Sunday, May 12, 2013
Music in the Mission of BJU
The mission of Bob Jones University is to grow Christlike character that is scripturally disciplined, others‐
serving, God‐loving, Christ‐proclaiming and focused above. We fulfill this mission using a variety of
methods, tools and resources, including public proclamation of the Word in chapel services and special
meetings, a biblically integrated curriculum, opportunities for Christian service, and a faculty and staff
who endeavor to model Christ to our students.
What role does the music that we perform and listen to play in our mission?How can we use music to
grow Christlike character in our students?How can music hinder or thwart our efforts? This document
is an attempt to answer those questions succinctly.
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.
While biblical truth is non negotiable, application in specific cultural and institutional contexts may differ.
In particular, since music is such a dominant cultural force in the contemporary West—to a greater
degree, apparently,than it has been throughout most of history—application of biblical principles in this
area is likely to be controversial, touching strongly held opinions across a spectrum of choices.
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.
Biblical Principles in Music
Music reflects the beauty and goodness of God and is a gift from the Creator intended for our
enjoyment and spiritual elevation. It is an important part of every believer’s life, both in his worship of
God—his primary mission—and in his interaction with his culture(s) as he carries out Christ’s Great
Commission. Because music resonates with the spirit of mankind in ways that make it a powerful
influence on our thinking and behavior, our decisions about music often have significant consequences
on our spiritual health—and consequently often have moral implications as well. The Bible has much to
say about the use of music in worship. It also speaks often about the motives that should govern the
believer’s broader lifestyle as he moves in the world.
• Music should make me more like Christ(2 Cor. 3:18).
Christ’s character is perhaps best reflected in what He identified as the two greatest
commandments:to love God completely and to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:34–40).
The practical application of these broad principles appears in Paul’s summary of “the fruit of the
Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–23). Like everything else he welcomes into his life,the believer’s music should
promote truth, dignity, justice, purity and loveliness as well as be admirable to onlookers(Phil. 4:8).• Music should enrich my spirit in enjoyment of what God has created (1 Tim 6:17).
The believer’s experiences need not be clearly religious in order to be spiritually profitable; God has
indeed “given us richly all things to enjoy,” and there is a place for simple enjoyment of beauty and
for enrichment by expanding one’s knowledge and experience. It is appropriate for the believer
simply to listen to music for entertainment.
• Music should edify my fellow believers (Eph. 4:11–16).
The believer’s lifestyle choices are not made in a vacuum; he is a member of the larger body of
Christ. Thus, his choices can affect his fellow believers. Paul warns that the believer must not
encourage another believer to violate his conscience, even when that believer’s conscience is
misinformed, and that the believer willingly and gladly gives up genuine rights and liberties for the
sake of the health of other believers(1 Cor. 8:4–13). Similarly, even careless or thoughtless practices
that create or accentuate differences between believers (e.g., 1 Cor. 11:17–22) violate the essential
unity we all have in Christ(Gal. 3:28). Believers need to act with primary concern not for their own
liberties but for the well‐being of their fellow believers(Phil. 2:4). This is a legitimate test of our
devotion to Christ’s two great commandments(Gal. 5:14).
• Music should discourage in me the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19–21).
By contrast,then,music that encourages contrary character qualities—sexual impurity, devotion to
competing gods, division, short‐temperedness, self‐centeredness, carousing “and the like” (Gal.
5:21)—the believer should reject and avoid. Even beyond this,though,the believer’s music should
positively empower him against these things.
• 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).
There is much in the world system that signifies its rejection of God’s rightful sovereignty and will.
The believer cannot appear to endorse those elements, even with the intention of building bridges
for evangelism. Biblical examples of evangelism are empowered by the Spirit, not by psychological
manipulation or deception (1 Thess. 2:3–6).
• Sacred music should focus on the attributes and acts of God (Ps. 150:2; Isa. 12:2).
Worship is primarily addressed to God for praising His objectively revealed perfections rather
than to the worshiper for connecting with his subjectively perceived needs or interests. The focus of worship in the Bible is the recounting of truths about God—primarily His attributes and
His works—and the consequent response of the worshiper in praise.
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).
As the worshiper meditates on God’s person and works—through prayer,song and the hearing
of the Word—his Spirit‐driven response will be gratitude and the consequent desire to trust,
obey and serve God. His direction will be toward surrender to and thoughts of God rather than
to his own needs and benefits. Love for God yields focus on His benefit, not our own.
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.
Because God is holy—in a class by Himself,set apart—our worship of Him should not look like
activities that are not worship or that are false worship.God forbade practices in Israel that
merely resembled pagan worship practices (Lev. 19:27–28), and He expected worship to be
distinct from everyday activities (e.g., Exod. 20:8–10; Ps. 29:2; and much elsewhere). Paul tells
us that based on God’s great work in us, everything we do must not be “conformed to this
world” (Rom. 12:1–2)—that is,the Christian is to live with the intentional aim of resisting the
external pressure of the world to conform. Our sacred music, as well as all of our music and
actions, must resist the natural pressure to recalibrate standards according to the musical
trends of the unregenerate. Jesus frequently criticized the religious leaders of His day for their
mindless, unfeeling practice of religious ritual (Matt. 6:7). When believers respond to God in
worship,they will do so in ways that reflect the freshness and vitality of their experience. We
can expect that every generation of believers will devote its creative effort to this end. At the
same time,they will learn from God’s direction of those who have preceded them, honoring
what is timeless in the rich history of God’s gift of music to His people.
Involve the congregation as well as the platform leaders (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18–19).
While the New Testament provides for leadership positions in the church (Phil. 1:1; 1Tim. 3;
Titus 1), it calls for participation in worship from all the members of Christ’s body. Believers are
participants in, not observers of, worship.
Encourage the unity of the church (Eph. 4:1–6).
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).
Music Policies at BJU
In the application of these principles, BJU’s music policies essentially will remain unchanged. BJU will
delineate the application of these policies in the student and faculty/staff handbooks which will be
published in the summer.
• Is music a matter of morality?
At one extreme,some view music as completely morally neutral; at the other extreme,some
see morality intrinsic in specific chords or other building blocks of music. The question is easily
oversimplified or misunderstood. Music, by God’s design, is a subjective experience; but its
various aspects—words,sounds, imagery and associations—greatly affect us. The elements of
music (pitch,rhythm,tone quality and dynamics) communicate broadly but only imprecisely.
Music—the combination of these elements—can be designed to elicit moral responses both
right and wrong. Therefore, we reject the idea that music is morally neutral; and we evaluate
music on several levels—the words and imagery themselves, the intent of the music maker, the
effects on the listeners, and even the context of the experience.
• How do associations affect our music choices?
It is possible to adapt recent songs by people with whom we would not fully agree and arrange
them in a style that is above reproach. Hymnals have historically contained pieces written by
authors with aberrant theology, yet the pieces we use from such authors have a strong biblical
text and are set to excellent music—and the writer’s theological aberrations are usually known
by only a few (e.g., “Lead On, O King Eternal”). With modern technology, however, associations
may more easily have negative influence. The original source of music is never remote. The
more recently a song has emerged and the more popular its source, the more influence it has.
So BJU exercises great restraint in the choices of music we adapt, and we issue cautions about
Of course,the mere use of any music has never implied endorsement of its original presentation
or source. And avoiding certain music is not a blanket criticism of another’s ministry or motives.
All of us are imperfect vessels, and Christ in His grace continues to work in and through us.
Thankfully, being careful in music choices does not mean that our worship need be musically
impoverished. We have an abundance of beautiful music,readily available today,that is
completely edifying,soul‐stirring and above reproach.
• 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 a
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).