Music, or the capacity for music, is built into God’s good creation. Music is possible because God created the world to vibrate in particular ways, created the human body with the capacity to recognize the vibrations, and gave the human brain the capability of decoding these vibrations so that we hear them as music.
Because of the entrance of sin into the world human culture has become totally depraved.* Human culture is simply the product of God’s image bearers making things from God’s creation. But when the image bearers are corrupted by sin, and the creation itself is cursed and groans because of the Fall, culture is inevitably affected by the Fall as well. There is no good reason to restrict the impact of the Fall to musical lyrics and to wall off musical style as the (only?) aspect of culture unaffected by the Fall.
Jonathan Edwards notes that redemption may be used in narrower and broader senses. Narrowly, redemption may refer to the “purchase of salvation.” In this sense redemption was accomplished with the death and resurrection of Christ. More broadly, redemption may include “all that God works or accomplishes tending to this end, not only the purchasing of redemption but also all God’s works that were properly preparatory to the purchase, or as applying the purchase and accomplishing the success of it” (A History of the Work of Redemption, ed. John F. Wilson (New Haven: Yale, 1989), 117-118).
In the larger sense, Christ will redeem music when he returns and sets the world right, reversing all the effects of the Fall. In the meantime, Christians should seek to live consistently with the coming redemption and anticipate it as much as is possible in a fallen world.**
When a Christian says that he is going to redeem certain musical styles by applying Christian lyrics to a style associated with all the things Christ opposes, his vision of redemption is not too large. It is too small. The Fall extends beyond the lyrics, and redemption must therefore extend beyond them as well.
*Total depravity is more correctly applied to individuals. In both cases it is important to recognize that “total” does not mean a person or culture is as bad as it can be. It means that the corruption of sin extends to every part. There is no part of the human person (e.g., his reason) and no part of human culture (e.g., musical style) unaffected by the Fall.
**Isaiah 59:15-21 provides a model for how we ought to think of redemption. In this passage redemption is accomplished by the Lord himself in the last day. And yet Christians today should learn from the Lord’s displeasure at the lack of justice and the lack of intercessors that seeking to establish justice insofar as is possible and interceding on behalf of those being treated unjustly is pleasing to God and thus expected of his people. Christians cannot accomplish final redemption, but they must live consistently with it. This is not a call to triumphalism. Peter’s first epistle reveals that when Christians live at odds with their culture in this way they can expect persecution.