Main Page

Can Music Be Christian?

February 6, 2015

written by Chris Misiano

Student Activities loves music. Each semester we strive to bring you great concerts and music events. This semester is unprecedented in the amount of concerts we’ll have on campus. With five concerts in the LaHaye Event Space and two in the Vines Center, there is plenty of great music coming your way. I hope you find something that you enjoy, or try out something new at several of these concerts. Music arouses strong passions from people who love it as well as from those who don’t. Anytime that music touches on spiritual themes or ideas, those passions tend to become even stronger.

With such a diverse calendar, we often get questions about the different types of genres represented. You’ll see hip-hop, rock, singer/songwriter and more represented by these various concerts. However, a regular question comes up regardless of the genre: “Is this ‘Christian’ music?” That is a tough question to answer, and I don’t want to speak for any particular artist on how they categorize their music. However, I do believe this is a conversation worth having, and I would welcome you to have this conversation with us. Some define ‘Christian’ music purely as that which belongs to Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). The term CCM then becomes both an industry and a genre. Others view ‘Christian’ music as that which can be used for worship services, or private worship.

In his recent book Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World Michael Horton recounts an interview with Jon Foreman (who is performing here in February). In this interview, Jon is asked to define Christian music. He answers-

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF [Switchfoot] tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonatas Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.”

Jon turns the question back on the listener and asks them to take a step back and answer more fundamental issues. This provides us with a good approach, as this is a large, ongoing issue. The categories here are not simple, and it takes nuance to appreciate some of the subtleties.

I do not have clear cut answers, and a blog does not provide the space or format to hash this out completely. However, I want our events and our office to be a space for the conversation. I would encourage you to take part by attending the shows, talking to our staff, and interacting with us on social media.

I’ll see you at the next show.