Part Three of Four.  Parts one and two.

The second version of the musical maxim from my youth was that if a collection of music offended Christian sensibilities, then that collection of music was not suitable for enjoyment.

The aim of this principle was to curtail the consumption of music that contained morally objectionable material.  Lewd language, sexually explicit lyrics, and the like were all to be muted from our listening pleasure.

There’s some biblical warrant for this notion.  One could argue that to obey the apostle Paul’s command to think about true, noble, and praiseworthy things (Phil 4), one would need to limit exposure to false, ignoble, and damnable material.

What’s the definition behind this principle?  Perhaps, Christian music is that music which does not offend Christian sensibilities.  This definition will suffer the same practical dilemma as the earlier definition. 

Some things that pass as Christian music deeply offend my reformed, Christian sensibilities.  For instance, the worship song “Close” concludes its chorus with the following lines:  “I want to be where you need me most / Draw me, bring me close.”  I cannot, in any way, charitably construe these words.  If God has needs–which by the way, he doesn’t–he would not come to us for fulfillment (Ps. 50).

Then again, many songs of Western culture that would not typically be described as “Christian” do not offend Christian sensibilities.  Many songs express the general idea of love (romantic, platonic) or of the goodness of families.  Would we now invite these songs to the festal table of Christian music?

In the final post of this series, we’ll consider how we should listen to “Christian music” in light of the difficulty defining the genre.