A Biblical Approach

Years ago, as a young, new, eager-to-learn-what-it means-to-be-a-True-Christian Christian I was introduced to a ‘biblical approach’ to music.

I learned that there was music that was godly, and music that was ungodly.  This had nothing to do with the lyrics, mind you.  It was the music.

I learned that songs in major keys are acceptable, and songs in the minor keys are not.

For the unmusically initiated, songs can either be in the major key or the minor key.  Songs in major keys typically sound happy and pleasant, while songs in minor keys sound ‘sad’ .  Not always, but typically.

So, this ‘teacher’ argued the case for listening/singing songs that are only in the major key.

C Major Chord

C Minor Chord

C Minor Chord

Above are the notes used in the  C Major Chord and the C Minor Chord.

Can you spot the difference?  Yes, the middle note is different.  In the minor chord, the second note of the chord – in this case,  E –  has been flattened, or lowered a notch.

And so, another argument this ‘teacher’ made against songs in the minor key is that the second note in the tonic chord is ‘minimised’.  And Who is the Second Person in the Trinity? That’s right – Jesus!  Therefore, songs in the minor key minimise the role of Jesus in the Trinity.

If you’ve made it this far without shaking your head at the stupidity of this teaching, spare a thought for the gullible people who are/were taken in by this.

Other ‘biblical’ approaches to music that I’ve come across include proclaiming that drums are evil.  Since drums are an integral part of any musical experience, this seems rather odd.  It turns out that in some cultures, drums are used in religious (read ungodly) ceremonies, and therefore Christians should not use drums.  (Some churches do away with musical instruments altogether.)

One of the biggest culprits in these aberrant teachings is Bill Gothard.  In addition to the above, he also teaches that Contemporary Christian Music is ungodly because of the backbeat.

Gothard has also put out his own ‘Bible-based’ home-school curriculum, which is anything but.

So, whenever I hear some practice as being ‘biblical’, I take a very long pause.

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About yewnique

I am a Malaysian-born woman who is married to an Australian and now live in Melbourne, Australia. I am a mother to four children. I home school. I like reading, writing, and cooking -- not necessarily in that order. I care about grammar and spelling, but am nonchalant about the Oxford Comma. I try to follow Christ's teachings.

Posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012, in Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. YAH, all that crazy superstitious stuff is nonsense for gullible people!

    Wait . . .

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  2. yeah…i know…

    *goes back into hiding*

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  3. Interesting… Never knew that. Personally though, I do not think any song only in major would work. It would sound bland..boring. There needs to be a contrast (the minor) to make it sound alive

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  4. I agree with you, musicblog95. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  5. Ok, I was raised in a home that appreciated Bill Gothard, knew he was human (we lived in the Chicago area and knew him personally), and joined his ministry’s home schooling in its second year.

    I’ve heard Mr. Gothard’s teachings on music a number of times, listened to the tapes from Jim Sammons and had already been a student of music long enough to understand what they were talking about.

    The never said that minor tunes are inherently wrong. Nor do they teach that drums are evil. They do teach that all the elements of music should be in balance.

    This next bit is my understanding and if there is something askew with it, I take the blame for communicating poorly.

    The three parts of music are melody, harmony and rythm. Thd melody is the focus of the words and the soul of the music. It should hold the position of prominence. Any music that subordinates the melody to the harmony or rythm, or that has no real melody is confusion.

    When the beat from the drum is in conflict with the natural beat of the melody, there is turmoil. When the beat is so loud it is hard to hear the melody, there is confusion.
    When harmonies don’t relax (e.g. never coming back to a 1 chord) there is too much tension. Conversely, when harmonies don’t provide enough tension, it becomes hypnotic.

    For me (I did not get this from IBLP’s teachings, but rather Bach who took his music as a sacred duty to God), I don’t like to end a hymn on a minor chord, just because this gives me a chance to demonstrate that beyond all sorrow (even the good sorrow of the cross) lies pure joy.

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  6. [The melody] should hold the position of prominence. Any music that subordinates the melody to the harmony or rythm, or that has no real melody is confusion.

    When the beat from the drum is in conflict with the natural beat of the melody, there is turmoil. When the beat is so loud it is hard to hear the melody, there is confusion. When harmonies don’t relax (e.g. never coming back to a 1 chord) there is too much tension. Conversely, when harmonies don’t provide enough tension, it becomes hypnotic.

    Isn’t that all subjective?

    Thanks for chiming in (no pun intended). I, too, have heard the above. I’m not sure I can agree with it because I think it is all subject to interpretation. Each person will have his/her own experience when listening to music. By applying these ‘rules’, I’m afraid that it is but one step towards legalism and may result in musicians and listeners overanalysing and overspiritualising the experience.

    Re: drums. I was part of a small fellowship where one person was in favor of getting rid of the drums altogether. You see, since it can be difficult to ascertain whether a beat is in ‘conflict’ with the natural beat, it is better to be on the safe side and not use drums at all. It was a very small fellowship with even fewer musicians. We often sang acapella or did not sing at all. So, getting rid of the drums (a relic from older times when the fellowship was larger) was not a problem.

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  7. “Isn’t that all subjective?”

    You just keep lobbing the softballs! At least make it challenging!

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  8. “You just keep lobbing the softballs! At least make it challenging!”

    What do you suggest?

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    • “What do you suggest?”

      Not saying things that make me want to reply “We’re still talking about music, right?”

      Sorry, you just seem nice so some days I wish you could see the whole thing from the outside.

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  9. Not saying things that make me want to reply “We’re still talking about music, right?”

    I’ll try.

    Sorry, you just seem nice so some days I wish you could see the whole thing from the outside.

    Thanks for looking out for me. I try to be nice.

    As for seeing the whole thing from the outside, hmm…criticising other beliefs just makes me a hypocrite, yes?

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  10. Oh, I dunno. A guy like Dawkins would probably say yes but I don’t ordinarily like to bring out the sharp pointy words when interacting with someone has a healthy respect for science and reason. I get his perspective though . . . at least here in the US there is a tendency when it feels as if there is an “attack on religion” (real or imagined) for even the moderate Christians to want to defend even their more fundamentalist brethren even across denomination lines because “We’re all Christians” rather than side with evil atheists to point out and try to combat extremism (unless it’s dem awful Muslims who enjoy favorability ratings in the U.S. that I think have risen over the last decade to the high single-digits). So people like him are more likely to say simply that anyone who is religious has no room to criticize anyone else’s religious beliefs because it’s all one thing lumped together.

    That being said I also get your more moderated position generally, which is to say it’s easier to defend the more explicitly-stated parts of the Bible and, from your perspective, see the logic and reason and pieces fitting together even if underneath it’s still faith in the unverifiable. Relative to your positions, people who say music is evil or drums are bad or minor keys make baby Jesus cry do come across as pretty far out there. And you’re clearly not one to take criticism of fundamentalism as an excuse to join them off the deep end out of Christian solidarity.

    Long way of saying . . . yah, kinda, but I’m not spitting venom or anything about it and the most you’ll probably get out of me is some friendly ribbing (see above).

    I did, however, get a notice of the response you first drafted which I would have disagreed with more strenuously. To see the entirety from the outside makes the “danger” look only like a mechanism of influence and control (an imaginary one at that) and is one of the more morally indefensible reasons to be a believer.

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  11. Yeah, I got the friendly ribbing. I think it keeps me in check.

    Note to self: ALWAYS make sure the post is right before clicking on ‘Post Comment’.

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