Subject: "Clarity Concerning Your Music Sermons At Our Church"
Original Message body has been removed. Please see my reason below:
After preaching on music at a church, I was asked in an email some questions about the subject matter. However, the original email contained some sarcasm and barbs, so I have omitted it. Believers should always be kind, patient, and gentle to each other when asking or answering questions, even “controversial” questions like music (although any truth these days is considered “controversial”). The reader will hopefully notice that kindness, gentleness, etc… in my many responses.
I apologize for not being clear, my friend. 🙂 There definitely was a lot said, and there was so much more I wanted to say. Whole books on each aspect of music have been written better than what I could say in such short space. What I’ll do is send separate emails to deal with each aspect of your email. My desire is that I not come across as mean or pompous or even attacking anyone specifically. Please know that I did not and do not intend to come across that way to you or your people. The main intention was and is to have God’s people be “Bereans” and start studying this important subject of music. As such, I am already very excited because you (as you always do :)) are doing that exact thing!
Concerning the clarification of the quotes I used in the am message, let me begin by saying: a lot of areas in music require believers to focus on principles of Scripture, not direct commands. We Christians definitely find it easier to follow God’s truth when there are direct commands like not committing adultery or murder. However, whether we should attend every service, or not smoke, or how long man’s hair should be, or what exactly a man/lady should wear, that is where it gets interesting. Much of music fits this. Of course, the more Scriptural principles we find, the easier it is to narrow what God wants for us in all walks of life.
Okay, before I ended the am service dealing with the beats of a measure, I prepped the way by indicating God as a Creator of order (I Cor. 14:33) and God’s command to keep everything orderly (I Cor. 14:40). Of course Paul was dealing directly with the chaos of tongues in church, but the way the verse is written gives us a principle for life (“Let all things…”). I then tried to show that man’s science (the numerous studies) also agreed with God’s word for order specifically in the area of “universal rhythm”. I then used the unsaved people’s quotes as simply examples to this truth. So, the point was how that God has order in everything even in “rhythm.” People may have various views concerning rhythm, but there is going to be a God-ordained rhythm and a Satan-inspired rhythm. It is up to God’s people to distinguish them. By quoting the unsaved people (whose choices and actions we would want to stay far from), I was trying to simply indicate that they know what they are doing in perverting an already established order.
I’ll send the next one when I’m finished. 🙂
It would be great if I could show you this stuff in person, but I will do my best typing it.
Concerning the measures in the hymnbook, I’ll take “It Is Well with My Soul” again. If you have it before you, you will see the first words “When peace….” You will notice a line between “When” and “peace” with lines like this throughout the entire song. (I don’t know how much you know so I am trying to be simple.) Those lines delineate what is called “measures.” Each measure divides the song’s rhythm according to whatever the “time signature” is. A “time signature” is the fraction sign at the beginning of a song. In “It Is Well…”, you see 4/4 at the top left. “…peace, like a” is the first full measure of the song. It has a total of 4 beats and each measure after will have 4 beats (4/4). “Peace” has two beats with “like” and “a” having one beat each for a total of 4 beats for that measure. You notice, though, that the first word “When” only has one note and one beat. Why? Because its measure is part of the final measure in the song all the way at the bottom of the hymn with the last word “soul.” Add the total beats for “soul” and “When” and you will get 4 beats. That may seem difficult to understand, but I’m sure [your church pianist] can help explain it. However, there is nothing wrong with it. Most songs are written that way.
When I mentioned a “rest” in the pm service, I was talking about something else. First of all, I want to make sure you know what a “rest” looks like. There are different looks. [Your church pianist] maybe can show you some. For now, “It Is Well…” has “rests” in the chorus. Before the men sing, there should be a couple of “rests” while the women sing “It is well….” Notice that the men sing “It is” which is the end of a measure. The “rest” in that particular measure is held for 2 beats. The two beat “rest” and the two beats for “It is” combine for 4 beats. This is written in a correct manner. The 2 beat “rest” starts the men on the 3rd beat which is the correct order of music; the order that has been for millennia set up by God. However, what if the rest was for only 1 beat? Then the men would start singing on the 2nd beat which is “disordering” the normal flow. One way (not necessarily the best but I’m trying to help nonmusical people) to discern music with syncopation can be spotting the “rests” in each measure to see if the next note emphasizes a 2nd or 4th beat. Of course, this only helps if you have sheet music. But, hopefully, you get a more fuller meaning to what I was saying in the pm service.
I’ll send another email to answer your middle question.
Concerning your question on the morality of the beats in a measure, there is no Scripture about “time signatures” or “rhythm” in the Bible. That means either that God doesn’t deal with these areas of music at all or it means that we have to “study” the principles of Scripture (II Tim. 2:15). But what principles in Scripture deal with “rhythm” and beats”?
Well, let’s take “smoking.” Although the Bible never says anything specific about “smoking” or “chewing tobacco”, believers understand these practices to be wrong because of their affect on the body. Therefore, we use principles in Scripture that apply to the welfare of our bodies and the temple of God. The exact same principle can be used for music. Rhythm is the area of music that specifically affects the body. We can feel it. Actually, I have read about (and “talked” to) various “deaf” people who can “feel” the rhythm of music. Therefore, to understand the morality of rhythm in music, we must go back to the principles of Scripture dealing with the body/flesh. This is why I brought in Romans 8 in the pm service. If rhythm is the overpowering part or the most influential part of the song, then the body is the overpowering part or the most influential part of the person at that moment. Therefore, the “flesh” is in charge which is sin. This is the journey I, and others, take to get to the morality of rhythm in a song.
Now, concerning the specific beats in a song. Please understand that nothing is wrong with the beats 1,2,3, and 4 themselves. The beats/rhythm of a song is needed for order; the order that God set up for generations. The problem is what is emphasized. In the am service, I only mentioned one type of syncopated rhythm: back beat. I did not want to complicate the subject even more. However, there are other syncopated rhythms used in worldly music, CCM, and some Southern Gospel: silent beat, staccato beat, and beat anticipation. These rhythms “emphasize” different beats than normal rhythm. It has been stated by various secular musicians throughout the decades that syncopation is “sensual beat” because of how it influences the body’s senses. I will try to give you a feel, but you will probably need to research more on these rhythms. At least, you will have the words and ideas.
– If you have 4/4 time signature (“It Is Well…”), a regular beat/normal rhythm will look and sound like:
ONE-two-THREE-four. (“…PE-ace, LIKE-a…”)
– A back beat emphasizes the offbeat:
one-TWO-three-FOUR. (“…pe-ACE, like-A…”)
– A silent beat in 4/4 would feel like:
one-two-_____-four, one-two-_____-four. (“…pe-ace, ____-a…”; Yes, “like” would be missing for the full effect.)
When this kind of stuff was first introduced to me years ago, it was very hard for me to “feel” any difference in the rhythms. The reason was that my years of exposure to worldly music had actually distorted my sense of rhythm. It even hindered me from leading congregational music because I could not feel what to emphasize to the people.
More technical but important stuff you can look up concerning worldly music (also used in CCM and a little bit of Southern Gospel) is unresolved chord cadence and dissonance.
I would like to add that having some of these various rhythms in music could be okay if they were in “moderation.” The flesh would not be leading, just influenced. Just like a little sugar is okay. However, if the entire song or CD was full of these changing rhythms, the flesh would definitely wind up being in charge. Just like a lot of sugar is disastrous. The difference of opinion concerning the standard for rhythm in a song should be concerning “how much before the body is leading.” Kind of like the standard for “long hair” on men; “how much before the hair is too long.” There will be differences of opinion as to how much “syncopation” in a song, but all believers are to agree that the flesh should not be in charge and an entire song of syncopation would lead to the flesh leading.
In my final email, I’ll list some possible music resources.
Dr. Richard Flanders, a good friend of ours, mentioned someone he knew personally who wrote last year on music.
I read an interesting book by Dan Lucarini years ago, “Why I Left The Contemporary Christian Music Movement.”
I don’t know much about him but there is a preacher by the name of Graham West who did a really informative video presentation called, “The Rhythm of Rock.”
Of course you can’t agree with everything from David Cloud/Way of Life but he has a TON of information on music including CCM and Southern Gospel.
Frank Garlock, Ron Hamilton’s father-in-law, used to have a lot of material on music.
Out of our church of many years in PA, Dr. Dennis Corle of Revival Fires, wrote a book on rock music.
I’m sure you can view some of these preachers and maybe others’ videos online, like Youtube.
Any more questions, please feel free to call or email. I hope to be a blessing and not a burden to your ministry. 🙂