I think I’ve interacted with enough Christian musicians over the past couple decades to make a general observation: Christian musicians rarely read theology books.
Now, I know that’s a broad statement. There are non-musician Christians who don’t like to study theology, too, and some Christians musicians who actually love theology. You’re the ones who took offense at my earlier comment. “What’s he talking about? I’m ALWAYS reading theology books!” If so, you’re to be commended. But you’re the exception.
When I’ve asked musicians what they’re reading, the response is often secular business bestsellers, novels, music magazines, or books focused on a particular interest, like history, biography or sports. Sometimes classics by A.W. Tozer and C.S. Lewis will make the cut. Rarely does anyone mention books like Engaging with God by David Peterson, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, or Knowing God by J.I. Packer. “Only for scholars.” “Too deep.” “Not enough time.”
I’ve had worship leaders tell me they’re not that interested in theology because it only causes divisions. They just want to help people worship Jesus. But how can we help others worship Jesus without a clear, compelling picture of who He is and what He’s done? How can we worship a God we don’t know? And how can we know Him without learning about Him? That’s theology!
Theology is simply the study of God. That’s why every Christian, musician or otherwise, is a theologian. The question is whether we’re a good theologian or a bad one. We’re a good theologian if what we say and think about God lines up with the whole of Scripture. We’re a bad theologian if our view of God is vague, unbiblical, distorted, or simply reflects our own opinions.
Some musicians claim that music speaks to them more clearly about God than words do. That’s why they spend more time working on their music than reading the Bible or books that help them understand the Bible. They insist that words restrict, box in, and limit, while music expands the mind, softens the heart, and opens us up to new ways of powerfully experiencing God.
We can appreciate the impulse to have a “living faith,” but that conclusion is terribly misguided. While music affects us in many ways, it can never communicate by itself the meaning of God’s self-existence, Christ’s substitutionary atonement, or the nature of the Trinity. Nor can music explain what role music is supposed to play in worshipping God. For that, we need to read our Bibles. And to know what the Bible says, we need theology. Good theology.
By God’s grace, I think there are an increasing number of musicians who are seeing their need, and are seeking to change. But theological ignorance among Christian musicians is still rampant. Tomorrow, I’ll suggest some reasons why.