~ Adapted from email correspondence ~
I am very against making up a restriction where the Bible does not state or imply one. On the other hand, I am also very against using “God made all things good” as a blanket justification for everything that people want to do. This application pushes the text far beyond its original purpose. It means only that food and marriage and such things are not spiritually unclean, but that all such things are clean through faith and prayer. Yet we still do not eat poisonous mushrooms, even naturally grown ones! Indeed mushrooms are not spiritually unclean, but which mushrooms are fine to eat? Books or reading as such may not be spiritually unclean, but which books should you read? Certainly it does not mean that the Satanic Bible is holy. Music, or rhythms and sounds as such, may not be spiritually unclean, but which songs are acceptable? Paul says that (even if) all things are permissible, not all things are expedient.
Both illegitimate restriction and permission are characteristics of the Pharisees. They make restrictions where the Bible does not. And then they pretend that the Scripture says something or that it does not say something (whichever suits their purpose) in order to justify and excuse every little thing that they do.
With this in mind, it seems that secular music could be consumed in principle, but it ought to be used with discernment and moderation just like other forms of non-Christian entertainment and expression, such as paintings, novels, and movies. It might not be wrong for me to admire a non-Christian photo of a beautiful lake or mountain (but it would be ridiculous to follow one tradition that would make it a holy mandate to take more and better photos than the non-Christians). It might not be inherently wrong to watch a movie produced by non-Christians, but which non-Christian movies are acceptable? The broad principle does not automatically sort out every instance for us. We will have to pay attention to the contents.
Non-Christian songs, even when they are not singing about sex and drugs, continuously exhibit and suggest certain beliefs regarding romantic love, freedom, dreams and ambitions (common theme in children’s movies), a festive spirit, tolerance, and many other things. Even the song “Happy Birthday” assumes that each human being is so important that he ought to mark the day of his birth every year, and that everybody else ought to celebrate it as well. Is this good or acceptable? Maybe, maybe not, but the song assumes an answer to the question. It is not neutral. The mind could absorb these things so that they become mental strongholds. Christians ought to agree with this general assessment and caution, and understand that it is not paranoia. The Bible teaches us to protect the heart, because out of it are the issues of life.
Still, I would not make a law for myself and say that I must not watch movies or listen to songs. And I would not try to excuse myself by saying that all things are good. If you ask why I am watching a movie, I would answer, “Because I want to watch a movie. After this I am going to eat a steak!” The one who tries to find a precise justification for letting them do something when the Bible does not really offer that justification, is a Pharisee. He is condemned whether he does it or does not do it. We must pursue purity, but also hold on to the liberty that Christ won for us with his blood.