God has woven music into the very fabric of His creation. When He made all things “the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). The book of Revelation portrays heaven as a place of ceaseless praise, with songs of adoration to God and the Lamb resounding from all (Rev. 4:9-11; 5:9-13; 7:10-12; 12:10-12; 14:1-3; 15:2-4; 19:1-8).
Because God made humans in His image, we share a
love and appreciation for music with all His created beings.
In fact, music can touch and move us with a power that
goes beyond words or most other types of communication.1
At its purest and best, music lifts our beings into the very
presence of God where angels and unfallen beings worship
Him in song.
But sin has cast blight over the Creation. The divine image
has been marred and well-nigh obliterated; in all aspects
this world and God’s gifts come to us with a mingling of
good and evil. Music is not morally and spiritually neutral.
Some may move us to the most exalted human experience,
some may be used by the prince of evil to debase and degrade
us, to stir up lust, passion, despair, anger, and hatred.
The Lord’s messenger, Ellen G White, continually counsels
us to raise our sights in music. She tells us, “Music,
when not abused, is a great blessing; but when it is put
to a wrong use, it is a terrible curse”.2
. . . [music] is a precious gift of God, designed to uplift the
thoughts to high and noble themes, to inspire and elevate
Of the power of song, she writes: “It is one of the most
effective means of impressing the heart with spiritual truth.
How often to the soul hard-pressed and ready to despair,
memory recalls some word of God’s,—the long-forgotten
burden of a childhood song,—and temptations lose their
power, life takes on new meaning and new purpose, and
courage and gladness are imparted to other souls! . . . As a
part of religious service, singing is as much an act of worship
as is prayer. Indeed, many a song is prayer. . . . As our
Redeemer leads us to the threshold of the Infinite, flushed
with the glory of God, we may catch the themes of praise
and thanksgiving from the heavenly choir round about the
throne; and as the echo of the angels’ song is awakened in
our earthly homes, hearts will be drawn closer to the heavenly
singers. Heaven’s communion begins on earth. We
learn here the keynote of its praise.”4
As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe and preach that
Jesus is coming again soon. In our worldwide proclamation
of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12 we call
all peoples to accept the everlasting gospel, to worship God
the Creator, and to prepare to meet our soon-returning Lord.
We challenge all to choose the good and not the bad, to “say
‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live selfcontrolled,
upright and godly lives in this present age, while
we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our
great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12, 13).
We believe that the gospel impacts all areas of life. We
therefore hold that, given the vast potential of music for good
or ill, we cannot be indifferent to it. While realizing that tastes
in music vary greatly from individual to individual, we believe
that the Scriptures and the writings of Ellen G White suggest
principles that can inform our choices.
In this document the phrase “sacred music”—sometimes
referred to as religious music—designates music that
focuses on God and on biblical and Christian themes. In most
cases, it is music composed and intended for worship service,
evangelistic meetings, or private devotion and may be
both vocal and instrumental music. However, not all sacred/
religious music may be acceptable for an Adventist. Sacred
music should not evoke secular associations or invite conformity
to worldly behavioral patterns of thinking or acting.
“Secular music” is music composed for settings other
than the worship service or private devotion. It speaks to the
common issues of life and basic human emotions. It comes
out of our very being, expressing the human spirit’s reaction
to life, love, and the world in which the Lord has placed us.
It can be morally uplifting or degrading. Although it does not
directly praise and adore God, nevertheless it could have a
legitimate place in the life of the Christian. In its selection the
principles discussed in this document should be followed.
PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE THE CHRISTIAN
The music that Christians enjoy should be regulated by
the following principles:
1. All music the Christian listens to, performs or composes, whether sacred or secular, will glorify God: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This is the over-riding biblical principle. Anything that cannot meet this high standard will weaken our experience with the Lord.
2. All music the Christian listens to, performs or composes, whether sacred or secular, should be the noblest and the best: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is right, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). As followers of Jesus Christ who hope and expect to join the heavenly choirs, we view life on this earth as a preparation for, and foretaste of, the life to come. On these two foundations—glorifying God in all things and choosing the noblest and the best—depend the other principles listed below for the selection of music by Christians.
3. It is characterized by quality, balance, appropriateness, and authenticity. Music fosters our spiritual, psychological, and social sensitivity, and our intellectual growth.
4. It appeals to both the intellect and the emotions and impacts the body in a positive way. It is wholistic.
5. Music reveals creativity in that it draws from quality melodies. If harmonized,5 it uses harmonies in an interesting and artistic way, and employs rhythm that complements them.
6. Vocal music employs lyrics that positively stimulate intellectual abilities as well as our emotions and our will power. Good lyrics are creative, rich in content, and of good composition. They focus on the positive and reflect moral values; they educate and uplift; and they correspond with sound biblical theology.
7. Musical and lyrical elements should work together harmoniously to influence thinking and behavior in harmony with biblical values.
8. It maintains a judicious balance of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional elements.
9. We should recognize and acknowledge the contribution
of different cultures in worshiping God. Musical forms
and instruments vary greatly in the worldwide Seventh-day
Adventist family, and music drawn from one culture may
sound strange to someone from a different culture.
Seventh-day Adventist music-making means to choose
the best and above all to draw close to our Creator and Lord
and glorify Him. Let us rise to the challenge of a viable alternative
musical vision and, as part of our wholistic and
prophetic message, make a unique Adventist musical contribution
as a witness to the world regarding a people awaiting
Christ’s soon coming.
1 ”It [music] is one of the most effective means of impressing the heart with spiritual truth” (Education, p. 168).
2 Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 497. She also states that in the future, “just before the close of probation,” ‘there will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never reveals itself in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious methods for making of none effect the pure, sincere, elevating, ennobling, sanctifying truth for this time” (II SM 36).
3 Education, p. 167.
4 Education, p. 168.
5 We acknowledge that in some cultures harmonies are not as important
as in other cultures.
These guidelines were voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day
Adventists Annual Council on October 13, 2004.