“Secular” to the Glory of God
Recently some popular artists in the Christian Music scene made a decision to stop making music that appeals to the “christian market” in lieu of making music that appeals to the general market. In fact, the word that they used to describe what they do is “secular” music. I believe, as long as they as HUMAN BEINGS stay rooted in scripture, I think it is possible to make “secular” music for the glory of God and advancement of His kingdom. Let me say that again – I think it is possible to make “secular” music for the glory of god and advancement of His kingdom. Allow me to explain. First, we have to define what “secular” means before we can go any further. There are many connotations of this word which rely heavily on your upbringing. “Secular” could mean evil, not religious, hellish, sexual, violent, anti-God and much more depending on the type of home or church you were/are raised in. But let’s establish a base that we can all work with and agree on. Secular comes from the Latin word saecularis meaning “of a generation, belonging to an age.” So if we were to use this term in its purest meaning then, any music that we do that comes from an artistic expression of a generation such as hip-hop, R&B, techno, etc – are all “secular” forms of music because they come from a generation, not a religious affiliation or lack thereof. So dare I say, in the purest sense of the word, even the most hyper spiritual person you know listens to and creates secular music.
But in a generic sense, we tend to define the term “secular” to say “music and/or work that does not communicate a worldview or separate from religion” and this is the definition we’ll work with for this discussion. Worldview meaning simply how a person views the world. EVERY human being has a worldview and it is PRIMARILY formed by their view of God, the world and its people (also commonly referred to as “religious views”.) In reality though, NO music is made outside of an artists worldview. If you believe that your view of love has no boundaries and it alone decides what actions are okay, then your art will reflect that. It happens all the time in R&B. If you believe that sex is just sex then you’ll make music that reflects that. If you believe that God is most concerned about your personal financial well being above all and He is okay with whatever you do to advance that well being, then your art will reflect that. We see it all the time in songs about “hustling” and more.
Now, what’s interesting is that we rarely ever hear a typical musician say what shapes their worldview. We only hear the result of their worldview in their art. There are exceptions to that statement BUT mostly, they don’t. Often we hear Christians say that we shouldn’t listen to “worldly” music because the listener would adopt the worldview of the song. If you listen to hyper sexual music, you’ll adopt a worldview that makes hyper sexual activity or atleast pre-marital sexual activity okay, right? Isn’t that the core of the argument about not listening to secular music? We believe that we will adopt the worldview of the artist because we hear what fruit the worldview produces in its art, even without explaining the worldview that created it.
So, what if an artist who is held to a BIBLICAL worldview, created art that came FROM this worldview but doesn’t talk directly about the theology that shapes it? Do we believe that the same thing is possible? If its possible to be influenced to explore unbiblical worldviews based on the art created by those worldviews, is it possible to be influenced to explore biblical worldviews based on the art that created it? My answer is a loud, boisterous YES!
I believe that if a group of artists decided to make music FROM their worldview but not directly ABOUT their worldview, a listener could be inspired to explore the worldview it comes from. Do I think it will happen to every person? No. Nor do I believe that music that directly talks about a biblical worldview would inspire everyone who hears it to explore the Bible. If it did then we’d be done by now because SURELY there is enough music out there that points to a Biblical view to save the masses right?
But if we believe that fruit from an unbiblical view can inspire people to pursue that lifestyle but we don’t believe the fruit of a Biblical worldview could inspire people to do the same, then Jesus was lying when He said to do good works that people can see so that “they will praise your God in Heaven.” Jesus believed that if people see the fruit, then some would praise the ONE that created the root.
I’m not saying that all music Christians create should be done in this way. We need people who will point to the light with their art. But we also need people who will talk about what the light helps them see. I’m not saying that its an either/or thing. I’m saying that there can and should be a both/and in our art. Why is it we believe that someone who has a teaching gift can glorify God in his teaching of math or social studies & no one will ridicule him for being a “secular” teacher? We applaud them for “being a light in the darkness.” Yet if an artist does it, he/she is accused of compromise? Could this be because we have begun to worship art? Have we fallen so much in love with art because of the way we connect with it that we have placed it as a god and not a means to see God OR reflect what God has caused us to see? I believe an artist, doctor, salesperson, customer service worker, businessman, teacher, sanitation worker, secretary or student who is convinced of the reality of God, living from truth of the Bible and rooted in Christ can be “secular” …to the glory of God.