Is 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.
The 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).
In 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!