The Bible doesn’t say anything directly about secular music. The only music we see in the Bible is worshipful music, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with listening to secular music.
The Bible Describes Music as a Gift
Can Christians listen to secular music ? Yes and no. Psalm19 is a great help.
Psalm 19 verses 1-6 (Psalm 19:1-6) God shows himself in all creation. Verses 7-14 reveal God in a special way. He redemptively shows himself in scripture, culminating in Jesus Christ’s person and work as we read the Bible.
This means that we can find God and enjoy God in the general things he’s given us, if we consider the first six verses. It’s possible to enjoy Him through art, food, poetry, entertainment, movies, sports, and music. He shows us general grace in this.
Tim Keller says in a sermon that all forms of art and story that elicit awe in us are simply illustrations of the gospel – even if they aren’t “Christian.”
Music is a good thing, and even “non-Christian” music can be enjoyed.
Does the Bible Prohibit Listening to Secular Music?
The Bible doesn’t prohibit listening to secular music, but it does instruct us to be wise. We see dancing in the Bible a few times – likely in the form of worship. In the same way, most of the music we see in the Bible is worship-style music.
The Bible tells us to think on things that are above. It tells us not to give license to our flesh.
There are some types of music it would be unwise to listen to. We must distinguish between non-Christian and un-Christian music. Non-Christian music is music that communicates messages the Bible does not oppose and in some cases even the Bible teaches. Songs like ‘What a Beautiful World,’ by Louis Armstrong are examples of non-Christian music that would be fine to listen to and enjoy.
Un-Christian music is on the other end of the spectrum. It is music that conveys messages contrary to the Bible’s teachings and ethics. Some music must be rejected. Many times, the videos show what the music actually conveys.
How to Determine What Kind of Music Is Permissible by the Bible?
There are two helpful questions we might ask when deciding if we should be listening to a song or a type of music.
- How does it influence your attitude?
- How does it influence your thinking?
A song that shifts your attitude negatively or causes irritability isn’t a song you should listen to. A song that contains anti-Christian themes or messaging isn’t a song you should listen to.
Be aware of what you’re putting in your ears. It’s easy to think, “Ah it’s not that big of a deal.” But it is. And there’s a lot at stake. Be wise.
Should Churches Play Secular Music?
While on the topic, let’s discuss churches playing secular music.
Many churches now feature secular songs at the start or end of worship services. In Sunday morning gatherings, pop music – including U2, Coldplay and Taylor Swift – is now used as an outreach tool.
Many churches use pop music to communicate complex biblical themes.
This is more often than not a way to ease the shock of first-time churchgoers. Many people find the presence of any musical instruments in churches confusing. A familiar song can help to establish a sense of cohesion and familiarity between two different life experiences. This is a sign of sincere consideration on the part of church leaders in welcoming unbelievers to their congregations. But it comes at a price.
The Bible is clear that certain characteristics should be a part of our worship, even when we sing together.
Hebrews 12/28 calls us to worship God with reverence and awe (Exodus 20,4-5; 2, Kings 17:38, 1, Corinthians 10:14). Romans 12 1-2 ; Colossians 3:12-5) The biblical writers describe worship as being sacrificial and distinct from the world’s patterns (Romans 13:1-2, Colossians 10:14).
These guidelines are not exhaustive. There are many ways to worship in church. However, every decision we make, from production to lyrics to style, can have a profound impact on our faith.
Does the Bible Say We Shouldn’t Listen to Secular Music?
Not at all. But the Bible says we should be wise about what we listen to. If you’re unsure whether you should be listening to something – perhaps you shouldn’t be.
Involve community, ask friends, and lean into the local church.