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Hello everyone! What are some of your favorite things to do on Sabbath? I like to watch nature shows, listen to music, and read! :)

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Is Secular Music OK?

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Is it OK to listen to secular music? I’m not sure what Ellen G. White meant when she said: "It is not safe for the Lord's workers to take part in worldly entertainments. Association with worldliness in musical lines is looked upon as harmless by some Sabbathkeepers. But such ones are on dangerous ground. Thus Satan seeks to lead men and women astray, and thus he has gained control of souls" (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, pp. 193, 194).


Steve Answers:

I’m curious about what you mean when you use the word “secular.” I have an idea what Ellen White meant when she used the word “worldliness.” Check out 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 1 John 2:15-17 for ideas.

I wonder if you consider music without blatantly “religious” lyrics to be “secular.” I wonder if you would label all contemporary music as “secular.”

Would you consider the song described in the following text to be secular? “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:1-6).

The lyrical content of the song seems religious (“praise the Lord”), but what about the instruments?

In churches there’s a tendency to reject current music in favor of older music. About the time Ellen White wrote the quotation you shared, Horatius Bonar penned hymns that are in our hymnal today. But they were banned by the elders in his own parish when he wrote them.

One hundred years ago in Scotland the organ music of Bach and Handel were considered to be secular, but we use them as sacred music today. We also use music written by Ira Sankey, but a number of people criticized his music on the organ as “a devilish pump machine that wheezes out blasphemously.” Early critics of the organ also said that the instrument had “a devil in every pipe.”

I would expect that some of the music labeled “secular” today will be seen, heard, and used as sacred music in the future. And sometimes music used in churches gets carried into the pop arena and becomes secular. Then there’s always the crossover artists such as Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. Is their music sacred or secular?

Perhaps you feel a little like Paul, who wrote: “Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now” (1 Corinthians 13:12, TLB).*

Music is one of the great ways to praise God. So until He returns, be sure to use music to worship and praise Him. That’s the best use of music, isn’t it?

*Verses marked TLB are taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. Used by permission.

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