The argument for musical diversity, part 5

06 Oct

In our earlier discussion, we noted three arguments for musical diversity in worship. These arguments have been presented (in various forms) by any number of defenders of diversity in worship; however, I believe they originate from Bob Kauflin’s work Worship Matters. I offer these paraphrases of his arguments:

  1. The multiplicity of perfections of our God cannot be rightly expressed by one style of music.
  2. Differing musical styles allow us to see different aspects of the truths expressed in the words of our songs.
  3. Musical diversity expresses that God is seeking worshipers from every tongue, tribe, and nation.

In my next posts, I will address Kauflin’s first and third arguments. I have no objections (in principle) to his second argument; we would obviously differ on the range of music that we would find acceptable for highlighting different aspects of the truth, but the point of his argument stands.

I’m going to begin with Kauflin’s third argument, not to be contrary, but because it seems to me that this third argument may well be driving much of the popular enthusiasm for worship diversity.

Let me first state that I think that Kauflin and others who use this argument are to be commended for their love for the spread of the gospel to all peoples. One major emphasis of the young Reformed movement is missions; John Piper’s work Let the Nations Be Glad has been a significant influence on my own thinking about and love for missions. The fact that a rising generation of believers is endeavoring to spread the worthiness of Christ’s name (even in dangerous places) is, obviously, a very good thing.

That being said, we do need to recognize how easy it is for us to be self-deceived, particularly about the motivations of our hearts.

The rest of this article may be perceived by some as unnecessarily inflammatory; I want to do all I can to assure you that this is not my intent. I am not, in writing this, seeking to question the motives of any particular person; I have no one in mind. I simply wish to ask us all to consider the ways in which our hearts may be shaped by the culture around us, so that what we claim to do because we are Christians is actually done because it is popular, and then baptized.

I love Asian food; in particular, I especially love Thai and Indian food. Japanese is outstanding; I’ve developed a fondness for sushi. Chinese is good. I’ve heard good things about Korean food, but haven’t had opportunity to sample that cuisine to this point.

Why would I bring up a list of favorite foods in the midst of this post? Because it would be silly of me to suggest that my love of Indian food, for instance, is really or primarily about my burden for the Hindus of Mumbai. The reality is that I like Indian food (or Thai food, etc.) because I find it tasty; to embellish my affinity for it by attributing to it a loftier motive would be, on my part, quite disingenuous.

Furthermore, one of the distinguishing features of Western culture is a curiosity about other cultures. Without question, we might point to many examples of Western imperialism imposing its own view of culture on other people groups; I don’t dispute that. But it is also Western culture that has taken the initiative to learn about other cultures, to seek to preserve their uniquenesses. This distinctive of Western society has blossomed into the near cult of multiculturalism that pervades our society today: if something is from another culture, it carries its own virtue with it. Being “from another culture” is enough reason to prize something.

Because this mindset so pervades our society today, we must cautiously consider whether our love for diversity in music is really rooted in a heart for missions, or whether missions is a convenient Christian cover for us to pursue what is already very accepted in our pagan society.

Please, again, do not misunderstand me: I am not for a moment suggesting that you are not sincere in your love for missions. I am not setting myself up as judge of your heart; I am merely suggesting that the pervasive values of our society embed themselves deeply in us, sometimes without our notice.

Let me cite a humorous example of what I’m talking about, by way of illustration. (As always, a link from this website doesn’t mean that I endorse all of the language/wordview/etc. of the site to which I’m linking.) I have been amused by the site Stuff White People Like, which spoofs the lives of the stereotypical white upper-middle class Americans.

Consider, for instance, some of these things white people like:

  1. Black Music that Black People Don’t Listen to Anymore
  2. Promising to Learn a New Language
  3. Self Aware Hip Hop References
  4. Multilingual Children
  5. Being the Only White Person Around
  6. Mos Def
  7. Sushi
  8. Being an Expert on YOUR Culture

(This list could continue for some time. I must add, for sake of completeness, Appearing to Like Classical Music.)

What you notice from this list is that “white people” (whether believing or unbelieving) stereotypically have a soft spot for anything that is from another culture. We could speculate on the motivations for this; such a discussion might profitable. Regardless of the motivation, this love of all things from other cultures is a widespread part of being a white American today; for this very reason, then, we must realize the danger that we might simply be attributing Christian language to something not distinctively Christian whatsoever.

As I mentioned earlier, I am inclined to believe that this mishmash of motives is the main driver of the advocacy of musical diversity in the church. But for now, I simply offer these thoughts for your consideration.


Posted by on October 6, 2009 in Fundamentalism, Worship


2 responses to “The argument for musical diversity, part 5

  1. Don Johnson

    October 7, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Your paraphrase of Kauflin’s points prompt this question from me: exactly what kind of diversity is he talking about? Most of the diversity I see in CCM churches is this:

    All Rock All the Time (using Rock as a loose term for all forms of contemporary music)


    Mostly Rock All the Time with some Old Hymns to Keep the Old Folks Happy and Putting $$$ in the Plate

    How diverse is that?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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