Missional Thinking Series - Part One - Missions in the Life of Christ: Volume 2

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The missional church movement has had significant impact upon worship in evangelical churches. Yet in its noble ambition to recover truly missional worship, the missional church movement may have failed to recognize how its own understanding of both worship and culture has been shaped by the Christendom and Enlightenment models it condemns. Therefore, the full correction of errors regarding worship and evangelism that missional advocates rightly identify requires more careful study of culture and worship and their relation to evangelism from a biblical perspective.

He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children.

Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer. Thanks for posting this, Scott — great article that brings a lot of concepts together nicely. I find you are contradicting yourself on these issues. Yet, as you wrote:. Yet, the form itself may well express truth if used in an appropriate context, but distort or misrepresent truth when used in the wrong one, as you wrote.

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By itself, form cannot be sinful. It always depends on its use. Selected well, it may help communicate correctly in worship. Selected badly, it will impede a correct understanding of the ideas expressed in the lyrics. Surely, there are forms that should NEVER be used in worship since they are not compatible with this activity.

Yet, they may be used to express truth in other contexts e. As such, should we not refrain from calling form potentially sinful? You may be misunderstanding me at some points. I am arguing that cultural form IS the same things as behavior; therefore all cultural forms are moral. Second, while I agree with you that on one level the issue of contextual appropriateness is a necessary criterion of value, I would also argue that some behaviors are always sinful.

Thus the same two-level evaluation is true of all cultural form. On the one level, we evaluate cultural form for its contextual appropriateness. On another level, some cultural forms may be always sinful. Hmmm… trying to understand your position correctly: is it correct that cultural forms include the various art styles? For music, this would include jazz, rock, blues, gospel, hymns, hip-hop, etc. For painting, this would include cubism, impressionism, iconic art… for architecture, rococo, art nouveau, baroque, etc.?

Maybe, to formulate it more generally, form is how content is presented — whether that is a defined style or simply the combination of lyrics, colours, shapes, rhythms, instrumentation, etc. Or take hip-hop — an aggressive type of music that tends to express discontent, rage, contempt as is often reflected in the lyrics.

Yet, is the use of hip-hop to create a certain mood in a movie scene then automatically sinful? A song that denigrates women clearly is.

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But must the form always be sinful? You may remember my basic argument — morality depends on the USE of the form, since only behaviour human activity can be sinful. An artifact — such as a song — is the product of cultural behaviour, so both its creation and its use listening or other can as well. Yet, the form itself does not communicate clearly without a content to shape.

Which forms, in your opinion, would then be intrinsically sinful, such that all their uses would automatically become sin? If you could correct my thinking and maybe suggest a concrete example, that would be great. As in, the raw materials that God created: sounds, tones, rhythm, harmony, etc.

These are created by God and therefore good. Sorry for pressing the point, but can you explain why you think that e. I take it you mean the hip-hop style, as opposed to a specific song. Their use, then can be either good or evil — either in a specific situation, or a defined use always. Taking the hip-hop example, we have distinguished form hip-hop style music and how the words are spoken or sung, and how the lyrics are usually put and content the actual lyrics, which cannot be completely separated from the form they are in.

If a Christian now combined hip-hop style with biblical content, he may be doing badly at communicating biblical truths since the form will distort the content to a degree that it is no longer representative of the original biblical meaning. Christian hip-hop artists will usually argue they are not committing this error but I generally have difficulties agreeing that their music is indeed expressing the suggested truths well.

Are we then dealing with a lack of understanding resulting in bad art or are we speaking of a moral issue? Certainly, their intent is morally good — they want to reach a lost world with the Gospel.

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Their means may be ill-suited to the task, but where does sin come in? Cor and , or being on the undesirable end of 1.

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Cor i. In other words, correction is needed but it is not necessarily a salvation issue though the larger context of such error may well present such danger when combined with potential other errors, doctrinal or other. To repeat an earlier argument, maybe in a little more detail, we can distinguish several uses of music form and content : music is the raw material that artists use to create the act of creation is a moral act — it can be sinful if there is sinful intent e.

Another morally good use of even an immoral song better said, a song written with immoral intent would be its use in a teaching seminar about musical choices to illustrate the depravity of some art. The song itself only becomes morally relevant once it is processed used by a moral agent. As such, the songs themselves are not intrinsically good or bad; only their uses by moral agents are. Even immoral intent in creating the song cannot force a sinful use though it will achieve that more often than not.

If we remove the lyrics and only stick with musical form, I think this becomes even more obvious: there is no clear messaging in the music but some emotional content is still there. We can say it sounds nice, rough, aggressive or sad etc. Some context is required to make such a judgment, which is outside the musical form. I think the latter distinction is crucial in this discussion. Simply said, a created thing is not morally responsible — only humans are.


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What we should say, then, is that a specific use — such as in corporate worship or for recreation — can always be morally wrong with certain compositions, i. Christians should refrain from their use in such settings but could use them for teaching, for example. We can also say that the use of certain styles debilitates or even falsifies the intended message. The question is, is this sin or simply bad art? Maybe you could help me understand where in the above I might be on the wrong path. People could say music is morally neutral but really, we could only agree with them if they leave it on the shelf or in their computers unused.

As soon as we listen to it, this becomes a use with moral connotations music hardly exists without such use, one could argue, but other artifacts do, so I still think the distinction is useful.

Christian hip hop is sin and not simply bad art:. By itself, it may communicate emotions etc. Music alone cannot communicate propositionally it does in other ways, as you explain. Play this to someone who has never heard it before and ask them what is communicated and whether it is morally good or bad — I doubt anyone can answer. If we can establish that e. My question is, can we? If we go to a more extreme form, i. There may then be an obvious moral quality attached to this form which will shape any lyrics into something for which I cannot think of any biblical messaging it could be combined with even the wrath of God would not be chaotic as the music would make it sound.

Yet, even then, you could find a use for this form that is not sinful using the music as noise to wake someone up or to drive away undesirable animals might be among them, although there may be better methods for both. Form is in a sense the way we act, and I can see that it is not propositionally neutral when combined with propositional content.

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When such communication takes place, there is then potential for sin — depending on how form is combined with content. But is it actually sin to want to communicate Christian truth by unsuitable means or should we rather call it unbiblical? More correctly, you should portray this as follows: The act of creating music is a moral action The music itself is not action but an artifact that can be used in different ways Only the USE of music has moral connotations — this includes performance, listening, using it to create other art such as movies , dance, corporate worship, etc.

Whereas the second means the artifact is morally neutral, the third means that it cannot possibly used without moral implications. This is close to your position but not exactly the same. My point of difference is to recognize that both moral and immoral uses of the same music can be imagined, even if there may be a clear tendency toward one or the other with specific compositions.

Once again, rage, self-assertion, rebellion, and aggression. Clearly, association with things unchristian is a real issue with music styles and must be discussed. Yet, I still do not see why it is sin to combine an incompatible music style with Christian lyrics. The above simply does not yield that conclusion or if it does, please tell me how. What it shows is that in all likelihood, Christian hip hop is communicating its message wrongly.

If that is so, it will be inefficient and possibly even dangerous in terms of the understanding of Christianity it is presenting.


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  6. This is serious stuff. Yet, I see no intention to miscommunicate on the side of the artists but rather, a lack of awareness that this is happening. I even see a great zeal among artists that is laudable, even if we must say it is not according to knowledge Rom We definitely need to teach and correct. We need to research these issues to make a better case. But we also need to distinguish between sin which I understand as transgressing the law or violating our conscience and error.


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