My Thoughts On BJU’s Music Philosophy

by Rick Pidcock

Earlier this week, Bob Jones University released its long awaited “Music Philosophy” paper, which you can read here. Over the past few years, I have purposefully stayed out of the fundamentalist music debates. But I’d like to share my thoughts regarding BJU’s statement.

I graduated from BJU with a B.A. in Bible in 2004. We then moved out to Denver, CO for seven years to help plant a church. And in the Fall of 2011, we moved back to Greenville. Since our return, I have attended a few BJU events, and have been pleasantly surprised by a noticeable difference from when I was a student. While I have my differences with the school, I write this response as an alumnus who wants to be able to support the school. And I believe that the vast majority of recent graduates and current students will be sympathetic to the perspective of this review.

Areas of Agreement

I am actually very happy with how much I agree with this music philosophy. First, I appreciate the desire to connect their use of music to the theological vision of the University. And second, I appreciate the acknowledgement that believers from different contexts will apply biblical principles differently. BJU’s acknowledgement of this biblical truth is a huge step forward from where they were when I graduated in 2004.

I especially liked the following introductory statement:

“Because we seek to apply biblical thinking and decision making to every issue, we must start with an examination of what the Bible says–or does not say–about music.”–BJU (emphasis mine)

The article then articulates five principles about music in general, and then five principles about sacred music in particular.

I agreed with all five of the general principles about music, which were:

  • “Music should make me more like Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).”
  • “Music should enrich my spirit in enjoyment of what God has created (1 Tim. 6:17).”
  • “Music should edify my fellow believers (Eph. 4:11-16).”
  • “Music should discourage in me the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).”
  • “Music should aid my testimony before the lost (Matt. 28:19-20) by demonstrating to them my devotion to God and distinctness from the elements of the world that are organized in opposition to God (1 John 2:5-17).”

Of the five principles about sacred music, here are the ones that I agreed with:

  • “Sacred music should focus on the attributes and acts of God (Ps. 150:2; Isa. 12:2)
  • “Sacred music should cause me to rejoice thankfully in God (Ps. 33:1; 105:2-3; 108:1,4), fulfilling the command to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut. 6:4-5; Matt. 22:37-38).
  • “Sacred music should involve the congregation as well as the platform leaders (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18-19).
  • “Sacred music should encourage the unity of the church (Eph. 4:1-6).”

Those principles are not only principles that I agree with, they are principles that I would like to echo and draw attention to. The clear, biblically accurate interpretation and application of these principles are very refreshing and encouraging to read. And this approach is very different than the chapel sermons that I heard in 2000-2004.

Areas of Disagreement

The first area of major disagreement for me came in the explanation of the principle of sacred music which said, “Sacred music should be doctrinally sound (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18-19), beautiful (Ps. 27:4, 29:2, 66:2, 96:6-9), reverent (Ps. 29:2), and fresh and vital (“a new song,” Ps. 40:3, 96:1: 98:1), not merely routine.”

To be clear, I am in total agreement with that principle. However, I have some concerns about what BJU said in the explanation section.

Here is the first section that I take issue with:

BJU Music Philosophy

There are four basic problems with BJU’s application of these passages.

1. BJU is misinterpreting these passages.

Leviticus 19:27-28 is ultimately dealing with pagan mourning and offerings to the gods of death, which the Jews had learned in Egypt.  This passage is not about having different hair styles from the culture God has placed us in, much less different music styles. If BJU is correct that Leviticus is about music style as an extension of hair style, then God would be contradicting himself in Isaiah by commanding the very thing that he condemned in Leviticus.  Isaiah 22:12 says, “In that day, the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth.”  So obviously the context points to something much different than hair style and music style. The Leviticus passage is warning against idol worship. And the Isaiah passage is a call to repentance. BJU’s decision to make these passages about music style not only misinterprets these passages, it cheapens the ultimate points of these passages.

Exodus 20:8-10 is setting apart a day of rest as a picture of the rest that we have in Christ. It is not saying that worship is something different than everyday activities.

Psalm 29:2 is a positive reinforcement of the beauty of magnifying the glorious name of God. Yet, BJU’s entire explanation is a negative warning about what worship is not, rather than a positive application of what it is.

Romans 12:1,2 is about having your mind renewed by the gospel in a way that transforms you to offer your entire life as worship to God. It is not about resisting “the natural pressure to recalibrate standards according to the musical trends of the unregenerate.” BJU is seriously reading things into the Bible that simply are not there.

2. BJU is ignoring other passages.

They do so most notably in the statements, “Our worship of Him should not look like activities that are not worship,” and “He expected worship to be distinct from everyday activities.” Yet, 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” In other words, there are no activities that are not worship, and worship is not distinct from everyday activities. Rather, worship includes every everyday activity.

3. BJU is presenting an incomplete view of God.

They say, “Because God is holy–in a class by Himself, set apart…”. They then only try to apply those three Old Testament verses. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with somebody who had been an official representative of the University at the highest levels for 30 years. This person told me, “In the Old Testament, people were afraid to even mention the name of God. So we should be very cautious in our music style just in case God might get angry with us over it.”  Many other BJU music philosophy proponents have also used similar scare tactics about God’s holiness to bolster their argument. BJU rightly acknowledges the transcendent holiness of God as described in Isaiah 6:1-5. However, in Christ, the holiness of God is transferred to us, the distant becomes near, the infinite becomes intimate, and the condemned become commissioned and confident in the holy presence of God (Isaiah 6:6-8). God was just as holy in verses 6-8 as He was in verses 1-5. But the gospel made a cowardly worshiper into a confident worshiper. And we can be just as confident because of the gospel.

4. BJU is missing what makes our worship acceptable to God.

Just as our souls are made acceptable to God only by faith in Christ, so also our worship is made acceptable to God only by faith in Christ. Consider these verses:

  • “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”–Hebrews 13:15
  • “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
    –1 Peter 2:5

BJU music philosophy proponents communicate that our music is acceptable to God through our choice of music style. They may not put it in exactly those terms. But they claim that some styles are unworthy, and some styles are worthy. Thus, their faith is in their music style, which is self-confident, self-righteous worship.

Music Policies at BJU

The statement says, “In the application of these principles, BJU’s music policies essentially will remain unchanged.” If all Scripture is profitable for correction and training in righteousness, and if BJU just did an extensive study on what Scripture says about music, then how can their applicational policies essentially remain unchanged? I thought that principles were constant, but that application may change. BJU is saying that even their applications will remain unchanged.

Questions and Answers

The statement then closes by answering three questions regarding the morality of music, associations of the song writers, and rock music.

1. Is music a matter of morality?

I actually completely agreed with their reasoning in this paragraph. They dealt very accurately with the extremes on either side. They communicated the subjectivity of music. And they said, “The elements of music (pitch, rhythm, tone quality and dynamics) communicate broadly but only imprecisely.” My only question here is that if music communicates so imprecisely, then why is BJU going to remain so precisely unchanged in their music application?

2. How do associations affect our music choices?

I was also in agreement with their reasoning in this paragraph, though I know I would probably not be as concerned about some artists as they would, which is fine.

3. How do we define rock music?

“When compared with the characteristics of other musical genres (e.g. folk music, patriotic music, classical concert music and traditional sacred music), the rock genre is distinguished by the combination of some or all of the following characteristics–sensual singing styles, dominating beat, heavy percussion, overwhelming volume and an overall atmosphere that counteracts self-control, especially when coupled in performance with elements such as defiant demeanor, immodest attire, sexually suggestive dancing or crude gestures. Attempts to couple worldly vehicles like rock music (and other pop styles) with sacred lyrics and settings create a moral tension for the believer and contradict the Christian’s call to a consecrated approach to life (Rom. 12:1-2).”–BJU Music Philosophy Statement

This paragraph completely bewildered me two particular levels.

First, the description of performance elements is completely foreign to my church’s worship. The reason I bring my church’s worship into this discussion is that BJU has blacklisted my church due to our rock music style of worship. Never once have I seen our worship team exhibit “defiant demeanor, immodest attire, sexually suggestive dancing or crude gestures.” So BJU is completely building a straw man here.

Second, the description of the rock genre characteristics seems to me to be taken straight from Scripture.

BJU Rock Music 1BJU Rock Music 2

My Conclusion

For the most part, I was very happy with the overall tone and structure of the BJU Music Philosophy statement. I agreed with nine of the ten principles about music. I also appreciate that they identified this issue as a “debatable issue” of “Romans 14.” That one admission alone would have never been made when I was a student from 2000-2004. My main concerns are that their philosophy is incomplete, and that the missing parts are very significant factors regarding the acceptability of our worship. By leaving these parts out, BJU has ultimately built a theological structure in which our worship is offered by faith in our style, rather than in Christ. By refusing to change their applications, they have become hearers of the Word, and not doers.  And by expecting their students to live according to their extra-biblical standards, they have created an environment that the students for the most part have never and will never be in again.  If BJU is serious about preparing young people for real life, then they should create an environment that allows for both strong and weak believers to exercise Romans 14 together, rather than forcing everybody to live as weak believers.

BJU started this article off by saying, “We must start with an examination of what the Bible says–or does not say–about music” (emphasis mine). I agree with that. And as a graduate who would like to support them, I would encourage them to re-evaluate how much of their music philosophy statement says things that the Bible simply “does not say.”  I’m very grateful for the progress that has been made. And I will be praying for them to continue growing in the years to come.

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20 thoughts on “My Thoughts On BJU’s Music Philosophy

  1. Rick, It has been a while since talking with you. I seem to recall that the Author of “God on the Quad” quoted you or your brother when a student as saying that rock music in worship was acceptable. I fail to see how your opinion here differs from that kernel thought nine years ago. And you have set your standards according to your initial “extra biblical” rationalization. If this continues to be your course then positively pursue it for God’s glory. Stop tearing down the institution from which you graduated. Comparing yourself with others is not wise.

    Secondly, Miriam and Aaron took those same tambourines (drums) to lead the Israelites into sexual debauchery as Moses was on the mount receiving the ten commandments. It sounded as the sound of warfare to the ears of Joshua until Moses correctly diagnosed the means of worship of the golden calf that was abhorrent to the most high. Moses then intervened on their behalf and prevented their extinction.

    Third, there is the principle of vain (empty) and profane repetition (2 Timothy 2:16). Repeating empty words in a religious conversation will increase to more ungodliness. Mindless singing of any type is not worship regardless of what chords are driving them. We must engage our thoughts and heart regardless of external stimuli.

    I am glad you have incorporated scriptures into your position to engage an Holy God with your complete physical person, but to condemn 600 years of hymns to justify contemporary devices of worship seems selfish at best. I know many fellow believers who choose to worship God with high sounding amplifiers, I have never condemned them. I respect those who quietly have chosen to engage it without condemning other worship styles, even traditional ones. I have had little respect for those who look down on others who have not arrived at their level of freedom in the “Gospel.” As Paul says there is no difference neither Greek nor Jew, Bond nor free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ.

    Finally, stop bristling when BJU affirms its music standards, when you should be positively affirming others schools like NIU who are feeling the weight of engaging your music and worship standards. Why not do a positive article on how you fully support them instead? They could use it and may even be benefited by a timely positive endorsement of their present music philosophy. Be strong in the Lord and do not simply assume that your rigorous worship is acceptable to Him unconditionally.

    Kind regards.

    1. Andy,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You must have a good memory to remember the “God On the Quad” conversation. The author attended one of our classes. And my teacher, who is currently an administrator at BJU, asked us to speak with her and told us to be honest with her. So when she asked about music, I shared with her my thoughts.

      Regarding Miriam, the passage that I quoted was in Exodus 15. It was the song of Moses following the crossing of the Red Sea. It comes five chapters before the Ten Commandments. So that particular situation had nothing to do with sexual debauchery. But to be clear, sexual debauchery has nothing to do with the music style. If it was connected to the drum-dominated dancing music style of Exodus 15, then God would not have commanded us after the fact to “Praise Him with the tambourine and dance” (Ps. 150:4).

      Regarding vain repetition or mindless singing, I am not advocating that at all. I’m not sure where you read that in my article. But if it’s there, then please let me know so I can remove it.

      I also don’t know where I condemned 600 years of hymnody. If it’s there, then please let me know so I can remove it. I use hymns all the time when I lead worship.

      I did not intend to “Tear apart the institution” from which I graduated, nor “bristling when BJU affirms its music standards.” In fact, every piece of feedback that I’ve gotten in private about this article has been positive. Even BJU supporters have expressed that they appreciated how positive I was about BJU in this article. Agreeing with 9 out of 10 of their principles, and then explaining how I disagree with them on a Scriptural level regarding the 10th principle is not tearing them apart. It’s honest feedback from an alumnus. It’s just like any book review would be handled.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. But I really think that you’re jumping to conclusions that I never intended to lead you to.

      1. Rick,

        Simply because you only receive positive comments in private is no justification for rationalizations. Rehoboam made that mistake with very negative consequences. I do not have to jump anywhere to glean that you are not a “fundamentalist”and that you do not practice said standards from what is written in your “review.” You have made your choice in utilizing drums and guitars, instead of organs and orchestral arrangements (which have been the norm for 600 years) and that is fine. You don’t want anyone to say you can’t, that is where I hold you to account. You can have a negative opinion about about the 10% of their long lived institutional music standard, but they can’t say why they believe that the standard you have embraced is antithetical to how they allow students to pursue the worship of God. Students have their rest of their lives to worship God in the manner that they feel is best (if I might use you for an example), but for the time that BJU is in loco parentis regarding worship this paper is the standard that they have historically maintained. I am sorry that students cannot attend your church because of how you engage God in musical worship. Should BJU change to accommodate every genre of music? No. I certainly hope that you don’t do that for your constituents.

        Trying to discredit the point that Miriam would have used the same instruments to provide clamorous worship of the calf a few weeks after the song of Moses was sung and danced to is weak at best.

        Vain and empty babblings is pretty straight forward. Having never attended your worship service, I do not know if it might apply to you directly. Typically repeating a phrase over and over is more common in contemporary music within our worship circles than in hymns that might be sung on campus at BJU. So again I feel that it is pertinent to this discussion. It is a biblical point that places Rock music in a category that might increase to more ungodliness. (I made this point years ago at the YMCA ministry and those teens understood the scriptural point, so I do not understand its lack of clarity here.)

        Finally when you disagree with an institution with only ten percent on a minor philosophy regarding music is not consistent with purposefully staying out of the music debate. You have very little to nothing to do with the school since you left. You did not write the article to magnify your agreement and the partnership tha you continue to have with the school. If they do have full agreement with your position in the future, and the need for articles of agreement are no longer needful (as this one seems to be), then I still do not think that you will support them with your gifts and the matriculation of your children as students there. Again I appreciate that as well. You have the same freedom as an alumnus to assert your Gracious disagreement with them as I do of your review of their opinion.

        I am sorry that a different view that is not completely amenable to this review has put me at odds with you. I thought that is what a reply button is for. If you want to provide a private means for us to talk then call me or post that means here. Well gotta go. You should take advantage of the many benefits that BJU still have to offer you and your church family while God allows them to be available. Tell your parents hi and your siblings as well.

  2. Andy,

    I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts here, whether I agree with you or not. I believe that I have been very gracious with BJU in this review. And I will continue to support them by taking advantage of the opportunities that they provide to the community, as I have been regularly over the past year since we moved back.

  3. BJU is seriously reading things into the Bible that simply are not there.

    Rick, I believe you are seriously reading things out of the Bible that simply are there. Romans 12:2 commands us to not be conformed to the world. Instead, we are to be transformed by renewing our minds. These verses require an active non-conformance to the world through time, the Greek word for “world” being αἰῶνι (often translated “age”) not κόσμος. The aspect of time involves trends, so BJU is entirely correct in that application.

    1. David,

      In order to properly interpret and apply this passage, you have to define it in its proper context. Romans 1-11 details the theology of the gospel’s transformation. In response to the gospel, we are called to not be conformed to this world. But what does that mean? That phrase by itself could lead to all kinds of unnecessary applications. For example, this age includes things like sports, modes of transportation, modern technologies, human language, fabric type, electricity, and many other things. So we need more information to understand how to apply this passage more precisely.

      The next phrase says, “But be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” So the transformation that Paul is calling us to is a renewed mind. And what does it mean to have a renewed mind? That’s where Romans 1-11 comes into play. A renewed mind is one that has been transformed from idol worship to spiritual worship by the gospel. So it is the gospel that gives us discernment regarding the will of God.

      BJU, however, made this passage about an external behavior, rather than about an internal transformation. They said, “The Christian is to live with the INTENTIONAL AIM of resisting the EXTERNAL PRESSURE OF THE WORLD to conform…to RECALIBRATE STANDARDS ACCORDING TO THE MUSIC TRENDS of the unregenerate.”

      Again, I will say that this passage is not about trying really hard to choose different musical styles than the ones that are currently popular among the unsaved people in your culture. BJU redefined an internal transformation of the mind as an external behavioral attempt to have different musical styles than unsaved people. That is both reading into the Bible something that is not there, and redefining what is there..

      I have not read things out of the Bible. I’ve simply more accurately explained this text within its original context.

      1. Rick,

        Thanks for replying to my post. I see that I am not going to convince you of anything, but I am not convinced by your reply, either, for the following reasons:

        I see this as the crucial flaw in your view: “The next phrase says, ‘But be transformed by the renewal of your mind.’ So the transformation that Paul is calling us to is a renewed mind.”

        Your summary does not reflect what the text says. The text describes both a means and an end. The end is a transformation. The means to that end is the renewal of your mind. So Paul is not calling us to a renewed mind. He is calling us to non-conformism and a transformation by the means of a renewed mind. He is calling us to much more than a renewed mind. It is an error of plain grammar to say the transformation is a renewed mind.

        The passage continues, “that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect” (emphasis added). We are not able to prove anything that goes on only in our minds. There will be visible fruit that demonstrates a renewed mind, and two of those things are non-conformism to this age and a transformation.

        You mention the context of Romans 1-11. Romans 7 is a classic passage where Paul longs for his actions to follow his mind: “for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” So you oversimplify the context if you say the transformation is limited to the something merely internal. Romans 6 also has a lot to say about the members of our bodies, not just the mind.

        Further passages that are clear that there must be an external manifestation of a renewed mind:

        James 2:18: But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

        Jam 1:22: But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

        So I still maintain that you are seriously reading things out of the Bible that simply are there.
        Act 26:20: . . . but kept declaring . . . that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.

  4. I read your article out of interest to find out what people thought of the music philosophy. I have appreciation and concerns, too, and I am trying to be fair with both sides.

    Two main concerns I have about the agreements and disagreements you present are these:

    1) Their potential misapplication of Scripture. It seems that some of the verses you cite are also potentially misapplied. I don’t want to debate or go verse by verse in your article, so for sake of example: the rock genre characteristics chart listing Scripture with the thoughts/applications seems on the same level of stretching Scripture. To cite David and Michal’s disagreement and then to automatically take David’s side and make it a proof text for how to worship when the passage does not..this is a leap. Based on the lack of a divine verdict of the situation in that passage, one could also say that Michal had valid reasons and that he should have honored the opinion of one of his many wives. An example is not a command. To turn “fainting and thirsting for God” into a proof text for singing as if we are making romantic overtures to our spouse…again, a leap. Not that my experience means anything, but in my life, when thirsting and fainting for God I am in a quiet place begging God to show Himself strong in my life. Anyway, my point is…I think potential arguments against their philosophy/explanation are greatly weakened when the same sort of interpretation is used..

    2) The conclusion.

    BJU’s music philosophy is gracious in regards to other believers..

    Although the answers will be based on biblical teaching that is valid for all believers at all times, we recognize that these answers involve the application of those teachings to our specific context and institutional mission. Other institutions, congregations and individuals may apply them differently based
    upon their own earnest efforts to reflect scriptural principles within their respective contexts and in keeping with their unique institutional, congregational or personal missions.

    and then later

    All believers have identical individual standing and responsibility before God when it comes to debatable issues (Rom. 14:4, 10–12, 22). Our relationship to Christians who exercise their stewardship of this through the consecrated approach taught and called for in Romans 12:1–2 should be respectful enough to allow for differences between us that are the result of our respective earnest efforts to understand and consistently apply scriptural principles to this issue. This posture promotes unity and mutual edification in the truth (Eph. 4:15–16).

    Now the contrast to some of your conclusion

    “By leaving these parts out, BJU has ultimately built a theological structure in which our worship is offered by faith in our style, rather than in Christ. By refusing to change their applications, they have become hearers of the Word, and not doers. And by expecting their students to live according to their extra-biblical standards, they have created an environment that the students for the most part have never and will never be in again. If BJU is serious about preparing young people for real life, then they should create an environment that allows for both strong and weak believers to exercise Romans 14 together, rather than forcing everybody to live as weak believers.”

    This rhetoric disheartens me as in the end we must all give an account of ourselves to God. Whatever is not of faith is sin. To insist that others change after they have given thoughtful consideration and prayer for the path they believe to be God-pleasing…we cannot in turn be the legalist that demands and demeans them to sin against their conscience.

    I, too, attended BJU, and I am perplexed by the real-world argument. It is the real world to learn to get lead or live within family, employers/fellow employees, believers, etc. There are rules, principles, guidelines, and applications that are chosen or agreed to within all of life. Choosing to attending BJU (where it is their right to choose the path they believe best glorifies the Lord) is simply another opportunity for the believer to get along in the Lord or to leave as they believe the Lord leads. As for the strong and weak believers, it is real Christian life to selflessly honor the weak brother. “But when you sin so against the brothers, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” If BJU is the weak brother, we should graciously acknowledge the right to worship as they believe.
    Striving to keep a higher ground in their standards so that a wide variety of believers may benefit for what the school has to offer is love not force.

    It is my prayer that the they will essentially remain unchanged so that my children can experience the BJU that I grew to greatly respect. I have not and do not always agree with the ins and outs of their views and applications, but the Lord taught me much there about Himself. And learning many “old” hymns of the faith (but new to me)…well, that hasn’t hurt either 🙂

    1. Anne,

      Thanks for the lengthy interaction. Regarding the David and Michal story, I agree with you that its more of an example, rather than a command. While there is no record of God reprimanding David, there also is no record of Him condoning it either. The greater point that I wanted to communicate in the application part is that while my church uses a rock style, we do not lose control of our bodies. Perhaps I used a passage that didn’t quite fit.

      I also want to clarify the God/spouse comment. I’m not advocating that we sing to God exactly as we would sing to a spouse. I’m just saying that our vocal tone and quality is going to have some consistency, no matter who or what we are singing to. Whether I sing to my wife, my kids, to God, or at community events, my vocal tone may differ to a degree. But there will be some natural similarities. And when the level of emotion involved goes to the degree of “fainting and thirsting,” the distinction in vocal tone is probably going to be less noticeable. Perhaps I’m making this too confusing. But I just don’t think we can say that we have to change our vocal tone to something unnatural to us when we sing to our Husband and our Father. Some BJU people have said that my voice sounds sensual. And everybody else who knows me would die laughing at the thought of my voice sounding sensual. I’m just singing naturally. And I’m not going to try to put on a different singing tone when I sing to God just to make sure that it sounds different than when I sing to my wife.

      Regarding BJU/Romans 14, I really appreciate BJU’s statement about that. And I tried to communicate my support of that in another section of my article. It’s just that I wish they would apply Romans 14 as well as believe it. While they claim to believe in Romans 14, they require all of their students to act as weaker brothers. Why can’t they create an environment where weak and strong brothers can live together in unity, without requiring the strong brothers to live as weak brothers even when the strong brothers are in the privacy of their rooms with headphones?

      BJU has the right to use whatever style they want to use. And I wouldn’t try to change that, even if I don’t prefer the style. I just wish that they would apply Romans 14 within their institution in the same way that they now have changed to apply it towards those outside of their institution.

      And lastly, I agree about the “old” hymns of the faith. I am a big proponent of using hymns in worship.

      Thanks again for your thoughts. It was a healthy push back that was helpful to hear.

      1. Thanks for the thoughtful response. I did have a couple of questions seeking your opinion that I had left out due to length. Your response brought them to mind again.

        1) I had read a commenter on another site actually encouraged by BJU’s graciousness to other music philosophies/applications. They had read those sentences to mean that BJU would no longer separate on music. Did you take it to mean that way? From the language used, I can see how someone would come to that. This makes me wonder if Northland will still be called a “sister school”, and if their list of approved churches would be broadened. Since you had said your church was not approved, I wondered what your initial reaction was.

        2) You seem to indicate that there is a line that can be crossed with being too sensual, too worldly, immodest, etc. Without being accused of being extra-biblical or legalistic, what is your opinion on how a church or Christian school should handle not letting a line being crossed. Who’s to judge, decide…how should that change implemented without once again offending a weaker brother and inhibiting a stronger brother. Since Northland is a recent example of shifting (and creating such division and embarrassment), I am left wondering.

  5. David,

    Thanks for the reply. After reading your comment, and re-reading what I had written, I can see how you would feel the way you do about what I communicated. So I’d like to clarify a couple of things that I was unclear on.

    I agree with your assertion that the text describes both a means and a practical end. I agree that he is calling for much more than just an internal renewed mind. I also agree with you that there will be “visible fruit that demonstrates a renewed mind, and two of those things are non-conformism to this age and a transformation.”

    My belief, taking the rest of scripture as well, is that conformism to the world would be defined as living according to the works of the flesh, and that transformation by the means of a renewed mind would be defined as living out the fruit of the Spirit.

    I also believe that we can play music in a way that pursues the works of the flesh, and in a way that lives out the fruit of the Spirit. I do not, however, believe that Romans 12:1,2 is calling Christians to create a music style that unbelievers do not use. In my mind, that specific application goes beyond what the text is communicating. BJU’s paper, in my opinion, overlooked the inside out transformation, and simply made it about being different by choosing different music styles.

    I know you may still not agree with me. But does that at least clarify more what I’m thinking?

    1. Hi, Rick. Thanks again for following up.

      You said,

      My belief, taking the rest of scripture as well, is that conformism to the world would be defined as living according to the works of the flesh. . . .

      I don’t agree. The world and the flesh are distinct in the Bible. If the world were to disappear this instant, I would still have my flesh to battle, so overcoming the flesh and not conforming to the world are not necessarily the same thing. The world and the flesh, however, are definitely allies in the battle against God’s work in our lives.

      You also say,

      I do not, however, believe that Romans 12:1,2 is calling Christians to create a music style that unbelievers do not use. In my mind, that specific application goes beyond what the text is communicating.

      I don’t see that as an accurate description of what BJU is explaining in that document, but I’m writing too much already. So I’ll zero in on the second sentence and address a foundational issue.

      “Be not conformed to this world” is a general command with no specificity in application. We can come to only two non-arbitrary conclusions in light of that. 1) Because nothing is specified, it applies to nothing. 2) Because nothing is specified, it applies to everything. Drawing a line somewhere between those two extremes would be completely arbitrary. If you accept 1, then of course it does not apply to music. If you accept 2, then of course it does apply to music.

      1. David,

        It’s been a few days. So I don’t know if you’re still reading this thread or not. But if you are, here are a couple of thoughts.

        First, I do not make a very hard distinction between the world and the flesh. My reason for this is that 1 John 2:15-16 warns us to not love the world, and then defines that as “the lust of the flesh.” So when Romans 14 warns us to not conform to this world, I think I have warrant to define that as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” all concepts which are found throughout Romans 1-11.

        Regarding BJU’s statement on Romans 12, they said that we “must resist the natural pressure to recalibrate standards according to the musical trends of the unregenerate.” In my mind, that seems like a fancy way of saying that Christians should create different music styles than ones that unsaved people use.

        Finally, you have set up a false dichotomy. A third option would be that the principle of not conforming to the world can be defined primarily by using the whole of Scripture that defines conforming to the world, and in areas that the Bible does not spell out, by using wisdom and having a Romans 14 attitude toward others who apply it differently.

  6. Anne,

    Sorry it took a while to approve your comment and respond. It’s been a long day.

    Regarding your first question, yes, that’s how I took it too. And I was very happy with how they stated that.

    Regarding your second question about the line, I believe that the issue is a posture of the heart and the object of the faith, rather than a style of music. For example, you can play rock music with a heart that is full of fits of rage, which is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19). To me, the problem there is a heart issue. It is not a music style issue. You can also play classical music with a heart of self-righteousness. To me, the problem there is a heart issue as well, rather than a music style issue. So I do not believe in a music style line, where one side of it is worthy of God and the other is sin. I believe that all styles can be offered sinfully or righteously, depending on the posture of the heart, the confidence of the worshiper being in Christ rather than in their performance or style choice, and the effect of the communication toward edification or corruption.

    I believe that Christian schools should primarily deal with the posture of the heart and the object of the faith, should draw lines where the Bible clearly draw lines, and allow for an environment of Romans 14 within their walls just as they now allow for it outside of their walls. That mindset would require applying wisdom to individual situations, which would be more messy, involve more mistakes, and be much harder than just making blanket statement rules. But in the long run, I believe it will be a much deeper and lasting way to disciple and prepare the students for real life.

  7. Hopefully this will be my last comment, and then you’ll have time for your next blog post! Thanks for your willingness to calmly give and take on this topic. I’ve wanted to understand better those who believe as you do–not for the sake of arguing or even debating, but for understanding. It has been profitable for me, and I do not want my final comments to be taken as arguing. I am burdened to make an appeal for reciprocal understanding from “the other side”.

    After re-reading your article and all comments/replies again, I went to Romans 14 to read it anew. It seems both of our conclusions on the matter seem to hinge on this passage.

    Romans 14
    Principles of Conscience 1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

    I’m not sure I’ve gotten so much out of the passage before our discussion. After reading and thinking about it again, I have come to the realization that, though I am not persuaded that musical styles are as neutral as food, I will go so far as to accept the label of the weaker Christian.

    STYLES OF MUSIC on a personal level:

    FOR YOU:
    “I believe that the issue is a posture of the heart and the object of the faith, rather than a style of music.” “I believe that all styles can be offered sinfully or righteously, depending on the posture of the heart, the confidence of the worshiper being in Christ rather than in their performance or style choice, and the effect of the communication toward edification or corruption.”

    FOR ME:
    I believe that a style of music does affect my heart’s posture. I believe that I cannot offer certain styles of music righteously. I believe that certain styles of music cannot edify me.

    For me, various styles of music do bring a host of “works of the flesh” to mind whether by association or past experience. They do not lift me up or help me focus wholly on the Lord. I do not feel like I am judgmental to those who disagree (hopefully I haven’t come across that way). I may be grieved and not want to be a part of it, but I do it for conscience sake to please the Lord. He is my Master, not fellow Christians. If I am “wrong”, then the Lord can work in my heart and life as He wills. But for now, I am condemned in partaking of certain styles of music, because my partaking is not from faith. “And whatever is not from faith is sin.” Because of this, I naturally gravitate toward more conservative corporate believer situations believing that for me and my children, it is the best path for us. Where we live, it has been a struggle to find a conservative church, and we have tried to graciously attend less than ideal (for me) situations. I have not argued or even brought up the topic as it is their church/their choice/my choice to attend. In those years, the music did not re-grow on me, it only served to remind me of why I knew I didn’t want it in my life. It made me continue to pray for a place where my children could see and hear, and dare I add, feel the difference . The Lord has graciously answered that prayer. Our children still comment on the worshipful services. I am grateful. For me, I am strengthened. I believe this is the best path.

    Can you hear me pleading for my soul liberty 🙂 As you are probably weary of some harsher than necessary reactions to your view, I am weary by the harsher than necessary reactions to my views. I have had my share of comments from people who “find out” my views. As in, “that is so ridiculous, loosen up” etc. I haven’t even looked through all of your blog site. Perhaps you are a pastor…maybe you would have some influence on how we all treat each other 🙂

    STYLES OF MUSIC on a corporate level:

    This is a little harder topic for me to navigate through. Hopefully I will make sense. My opinions stem from my opinions on music on a personal level.

    FOR YOU:
    “I believe that Christian schools should primarily deal with the posture of the heart and the object of the faith, should draw lines where the Bible clearly draw lines, and allow for an environment of Romans 14 within their walls just as they now allow for it outside of their walls.”

    FOR ME:
    “I believe that Christian school leaders should be free, just as local churches and believers are free, to decide how the Lord would have them lead their students.”

    Again, the leaders are Christians. Again, for me, I see this as a matter of their conscience. They should not allow for things they believe are sin or not for the best if they believe it isn’t God-honoring. Again, weaker brother or no, they answer to the Lord. Romans 14 does not demand that the weaker change their ways. In contrast, “God has accepted him.” “The Lord is able to make him stand.” And it is sin if he doesn’t live according to his conscience.

    As a parent with a child, one prayerfully guides his family. Yes, there are times for clear rules for safety, for order, for conscience, and for so many reasons. The parent is accountable to God. When the child leaves home, he takes what he has lovingly (hopefully) been taught, and he then, in turn is accountable to God.

    Back to the original topic of BJU’s Music Philosophy. When I first read their statement, it was the BJU I knew, until the ambiguous parts where they are either being extra gracious or charting a new course. Hopefully they will clarify. My prayer is for any changes to be made carefully rather than from unnecessary pressure or fear. They have served a great number and variety of Christians with their past balance, and for me, it would be sad to lose one of the few more conservative options (or, rather, options for “weaker brethren” :). May they be prayerful and fully persuaded of their direction.

    I guess I am arguing with Christianity in general when I say I am hoping for us all (both sides) to live a little more graciously, a little more respectfully. It is one thing to debate the issues, or to believe the other is sincerely wrong, or even to pray for God to change hearts or close doors. But it is another thing to not respect people’s consciences and leave it to the Lord. Healthy debate is good and profitable. We are human and prone to error. We need to defend biblically what we believe seeking to prove what is acceptable to the Lord.. After that?

    12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

    I am so sorry for the length. I feel ready to move on now…relieved? Shall we now find some potentially common ground and pull out a recent Soundforth recording with a “sanctified” SGM number on it? LOL.

    Thanks again for your time, thoughts, and civility.

    1. Anne,

      I appreciate your interaction here. I know we’ve pretty much wrapped up our discussion. But I just wanted to echo a couple of your thoughts.

      You said, “I believe that a style of music does affect my heart’s posture. I believe that I cannot offer certain styles of music righteously. I believe that certain styles of music cannot edify me.”

      I completely agree with you here. Music does affect our heart’s posture. So for that reason, I believe that music is a form of communication that can either build us up or tear us down. I believe that the effect, however, is going to differ from heart to heart based on a number of factors. There are also music styles that do not edify me. So while I believe others are free to listen to those styles if those styles edify them, I would rather not listen to those styles since they do not edify me.

      You also said, “I believe that Christian school leaders should be free, just as local churches and believers are free, to decide how the Lord would have them lead their students.”

      I also agree with this statement. While I wish they would lead their students differently, I agree that they are accepted in Jesus and should be accepted by me as well.

      Thanks for the dialogue!

  8. Rick,
    I recently re-connected with your dad on FB. He was my high school math teacher. 🙂 Small world.

    Once I stepped out of the circle of religious belief that included a lot of rule and regulations to tell you how to “check” off your success at Christianity, I stepped into a world with church beliefs that taught me true grace, love, and relationship with Christ.
    I find it interesting that people commenting on here want to waste their time arguing principle. Isn’t this where Christian liberty comes in? We were never taught how to exercise our liberties. I don’t find any set of rules for music in the Bible. However, passages on the heart and how we are to manage that are extensive. If more time was spent showing students where their hearts should be, BJU’s music policy could be a lot shorter.
    Side note, I felt you were very gracious in your thought process. But what do I know…I am an English teacher who applies the Bible to my every day life. I don’t think God meant to send contradictory messages in His word. I think as humans we make it contradictory because we interpret it, and think all those who do not see the same Non-doctrinal issues as we do are wrong.
    Thanks for speaking truth.

  9. Hi, Rick,
    I can’t tell if you are actively blogging these days, but I just had a question per our earlier conversation this year. At some point I asked you if you thought the updated music guidelines gave you hope that one day BJU students could attend your church. I think you said yes (I didn’t wade through all the comments above to remember our precise back and forth :).
    What are your thoughts now after the school year has begun? It is my understanding (though not verified) that students are now, with parental permission, able to attend a wider variety of churches. They still have a church list to help students, but it’s not a required/limited list per se. For instance,Do you know if this is true? Is your church now an option for students now that they attend area churches on Sunday mornings and just need parental permission? I do not know which church you go to. I understand students can now go to North Hills which, from what I can tell, would agree with your music views.

    Could you look at the following link and let me know if you think this is far more generous wording (doesn’t sound like any limitations to me, though the handbook still says must be a “fundamental” church but doesn’t define fundamental) than in the past?

    http://www.bju.edu/admission/admitted-students/before-you-get-here/choosing-a-church.php

    I like your perspective because I know you seem to have longed for some of these changes and can recognize them better. People on “my side” 🙂 seem to have a blinded loyalty to not be able to recognize the changes honestly. I promise no debating or arguing over anything…just was hoping for an update from your perspective.

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