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Ask Donnell: Is All Secular Music Bad?

We received the following question from Nahom;

"Hello to the reader of this email. I am a teenage boy that has a question about secular music and I would preferably want Donnell Duncan to answer this email. Donnell, I recently viewed one of your Ask Donnell videos, the one about secular music. To be specific, you were answering the question, "Will I go to hell for listening to secular music?". Your answer was that secular music feeds the flesh, and that there is a war between the flesh and the spirit, the one who gets fed more wins. To be clear I did not ask the question that you answered in the video, I'm here to ask you a question based on your answer. Donnell, aren't you aware not all secular music is bad? Secular music is any music that is not used for worship. There is much secular music that is sinful and feeds the flesh, but there is also much that glorifies God. Music is an art. Are you saying that any art that doesn't mention God or Jesus is sinful or feeds the flesh. For example, "See You Again" is a widely known song that was a huge hit in 2013. It has over 2 billion views on Youtube! It is secular. It is about an actor (Paul Walker) and his death that left many close to him sad, including co-star Vin Diesel. The song is about remembering the beautiful friendship between Vin and Paul, and how Vin can't wait to see him again in the Pearly Gates. However, again, it is not gospel, it is secular. But this song certainly does not feed the flesh! Or does it? Please respond if possible, thank you!"

Nahom, thanks for your question. I posted the video above so that the people reading will know what you're referring to. I just took the time to watch it again to remind myself of exactly what I said. Now that we're on the same page, I'll get straight to the point. I know I didn't get into much detail in the video which is probably why you still have questions so I'll take the opportunity now to give you a little more information. First, let's be brutally honest.

Some Christians want to do whatever they feel like and if they can justify their choices it makes it so much easier. People who are called to preach The Word of God have a choice. We can tell people what they want to hear and not disappoint them or we can tell people the truth and not disappoint God. Sometimes, the truth and what people want to hear happen to be the same thing and we love those occasions. However, sometimes, the truth is not what people want to hear and those are some of the most difficult times for ministers of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 6:12(NLT) - You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.

Here's the good news. Like I said in the video, your choice in music does not determine your eternal destiny. Your acceptance or rejection of salvation by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross determines your eternal destiny (Romans 10:9,10). Therefore, there is a whole lot of freedom in Christianity. I know Christians who enjoy drinking alcohol, listening to secular music, hitting the clubs, etc. and that's their decision. None of those activities are specifically forbidden in the scriptures. Yet, The Apostle Paul made a great point in 1 Corinthians 6:12 when he said that yes, you may be allowed to do those things but are they good for you? If you say they are. How exactly are they good for you?

If you hear a secular song you like and bob your head to it you're not going to hell but because you like it, does that mean it's good for you? In 2017 when Christian music comes in every genre at the highest level, listening to secular music is a choice and it's one we don't really have to make. There is nothing we lack when it comes to music in the Kingdom of God that forces us to have to look elsewhere for something good to listen to. Nevertheless, it's similar to eating junk food. You know it's not good for you but you eat it because you like it. One cheeseburger and a side of fries with a large coke won't kill you but eat it every day for one year and see what happens.

John 8:31-32(NLT) - Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 17:15-19(NLT) - I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word secular means "worldly or temporal" and secular music is music that is not overtly spiritual or religious. Is secular music good for you as a Christian? Does listening to it promote holiness unto God or separation from the evil in the world? Let's use your example. I agree with you that Wiz Khalifa's song "See You Again" is quite inspirational. You mentioned that in it, there is an assumption that they will see Paul Walker again at the pearly gates. My honest question is which pearly gates?

My assumption is that the writers of the song believe that they will meet in heaven one day especially since almost everyone believes that they are going to heaven. That's so beautiful and believe me, I love the way that sounds especially after Paul's untimely and tragic death. I wish I can meet everyone I've ever seen on earth in heaven. However, let's be brutally honest. Is that the truth? You know the answer.

The Psychological Power of Music

Have you ever gone somewhere and there was music playing in the background, then left the place and the music you heard kept playing in your mind? Do you know why as children we are taught to memorize things using music? Think about how you learned the alphabet. A...B...C..D...E...F..Geeee... Do you remember the tune? Growing up in church we learned the books of The Bible in a song. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Acts and Epistle of the Romaaaans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians.... Do you know why? Some scholars posit that music has the power to take a message past your conscious mind directly into your subconscious. In other words, music helps me to get information deep into my brain without having to try as hard.

Have you ever heard a song and it instantly took your mind back to a different place or perhaps it brought back the memory of a past relationship, stirring up old emotions and replaying old experiences? That's the power of music. One song can change the trajectory of your entire day. Here's a quote from a report on NPR based on the book, "The Power of Music" from researcher Elena Mannes; "She also says scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. That's why she sees so much potential in music's power to change the brain and affect the way it works."

Simply put, music changes your brain. That's why experts have said that the smartest kids listen to classical music. Have you ever seen the printed score for classical music? It's very complex so from a young age, children who listen to classical music gain an advantage in their mental development. When you're angry, acoustic instrumental music can soothe your nerves. When you want to get hype for a sporting event, loud rap or rock music can get you excited. When you're sad, you can curl up on the couch with some ice cream and some sad R&B or country music and feed your depression.

Some people listen to music and it makes them violent while other types of music stir up sexual desires. Music is the soundtrack of life so whatever your life experience, there's music to match it. If you want to get a message to your brain, music is the easiest way to deliver it. That explains why it's so much easier to remember a song than it is to remember a written paragraph from a book. It could be the same number of words but you can only repeat the words of the song without trying to memorize it. On the other hand, you will easily forget the paragraph even if you just finished reading it.

The Spiritual Power of Music

1 Samuel 16:23(NLT) - And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.

Do you know that every religion, cult, form of witchcraft or spiritual practice includes some form of music? Very few people truly understand the power of music. Do you know that the power of God can be released through music? The anointing of God that was on David flowed through his music and brought deliverance to Saul from demonic torment. When a man or woman of God under the influence of The Holy Spirit sits down to write a song that's based in the truth of God's Word and then delivers that song through music the power of God is released. You can simply listen to certain songs and instantly feel the presence of God. You can sit under the ministry of a true minister of music and instantly sense the rumbling of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Like it did for Saul, God can use music to set you free.

Proverbs 4:23(NLT) - Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

If you know that music has the power to change your brain and affect your spirit would you put that power in the hands of people who are not submitted to God? Do you trust Wiz Khalifa with your brain or your spirit? Maybe he's a great guy but do you believe that he cares enough about you that he would ensure that he only delivers the truth through his music? I can agree that not all secular music is bad if there was a clear definition of good or bad. What defines good or bad secular music? We know that God is not in it or else it would not be secular music, so we can leave God out. What exactly are we left with if God's not in something?

Is secular music good if there are no lies, cussing or sexual references in it? Is a good song good because it talks about love? Even if it talks about love, is it the true love we know from the scriptures or do they have their own definition of love? Is it good because it talks about current issues? Maybe if Tupac didn't cuss, his music would be good because he talked about issues in the streets? Is music neither good or bad because there are no words? What about instrumentals? It's easy to judge words but if you remove the words, does it matter anymore? Is there such thing as a secular instrumental song or instrumental Christian music? What makes it Christian or secular, if it has no words? Now let's go deeper. If we remove all the words from a song, does it matter where the music came from?

Titus 1:15(NLT) - Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted.

Matthew 7:17-18(NLT) - A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.

The music we listen to comes from the heart of the person who created or delivered it. If the person's heart is pure the music is pure. If the person's heart is corrupt, the music is corrupt. We cannot get good fruit from a bad tree or bad fruit from a good tree. Hence, not only are the words important, the music is also important because it's an expression of the person who created it. When a person creates music, something leaves them that comes from within them and when we listen to their music what left them enters us. Hence, it's important to know what we're allowing to leave another person's heart and enter our own.

Here's another excerpt from the book, "The Power of Music" from Elenna Mannes; "Daniel Bernard Roumain, a young cross-genre violinist who is known as DBR, thinks one reason music is so powerful is that sound actually penetrates our bodies: "You know when someone says that a piece of music 'touched me' or 'moved me,' it's very literal. The sound of my voice enters your ear canal and it's moving your eardrum. That's a very intimate act. I am very literally touching you, and when you speak to me, you are literally touching me. And then we extend that principle to the sound of a violin.""

Do you know that the music which brought deliverance to Saul had no words in it? So, even though words are powerful, there's also power in the music itself. The power in the music comes from the person who created it and the person delivering it. When a Christian with a heart that's pure before God produces music, the music itself is pure and you can feel it. That's why certain Christian artists always minister to our souls. That doesn't mean they'll go platinum or become popular but we know that whatever music they deliver has God all over it. The same level of influence can also come from secular music.

2 Corinthians 2:11(KJV) - Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

It's easy to believe that as long as the words of a secular song sound positive, it's great music for Christians to listen to. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. Who wrote the song? Who wrote the music? Who played the instruments? What spirit was in control of the process? Were there spirituous liquors involved? Was it marijuana? Did they do heroin or snort cocaine before they hit the studio or in some cases, while they were in the studio? My point is that secular artists don't have to answer to God so we are trusting that they would not allow the enemy to influence them while they create music. That's a very risky proposition. Regardless, nobody can stop you from listening to secular music. It's your decision. Just remember the power of music.