Sadly, many churches divide over non-essentials and surely this must grieve the heart of God. One church I heard of actually divided over the color of the carpet in the front lobby. Such divisions must surely grieve the heart of God. I had to nearly separate two Christians who were arguing over what type of worship music should be used and which type God accepts. They had quite a few “blow ups” in their heated argument and it was like World War III had started. When we divide over things that are not biblically black and white we are putting our own interests ahead of others which are contrary to living the Christian life. Paul said that we should “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil 2:3). In many cases, this is reversed to read “let each esteem themselves better than others.” We ought to “Be devoted to one another in love [and] Honor one another above yourselves” (Rom 12:10) and “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ“ (Eph 5:21). Likewise, these are often reversed to be “love yourselves and honor yourselves above others.”
There are varieties of ways to praise God and through different genres. If you go to Africa, Asia, South America, and nearly any other nation, you will discover that each has their own unique ways to worship God in song. I love Kutless but I also Casting Crowns and Beethoven. When the likes of How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, Love Divine and other hymns were written, they were not readily accepted and thought to be too contemporary for their time in history.
We look down on certain types of worship music today at music today but Psalm 68:25 mentions “virgins with tambourines” and Ezra 3 says the sons of Asaph played cymbals. The Israelites even used music to surprise enemies. Today when we listen to the likes of Christian bands such as Casting Crowns, Anberlin, Third Day, and the Newsboys, what happens in a hundred years? They won’t be seen as contemporary any more and so will it be ok to listen to their music then?
The Bible command us to make a “joyful noise” and this will certainly differ from one generation to the next but it is God Whom we worship in song and praise and since God accepts it and that is all that really matters. I imagine the music God has heard in worship service over the ages is very old and traditional from today’s standards but if you went back 1,000 or 2,000 years ago they would call it radical and say this music is of the devil. CS Lewis defines man’s rejection of contemporary or modern worship music as chronological snobbery and he defines as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.” Lewis eventually came to understand the need to ask further questions such as: Why did this idea go out of date? Which things are false—and why—and which things remain true?
Chronological snobbery can be loosely defined as the erroneous argument that the thinking, art or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior when compared to that of the present, based solely on its age. This chronological snobbery results in the absence of critical thinking toward anything new, and the automatic rejection of anything old, even though it might be applicable and needed for today. The same argument can be used for present day worship music. The Bible never says which instruments or style of music can and can not be used but simply to make a joyful noise.
Psalm 67:4 O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for you shall judge the people righteously, and govern the nations on earth. Selah.
Psalm 98:4 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Isaiah 44:23 Sing, O you heavens; for the LORD has done it: shout, you lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, you mountains.
Psalm 100:1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all you lands.
Psalm 47:1 O clap your hands, all you people; shout to God with the voice of triumph.
I return again to C.S. Lewis’ and his thoughts on what was then termed contemporary worship songs. He said, “They are great, and we should not leap again to the opposite chronological snobbery of only accepting what is old and traditional. I believe we can. And in order to avoid the chronological snobbery pendulum of extremes toward traditionalism and currentism, we must hold both views in tension. This might seem like a contradiction, but it is not; it is a paradox, and we should stay within the center. In this we can avoid the guilt of chronological snobbery, and bring out the treasure of all ages in the rich history of our faith. In the power of this paradox we will experience unity and connection with Christians of the past, while also remaining relevant to the culture of the present." That logic is hard to argue with.
Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible.