In parts one and two of this series, I considered the nature of musical preferences.  I concluded that musical preferences are properly basic beliefs.  Now the issue under consideration is whether properly basic beliefs can be irrational.

Now return to my Bob Dylan conversation and my charge of irrationality.  How does my charge of irrationality hold up in light of the proper basicality of musical preferences?  Could I consider someone irrational for liking Christian music, qua music?

Someone’s properly basic belief could be irrational, if the belief is unwarranted.  Plantinga provides the following criteria for warranted belief:

[A] belief has warrant for a person S only if that belief is produced in S by cognitive faculties functioning properly (subject to no dysfunction) in a cognitive environment that is appropriate for S‘s kind of cognitive faculties, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at truth. [Warranted Christian Belief (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2000), 156.]

The key aspects of this assertion are (1) proper function, (2) appropriate environment, and (3) truthful intent.  Consider someone who believes in the existence of God.

(1) Though the fall has affected human’s cognitive faculties, human belief in God involves the proper function of cognitive faculties.  This is true because belief in God results from the Spirit’s production of faith in the believer.

(2)  The cognitive environment has indeed been affected by sin.  Yet, the incarnation of the son of God has righted the cognitive environment and made redemption, the forgiveness of sins, available.

(3) Humans have been designed in such a way as to acquire the truth about God’s existence; God has implanted all humans with the sensus divinatus, an acute awareness of God.

Does the belief “I believe that Christian music is good music” meet these conditions of warrant?

Taste in music involves an aesthetic faculty.  Humans have been given an innate sense of beauty, by which they are attracted to phenomena of many varieties, including auditory, sensory, and visual stimuli.  Thus, belief in Christian music’s goodness would certainly meet the third criterion.

The cognitive environment is appropriate for the formation of this belief.  The universe has been designed in such a way that humans have access to stimuli that affect the aesthetic faculty.  We have experience of these stimuli being transmitted to us reliably through sight, sound, and touch.  Thus, belief in Christian music’s goodness would meet the second criterion.

The trickiest question, though, involves proper function.  Obviously, certain conditions would have to be in place for the aesthetic faculty to function properly.  These conditions include sufficient ability to hear, see, touch, etc.  But, it is not clear that we can convincingly add much else to the condition of ability.  (I would love to add basic knowledge of music, including dynamics, pitch, and rhythm, but why would someone need this knowledge for their aesthetic faculty to be stimulated by a song?)

I would conclude then that if someone’s aesthetic faculty is stimulated by Christian music, then she would be rational in her belief that Christian music is good music.  So to anyone whose love of Christian boy bands I have ridiculed as irrational, please accept my sincerest apology.

This conclusion is quite unsatisfying:  I had hoped to arrive at an intellectually sophisticated method for critiquing Christian music and its listeners.  Though I’ve fallen short of my goal, I would make the following caveat.

Christian music can serve as the stimuli to affect the human aesthetic faculty.  However, the vast majority of popular Christian music is not designed in a way to do so strikingly.  The industry is driven too much by cliché and consumerism and not enough by artists’ own innate desire for beauty.  The focus of Christian art must shift from economic stimulus to aesthetic stimulus.