Volume. XXIII, No. 40
Sunday, 29 March 2009


Is All Music Neutral: Rock Music vs. Spiritual Music - Part 1


Is all Music neutral? Is there a difference in nature between Rock music and Spiritual music? Tim Fisher in “The Battle for Christian Music,” pp 60-61 gives us an interesting story and helpful illustration: “There was a man who was defending the neutrality of music in a public service. He walked over to the piano and played a C major chord. Then, he asked the audience if it was a good C major chord or an evil C major chord. After some scattered laughter, he said `See, there\'s no such thing as good or evil music,\' [Fisher says] He made a rather obvious mistake, because a C major chord itself isn\'t music! It is a building block of music! He goes on and says, “Take the English language, for example. If I write the letter \'E\' is that a good \'E\' or a bad \'E\'? Neither. As a building block of the English language it is a neutral entity. However, as a creative writer can put that letter in conjunction with other letters and communicate something like PraisE the Lord or I hatE God.

The Word of God says Music is Not Neutral

Even during the time of Saul (around 1079 B.C.), they knew the power and effect of music. When the "evil spirit from the Lord" (1 Samuel 16:14-18,23) began troubling Saul - it wasn\'t a doctor or soothsayer they called, but a musician named David. They knew music had inherent powers. They knew music wasn\'t neutral. The Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 14:7-8 says, “7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” What is Paul saying here? He says that certain sounds, by themselves, have meaning and are not neutral either (eg. pipe, harp or trumpet).

When God’s Word shows us that music is not neutral, we should accept this at face value. There is, however, some extra-biblical support that confirms what the Bible says is true. Dr. Howard Hanson, of the of the famous Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, and one of the greatest authorities on music, stated:  "Music is a curiously subtle art with innumerable, varying emotional connotations [it shows it is NOT neutral]. It is made up of many ingredients and according to the proportions of those components; it can be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has powers for evil as well as for good." (The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 99, p.317)

Now, if music has either positive or negative effects or powers for evil and for good, as Dr. Hanson suggests, is there any way these effects can be observed or proved of its existence through scientific experiments? The answer is yes! An intensive series of studies carried out by Dorothy Retallack of Denver, Colorado, USA, demonstrated the effects of different kinds of music on a variety of household plants. Mrs. Retallack played the music of the two different Denver radio stations to two groups of petunias (ie. a type of household plant). The radio stations were KIMN (a rock station) and KLIR (a semi-classical station). The Denver Post (newspaper) reported: “The petunias listening to KIMN (Rock Station) refused to bloom. Those on KLIR (classical station) developed six beautiful blooms. By the end of the second week, the KIMN (Rock Station) petunias were LEANING AWAY from the radio and showing very erratic growth. The petunia blooms hearing KLIR [semi-classical] were all leaning TOWARD THE SOUND. Within a month all plants exposed to rock music DIED.”  

Some argue, “Well, bad music may cause detrimental effects on plants, but it shouldn’t affect human beings.” Could “bad” music bring any harmful or even devastating effects to human beings? Lanza in “Joseph Elevator Music,” p.194 says, "Some background music has been known to induce musicogenic epilepsy, triggering a chemical brain reaction that elicits thoughts of suicide or murder. . .doctors had documented seventy-six similar cases."

Perhaps, one of the most frightening displays of the awesome power of music upon the human brain occurred in the conversion of Patty Hearst. In February, 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). But shortly after the kidnapping, Patty is helping the SLA rob banks. One wonders how they converted her. Dr. William Sargant, Britain\'s foremost expert on brainwashing examined Patty Hearst. Here\'s his alarming conclusion from Newsweek magazine, February 16, 1976, (p. 24): ". . .she was an unwilling victim of a "FORCED CONVERSION" or brainwashing….. According to Sargant, a person whose nervous system is under constant pressure can "inhibit" and "exhibit paradoxical brain activity - bad becomes good and vice versa." And that, Sargant argues, is precisely what happened to Patty. . . .Her nervous system was kept at maximum stress by the continual playing of loud ROCK MUSIC." (Newsweek, February 16, 1976 p.24)

Dear friends, as taught by the Word of God and observed by scientists and expert musicians, we can conclude that music is not neutral. Never let people deceive you by telling you that all music (including Rock Music) is neutral; or all that matters is the lyrics of the song, not the music.  Although lyrics is an important factor to determine the value and potential effect of any piece of music, bear in mind that music itself is equally important, if not more crucial and potent than the lyrics. Therefore, it is critical that a Christian avoids listening to or adopting “bad music” because it inevitably affects one’s spiritual wellbeing and walk with God and relationships with people, as it alters one’s behavior. Naturally, these questions arise: “What kind of music is acceptable for Christians? Does the Bible give us any clues pertaining as to what type of music we should be listening?” The Word of God commands us to listen to spiritual music and not fleshly music.

Pastor Weng

(To be continued next week)

 


More Lively Hope

 

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Announcements

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Transport help required. If you can help, please see Dn Tony Law.

Anyone seeking Baptism, Reaffirmation or Transfer of Membership on 31 May 2009, please see Pastor Weng or Elder Michael D. Lee.

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Family Bible Conference at Easter, 10-13 April 2009.

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Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Pr H S Lim

Pastor & Sis Ki as they visit & preach in churches in USA  (Mar-May); future ministry in New Life BPC, London; Bros Daniel & Samuel as they stay in Adelaide

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Pastor Weng: ministry & family in Hope BPC. Preparations for Ebenezer BPC’s Family Bible Camp at Easter.

God’s care & provision for Mrs Anne Clements & family.

Job - Bro Cong Pham; Sisters Marion Chan, Tabitha Heah & Judy Li.

Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe (Perth) -  Wisdom, health  and guidance.

Family Bible Conference at Easter - Rev & Mrs Patrick Tan, organisers & participants.

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