselves from it saying “not me”. But when we are able to be entertained by sin, God’s declaration is that we are also worthy of the consequences that he has declared on those who actually commit them. This is in accordance with God’s concern truly being on the heart, not the actions themselves. (see Jesus’ comment on committing adultery in Matt 5:28)
Question 5: Why did God not give us any of the actual music to all of the songs in the Bible?
- It would seem to be that God gave us the Word because the lyrics are what He is really concerned about. First off, because the concepts are must apply across language, culture, and background and the actual music is not before God, but rather the ‘melody of the heart” (Eph 5:19). The lyrics are what matter in the truest sense to God.
Question 6: Are there any instruments that are not appropriate for Christians?
- Although as stated in question 5, the lyrical content and the meditation of the heart are what God is truly looking at, there is always the question of, “Then if that’s the case, can’t we just do anything we want musically as long as the words are okay?” It seems that the answer to this is no, on three levels. First, the music is there to emphasis the words and put meaning into them, which means if the music drowns out or distracts hearers from the words, than the instrumentation is not appropriate.
- Secondly, we are to abstain from every appearance of evil, and in each culture, we have to be aware of what will give people mixed messages about what we stand for and in certain cases, instruments would be a factor to be considered.
- Thirdly, some would take the KJV at Psalm 33:3 where it says “play skilfully with a loud noise” and somehow justify the ‘loud’ and ‘noisy’ music is appropriate, but that is a drawback of old English. Barnes Notes says “The word rendered “loud noise,” means properly “a shout of joy” or “rejoicing:” Job_8:21; 1Sa_4:5. It is especially applied to the sound or clangor of trumpets: Lev_25:9; Lev_23:24; Num_29:1. There is rather the idea of “rejoicing” than of “noise” in the word. The meaning is that the music should be such as would be expressive of the highest joy.” It is obvious what whatever the instrument, we are to do it ‘heartily as unto the Lord’ as we should do all of our services to Him. So to specify a limitation of instruments would be wrong…but rather how they are used to in what context they are played are the factors that will determine which are right.
Question 7: Will there be music in the Kingdom?
- Yes. See description in Is 35:10, Rev 5:9-10, Rev 14:3, Rev 19:1-7, Luke 15:25, Zeph 3:17
Question 8: Why do my parents not let me listen to the music I like?
- This is a question that will have many various answers but the reason is most likely one of two possible conclusions. One, that the music is not what ‘they’ are used to or are comfortable with. Or two, that they see a danger in something that you don’t see and often times they are correct in their wisdom and experience so their advice should be valued.
Question 9: Where can I get music that is appropriate?
- Bible schools, gatherings, and conferences are usually a great place to find new music.
Question 10: I play an instrument/sing and I would like to use it ‘unto the Lord’. How?
- Christadelphians traditionally love music and there are almost always choirs and music groups being put together around the world. Also, offer your instrumentation skills to your ecclesia and they may want to use you in their classes or service Sunday morning.
- If you are particularly into playing the guitar/piano chords, you can go to places like music.seekthelord.com and download lyrics and charts for many songs.
- Elderly generally love to have a sing with even just a hymn book and having a good discussion about the words and what they mean to them. This is someone you can try.
- There are a number of Christadelphians who have recording equipment and record CDs regularly in England, USA, and Australia. If you are interested in any of these contacts, email us and we will get you in touch with someone who can direct your talents wisely.
These days almost every house owns a stereo or portable CD player, an IPod, a computer with speakers, or some device that can play music media. Almost every car now has a tape/CD player or at least a radio. The question now is not whether or you have one, but what one chooses to play if one has the time to listen.
- Wake Up Call! – No one likes to wake up to “Eah! Eah! Eah!” If you have an alarm that can take up to a tape/CD, put in some spiritual music. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to have your first thoughts of the day be about God. It can totally set the direction of your day and actually has helped me remember that I need to get the Word in me before I head of for me day. If you don’t have a tape/CD ability so that you can pick what you want to hear, but have a radio ability, see if there is a Christian radio station in your area and wake up to that. There is a good chance that the first thing you will hear will remind you of God.
- The Morning Rush! – If you cannot wake up to something nice, perhaps you can play some spiritual music (or a scripture reading CD) while you are getting ready to do your thing for the day, whether it be school or work, or just a relaxing day. It’s amazing how the morning rush turns into morning worship when our God “keeps you in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on [Him]”. This also helps set your mind in order before you begin your rush around.
- **The Commute In!** – This is the most common tactic used by believers and often the easiest to begin. In my opinion, this was the thing that changed my life most, the down time in the car or the bus/train. Whether you ride in your car and normally listen to the morning radio (which is often vile these days) or you strap on your IPod on your public transport to work, you can easily put spiritual thoughts into your mind that will help you have the proper attitude at work or school. In fact, the commute is where more people develop their daily frustrations. It’s interesting how when the guy cuts you off or squeezes you out of the train, how much harder it is to think or say bad things, or just get impatient and negative, when you have the things of the Kingdom and it’s joys in your ears.
- Your Work Day! – Most people who have the ability to listen to music while they work do so to pass the time as long as it doesn’t affect their productivity. Some people actually suggest music increases productivity. This is certainly true if the music reminds you of the Lord and your working ‘as unto’ Him. *Problem I have run into, I cannot concentrate on my work when I listen to spiritual music because I want to think about it and meditate on it and have found myself much less productive and not working hard as we called to do. I have been forced to choose some nice instrumental music instead or I would never get anything done.
- Break! – Often in school in between classes, or if you have a break at your job, you may choose to take that time to do your daily readings or pray. But another good thing to do is listen to some relaxing spiritual music if you’ve had a super busy morning, or maybe some really uplifting stuff if it’s dragging along.
- Lunch Time! – Lunch is another opportunity for prayer or reading but also for musical meditation. Perhaps on your drive or walk to lunch this is a good time.
- Commute Home! – As with your morning commute, it is a good time to just relax and consider God (providing you don’t fall asleep to a soothing choir piece). I have often found some more positive and energetic music is fitting for the end of my day to remind me of being thankful and happy regardless of what happened that day at work and often instead of thinking of the frustrations from that day, you will now be thinking of the blessing it was you had to have a job or the ability to go to school in the first place and puts everything in perspective.
- Preparing Food! – In our house, whoever cooks puts on some spiritual music to lift the spirits of the job, no matter how messy things may get.
- Conditioning Your Mind! – Some find that listening to a song before reading the scriptures stimulates all the parts of the brain getting the heart, soul, and mind in tune with each other to be prepared to read the Word with the most effectiveness.
- Lullaby Time! – As it was for a baby getting to sleep with nice thoughts, God’s children are no different. It is usually nice to finish off your night with a nice song to again condition your heart for your evening meditation and prayer before you go to sleep. Often, falling to sleep to spiritual music is a nice way to help you “commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still” (Ps 4:4)
As a child in the Italian community of the Garfield Ecclesia in New Jersey, USA, I grew up around ‘compassed about with songs of deliverance’ (Ps 32:7) and have even recently been blessed with the opportunity to begin a music CD project by that name(1). As a child, I often would leave a weekend at our Bible camp with thoughts of the Truth echoing in my mind from simply walking past a cabin where hymns were being played on the porch or sitting around the campfire listening to both young and old sing spiritual songs together throughout the night. I also remember how memory verses for Sunday School were so much easier to learn when I had songs for them; most of which I still remember today, almost 2 decades later. Music was a big part of my ecclesial experience.
Without going into the great amount of sad detail that would be possible, I will tell some of my story of discovering and utilizing those principles that I experienced from my early childhood years. Being from both a ‘musical’ family and ecclesia, I was always surrounded by music at home, school, play, and in the context of the Truth. My parents had seen it fit to stimulate God’s gift of music in me by getting me some training in a few different instruments as I grew up. Often times quite grudgingly, I practiced and learned but eventually ‘threw in the towel’ on most of them. As I approached becoming a teenager, being a ‘band nerd’ was hardly a desirable title to carry through school, never mind actually being seen singing or playing a clarinet. And so ‘cool’ music seemed like the route to take in fulfilling that part of my personality. This would later have a very negative effect on my ability to seek and find God in my life.
I was baptized when I was 15 years old, and it was the best decision I ever made, believing with all my heart that Jesus was the Messiah and I wanted to be in God’s Kingdom. But only a ‘babe in Christ’, I did not realize how much of a stumbling block music had become for me. I was always listening to music that most Christadelphians, including my parents, would not consider ‘bad’ or even ‘that bad’, in the sense that it didn’t usually have curse words or sexual content. In some ways, parents are naïve to new styles of music and often hardly even understand why anyone would ever like such hideous sounds in their ears. At this point, most parents just say, “I’m sure it’s fine; just don’t make me listen to it”. So I will now share with you how what I will later define as ‘worldly music’ pulled me away from God and the Kingdom and how it’s replacement with spiritual music has helped me in every aspect of my walk, from the resisting of sin, to the power of prayer, to the preaching of the Gospel.
Just as the messages from the spiritual songs I heard as a child would stick with me, so did the ones coming from the radio songs and the advertisement jingles so often repeated all day. You can probably think of a song that you hated at some time in your life, but yet you were also able to say every lyric to the song with no mistakes if asked to. The same probably would go for some annoying commercial song for a product you are not and never will be interested in. The same certainly applies for the songs and the commercials you do enjoy, regardless of their message. This was the case with the music that I used to listen to. It would put ideas and images into my mind that I didn’t realize would affect my concentration on God and my ability to resist sin. It was the subtle suggestive things that came up in songs about life being all about me, inappropriate relationships, respecting my parents, and the need for God in my world. That last one particularly came so often by the simple lack of God when hearing about ‘all I need’ to be happy and complete. Sometimes I even would find myself singing along with lyrics that I knew were wrong like the worst swear words or even direct quotes from scripture against God like “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”. (Dave Matthews Band, Tripping Billies) Besides being sinful (‘anything that is not of faith is sin’ Rom 14:23), the more we sing those things we know are wrong, the more we actually question whether they are wrong in the first place! In 1 Cor 15:33 we read “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners [commonly: morals]” So with a little self-examination and God’s help and the help of others, I saw how I was negatively affected
by the majority of the music I was listening to. At the very least, it was not helping me.
Right about the time when I was realizing this, a Christadelphian Youth Choir CD was given to me by the name of He Shall Sustain Thee. I’ll never forget how excited I was when I first listened to that CD through. Something about the young people’s voices on that CD, in pitch or not, made me happy. The songs were fresh, the lyrics were all about the Truth, and I found myself ‘free’ in some senses when I listened to it. I had always loved singing with my family and ecclesia, and always loved the spiritual music done socially at Bible schools and weekends. But could this type of music actually be listened to on my CD player in my room? What would people think if they walked in and heard it? Did I really want to take out my Incubus CD and replace it with Godly music? My flesh did not, because it knew it would slain, but my spirit never cried a harder YES!
Over the next few years, I slowly began to acquire more and more Christadelphian CDs that I had heard over the years like Fruit of Our Lips and Our Blessed Hope from Australia, The Promised Land from B.C. and Voice of His Word from England. Often times on first listen I would not like the music and would immediately put my Eve 6 CD back in, but other times I would be stopped in my tracks and end up in tears (emotional me…) or actually run around with joy because of what I felt from putting these simple thoughts of God into my mind and consequently in my heart and soul. As I would learn these songs and figure them out on my guitar or the piano, I found the lyrics becoming more and more powerful, and my ability to remember scriptures was increasing. And my happiness was growing.
It became very evident that the key to my giving up this music that was hurting me spiritually and weighing my spirit down was not going to be by cold turkey, but by taking God at His promise of delight in Him and replacing the world’s offerings with God’s. And slowly year by year, CD by CD, the radio became less and less attractive, and the feeling and strength I got from spiritual music just grew and grew. Over the next few years, I found my Bible begin to come to life as I would come across phrases I loved so much in the music I heard and remember would the feelings I had as they came to me throughout the day. As many others would also tell you is the case with them, I was unable to read certain psalms without singing them in my head or even ‘breaking forth into song’ with others who had the same thought. (writer laughs at the thought…) When I got sad at the things around me I would remember “He shall reign over all the earth!” When I would be faced with a decision between right and wrong, I would recall “I will not forget your Word Oh Lord; I will keep it with my whole heart”. And when I would feel sad or alone I would be comforted by “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end”. It is doubtful that those scriptures would have come to mind, had it not been for the music I was listening to.
Today, in my daily life, it is rare that I ever even have the slightest desire to listen to what the world has to offer with its musical diversity. This is not because my flesh does not want to or because it all necessarily would directly take me away from God. But rather because I know what the Lord has done in showing me the priceless treasure of time spent meditating on Him and His Word through the one thing almost everyone likes, music. Let us heed the scriptures and believe “the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:8 ESV)
(1) See www.SeekTheLord.com/SongsOfDeliverance for information.