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Historical Trends of Music & Theology

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

This article and several articles to follow on the areas of Christian music are a complete rewrite of an article I authored about 20 years ago. Point by point, I hope to help build a consciousness of what is happening around us.


The story of the “Pied Piper” is a classic where people hire a flutist to rid their village overrun with mice. After accomplishing this great feat and the villagers failing to pay him his rightful due, he uses his music to cause the children to follow him out of the village. The children gleefully follow the Piper but left behind are bewildered parents. They become dumbfounded at what the Pied Piper’s music has done, take their children from them.

Music has a convincing and alluring quality. In some way, it moves almost everyone. The story of the Pied Piper is fictitious. But music in the real world can also move people along a pathway that might seem pleasurable now, but not disclose its eventual destination. I submit that there is a grave danger for Christians and the Church that lurks behind the musical choices being made and why. And it is a danger indicating where we are likely headed theologically.


I realize some feel that music is amoral, but that is not the point of this article. I will address the amoral/moral issue in another blog piece; however, I write presently under the belief that music can convey ideas of morality. The purpose of this article is to show the historical significance of what is happening at present as it concerns the future.


In the book Escape from Reason, Francis A. Schaeffer shows historically how philosophical changes among freethinkers eventually affect various disciplines. For example, he reveals timelines of how secular existentialism (ethical thought based on free human behavior) leads to religious existentialism. That is, the free-thinking that drives secular ethics will eventually show up in religious thinking and ethics. He goes further to reveal that the existential ideas of philosophers have an increasing appearance in and effect on the following disciplines and in this order: philosophy→art→music→general culture→theology (1990, p. 234f).

Although theology is the last affected, it eventually is. Also note that one of the earlier indicators historically those changes are coming in thought and experience is music. That is, philosophical thought changes within the secular realm as philosophers view their reality in new ways. Then, artists and musicians gradually begin to pick up and reveal those changes of perception through their arts: those fields that lend themselves to new, innovative, and creative invention. Later, these philosophical changes begin to show up in general culture. It doesn't mean that anything new is necessarily affected by philosophical existentialism; however, it does show the historical process by which it can come.

General culture will be influenced to accept an introspective philosophy for deciding what is right or wrong!

As a result of this process, theological beliefs can gradually change because of the changing views of the prevailing culture. It’s not that the foundation of theology will have changed; the Bible will still be the Word of God because it's forever settled in Heaven! However, how general culture thinks about the Word of God and theology will change. And this is where the problem eventually lies.

This process is true not only for the world culture generally but also for the church culture specifically. The musical styles prevalent in today’s Christian circles are not necessarily the cause of the upcoming theological shift, but these are an indication of the underlying influence and direction these represent. There now seems to be a prevailing rationale within Christendom that judges musical choices based on philosophical logic: personal taste, attractiveness, etc. We will later deal with these ideas; regardless, it’s this philosophical justification that seems to rule the day.

There are many issues related to this subject, and in time, I want to address them. For now, I want us to consider what history is telling us. It indicates that general culture will be influenced to accept an introspective philosophy for deciding what is right or wrong, or what is less acceptable or more acceptable. This approach will affect both the Christian and the Church; and it will eventually affect how the Word of God and theology are viewed. The initial indicator of this change is happening right now in front of us. It's the change in our music and that is because we are changing our philosophy on how to choose it.

We need a revival of our philosophy so we might have a revival in our music.

Please let us know your thoughts related to the ideas expressed in this article. Other blog entries will address more of these areas related to music, and I invite your discussion there.

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