Can you praise God through Coldplay?

coldplayIs it possible to worship God through secular music? Can one have a deeply moving spiritual experience through secular music? It’s something I have thought about for a while and I have come to a conclusion.

In my post Doxology, Mars Hill and Wales, which I published here back in February, Steffan, a friend from Aberystwyth, left a comment saying:

A lot of what is described as “the Holy Spirit moving” sounds to me just like what I experienced recently when I saw Wales beat Australia, or when I saw Coldplay play in front of 20,000 people.

That is a very interesting comment from Steffan. I would say that those deep feelings of happiness, even praise (?), you get in non-Church context could actually stem from God. Common Grace and the Joy of Creation, man created in the image of God, can work sometimes in un-regenerated rock stars, in the writings of un-regenerate poets, in the visions of un-regenerate film producers etc. etc.

Although the present state of man and creation is fallen the true natural state of man and creation is good because the earth and all on it including man are made in the image of God. God didn’t leave the fallen earth and fallen humanity to rot from eden onwards; God instantly made a new covenant, the covenant of Grace and he set a plan of regeneration, of transformation and restoration. Salvation is personal, yes, but salvation should never be seen as private. God wants to save and restore us as individuals on one hand and as a humanity and as a creation as a whole on the other.

In the words of Calvinist Louis Berkhof:

[Common grace] curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.

coldplayThe various aspects of God’s common grace to all mankind may be generally gathered under four heads:

Providential care in creation – God’s sustaining care for his creation, called divine providence, is grace common to all. The Bible says, for instance, that God through the Son “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:2-3; John 1:1-4). God’s gracious provision for his creatures is seen in the giving of the seasons, of seedtime and harvest. It is of this providential common grace that Jesus reminds his hearers when he said God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). We also see evidence of God’s common grace in the establishment of various structures within human society. At a foundational level, God has ordained the family unit. Even pagan parents typically know that they should nurture their children (Matt. 7:9-10) and raise them to become responsible adults.

Providential restraint of sin – In the Bible, Paul teaches that civil authorities have been “instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1) to maintain order and punish wrong-doing. Although fallible instruments of his common grace, civil governments are called “ministers of God” (Rom. 13:6) that should not be feared by those who do good. God also sovereignly works through circumstances to limit a persons sinful behavior (Gen. 20:6, 1 Sam. 25:26).

coldplayIn man’s conscience – The apostle Paul says that when unbelieving people “who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, . . . They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Rom. 2:14-15, ESV). By God’s common grace fallen mankind retains a conscience indicating the differences between right and wrong. This may be based on the fact that human beings, though fallen in sin, retain a semblance of the “image of God” with which they were originally created (Gen. 9:6: 1 Cor. 11:7).

Providential blessings to mankind – Human advancements that come through the unredeemed are seen as outcomes of God’s common grace. For example, medical and other technological advancements that improve the lives of both the redeemed and unredeemed are seen as initiated by common grace.

Music, along with art, science, technology etc. are gifts from God; they can be used and they can be misused. Coldplay, and all our favorite secular music artists, are often referred to as “gifted songwriters”. But who gifts them? God of course, praise the Lord!

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5 Responses to “Can you praise God through Coldplay?”

  1. Steffan Says:

    Diolch Rhys.

    Thanks – I’ve never been quoted before!!

    I agree with what you – or Berkhof (lol!) – say about common grace. It gives us even more of a reason to praise our God! .

    To answer your questions, I’ve cut and pasted the comment I made on your original post – “Doxology, Mars Hill and Wales” – and added a bit more.

    – Is it possible to worship God through secular music?

    First of all, it’s worth noting that, despite God’s common grace, the unbeliever can’t do this, as his mind is hostile to God. The unbeliever will see God’s common grace but because of his sinful state, he’ll give credit to himself, to big himself up, or he might thank an unknown God or a created being or object, and not the true and living God (Romams 1:21ff).

    Can a believer worship through secular music?

    Depends what you mean by “worship”. In the holistic, Romans 12 sense (which says that we can offer our whole bodies, our whole lives as an act of worship) – then yes we can.

    We’ve been made in the image of a creative, beautiful God, united (one God) and yet diverse (3 persons). We were created to subdue this world (Gen.1:28) – culture (linked with the word “cultivate”) is part of this. He’s given us every good gift and Colossians 3:17 says that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

    When we enjoy God’s good gifts and His creation, giving thanks to Him as the Giver of these things, we are actually worshipping Him.

    So, in a sense, yes, it is possible to worship God through secular music (with a correct attitude, and if it is not sinful in its content or presentation).

    However, it is worth noting that this is NOT worship in the sense of praise and doxology (which is a deliberate decision to stop and to declare with words, by speaking or singing, our thanksgiving and praise of God).

    The object of my feelings and excitement in a gig or a rugby match are not seeing Jesus more clearly, but seeing human skills, aesthetic quality, harmony, beauty, etc. God gave those people those gifts, as part of his common grace, and in creating them in Him image. My feelings do stem from God you say in that we’ve been created to react in such a way to beauty, etc. But this is indirectly – directly, the object of my feelings and excitement – and even praise – are still people (the group, the rugby player, etc). These feelings are temporary earthly blessings – they leave us on a high for a while, largely driven by adrenalin, then fizzle out.

    With a correct view it could lead to praise for God for his common grace, but it is not praise in of itself.

    – Can one have a deeply moving spiritual experience through secular music?

    If we are to speak about a moving spiritual experience, then surely at this point we have to ask what is the work of the Holy Spirit? The danger is to understand common grace in a way that we become pantheistic, believing that God is in everything, in the Eastern Religion / New Age sense. (This is a trap that the Emergent Church sometimes fall into). But God is the Creator and He is apart from His creation. There is a distinction between Creator and Creation, yet he displays his glory in His creation, and the Holy Spirit manifests His presence in specific places – namely, the temple, which is the church.

    Here are a few key points to know when the Holy Spirit is at work (it is far from being a comprehensive list):

    (a) We will have a greater love for Jesus, as the Holy Spirit’s main work is to glorify Christ (John 16:14). We will proclaim Jesus as Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3, 1 John 4:2-3).

    As the Holy Spirit helps us see and remember Jesus’ grace and compassion, His power and glory, we will be filled with awe, wonder, praise, and worship.

    This will inevitably impact our emotions, as the reaction of the disciples on the way to Emmaus shows (Luke 24), as do passages like Colossians 3:16, Phil.4:7, and large chunks of the Psalms, etc.

    This will be seen too by a greater urgency to tell people about Jesus.

    It is NOT a spiritual experience if we have not been pointed to Christ, and worship Him more as a result. Are we left speaking about our God? If not, is it really the Holy Spirit that’s moved us?

    (b) A spiritual experience will always be shaped and driven by Biblical truth. The Bible is the Sword of the Spirit, and there is no worship without truth (John 4:24).

    Therefore,

    i.. We will usually have a greater experience of God as we come under God’s Word and respond to it. We will have a greater knowledge of God and more hope, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to understand God’s revelation, the Bible (Ephesians 1:16ff). Jesus will seem to walk of the pages of Scripture.
    ii. Psalm 19:1 says that God’s glory can be seen in creation, and so we can have an experience of God anywhere, but this won’t happen in isolation from truth and the Holy Spirit will bring to mind a certain verse or truth about Jesus (John 14:26), even as we look at God’s good gifts in creation

    (c) He will convict us of our sin (John 16:9). The work of the Holy Spirit will often lead us to have a certain humility and sense of utter dependence on God. This is why silence is in fact often a strong sign of the Holy Spirit moving.

    (d) But we will also have a peace and assurance as He convinces us that we are children of God (Romans 8:15-16).

    (e) He will lead us to love and cherish our brothers and sisters increasingly, and we will seek their common good (1 Cor. 12:7, 13:1; 1 John 3:23-24). Linked to this, we can say too that there is something remarkable about meeting with other believers too (Mathew 18:20). God usually speaks to his people as a gathered people. I wonder whether we’ve individualised our experience too much?

    (f) There will be tangible, long-term fruit – namely points (a) to (e) and also a change in our character (the fruits of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23).

    With these in mind, can one have a deeply moving spiritual experience through secular music? I’ll let you personally to decide on that one.

    I think there is a danger of being naive in thinking that just because we are being “moved” then God must be at work, but I don’t want to be moved just by adrenalin flowing because of great music and a crowd mentality.

    I pray that I would be moved by a greater love for Jesus as the Holy Spirit points me to Him, to His beauty and glory as revealed in the Bible, and seen most clearly on the Cross; or indeed, by the Holy Spirit even reminding me of God’s wonderful common grace.

    I pray too that I would be moved so that it would drive me to praise and honour Christ more, to be more like Him, to declare Him, to worship Him in everything I do – and not just for now, but in the long term too.

  2. sammi Says:

    awesome entry 🙂

  3. Emmkay Says:

    wow I think I’d might get some anwsers to my questions !
    God Bless All Of You

  4. Emma Samuelsson Says:

    Hello!
    I’m doing an essay about coldplay in school, do I have your promission to take this picture of them?
    Email to this adress; emmasamuelsson@live.com

  5. Translator Chicago Says:

    This is already an issue in our church, that is, can you worship God through secular music? Or can you sing secular music in church as part of praise and worship during the worship service. Our Pastor has already made his stand. But I still have questions in my mind. This post answered many of my questions. Thank you so much. I will bookmark this to show to my churchmates.

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