Why Theology Matters to Musicians
[This post is based on a message I gave at the Christian Musician Summit in 2008.]
When Christian musicians get together, we tend to assume we all have our theology down and we can focus on honing our chops, discovering new gear, and improving our techniques and methodologies. Or maybe we think that theology isn’t that important. Whatever the reason, I wanted to make clear that even at the Christian Musician Summit, theology matters.
Theology is literally the “study of God,” particularly as he has revealed himself in Scripture. It includes not only studying the Bible, but understanding how the different parts of the Bible fit together. Christian musicians need to know theology. But before I explain why, here are four potential objections people might have.
1. People just argue about theology.
Yes. Partly because we’re sinful. But mostly because there are some truths that are worth defending and fighting for. Even dying for.
2. Theology just makes life complicated.
It depends on what you mean by complicated. If you think that knowing how to play your instrument makes it complicated, then yes, theology makes life complicated. Theology doesn’t make like complicated. It actually makes life simpler. It protects us from reading verses out of context or reading only our favorite passages. Theology tells us what words like glory, gospel, salvation, and love mean. Theology helps us understand what we’re actually doing every Sunday. What complicates life is not theology but ignorance of theology.
3. Studying theology makes people proud.
It shouldn’t. The better we know God, the humbler we should be. The more we should realize that what we know will always be dwarfed by what we don’t know.
4. We’ll never know it all anyway.
Just because we can’t know everything about God, doesn’t mean we can’t know some things truly. God has revealed himself to us in his word and given us his Spirit so that we can know him.
Here are three reasons why theology should matter to Christian musicians.
1. You’re already a theologian.
Every Christian, musical or otherwise, is already a theologian. The question is, are you a good theologian or a bad one? We’re good theologians if what we say and think about God lines up with what Scripture says and affirms. We’re bad theologians if our view of God is vague, or if we think God doesn’t really mind sin, or is we see Jesus as a good example and not a Savior, or if we our god is too small to overcome evil or too big to care about us.
2. God reveals himself primarily through words, not music.
Because we’ve encountered God profoundly during times of musical worship, we can wrongly start assuming that words restrict the Spirit, while music enables us to experience God in fresh and powerful ways. If God had wanted us to know him primarily through music, the Bible would be a soundtrack, not a book. Music affects and helps us in many ways, but it doesn’t replace truth about God. By itself, music can never help us understand the meaning of God’s self-existence, the nature of the Incarnation, or Christ’s substitutionary atonement. Simply put, truth outlasts tunes.
3. Being good theologians makes us better musicians.
- Theology teaches us what music is meant to do.
- Theology teaches us that worship is more than music.
- Theology teaches us that Jesus is better than music.
You can download a copy of my notes here.