God’s Gift -or- Mood Altering Substance

Posted on March 15, 2012 by



Music is both.

When God created the world He made everything Good. Well, almost. There is one thing that God said was not good pre-sin. That was for man to be alone. So, after showing Adam how no created being could quell the sense his sense of solitude, God remedied this one lack. He created Woman. And Adam, upon seeing eve, broke into song.

[23] Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
(Genesis 2:23 ESV)

This is a song of rejoicing! The one thing that was not good has been made right and Adam’s natural response is to sing. Music existed pre-sin, while it was affected by the fall as much as everything else in creation it was still a part of the natural order of things.

Throughout scripture we see people singing to God and about God. We also have biblical commands to sing. God made music as a part of creation and it has endured throughout history, in all societies.

Maybe a reason that music is so universal is because it has a certain power inherent within itself. It’s been well documented, and you’ve probably experienced it yourself, that music affects the emotions. With no words, no discernible message, music can communicate an incredible amount of story, emotion, intent.

Most of the time we use this musical power to enhance our emotions. We feel good so we put on some happy music. We feel sad so we put on some depressing music. When we are angry we find something that affirms that and maybe pushes us to a new level of anger.

Since I started learning about how music can affect mood and emotion I’ve felt convicted that I should use this power to enhance right emotions and combat negative or inappropriate emotions.

Just this morning I was feeling anxious and upset. So I put on Brian Eno’s “Ambient 1/Music for Airports“. If you haven’t heard it, it’s 4 minimal pieces done in combination of synthesized and acoustic instruments. It has a very calming effect. While I haven’t completely shaken that feeling it has lessened to the point that I can function.

One thing I have noticed about how music can affect mood is that some things are universally effective, while other things seem to have different effects generationally or culturally. For example, Bach cello suites generally don’t agitate anyone. (unless you are upset with how the performer is interpreting them 😉 But Rock, Rap, and Dance music has very different effects based on age and what your history is with the genre. Those who grew up listening to Zeppelin, Metallica, AC/DC, etc… will actually find that music calming, while those who never missed an episode of The Lawrence Welk Show find the same music irritating and upsetting. And it works in reverse, most Metal Head’s will find the Welk show irritating.

This has some big implications for what music we use in corporate worship, but we’ll talk about that another time.

God has imbued music with the power to communicate emotion, and we should use this gift in a way that honors Him and doesn’t end up becoming an idol unto itself.

Listen to some Paul Simon and smile today 🙂

Posted in: Music, Praxis, Theology