Music, Lyrics, and New Creation

Sometimes, in a worship service, the music brings me tears. Notice, I didn’t say the song. I said the music brings me to tears. Whether it’s a certain chord structure, or a steady crescendo, or even the tone of an electric guitar. Sometimes, the music simply invokes something deep within me to where I’m emotionally moved to the point of crying. The thing is, I don’t think this is emotionalism. I believe that it’s true and honest worship of the Creator God.

The problem is, a lot of people would disagree with me. “A song could lead you to worship, yes… but only because the lyrics reflect some profound theological truth. If the music alone moves you to worship, then you’re making an idol out of the music. You’re not truly worshipping.” However, I think that this is doing the Creator God a huge disservice. Because, as the sovereign Creator, God has brought everything that is into being. He is the creator of everything and, as we see in Genesis 1-2, he declared it all good. 

Of course, humankind fell and sin entered into the world. But, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t still love his creation. It simply means that it’s been marred. The same applies to humans, being image bearers of God. That image wasn’t lost in the fall, but simply distorted. I believe that, since the same intrinsic value still remains in every image-bearing human, the intrinsic goodness remains in all of creation, though it exists in a corrupt state. God still sees creation as good, though it must be redeemed.

However, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, God has begun that redeeming work of the world already! And who is called to be agents of that redeeming work? The Church! It is our job to influence the world with this post-resurrection, “already/not yet” ideology, the glorious truth that all of creation is intrinsically good and can now be rescued from its “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:20). Acknowledging the goodness of creation and attributing it to the glory of God is part of our divine mandate to accomplish God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.

That being said, music is obviously a creation from God. There will be music in the age to come and there exists music in heaven now (Revelation 5:8, 15:2). Music is a good thing and part of God’s good creation. Artistry is a God given gift. Musicianship is talent with which God has blessed some people. Thus, when I hear music done well, I glorify God. When I hear the good creation of music redeemed and performed excellently, it moves me to worship.

People always wonder if there will be music in heaven, but the reality is that there is heaven in music. Why? Because music is a good creation that, when acknowledged as such, can bring glory to the God who created it.

Why does the hiker shed a tear when looking out into the sunset behind the glorious mountains? Why does the painter sense the presence of God as she looks at the stunning work of another artist? Why does the filmaker have that sense of awe and wonder as he watches the latest Sundance Film Festival entry? And why do  people  worship God through the lyrics of certain praise songs? Because God is the God of creativity. All it takes is a good look at his creation to understand that. The hiker sees the majesty of God in his own creation. The painter sees the glory of God reflected in the gorgeous painting. The filmaker sees the creativity of God in the narratives and filmography of a movie. One can be moved to worship through the beauty of the way certain words are formed to reflect the majesty and grandeur of our beautiful God.

The same tear that I shed when the music of song moves me is the same tear that a person sheds when the lyrics of the song moves them. Neither of them are detached from the glory of God in each of those things. The cool thing about a song is that it intertwines the two. It takes two good creations of God, music and lyrics, and reflects his beauty through them. Some people might ask, “Well which is more important, the lyrics or music?” To which I might respond, “Which is more important… the mountains or the oceans?” Each reflect the grandeur and artistry of God in incredible, but distinct ways.

Bad music with good lyrics produce a crappy song. Good music with bad lyrics make for a lame song. Now of course, you can appreciate the good distinct qualities of each song. However, the theology behind new creation needs to be more holistic. God isn’t redeeming part of creation, he’s making all things new. We, as believers, need to take seriously the call to bring heaven to earth. And with each beautiful masterpiece we create, heaven is breaking through.

We do it to incite the praises of people to the only Creator God, in hopes that it might move them to worship. It may even cause people to shed a tear. But it looks to the day where God will wipe every tear from every eye. The new creation. Through music. Now.

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One thought on “Music, Lyrics, and New Creation

  1. I could not agree with you more. I’m a huge music person, and I have a wide listening ranging from Baroque classical music, jazz, folk music, pop music from the 50’s and 60’s, today alternative rock and punk…but lyrics…not so much. I have a hard time appreciating a song just for it’s lyrics. And call me a heretic, but modern worship music just doesn’t’ sound musically pleasing to me. It’s boring, like traditional Irish fiddle tunes–that’s another conversation. 🙂

    My moments of intense worship are hardly ever in church these days. They’re when I’m contra-dancing, when I’m listening to an exquisite bit of harmony in an old doo-wop number, when I’m looking at a beautiful painting. I connect more to God in those ways than I do with “normal” worship music.

    Does that mean I abstain and not show up for corporate worship at church? You know the type, those that come in late because they don’t “agree” with the church music styles. The answer is, No. Just because I don’t connect deeply doesn’t mean I’m excused from worshipping alongside my brothers and sisters. God created us in all diverse ways, and we all connect to Him differently. We all express our worship differently. The spiritual discipline of corporate worship is more important to my spiritual health than “abstaining” because I don’t like it. It’s the spiritual equivalent to deciding that I will eat healthy foods I don’t like because I need to be healthy.

    It’s refreshing to find another who understands this conundrum of being a music person.

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