The Power of Music June 11, 2018

I firmly believe, nor am I ashamed to assert, that next to theology no art is equal to music; for it is the only one, except theology, which is able to give a quiet and happy mind. This is manifestly proved by the fact that the devil, the author of depressing care and distressing disturbances, almost flees from the sound of music as he does from the word of theology. This is the reason why the prophets practiced music more than any art and did not put their theology into geometry, into arithmetic, or into astronomy, but into music, intimately uniting theology and music, telling the truth in psalms and songs.” 

-Martin Luther[1]


Do you have a favorite song? How do you feel when that song comes on? Does it make you feel held back? Limited? Of course not! It makes you feel unstoppable. For that 2 minutes and 30 seconds, what was once impossible, is now mere moments away from being crushed. Whether it be the extra mile you’re running, or the needed inspiration you need to help make a huge life decision. Music has the power to alter your mind and motivate you to move mountains. I have had many moments where the right song has convinced me to keep going, to push through, to not give up. I’m sure you have, as well.

Martin Luther declares that after the theology – the study of the nature of God - music alone deserves to be celebrated as mistress and queen of the emotions of the human heart. Why does music do this to us? Why does it have the power to sway the heart like no other.

There is mystery here, and I don’t pretend to know what it is. But, what we can know is that there is great power in God’s gift of music. Evidence of this power is all around us.

After all, this is why we invest so much of our lives into shaping the music that surrounds us; whether it be the concert coming up, the music we listen to in our cars or homes, or the music we choose to create and perform. Music carries power of influence and weight of emotion.

This is why people may express harsh opinions at times towards music they don’t like. Despite being an intangible, untouchable substance, it’s not unusual for mass groups of people to be offended and disgusted with an artist’s album. Music cannot wield a gun or carry a sign, but how many times have we felt hurt by a lyric? It is so powerful.

This is also why the Bible calls us to sing from the heart, and is filled with music. It’s not enough to speak about God’s holiness and majesty, we are called to sing about it; to shout for joy (Psalm 33:3 NIV). David soothed King Saul’s anger, drove away a “harmful spirit” by playing music (1 Samuel 16:14-23). This power in music was God’s intent.

For me, this dive into the why’s and how’s of a medium that has as great an impact as music helps place a theme of intentionality around the subject. As a songwriter, I know I have the potential power to inspire and motivate. As a listener, I know I have the chance to be moved in a direction that will impact others in a positive way. When we sing with joy in our car, when we are listening to that high energy song in a workout, when we join with our church congregation in singing praises we’re engaging in something spiritual. We’re connecting with the stream of something more.

I hope this reminds us that what goes into our ears also goes into our hearts. Whether you’re a maker of music or a listener, I hope you never settle for mediocre.

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. -Ephesians 5:19 NIV

- Mike Coia, Director of Worship

[1] This common quote is from Classical Pastoral Care by Thomas Oden, p. 104. His reference is: Luther, Weimarer Ausgabe 50, p. 371f; What Luther Says 2, pp. 982-983.