Not only was Martin Luther an accomplished theologian and beloved pastor, but he also had some gifting for music. He wrote many hymns, many of which are sung to this day not only by those in the Lutheran tradition but by other Protestants as well. Perhaps the best known is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which is based on Psalm 46. Luther well understood the power and influence of music. His understanding is well captured in his statement that “music is the handmaiden of theology.”
Like a handmaiden who assists her master, music serves theology and the teaching of God’s Word. And like a handmaiden, music can be a good servant or a bad servant. When music is a good servant, it provides the right setting for the teaching of God’s truth and for helping the people of God grasp the deep things of the Lord. Quality hymns and songs enrich our hearts and minds, driving home what God has revealed to His people. On the other hand, when music is a bad servant, it gets in the way of good theology. Poorly crafted music and lyrics promote error. As an art form, music always communicates something, and it can communicate either truth or error.