Monday, September 18, 2006

"Amoral" Doesn't Mean Anything Goes

I've never quite grasped how folks can declare dogmatically that something not in possesson a soul capable of morality must still be "moral" or "immoral." For that reason, I'm glad to see Buffington Powers, a Wisconsin pastor, articulate the problems with that view as they relate to our musical choices.

Perhaps the debate is, to some degree, semantical. I think most everyone would agree that vehicles of communication deliver messages, and those messages are certainly not limited to the words. Messages may be communicated in images, as well. I'm not sure it can be proven that any image certainly communicates a moral act. Some certainly may communicate morality or immorality, depending on the context. I'm convinced it's true that some images certainly depict immorality.

In other words, human hearts are the center of morality, not the things that human hearts produce. Powers puts it this way: "You cannot attach a label of 'moral' or 'immoral' to anything other than the heart of a man or woman."

That doesn't mean anything goes in our choices, even our musical choices. It does mean that the object that deserves the real scrutiny is the human heart and its lusts, motivations, and deceitfulness. As Powers says, music is a tool, and . . .
Tools are created by mankind as an expression of either the righteous or evil intentions in his heart. The tools are used by the individual for carrying out the designs of the heart. The man will be judged by God not the tool.


Dave said...


Please help me understand your thinking in the first paragraph. Do you believe there is such a thing as an immoral act or are you suggesting that the act is not immoral, it is the people who are immoral? Or is it both?

Ben said...

The meaning of my first paragraph is simply that we are incapable of attaching a moral quality to all "non-people" entities. Is a Mercedes moral, immoral, or amoral? I'm not professing to know exactly how to answer that question, but I tend to think that buying a Mercedes would be a moral act for some people in some situations and an immoral act for other people in onther situation.

Along the lines of what I said in the second paragraph, I think it's impossible to define any human action as necessarily moral apart from its context (i.e. internal motivation as well as external circumstances). Some human actions may be either moral or immoral, depending on context. Other human actions will always be immoral. It's possible to do "good" things for wrong reasons and therefore be in sin, but it's impossible to do bad things for good reasons and not be in sin.

wellwred said...

Ben, I believe I understand what you are saying and also it's implications in the realm of music (at least in private use)- do you have any thoughts on what that implies for those making choices as to the 'best' style/content for corporate use of music?

In other words - how do we, understanding that music can possibly be 'moral' to someone and 'immoral' to another in the same context, be most deliberately biblical in determining musical stlye/content?