The ever burning question in many Christians’ hearts is, “Can I listen to secular music?” There is something already wrong with this question. The problem that is inherent in a statement like this is separating music into Sacred and Secular, Spiritual and Non-Spiritual.I’ll start from the beginning – literally. Only God existed. He made stuff like heaven, angels, the world and cows. He also created music. God created everything to glorify himself (See the Faith section for more). There is not one thing that was created that did not glorify God. Can God make something that does not glorify himself? No. God did not make a sacred and a secular, everything to God was God’s. In God’s universe there is no such separation, all is unified as glorifying to God.
So if I wrote a song about cows and sausages, there would be nothing wrong with that. As a Christian I can write songs about algebra and the circulatory system and meeting girls. God created all those things. Why would it be wrong to sing about such things? I am singing about God’s wonderful creation, and at the same time using a God created medium – music.
So why do so many Christians get so upset about a band of Christians not preaching in their lyrics or from stage? Why do Christians say, “They’re just singing about bikes and food, they’re not ministering, therefore its not glorifying to God?” When one thinks like this its shows that they don’t understand that God created one universe – one universe glorifying to God. In this universe both spiritual and physical things all glorify God. But this other view creates a false dichotomy, a false separation. In this separation comes the view of – God is in the spiritual and not in the non-spiritual (the secular). If its not spiritual then it is non-spiritual, that is secular, and secular is evil. And the only things that are spiritual are things like Jesus, the Bible, evangelism, and discipleship. In the secular there are things like bikes, food, physics and cows. Therefore, in this thinking, you cannot sing about the secular and still glorify God.
But if that were the case then that would mean that if other God created things are “non-spiritual” then they are not glorifying to God, and therefore evil. That would mean a “secular” job like accounting is not glorifying to God and therefore useless or evil. That would mean Adam’s God-given task of farming was useless, and Christ’s carpentry was useless. Christ has now been reduced to doing things not glorifying to himself.
You see the evil in splitting God’s world into a sacred and secular? Believing that non-spiritual is useless leads us into thinking that God does useless things. It leads us to think our jobs are useless to God, and that we must trudge through our jobs just so we can get to Sundays, the only spiritual day and therefore the only useful day. Very destructive thinking.
You do not have to justify music and art and cows and food. God made it, its good, its justified.
But that is not to say that music cannot be used for evil.
Also, watch this video on the larger topic of Christians and the arts…
Can one separate the music from the band and evil lyrics? The best way to answer this question is with a few examples.
Food is good. But can be used for evil, such as gluttony. The food is not evil, the sin is.
Money is not evil. But idolizing money is. The idolization is evil, not the money.
Music by bands singing about evil things, does not make the musical notes evil, but this is where the example takes a turn. Food and money cannot sin, but bands can. So is it wrong to listen to someone sinning? No. We read in the Bible examples on people sinning throughout; we watch the news and they report on sins (murders, etc.) all the time – and we don’t consider watching that a sin. But with Food and Money, if it makes you sin, you can then fix that part of your life. If music by bad bands causes you to sin, then don’t listen to it. You really can’t do the same with Food or Money (if they make you sin) since you need them to live. But that’s what makes this music thing easier than those, you can live without music, so dealing with this type of sin is easier.
A more extreme example: Satan has said a lot of evil stuff in the Bible. It is not wrong to read his words. Satan’s words in the Bible does not make literature medium or the Bible wrong. Certainly his words are a lot worse than cuss words and anything anyone has ever sung about. Merely listening to evil music (like reading Satan’s evil words) is not a sin. Sin enters when the music causes you to sin.
If it causes you to sin. Stop listening to it.
And one type of sin is not obeying “Honor thy father and mother,” if your parents have a big problem with it (even if they are theologically wrong about it) you still must honor their wishes. I mean, so what if you can’t listen to some bands, its not like they’re telling you to stop eating.
Causing Others to Stumble
It was previously stated that things like music and food can be used for good – or can make us sin. Although it might not be a sin to merely hear music not intended for the Christian market, listening to it can cause some to sin in other ways. Disobeying your parents by listening to certain music when you’ve been told not to is a common example of music causing sin. Another example is when listening to music causes others to stumble.
First, I will go over what “causing others to stumble” is not. It is not merely offending someone, or doing something they don’t like. If you hate smoking and your friend comes up and smokes around you, you might be offended and annoyed, but you are not being tempted to smoke. Stumbling involves sin.
The example that the Bible uses is in Romans 14: eating meat sacrificed to idols. The Romans, along with much of the world back then, thought that there were many gods. People would sacrifice meat to these gods, who were represented by idols. But sometimes these people converted to Christianity. Many of these new converts would not know some basic Christian doctrines. In their minds, if they bought meat from the market that the seller had “blessed” to some pagan god, this would make the meat sinful to eat.
Of course, the meat was not evil. God made the meat. Meat is good. But the new convert in the above example did not realize that. He or she thought it would be evil to eat this particular meat. He or she therefore believed it would be a sin to eat it. So, would it be a sin if he or she ate it? Yes. Not because the meat was now sinful to eat, but because the motivation for eating it was sinful. It would be like saying, “God I think it’s a sin to eat this, but I’m going to eat it (and sin) anyway.” That is a sin of rebellion, and not of eating.
How does causing others to stumble come into this? It comes in when you, a stronger Christian who knows that eating meat sacrificed to idols is okay, cause the weaker Christian to sin by eating that meat in front of them, tempting them. If they eat it, you are causing them to sin, and by causing them to sin, you are making them stumble.
Music, movies, alcohol, etc., are things that could make other Christians stumble. What is Paul’s command in cases like those? It is to refrain from eating (listening, watching, drinking) in front of the weaker Christian.
Conclusion: We have to be cautious with our motivations and actions. Even the best of things can make us sin (e.g., reading the Bible might make us prideful). We must be careful not only for ourselves, but also for those around us. As it says in Romans 14: 15, we must act in love. So, don’t just go around making weaker Christians listen to your music simply because you think it’s okay – because it is now you who is sinning by not acting in love.