Questions for Christian Music Discernment

Questions for Christian and Church Music Discernment

The following is a list of questions that I work through when analyzing songs, specifically for the use of congregational worship and private/family worship, but it is also useful for other types of Christian Music. The questions work through the areas of Scriptural content and accuracy, the quality of Truth claims, and excellence in the craft of the lyrics and music.

The purpose of this list is to aid in critical thinking and to guide the discernment process. This list is not Inspired, but is largely built upon the analysis of the Psalms, other Biblical content, professional songwriting criteria, general discernment practice, and some common sense. This list is also not Sufficient, but has grown and condensed many times since its inception as I pursue knowledge and wisdom in these particular areas.

Finally, this list is not Authoritative, and a song does not “pass” or “fail” based on a generated score. This list is simply meant to help approach and critically think through songs from many different and important angles, and to do so in a way that is systematic and consistent from song to song. 

  1. The Psalm Model—Does the song follow one or more of the models of worship gleaned from the Psalms?
    1. Lament—Does the song address God as God, bring a legitimate grievance to God rooted in the direct and/or indirect consequences of sin, and rest in the promises of God?
    2. Praise—Does the song exalt and/or magnify the person, name, and/or Word of God for who He is, what He has done, and/or what He will do through adoration, blessing, and/or thanksgiving?
    3. Petition and Supplication—Does the song appeal to God’s Omnipotence and request His help through divine intervention or through supplying critical needs from a position of helplessness and humility?
    4. Call to Action—Does the song call the listener toward authentic worship of God alone, spreading the fame of God throughout the world, and/or growing in unity with one another?
  1. The Scripture Element—Does the song accurately reflect the teachings and narratives found in Scripture?
    1. Law—Is the Law accurately represented through the mention of Sin and man’s fallen condition; God’s holiness, justice and wrath; and man’s desperate need for Salvation?
    2. Gospel—Is the Gospel accurately represented through the unmistakable mention of Jesus Christ, His completed Work, and His free gift of Grace?
    3. Scripture Reference—Is there any discernible, specific passage of Scripture that is accurately represented?
  1. The Truth Element—Do all of the truth claims in the song line up with the Truth of Scripture alone?
    1. Appeal to Emotions—Does the song appeal to emotions like love or fear in a way that is either contrary to biblical depictions of those emotions or that intentionally or unintentionally places value of those subjective emotions over objective terms like grace, mercy, justice, and sin?
    2. Equivocation—Does the song use the same definitions of words like victory, broken, and surrender that the Bible uses, or does it use alternate definitions that intentionally or unintentionally change the interpretation of Scripture?
    3. Appeal to Heaven—Does the song claim things as authoritative either from the perspective of God Himself or from the intentional or unintentional perspective of God’s prophet that are contrary to Scripture?
  1. The Excellence Element—Does the song pursue excellence and strive toward God’s standards of beauty and craft?
    1. Lyrical Composition—Are the lyrics crafted, creative, clever, and clear in a way that shows discernible care and attention to word choice, grammar, syntax, and comprehensibility? 
    2. Musical Composition—Is the music crafted, creative, clever, and clear in a way that shows discernible care and attention to basic music theory elements like melody, chord structure, arrangement, and singability?
    3. Lyrical Beauty—Do the lyrics utilize poetic devices like imagery, repetition, form, and wordplay to display objective beauty and appropriate emotion while maintaining accessibility and memorability?
    4. Musical Beauty—Does the music utilize prosody, variation, contrast, and undistracting surprise to display objective beauty and appropriate emotion while maintaining accessibility and memorability?

Updated 7/19/21

  • Changed some of the wording in the Excellence Element in favor of more commonly understood terms
  • Added “and Church” into the title of the document, and made some clarification edits into the apology
  • Rearranged the order of the questions in the Excellence Element
  • Added a list of false doctrines in the Origin Element

Updated 2/28/2021

  • Added question “a” to the Origin Element
  • Added the word “currently” to question “b” of the Origin Element

Updated 12/28/2020

  • Added questions concerning the Psalm Model and restructured the list into categories of Psalm Model, Scripture Element, Excellence Element, and Origin Element
  • Added “an appropriate emotional connection” to the Excellence Element

Updated 3/16/2023

  • Removed Origin Element
  • Moved question “d” from Scripture Element to its own category of Truth Element.

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