Music, as created by God, is a most powerful vehicle for expressing praise to the Creator. Angels praise Him verbally to a particular emotional level that breaks forth into song, heightening the level of praise. However, through the medium of music, the blending of the best and the worst can be done more subtly than through almost any other media form. There is an increased confusion regarding what is considered “acceptable” or unacceptable” music. The incursion of the latter into the realm of the sacred has become so prevalent that some church leaders and laymen, musicians and educators have expressed concern to the church a need for positive guidance in this area. It is hoped that those involved in all aspects of music, whether as musicians or ministers, will give more intense self study to this important issue.
One must read these guidelines in the context and spirit for which they are intended. These guidelines were created from a redemptive perspective – that fallen man might be restored as close to the original as possible. For the true Christian, everything that is done in this life is done from this perspective. Musically, the Christian is to move toward the spiritual ideal of God rather than to dwell on the carnality of man.
Several years ago, an attempt was made to help clarify the church’s position on music. A special committee consisting of a wide range of musicians from diverse backgrounds as well as non-musicians met for almost a week to establish guidelines for the music in the various aspects of the church. These guidelines were approved by an Annual Council of the General Conference. Because of the erosion of music standards in churches, schools and evangelistic meetings, it is felt that this document needs to be revised, reaffirmed, and revival sought in establishing a clearer position regarding music.
Erroneous thinking often leads one to conclude that since Scripture doesn’t specifically mention problems of music, we are left in a spiritual emptiness to sort out the varieties of music available strictly by “taste”. However, a serious seeker of truth will soon discover that through careful study, there is ample light. The prayer of Paul in Phil. 1:9 is a good start for this topic: “And this is my prayer, that your love may grow ever richer and richer in knowledge and insight of every kind and may this bring you the gift if true discrimination.” (NEB, emphasis supplied).
“Music is often perverted to serve purposes of evil, and it thus becomes one of the worst agencies of temptation. But, rightly employed, it is a precious gift of God designed to uplift the thoughts to high and noble themes, to inspire and elevate the soul” – Education, page 167.
Today, the church is facing problems with its music standards. Music that was once thought of as being permissible is now considered to be acceptable by some. Great care must be exercised to discern whether the changes in music are due to certain sociological fluxes or if it is the intrusion of the secular into the realm of the sacred. Thus, there is a need to reevaluate where we have been, where we are, where we are headed and where we should have been headed.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church came into existence in fulfillment of prophecy to be God’s instrument in a world-wide proclamation of the Good News of salvation through faith in the atoning sacrifice of God’s Son and of obedience to His commands in preparation for our Lord’s return. The lives of those who accept this responsibility must be as distinctive as their message. This calls for total commitment by each church member to the ideals and objective of the Church. Such commitment will affect every department of church life, and will certainly influence the music used by the Church in fulfillment of its God-given commission.
Music is one of God’s greatest gifts to man and is one of the most important elements in a spiritual program. It is an avenue of communication with God, and “is one of the most effective means of impressing the heart with spiritual truth”. – Education, page 168. Dealing as it does with matters of eternal consequence, it is essential that music’s tremendous power be kept clearly in mind. It has the power to uplift or degrade; it can be used in the service of good or evil. “It has power to subdue rude and uncultivated natures; power to quicken thought and to awaken sympathy, to promote harmony of action and to banish the gloom and foreboding that destroy courage and weaken effort.” – Ibid, page 167, 168.
Those, therefore, who select music for the distinctive purposes of this church, must exercise a high degree of discrimination in its choice. In their endeavors to meet these ideals, more than human wisdom is needed. Turning then to revelation for guidance, the following general principles are revealed: The music should:
1.Bring glory to God and assist us in acceptability worshipping Him (1 Corinthians 10:31)
2.Ennoble, uplift, and purify the Christian’s thoughts (Phil. 4:8, Patriarchs and Prophets, page 594)
3.Effectively influence the Christian in the developments of Christ’s character in his life and in that others (MS 57, 1906)
4.Have a text which is in harmony with the scriptural teachings of the church in clearly stated rather than a vague allusion (Review and Herald, June 6, 1912)
5.Reveal a compatibility between the message conveyed by the words and the music, remembering that music is also a “language”, avoiding a mixture of the sacred and the profane (Ezekiel 22:26; Lev 10:10)
6.Shun theatricality and prideful display (Evangelism, page 137; Review & Herald, November 30, 1900).
7.Give precedence to the message of the text which should not be overpowered by accompanying musical elements (Gospel Workers, pages 357, 358).
8.Maintain a judicious balance of the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual elements (Review and Herald, November 14, 1899).
9.Never compromise high principles of dignity and excellence in efforts to reach people just where they are (Testimonies, vol. 9, page 143; Evangelism 137).
10.Be appropriate for the occasion, the setting, and the audience for which it is intended (Evangelism, page 507, 508).
There is much that is spiritually uplifting and religiously valid in the different cultural and ethnic groups; however, the musical tastes and practices conform to the universal value of Christ-like character; strive for oneness in the spirit and purpose of the gospel which calls for unity rather than uniformity. Care must be exercised that worldly values in music which fail to express the high ideals of the Christian faith be avoided.
The above principles will serve as effective guidelines in the choice and use of music for the varied needs of the church. Certain musical forms, such as jazz, rock and their related hybrid forms are considered by the Church as incompatible with these principles. Responsive persons involved in the Church’s broad ranging music activities, either as leaders or performers, will find little trouble in applying these principles in some areas. Certain other areas are much more complex and a more detailed discussion of the factors involved as follows.
The Church Manual does identify musical styles that should not be used in our churchs, you have stated Jazz, Rock and hybrid forms. This excludes nearly all of modern music styles used in church. Our fore most Jazz artistes such as Roland Gresham, Take Six, The London Adventist Chorale, Mark Bunney etc. all use musical styles which are hybrids of Jazz and Rock at GC!
What we need is an update of the Church Manual on this issue to bring it up to date with modern thinking.
Worship should be the primary and eternal activity of mankind. Man’s highest end is to glorify God. As the worshipper comes to the house of God to offer a sacrifice of praise, let it be the best possible music. The hymns used for this service should be directed to God, emphasizing praise and utilizing the great hymns of our heritage. They should have strong, singable melodies and worthy poetry. Instrumental music, including organ or piano, should harmonize with the lofty ideals of worship, and be chosen carefully from the best materials consistent with the ability and training of the player. The instrumentalist responsible for accompanying congregational singing has an especially great responsibility to set the right standard in all his contributions, be they preludes or postludes, offertories or other voluntaries, or accompaniment of hymns. He is in a unique position to raise the level of worship music in his church. If in the service there should be vocal solos, or other special music, preference should be given to material with scriptural texts and music that is within the singer’s range of ability, and be presented to the Lord without display of vocal prowess. The communication of the message should be paramount.
When I say practical, practical on a true SDA Christian level (based on the Bible, in the Writings [SOP] and in the guidelines [GC] and not based on a weak and baseless personal bias and opinions motivated by selfishness, hard hardheartedness and lack of respect and humility to the “present truth”.
1. The church is a place of spiritual worship and not of physical and emotional motivated religious activities, celebrations and festivities.
Matthew 21: 13: “It is written," he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer”
2. Ancient Israel dispensation is “nation building”-that is the Mosaic or Jewish dispensation.
Gen. 12: 1- 3 “The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
A dispensation in which a kind of worship where loud music and instrumentation, noisy singing and even dancing is an integral part of worship itself. A kind of worship that fits the role they played in the world.
Psalms 95: 1-3 “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, and let us kneel before the LORD our Maker”
3. Today, our religious dispensation is a Christian dispensation (that is the gospel-evangelist and true worshippers) not Jewish dispensation (nation builders)
Matthew 28: 19, 20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Revelation 18: 4 “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues”
1 Peter 2: 9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
And as a spiritual Israel and as a holy nation, we are required to worship spiritually and not physically and emotionally.
John 4: 23, 24 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
4. Haven’t you noticed that music and instrument is not a big deal during the New Testament and it’s almost silent upon the mention of musical instruments? Why? It gives us light and it paves us the way for a kind of worship that is relevant for us today, relatively different kind of worship than that of ancient Israel, a kind of spiritual worship which God expect from his obedient children.
5. Unlike piano, guitar, flute, violin, the music that is made from the use of drums is loud hard, beat and entertaining which threatens the solemnity and spirituality of worship. If in any case drums can be played like they way other instrument are being played then it can be appropriate in the church. But as long as the music made by the use of drums is concerned, it cannot be that way no matter how hard we try.
6. There is nothing in the Bible, in the Writings [SOP], in the music guidelines of the GC that encourage us that he use of drums can upgrade the quality of music and elevates the spirit of worshippers inside the church, instead, it have the tendency to destroy the true purpose and spirituality of worship. It may energize our physical orientations and lifts our emotions. Yes. But that is not the kind of worship required from us.
7. We have a relatively different kind of worship than ancient Israel because of our different religious dispensation and roles that were played and being played. And the worships is something that fits to the roles and dispensation we’ve had. A doctor should not wear a uniform of as soldier, so as a firefighter of a businessman. The same as our use of music like the way we use clothing and apparels. Don’t ever insist that we can play loud music and instrumentation in the church because Israelites did. It will also mean that we can dance inside the church because they did. We can make rituals and festivities because they did, kill our enemies because they did. That is foolishness and the most irrational reasoning. Because they did it, we can also do it? Doesn’t make sense at all.
Music is an essential part of spiritual worship. But a kind of music that elevates its spirituality and lifts the souls of the worshipers. Not a kind of music that threatens the true meaning and purpose of spiritual worship. Not a kind of worship that is motivated by physical and emotional desires and destroys the spiritual value of worship. We should not insist that all music we think that are “good and there’s nothing wrong” can be appropriate inside the church. The GC has presented it’s version of music guidelines. Let us embrace it with all humility because that is the voice from God regarding music. It is the light, the present truth [regarding music} God gives to His children today. We cannot be more intelligent than God himself. We should not bypass the counsels and guidelines on issues confronting us today. They are God-inspired counsels. True humility is the measure of true Christianity [Christ likeness].
Guidelines about issues confronting us today from music to dress from gay issues to pornographies, those guidelines related to those issues are good enough to solve those problems yet it remains a problem because we don't know and humble enough to acknowledge. Instead challenge those guidelines and questions its power and authority over our own personal bias, personal taste, personal preferences, personal choice, personal opinions. What a selfish generations!
You state in your post that it is impossible to play drums appropriately in the type of service you see as the correct way to worship God. That is probably correct. In the type of service I see, there could be drums, 3000 musicians playing very loud trumpets for instance and i would be correct from my perspective. Again it is the musical library from which we select our style to support our own views of correct worship to God. You mentioned piano, guitar, flute, violin, these are instruments you can again select from the library. There is nothing religious or sacred about those instruments but they have qualities which help to support our styles of worship.
What I need to know is which musical style, worship style, instrument cannot be used by Satan. Then we will find the true worship style, surely...
The SOP does not have anything complimentary to say about the piano. Someone asked Sis White whether they should let their daughter learn the piano. Sis White responded and said it would be better for the child to learn how to sew and rear chickens. We should remember that the piano was used as a secular musical instrument positioned outside undesirable institutions of slackness in order to draw people into these establishments. (Drums were not used for this purpose.) In England every public drinking house had a piano and where there was no pianist, the piano roll was installed. When people wanted to introduce it to the church many hymn writers said NO, they frowned on the organ too. You can read how the organ was thrust upon an SDA Camp meeting by Bro White.
The GC guidelines on music in 1975 and 2005 have never banned drums or even cautioned in its use. In addition I have never seen any type of ban or caution in the following publications:
2. Sabbath School lesson
4. SDA Bible Commentaries
5. GC Guidelines
6. Any SDA Hymnal
7. I could go on...
I can only conclude one of the following:
a) that if no ban or caution was given in the SOP Sis White either NOT the prophet for the last days and so the ban and caution is to come from the real prohet of the lasty days
b) we are not in the last days
c) drums are not an issue, peoples prejudices are the real issue.
As a musician I have never seen a musical symbol indicating "play this piece of music spirirually", NEVER. I have seen, play faster, slower, slowly, fast, louder, softer, staccato, rubato etc.. This leads me to believe that music is not sacred, but can be used for sacred purposes. So each cultural group will select from the library to suit their environment. Check out Handels Messiah, he uses the same scales, rhythms and musical symbols as any secular musician or composer.
I am actually trying to understand this myself. Yes, of course sacred music is used for sacred services, I agree. Think about it this way, when I build a church, do I get the bricks and cement from a sacred building merchant? NO. I use any bricks and cement, the hammers and other tools I will purchase from any secular vendor. AFTER the building is built I then dedicate it for sacred purposes. SECULAR USED FOR SACRED.
This is why in England we can use bingo(gambling) halls, cinemas and drinking houses for sacred services. We jusdt dedicate the secular building for sacred purposes before we begin. One of our churches is in a public drinking house.
Music is the same. You get your building blocks, your musical tools the same as any secular musician, you compose your tune and then dedicate or you might dedicate this whole process.
There is nothing sacred about hymns, in England they sing them at football games.
Music can become sacred when dedicated to God in a sacred service. But Satan can equally use that music to support his own purposes such as prejudice and capitalism as can be seen in the human trafficking and class struggles of human beings. Then the music is NOT sacred to God.
In a post above there are comments about drums being hypnotic. In all my days as a musician I have never seen anyone become hypnotised by drums being played, NEVER. Have any of you witnessed this?
In England when you get hypnotised to go on one of those reality shows they are not allowed to show how it is done. But NO drums are used, just the still small quiet voice. Then they get the person to perform all manner of foolishness.
Which is more worrying, listening to drums or the still small voice?
Drums do not produce hypnosis, there has to be other elements involved, let me put it this way; the problem is the black/African instrument is always to blame for the ills of western society, SDA musicians have to move from blaming an instrument to asssessing all instruments equally.
Anything that can be said of the drums can be said for the piano, examples follow:
Both can be used to serve Satan.
Both were not recorded as being in the sanctuary although they were used outside the sanctuary.
Both are percussion instruments. Technically you hit the drums and hammer the piano.
Both instruments had and still have trouble being accepted for church worship. Fortunately the pianists carried on and have integrated their instrument regardless of consequence, so the drummers have equal rights to do the same and should continue to do so.