Sensual Worship the road to apostacy?

The article by Iain Murray called ‘discordant worship’ in the latest AP essentially seems to be saying that if we sing in a style of music that we like, then it’s a sin. Where does he go wrong? To begin with, he improperly defines ‘sensual’ as anything appealing to the senses. This is clearly not the way Jude is using the word. He then puts sensual in opposition to ‘spiritual’ and goes on to suggest that music in church distracts from pure spiritual worship.

According to Murray it was appropriate in the Old Covenant to use senses in the worship of God but not in the new covenant. Perhaps we should be blindfolded on the way into church? Perhaps all singing be banned not just contemporary music? Our musical scale is not derived from scripture and it does sound pleasant. What about the Lord’s Supper which makes use of the senses of sight and taste? Why is it that contemporary music is always evil but older music is not? All music is contemporary for some era.

I particularly liked this footnote in the original article, which didn’t make it into the Australian Presbyterian version:

‘If you start clapping your hands or stamping or moving them in a rhythmic manner, you are the whole time dealing with this realm of the emotions.’

I hope the author of this quote never reads Psalm 150.

I’m reminded of Colossians 2:20-23 “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

‘Sensual’ in the context of Colossians and Jude is the slavery to sexual immorality and evil desires – not music or singing.

I think as evangelicals if we have been handed a bad pass from those who came before us it is more likely to be a lack of emotional expression in our church meetings and Christian lives. James 5:13 links happiness with a song of praise, Colossians 3:16 links singing with gratitude. In Revelation 5 we have music accompanying praise. In Luke 7:31f Jesus confronts the Pharisees over precisely this issue: he is accused of overindulgence, and he rebukes them for not getting into the spirit of things! Joy comes as a response to the gospel, and the expression of that joy and praise of God through singing and music is entirely appropriate.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *