Book Review: It was Good - Making Music to the Glory of God

“If we can find a way to express ourselves better through our art, then a more potent expression is by definition more useful to the God we serve." [1]

Christ. Identity. Music. Creating. Four words that are key to what It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God is about. The 30 chapters, all written by different authors, take you on a tour of music from Harmony to Jazz to Touring. In each chapter we are invited to see that a Christian’s identity in Christ practically impacts their lives and their music for good.  

Created to Serve, Serving by Creating

For the Christian musician, music and faith often seem to exist independently of each other. Often Sunday’s sermon is a distant memory in the practice room on Monday, and the bright stage lights seem a world away from Thursday’s prayer and Bible study. But It was Good challenges us to take a different approach. Many of the authors helpfully make links between a life of music and faith, to name a few ways: showing humility and grace when relating to others, seeking wisdom from those more experienced than us, the importance of perseverance, and ultimately keeping our eyes fixed on the bigger picture of bringing glory to God.

This book is an excellent read if you are thinking through what it means to be a faithful Christian whilst pursuing excellence in music. I found it very helpful to be walked through so many different aspects of being a musician from a Christian perspective. It also was reassuring to read of these older Christians, many of whom are very accomplished musicians, showing that they are indeed human and face many challenges across their careers.

A book with many voices

The book comprehensively covers a range of topics from an impressive number of authors. With so much variety, it therefore makes sense that not every chapter will be relevant for every reader. Several of the contributors are American which means they often speak into a slightly different context to ours here in the UK. A student in a British music college may struggle to relate to the chapter written by a Christian record producer in the US, and someone with an interest in contemporary music probably won’t find the exposition on Augustine’s De Musica in Guthrie’s chapter on Harmony all that useful. However, they do make points that can apply universally to musicians and still make for an interesting read.

As well as a variety of contexts, there are also different writing styles, with mixed success. Reading true stories of Christ’s faithfulness in the musician’s lives was inspiring, although parts of their story didn’t always seem relevant to the topic they were supposed to be writing on. At times this felt like a missed opportunity. Some chapters were more conceptual, such as the chapter on freedom by David Fuentes. Beginning with a promising question of whether music can free us or whether it just produces the feeling of being free, I was a little disappointed to come away not sure how to apply what I had read.

A gift of glory back to our Creator

It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God is very enjoyable read, written by musicians who love what they do and love their God. This book has played a significant role in my thinking on the subject, and has encouraged me to embrace my creativity, knowing it is part of the way God made me and that it has a purpose – to show the world something of the wonder of God. If you want to live to for Christ, or even just intrigued as to what living a Christian musician looks like, this book is a fantastic place to start.

[1] Brad O’Donnell, It was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God (Square Halo Books, 2013), 103