Here is part three!
In my family situation, I have been exposed to mostly hymns, choruses, along with some incidental exposure to songs played at grocery and retail stores. I hadn’t really listened to classical music as much because of a family member disliking it, and we didn’t listen to country, rock, jazz, or blues for reasons I didn’t know. Dad and Mom just didn’t like them, so my only exposure to them was incidental, such as movies, and in public places. When I was required to listen to selected pieces of music, I discovered that I enjoy many of the baroque, classical, and romantic pieces by such composers as Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky.
Some of you will realize through your previous knowledge the differences in both the style and personalities of this group of composers. Antonio Vivaldi was a gentle and kind priest, with easily changing emotions and deep feelings. Meanwhile, Joseph Haydn was a cheerful, content man with no joy in his marriage, but a good humor and productive life anyway. According to The Gift of Music, Haydn’s best works were written after he met the young Wolfgang Mozart, who was an absolute genius. Mozart was not a pious man, even while he acknowledged his Creator. He and his wife were always poor due to unwise choices.
The last on my list is the one I must explain. Tchaikovsky was a brilliant composer of deeply emotional music. But although he read his Bible from 8:00 to 9:00 every morning, he had a constant struggle with his homosexual temptations. He was tormented by what he himself viewed as sinful attractions, and had many physical ailments and deep depression. His consolation was his work, which took up much of his time. He was very active, and desired to do much. His humility kept him from arrogance and from realizing his talent.
I find this man fascinating because of his sorrow over sin. He most likely never acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior, but tried his best to appease his made up god with good works. It’s a sad fate, but one that many choose.
I questioned for awhile if I should listen to the music of unbelievers, but came to the conclusion that God has given many men and women talents, regardless of their relationship—or lack thereof—with Him. We can therefore listen to the wholesome music of sinners if we have a clear conscience concerning them. However, we must be careful not to listen to unwholesome music, whether it is written by a sinner or a saint. I personally stay away from the music of Wagner and some of Beethoven, because of Wagner’s dark heart, and Beethoven’s nature worship and erroneous spiritual beliefs. His emotional music requires wisdom, as the authors of The Gift of Music say in their chapter on him, “… never listen indifferently and without discernment. Enjoy and appreciate what is good, but keep in mind that it is with composers as with all of us: what we believe affects our total life.” (Smith and Stuart, p.67)
This brings me to a theological point I want to remind you of. At the time of the Fall, when Adam sinned, we became what theologians call “Totally Depraved”. This does not mean that mankind is as evil as it can get, but that every area—our total self—is marred by the fall. Our minds, our thoughts, our bodies, our talents … all are twisted from the fall. While many people are “good” people (on the outside they are moral and do good things), they still have sin in every area, and when a person is spiritually dead and has not been regenerated through Christ’s saving work on the cross, they don’t have discernment from God to be able to glorify Him rightly in their work.
Thus, when we consider the works of great composers, we must always remember that they -and we– are not capable of perfectly glorifying God in their work. Even in the area of music, the devil has his hand in it, and we must be discerning. Of course, our source of help, as always, is the Word of God in the Bible. He gives us many instructions for every area of our lives, including the area of music.
Thanks for reading! The fourth part is coming tomorrow.