Questions for Christian Music Discernment

The following is a list of questions that I work through when analyzing songs, specifically for the use of congregational worship (Type 1 songs), but it is also useful for other Christian Music (Type 2 and Type 3 songs). The questions work through the areas of Scriptural accuracy, lyrical and musical excellence, and questions about the song’s origins.

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, some common sense, and discernment practice. This list is also not Sufficient, but has grown and condensed many times since its inception (and even since the Balmcast started!).

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 songs and critically think through them from many different angles, and to do all of it 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?
    4. Truth—Do all of the truth claims in the song line up with the Truth of Scripture alone?
  1. The Excellence Element—Does the song pursue excellence and strive toward God’s standards of beauty and craft?
    1. Lyrical Beauty—Do the lyrics utilize poetic devices, form, and mnemonic to grasp for objective beauty, accessibility, memorability, and an appropriate emotional connection?
    2. Musical Beauty—Does the music utilize prosody and surprise to grasp for objective beauty, accessibility, memorability, and an appropriate emotional connection? 
    3. 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 understandability? 
    4. Musical Composition—Is the music crafted, creative, clever, and clear in a way that shows discernible care and attention to melody, chord structure, basic music theory, and singability?
  1. The Origin Element—Does the song’s origin have a negative impact on the song’s reception?
    1. At the time the song was written, was the songwriter an active member of the Visible Church, receiving the Covenant blessings dispensed by the Church?
    2. Does the songwriter or parent ministry currently have a public reputation of ascribing to, affirming, and/or propagating false teaching?
    3. Can you, in good conscience, pay the royalties to support the ministry of all copyright holders for the song in question?
    4. Can you, in good conscience, publicly support the full ministry of the songwriter by extension of approving the song in question?

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

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