©Eric Bolden, 2000-2006
What's the Problem with Rock?
So What Does All of This Mean?
"Scientific" Studies and "Natural" Effects
What Has Been Proven So Far?
Lively Music and Dancing in the Bible
Rejecting the flesh just as unscriptural as indulging it
The pagan origins of austerity
Is it the Old Covenant that's pagan; and Platonism God's 'spirit and truth'?
Preliminary Assessment of the Issue
The Spirit Behind the Music
Shallowness and Personal Experience
Subjectivity, Preference and Conscience
"Evil Communications" and Outward Appearance/"Appearance of Evil"
God's Creativity and The Development of Music
Behind the Criticism: The Quarrelsome State of Modern Separatism
God, Race and Culture
The Fear of Ecumenicism
Traditional Society and Causes of Rebellion
Standing Against Everything
Conclusion: A Word to the CCM Crowd
Scriptures on Separation
"Reaching the World"
Answers to Bill Gothard's statements on the fruits of rock
Summary of Logical Fallacies
Illustration of debate: "The Vicious Cycle"
The dispute over music styles in worship is being labeled a "battle", with "apostasy and deception" in
Christian music. Modern artists are being labeled "not our allies", "their guns pointed at God's truth, not
the Devil's lies"1, and are seen as "denigrating the Church", and causing "division" and "fostering the
generation gap" by setting aside established traditions or "landmarks", in favor of their "rebellious"
Some label Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) a "golden calf" (idolatry) in the Church. One Fundamentalist magazine features articles and book excerpts blasting the "jungle beat"2, or "jungle sound"3, connected with the emotional "charismatic nonsense"4 pervading the modern church. Others even blame it on society's moral decay, which in turn is said to lead to our national tragedies. (i.e. Modern preachers/churches have "compromised", by among other things bring these "wicked" styles into the church, and this has affected society from the top down).5
This is all such strong language coming from some Christians aimed at others, and all involving not major
theology, but rather just the sound of music!
The CCM advocates themselves have taken a somewhat passive approach in responding. Their basic answer was that "music is neutral", so we don't have to take what these people say seriously.
But the critics have answered this repeatedly. Music is not neutral, but can be shown to affect people for bad or good. It is no coincidence, for example, that a song like "Born to be Wild" is associated with fast reckless driving.
Another big criticism is that many artists have copied secular rock music to the point that it hardly has any Christian distinctness.
The CCM crowd hasn't really answered all of this. They seem to be taking a "just ignore 'em; you can't convince
them anyway; it's a just waste of time" attitude. So they continue in the path that they're on, and instead
of the debate dying down, the critics seem to have gotten even louder and more boisterous in their
message, with some ministries churning out new books on the subject every few years, all repeating the
The silence or repeated weak arguments of the CCM crowd are proof to the critics that they are right, and that the younger Christians are just plain wrong and know it, but are simply doing whatever they feel like, in total disregard of God and His Word. Scripture tells us to rebuke Christians who persistently live in open sin, and if it keeps up, to even regard them as unbelievers, and this is what we are close to having happen in these "New" versus "Old" evangelical controversies.
But the truth is that the younger crowd is simply not convinced that they are scripturally wrong, even though they may
not be good at defending their stance. So some sense needs to be brought into this issue which is
causing so much conflict among the brethren. Just what style is or is not compatible with Christian
1 Fisher, Battle For Christian Music, p 177
2 Mayes, Rev. Robert A "Christian Rock", Sword of the Lord, 12-12-97, p.12. Bob Jones University's Faith for the Family article on "Child abuse" by Sword editor Hugh Pyle (www.bju.edu/faith/vol10num3/abuse.html) even mentions the "savage jungle beat"
3 Sears, Gordon: Apostasy and Deception in Christian Music; excerpted in Sword of the Lord, 10-2-98, p.9
4 ibid, "Editor's Notes" 2-6-98, p.7
5) See Dennis Corle Revival Fires magazine, 10-01
5) See Dennis Corle Revival Fires magazine, 10-01
What's the problem with Rock?
"Rock music" has always been suspect to conservative Christians, albeit for good reason. Taking a good look at the artists, their philosophies, messages and lifestyles, and even how the sounds they produce may go along with rebellion, unrest and sensuality, I can understand why rock, rap, disco and even blues have been associated with these things. It is quite true that the rock, and black music industries have been among the leaders of the sexual revolution, along with rebellion, drugs, and often violence and false religion, and to this day the industry never ceases to add more and more sex to its lyrics and videos. Even the term "rock and roll" is said to have originated as a slang for sexual motion. I can very well understand why people would think these styles were the antitheses of Christianity.
However, the problem is their failing to state their concern and warnings with love, rather than blasting
the brethren and then trying to back it up with endless arguments. Many fundamentalist circles are
taking legitimate scriptural concerns about music, and pushing them to the point of excluding much of
Christian music except "traditional" styles. Their formula is "If rock=rebellion, then Christian
rock='Christian rebellion'". The line of argumentation is:
Scripture teaches Christlikeness and condemns paganism, sensuality and rebellion.
The beats and rhythms used in rock music were created by pagans and used to convey false religion and promote sensuality and rebellion.
Conclusion: The Bible explicitly condemns all forms of "rock" and related styles.
They start with various scriptures and then conclude that they rule out things by principle, even though
they do not say this. A whole genre of music is then treated as if the scriptures forbid it as clearly as
adultery and idolatry, and Christians who partake of it are denounced as if they were living in such sins.
My objection is not that I think that everything out there is OK, but it's the argumentation that's really bad, and based on poor logic that is often contradictory. Yet it is preached with such authority. Their emphasis is on the world, the flesh and the devil.
Separatists emphasize the "separation" of the "sacred" from the "world" in musical STYLE. So from this, they conclude that only certain styles of music are "God's", and all the rest are "the world's", and thus should be shunned by all good Christians, being totally unacceptable to a holy God. "Separation" is the big word in the radical fundamentalist writings. This is what has often been used to justify contempt for the world, and even racism. It's true that 'separation' is a biblical concept, but the question is just how far is it to be taken?*
The three main verses used to advocate this world-denying separatism are 1 John 2:15, James 4:4 and
Romans 12:2. However, these passages, according to their contexts, are basically saying not to get too
wrapped up in the things of the world that our relationship with God and our brethren suffers. It can't
mean total separation and rejection of the world, because 1 Cor.7:33 associates marriage with "the
world", for instance. (See appendix, below for further discussion of these three scriptures). The truth is,
the church cannot be removed from the world and worldly things (which are always connected to sin,
rebellion, pagan worship, and other influences of the devil) to the extent these people suggest, because
the church is IN the world, else, as is pointed out in 1 Cor.5:10, "you'd have to leave this world" (v.11 shows the "separation" he advocates is from false brethren).
The lifestyles of the Amish are the consistent application of this idea of separatism, but the fundamentalists don't "separate" that much. How do they justify not separating that much? The Amish must be taking it too far. This shows it is possible to take it too far.
How can one possibly separate certain styles of music as "the new song" we're supposed to sing in our
"new lives", and then reject all the rest as "the world's music", when the so-called "sacred" styles are
made by people in the world, and they reflect a cultural style as well? For instance, the horn and vocal
arrangements in most of the "good music" demonstrated in a fundamentalist class I attended all
sounded like homage to some medieval English king proceeding out of the drawbridge of his castle.
There is nothing wrong with this, because that is the way they worship, and they should reserve that for
the true King of kings. Yet that is derived from the world! And it is stained (associated) with sin as well
(conquests, corruption, etc. of the kingdom that used that style). Also, the symphonic arrangement of newer worship music is derived from
classical music which is just as secular. (Yet, they say that classical is OK; more on this next).
A common charge against CCM is also the message being "shallow", meaning weak in theology, and centered on personal experience, and the music as a whole being more "entertainment" than anything else ("worldly" values). This is true in many cases, but coming from critics who focus on the sound of music as being decisive, it itself is shallow reasoning, tacked on to add weight to their argument against CCM.
The biggest double standard is the fact that the "separation from the world" logic with only God-honoring worship music qualifying for listening by Christians would rule out all secular music or music for enjoyment, yet, many of these people have said that the classical is OK for Christians, and America's national anthems and various other similar songs are also acceptable. So contemporary Christian music is bad, but traditional secular music is OK! As they will later admit, the "world" does produce "acceptable" music. This is all based, however on a totally different set of criteria from the above, and flatly contradicts the "separation from the world" arguments, so we must look at the other arguments for the real reason for this rejection of CCM.
*Fisher says that's like asking "How far do we take the inspiration of Scripture" and instead says we should ask,
when do we "separate" and why? But this is really the same thing. Actually, it is legitimate to ask the question about
inspiration, because as we'll see later, there are people who do take "inspiration" further than Fisher's circle, arguing
that a 17th century translation was inspired as much, or among some, even more than the original autographs!
Often, when denouncing "rock", the critics will claim what we are supposed to listen to and sing is
"Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" (Col.3:16, Eph.5:19). This then becomes the main "proofs" that the Bible favors traditional over contemporary.
But many of the contemporary Christian songs they criticize are either modern "hymns" (odes) of praise to God, and some are taken right out of the Psalms or other scriptures. Most are at least "spiritual" in that they advocate Christian values, and teach or encourage the believers (as the Colossians passage is instructing us), even if they may not be loaded with deep theology, or have a largely human orientation. Can this even be said about classical pieces that don't even have words, or the national anthems, which are basically "hymns" of praise to our country (a fallible human institution, and one whose past is greatly over-romanticized and viewed as almost without sin!).
The problem is in how you define "spiritual" (pneumatikos), meaning "non-carnal"
(or "ethereal" as opposed to "gross" —Strong). The critics begin identifying the music (beside the lyrical
content) as the true indicator of whether a song is "spiritual" or "carnal". This is the basis of the whole
issue, and as you'll see, it all boils down to a hodgepodge of arguments that are hard or impossible to
prove, because they rely on supposed universal effects of certain elements of music on people, or
overgeneralized correlations with immorality and other sins.
So as it turns out, the contemporary rhythms, and to a certain extent, the harmonies are "unfit to convey Christian truth", and therefore make the songs "carnal" rather than "spiritual" no matter what the text says. They at best send a "mixed message" with the music and words "conflicting" or even "contradicting" each other. This is often likened to a Christian handing out tracts while dressed indecently, or using sinful means to accomplish a spiritual task (e.g. defacing property with a scripture verse). One person even said "Christian rock" was like "Christian fornication" (Cloud, Friday Church News Notes 5-4-01). This is their major response to the common plea that we should use modern styles to reach out to the modern world.
Music is broken down to its basic elements, and here lies the foundation of their claim that
contemporary music is intrinsically carnal. They claim the melody (the tune) of music is supposed to
follow the text(words), and that the harmony (defined as "mood") supports the melody (so that it
doesn't "distract with its sensuality"), and that the rhythm, of course is last. The three correspond to the
"spirit(the part of us that does the actual worshiping)", the "soul(mind)", and the "body(flesh)".
This yields a fairly plain and simple sound, because the sung words make up most of the music. Reversing this order is what makes music "soulful", "funky", or "jazzy", and this is what they are against, claiming it is distracting from the words (worship of God), and appealing to the flesh instead of the spirit. Even "constant syncopation" (the beats having an irregular accent*), "repetition" and "low frequencies" place these styles in the category of not only "unhealthy" or "unnatural", but also "unholy" and "un-Christlike".
Meanwhile, all of this is being compared to how a neutral element, such as a letter of the alphabet, or food ingredient fits together into a not-so-neutral (i.e., "good" or "bad") whole. Then, "world-views" are compared: "The Christian" believes that not everything is neutral and therefore "draws a line" between the "holy" and "profane". Yet, "CCM" claims neutrality, which is just the "world's" position of "relativism", in music. All black and white; absolutely no gray areas (The very concept of "gray areas" is associated by them with "relativism").
|Many factors are omitted in references of the effects of music, which are assumed to prove "all rock is always bad, and traditional is what is good". One form may appeal to the head, while the other appeals to the heels, but is an "intellectual kick" really more spiritual than "boogieing"?|
Next, various rockers are quoted admitting they are trying to influence the youth sexually with the beat.
Often they will even affirm that their music is "anarchy" or even "antichrist[ian]". Others are quoted saying how an "incessant beat" "erodes a sense of responsibility", because "something very basic and primitive in human nature
responds" to it, and "it makes you want to move" or "its chief appeal is to the heels instead of the head".
So from this it is assumed that this "influence" is always bad and sinful in itself, regardless of the context. In other words, it's the beat that makes people sin, and changing the words is of no use. Yet as I will show later, neither scripture nor history supports this broad sweeping judgment.
Then, with an increasing list of "documented and credible evidence from qualified secular sources" on how music affects us or is not neutral, and even that rock and jazz were indelibly sexual or a self-imposed "attack on morality" created by our civilization, it is claimed that though
... it is relatively easy for believers to dismiss the historian's critique, the sociologist's comments, the music critic's judgments, the educator's opinions, the composer's evaluation, the choral conductor's insight and anyone else who does not overtly espouse Biblical values. Let us remember, though, that in these circles, and particularly in this discipline, there is a level of expertise, awareness, academic stature and professional accomplishment which is seldom matched in Christian circles. Furthermore, when folks without the witness of the Holy Spirit in their lives forcefully and passionately condemn that which they consider damaging to the arts in particular and to society in general, we as believers need to heed their words. It should make Christians sit up and take serious notice when the world categorizes something as having moral impact and the Christian community responds by saying, "We don't think so. Matter of fact, we think it's fine." Are we not typically on the other side of this kind of discussion? Who is being the "salt and the light" here? In Luke 16:8, the Lord alluded to instances in which the world would have better judgement than the believer, ". . . the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." Perhaps the area of music is a classic example. ("An Important Question for Our Times—Is Music Moral?", by Kurt Woetzel, at http://www.majestymusic.com/inchoir/display.asp?pageid=musicmoral).But what we shall see as we go on, many factors are omitted in these references, which are assumed to prove "all rock is always bad, and traditional is what is good". For instance, one quote is offered "So when you play music, you also embrace a style. A style suggests ways to sit, ways to sing, ways to feel rhythm. It also suggests ways to think.", but this in itself does not tell us which styles of music suggests which way to sit, think, etc.; or even whether these ways are always bad or good and in which contexts. The insinuation is that contemplation or conformity, for instance, are always good, and dancing or not conforming (to an "establishment") are always bad. This is where the main error of this teaching lies.
Also, do not forget that because these professionals do not have the witness of the Holy Spirit, as was acknowledged, they may be more inclined to find "impurity" in things like music, (as those who did use music to attack morality), and not see how the Spirit can redeem things. They are wiser "in their generation", meaning in secular life and with their secular studies; not in spiritual matters. Woetzel apparently forgets that there is "earthly" wisdom as opposed to spiritual wisdom (James 3:15). Earthly wisdom may have played well in Jesus' parable, but He was certainly not praising such "shrewdness" as something Christians should live by. (After all, the steward was called "unjust"!)
A book, entitled Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong and What We Can Do About It (William Kilpatrick) is quoted from, blaming rap and rock for uncommitted sex and violence because "...The beat says, 'Do what you want to do'" (p. 182). Of course, Woetzel built up to this by affirming that it is not just lyrics that cause the problem, but the "sound". So does this mean that if we simply reverse the accent of the beat to a march, then Johnny will suddenly snap into line and become civilized? Surely, there must be more to all of this than just a beat!
The big deal with "constant syncopation" is that it conveys FEELING. The conservatives are aware that this is connected with the flesh. But what they don't allow for is that it can also be controlled by the Spirit (like with sexual passion in marriage). That's why all of the music they advocate is straight laced. They are afraid of strong feelings, and believe they should be repressed, which they consider "surrendered" or under control. This is why they are so against Charismaticism, regarding it as apostate ("If we reject their theology, shouldn't we reject the music that supports it" one said**). Charismatic worship is characterized by strong emotions, though I would certainly agree that a lot of groups and churches have gone way overboard; some into complete absurdity and error. Still, you can't deny that there are at least some in this movement who are genuinely touched by the Lord, and though we may not agree with everything, still, it is wrong to completely dismiss them and then use that as a further case against lively music just because we don't have such strong emotions.
While it's pointed out that rock and jazz are of the flesh and emotions, the traditional music supposedly "lends itself to contemplation" (mind and spirit), which is seen as making it the "Christian" choice, because "The Christian life is characterized by renewing the mind and a walk in the Spirit". (Fisher, p.104). Thus it is also called "sober", which is definitely a biblical virtue, commanded in places like 1 Thess.5:6-8 and 1 Pet. 5:8. Since I, who was never into dancing, get my enjoyment of contemporary styles through contemplation (in which I am still sober), not only does this disprove such generalization; it's also the main reason I am so against this teaching: because the choices of music left us by these traditionalists actually leaves less to contemplate on then the rich diversity of modern styles. Meanwhile, the traditional forms' contemplative nature is wherein lies it's potential for sin (the counterpart to the "sensuousness" of the modern styles).
First, note the following quote:
When you felt transported by Mozart or Brahms, it wasn’t your body that was transported. The sensation often described is a body yearning to follow where its spirit has gone — the sense of a body being tugged upward, rising a little where you sit. And you almost always sit. And, for the most part, you sit comparatively still. The music doesn’t change your body.
The classical dance that grew from this music had a stiff, straight back and moved in almost geometrical lines. The folk dances of the West were also physically contained, with linear gestures. The feet might move with wonderful flurries and intricate precision, but the hips and the spine were kept rigid. That way, the energy that lived in the hips and the loins would proceed through proper channels — and those channels were defined well outside the dance. Western movement and music were as linear as its thought. (Michael Ventura, Hear That Long Snake Moan)
The assumption (by those who quote Ventura, who himself is for rock) is that because these styles supposedly "lift your spirit upward", rather than the lower body, this is what proves these are the "heavenly" forms. But not necessarily so. For instance, one [unsaved] person I know who had a lot of experience with conservative society in the past used to say "hey, if they want to just sit there and get their intellectual kick out of that plain music, that's good for them, but I want to boogie". Ultimate proof of this teaching, right? But is an "intellectual kick" really more spiritual than "boogieing"? The traditional forms have been associated with a cultural pride and smugness that looks down on others, including the very act of thinking one is more "civilized" or "cultured" or being superior to the lively music of the "barbarians". Might this be a possible way that some are "lifted up" by it? (Not that none's spirits are genuinely lifted up). The very "majestic" nature of much of it is what lends itself to this effect.
Pride also is a work of the "flesh", not just sensuous body movements! Some, recognizing the pride in even traditional music, are even more musically conservative, favoring a-capella, or even plainchant, and they criticize music that appeals to the sinful mind at all, rather than the spirit alone, considering it "proud". At least one critic, (Mike Paulson; touchet1611.org/paulsonmusic.com) while trashing the so-called "bad" music, even warns that people having their "spirits lifted up" by the "good" music, are sinning just as much as the others and still opening themselves up to bad spiritual influences; as lifting one's spirit is the job of the Holy Spirit alone!
An emphasis on contemplation (of "ideal beauty"), by the way, was a feature of Plato's philosophy, which we'll see later, has a strong bearing on this teaching. And I'm sure that many women have been lured into illicit relationships with classical, probably even easier than with rock, since they have that romantic sentiment that classical appeals to.
One significant point the above quote ignores is that the energy that lives in the hips is released in movements of the hips, in both dancing as well as exercise. This is a well known fact, and such "physical activity" is often encouraged for teenagers to help reduce the sexual tensions that urge them to fornicate. Of course, overtly sexual dance moves will go against this goal, but not all movements of the hips and spine are sexual. Also, dancing (or otherwise moving to the music) can be "sober", which means "self-controlled", as well. Repression, such as trying to keep these parts of the body rigid, on the other hand, helps build up tensions and actually makes the problem worse! Then, fundamentalists and other traditionalists wonder why their rigidity isn't working, and their children still quickly fall into sin or rebel; and of course direct all the blame to the outside world (or modern church). But they are using an unscriptural, unspiritual method of their own devising.
*This would supposedly wipe out all pop which uses the "backbeat", accented on even beats instead of odd. But if you look at most pop songs, the music (chords, along with the bass) actually is accented on the odd beats! It's only the percussion that is even-accented, and this sort of complements the music. (If the drums were odd-accented, it would sound awkward. Of course, some will say that drums themselves are bad). And there are some pop/funk songs that don't use the backbeat at all.
**Tim Fisher, Battle For Christian Music, p 198. This book gets a lot of treatment here because, while it is not the most well known defense of this position in music (that honor would probably go to Chick Publications' Jeff Godwin), it is one of the most in depth, (along with and drawing from Garlock & Woetzel's Music in the Balance),
and actually, one of the more civil criticisms (compared to Godwin and others). There are many clever arguments in
these works, but clever arguments in themselves do not create or define truth
Then of course they back this up with admissions that many secular musicians were involved in the
occult and used other religions (such as voodoo) to "find artistic freedom" (i.e., borrowing sounds,
rhythms, etc. from the cultures whom these religions were apart of.) Since the beat and repetitious
rhythms were often apart of the religious chants, these then are what summon demons, and no amount
of changing the words can undo this influence. (I wouldn't be surprised if this issue could be where the expression "the Devil is in the details" comes from!)
So the biggest charge leveled against modern music styles is the beat and rhythm's supposedly "demonic" origin.
But different cultures had their own styles, and whichever god they worshiped, those styles of music were used in the rituals. Since most pagans did not have a godly view of sex, in that context may it also have been used to incite sensuality. (Just like the beats were also useful in creating atmospheres of sensuality and rebellion in the rock and dance cultures of the last few decades.)
The beats didn't come from demons, though they may have been handy in worshiping them. Ancient pagan Europe and the paganized medieval church used simple chants (which are looked upon favorably by many of the critics), and these religions were just as false or demonic. (And the teacher in the class even acknowledged how chants are regaining popularity, in New Age religion. This is pretty significant.)
Even with rock or jazz performers crediting their being high or in meditation (both of which may open one up to demonic influence) for some of the sounds they produced, still, the demonic influence is not the sounds, but the act of tapping the power within apart from God. (Plain music can be likewise inspired by demons as well). Also, man's discovery of music in the Biblical narrative did not occur in an environment where God was followed. (Genesis 4:21).
And the most common beats used in rock aren't even exactly like the beats of voodoo ritual. There is a lot of broad categorization in these teachings as we shall see more of, with music being labeled "rock", "jazzy", "voodoo" or "jungle" purely because of the land it came from, rather than them really being the same forms. It was certain elements of certain songs that artists may have taken directly from voodoo or Eastern religion, but that doesn't make the backbeat itself, nor most of the "syncopation" or even "repetition" rock is criticized for particularly of voodoo origin. But this is the basis of these claims that none of this music is any good.
So with all of this, the teachers have completely removed the words (text), which either summoned demons or praised the true God, as the source of its value in worship, claiming that the rhythm and harmony are the true "text" of the music. But if it's the beat that summonses demons, then are all Christians who listen to it possessed or something? Just what do these demons do at Christian concerts and contemporary worship? Lead everyone into sin and false doctrine? There may be some who have deviated among the contemporary worship crowd, but that is their own spiritual life, and not everyone is like that, and there is much sin and false doctrine in traditional churches as well.
Another big point is the opinion of some in the secular media that CCM simply adds "new lyrics for 'the
Devil's music'", as the title of one People magazine article put it. But this is a pun that comes from the non-Christian world being used to Christians always condemning and shunning their music, so the new
phenomenon of Christian rock is a surprise to them. Also, they could be simply trying to find some
"inconsistency" to discredit the Christians with, as they're always doing. However, the class took this,
and cited Psalms 40:3 (regarding the "new song"— "and many shall see it and fear and shall trust the
Lord") as if to suggest that we would more impress the world if we stuck with the traditional styles. But
the world is only being driven farther away by our hostile attitude toward them, and our trying to stay in
our own little subculture, including our own music.
So what does all this mean?
So with all of this, the music that seems to win God's approval by default, is traditional church hymns, new ones written in the fashion of the old, and classical. Not only are contemporary rhythms bad to these people, but they even rule out "cute or clever ideas", which supposedly draw attention to the artists, and claim that music is just a "utilitarian tool". "The performer is not an artist but just a paintbrush, and the text is IT", claimed the teacher. Yet the majesty style he played had its own "clever ideas", such as a high note on "God", which supposedly "lifted Him up".
|The leaders of this criticism strongly deny that they are against different cultures, but SO MUCH is ruled out! under these 'guidelines', every elemental characteristic of African-American and Latino music and their contributions to modern music (e.g., "rock"/"pop") is rotten to the core|
Just think of the simple songs you sang in the grammar school auditorium or music class, such as "Climb Every Mountain", "London Bridge" (the teacher said he uses a Christian song that uses this melody with his children). Also the Star Spangled Banner, Our Country 'Tis of Thee, God Bless America, and America the Beautiful (which are in many hymnals!) The more recently added "majesty" style is the same thing overlaid with syrupy strings and group vocals, and "majesty" style horns. It is basically an orchestrated version of the hymns, sounding much like mellow show or opera tunes or "elevator music". This is obviously a CULTURAL STYLE, reflecting a particular time as well.
The leaders of this criticism strongly deny that they are the ones pushing their own preferences, and against different cultures, but that is the corollary of all of this reasoning. SO MUCH is ruled out! Notice, that under these 'guidelines', every elemental characteristic of African-American and Latino music and their contributions to modern music (e.g., "rock"/"pop") is rotten to the core. Even classic jazz, which usually does not have the dreaded "heavy beat" or "noise level" they are always complaining about, is no good. —What they can't eliminate as overtly sensual, loud or demonic, they eliminate because of "syncopated time" or "too many minor chords". (A jazz version of "Abide With Me" was criticized for the sax "overshadowing the melody with the harmony". Quincy Jones was said to have "ruined" Handel's Messiah!)
So what it all comes down to is, that old hymn style and classical really is the only music that properly
For instance, the author of one of the texts of the class talks about the 'proper' elements of music, with the melody and lyrics emphasized first, and the rhythm last. Yet, the rock beats, (ultimately taking from the old African rhythms) which reverse these elements with the emphasis on the rhythm, he loftily claims "stand in opposition to authority. They are rebellious!"1 But the question is, WHOSE authority? I could agree that worship music should emphasize the lyrics, but this was a general statement about all music, and Scripture is completely silent on the issue (except for passages that have this read into them).
This author begins his book with a chapter entitled "God As Composer".
Scriptures are quoted regarding God's handiwork and His glory and beauty and how these attributes
are reflected in His creation, including man's works if he follows certain "principles". But not one
scripture is shown proving that the classical styles mentioned are what "follow God's principles", and
that the rock styles are against His principles or showing exactly what these "timeless principles of
excellence" are in relation to the elemental factors that supposedly make one style good while the other
is so bad. All we see is that they are "...the worldly, sensual styles of music that human culture in
rebellion of God has produced."
That's the main "proof" of this teaching, and notice the inference that only a certain segment of "human culture" is in "rebellion of God", and should not be copied, as if other segments were [apparently] not in "rebellion", and therefore did produce "excellence" in music that is "acceptable" for us. I have never seen such slick subtle cleverness anywhere else in Christian teaching!
What the scriptures do teach is that ALL human culture after the Fall is in rebellion of God, but that same ALL still bears His image and equally reflects His glory in spite of their fallenness and misuse of creation. If we can't listen to any music produced by "human culture in rebellion of God", then we just can't listen to ANY music, period!
Yet conservative Christianity, especially "fundamentalism" seems to
place this fall into "rebellion" much later than it is placed in the biblical narrative, as is evident in much of their
writings on this and every other moral/cultural issue. What is the basis of this? We shall see as we go
Of course, no one will say "my preference is God's" (especially when they're criticizing others' musical choices for being based on personal preferences). But still, what I have heard as the "acceptable" style
does fit into a particular cultural mold. They will claim that every culture has it's "good music" that
follows "God's principles", but I still know of no examples, and the literature the class gave me was
from three "conservative" companies. I even listened to online audio clips from the ministry of this
author, and it all seems to reflect the same cultural style and sound.
He mentions "universal qualities of great music" that "go beyond cultural barriers or national boundaries", but the only styles mentioned are "modern classical", "Baroque" and "Romantic". They may have come from different time periods and "nations", but still from the same "Western Christian Culture". So then where is all of this "good" cultural variety I kept hearing about?
Some go on to speak of "Christian culture" in its own right, but it seems this Christian culture is wedded to classical Western culture. Some, such as Kimberly Smith ("Oh, be Careful Little Ears") will claim classical Western culture really came from the Church (which it then rebelled against), but this ignores the mideastern background the church originally grew out of, and how the pagan "West" co-opted it and mixed it with their pre-existing customs as we will also see.
Perhaps the tribal people around the world may have some simple melodies that would be considered
acceptable ("Kum Ba Yah", perhaps?) But these would be few, and I get the feeling they may be
referring to "other" Christianized cultures. Occasionally, you'll get a reference to some African convert
questioning a missionary about his Christian rock, which "reminds him of the old tribal worship he just
gave up". But first, that's his association, having just come out of a background where rhythms were used negatively for idol worship.2 (Then yes, the missionary shouldn't play it around him, based on Paul's teaching.)
But this still doesn't prove it is universally bad, especially where there was no such prior association. In addition, what is the convert's idea of "Christian" music? Could this person have been influenced by more conservative missionaries who were there before?
Meanwhile, it is well documented how the music we are now calling "acceptable" classical or traditional
music, when new was also likewise condemned as worldly, sensual, and even demonic. The violin was
even called "the devil's fiddle", and the great pipe-organ, "the devil's bagpipe"; both of which would
lead to dancing in the church. This makes it ironic how critics Calvin Johanssen and Peter Masters both
have an emphasis on history, yet speak highly of the organ as "spiritual", ignoring how it was viewed back
The piano was also rejected as a "secular instrument" and was later associated with "ragtime". The augmented fourth chord was said to be possessed of the devil (yet since then it is used extensively in the Church), and classical composers were denounced as producing "wild insanities" without "form or meaning" (See Miller, Contemporary Christian Debate, p.28)
People used to plainchant and other simpler styles would naturally look down on polyphonic styles which include classical and most everything afterward, as well as various instruments they were not used to, or had associated with bad things. This is basically how people reacted to everything new or different (and right here shows a problem in the "historic" Church's attitude, which continues today). Yet the plain chant is grouped on the side of classical as "acceptable" while all styles that have any trace of African elements are all grouped together as "unacceptable". But the controversy then and now was exactly the same. Only now, we would try to say "Yeah, they were against those things then, but that was different; this time, what we are opposing really is evil! But that's just what everybody thinks!3
|The music we are now calling "acceptable" classical or traditional music, when new was also likewise condemned as worldly, sensual, and even demonic. This is basically how people in the "historic" Church reacted to everything new or different|
1)Fisher, Battle For Christian Music, p 78
2)This also applies to many of the critics, who themselves have come out of secular rock and the hippie culture, (Jeff Godwin, Terry Watkins and David Cloud are examples) But they should admit their weakness instead of lashing out at everyone else. Maybe then some would listen to them.
3) Fisher (p.27, 8) claims that people's rejection of classical was a genuine issue of "taste" and not moral judgement
(i.e. "moral standards" were not in question), but people certainly were making a moral judgment of it, if they associated the emerging styles and/or instruments with the devil and with sensuality, as we see they did! There is no denying that the issue is exactly the same. This further helped lead to relativity as the Church constantly redefines what is acceptable; so after centuries of this, people concluded that music must really be neutral and its good or evil purely subjective; changing with the time. It also ensured that the Church would always follow two steps behind the world, (confident in its "separation from the world", but nevertheless still following and therefore still just as "conformed" to (shaped by) the world, though negatively). This helps support the stereotype of Christians as "backward".
"Scientific" Studies and "Natural" Effects
Of course, there's another argument they have to fall back on: "negative natural effects" which are too
subtle to be noticed. A big highlight of many of their arguments now is the appeal to "scientific" studies
to prove "rock's" bad influence on everything from the heart to houseplants. This supposedly "proves"
that nature favors odd-beat accented rhythms over the "twisted" rock beat, for instance.
But as with the idea that the music hampers worship, you cannot prove it in a classroom or book, and one cannot readily disprove it either. So, unchallenged, they can proclaim this with such supposed divine "authority", as if the scriptures directly dealt with the issue. As was mentioned before, to even dispute any of this, you are criticized for disputing all of these "accomplished experts" who are more "wise" than Christians who have the witness of the Spirit.
I remember first hearing something about music's effect on the heart in the late 70's. It was one of those TV news stories stuck in the middle of the broadcast that was not a top story (as if it was really a significant discovery), but was nevertheless a bit sensationalistic and designed to catch one's attention; basically a "tabloid" story. It was a speculatory study that "could" be true, but it was still just being studied; like recent stories you might hear such as "Scientists Think There May Be A Good Chance of Finding Life on Mars", "[such and such] can cause cancer" (based on lab studies with rats), or the latest diet theory.
The song featured was Glen Campbell's "Southern Nights", but unfortunately, I didn't remember what the exact findings were, or whether it was a rhythm or other elements, or a whole style that was supposedly bad, or which elements or styles were said to be bad or good. I heard nothing about this again until a full decade later when I became aware of fundamentalist rock music critics using the argument to trash all rock music and other related styles.
Rather than some universal truth, it looks more like something they heard (like I did) and seized upon in their argument, but is neither proven nor unanimously accepted. Sort of like the other myths that spread among Christian culture, that cannot be readily proven or disproven, and thus may or may not turn out to be true. (Remember the one that claimed Proctor and Gamble would add a satanic symbol to their product labels in 2000?)1
As I mentioned above, the moral impact of violence on TV and movies or the effects of overly loud music is more universally agreed on, and is also more observable, and fits more with common sense. Another one of those kind of news stories I heard recently suggests that too much TV watching may impair children's attention span, but this was another common sense effect that really figured to people all along, and now simply has more documented observational support. Certain common elements of diet also. And of course, there are the old substance abuse issues such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs. These you hear about all the time.
Once again, people may ignore these findings and still continue what they are doing, but nobody seriously denies the findings to "justify" their habits, so why would Christians deny these theories on music, if they are really as credible?
Because this particular issue is not universally known, and not unanimously proven like the others. Not all such scientific "studies" and theories are as credible as others. You can't just take anything a scientist proposes (and that the media grabs) and use it in an issue as serious as the CCM critics are making this; let alone a spiritual, moral or scriptural issue by which you denounce other Christians for erring in!
Experimental science is based on THEORY, and very little is concrete; it is subject to differing interpretations. (Fundamentalists like this should know better, from their battles with evolutionism and psychology, which are also said to have been "proven" or "demonstrated" in lab studies!).
The fact that it is not documented that every listener of rock has a house full of dead plants or messed up heart rhythm shows that there are more factors to this than what is being presented here. Just how much of this syncopation, and other aspects of jazz and rock cause these effects, and how great are the effects? How loud was the rock that killed plants?
These are variables, which are by nature, relative. (It's so ironic to use relative data to try and debunk relativity in music!) The dangers of fat and sugar are well documented, and you would think just from reading, that any amount of them were poisonous, and that you should never touch the stuff. But that is not the case. Too much of them is what causes problems. That's why I would agree that extreme situations like acid rock or super-fast "thrash" need to be reconsidered, but it's actually the more mellow stuff (Amy Grant) that these critics focus on.
In fact, the popular music they criticize is very diverse in sound, and a lot of music in the categories of jazz, blues and even rock are mellow and relaxing, and even melodic. But they still find some reason to trash it; "associations" being if all else fails, or "it will lead you to the hard stuff" (But it has never led me or many others into the hard stuff!).
And even "quickening of the heart rate" and other stresses mentioned are not always bad. They occur in
exercise, especially aerobic, which is good for you (and notice; rock, disco or jazz are often used in workout programs, being a good accompaniment for it). This includes many forms of dancing, as well as running, biking, sports, and regular gym calisthenics.
So just citing findings doesn't mean anything if you don't consider all sides of the picture (and this goes for the citing of scripture as well).
|Rather than some universal truth, the "Science" studies look like a "tabloid" story CCM critics heard and seized upon in their argument, but is neither proven nor unanimously accepted. The findings, are in fact, often misinterpreted|
Another important reason it is not good to stake so much on findings like this is that they are easily misinterpreted.
One study pitted the effects of "rock" against classical. Fisher cites this study making sure to point out that the scientists "originally began these experiments with the idea of disproving that rock music had a negative effect on the listener". They showed that "some musical rhythms help synchronize an organism's natural biological rhythms, thus enhancing its functioning, while other rhythms tend to clash with, or disrupt, those internal rhythms"2. This sounds like the ultimate objective, irrefutable case against rock, doesn't it?
But what was being called a "rock" beat was actually chaotic drum beats that had no rhythm at all. Of course, something like this would be likely to have a negative effect on mice, yet it was snatched up without a thought as "proof" that rock was detrimental. Is this what we call "truth"? Also, another study that said rock was "weakening" to the body also showed the same effects from wearing clothes made of synthetic material, reading silently, and just the note of C5 by itself.
This branch or research is known as "behavioral kinesiology", and is based on psychology, and lurking behind it is all sorts of New Age "holistic" concepts, similar to Chi. As I will mention again later, this is a big double standard, as fundamentalists normally reject New Age occultism along with psychology and especially "behaviorism". Yet we see they will use them to try to win this debate! This reveals something seriously wrong in the issue. They are trying to win an argument at any cost, including that of truth! Where's the "separation from error" they so criticize new-evangelicalism on? Talk about "using the world's means" to advance the Gospel!
Other studies found no difference in the different styles of music, and some even demonstrated that exercise was
improved by listening to music one liked, including rock, and was distracted by listening to music one
was not familiar with, including classical. (See Steve Miller, The Contemporary Christian Music
A couple of authors really stretch scripture by claiming Jesus condemned "vain repetition", even though
He was referring to often recited long prayers, not the rhythm of music. (It's actually many traditional
hymn-singers who are guilty of this.
Another cites the scripture's reference to "melodies" as proof that it is teaching that the music itself should always be simple. Right here, if this is the way people are reading Scripture, then can we trust these conclusions they are drawing?)
The concern with repetition is a supposed "hypnotic" effect. But once again, you have to take into consideration how fast the rhythms are or how frequent the measures. I can sense this hypnotic sound in styles like techno (90's electronic dance), but most other pop is not that bad.
Bob Larson in Larson's Book of Rock provides a balanced treatment of the subject of the beat and its influence, acknowledging that heavy beats can greatly capture children's minds, but without trashing all pop beats as evil in themselves. (He also gives a balanced view of CCM. Of course, he is now criticized by Cloud and others for abandoning their universal rejection of contemporary styles).
|The factors cited in studies are variables, which are by nature, relative. It's so ironic to use relative data to try and debunk relativity in music!|
Amazingly, one author,3 after citing all of these moral, physical and scientific arguments ("you've heard it all before"), counters his own reasoning, saying that "the real issue is holiness" and that by focusing on all of these effects instead of holiness, people are actually focusing on man rather than rock's offensiveness to God: ("many are more interested in what God might permit than in how He might be pleased").
But if the whole proof of its offensiveness to God is it's negative effects (leads men to sin, plus is unnatural to boot, so it must be contrary to God), then we are right back to the question of what determines its offensiveness to God in the first place, if these aren't the right issues. This is circular argumentation. (And it's not the CCM fans who are citing scientific studies, but the critics, —i.e. this critic's own side of the debate; so who is he accusing of "focusing on these affects"?).
So it seems like these critics can't even decide amongst themselves what the real issue against rock is. They just know that God is against it for some reason or another. Conflicting arguments like this, pasted together into a grand scheme, are signs of an ultimately weak premise.
1) The fact the Christians often fall for and pass around such myths truly makes us look foolish to the world. In this, we can say that "The Children of light" are truly often "less wise" than the children of the world, as Woetzel had earlier cited. But it's conservatives like his circle that are actually the biggest purveyors of such nonsense.
2)Lipkin, Richard, "Jarring Music Takes Toll on Mice"; Insight 4/4/88; cited in Fisher, p. 81 and Miller, p.15)
3) Peck, Rock: Making Musical Choices p.7, quoted in Fisher, Battle For Christian Music p.88-9
2)Lipkin, Richard, "Jarring Music Takes Toll on Mice"; Insight 4/4/88; cited in Fisher, p. 81 and Miller, p.15)
3) Peck, Rock: Making Musical Choices p.7, quoted in Fisher, Battle For Christian Music p.88-9
What has been proven so far?
So far, we've established that many fundamentalists are making a major case out of the use of "rock" and other contemporary styles in Christian music. The critics start all of their teachings with a great emphasis on Scripture (God's Word) as our authority. This is our "rock"; our solid foundation. Yet we see that in condemning rock music, we always fall off of that solid foundation, onto the shifting sands of conjecture. We've heard a lot of what people say, but none of what God actually says on the subject.
From what we see, the entire argument hinges on taking the negative charges, claims, admissions, etc. people
(including science) have made about the history or supposed fruits of rock; holding that up to scripture,
and of course, in such case, the contemporary styles always fail to stand. (e.g. rock causes or is
connected with sin, sin is condemned in scripture, so rock is anti-scriptural).
Then it can safely be said that "The twisted rock beat is rebellious in it's nature, origin and use...and those of us who claim to be Christlike have no business being involved with it in any way whatsoever because it violates the very nature of God" (Fisher, p.83), and that Christians who use it are "aiding the devil", or are "deceived and rebellious" as others will add.
But considering such extreme statements as the above plus the fervor in
which this "battle" is waged, it seems we need much better scriptural support than what is being presented
How can anyone make such a pronouncement about God's nature (based solely on what people say), when God has said no such thing anywhere in His Word? It is basically a straw man argument.
All of these claims about rock music are not even unanimous or universal. There are many other people
in science, the media, and music who do not say it is bad. Who do we believe? Whoever happens to
support our position? This is truly shaky ground to be staking such an issue upon.
A good principle to follow is that any issue this important will be clearly delineated in scripture. Don't you think God would have specifically condemned rhythmic beats if they were so offensive to Him, and as
destructive as these critics make them out to be? (Especially if it was so specifically associated with the demonism and idolatry of pagan tribes, who often came into contact with and affected both Israel and the Church!)
Salvation, new birth, the doctrines about Christ's birth, death, resurrection and return, and the Christian life are all directly taught, and repeated throughout scripture.
The Ten Commandments plainly outline what God considers sin. Of course, Jesus expanded upon the spirit of the Law, and certain details may not be present as they did not exist, and then we have to extend principle to judge them, as the critics will claim. (e.g. any arts, technology, etc. that feature immorality are definitely anti-scriptural, even though they may not have existed when the Bible was written).
The critics make a big point of this, as pornography, drugs and abortion are not mentioned ("are
they OK then?") But these are just variations of certain sins, that do directly violate the
commandments against those sins. (This includes Christ's "magnified" definition of sins such as adultery and murder, in Matt.5).
Christ had said "who ever looks on a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart"(v.28). Here we have the sin of pornography directly implicated. He did not differentiate whether it was a live woman or a picture that would constitute "lust". So all we have done is added a new medium, and gave it a new name.
Mind altering drugs would fall under the same category as drunkenness in such scriptures as Eph.5:18. That is why it is sinful; because they basically do the same type of thing as alcohol, and are thus taken for the same reason; selfish pleasure. (The well known, proven short and long term negative physical effects are also similar). Once again, basically another new medium. (It actually is also the "sorcery" (Gk.pharmakia) of Rev.9:21, and thus is "directly" implicated).
Abortion is the bona-fide murder of a conceived person, though much of the secular world won't admit it.
But it's the CCM critics' attempts to prove that the music in question is "immoral" because of its rhythm that do not have enough support, judging from the charges made so far. Rather than being a direct variation of any particular sin, they are remotely connected by indirect "associations" and hypothesis.
The solution to this is to actually turn to the Word of God to see what, if anything, it really says about rhythmic music styles. Also, it would be useful to turn to history and see if traditional styles are really as pure and based solely on "God's principles" as is being claimed. And just where did this whole issue come from in the first place?
Lively Music and Dancing in the Bible
While Fisher admits "It's true that man has never heard a note of God's personal music" (p.31), still, the assumption seems to be that classical and traditional must be the closest to it in "principle". One online sermon (www.touchet1611.org/harrisn.ram) claims that these styles picture "fall down and worship Me" while more rhythmic ones don't. Yet the best way to get an idea of what God likes is to see what was used in biblical culture. While scripture does not go into "style" and "rhythm", we must look at history.
The ultimate disproof of this rejection of prominent rhythm is that Hebrew worship was lively and had rhythm that obviously does not fit into the narrow metrical system of classic church music. In fact, it was closer to rock rhythm, complete with the much criticized repetition. (Take songs like "Jehovah Jireh", "Havilah Hava", and the rest of mid-eastern music.) The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible,*p. 191 says "And the music seems to have been strongly rhythmic rather than melodic, although there were set tunes to some of the psalms.".
What I see happening, is that people read of "harps and strings" in the
scriptures, and think of mellow symphonic music, and thus are reading that into the text. However, it
was quite different from that style.
This is the music of biblical (mid-eastern) culture, not medieval European chants, as people are assuming.
While some make a big deal about the drum's absence in scripture, and even claim it should not be used, there were several other percussion instruments mentioned.
Totally ignored is the presence of dancing in the Bible. Dancing is criticized, because "you can't do the things of the Spirit with the flesh" (and one writer even suggests Amy Grant's belief in dancing being fine for Christians as being caused by "the natural bodily reaction to the music"**), but there are several scriptures where dance is used in worship. One place is Psalms 149:3, just two verses after one of the key "new song" scriptures used to say that there should be no fleshy pleasure in our music. The Hebrew definitions include "twist", "whirl", and even "writhe" (as in pleasure or pain). It may not have been the sensuous dancing of today, but it completely disproves the whole "flesh/Spirit" argument, which is being read into Gal.5:17 and others, and taught with such supposedly "scriptural" authority. (i.e. that any 'fleshy pleasure' makes it "of the flesh" rather than "of the Spirit", and that music therefore should only lead to sitting stiffly or marching).
Like music, it was also used negatively (as in the golden calf incident), but NEVER afterwards forbidden because of that 'association'. The Encyclopedia continues: "Dancing too, was often apart of people's joyful expression of worship". GOD ACCEPTED IT! (Ps.149:3, 2 Sam.6:14-23) This omission of dancing is just not dealing honestly with the scriptures!
So this worship may have looked and sounded somewhat similar to the pagans, but this shows that while music may not be neutral, the context does change it, and that the most important issue is WHO the worship is actually being directed to, not how much evil a particular style may have been used for.
|Absolutely NOTHING in Bible history suggests that the "godly" all listened to plain simple music and only the "ungodly" listened to rhythmic music. Instead, Hebrew worship was lively and rhythmic rather than melodic, yet God accepted it and David's dancing!|
Still, everything associated with "rock" is assumed to be indicted. So then all these brethren who've decided to use rock, rap, jazz etc., are not only grossly mistaken, but are committing a grievous sin by "bringing this trash into the church", and thus "causing division", "aiding the devil", etc.
*(Lion Publishing, 1978, previously Eerdmans Family Encyclopedia of the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
Rejecting the flesh just as unscriptural as indulging it
The most amazing irony I found was the citing of Colossians 3:1 "seek those things which are above", to
further reject the flesh. Yet keeping in mind that the chapter divisions were added later, look at the
CONTEXT, beginning in 2:20. Paul was actually preaching against the whole concept of the "neglecting of the flesh", saying that this gives off a SHOW of "will-worship" and "humility", but doesn't even restrain the indulgence of the flesh! (Scofield note: "by creating a reputation for superior sanctity, as some did, they did not really honor God, but only satisfied the flesh"*).
1 Tim.4:8 is even more clear: "bodily exercise profiteth little." (as opposed to true "godliness"). "Exercise" (Strong #1129: "gumnasia") actually means "asceticism", which sometimes seems to be the logic of those opposing more lively worship as "of the flesh".
Even if this is referring to more extreme treatment of the flesh, still the mind-set is the same. The Gnostics focused on the physical body as being the cause of sin, rather than the soul. If they just deny all physical pleasure, then they would get it under control. That's precisely what this insistence that any rhythm pleasant to the body must be avoided is saying. "Flesh" is used in scripture as a metaphor for our fallen nature, so what Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 9:25-27 is that the true "bodily exercise" is concerned with the mind/soul/spirit. The music critics emphasize this in their teachings, but think it always requires the total rejection of the physical body, which is not the case here.
Philippians 3:7 also, Paul's "old life" of religiosity (v.5, 6) is what he is counting as "loss" (Gk. "dung") for Christ! The much cited "offense of the Cross" also (Gal.5:11, Rom.9:33, 1 Pet.2:8).
People are forgetting that "the flesh" is not just the physical body, but also various spiritual vices that have nothing to do with the body (Gal.5:20), including pride (1 John 2:16). So this shows that these classic styles can be linked to pride and the flesh just as much as the most sensuous rhythms of African and modern beats! It's amazing that some of the very scriptures they use to tell people to give up contemporary styles of music as the "old life", are actually referring to THEIR flesh-denying pseudo-piety!
Certainly, there is an abundance of scriptures that condemn "the [works of the] flesh" and say it is contrary to the Spirit. But if there are these other scriptures which condemn a preoccupation with denying the flesh, and lively music and dancing were acceptable to God in the Bible, then what can it mean? Is the Bible contradicting itself? Of course not! It must mean there is some BALANCE. (I would admit on the subject of dancing that moderation should be used, because there always is the temptation to cross the line into sensuality here. Especially since we are surrounded by a culture where so many do use dance and music for ungodly purposes. I am not advocating everyone to just "let loose".)
|Critics seem to forget that "the flesh" is not just the physical body, but also various spiritual vices that have nothing to do with the body, including pride. Thus "bodily exercise profits little"(1 Tim.4:8)|
Calvin Johansson, author of the other text used for the class, Discipling Music Ministry, even advocates "asceticism" and "monasticism"! Contrasting the "instant gratification" of pop with the "self-denial" of the past, he even criticizes the major/minor scale and the use of choruses instead of full-versed hymns, and upholds the pipe-organ as being good to not convey fleshy emotion. [!?] He also says that the dark ages were more "God centered", and that the Enlightenment and Renaissance made everything "man-centered" —even though the monks and other ascetics were often FILLED with lust, since simply repressing it doesn't make it go away as the aforementioned passage shows, and they and the rest of the Church of that time did not believe in salvation and other important teachings of God's Word.
It was the Dark Ages that were actually more centered on man and his authority (albeit in the
name of God) than any other period in history! This is precisely what caused the Enlightenment and all
other paradigm shifts up to the present in the first place. People simply traded one human authority
(king or pope) for another (self). That's all.
*One way this happens is that when we feel we are doing so well in one area, we will tend to slide in other areas or
even sometimes the same areas. This explains the amazing spectacle of preachers who blasted sexual sin falling into
it themselves. Fundamentalists truly underestimate our fallen nature!
The pagan origins of austerity
People like to connect lively music with paganism, but another interesting point from history is that this preoccupation with "conservative" music came largely from pagan influence as well!
Even though it is hard to determine exactly what ancient music was like because it was not written like it is today, and in most cases only the words survived, still, it appears that a lot of music was generally lively and rhythmic, both sacred and secular, and there was simple music as well. But there is absolutely NOTHING to suggest that the "godly" all listened to plain simple music and only the "ungodly" listened to rhythmic music. There were no controversies in the New Testament or the earliest fathers, on "that sensuous music of the barbarians or ungodly plays". (If anything, besides the evidence of Biblical worship above, think of the great Roman Empire, and rulers like Nero who loved music. From what we gather, it would appear that the style they used would be relatively plain and closer to classical. (e.g. think of Nero and his fiddle). But they were anything but the civilized Christian culture that traditional music is associated with).
Yet before the Christian era, a totally new mind-set started to develop;
one that would eventually engulf the entire western world. It began with pagan philosopher Plato, who
complained of different types of music being "blended", meaning not used according to its "purpose"
(e.g—hymns, dirges, paeans, and a couple of others, and keep in mind these "hymns" were to pagan gods,
not the true God). His statement "Let me make the songs of a nation and I care not who makes its
laws", and others by him, Aristotle and others, are even quoted by these critics to back their argument of
the influence of music. Some, such as John Makujina MEASURING THE MUSIC: Another Look at the Contemporary Christian Music Debate, appeal to Plato's "aesthetic of beauty" as the 'gold standard' of "proportion, order, and symmetry".
While Plato and other thinkers may have had some truth, they were still secular pagan philosophers and at some point error will come up in their teachings, and we cannot use them to define "biblical" holiness or morality or worship of the true God.
After the first century A.D., Neoplatonism and the related Gnosticism began
having wide influence in the church. In the 3rd century, church father Clement of Alexandria (this city a
major source of platonic thought in the church.1) rejected instruments such as the timbrel, psaltery and
trumpet (even though they were used in the Bible) because of their associations with war and festive
assemblies, and the participants' "dejected minds". Then, non-Christian Neoplatonists such as Plotinos and his pupil
Porphyry, began teaching that music had this overarching magical influence on man for good or evil;
complaining of the lively music used in plays, and suggesting that "divine" music should be different. (See
Gustave Reese, Music in the Middle Ages, Norton & Company, NY, 1940, p.12, 58, 59, 61, 62)
Now, these were PAGANS, who were VIOLENT OPPONENTS OF Christianity! But their teachings influenced the church, at the same time the dualism characteristic of the Dark Ages was coming in, (which held that matter, such as the flesh, is inherently evil)2, and from this was the austere music of the dark ages and American traditional Protestantism borne. This is where it all comes from, NOT THE BIBLE!
All of this influenced the thinking of the church and the "traditional" cultures it influenced
all the way down the line. This is why there is such an obsession with sex (leading to the neurotic
repression of the past, which in turn led to the rebellion of this century), and such a vivid perception of
evil in the beats themselves, while it does not influence others like this.
This proves just what I am saying; that traditional music is just as stained with sin as everything else.
It is even suggested that the very fact that the music seems "dry" (unpleasing to our 'flesh') is "the offense of the Gospel", Jesus' "narrow path", and "the hard truth of scripture" which these contemporary rebels are trying to "remove". (Much is made at this point about music not being for evangelism, and therefore, there being no excuse to use modern styles to appeal to the unsaved.) This assumes that all pleasure is bad or displeasing to
All this fear of "sensuality" thus seems to be based on the assumption that sex is evil in itself, not just outside of marriage, so any music that would lead you to move parts of the body such as the hips or even torso is seen as sexual. This is an unrealistic fear, as not all such movements are sexual.
Considering that this is all influenced by Plato's teachings, just recall the meaning of a "Platonic marriage" or "Platonic love" (based on the "love of the Idea of beauty" seen as evolving above the physical realm to the spiritual and "ideal" level —to the point of being devoid of emotion and passion; and remember, his idea of "spiritual" is not based on the God of the Bible), and it becomes quite clear that this whole teaching is pure Platonism! (A similar philosophy of "non-feeling" is "Stoicism", and recall that the Stoics were among those Paul met on Mars Hill).
How can people so sternly chastize the entire modern church for its "paganism" in music when they themselves are using rank pagan philosophy as their standard?
Many of these writers go on to claim that Christianity is just "too easy" for people today. You wonder how they wind up with the authority to determine how "hard" or "easy"
Christianity should be. And isn't their Christianity "easy" for them as well, when they get to have their
traditional music, Bible translations, the honor and power they receive as ministry leaders, fathers,
husbands, etc.? (Their 'old lives', though baptized as 'traditional Christian' and only sometimes based on scripture).
We all have it easy compared to the Christians of the past and around the world today who suffer and die for Christ. We trivialize their lives by co-opting these concepts in issues like this. You can't take this "offense" to the point that the Gospel is defined purely by how unpleasant it is; as if the whole point of it is unpleasantness for unpleasantness' sake. (See Frame, Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense p.164, 165). This truly becomes "another gospel" (Gal.1:6-12).
Says Michael Horton about the paganism in "traditional Christian culture":
Only in retrospect can we see how thoroughly the medieval world and medieval church were shaped by Greek dualism. Usually, the church simply adopted existing philosophical systems [which would include philosophy of music and worship], reinterpreted them in light of Scripture, and made use of them as points of contact with the wider culture. "Contextualization" is not a recent development, but it is easier for an American missionary to know when he or she is doing this among an unknown people than it is for us to distinguish between reason and revelation when pagan and biblical language, symbols, and patterns of thought develop slowly, side by side (Beyond Culture Wars, p.46).
Judaism was eventually influenced by platonic thought as well, and banned festive music, but only in mourning for the duration of the Temple's destruction. Afterwards, it would resume, further proving that lively music was associated with godly celebration, not austere music.
David Cloud (CCM: Under the Spotlight, p 166) suggests that this principle holds true for us today; Dancing is not mentioned in the New Testament, probably because this was a time of Christ's "rejection and exile": "the Bridegroom was in a far away country", but at the Marriage of the Lamb, then celebratory dancing will resume.
But not only do the scriptures not teach this, it ignores that the coming resurrection as well as our salvation now are a similar cause of festive joy. (The scripture in question, Matthew 9:15, is talking about fasting. It doesn't say all our worship is to be somber. And even if our choice of worship and music was to be a type of "fast", look at what Christ earlier said about trying to look like you're "fasting"—7:16-18)
1) The KJV-only advocates among these critics are the first to point this out when criticizing the Alexandrian Bible texts new translations are based on!
2) In Gnostic dualism, the soul or spirit was thought of as good but corrupted by the flesh. Yet the Bible declares it's the other way around. Matter, including man's body was good (Gen.1:26), but it was the soul that was fallen and simply uses matter wrong! (Yet notice in these teachings, how the soul [mind/spirit] is always exalted, while the body is put down!)
Or is it the Old Covenant that is pagan; and Platonism God's 'spirit and truth' all along?
Others quote John Calvin's suggestion that the lively music of the Old Testament was just the "puerile instruction of the Law", and was therefore not valid for Christians today, plus similar arguments by other historic leaders (below). Still others (such as Peter Masters) allegorize passages like Psalms 150, saying that the various instruments and dance are not literally to be used, but rather represent "emotions" of heartfelt worship (victory, gratitude, energy, strength, etc. They actually were "banned" in the temple, because only certain instruments are mentioned there, "proving" God is 'that strict' on music). This is said to be the "traditional" interpretation.1
But once again, by what authority are these interpretations made? Scripture interprets Scripture. When men read meanings into verses they want to get around, it always leads to error.
For one thing, Calvin's and the others' quotes are actually arguing against instruments in the church altogether. (Like the Church of Christ and Primitive Baptists). Their reintroduction into the Church centuries later is then viewed by this theory as another "pagan" Roman Catholic corruption. But all of that would rule out all of their traditional church music as well, but now they try to use it against contemporary styles. Yet somehow their traditional organs, pianos and violins are still OK. (What about a group like Take 6, whose early albums and some later songs were a-capella, but nevertheless a jazzy doo-wop style?).
|Fellow brethren are seen as the corrupters of the church, while Platonists are cited positively as authorities on the power of music! How can people so sternly chastize the entire modern church for "paganism" in music when they themselves are using using rank pagan philosophy as their standard?|
Justin said "The use of singing with instrumental music was not received in the Christian churches as it was among Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song." But first, this does not tell us why instrumental music was not used, or even what segment of the church he was referring to. Instruments were not an issue (hence their lack of mention), so you cannot read some sort of "ban" into this silence. For one, considering the early Church met in homes under the constant threat of persecution, perhaps there originally were not many instruments or musicians available. Also, in the synagogue from which many came, as was mentioned, music was toned down in mourning for the temple, but this too was a humanly invented system of worship, and cannot be made into some "New Testament principle".
Also as was mentioned, the Church was being influenced by Platonic philosophy during this time. And the gentile church quickly became heavily anti-Semitic, wanting "nothing to do with the 'hostile rabble of the Jews'" whom they regarded as hard-hearted Christ-killers (ignoring their own sins and how they were saved from their own hard heartedness, which also put Christ on the Cross). If you look at some of the quotes of these people, you can see a subtle sense of the attitude that we're now too spiritual for their 'infantile' worship which God 'allowed' because of the "grossness of their souls", as Chrysostom put it; or that we should not "Judaize" as Aquinas put it.2
Some even quote Paul's statements on the "carnal commandments" of the
"flesh" (The OT ceremonial Laws) compared to our "new life in the Spirit", of which those old things
were just a "shadow", and try to jump this over to the lively worship. But that is quite a stretch. Blood
sacrifices were definitely "of the flesh" and had no other purpose but to remind them of the seriousness
of sin, and temporally represent atonement for it, and would naturally be superseded by Christ. Scripture never places the dancing and instruments in such a category.
Regarding the "hardness of their hearts" (of which "grossness of their souls" would be a parallel), a quick check of the scriptural context in which this was used reveals it was spoken in Jesus' teaching on divorce (Matthew 19). Is this the same as dancing or instruments? In the Old Testament, God had specifically said he "hates divorce" (Mal. 2:16), and Jesus said that from the beginning it was never God's will. Yet God allowed it. Why? Because of the "hardness of their hearts". We never see the same sentiment in either testament regarding dancing or instruments.
You cannot move something out of its context like that under the premise of extending "principle".
And how does Platonistic austerity wind up being our pattern in the newness in Christ? Paul regards the philosophy behind this as being just as much "of the old nature" as licentiousness, and similar gnostic restrictions are called "doctrines of devils". (1 Tim.4:1), and John regards a christology based on the same gnostic rejection of the flesh as the "doctrine of Antichrist" (1 John 4:3). Once again, people are heaping up any argument they can find to justify their traditions.
Taking this argument further, www.piney.com/MuPsalm150.html claims
"Being inspired does not mean that God approves everything faithfully recorded. God tells the good, the bad and the ugly. The Psalms are a poetic (and therefore symbolic) record of the history of Israel recorded in the prose accounts. Because God prophesied that the king would lead rebellious israel into destruction, it is not strange that David who was chosen to lead the nation who had rejected God's Theocratic rule was always lost when he could not sense God's approval. David's praise, therefore, has him making himself vile and repulsive. It is easy to forget that David as the King or the other Psalm writers were not the prophets who were the critics of the priestly and civil governing class of David and other kings. David was not a priest."In other words; the only reason they had David there dancing and using music like that in the first place was because Israel wanted a king like the other nations. So that too was never originally apart of God's plan.
"It is also a fact that under the Monarchy with its kings, God turned Israel over to a secular society because they wanted to worship like the nations. 'I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath'. (Hosea 13:11) This 'paradigm' is repeated many times in the Old and New Covenants. Since God permitted the kings to CARRY OUT HIS SENTENCE by 'worshiping like the nations' we must understand that the temple under the Monarchy was A LIKE THE NATIONS temple and ritual. This validates many scholars who note that David added musical worship to go along with the temple state rituals added when Israel fired God in order to worship like the nations".Otherwise, "ALL musical terms and instruments are derived from evil or even Satanic meanings"; associated with the pagans, prostitution and war--"to enrage the army and panic the enemy". (e.g. "David was a KING and the WARRIOR LEVITICAL MUSICIANS under the king and commanders of the army were ADDED to the trumpets as warning during animal sacrifices. The 'music' during sacrifices warned that if you as a COMMON Jew were in the temple at the time you would be killed" Of course; this was like the pagans, who used music in their rituals, including the child sacrifice of Molech). Various negative references to instruments are cited, such as in Isaiah, and 1 Cor. 13:1. And quotes of Clement of Alexandria and others from church history abound.
"Music was ONLY ADDED for sacrifices when God turned Israel over to allow the kings to lead them into destruction. Their PRAYER was to worship like the nations."
"The Levitical 'service' was HARD BONDAGE and they made noise and not music. The word is ABAD which is a friend of abaddown. This is the Abaddon worship in the Greek world because THAT is what God had abandoned them to. They were in the COURTS and never in the Holy Place as a carnal type of the body of Christ or the Assembly on earth. No SINGER or MUSICIAN could ever enter into the Holy Place even to clean out the garbage. Their service was a type of the SLAUGHTER of Lord Jesus Christ. [Thus, (elsewhere), they "were musically mocking the TYPE of Christ in animal sacrifices") And, as prophesied in Psalm 41, led by Judas [whose bag carried "the mouthpieces of wind instruments,"] the Jews would again try to MOCK JESUS with music". (Based supposedly on the "Essene War Rule").Therefore,
"The truly great kings always sought to restore the worship commanded by God through Moses. This musical worship would have been private devotion and: 'The absence of instrumental music from the services of the tabernacle continued not only during the wandering of the Israelites in the desert, but after their entrance into the promised land, throughout the protracted period of the Judges, the reign of Saul, and a part of David's. This is a noteworthy fact. Although David was a lover of instrumental music, and himself a performer upon the harp, it was not until some time after his reign had begun that this order of things was changed.' (Girardeau, George, Instrumental Music, p. 29).
In the face of overwhelming evidence we must conclude that God commanded musical worship which, in all of history's evidence, was destructive".
"When God came in the flesh the physical, visible kingdom of animal sacrifices ceased in the one-time offering of Christ. Not only must the Old Covenant sacrifice be seen as a symbolic type but to keep from falling into the trap of God commending what humans understand to be evil, the music of the Kingdom must be allegorized".The Essene War scroll coupled with Ps.41:8 is taken as a proof of this, with the conclusion
"Therefore, the MUSIC in the Old Testament is universally related to silencing the 'harps of God' which He gave us to praise a Spirit God. This is why the DIRECT COMMANDMENT OF Paul which CANNOT be misunderstood, said that we 'glorify God with ONE VOICE' when we speak 'that which is written' (Romans 15).[This group apparently does not even believe in even vocal singing —NO MUSIC at all! Only preaching and teaching, and worshipping God "in spirit and in truth." is only "through speaking to God in prayer and listening to Him through His Word". "Worship" means "prostrate"; which "eliminates the physical possibility to play music".]
Therefore, to silence the Words of God through the use of human compositions and then scramble the brain with EITHER mechanical instruments or ORGANIC instruments or complex harmony, is an attempt to MOCK or TRIUMPH OVER the Word of God and therefore God Himself".
Divorce; our earlier example for instance; is NEVER used to represent anything good!3 Neither is adultery, idolatry, blasphemy or murder. Divorce was nothing more than something God tolerated for awhile. But we do not get that sense with music, instruments, or even dancing. Those other sins were never even tolerated; but if Israel's music was as bad as this site suggests; it would be universally condemned with those sins; especially by virtue of being specifically associated with them (and the pagans), as is argued there!
But in Isaiah, for instance; the sin is not the music, but all of the other things they were doing wrong, as listed in the text. The same in Amos 6:5. People point to "like David" to suggest his music was "bad"; even "a violation of the Law" one Campbellist claimed. But it was clearly the worship in light of their sins that was wrong; in contrast to David; who repented before God and was considered "A man after [God's] own Heart". They did these things; then came to God "with unclean hands" to sing and worship. This is what God was angry with, and why He said their music was just "noise", and would "cease".
So no matter how many arguments men devise; they have not proven any of their points on music in scripture. In fact, all they have proven is that they do not read scripture in its proper contexts. How can they instruct and correct everyone else on it, then? With all of the energy being spent here to concoct ridicuous, self-serving arguments against other Christians, some of these people need to beware themselves of being the ones whose music (or even "preaching", "prayer", or whatever else they substitute) being the "noise" that God will "cease"!
1)Just like Song of Solomon was allegorized as just the "love of Christ for the Church". This was obviously to cover up the book's graphic descriptions of erotic love. (Much more sensuous than anything Amy Grant or others ever sung. You wonder why God would allow such a book in the Bible if people's uptightness about sexuality were really based on God's standard of holiness! But this could be ignored with the "Christ and the Church" allegory.) But I think it creates more problems than it solves, given that Christ's love for us is agape and not eros, which is definitely what we see in that book. Only in a very loose sense could this be applied to Christ and the Church. But when people use this very same method of interpreting the 7 days of Creation in Genesis, these same leaders claim the Bible is being compromised.
2) These ironically were Catholic/Orthodox leaders whose worship rehashed much of the OT pattern, with its emphasis on 'physical sensation'. For instance, icons are justified as not compromising the command against idols because of the cherubim in the Temple, the brass serpent they were told to "look at and live", etc. Even Calvin and other early Protestant leaders maintained much of the liturgicalism and legalism of OT worship. THIS would be the "puerile instruction of the Law", but those earlier leaders did not seem to think so, yet claim that only the lively music and worship was. Being that the CCM critics, Primitive Baptists and others who use this argument are some of the hardest critics of Catholicism, it is quite revealing that they would try to use their reasonings here.
3) God did use the idea of "divorce", spiritually, regarding Israel, as apart of His plan to create a true spiritual bride. Still; this is more of a "double negative" that leads to something positive. Otherwise; divorce never directly represents the positive, like music, including with dancing and instruments does.
3) God did use the idea of "divorce", spiritually, regarding Israel, as apart of His plan to create a true spiritual bride. Still; this is more of a "double negative" that leads to something positive. Otherwise; divorce never directly represents the positive, like music, including with dancing and instruments does.
Preliminary Assessment of the Issue
So we begin to see that the whole argument is totally without basis; Fundamentalists are attacking their "Neo-evangelical" brethren over a completely bogus issue, and it's amazing how fellow brethren are seen as the corrupters of the church, while pagan philosophers who actually did have their guns aimed at God's truth are cited positively as authorities on the power of music! (And let's not forget the modern secular scientists and scholars who are also given weight over the witness of the Spirit in believers).
Where one author said that CCM is "the perfect expression of the social gospel combined with the charismatic emphasis on emotionalism"*, these teachings are actually the perfect expression of the conservative 'social gospel' (reconstructionism) coupled with the dark ages rejection of the flesh and emotions.
This is not to say that music has no influence at all. But just because it does influence man doesn't mean that it does to the extent that is being suggested.
It is true that there are many people in churches clapping their hands, shouting "hallelujah" to the lively music, and are getting more enjoyment out of it than they are worshiping or obeying God. (i.e. "feeding the flesh") It's true that many CCM acts have gotten a little carried away with the show and the gimmicks. But this doesn't mean that any enjoyment of music precludes worship. And also, while the Bible does use music mainly in conjunction with worship, it nowhere says it can't be used for pleasure. (And remember, classical is for pleasure!)
Ironically enough, when the table is turned, and it is pointed out that too much [traditional] church music that sounds like a funeral march can dampen the spirit (as if there is nothing to be joyous about), then all this "influence of music" is suddenly denied! "Why blame the music?", Fisher now asks (p. 106ff).
No, lively music may not liven up dead hearts as he points out, but neither can it lead astray Spirit-led hearts, and neither can intentionally non-lively or dry music tame sinful hearts!
* Fisher, Battle For Christian Music, p. 198
The Spirit Behind the Music
Carman was on the 700 Club a few years ago acknowledging that there is "a spirit behind the music", thus admitting that music is not neutral. People in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras seemed to be sobered by his music even though he uses contemporary sounds. "Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world", he commented. If God is stronger than Satan, He can redeem much of "the world's" music.
So this "spirit" behind the music is not simply "that beat was once used by voodoo
priests, and those harmonies by ungodly paganized rock or blues performers, so they are indelibly
demonic". Much of Carman's music may sound "warlike", but then his whole theme is spiritual warfare
(a much needed biblical topic), and it fits perfectly. But even his lyrics, as powerful as they are, are
nitpicked by the critics,* although I do admit some things he does may seem silly (e.g. "Holy Ghost Hop"), and some of his associations of late are questionable (i.e. certain "revival" leaders).
And slangs such as "yo, man" are condemned as "vulgar", as if he were uttering curse words or something. Can this be because of the identity of the people these slangs came from?
Another powerful Christian music ministry, but not as well known, is Joseph Henry Cortese's "Storytellers", a group of Christian rappers from the Bronx who tell of their horrible past lives in the streets and how Christ transformed them. Even with the contemporary urban sound, no one can deny the power of the message, and given their background, this truly is a "new song"! Cortese, pastor of a local church, said he was once against rap until God convicted him.
Rap is criticized as being "arrogant" and drawing attention to the rapper, but in
the Christian context, it is no different than the old-time fiery preaching, which the fundamentalist critics
look up to and miss so much. The only difference is the beat, but if the issue is whether the vocals are
arrogant, then the issue of the alleged evil of the beat (which supposedly draws attention away from the
vocals) is not a valid support for the argument.
Unfortunately, in the secular context, like rock, rap has been heavily degraded with rampant themes of violence and sex, and the "gangsta" or "thug" images of its stars reflecting this; and in the past, there was an obsession with egotism leading up to all of this (the "I'm the baddest rapper" craze of the '80's, with gold jewelry and other material items flashed and bragged about).
Though it always had an element of bragging and partying (though nowhere near as sinful as today), it was at one time more of a positive vehicle of socially conscious messages, including making people aware of the destructive patterns of the streets, but as with everything else, once it hit mainstream, it was corrupted by the typical sins of pop culture. But once again, this "association" does not mean the style is unseparable from those vices.
Fisher, p 78 claims it is "merely rhythmic entertainment", not "music" by any good definition, and the logical path of rock, which made melody less important, "so why not drop it altogether and have only a rhythm?" But rap was designed as primarily poetry, and thus IS centered on the words, (making it such a good tool for communication) and yes, it does have a heavy beat, but still, in good raps, the words are what is most important. In recent years, rap has added a variety of different melodies and harmonies. The Storytellers are a good example of this (Which is one reason I like them). So this comment about it being "rhythm" only is just another ignorant generalization.
*Dial The Truth Ministries even condemns the presence of occult items and imagery in the video to "A Witch's
Invitation", (http://www.av1611.org/crock.html, scroll down to "Carman") and compares it to secular rock acts who
claim such gimmicks are "only a joke", when it's obvious that in the context these were the witch's belongings, and
the whole song was speaking against this in favor of Christ. This is no different than what Jack Chick (who holds
their position in the music and other issues) does in his illustrations.
Shallowness and Personal Experience
And remember, two whole books of the Bible, Esther and Song of Solomon make no mention of God,
but we say that they show God "working behind the scenes for Israel", and His love for the Church,
respectively. These would certainly classify as "veiled references", the oft used critical phrase for CCM.
There's also books like Job, which deals with struggle and doubt, a popular theme CCM is criticized
for. The Psalms and Lamentations touch on this, too.
A perfect illustration is in the criticism of Amy Grant's Thy Word as having 9 "I"'s in 13 measures and thus being too "self centered". The first phrase—the title, is Psalms 119:105. Then, she does diverge from the scripture with her own words about her experience. But if you look at the rest of the Psalm, it is still pretty similar to Grant's text, including just as many "I"'s— count 'em! (plus "my"'s and" me"'s) It is a Psalm about the person's experience with God, and if it is used in scripture, then why are we condemning CCM singers? Why are people ignoring the scriptures on so many points, yet claiming to speak with their authority?
The Bible is a very realistic book, covering the grit, as well as the glory, in man's existence and relationship with God. Its uniqueness and authority is degraded by portraying its message as an unrealistic "everything will be serene and peaceful if you just trust and obey the Lord (and thus our music has to reflect that)". That is completely contrary to the testimonies of the suffering saints, AND the Lord Himself.
It is also being pointed out that many of the old 19th century "gospel" songs, —which was the genre the
rock critics long upheld; were just as "shallow" and "man centered" as the modern stuff they criticize,
and in fact, were what set the stage for CCM! John MacArthur gave an excellent treatment of Christian
music in Christian Research Journal vol.23 No.2. On the other hand, a few of the Fundamentalist
critics (such as Fisher) have apparently seen the double standard and made the same observation about
19th century gospel as well. The class even picked apart a few old songs to be fair.
Subjectivity, Preference and Conscience
This whole criticism of preference or subjectivity I see in the teachings ignores the fact that man is a subjective creature. If that is such sin, then remember, it is due to our fallen nature, and ALL of us have it and have to beware of it coloring even our rejection of things (as well as our choosing things). That's why God gives us His Holy Spirit to guide us in debatable areas not covered in the written Word. But what people are doing is for the sake of denying "subjectivity"; instead of admitting that they feel or think certain music is bad, (since they criticize the modern generation for judging by feelings) they simply say "God says!", even though He has not said it, and then try to read these convictions into His Word as universal commands for all. But this makes it no less subjective; instead it's worse: it's fashioning God into one's own image, and taking liberties with His name at that.
Romans 14 and 1 Cor.8 are very clear on similar issues: vegetarianism and even better, meats offered to idols, explicitly leaving these matters up to a person's conscience. Fisher suggested that the quality of the meat was not in question* (in other words, the music they are saying is bad is so because it is 'poor in quality', and thus doesn't apply here.) But what this passage is talking about is the spiritual matter of a person's conscience, and people's idea of the music in question here being 'poor in quality' is connected with their belief that it is spiritually bad; so this passage does apply to the supposed 'beats offered to idols'.
So you can ask that people not play certain music around you or in church (and perhaps some young people have not respected this), but they do more than that: they say it shouldn't be used anytime, and then they try to defile everyone else's conscience with their "knowledge" so people would have to be restricted to only what these critics say is good.
Some will cite Paul's statements that he would never eat meat again if it made his brother stumble (1Cor.8:13), and that we shouldn't either (Rom.14:21). Paul is giving us the attitude we should have, and yes, many have failed here. But this is not to be manipulated in order to completely obliterate others' preferences altogether. Else, the person doing this is violating the intent of these scriptures just as much as the supposed "offender". Plus, nobody would be able to do anything, because different people will claim to be "offended" by everything and anything. The people claiming to be "offended" must have a sensible claim.
The Bible does not tell us to yield to any teaching that comes up in the Church, for then there would be no way to keep out false doctrine!
Paul may have in one place told his readers to yield to those with weak consciences regarding meat, but then in 1 Tim.4:1-5 he condemns those, among other things, "commanding to...abstain from meats". Contrasting this with Rom. and 1 Cor. shows that with some it is a legitimate issue of conscience, and with others, it is part of a false system of doctrine. He does not even say "well, since there are some who have legitimate conscience issues, we should still abolish all meat anyway, [as basically, the false teachers happen to be right on that point]".
In fact, rather than a genuine personal spiritual conviction, it seems in this issue the music critics are bent on stamping out of existence altogether a whole range of music largely because of the culture its elements came from, or because it's not what they are used to, or because they thought any amount of physical pleasure was bad! Is that what Paul suggested we do with meat? No, but it is closer to what the false teachers in 1 Tim. apparently were trying to do.
Younger generations questioned the impure motives of their elders, dismissed the whole issue, and then went and did whatever they felt was right. Both went about it the wrong way! The Biblical way to resolve this would have been to all sit down and discuss it prayerfully as brethren, but the problem was that those favoring the old ways were usually totally unreasonable, and did not even believe in discussing or debating (as we shall see shortly), so actually, the brunt of the blame for this discord would fall more on the traditionalists!
Fisher laments how churches and colleges and other institutions were divided by this issue, and others insist that the older leaders were the God-ordained authorities, whom everyone should have submitted to regardless; but if leaders and others on the conservative side were supposedly more mature, and truly God's appointed leaders, and knew scripture so well, then they should have been the ones to have handled this scripturally from the beginning! Instead, they allowed emotion to take completely over, thus setting the stage for one of the very things they criticize CCM fans for— choosing music based on emotion and feelings! This is what set the tone of this debate.
And once the youngsters went out and started their own churches, the traditionalists should have had no problem, as they would not have to hear what was sung in those churches. But instead, they continued to denounce the entire contemporary Church just for using the styles, period (whether people were trying to bring it into their congregations or not). Obviously, the traditionalists' motives are questionable, and have damaged their own credibility, so they should not be surprised when the younger crowd doesn't accept their authority as biblical.
|People deny "subjectivity"; then instead of admitting that they feel or think certain music is bad, they simply say "God says!", even though He has NOT said it, and then read it into scripture.|
Fisher even criticizes the "catch phrase" of CCM, that this "requires discernment": ("No lines drawn, no standard held, no scripture quoted" p.194). Godwin is even more outspoken on the idea that there are "gray areas": "What absolute hogwash! This kind of nonsense is typical of self-serving C-Rock deception. First: There AREN'T any grey areas in the Bible! From Genesis to Revelation, God lays everything out in blacks and whites: Blessings/Cursings, Life/ Death, Heaven/Hell, God/Satan, Christ/the world. Now make your choice. Why don't these supporters of "Christian" trash come clean and admit the obvious." (http://www.freedomministries.org.uk/godwin/jefchap1.shtml)
So no issue requires "discernment", thought, prayer, or any other sort of discourse. We are supposed to just draw "lines" and "standards" and cite scripture hastily on the spot without even so much as taking the time to study the scriptures to discern these issues and then draw from the scripture our "lines" and "standards", (rather than going by tradition).
That pretty much sums up the way these critics have approached the issue, and this is precisely why they are unbiblical! But it's these critics' way or no way at all, and if they say it's wrong, God has said it was wrong, case closed. Since the Bible deals in "Blessings/Cursings, Life/ Death, Heaven/Hell, God/Satan, Christ/the world", you can thus add to that "traditional/contemporary music".
Despite the fact that by Biblical authority the two issues addressed in the passages discussed above are in fact such "gray areas" that require discernment as well as grace, and that the critics ignore the gaping holes in their theory, such as the type of music that was accepted by God as worship in Israel, and the pagan influence in traditional forms.
These points are precisely why an area like this is "gray" and requires discernment. Because none of us has all the answers, and we are cautioned against making statements about our brother's walk based on our convictions when we ourselves do not see the whole picture either. Horton points out "Justly outraged at a moral relativism that has rendered it almost impossible to say that anything is true, good or beautiful (except, of course, for the dogma of relativism itself), many Christians refuse to acknowledge that there is any place...for 'things indifferent'. It is true that we ought to be 'black and white' on...absolutes we not only find in Scripture, but find written on the human conscience. Nevertheless, general wisdom guides our application of these universal aims and truths, a wisdom that is always fallible and conditioned by particular factors"(p.164).
Going to an opposite extreme from the modern world and church makes one no better than they are, and is not even any "safer" as will be mentioned again.
The critics will go as far as discussing these two chapters of the Bible, but the outcome is always twisted to cover up their own egregious violations of the principles of these scriptures, and once again point the finger at their opponents. ("liberty is not 'license to sin' or offend", etc. But once again, how do they have the authority to determine what is sin, or what offends God or anyone other than themselves, outside of the scriptures?). You cannot try to override scriptures while pointing at everyone else as violating Scripture!
|The Biblical way to resolve this would have been to sit down and discuss it prayerfully as brethren, but those favoring the old ways were often totally unreasonable, thus setting the tone of the debate, and setting the stage for choosing based on feelings, which they criticize|
Fundamentalists focus a lot on the "wicked heart"(Jer.17:9), but this seems to be more to discredit people's feelings (e.g. you may feel that your music is good, but your heart is wicked, so never mind what you feel; this is what's good). But if they really acknowledged the full implications of this biblical statement, they wouldn't be so angry at a world of sinners for being sinful (while assuming that they have a monopoly on the truth; as if their hearts aren't wicked as well). A similar misuse of the "wicked heart" concept occurs in their criticisms of psychology. Click here for treatment of this issue
Still, I do consider what these teachers say ("what if they were right?"), and this ends up further illustrating the problem of this teaching. While I was taking the class and afterward, any piece of music I would hear anywhere, I would wonder, "Is that OK to them"? They make all of music seem so black-and-white, like it's a choice between "rock" and everything else. But then "rock" as they define it is a very broad category, including hard and soft rock, and even R&B, disco and jazz are apart of it. Basically, "rock" is another word for "black" music or music with African elements, such as the beat. (It can be seen as what is called a code word) So I hear something mellow or even melodic, for instance, but it's harmony is jazzy. "What would they think of this?" or "How would they rule this out?" I say. "Does this 'cross the line'?"
Now first of all, do you see what is happening? I wind up measuring everything by what "they" (fundamentalist music critics) would think. It's almost like they would become God the Holy Spirit in my life.
They themselves would be the first to deny and say, "no, you don't go by what we would say, you go by 'Biblical principle'!". But that's the point. Where they have laid down meticulous criteria for judging music, the Bible does not. They only take Bible verses on Christian living and say "if the music 'violates' this scripture, it is no good", assuming it will automatically rule out all rock, jazz and everything else with African influence.
But for me, it doesn't. I see no real spiritual difference between a nice piece of classic "modern" Jazz (which is different than the old club jazz, blues, or even modern "fusion") and classical. They both use similar instruments, and the only difference is the jazz has more bass, usually no strings, different harmonies and syncopation. None of it makes me sin, even in my heart, like popular music with suggestive lyrics might. None of it violates any of those scriptures.
Cloud has been making a great emphasis on warning us of the "jazzy" music coming from the "charismatics" and accompaniment tapes, but what is really wrong with this? To him, it seems to be bad for no other reason than because he tags it with the "jazz" label. (Most of it doesn't really even sound like "jazz" at all, but once again, it's the beat and certain amount of syncopation or strong harmonies that automatically lumps it in as "jazz" or "rock")
Even if a worship song makes me tap my hand, this is not bad, and does not necessarily "distract" (I am also similarly influenced by some traditional songs, such as "To God be the Glory"). I know when music has a negative effect on me. (The sad sounds of "Stairway to Heaven" and some of Simon & Garfunkel's stuff comes to mind).
So then these 'principles' can't be applied here, and this is clearly shown to be a personal matter, as Paul teaches. Yet, what's going on, is that people are trying to tell you what you feel and how you respond to music. It's like they are the Spirit who searches all men, rather than trusting that their brethren can follow the Spirit's leading for themselves. If they are not being honest, and God is convicting them and they are denying it and not listening to Him, they shall answer to Him for it. Not to other Christians who themselves don't seem to listen to what God says (either His Word or Spirit).
|The critics recognize no "gray areas", though by biblical authority, the issues addressed in Rom. 14 and 1 Cor.8 are such "gray" areas. Because none of us has all the answers, and we are cautioned against hastily judging our brother|
Kimberly Smith's answer to this supposed "set of myths" (including that we can't detect anything wrong with it; http://pilgrim.thriftyplanet.net/music/mythset.html) is the association with pagans, or our past life, the supposed "unnatural" nature of it, Eph.5:19 & Col.3:16, and how they "suggest a lack of order (God is a God of order); their lack of straightforwardness (implying deceptiveness, but God is never deceptive); the conflict between the rhythm of the melody and an additional, repetitious rhythm (which parallels the Christian’s conflict between his renewed spirit and his old sin nature)" and concludes "...that the balance of proof against unnatural rhythms weighs heavily on the side of being inappropriate for Christian music. Is there such evidence to tip the scales and prove that unnatural rhythms are acceptable? And which side of the scales will pass the test of comparison to principles of Scripture--principles which are clear and unambiguous?"(#12)
But these "principles" are not clear and unambiguous, but based on conjecture and often misinterpretation, as has been shown. (And therefore, the charge of "unnatural" is not even proven either).
She continues: "We are told to 'keep our hearts' [Proverbs 4:23, paraphrase], which means to guard our hearts from those things that can hinder our walk with the Lord. Music is an important aspect of our lives, and because it directly affects our emotions it’s extremely important that it pass the scrutiny of biblical principles--both in the lyrics and in the music itself. Therefore, the excuse that we 'can’t hear anything wrong' isn’t a valid argument until we’re willing to look at our music through the magnifying glass of God’s Word and His principles"(#9).
But people have done that, but because this hasn't led to them adopting a traditional-only practice, then it is being assumed that they have not so evaluated their music.
"Yet, if we refuse to acknowledge that certain music contains carnal/sensual devices and we continue to listen to such music (under the guise that, 'For me it’s acceptable and uplifting'), aren’t we suggesting that a little sensuality is okay? Aren’t we then setting our own standard? Whose standard are we to follow? A standard of our own making, or The Standard set forth in Scripture by Almighty God? God’s will must be discerned in every aspect of our lives, including our music, and we need to ask ourselves, 'Does this truly help me to walk in the Spirit, or am I compromising even a little bit?'"(#2).
But they are not saying "a little sensuality is OK" if they have evaluated their music in light of scripture and have not found it to be sensual. Once again, people do ask if it helps them walk in the spirit, and a lot of music that is contemporary does help a lot of Christians walk in the spirit. If you reject this then we must ask, if traditional music advocates are the ones setting the "Standard" (and simply reading it into scripture).
She then falls on the old standby of doctrines like the Trinity, i.e. "inferential doctrine": "Just as there are other issues the Bible doesn’t directly address, Christians have been able to glean principles and truths: gambling; the concept of the Trinity; the principle of modest behavior; the principle of sowing and reaping; and so on", and then admits "If any issue is unclear to us, does that lessen our responsibility before a Holy God?"(#16)
No, but we still must be honest in raising an issue like this, and be willing to trust our brethren's convictions, so long as they are not violating something that is more clearly commanded in scripture.
But still, critics will try to invalidate even your own convictions! Jeff Godwin— (see URL above) responds with a citation of Ezekiel 14:1-5 suggesting that if "God is not convicting you", it's because He has "given you over to your idol", and will "tell you what you want to hear". "God doesn't HAVE to convict us to forsake something that clearly violates His Holy Word. True Christians are supposed to know better. Why? Because they read their Bible! If God says it's wrong, it's wrong."
So since God's "Word" says it so 'clearly', the ministry of the Holy Spirit is now dismissed as unnecessary. The Holy Spirit usually convicts precisely because we are disobeying something that we know is a biblical command. How does this person think he even has the right to dictate what God should not 'have' to do like this? But still, hold this thought for a moment.
Others, such as Kimberly Smith (above), would say something like "your spiritual senses are deadened from listening to that music so much". (So what good does it do to suggest the musical evaluation cited above if you think their senses are so deadened that they couldn't discern it anyway?) Or as Godwin puts it: "Here's another possibility: Many a C-Rock fan has become so violent in their deluded defense of an ungodly, wicked mockery of Christian music they can't HEAR the Holy Spirit's voice anymore!" So once again, the work of the Spirit can be set aside! (While it is certainly possible for one's senses to be deadened, it is also possible for them to be so overly sensitive from a guilty conscience or the unbiblical fear of all pleasure as being bad in itself).
But worse yet, according to Godwin, not only does the Spirit not have to convict us (or we can't hear Him), but His Word really doesn't "have" to clearly say it either. He [later] admits it's not mentioned there (quote coming later), but then neither is marijuana, abortion and other sins, and a music style is just as sinful as those things, so "God says it's wrong".
Here we see outright double talk, for he says the Bible says it "clearly", but yet it doesn't even have to be mentioned for this to be so. He tries to argue "in principle", like Smith, but at least she allows that it might be unclear.
Once again, the only supposed "proof" it is wrong is all the indirect correlations between rock and biblical principle, which are highly debatable. (The comparison to abortion, drugs and pornography was discussed earlier). It is not clear!
But we see that both the Word and Spirit have now effectively been eliminated as the guides for Christian practice, yet we are blasted for not following this rule anyway. Where does this leave us? It seems like a dangerous position to me.
Now how do I possibly know what is right? Why, by what they tell me, of course.
The final answer is that "It offends God". So how do I know which of the various styles and mixtures of styles I referred to offends God? (The melodic piece that is slightly jazzy, for instance). Just where do you draw this all-important "line" that is not mentioned in scripture, but is somehow taught there regardless? By the unsubstantiated or overgeneralized claims and "associations" offered by these critics? Because some people once used the beat for sensuality or witchcraft and since the Bible condemns those things, then there, it "clearly says" it is all wrong, leaving only classical as good?
Remember, the Bible speaks of "knowledge" being what defiles, and in a lot of kinds of music, I have no knowledge of any aspect of the music that could be so "offensive" to God or violate the
scriptures, and I never used it in a fashion that offends God (e.g. sensual dancing). But still, I guess (with the critics making sure to spread their 'knowledge' to everyone), classical/traditional music is all that can be trusted as "pure". That is all there is to their argument.
Now, (to aid us in our "confused" state as Godwin calls it) they might say "pray to God to clean your heart and mind of the 'bad' music and give you a taste of good music". But if He still doesn't "change your heart", then you must not have meant it, and God is still "giving you over" to it. So once again, we have circular argumentation.
|According to the critics, the Bible doesn't 'have' to mention it, and neither does the Spirit have to convict of it. Both the Word and Spirit have effectively been eliminated as the guides for Christian practice, so what are the "standards" based on?|
Taking another approach, Fisher (Battle, p. 25f) calls our minds to various scenes in nature, and what
words we would think of. Why, "beauty, order, climax (we are even told that we never look at the
bottom of a mountain!), contrast, color, texture, form, and harmony". Next we are told to listen to an
orchestra playing a classical piece of music. "What terms come to mind?" we are asked. Why, the same
ones, of course.
Then, Philippians 4:8 is quoted: ("Whatever things are pure, lovely...", etc). And of course, the argument could be extended, to what things rock music would bring to mind, which of course, would be all "bad" things.
Do you see what is going on? The reader is being programmed how to think, using certain "natural truths" that presumably nobody could deny.
The goal is obviously to prove that the elements of classical (such as the "climax" or summit) are what are in harmony with God's created order and "beauty".
Remember, my argument is not that classical is not truly beautiful (except to the listener), and that it's all neutral. Already, we see that this logic extends to telling us how we look at a mountain, ignoring that if its base is covered with beautiful flowers, trees, etc. we will in fact look at the base and not just the summit.
Also, "Can you imagine Mozart being played in a bar? Not very likely—because the
music of Mozart isn't compatible with such an atmosphere" (p.102).
First, one would have to spend a lot of time in every single bar in the world to really be able to make this claim. The "highly cultured" non-Christians who like Mozart may not hang around in the same bars as rock loving crowds, but don't you think they have their own hangouts where alcohol and other sins are present? (Or are these people automatically "good" and "Christian" just because of the music they listen to?)
This shows us the total non-thinking, mind-cloning mentality of these teachers. (And they get mad at the CCM crowd for pointing this out as we shall see). It is also why they cannot even agree with each other on some issues, as also we shall see soon.
And as always in this teaching, a whole grand issue is being built upon grains of truth that do not support the whole premise (e.g. rock and other contemporary styles can never have any of the aforementioned virtues, being in nature the total opposite of them).
And anyone who doesn't agree simply has a "subjective opinion", but if they perhaps should "take the time to learn" what great art, music, etc. is, they would come to recognize the "qualities". I would admit that many people today need to learn good music, but this shows that this is not so "obvious from nature", but has to be learned in order to fully comprehend. The question is, who is going to teach them what "great music" is, and where did the teachers get their ideas and opinion of it from?
Godwin goes on to compare the defense used by a Christian leader with one used by a KISS singer, and says "The Christian who wrote those words should be ashamed. HE'S the one who ought to repent on his knees! He's using the same lame excuse to justify his sin as the SECULAR Rock stars".
Yet if you closely compare the two statements, you'd see that the Christian leader starts from Scripture and is pointing out that the issue is simply "opinion" and one must follow his convictions and not judge based on its absence in scripture.
The KISS singer starts from the common secular assumption that people "interpret the Bible any way
they want" (non-believers often claim this to dismiss all Christian beliefs), and that "everybody has to decide for themselves what works and what doesn't work", and not tell anyone to live the way we live.
The two statements may sound similar and have parallels, but the basis behind them is very different.
The world believes that there is no standard at all for us to live by, and that religious 'holy books' cannot even be trusted because they were both written and interpreted by "imperfect men" (and often used for control, and issues like this give much credence to that!), so we must decide for ourselves what is right and let everyone else do what they think is right.
The Christian leader was not saying this, but rather was accepting that the Bible is our standard, and we are to measure each other by it, but if it does not address the issue, then we are given liberty, and should not judge.
It is highly dishonest to try and match up statements like this, ignoring the significant
differences in orientation, but that is the basis of much, if not most of the quotes these critics make of CCM and the modern church. (Yet at least one got highly upset that I questioned this method of quoting people.)
Some ministries publish dozens of "testimonies" of how Christian rock made Christians "rebel" or "fall back into the world", or into "sin" but all this means, at best is that those people can't listen to it. Sometimes, the critics themselves will proudly exclaim "I'm not condemning the beat because I don't like it, but rather my flesh does enjoy it! (Watkins is one who does this). This of course is supposed to be the ultimate proof that it is bad. Again, either they themselves have a problem, or they again think any "pleasure" is bad.
Sexual connotations, for instance are created by a combination of things, many of them overt, like the words, and in that context the rhythm and arrangement, etc., not just the beat by itself.
The utter irony of this is that these same critics frequently condemn "behaviorism", the idea that external conditions are to blame for sin, rather than our internal natures. So while they constantly criticize psychologists for saying "These people grew up this way and act the way they do because of their upbringing", it is perfectly OK to blame music styles and beats for people's sins!
But while we can't say the music makes us sin, still, it's up to each Christian to see if it has any of these
physical effects on him, being that different people are susceptible to different reactions to different
things. If it does, then, scripturally, he should avoid it.
If the music affects you in a negative way, then you cannot expect people to shape their walk on your reaction. You can only ask that they not play it around you. The spiritual way to test the music we listen to, is to ask if we would want Jesus to return while we are listening to this? Can we bring Him with us into the activity, such as the Christian concert (whether performing or enjoying it)? If so, we should be cautious in challenging that, unless they do cross the very definite lines of Christian living.
Failure to heed to this principle will have the opposite effect from what you wish; as with new reports of all sorts of radical styles hastily being brought into the Church, including wild "raves" and a type of dancing called a "mosh pit", which involves people being carried, and everybody playing in some slimy substance. It is a shame that it comes to this, and the critics lump this in with everything else that they criticize.
These "one criticism condemns all" arguments directed against certain beats and syncopation, etc. rule out not only this, but a whole lot of other stuff that is nowhere near this. This is what I think further clouds the whole issue.
There was no real guidance in the overly strict old rules. Old-liners reject
practically everything, and then the contemporary people then accept everything. They know that the
one or two "traditional" styles advocated by the critics can't possibly be all that God accepts. So then
where is the line? We can just push it as far as it will go, and here we are: Christian "raves" complete
with "mosh pits"! (The same on the worship scene with laughing, barking, etc).
And the critics just remain steady trashing everything, including the mild stuff, (which they blame for setting the stage for this far out stuff), and even my attempt to bring some balance to the issue, will still be accused of making music "neutral" (since I debunk arguments for the necessary evil of certain styles), thus supporting the straw man.
But this is just further compounding the problem. The answer is not to demand that everyone go back
to old hymns. We must really go to the Bible and try to lay down some clear principles to go by, rather
than reading into it all-or-nothing extremes. Otherwise, this is all we will continue to see: One group trying out all sorts of bizarre things, and another group just bashing them for it. Neither will hear the other. And we
will get nowhere.
Connected to this is the claim that the modern Christians are more interested in what they can get away
with or what God allows, rather than what God requires or how He might be "pleased". This is human
nature (including fundamentalists), and the problem has been greatly exacerbated by the excessive rules of some,
that aren't even biblical. This would naturally lead people to ask what God really does allow or does not allow. Do
we just follow anyone who comes up to us with rules, "if we really care about pleasing God", without
question? (Cults have plenty such rules we do not follow. More on this soon). God may have neither "required" it nor be particularly "pleased" by it, unless it was freely done in regard to Him. (Rom.14:6).
People urging us to keep Sabbaths or give up birthday and holiday celebrations and "unclean" meats can accuse us of "focusing on what God allows, rather than pleasing Him" when we quote this and other scriptures regarding our "liberty" in response to them.
Also, taking the opposite attitude of supposedly "trying to stay as far away from sin as possible" so much that we make certain presumptions of what God doesn't allow (just to be safe) is precisely what the Pharisees and rabbinical Judaism after them had done. It becomes actually a haven of sin, because once one thinks he is doing so good, ('so far from sin, now') not only does he become self-righteous (what does he really need God's grace for?) but he tends to begin to slide in certain areas, especially ones he does not focus on (e.g. sins he's not even aware of. This, as I will discuss further, is how the past can be viewed uncritically compared to the present, while many sins that occurred then were ignored). This was what was meant by "straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel", or "neglecting the weightier matters of the Law".
Miller, (p.71) warns us that "The adherence to an authoritative teaching of principles that is more strict than the Bible is far from safe ground according to the Scriptures—rather it is a subtle form of worldliness instigated by the enemy. It is not safe to err on the side of the conservative. It is never safe to err." We must beware of actually nullifying God's true commands and worshipping Him in vain by "teaching as doctrine the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7,8/Isaiah 29:13).
|There was no real guidance in the overly strict old rules. Old-liners reject practically everything, and then the contemporary people accept everything. The answer is not old hymns only, but rather Bible principles and not all-or-nothing extremes|
Because the reactions of people to those earlier "secular" styles such as Jazz, blues, bebop, etc. was the same as our reaction today to these new styles, then it is implied that those earlier, milder styles are no better than the newer hard styles of today. So there is absolutely no difference between jazz and acid rock, or big band and the rave scene (it's all the same "jungle beat" that makes people immoral anyway, right?). And of course, only traditional/classical styles are above such reaction. (which was definitely not the case, as we saw). It was precisely this failure to set reasonable standards that blurred the line and helped lead to the removal of all standards in the first place. Just lumping all styles you weren't used to into the same pot. So now once again, you have people who either accept everything, or continue to reject everything, and neither side seems to recognize any balance.
* Fisher, Battle For Christian Music, p 174ff
"Evil Communications" and Outward Appearance/"Appearance of Evil"
One verse we hear tossed around a lot is 1 Cor.15:53 "Be not deceived, evil communication corrupts good manners". "Music is a language; it is communication. It must be good or bad" one person tells me. Still, like all the other claims and scriptures quoted, this does not tell us which style is good or not.
Fisher, p. 137 discusses outward appearance, and in this context compares sweat shirts or T-shirts with suits and ties. ("Which is appropriate to be taken seriously?") Others like Cloud have criticized modern churches (such as the
Calvary Chapel movement) for the pastors being dressed down. But since when is the suit and tie sacred garment?
Can't that be associated with immoral and corrupt business and government leaders? (Josh McDowell has even
challenged CCM critics on this double standard).
But once again, it's just another "tradition" that must be right compared to modern culture which must always be wrong. Christians today may be wrong in regarding outward appearance as totally unimportant, but once again they are simply reacting to the past overemphasis on outward appearance in traditionalism, which was precisely the type that Jesus was criticizing in the people of His time. (John 7:24, 8:15)
But still, even this appeal to "professionalism" becomes a big strike against these critics' claims regarding music. All of this came to mind, while watching some federally mandated job training videos, and also serious health-related infomercials and other educational films or productions companies use for their customers (including web pages or phone "on hold" messages). These are perhaps the highest examples of professionalism and proper communication. It is the finest English you will ever hear, with absolutely no profanity, bad grammar or even slang.
So then what style of music accompanies these presentations? What is used to help "communicate"? If our critics were correct, it would always be classical and traditional. While you may hear those at times (the latter, "hymn" type pieces, rarely however), what I find most often is used is some instrumental jazzy pieces, and they often have the so-called "rock beat" (back beat), and at least one I remember had a dance type beat. Basically, the "fusion" style. But these did not take away from the serious, professional atmosphere of the films.
Remember, it is not just the hard sounds of thrash metal and other similar styles these people say is bad communication. It's the beat and syncopation used in soft styles and jazz they claim is where the "evil communication" ultimately lies. But we see that jazz and perhaps some soft rock is the modern version of "professional" music. They are professional "communication".
Fisher even made a reference to Muzak to prove that the professional world realizes the power of music. But what is much of Muzak today but jazzy or soft rock? This thus disproves the ultimate criterion these critics judge the "appropriateness" of music by! If the critics will then claim "well, that reflects the modern decrease of morality" (a common claim), they should remember that it is they who have been appealing to the "professional" world to prove their points! They should not then back out of it when shown that it really disproves their case.
"But all of this is still making music neutral" critics will charge. Their initial reaction to the idea of the neutrality of music was to disprove it with physical effects. Music can either make you want to march or contemplate, or it can make you want to dance or at least sway your torso.
Just think of a marching cadence: "LEFT right LEFT right..."; "HUP two THREE four..."; "[we're] IN 1 the ar2my NOW3, [4th beat silent]...". Now if we shift the accent: "left RIGHT left RIGHT..."; "hup TWO three FOUR...", etc. then just by thinking of it, it would lead me to a shuffle or strut (dance type steps!) instead. I can't explain why, but God has tuned our senses to react to different beats this way.
But this still does not show that He favors one over another, even in worship. Critics will try the arguments from nature at this point (heartbeat, etc), but even this does not carry any real weight.
But even if we acknowledge all of this and show that it still does not prove one style is good while the other is bad, then this new factor is added: "morality". We are then accused of making music morally "neutral", which is then said to be their original objection. It must be either "good" or "bad". But once again, the only proof they have offered is physical and mental effects, and these do not prove their position; —unless you assume dancing or bopping is always bad, and marching and contemplating always good. (Or at least that they always lead to some other, universally good or bad reactions). That is what some out there seem to think. But this is precisely where the scriptural proof is lacking.
If we must categorize everything as "good" or "bad", then we would have to say that whatever is not explicitly bad is good. God created it; He tuned our senses to get enjoyment out of it, all He created was good, so it is good unless it can be perceived as evil by the listener, or one distorts it into evil. Ah, but this is still removing our universal "line" and making it "relative"! So the critics may prefer a "regulative" principle: If it is not specifically "good", it is bad, or at least "uncheckable" as one school puts it. But this still begs the question of how to prove traditional is the "good" standard in order to make everything else "bad" compared to it.
This is a similar argument to those who reject instruments in the New Testament: "whatever is not 'mentioned', is forbidden". But at least what they are saying is good (singing) is mentioned. This argument among different instrument based styles doesn't even have that support! So we would then only circle back around to the physical/natural effects claims; —or, the old standby of "associations". But even the associations or physical effects that can be detected do not determine "good" or "bad" in every situation.
The "fall down and worship Me" argument, for example. We can't go wrong sticking with a nice majestic or traditional style whose stately sound tells us to fall down before God, can we? (Setting aside the fact that these styles can lead to pride). Or a more "solemn" piece pointing to what Christ did for us? How can some jolly "party" music fit these atmospheres? But this ignores the scriptural acknowledgment in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (which funny enough, was made into a popular rock song in the '60's), that there is a season for different opposites, like "to weep...and to laugh; to mourn...and to dance" (v.4). This is why a one-sided view on either side is wrong.
Their final argument is "You cannot deny the association of rock & roll with the sexual revolution with its drugs and immorality. We must 'abstain from every appearance of evil' 1 Thess. 5:22 tells us". This is because when kids were revolting from the old societal order with all its restrictions (as will also be discussed later), their whole mindset was "whatever feels good" (as the advocates of traditional morality have constantly complained). So they did drugs, sex, drunkenness, and whatever else felt good to them.
So which music would they use? The uptight old traditional style (which had plenty of secular "love" songs, such as "Drink to Me only With thine Eyes", as well as the national anthems, other marching style music, nursery style rhymes, etc)? No, they used something that felt good to them, and the rock style came in handy for that; from danceable rhythms to mood-creating "slow jams". Combined with suggestive lyrics and then the abused substances, it could help promote sex.
Blacks who did not have as many of the sexual hangups had been using similar rhythms for years, and called it "rock and roll" named after having sex in the back of a car, as we are constantly reminded. Plus other rhythms and sounds fit the feelings of anger and rebellion they felt at society.
So also as will be discussed later, the music was blamed for or claimed to stem from all of these other problems that were occurring simultaneously in society. This is why rock&roll came to be associated with those things. But this still is only a use of it that was sinful.
Once again, just like sugar is delightful, but misuse of it is harmful, so a "creature of id" as we are called, may overindulge in sugar and be fat and be unhealthy which may lead to sins such as gluttony, sloth, and "destroying the temple God has given us". But we don't then say sugar is "unholy" or has such a "bad association" that we must completely shun it to avoid an "appearance of evil".
The same with how marching rhythms would come in handy for an ungodly army such as the Nazi troops waging an unjust war and brainwashing people. The same with how classical fit in with people becoming smug and proud of their culture compared with "barbarians".
That a person has witnessed all those sins and it appears so evil to him means that this is his personal association, and he should avoid it. Others should respect his convictions and not play it around him or force it into a particular church congregation. So yes, the younger crowd disobeyed here. But that does not mean it is universally bad, and neither can the "weak" person force his convictions on others as some universal abhorrence of God.
There are things that are universally evil, and these are the direct violations of the Biblical commandments. That's why Christians have to be careful playing in secular bars, for instance. Even though they claim they must do this to witness to the lost; the secular club scene, with the alcohol, mannerisms of people there, etc. has taken on such a negative connotation that Christians hanging out there will understandably look suspicious to both Christians, and even non-Christians who know that Christians usually stand against such an atmosphere. Likewise, it is why pastors and other ministers in the church are cautioned against ministering alone to those of the opposite sex. It could lead to, if not be taken to appear already as, an inappropriate relationship.
|Sugar is delightful, but misuse or overindulgence in it is harmful or unhealthy, yet we don't then say sugar is "unholy". The same with how marching rhythms would come in handy for an ungodly army such as the Nazi troops waging an unjust war and brainwashing people|
With the music styles, in one sense, the critics may have a point of the "appearance of evil", since the styles were associated with witchcraft, sex and rebellion in the past; but still, the problem arises from the other, unbiblical reasonings and the unreasonableness and questionable motives of the critics as stated above. This as I will mention again shortly, blurred all the lines of good and evil, so as the contemporary styles evolved and became mainstream, even though they sometimes continued to be used for the evil purposes, they did expand to a whole range of good uses, and as a whole lost the evil connotations, which are only reminded to us by critics still trying to eradicate the styles in favor of traditional.
Just the same way that marching styles may remind some of the evil of the Holocaust, but do not have that connotation to those who have only heard it in better contexts.
This is an important point both sides need to remember. One side says music is completely "neutral", or at least "morally neutral", and the other side points out how certain rhythms or sounds are associated with different things, good or evil, and assumes "this style is always good and that style is always evil". While acknowledging that certain sounds go better with certain things, we must not confuse "coming in handy for" with "causing" or "being caused by", or "always being associated with", as there are other opposite uses for a given sound that can be morally opposite. Marching can be to a just war or an unjust one. Sex can be sinful outside of marriage, or godly within marriage. Anger and revolt at society can be from anarchy or wanting to take over, or because that society is oppressive or even ungodly. Contemplation can lead to godly reflection or a spiritually dead cerebral "faith" as well as pride, and evil can certainly be "contemplated" too.
One important point we should keep in mind when assessing the contexts music (or anything else) is used in, is that the Bible teaches, "to the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but even their mind and conscience are defiled". (Titus 1:15) Of course, there are things, such as music that directly refers to or mimics sex that are universally impure, but with elements like a beat, syncopation, harmonies, etc. it is all based on the spiritual condition of those using it.
All the quoting of rock musicians and songs illustrates just what I am saying. All that is, is the music being impure to the impure, and that's what all the critics constantly citing this stuff as the ultimate proof of their case don't understand. Their hearts are impure, so they find the most pleasant beats they can find, and use them for impurity, and revel in it. Just like drugs they use. These substances are natural things God created "good" like everything else, but they misuse those too for pleasure. That doesn't mean that there could never be a good use for them (some medicinal drugs can become addictive or harmful if overdone, or taken at the wrong time, but are otherwise used for good).
One person I've debated with tells me "but see there, you admit that some things are still not pure even to the pure". But of course, to a certain extent, who is completely pure? We still have a sin nature, and sex is deeply ingrained in us, and is one of the areas hit hardest by the Fall. So something like sexual moaning, for instance, can never be "pure" to us listening to it on some record made by someone else. But in our marriage bed, it is pure (Heb.13:4).
This person, while denying that rock "causes" sin through its "effects", claims instead that it is rather simply "feeding the flesh", like a person reading a pornographic magazine. But pornography is a totally different story. God tuned our senses to be aroused by the opposite gender. This comes from a universal principle God instilled at Creation, and was marred by the Fall, so He was always strict about it. (i.e. we are only to be aroused by the person we marry). So this is why such pictures will always lead to impure thoughts, and indelibly feeds our "flesh". (Because this is not our partner, which is what makes it impure, not the physical "pleasure" in itself, which would be pure in another context —if it was from our mate). Thus, this act of "feeding the flesh" is an act of "sin", and is what I meant by "causing sin" (even though the reader's heart may have already been "sinful" as he approached the magazine, as this person pointed out).
The same is not so with music. Some things may influence us in various ways, and some may use it for evil, enticing the masses with the beat that is pleasant to them, (and then adding sinful words, sexual sounds, etc), but there is no such universal principle for pleasure in music as there is with sexuality, and it's only the Platonists who have elevated it to that level. Listening to some song you like, and even enjoying the rhythm, in itself, is not the same as the thrill of lust one gets from looking at a dirty picture. It violates no command of God by itself (i.e. if not wedded to something universally sensual like sexual sounds, or you are using it for a sinful purpose).
All of this does not address how much the other sounds criticized in music (such as the accents of the beats) are indelibly associated with sensuality. They are simply used for it sometimes, like anything else. But they can also be removed from that context, unlike passionate moaning or pornography.
Take the earlier cited example of letters and words. The critics point out that the neutral elements add up to a product that is "good" or "bad". But what they are in essence doing, would correspond to declaring a certain letter "bad" because they see it used in several foul words or statements. While the critics who use that illustration are suggesting (admitting) that an element can be neutral, and it's only the finished product they are judging as bad; we see that in music, it is elements they are judging as bad in themselves.
|All the quoting of secular rock musicians and songs illustrates that "to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure" (Titus 1:15)|
To me, the harder acid or thrash sounds as well as a lot of heavy metal have a connotation with evil, because they consist largely of overamplified electric guitar chords (harmony; often discordant) but not much melody. It comes across as noise, and the singing accompanying it is often screaming or moaning, and thrash gets its name from the hard, fast 2/4 beat, which does in fact sound like "thrashing".
Most of the groups had themes of darkness and death and Satan ("Megadeth", "Greatful Dead", the appearance of KISS), often with twisted "biblical" references ("Black Sabbath", "Judas Priest", and "Iron Maiden" with hideous cover art showing a person with his flesh torn off on every album), and "666", the biblical "number of the Beast [Antichrist]" abounding.
Even as a non-Christian it looked and sounded evil to me, and I would have been bewildered if I had known of a Christian group using such sounds. Also, those who listened to it seemed to be hateful, rebellious kids, who wished death to disco because it was a black-oriented style that had captured the white mainstream, and battles raged on in high school of whether the good life was "sex, drugs and rock & roll", or "sex, drugs and disco". (Disco at least was more musical). Heavy metal may at times make a good score for an action scene in a movie or video game, but to sit and listen to whole songs or albums of it I see no value in. (And actually sitting and listening/contemplating (perhaps getting high) rather than dancing is what most of the fans of this style do, so the association of the beat with sensuous dancing once again is shown to be overblown, as is the persistent correlating of Africa, as many of these kids look just as much down on African culture as the old conservatives).
Even less hard songs like Aerosmith's "Dream On" and Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" sound interesting, but also sound a bit warped or dark. The same with the harder song "Aqualung" by Jethro Tull. Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" sounds outright rebellious and violent. (I have only heard these songs in passing, and have never listened to them on my own). These songs are the epitome of the criticisms of the "discordance" and "rebellion" of rock. A big part of it is the vocals, and the harmony. I think it is also the association (i.e. the gimmicks and cover art I mentioned, plus the general theme and direction of the group), and ultimately, the spirit behind it, as was also mentioned.
It would be interesting to see a study done of songs like this. But all such studies of rock music I have seen, while mentioning harmony and vocals, always focus on the backbeat and syncopation (most of the familiar verse portions of the first two songs mentioned and others like "Stairway to Heaven" do not even have the backbeat!) Why is this?
There is even some music that I really like that I, after growing spiritually, started to be spiritually troubled by (the sound of a certain song in light of the religiously eclectic associations and themes) and had to get rid of (an entire collection of all of a group's albums spanning 3 decades! Not anything truly Christian, though!). If I had heard a biblical, sensible critique on the spirit behind music, instead of tirades against African beats and modern culture when I first became Christian; I would have been much less likely to have bought the music in the first place!
So right here, we see that by trying to narrow it all down to such broad categories as beat accents, syncopation and repetition in general, continents or cultures of origin, etc. the critics are actually diverting us from the real issues of the spirit behind music, and are the ones truly "aiding the devil" by bringing into the church more confusion (which he thrives off of), and leading to people readily dismissing any type of spiritual discernment in music when they find the critics' arguments to be inaccurate. Once again, they are blurring the true spiritual line just as much as the musical relativist!
Yet there are Christians who do not seem to think any sound is evil. (Yet even with the so-called "Christian hard rock" they use, something does sound or seem different about it from the secular bands!) Critics could look at this and say "see, that's where your reasoning leads", while fans could accuse me of using the same reasoning as the critics. But this is why more grace is needed here.
I can point out all these concerns and why I think that style is no good, but not talk down to them, rant at them, call them wicked or followers of Satan, or even question their walk with God, as many of the critics are doing.*
We must try to articulate a truly biblical objection to a particular element that we think is questionable, not use proof-texts to try and eliminate whole categories of music and try to break it all down to a beat accent or amount of syncopation or continent of origin when all music that uses those things does not have the evil connotation, and scripture does not cover those things.
Fisher, p.192, claims that the "watershed" or point of division is that "If all music is capable of expressing Christian thought, then we 'conservatives' have been wasting a lot of energy and time over absolutely nothing. On the other hand, if there are kinds of music that are incapable of or inappropriate for expressing Christian thought, then...we must continue to resist bringing them into the Church". We are even warned not to get "sidetracked" on issues like backmasking, spandex suits or weak testimonies —actually the more legimate concerns regarding "worldliness"! The entire issue is topsy turvy here, as one "style" versus another is made the ultimate issue!
So where the time is really being wasted is on the criterion by which music is judged appropriate or not appropriate; and yes, it is possible for many people to be wasting time on wrong issues. (just think of all the other heresies we see in the religious world). It is up to them to make sure their teaching is really in line with the Bible, and not just certain points (while the rest of the teaching deviates into error); not to simply try to convince everyone purely by their critical fervor.
Another ultimate proof that this whole "classical=good associations; rock=bad associations" generalization is the categorization of "classical" under the Gothic label! Now "Gothic" is just about the darkest thing we can think of, and we automatically picture modern rebellious youths, with their heavy "goth rock" music, and dark eyeliners, punked out hair, etc., and the associations with old horror/monster movies. But all of this has in its roots in "classical" European culture!.
You can even see the classical music categorized as "Gothic" at this site: http://hercules.gcsu.edu/~rviau/musicoverview.html (Musical/Historical Overview By Dr. Greg Pepetone)! The epitome of this is Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, (BWV 565); a dark, eerie theme associated with Dracula and other morbid images. This is pure classical, by one of the most respected composers of "traditionalist" Christians, and should forever put to rest the false "moral/spiritual" dichotomy between rock and classical! Of course, people will probably say "oh that was just one example that was dark, but the rest of classical is not like that". But then the same generalization should be rejected for rock and other contemporary forms. Either the negative "association" rules out the whole style, or you just have to draw your lines on a case by case basis. But it is so much easier to put forth such effort for your own beloved style, yet with a broad sweep rule out everything else.
* Masters, for instance, suggests people bringing in "the most extreme styles" "fall within the scope of 2 Peter 2" —false teachers who "stand under the judgement of God pronounced by the apostle Peter" (http://www.freedomministries.org.uk/masters/idiom10.shtml). I would view such as sorely misguided, but eternally condemned because of a style? There may be some truly false people infiltrating the Church, such as what Masters describes: "They will be covetous and deceitful people who will import sinful and sex-based ideas and fashions among the people of God, and will cause many young and weak believers to fall into selfish, unspiritual, pleasure-loving ways"; but Masters suggests these are "people who at some time seemed to undergo some personal reformation of life, but were never truly converted" (in other words, reprobate "tares" who really thought they were Christian but didn't bear the fruit or persevere —discussed on predestination.html), rather than phony charlatans who never thought they were Christian, but only told others they were to deceive (what the scriptures on false teachers are actually describing). This is a serious charge being made against people because of a style, even if some of the things that are being brought in are a bit over the top. Once again, where would we even draw the line in "extreme" since all pop is lumped into the same category, and varies in "extremeness"?
God's Creativity and The Development of Music
If a Christian worship song has rhythm and "clever ideas", rather than taking glory away from God, I am pointed to God's beauty and creativity, which comes through the artist, who is made in His image, though tarnished by sin. Yes, he or she is just God's "paintbrush", but the ideas they put into the songs are God's handiwork! He did it through them, just as He inspires people to preach His Word, who may use their own illustrations or ideas to convey the message. Since people are made in the image of God, self expression is not abhorred by Him, as long as they make it clear that the ultimate glory goes to Him.
|Classical, as well, has its negative side or association, such as its classification as apart of "Gothic" culture, with dark pieces such as Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor|
Music develops by borrowing, changing, and putting a new spin on previous ideas. If it didn't, then it would all sound the same, and much of the music being advocated here sounds pretty much the same. (How much can you really do with the text, melody and harmony almost always synchronized?) Things change, and it isn't CCM that is dividing the church, but rather an apparently pietistic strain in which many are afraid of change just for the sake of things being different.
Critics even quote Prov.23:10 and Jer.6:16 about following/not changing old ways, ("landmarks") and even add the idea of not "offending" anyone, ("unity") and that God "changes not" to insure that nothing will ever change. But this reasoning suggests that everything that was ever an established church tradition was from God and should never have been changed. This would include all the dark spots of church history, which are always glossed over; and also the authority of Rome (harshly condemned by fundamentalists), whom we "rebelled" against, and for good reason. We Protestants must remember this when criticizing others for "rebellion", "disunity", etc., to try to defend whatever tradition we think is God's.
And they don't seem to realize that their traditions, including the musical style were not from the first century New Testament Church, and thus could also be seen as a departure from "biblical" worship or the original 'old ways', especially given the pagan background of much of them, as was shown above.
In a section of his treatment of the Luther/tavern music debate titled "A distinct style", Masters claims "In the course of the Reformation we gained the Genevan Psalter. We still use many of its tunes today. For several centuries now there has been in the churches of Jesus Christ a distinctly Christian idiom for music, easily distinguishable from secular music. New-style worship is now sweeping this away." (http://www.freedomministries.org.uk/masters/luther.shtml)
But this style was once new and contemporary, (even if the individual songs weren't really from the taverns). It has no claim to biblical preference, was influenced by unbiblical western philosophy and differed from the styles that were used in ancient mideastern biblical culture.
What all of this may show is that certain people may go too far in copying sounds directly off of secular songs, or just imitating the pop idiom in general just for the sake of it, or to make money, but still it does not support the argument that older is always God's way. (What we're doing here is taking the weaknesses of one side and thinking it proves the other side by default).
Why then don't we go back to the 1st century pattern of the church, with its lack of incorporation, buildings and paid professional leaders (Again, like the Amish)? I feel this never should
have changed (and it first changed when the Roman Empire recognized and exalted the church so it
could use it for control. Out of this was the Catholic system created).
But trying to go back is a low priority. We have to deal with things as they are. This segment of the church is always pointing us backwards. Alarmed at the sins of modernity and post-modernity, it is assumed that pre-modernity had it right all along. But any period of human history after the Fall is equally corrupt and sinful, even though the outward manifestations of sin change from era to era. The Bible even speaks against looking back like this. (Eccl. 7:10, Isaiah 43:18-21, Phil.3:13)
Behind the Criticism: The Quarrelsome State of Modern Separatism
John M. Frame, of Westminster Theological Seminary in Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense (R&R Publishing, Philipsburg, NJ 1997) also brings out many great points showing that many of the faults used against contemporary music and worship are equally present in traditional music and worship. These include the traditionalists being full of pride, the traditional forms of music having entertainment value and being a commercial enterprise, and the possibility of people who love it losing grip on the higher purposes of worship. He also points out that the critics "redefine Christianity by making it at every point the opposite of what they are opposing", and suggests that the opposition to CWM is not wholly based on theology, but has a strong emotional component to it, evidenced by the shoddy argumentation and sheer stubbornness. (P.142) This is what I meant, above, when I suggested that they accuse contemporary Christians of judging by "subjective feelings" (preference) without checking to see if their own position is not likewise influenced by it, however subconsciously.
If contemporary Christians are doing so much wrong in their music (as well as the secular rock & urban culture) then there should be a concern that these people are doing harm to their own souls, and their relationship with God. But no, all I see from this movement is hostile contempt: like "you people are rebelling against our authority; helping erode our culture, [and bringing that dreaded 'jungle' culture into our midst]!" The same attitude you see in their politics and every other aspect of their message to the outside world. It's all centered on them, and what they are offended by, and their authority (making it ironic how they criticize CCM and the modern culture as being so self-oriented!)
Doesn't the contemptuous name calling we see (cited above and below) sound more like personal animosity than godly reproof? This shows they are not all that objective, but are just as subjective as they accuse others of being, and that they do not speak for God. They are being just like the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day, including the disciples, who are "mindful not of the things of God, but of the things of men" (i.e. their desire of rule over society and the propagation of their traditions and identity rather than the people who need to be
reached with the truth of God).
Critics rebuff being called "Pharisees", but they are doing the same things the Pharisees did! And even this charge they actually try to throw back at the very people they are criticizing! One person is calling CCM and contemporary Church leaders "Lords of Laodicea" (as in "lords over God's heritage"), but who is it that is trying to control everyone with their unbiblical assumptions?
What's of special note is Adrian van Manen's statement:
The Lord reproved the Pharisees. He called them many names. The Pharisees, I'm sure, felt persecuted. They were religious zealots and knew the Old Testament. How did anyone, let alone a poor carpenter's son, dare reprove them? Had the Lord not been perfect, had there been no absolutes, the Pharisees would have been correct to go on the counter-attack and accuse the Lord of slandering their good name. However, the Lord was perfect, there were absolutes, and the Pharisees were being corrected. Man has not changed in 2,000 years. There are still Pharisees among us going on the counter-attack. They cry out, "Persecution, Persecution!" Could it be correction, correction unheeded? (Their Rock Is Not As Our Rock "Confusing Persecution with Correction"; see http://wayoflife.org/fbns/isit.htm)So the CCM crowd are also the real "Pharisees", and not only that, but look at the other correlations: "absolutes". What are these "absolutes" in this case? That only traditional music is good? (Although in this particular chapter some legitimate concerns regarding the CCM industry are addressed). Despite all the claims of others, the least bit of evidence is still sorely lacking!
Pointing at others, they have just described themselves! It was the Pharisees who thought they or their traditions were perfect, yet ignored all the sin in their lives while looking at everyone else.
We actually are all accountable to one another, according to the New Testament. So not only should the one doing the correcting make sure he is not in error as well, but then nobody should think they are in a position where they can only give but not receive correction! For nobody today is perfect like the Lord was!
And who are the "religious zealots" in this case? Aren't the contemporary Christians (including CCM) being criticized for among other things, their watering down of Christian religion? (i.e. not being "zealous" enough for truth). Don't the critics see themselves as the ones who know and completely follow the Bible?
It's the critics themselves who are the worst in rebuffing criticism as "persecution", much more than the relatively passive contemporary Christians. They all refer to the few responses the CCM crowd do make as "vicious slander" or "attacks", but it is still nowhere near the bile many of these critics are spewing (CCM leaders and fans never refer to the fundamentalists they criticize as "false", "apostate", "following the devil", etc. nor do they call the old music "wicked", "wiles of Satan" or "trash").
These people could truly be called the "Lords of Ephesus"— (see description of that church in Revelation). You really wonder whether all of this is about Christ, our "first love", or some other underlying issues. This we will explore later. Even "Laodicea" with its claim of "we are rich and in need of nothing" taken spiritually, more closely fits the attitude of the traditional conservative Church culture than it does the contemporary Church!
This truly is a similar scenario to the battle with the Pharisees in Jesus' day. He was completely radical to the
Jewish leaders who were so worried about their faith being undermined by anything new or different to
what they were used to. Sound familiar?
Surely His claim to divine rights and titles undermined the basic tenet of monotheism— as understood by them. And downplaying the Sabbath, the centerpiece of their whole identity. And hanging out with the worst people around. Then, in Acts, leading His followers to open up the faith to the gentiles, and teaching that they didn't have to keep the Law of Moses. Those religious leaders had a real case against Jesus and His followers. They really appeared to be an idolatrous cult. But we know who was teaching the truth, and who the stubborn rebels really were, so pious old customs and traditions do not in themselves make anyone right.
|Doesn't the contemptuous name calling we see sound more like personal animosity than godly reproof? Meanwhile, the critics themselves are the worst in rebuffing criticism as "persecution"|
No, we are not to accommodate the faith just to win people, but then we are definitely not to
accommodate it to ourselves, claiming God's preference for established traditions. Either way, it is
Perhaps, what the CCM people are trying to say when they talk about changing the music to reach people is, we cannot reach the world when we are advocating a radical "separation" that rejects everything new or different from our traditions, all out of a deep hatred for the world (while we are just as affected by sin!). And everyone knows this is not the way of Jesus! Critics now dismiss the scriptural teaching of "being all things to all men"(1 Cor.9:19-22) with "We don't sin with them to reach them", "we don't do drugs with addicts, drink with drunkards", etc. (Of course, the sound of contemporary music is likened to those sins), but their attitudes of contempt for the world and the insistence that everyone must take on their traditions to become a good Christian (all men becoming in all things like us so we may control all) definitely violate this and other Scriptures.
The CCM crowd and large sections of modern Christianity may have gone too far in certain respects, but it is wrong to assume everything they are doing (i.e. everything modern, or from outside of the traditional Christian culture) is "sin".1 As it is, most people think of us as some far out exclusive subculture, divorced from real life; enemies who want to control or condemn. (Horton mentions the irony of us wanting to either take over the world or run away from it.) This is an image we should be trying to shed, not reinforce. Why should anybody listen to us if we hate them so much?
And even though they deny so much that
music is for reaching the world, they do admit that our music impacts unbelievers, citing Psalms 40:3.
Saying "just trust God to draw them with the traditional music" is a total copout. Why can't we trust
Him to use music that we may have negative feelings about?
So we must embrace change, so long as it does not compromise the essentials, (and we must be truthful in defining the essentials). Else, why should anybody come to what they could understandably consider a tribal religion with a tribal deity whose sole purpose is to give his approval and justification to that tribe's existence or lifestyle. (See Appendix for further discussion of reaching the world).
And whether or not the people the music is being copied from are rebelling against God, still, the music can be taken and used for Christ, certainly, if the royalty and barroom music of the medieval society can.
We can be as adamant and authoritative as we want, but that does not make anything we say any more the truth. We must be careful purporting to speak God's word for Him, trying to play the role of the Holy Spirit by regulating what is right and wrong for Christians beyond what is EXPLICITLY mentioned in scripture, and elevating pet-peeves, such as modern music to the level of biblical mandates.—Things "I commanded not, nor spoke, neither came it into my mind" (Jer.8:5, see also Job 42:78 2 and Matt.15:9).
Some people do think that the critics are "winning" the argument, having in fact, all the "scripture", while the fans and defenders of course, only go by "feelings" and "preference". Often the latter is true, but the former is an illusion created by the critics rehashing the same proof-texts over and over, and many fans/defenders often not having good answers for them.
But as one person on an internet discussion pointed out: "The reason we do not post scripture left and right, is because what is posted as scripture we agree with, it is the philosophy of man that has been extrapolated from the few scriptures that reference music that we have to spend most of our time dealing with. There is no discussion in scripture of styles of music... There is only our own imagined theories on what they must be talking about in the verses. It's amazing to me, that even some of the best Bible expositors throw caution to the wind when interpreting scriptural principles about music. They would never make up so much nonsense about any other area of scripture, but they squish the scriptures into their own mold, and declare the 'truth' about Godly music."
I then added: "I myself have always thought that arguments such as this are more about what the Bible does not say, than what it does say; so that is why we end up 'having less' scripture. Instead, [unfortunately] scripture winds up being used most by those trying to read something into them".
Anyone can take some issue and make it ultimate, rendering everyone else in a state of compromise or apostasy. Just look at all the following issues raised by the various sects and cults; all in the name of "truth", "the Word of God" and "separation":
Some of these issues have more apparent biblical support than this music issue, but they still are not what was prescribed for New Testament Christianity and thus are rejected by fundamentalists.
The most ironic issue is among these very same fundamentalists themselves: the KJV-Only conflict. Various schools and ministries that attack the "New evangelicals" as erring in music and other areas, will themselves be similarly attacked by some more radical fundamentalist groups for accepting translations such as the ASV or even the NKJV, and they can be very uncivil about it. (The KJV only issue is handled excellently in James R. White's The King James Only Controversy, Bethany House, 1995; website: www.aomin.org/KJVO)
And as was mentioned earlier, Mike Paulson bests other KJVO/anti-CCM churches, claiming that they use even "good" music wrong!
They are also against psychology, but will also come under attack from others for so much as using a term associated with psychology (Biblical Discernment Ministries, at http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology is an example).
Sword of the Lord even featured a defensive article (7-10-98) about some fundamentalist schools attacking and accusing others of compromising, and it's amazing how they used some of the same appeals (such as "not judging"; "liberty" in Rom. 14, etc.) they criticize the neo-evangelicals for using! (And they added Rom. 16:17 "mark those who cause divisions").
It's beginning to look like this rock music ban is really the only issue they still agree completely on!
One author 3 quotes Steve Green's "Let the Walls Come Down": "a fearsome battle rages...a cruel civil war between denominations...over culture and tradition", and comments "His song absolutely denies the doctrine of separation". But this author seems to be unaware of the extent of this "battle", even beyond music, into the issues mentioned above where even his very circle is denounced as being just as "compromising" as the New-evangelicals! Where does it stop?
He does acknowledge 4 that many who share the same convictions of separation often lack charity and divide over the issue of "knowledge", but these people feel that their degree of "separation" is God's way (just as he thinks his is), and that anything below the line they draw (including his position) is "compromise", and must be "stood against" strongly. Who is right?
So while they portray "separation" as "the main dividing line" between "fundamentalism" and "new-evangelicalism"5, what we see in reality is that fundamentalism is itself divided, with "separation" being the basis of a carnal one-upmanship that is totally unbiblical and worldly!
Green's song was right on the mark! (This is precisely why songs like that are written in the first place!) Fundamentalism is in a sad state, even more so than new-evangelicalism, which is at least more humble, despite its errors.
Of course, before they start jumping on this, this is not to say that we should throw out all separation, and yes, contemporary evangelicals have compromised a lot here. But these fundamentalists cannot correct the younger church crowd when they themselves are in such disarray in drawing the lines of separation, and make such bogus issues as this music debate. This sets no example and only proves to the modern crowd that all is relative and all-inclusiveness is the only 'safe' way.
This issue is so heated that many of these critics will resort to total disrespect and contempt of their fellow Christians for listening to modern music. Godwin describes the emotional cycles of
...the angry, confused, denying and deluded C- Rock fan [who] always hit one final button as a last resort in his effort to justify his sin: It's called self-righteous pride. Yet C- Rock defenders continually justify their sin by patting their own backs. Noses in the air, they demand a scripture that says: 'THUS SAITH THE LORD; THOU SHALT NOT LISTEN TO "CHRISTIAN" ROCK'. They overlook the fact the Bible also fails to specifically mention marijuana, cocaine, X-rated porno movies, and abortion as sins. Does that make them any less sinful? Biblical holiness from Genesis to Revelation is swept under the rug by this kind of rock-hard, rebellious heart. C-Rock brainwashing has completed its task. The victim's rebellion is now set in concrete. Though living totally contrary to God's Word, the deluded, confused and hard-hearted C-Rock victim prides himself in his 'powerful' testimony for Jesus Christ. (What's Wrong With Christian Rock's Fruits? / http://www.freedomministries.org.uk/godwin/jefchap1.shtml)
First, it's striking how Godwin describes "C-rockers" as going through what are basically psychological-style cycles of trauma (much like someone who has been raped or lost a close loved one tragically) over his teachings. (I thought they were against that type of stuff. And the main difference is that the standard cycle ends in "acceptance" while the "C-rocker" cycle ends in "REBELLION"). You can almost detect a sense of satisfaction that he has such an effect on people (I am so right that people just can't deal with my "truth", and go into anger, confusion, denial, etc).
Of course, a teaching like this, shouted so vigorously, but with no real scriptural support, will cause
confusion. Why shouldn't people be angry when they are called "wicked rebels", and something they like is trashed as evil or sinful? And of course, when they see it is not biblical, they will "deny" (reject) it.
It is highly manipulative of Mr. Godwin to try to take peoples' natural reaction and twist them to support his point.
But actually, the cycle he describes is actually a perfect description of critics such as himself. They are the ones who are the most angry (just look at his whole diatribe as well as many of the others), much more so than the CCM fans, who are generally passive and often apathetic, as I have mentioned. They definitely cannot take any criticism. They are confused as to the correct application of scriptural principle in this area, and in denial of the truth about their and others' cultures, and their motives; and full of delusion ("our old ways are always right, and everyone else is wrong; they are just sinning ("living totally contrary to the Word of God") and they know it; anything they say is wrong and unscriptural and justifying their 'sin'"), and then self righteous pride (just look at these statements about other Christians, and the way they talk AT people, but never listen. This usually has the opposite effect of people actually getting the message, thus it fulfills no purpose but to puff up the one speaking; so who really is "patting himself on the back" and has their "nose in the air"?)
This is also rebellion, against the truth that one disagrees with, no matter how much of a pious heritage one may be trying to represent. (Who's heart is "rock hard"? Just try and contact critics like this with disagreement and you'll quickly find out! —see next paragraph).
This writer just got through telling us how our righteousness is as "filthy, smelly rags", yet does it not appear that he is full of his own righteousness to be on such a high horse? It makes you wonder if "sin" is against God, or against them; if they are the ones who gave the biblical commandments they accuse others of violating (especially since they're so good at defining what offends God's holiness, even apart from Scripture).
|One reason CCM defenders do not use scripture more, is because the scripture cited by critics they agree with, it is the manmade philosophy that is extrapolated from them that they have to spend most of the time dealing with|
The fact that one can so easily be pointing at one's self in their remarks about others emphasizes the importance of Christ's teaching about judging our brethren. Of course, that's just another scripture casually cast aside by these critics (Godwin lists it as just a defense in the "anger" stage) claiming "other scriptures do tell us to judge". That may be true, but the key phrase they miss in these other scriptures is "Hypocrite! First cast the beam out of your own eye then you shall see clearly to cast the mote (splinter) out of your brother's eye" (Matt. 7:5).
These critics REFUSE to admit that they could ever be wrong, let alone the sin in their traditions, and their attitude and approach to the whole issue. Yet they can see so clearly everyone else's "rebellion". They trample on scripture left and right when it conflicts with their teachings, yet they can see so well how everyone "sweeps biblical holiness under the rug".
And let's not forget verse 2, "For with what judgement you judge, with the same measure you use, it shall be measured back to you". In John 7:24, when confronted for supposedly violating the Law of Moses, He says "Do not judge according to sight, but judge righteous judgment".
From Matthew Henry's commentary on James 4:
The Christians to whom James wrote were apt to speak very hard things of one another, because of their differences about indifferent things (such as the observance of meats and days, as appears from Rom. 14): "Now", says the apostle, "he who censures and condemns his brother for not agreeing with him in those things which the law of God has left indifferent thereby censures and condemns the law, as if it had done ill in leaving them indifferent. He who quarrels with his brother, and condemns him for the sake of any thing not determined in the word of God, does thereby reflect on that word of God, as if it were not a perfect rule. Let us take heed of judging the law, for the law of the Lord is perfect; if men break the law, leave that to judge them; if they do not break it, let us not judge them." This is a heinous evil, because it is to forget our place, that we ought to be doers of the law, and it is to set up ourselves above it, as if we were to be judges of it. He who is guilty of the sin here cautioned against is not a doer of the law, but a judge; he assumes an office and a place that do not belong to him, and he will be sure to suffer for his presumption in the end. Those who are most ready to set up for judges of the law generally fail most in their obedience to it.Amazing! So we see it is these critics (most of them KJVO, arguing for a "perfect Bible"), who are actually impugning the Law of God as imperfect through their actions! It does not rule out as much as they wish, so they must add to it; all the while pointing out how they uphold it and others fall short. Paul adds: "You who make your boast in the Law, do you dishonor God through breaking the Law?" (Romans 2:23). Christ tells people who can see others' blindness, but refuse to admit their own, that because "...you say 'We see!'; therefore your sin remains!" (John 9:41)
|Critics insist we are to judge, yet ignore the admonition to "cast the beam out of your own eye then you shall see clearly", and "Do not judge according to sight, but judge righteous judgment". They admit no wrong in their lives, but try to correct everyone else|
This is just one example of the type of rhetoric this issue has devolved into, from the most widely published critic. Similar tones or attitudes can be found from Watkins,6 Beardsley, Nieman, and Noebel. The first two go as far as saying on their websites that "We do NOT debate. We do NOT argue. But we welcome any King James Bible answers to CCM." and that "All E-mails violating these requests...may get a canned response of 'IGNORED' because we will not waste our time further with those trying to rationalize their wicked behavior with the Word of God."
Once again, no civil discourse, no willingness to discuss what the Bible really teaches; they are so RIGHT, that they should just be able to balk AT people once again, and not be questioned (anyone questioning is just trying to justify their own "wickedness" anyway).
The truth is, they ARE arguing in their writings (against people they quote) but it is rigged so that it is one-sided and they cannot be answered. It's easy to write or speak on a tape or radio where you get to set up your opponent's arguments and knock them down, and the person can't respond; but person to person confrontation (commanded in the New Testament, as opposed to what is called "backbiting", which is what we see here) where the person can challenge you is much harder (especially if you have something to hide, such as a weak argument covered with a veneer of tough talk that the other person can expose). If one's position is so true, would this form of censorship be necessary? Isn't this strikingly similar to a defiant child plugging up his ears and making noise so not to hear someone he is arguing with, and have the last word? (A classic picture of bona-fide rebellion!)
As you'll see next, their whole attitude is that to talk to them, you must come to them on your knees, admitting that they're right in their interpretation of the Bible: "This is not for C-rockers unless you plan on repenting and following what the Bible teaches! The purpose is to assist Christians that are serious in defending their churches against this wile (C-rock and CCM) of our adversary." In other words, it is only to affirm those who already agree with them; to "tickle their ears" (and then possibly indoctrinate those who don't). That is the sole purpose of their bitter ranting, and yet all of this is under the premise of "contending for the truth"!
It seems those who are screaming the loudest, or carrying on the longest are those who have in their testimonies involvement in the deepest pits of the worst kinds of rock and worldly lifestyles before becoming Christian. Others have all along been brought up in a repressive mindset and simply hearing music that makes them want to move any part of the body in any way other than marching triggers in them this horrible feeling of "sensuality" (even though all such movements are not sensual), and they are alarmed and ashamed that they could have such a reaction! But instead of following the principles of the New Testament regarding their walk and relation with other brethren, what they are doing is projecting their own guilt-ridden weak consciences on everyone else. Other critics are more civil, but still operate on the same flawed assumptions and conclusion about the modern church and what the Bible teaches.
|The critics condemn songs and other CCM statements dismissing "separation", but they themselves are in disarray on other issues, using separation as a carnal one-upmanship that is unbiblical and worldly!|
Once again, I could imagine giving in to these people, and asking "OK, so where exactly is this line between 'moral'
and 'immoral' music? How do I know which of those in between pieces are "acceptable" or
"unacceptable?" Godwin would gladly come to lead me out of my "confused" state, and what would follow would be all the "principles" of the accent of the rhythm, plus the dominance of text/melody, and not too much repetition and syncopation. (Thus effectively ruling out all pop, jazz and other related styles, and anything with any grain of African influence). This would be backed up with the scientific studies and people's testimonies.
But then I would still not be able to help wondering what any of this has to do with either Scripture or morality. And listening only to classical and traditional styles would not make me feel that much further from the "world". I would only feel like I have simply exchanged one culture for another. There must be more to the "morality" of music than all of this.
1 Recall discussion on "appearance of evil" and "communication", above
2 Job's friends emphasized God's righteousness over Job's feelings, but they still "did not speak of Me what was right"!
3 Fisher, Battle For Christian Music, p.177
4 ibid, p 176
5 ibid, p 174
6 Watkins appears to be the most virulent critic of CCM/rock and its "wickedness". You just have to see his website, with the variety of font sizes and colors which convey the sense of screaming. Yet with all this holy indignation,
if you go to av1611.org and click the link to the music ministry he supports, what style will you find? Country! Most of the other critics now condemn country as just as worldly and sensuous as rock! It too is full of themes of adultery, breakups and other sins. In fact, it's said that if rock&roll=sex, then country is the 'guilty afterglow'! Yet this critic seems to think it's OK, as did many other southern fundamentalist rock critics. Once again, this shows us the double standards of many of these teachers, and proves again how it is never safe to be that hard on others. (Though I wonder if the other critics overlook this in Watkins)
God, Race and Culture
All of this concerns me so much, because from the picture God gives us in the Bible, He is much more
diverse as Creator to accept only a few limited styles. Christ told the woman at the well that though the
Jews may have been guided by God's Word, they still were fallen, and what ultimately mattered to
God, was not a time or place or style, but "spirit and truth"(John 4:20-24).
The critics will vehemently deny any racist undertones; if voodoo is ungodly, then it is not a race or culture issue. True, but this ignores the actual history of this issue. They think that their references to "African voodoo" are simply objective statements of historical fact, but the truth is, Africa is singled out in these teachings (as it has always been), despite the fact that all cultures have pagan religion in their backgrounds, including the Platonic influence of much of traditional "Western" Christian music and culture, as was shown before. This is no less false or demonic than voodoo, and the only real difference is that voodoo and other tribal religions look more wild and sensual because of the rhythmic dancing. But the same Devil is behind both when they do not point to Christ alone.
In fact, the less sensual it looks, the more deceptive it actually is, because it better fits the description of Satan in 2 Cor. 11:14. People think it is automatically "godly" because it is "civilized" or even "reverent" or "worshipful". But who is being revered or worshipped, Christ or culture?
Back when jazz and later rock & roll first began, before the sex, drugs, violence, heavy metal, and even the widespread drawing upon of false religion, conservatives were against it, for obvious cultural reasons, calling it "jungle music". (And notice how variations of this term can still be found in
fundamentalist magazines and books, as well as "primitive"!)1 Bill Romankowski in Pop Culture Wars
quotes many sources from earlier in the century where the Citizens' Councils and Vigilance Associations (outwardly racist secular organizations) said the same exact things about the "truly melodious and harmonious" music that "pictures heavenly perfection", (even down to secular classical music being appropriate for Christians) and the sensuous music of the "crazed barbarians" which "reflects the Spirit of hell", supposedly "brings out the base in
man", and summonses demons.
And this was not the Satan-worshiping acid rock of the last few decades they were talking about, as most of the quotes were from the 20's to the 50's. (Notice, the main moral, biblical concern of the association with sensuality— which is so emphasized now, was simply a supporting point in the main issue of the association with "barbarians".)
They even blamed the NAACP and the "Communists"2 for this "conspiracy" to 'pollute' southern white teenagers. Romankowski points out: "Rock music was an outgrowth of the continued interplay between...black
and white cultures in America".
Conservatives saw this not only as a type of integration of black culture, (which they were fiercely against) but also as their white children debasing themselves to the level of black heathen savages! Meanwhile, classical music (along with other arts) had always been portrayed practically as the centerpiece of so-called "civilized" [superior Euro-American, or "Western"] culture! Deny as they may, they just cannot erase this history.
Anyone who bring all of this up is accused of playing a "race card", but it is clearly their forefathers (and some on their side today) who first played that race card. It is simply being dealt back to them today who refuse to confess and repent of it, but instead try to sweep it under the rug, while still arguing some of its central tenets.
In fact, in the post-911 "war on terror" political climate many conservatives, including Christians, are still boldly championing Western culture as "superior" to others, and notice how often "western culture" has been brought up in people's arguments on music! The intimate relation between western superiority and this issue is quite obvious! This music teaching fits right into the whole scheme of historic racism where nothing good is thought to have come out of Africa.
Another tactic one may find in this defensive "you're misrepresenting us" vein is like when one author, (claiming the earlier version of this writing sent to him as a letter was "hate mail") actually accused me of "majoring on minutiae", instead of some "big picture"! But again, it is right in his book, plus all the others, where "minute" elements such as the beat and syncopation are made the ultimate determining factors of "good" or "bad" in music. It may not be mentioned on every page, but if you want to find out what they are complaining about regarding contemporary Christian music, these are the only things clearly mentioned as making the music "holy or profane", or "feeding the flesh"; with other issues such as shallow words, while mentioned more, still ultimately being made secondary to these so-called "watershed" issues! (And recall us even being told not to be "sidetracked" by other legitimate issues!)
So the "minutiae" is theirs, (with the "big picture" built on top of it) and yet again, they deny when it is spat back to them!
When one critic (David A. Noebel, The Beatles, A Study in Drugs, Sex and Revolution, p. 8) claims "The hard fact is that in this present revolutionary era, heavy beat music has become the catalyst for the young radicals in their announced plans not only to destroy Western culture, but to dethrone God. And few can really deny that the Beatles have and are playing a strategic and crucial role in the spiritual and cultural demise of the West and in the proposed destruction of Christianity throughout the world", it becomes more and more obvious that this issue is about the preservation of a culture, with "God" or "Christianity" as secondary casualties in this war. (And similar rhetoric regarding America can be found in Paulson and others).
But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about any culture, but rather concludes ALL under sin (Rom. 3:9, Gal. 3:22), and God is not the mascot of any culture. If so, then all this talk about "absolutes" goes right out the window, as the truthfulness of the Christian Gospel is tied in with the supposed "superiority" of a culture of [fallen] people, and we've been hearing a lot of this correlation lately, as well as in the past.
I'm sorry, but in musical choices, our allegiance is to Christ, not Western culture!
|From various teachers, we see that the reason music is good or not lies simply in the culture, continent and race it came from! THIS was the original thinking behind the traditional vs. jazz and later rock debate. We cannot have such a record in the issue and expect to be taken seriously|
It's true that Blues and other secular styles this century got decadent, with the sex and other works of flesh, but what did they originally start as? The blacks' response to their painful life in America under racism! (Using, of course, musical elements they brought with them from Africa). But just like when a slavemaster whipped or slapped his slave and did not allow any normal human reactions (even facial expressions), calling the slave "uppity", this seems to have a parallel in this issue of music. (Plus, the music probably stirs up emotions in them they can't deal with, including guilt for the pain their fathers caused. But denying/suppressing them and hiding behind a mask of non-emotion is still yielding to the flesh, as Colossians 2 shows.)
Individual teachers and authors may not be racist, or intend to convey racism, but they cannot answer
for the people and INSTITUTIONS that taught them, especially in the past when racism was more mainstream. The entire conservative Christian movement has been influenced by this, as is evidenced in
their politics and social message.
The secular media and educational system is criticized not just on God and morality, but also for taking the West out of it's superior role in the world and affirming other cultures ("historical revisionism" and "multiculturalism"); programs for minorities were always condemned; immigration (from places other than Protestant Europe, that is!) is also condemned as a "conspiracy"; and there was so much other blatant racism in this sector of society throughout this century. (People in conservative Christian schools are reported to have cheered when Martin Luther King was assassinated!)
One of these authors even dismisses the issue of racism (along with social and economic injustice, hunger, the nuclear threat and AIDS) as "liberal social gospel", which of course, automatically invalidates them, even those these issues are no less valid than the conservative social gospel's focus on morality, decency in music, religious rights and many other issues.
Minorities and the issues concerning them have NEVER been spoken of positively (And remember, I am speaking of the movement as a whole; not that there were never any who were different). However the past society that enslaved and then persecuted and segregated them is praised as godly, and whose "old paths" are the standard we are to look up to. What does all this tell us?" (One person I debated music with even said slavery was justified because "the Africans abdicated the rights to their land because of their demonism").
None of this has been repented of by the conservative church as a whole; only by certain groups, such as various "new" evangelicals and the Southern Baptists, (who are now being ostracized by the more radical fundamentalists advocating "separation" and waging the music and KJV battles).
In fact, at least one well known Christian university that is a prominent promoter of these teachings on music (some of these writers and ministries came out of and are otherwise associated with it) still had an interracial dating ban to year 2000, justified on the same "separation" logic that is being used in this music issue! (And also, "the One-World Babel-builders are behind integration!") Leaders are acknowledged by students as having made offensive comments about blacks in recent times, and the past was even more reprehensible in racial issues.3 Yet they expect us to believe that their teachings about music are not influenced by racism, and they get highly offended if you suggest otherwise! May this be from guilt?
Some are even more blatant about it. On brothermike.com, "bad charismatic music" is said to be "destroying our churches" because it is "from Africa (the land of Ham)"! Another site, Touchet1611.org or paulsonmusic.com went as far as putting together a chart (formerly at http://www.touchet1611.org/music_bigpicture.pdf but since taken down or moved) breaking down musical history according to the influences of the three sons of Noah, with Japheth (Caucasians and Asians) producing the good music, and "Ham" being bad and corrupting everything else, leading to today's "Laodicean age". All of this is further spelled out in the online sermon "Absolute Music for an Absolute God" at AbsoluteMusicI.html, and AbsoluteMusicII.html and so forth.
So we see that ultimately, the reason the music is no good, (or is good) does lie simply in the continent and race it came from! Might these references to "Ham" also be inferring the infamous "curse" that was the staple of racist readings of scripture? Well, Paulson is clear by citing "God shall enlarge Japheth...and Canaan shall be his servant" ("even in the music realm") and "cursed be Cannan" all over his pages! (It seems to be his starting premise).
The irony is that God never even pronounced any of this, but rather it was Noah! Nobody ever even read the text closely!
This was the original thinking behind the traditional vs. jazz and later rock debate, despite how much it has been buried, in people's teaching today.
So if these people are right, then racism was right. The superior culture has been eroded by the curse of African culture. Perhaps African Americans never should have been granted the freedoms they have received (in the Civil Rights movement of the rebellious 60's and the liberal egalitarian social gospel crowd which was said to be an attack from ungodly forces!). Then maybe, this "sensuality" of theirs would have been kept in check.
|Instead of trying to salvage the corrupt doctrine built on this bad foundation, it's time to take a hard look at the teaching and admit it's wrong. It is part of a false gospel of chosen races!|
Along with this, the entire definition of "the world" frequently used in the issue stems from the belief that "Christian" classical European and traditional American culture were "sacred" cultures, as opposed to everyone else, which was the "world". I wonder what all of the people who get defensive at the so-called "race card" I am sometimes accused of "playing" in this issue think of all of this? (Who really is playing the race card, here?)
What's most alarming is that the whole framework of Paulson's teaching is like that of any other KJV-Only ministry, emphasizing "separation from error", shunning of "worldly" music, and political conservativism (including a defense of guns). However, in this case, it extends to, in the typical conspiratorial conservative fashion, him claiming to be made into "the real enemy" in America, as "King James Bible believing gun carrying truth preaching politically incorrect white folks", and among other things, that "This country has dealt with the white issue, and whites are losing their rights daily! This country still has ye ole gun problem, though - but not for much longer - better stock up on the ammo, amen!"
Notice how those two issues end up bound together with "the Bible" and "the Truth".
Other KJVO's and anti-CCM'ers who vehemently deny racism and reject "the race card" have not distanced themselves from, renounced, corrected even, or in any way addressed teachings like this. It doesn't even seem to be an issue of "separation from error" to them, so it looks like they are in complicit agreement with it. It seems since contemporary Church and the world is all that is wrong to them; so fellow KJVO's, as such teachers as these are, are still seen as "on the side of truth", even though the more moderate may feel "Well now, I wouldn't say that" to the race teachings. (They only fight each other over who is being too "hard" or "soft" in issues such as the KJV like we see with Cloud vs. Ruckman).
So these people really need to reconsider the "separation from error" like they preach at everyone else, and see if they are not violating it more than anyone else! Instead, they all just get mad when anyone brings "the race card" into the debate on music. But the connection here should now be more obvious than ever!
Instead of trying so hard to salvage the corrupt doctrine built on this bad foundation, they should just admit that it's wrong. Prov. 28:13 says "He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy".
This movement is telling everyone else (the modern Church and world) to "repent" (forsake sin), but they do not even take the first step of acknowledging, let alone confessing their sin!
You want to talk about a "curse"; let's see who the Bible says is REALLY under a "curse": "if any man preaches any other gospel, let him be accursed". (Gal.1:8,9). Surely, a racially charged "gospel" of chosen races and cursed races, while temporally "good news", to the [dare I say] flesh of those who think themselves to be in the chosen group, is still not GOD'S Gospel of grace to all, which is predicated on all being fallen in sin, whether or not one may attribute some good works to his culture, and point out more bad works in others. ("Flesh" in its original context actually would refer to one's race moreso than sexual desire, as this is precisely what people Paul was dealing with were trusting in rather than Christ!)
People can deny, get angry at me, etc., but it's time to take a hard look at this teaching, and be willing to truly "separate from error" if you care about "truth", or at least don't want to be tagged with the implications of all of this. As Michael Horton has said, how can we avoid creating the impression that our opposition to issues like this "is really based on moral absolutes and not on bigotry when we are proven bigots where the issue has nothing to do with an immoral lifestyle?" (Beyond Culture Wars, p. 34, Moody 1996)
These people are judging the music by "association", but their associations aren't good either. The songs they advocate and produce have powerful, convicting themes of surrender to God, becoming like Christ, etc., but how much can all that mean when they turn around and put down other people (contempt towards black people and culture; their attitude towards contemporary Christians, Charismatics, Catholics, etc.; attacking them beyond patiently pointing out their errors, and then making excuses or being defensive when their own sins are reproved —and all of this which naturally exalts themselves and their own righteousness)?
Does God even hear their singing things like "make me more like You, Lord", or "I surrender to You" when they refuse to acknowledge, confess and repent of these things in their lives that are not like Him, and are constantly trying to lord over others? May God instead be displeased by such acts of double living; even moreso than by people coming to Him with the wrong sound? (Prov.28:9) In other words, could their singing be the same type of "noise" that God abhorred when Israel came to Him with unclean hands? Is this true "holiness" or even "separation the world"? (Keeping in mind that things such as racism and one-upmanship are from the 'world' of man's fallen self-exalting nature)
With all the emphasis on sexual sin being condemned by God, they would never think that they were in the same league as so-called "Christian strippers", let's say, or a Christian openly living in adultery (as they accuse Christian rock of being like), but it is really not all that far off in God's sight. (See James 2:10, 11 which addresses precisely this attitude, and recall Christ's spiritual definition of "murder"). But as the conservative church as a whole was always selective about "sin", it stood that only sexual related issues and rejection of God or other doctrines are bad to them (thus this is what they always emphasized), and the race issue is at worst an "honest mistake" or they give a vague "the Bible has the answers" as one said (even though they still won't renounce it completely!). You cannot have such dark spots on your record and expect to be taken seriously when you try to tell others about what is good culturally.
|Despite their portrayal as nothing more than jungle bunnies, Africans had been quite gifted by God, and one of these gifts was their mathematical command, which is what made their music so catchy and talented|
"Still", some may say, "it doesn't seem fair, but it just happened that the Western cultures were the
ones who held onto God's Word (and conveyed His principles), so that's why our traditions are good". Besides the blatant ignorance of the reality of the West's sins such a hypothesis betrays, even if it were true, it still wouldn't say as much as people think it does.
In the Old Testament (the source of so much of this reasoning), contact with the unclean defiled the clean, but when Jesus touched the unclean, He wasn't defiled; the unclean became clean. So it strikes me as amazing that God can transform the 'bad' street beat of urban culture, for instance, into a message that does lift Him up. This is the true meaning of Him "making all things new".
But to force Him into this mold—that any music associated with Him must sound like the music they advocate, IS reclaiming Him for a particular culture, as much as they may deny. I don't see how anyone can make English hymns and majesty styles the universal standard of worship, and not see how this can be interpreted as exalting a particular culture. Rejecting all of the different styles of contemporary culture is like saying He rejects the world, while the producers and listeners of the "good" styles are closer to Him naturally, rather than members of the same old fallen world as everyone else, and who have simply been ELECTED as His people by GRACE.
But people condemn lively rhythm as bad, and drag God's name into it, not realizing that traditional mellow styles are just as grounded in the fallenness and sin of man, as was proven above. This denies the doctrine of sin these critics charge the contemporary church of softening on. All men are equally made in God's image, (have goodness) but fallen (corrupted with sin), so you cannot rule out whole cultures', generations' or non-Christians' contributions to music, art and other aspects of life as completely bad or forever unfit because they once used it for false worship, or "rebellion", etc. while only "traditional Christian" culture is "safe" ("acceptable"). It just does not workthat way if you really hold to a BIBLICAL view of sin and God.
A case in point: the "jungle" was a terrain created by God, inhabited by people created in God's image. The land and people are just as valuable as any other, so how dare anyone turn "jungle" into a derisive term of contempt for the people and their music! This can be nothing else but sinful self-oriented racism.4 But the reclaiming of the various styles shows that the people in the world are still made in His image—and He has created much diversity in the world—and that though they are fallen and defiled with sin and rebellion, He loves them and reaches out to them where they are. Rejecting everything for only serene orchestras and stately hymns is like blasting away the entire earth and every city, leaving only Christian countrysides (what that music tends to be associated with). And the alarming thing about that, is there are many in conservative Christian circles who seem to want to do just that! This is why this teaching is so suspect to me.
Despite their portrayal as being nothing more than the demoniac jungle bunnies we've seen in past
representations, Africans had been quite gifted by God, and one of these gifts was their mathematical command.
In the Egyptians, it produced wonders such as the pyramids, in the Moors, many skills picked up by the West,
and in other tribes, it was the music. (Of course, just like every other culture, it was marred by the Fall).
A University of Seattle study is even cited by critics acknowledging that rock is based on "mathematical formulae" and "calculated frequencies" that affect the body as well as the mind. This is what it has made it as well as jazz and other forms so catchy. Of course, this can be and has been used for evil (including "mind-bending", "indoctrination", etc). But once again, that does not mean that it has never been good. And plain styles also are used just as much for indoctrination by keeping people rigid and not allowing freedom of style (as a method of trying to control the flesh and keep people good. What is this but a form of "mind-bending"?).
So it seems now we have taken legitimate concerns about an overemphasis on pleasure and entertainment in the church and used them to bolster these almost century-old preconceived notions against the rhythm.
Romankowski continues his assessment of the issue:
Though these critics recognize that religious forces are at work in cultural formation, their understanding of the process is way over-simplistic. They perceived the music itself as being such a force for evil that Christians cannot engage in it under any circumstance without falling into the abyss of sin. The church frowned upon Christian rock, and even though evangelical tastes are distinctly middlebrow, congregational debates continue today pitting traditional hymns and "classical" music against contemporary styles. Underlying these discussions are assumptions about what constitutes "sacred" culture and the validity of popular music styles in worship. Cultural guardians thought of rock music as an attack on sexual decency and the family, fostering a "generation gap" between young and old. But rock was wrongly identified as the cause of social problems and used as a scapegoat for deeper cultural anxieties. That rock music was perceived as somehow different from earlier adolescent fads and therefore was dangerous revealed great fears about lessening of parental control and the new independence of postwar teenagers. (Pop Culture Wars, p. 213,214, emphasis added)
1) The whole idea behind the term "primitive" is an assumption of human progress, (based on technological advancement and modern Western influence), and even evolution, which fundamentalists are against.
2) The Communists had been seen as behind the Civil Rights movement, (as well as every other threat to the Conservative way of life). Ironically enough, the Communists would later claim that rock music (introduced into the USSR during glasnost and perestroika) was a Western attack on their society!
3) For instance, the school had to be forced by the government to accept blacks in the first place! Now, after the
latest round of negative media exposure due to a presidential campaign stop at the campus, the school's president
grudgingly ended the policy, yet still trying to justify it all the way! He and his followers appeal to "freedom",
"sincere belief", and "it was so insignificant to us" even though they criticize evangelicals and CCM for using the
very same criteria! And recall, these are the same people who accuse the modern church of being concerned with "what God
allows/what we can get away with rather than how He might be pleased"!
4)There is a style of drum playing and rhythm from the jungle that can properly be called "jungle", which was used in various older forms of jazz, (swing, etc) and may appear in occasional pop records, but the music as a whole being condemned here, such as the pop "backbeat" and "constant syncopation", and especially CCM and "charismatic" music, by itself sounds nothing like this. This music's only connection (and a very remote one at that) to "the jungle" is "African origin", so "jungle" in this context is clearly shown to be a racist epithet pasted onto Africa and its culture.
4)There is a style of drum playing and rhythm from the jungle that can properly be called "jungle", which was used in various older forms of jazz, (swing, etc) and may appear in occasional pop records, but the music as a whole being condemned here, such as the pop "backbeat" and "constant syncopation", and especially CCM and "charismatic" music, by itself sounds nothing like this. This music's only connection (and a very remote one at that) to "the jungle" is "African origin", so "jungle" in this context is clearly shown to be a racist epithet pasted onto Africa and its culture.
The Fear of Ecumenicism
Another criticism that is increasing is the association of CCM with "ecumenicism". This comes from the
involvement in the industry of Catholics and Charismatics (such as Kathy Troccoli and several of the
praise & worship ministries, respectively). This fundamentalist circle is very hostile towards Catholicism, and have now all but regarded Charismaticism as cultic. I would agree with most of their objections to Catholicism, and a lot of Charismaticism has deviated greatly, still their whole attitude towards these groups is very wrong (For instance, Sword of the Lord even derides Catholics as "Candle-burning Mary worshipers", (News & Views, 12-26-97), as well as the "charismatic nonsense" statement cited in the beginning. Even with all their errors, are these appropriate statements?).
As I said above, there are many Charismatics who are genuinely led by the Lord, so this denunciation of the whole movement as false is a totally unwarranted attack on many brethren.1 (As if all of them were involved with the laughing revival, faith movement, or Oneness groups, which are truly false.)
Even with Catholics, it is debatable whether none of them are saved and genuinely following the Lord. The whole argument of "how someone could be saved and remain in such an institution of error" I can sympathize with, but remember, a relationship with Christ does take precedence over those other issues. They fail to realize how their "institutions" were full of error as well. (But even CCM artists' pleas for Christian unity, which are shared by the New Testament, are being attacked as "ecumenicism"). So this is a very weak argument against the music.
Meanwhile, the critics high regard for medieval music and the authority of the church (CCM is seen as eroding true "ministry"), can link them with Catholicism as well, as can their acceptance of classical music and art produced by Catholic cultures! Cannot this be seen as musically "ecumenical"? (When they speak of the influence of "the Church" in shaping "western Culture", which 'Church' was it?)2
Satan is using this overblown fear of ecumenism and the "one world" system to drive people into all sorts of unbiblical attitudes and actions (attacking the brethren, segregated dating policy, etc), while blinding people to their own susceptibility to his deceptions. Michael Horton said well that "We too have been very confident in our abilities at resisting worldliness and secularism. After all, 'we don't dance, drink or chew, or go out with girls who do', and so while the devil has us congratulating ourselves on avoiding a decoy, he has pulled us into the very reef itself, and we are taking on water". (Beyond Culture Wars, p.236)3
|Fundamentalists were usually against social issues or ignored them, favoring the status quos of racism, sexism and economic inequity. This left a "void" filled by people with ecumenical and new age leanings, which in turn gave the conservatives a good excuse to trash the causes they were always against anyway|
And it seems the fundamentalists are against all reconciliation movements because of ecumenicism.
(and CCM, as well as organizations like Promise Keepers, is about reconciliation, since it uses the
music of different cultures) But if they don't like the directions of these groups, then they, who upheld
"biblical principles" should have been the ones leading such movements. Instead, they were against them
or ignored the issues, favoring the status quos of racism, sexism and economic inequity.
It's like what Horton pointed out in Beyond the Culture Wars(a great book for these types of issues); by rejecting society decades ago (in the name of "separation"), fundamentalists helped cause the very secularism they now decry, as the people who did lead the racial reconciliation, women's issues, environmental concerns, etc. did not come out of the fundamental church, so those movements took on ecumenical and new age philosophies, because those were the beliefs of the people who "filled the void" left by the Christians. So now, it looks like this just gave the conservatives a good excuse to trash the causes they were always against anyway.
1) And what's ironic is that Charismatic churches are the most infamous for banning rock and other secular styles in the past, as well as their extreme emphasis on "holiness"! But their music was still lively or bluesy, (and thus seen as
the precursor to "Christian rock"), and sometimes it looks like this is the real reason fundamentalists are so against
them. Often you'll see remarks in passing, about "Charismatics, with their rock beats"
2) Many of these critics are Independent [Fundamental] Baptists who hold a "Baptist view of history" (A "Trail of Blood" theory) which claims the Baptist Church "always existed", and was represented by various small groups throughout the centuries, such as the Waldensians and Anabaptists. But these groups were too small and powerless to have shaped Western culture (usually being persecuted by the big powerful Church), though some of their doctrine did influence later reformation. (And many of the groups were outright heretical!) 3) Horton, who gets a lot of quotes here, may be known as a CCM/CWM critic, but he actually focuses on the more legitimate concerns in the industry such as shallowness, (rather than "style") and has plenty of criticism for the "separatism" which he sees as undergirding both old-line traditionalism as well as the "Christian ghetto" of CCM and new-evangelicalism. He shows how the new approach originally stems from the same old notion of "separation", but only modifies it to be more modern and pleasurable. Frame, who I also quote from, disputes him in his book over "subjectivity", but both would agree that style is not the issue, which is my whole point.
So historic "Western Culture" is indelibly wedded to Roman Catholicism (as well as the similar liturgical mainline Protestantism), including its dualistic rejection of the flesh, and if you reject Catholicism, you should be careful looking so uncritically at the cultures it influenced.
2) Many of these critics are Independent [Fundamental] Baptists who hold a "Baptist view of history" (A "Trail of Blood" theory) which claims the Baptist Church "always existed", and was represented by various small groups throughout the centuries, such as the Waldensians and Anabaptists. But these groups were too small and powerless to have shaped Western culture (usually being persecuted by the big powerful Church), though some of their doctrine did influence later reformation. (And many of the groups were outright heretical!)
3) Horton, who gets a lot of quotes here, may be known as a CCM/CWM critic, but he actually focuses on the more legitimate concerns in the industry such as shallowness, (rather than "style") and has plenty of criticism for the "separatism" which he sees as undergirding both old-line traditionalism as well as the "Christian ghetto" of CCM and new-evangelicalism. He shows how the new approach originally stems from the same old notion of "separation", but only modifies it to be more modern and pleasurable. Frame, who I also quote from, disputes him in his book over "subjectivity", but both would agree that style is not the issue, which is my whole point.
Traditional society and causes of "rebellion"
No anti-CCM book is complete without various quotes of CCM artists. It's true that a lot of artists say
dumb things in interviews, and that too is lumped in with a case against the sound. It's true that there's
room for a lot of improvement in this industry. But what concerns me is how everything they say is
taken to "prove" that these people are just rebelling, and therefore they are automatically wrong.
For instance, one author claims that "CCM artists denigrate the church with impunity".1 Then he quotes Amy Grant and Jon Gibson as saying that they do not believe in forcing their religion on anyone, (is that the Church's mission?) and some other quotes of artists talking about how church traditions drive people away, and he and several other writers quote a line from Steve Taylor's "I want to Be a Clone" (are Christians supposed to be mere clones?).
These were legitimate concerns, being that the church in the past did have problems with precisely these things: forcing its ways on people, and thus making them clones (not of Christ, but of human ideas of what a Christian should be). They were making statements ABOUT the church of a particular time and place; a church that was corrupted by centuries of power; not attacking the universal Body of Christ or its mission or message.
But any mention/reference in the songs or interviews of legalism, Phariseeism, excessive rules, etc. is condemned as an attack on "biblical holiness", or the church itself. (Also, that the music often sounded like funeral dirges). There isn't the slightest thought that maybe there is something to what these young Christians are saying; that the past wasn't so biblical and pure.
And legalism is redefined by them as only "adding works to God's grace",
or "doing things to gain God's favor" (e.g. Fisher, p.181n), ignoring that it also means a preoccupation
with rules, and being so quick to judge other believers on issues like this, and this is not even dealing with the issue of whether or not all the rules are even biblical to begin with.
Fisher says "we do good, not to gain God's favor, but to show our love to Him". But this puts the cart before the horse. We are debating whether shunning contemporary music is a necessary act of "doing good" in the first place. If it is not, then adding this as a mandatory rule of not just love, but obedience and pleasing God is a type of legalism, whether you call it "gaining His favor" or not. (Mark 7:7, 9)
|Rock music was wrongly identified as the cause of social problems and used as a scapegoat for deeper cultural anxieties. Critics often start from a presumption of a godly past that is very inaccurate|
One reason I am so annoyed about this issue, is because of the resentment I see towards the younger
generations with their rock and rebellion.
The children decades ago became very confused seeing the hypocrisy of their parents, preachers and statesmen— the entire authority structure or "establishment" they condemn them for rebelling against.2 They preached morality and holiness, but often didn't live up to it. They talked about biblical love, but then practiced racism and sexism.
Then, many of these old conservatives, including Christians, sat in armchairs sending this whole generation off to horrible, questionable wars, and when they came back, totally disoriented, and created the hippie and rock phenomena, they simply got mad at them for "rebelling" and blasted them as culture-destroying enemies rather than poor lost souls reacting to a difficult and confusing series of events, and who needed to see the truth (not just hear it preached at them).
So after all of this, all expression of the pain and unrest they felt through music must be condemned. The result, as always: the past was pure, and we must return to it now.
Everyone back then knew well the scriptures "Children, obey your parents", (Col. 3:20, Eph. 6:1) but they all missed the verses immediately following: "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath". Instead, the fathers and every other authority figure acted as if they were in the place of God! (And now we condemn modern society as being so "man centered"!)
So all of this is precisely why CCM singers portray the church of their upbringing as a clone factory.
Fundamentalism is all about conformity, and it's not always biblical (e.g. the ban on beards and
mustaches, racial rules, the unbiblical extents authoritarianism and patriarchicalism were taken to). But
it's preached as "biblical".
Many of the rules were purely from ignorance or "simple biblicism" (flippantly quoting biblical texts to support their beliefs). But now all of a sudden they have heaped up all of these "intelligent" logical and scientific bases for their teachings, and still bend the Bible to make them fit (regarding everyone who doesn't follow as being unbiblical).
All of this is what blurred the lines of absolute truth and morality, not just society's reactions to it. So people, including many Christian children, threw off everything associated with the old order, right or wrong. If they were wrong on beards and race, then naturally they would be questioned on hair and skirt lengths, and music. This is
where the modern assumption of "who can know 'truth'; it's all man-made" comes from. (And it's also
why some Christians have just taken the "safe" position that music must really be neutral.)
Was this some 'conspiracy' by some 'forces of godlessness' as we keep hearing? No; and as much as people complain about "rebellion" they fail to notice the 7th chapter of Romans where Paul shows that "law" alone only makes the fallen nature more rebellious! And how much worse it will be if a whole bunch of unbiblical laws are mixed in with the true ones! This is precisely where the old-time religion failed!
Rock fans and stars, for instance, are quoted by critics asserting that rock music in all its forms is incompatible with "Christian doctrine", and that it was a necessary development to heal the "mind-body split"; "a wound inflicted upon American culture by the narrow, puritanical teachings of Protestant Christianity" (see http://pilgrim.thriftyplanet.net/music/rockhist/MVTitle.html for example). But it was true that this "mind-body split" was a big problem in old forms of American Protestantism, so what the rock crowd was reacting against was a corruption of the truth.
Unless you are insisting that the past Christianity was perfect and are justifying this unnatural split and other problems, (which many claim to deny upfront) you cannot use these misguided claims to prove that all forms of rock really are against true Christianity!
The separatists justify their restrictions with the concept of "drawing lines", but as I said earlier, this was done in a way that actually left no real guidance at all. For if a line is reasonably drawn, it sets a clearly defined boundary.
|• • • •|
• • • •
• • • •
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|As much as they argue for the Bible, it is not as strict as they would like it to be, so they add to it. James warns that this is "judging the Law", and thus not DOing the Law. Instead of following its principles, they are projecting their own guilt-ridden weak consciences on everyone else|
Even the fact that many hymns were borrowed from secular tunes is answered "but the society back then wasn't in rebellion against the Church is it is now, [i.e. the church still had wide influence over society] so that was different" (the "culture in rebellion" argument). So society's relation to the authority of the church is the criterion secular societies and their musical worth are judged by. Never mind the people's relationship to GOD (or the fact that even the church wasn't sinless back then)3. Just look at the attitude behind the following statements:
It is the writer's contention that it is a quantum leap into the vast abyss of self-serving unreasonableness to assert that there is a lineal relationship in applying Christian lyrics to a folk melody in a 'Christian society' to using the music from a demon-oppressed, pagan society, steeped in everything from cannibalism to child sacrifice, and giving religious lyrics to their rhythmic pulsations.and
The idea conveyed here is that music, used as a vehicle for the worship of God, is relative to the societal culture in which the worship is administered. Therefore...the purveyors of Christian enlightenment would have us utilize the musical forms found within a given society. The legalism which prohibited the early Protestant missionaries from employing the bawdy rhythmic inflections of the African villagers would be frowned upon as restrictive of 'grace.' (Nieman, Steven: "Lords of Laodicea")Plainly we see here the distinction between the good church-controlled society and the bad "demon-oppressed" African society. If anyone had any sense of their own sin, and the sin of their "Christian society", statements like this could not be made this boldly trashing another culture, or a culture shift that opens up to these cultures.
But over and over again, we keep seeing this praise of the past.
Generally, the 1960's are when Western society was seen as passing into the current state of "rebellion", compared to its "godly Christian heritage". This is based purely on the conservative Church's loss of influence on society, and is thus the whole basis of determining which period of society produced arts worthy of Christian use. Much of the conservative Church's entire world-view is undergirded by this rosy, uncritical view of Western, American and Christian history.
Fisher, for instance, says "While we do not worship tradition, if tradition is based on truth, we defend the truth" (p. xiv). Citing "the historical position we defend", he concludes "My arguments are not new. These are the positions that the Fundamental church has taken throughout the years. Though CCM Magazine and others are attempting to rationalize their own weaknesses by redefining Christian music, let's not be afraid to stand where we have always stood." (p.199). Godwin adds: "Those 'old ways' you are tossing onto the garbage heap just so happen to be God's ways. They've worked for thousands of years, and no matter what any C-Rock fan tells you, they still work today" (What's Wrong With Christian Rock: "What's Wrong with My Excuses").
But that's the whole point— the whole assumption that the traditions or "old ways" are based on the truth or are "God's ways" in the first place! (Based mainly on "they worked" and "we've always held them", as if that in itself is what made them true; as if no "historical" belief system or practice can be wrong. Don't they themselves criticize the modern church for such pragmatism?). Like every other heresy, these "traditions" were a mixture of biblical truth with human error.
Once again, people are making up their own rules, and while racism, sexism and other problems like that were justified or ignored, only sexual morality and outward "reverence" to God (prayer/10 Commandments in the schools, etc) were seen as important. No wonder the past comes out as so good!
But we must remember James 2 which addresses precisely this mindset. That if you refrain from sexual immorality yet commit murder, you have still broken God's Law! (Past race relations, for instance were certainly murderous, both spiritually, as well as often literally!) Now the world believes the opposite— that murder is wrong but fornication is OK. Yet James is addressing the "religious", who have tended to think sexual sin is the worst!
People were so shocked at all of the societal decay, and look to blame various factors, even pointing out how rock started out sounding innocent to today's standards,
but has gotten progressively worse; as proof that it's the music that is to blame (see
http://www.biblebelievers.com/Rock1.html). But in the process they seem to have forgotten that human
nature not only starts out fallen, but is prone to further moral decay, as the scriptures repeatedly show.
(Recall Romankowski's reference to "deeper cultural anxieties").
The fact that critics spend so much time pointing out the evil secular musicians have used music for, how much it has gotten worse, and at the same time as the much decried "decline" of American morality and Western society further shows they do not understand the nature of the Fall. They seem to believe there was a perfect Christian society and civilization that was wrecked by all these outside factors (leftism, politically, which then promoted African sensuality, socially, through entertainment and "egalitarianism"). All of this is covered in more detail in Traditional Correctness.
Christianity, introduced into the middle of this mess, was not God's program of cleaning up the earth,
but rather His plan of saving people's souls from the ultimate destruction that sin leads to. Christianity
may appear to clean up society on the surface, but people's hearts are still wicked, and anyone can go
through the motions of Christian living. Also the fact that even serious Christians can err, such as
imposing too many rules, lacking in charity, falling into sin themselves. Various scriptures even pointed
to the departure of the church from the truth to error, and while these scriptures have long been applied
to this century, and especially the 60's and afterward, (with rock music, atheism, liberalism as the
fulfillment, and even contemporary Christians and CCM being identified as the "false apostles" or
"deceivers who crept in" —biblebelievers.com) those scriptures clearly were referring to the apostles'
Much of Christian history was corrupt, and while the Reformation restored some essential truth, it too still had a lot of the error of the dark ages. (Such as dualistic rejection of the flesh. This would include Luther's need to "de-rhythmize" the secular tunes he did borrow, as critics point out).
So with all of these factors, rock music, hippies, African "barbarian" influence, socialism, false religion, and every other "ism" cannot be blamed for present society's decline. Doing so simply exalts and glorifies us, and blinds us to our own sin. As I've been saying, this contradicts the Bible's account of the Fall, even though fundamentalists have been the most ardent defenders of this and other Biblical truths. So the church needs to take a hard look at its past and see that it had a big part in driving modern society away from the truth. (Romans 2:18-24)
|Much of the conservative Church's entire world-view is undergirded by a rosy, uncritical view of Western, American and Christian history, based largely on sexual morality and outward "reverence" to God. But James 2 points out that if you refrain from sexual immorality yet commit murder (such as in past race relations), you have still sinned!|
Often, references are made to music "sounding like war", with Exod. 32:17-20 (golden calf incident) cited. This "warlikeness" attributed to rock and other music is criticized, yet many traditional hymns with 4/4 time sound like marching, like "Onward Christian Soldier", and "Battle Hymn of the Republic"; and even our national anthems are acceptable. In fact, some have said that music should conform to a marching type rhythm (i.e. the odd-accented beats, as opposed to the syncopated beats that make you want to "boogie"). What is the sound and theme of all of this, but war?
Why is this form of "warfare" acceptable, but images of tribal warriors running to faster drum rhythms are here evoked and insinuated as bad? Because marching is controlled. The marchers are all following a commander. But still, war is war and warlikeness is contrary to the fruits of the Spirit, however "organized" it may be. So how really does marching wind up being so spiritual? The Bible often uses themes of "war" regarding our Christian walk, but these are spiritual metaphors. Where do we get from this that all our worship has to be like some military parade or boot camp? Once again, it is mind control.
And all of this also further calls into question the idea that it is wrong for music to "appeal to the heels". We see now that the traditional music also can "make you want to move" (either marching, or waltzing —as in the case of the many 3/4 timed songs). It's just the way it makes you move that is decisive in this teaching.
Then people will comment that the music Moses and Joshua heard Israel singing (during their idolatry
and wild dancing) was not sounds of contentment, satisfaction, peace, serenity, joyfulness, and worship.
According to many, these seem to be the only emotions followers of God should ever have. (But right
away, you could ask, are these even conveyed in their tirades against the contemporary world, church,
and its music?4)
So it's ironic how they often criticize CCM for being too happy, and shallow. But this is on the grounds that it's not the text that is supposed to be light and serene, only the music. It seems the text is only supposed to be about "surrender", with the serene music conveying an air of 'contentment' in this surrender.
They also point out that what was communicated was discontentment, rebellion, unrest, confusion, defiance, and a lack of reverence for God. But all of these can be discerned in their attitudes toward the world. So they (the leaders of the Church) are allowed to communicate "discontentment", but no one else. Once again, the whole basis of this mind-set is CONTROL.
Once again, while much is made of the "negative associations" people have with rock, what is ignored is that classical and especially marching styles give some others just as much negative connotations. Why? This was the music used by the Third Reich and it should forever put to rest the myth of classical music always being associated with civility or good behavior.
1) Fisher, Battle For Christian Music, p. 88ff
2)They criticize them for being "anti-establishment", just like the ungodly secular rock stars, but when this same "establishment" "throws God out of the country" as they put it (i.e. minimizes the influence of traditional Christianity in the schools, courts, and other facets of public life), then it's these critics who are even more "anti-establishment"! It's funny that a movement that since the Scopes Trial has been defined by its hostility to "the world system" can now defend "the establishment". But of course, it's the wars against the Communists and the old patriarchal paradigm that were in question, so the "establishment" was "good" then; but only then!
3) Hilariously, Cloud, in one of his articles on Luther and music, cites as support Fisher's treatment of Luther and the "secular music from the Church-controlled society" argument, but then mildly plugs him for "misuse of the term 'Church'". Cloud's point is that the church back then (Catholic and liturgical state-run Protestant) was corrupt, just as I am emphasizing, yet he proceeds in employing the argument in regards to music, even though it falls on that very point!
4) Indeed, much of the writing I see often has an almost sassy, smart-alecky edge that is obviously loaded with strong negative emotions. (For perfect examples of this, see http://www.av1611.org/question/cqdevila.html and av1611.org/crock.html — scroll down to sections like "DC Talk" and "Petra"; —to "God is doing a Nu Thang", he responds "...and they can't spell either!", and his treatment of the issue of the term "Why should the Devil have all the good music"). This is just as rebellious (against societal and religious realities they cannot control) as what they are pointing out in the younger culture. See also Frame reference, above.
Standing against Everything
One of the authors said we are "not just to avoid, but we are to 'stand against' what is wrong". This
supposedly justifies all their harsh rhetoric and denunciation of various Christians. But we have to be
careful, because but in doing that, we seem to get into expecting man to be good, and forget that the
entire world is fallen, and we will wind up standing against everything. (Except of course, our old
That has been the problem with fundamentalism, and why it is said that we are known "more for what we are against, than what we are for" (or in Jesus' words to a very similar group: "you can't stand evil...and have tested [false] apostles and found them liars...but you have lost your first love"(Rev. 2) —And just preaching our agendas in His name does not make Him our first love).
And we do NOT stand against everything that is wrong only what disturbs us (such as rock, and the rest of the sins of society, and "compromises" in the modern church). Otherwise, we would never tolerate,
or make excuses for, institutions that hold to something as self-serving as racism. Nobody ever says
"What I have been doing is wrong. I must change". The offense of the Cross always becomes some weight of burden thrown off onto somebody else, while having little impact on the comfort of the one preaching it (Matt.23:4).(Many seem to assume they are already perfectly in line with God's standards).
Even the "crossover" (widely criticized by both CCM fans and foes alike) should be handled with grace. Christians should make CONTRIBUTIONS to secular society. Especially since we want such a voice in it!. Even if it is not up to our standards of church worship(remember, it is not intended to replace this), still it is a clean alternative to the sex and violence that pervades much of the rest of contemporary music, and thus IS "new" in character!.
|By trying to narrow it all down to beat accents, syncopation, repetition, continents or cultures of origin, the critics are actually diverting us from the real issues of the spirit behind music, and are the ones "aiding the devil" by bringing into the church more confusion, and leading to people more readily dismissing any type of spiritual discernment in music|
Conclusion: a word to the CCM crowd
So to sum it all up, the whole issue, as a major cause of division ("separation") in the church is not valid.
God's Word is our solid foundation, but since it alone does not support these teachings, one must step
off of this foundation, onto the unsound ground of hearsay ("he says, she says"— this person says this,
that one says that, science, philosophy, and even the music industry admit the other). This is given
almost the same weight as scripture, and then a federal case is made of it, with brethren being accused
of doing major damage to the cause of Christ.
The bottom line then becomes that you either take the critics' position, or you are defying God, adhering to moral relativism and musical "neutrality", and are therefore "rebellious", and nothing more is to be said.
But the scriptures themselves contradict all of this, with rhythmic music being acceptable by God as worship, even though others may have used it for sin.
Also, for every authority or testimony that says a certain style of music is bad, there are others who say it is not bad. There is no consistent basis from scripture, history, science, philosophy, testimony or reason to condemn a whole category of music styles. So if people feel the music is offensive, they can bring up their concerns to their fellow Christians, but not wage the verbal "war" we see raging now.
But the evangelical CCM crowd is to be corrected on several fronts as well. The contemporary church
is being described by some from its own ranks as suffering from apathy. This seems evident from the
fact that a debate like this could be allowed to go on for so long and hardly an answer being made to it.
People seem to be content with "music is neutral", and "we must use it to reach the world", when the
critics have already strongly responded to this. They are right that too many people do try to brush off
the criticism with these weak answers, which only builds their case. Music does influence people, but
it's the spirit behind the music that ultimately determines its good or evil.
Some acts have gotten kind of racy in appearance and have said questionable things that cause unnecessary offense. (Like one person saying it's OK to look 'sexy'). There is definitely too much commercialism and celebrityism. We should think a little further as to whether styles such as thrash metal and other forms of hard rock are compatible with our message. We shouldn't just copy things just for the sake of it, or for the almighty dollar. We could do well to note Steve Camp's 107 theses. But we must also be able to defend our use of various styles, if we are in fact in line with the Bible in using them.
|The entire argument hinges on taking the negative charges, claims, admissions, etc. people have supposed about rock and holding THAT up to scripture, but considering the intensity of this "battle", we need much better scriptural support than what is being presented here. Any issue THIS important will be clearly delineated in scripture|
Scriptures on Separation
1 John 2:15, 16— "Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world." This verse had always been used by pietist preachers to forbid all "worldly entertainments", such as movies, shows, TV, etc., (no matter how clean it might have been). But this interpretation is based on the idea of liking the things of the world. The Greek word translated "love" that basically means "like" is phileo. But the word used in this passage is agape! The same word used in John 3:16, about God loving the world enough to give His only Son. Also, passages that tell us to love one another (John 15:12), and even our enemies (Matt.5:44).
So God is basically telling us not to love the world as He did love it when giving us His Son, or as we are to love one another. And even our enemies! This right here seems to contradict John's statement, but all of these are sacrificial love, or an all-out kind of love. So what it seems to be saying is not to live for the world (and the context mentions the world passing away(next verse). We are to dedicate our lives to God and our fellow brothers, and to sacrificially give to individual enemies, but not to the world SYSTEM. (The word translated "world" is kosmos (adorning), not aeon(age).) So the 1st John passage is aimed at Christians who are TOO enmeshed in the things of the world, but does not say you can't like anything in the world. (1 Cor.7:33 calls marriage and its responsibilities "things of the world", but we are not to shun that are we?)
Now, James 4:4 does tell us not to be "friends" of the world, and friend and friendship are forms of phileo, but the context is talking about wanting the things of the world so much that it causes conflict with others, especially the brethren. So as with 1 John, it is telling us not to put the world before the church, or let it cause you to offend people.
Finally, there is Rom.12:2—"be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of
your mind". (this time "world" is translated from "age".) The word conform means "to fashion alike", or
conform to the same pattern. So this is not talking about anything as superficial as the sound of the
music (unless it is really crosses a certain line, such as acid rock). It is talking about our basic
philosophy and general direction in life (the true meaning of "new song"), as well as our behavior as far
as the explicit commands of God are concerned.
Reaching the World
Part of the problem in this phase of the argument, is that there are many different mind-sets among the
unsaved. We tend to lump them all in the same pot, but they are different from one another, and will
think differently about us, and be reached differently. Some may just hear the same style of music with
Christian words. These people may not be that antagonistic to Christianity, so they won't care. It's still
the same old rock they love and enjoy, and they may not listen to the words anyway. The same type of
person would accept the traditional/classical sound if that were what they liked (remember, these styles
were once popular and contemporary, and no, everyone in the society was not saved back then).
Some who are antagonistic to the faith will see it as different— the Christian references and words about Christ and the Bible will stick out, along with the lack of sex, drugs, cursing, etc. and it will be the "same old religious stuff" to them. This is how I saw it when I was unsaved. Some may even see it as corny, and a cheap, sneaky attempt to woo them into our belief system by trying to disguise the real purpose of the song. (I saw it as that too).
Then there is the much cited article "New Lyrics for the Devil's Music", which reflects the secular media's assumption that all Christians are "supposed" to be against everything modern, (this is what they've always called the music) and surprise that the church is actually changing, even if they may not be that impressed. But if God begins leading them, the music might help them in the transition to faith.
So as with all the other issues, we cannot generalize too much. Some people will see us as puritanical, and/or worldly (i.e. hypocritical) no matter what we do. After all, we are all people in the world, and even though Christians often act as though we're "up there" above everyone, they do see all our sins regardless, so the whole issue of "different" people with a "different" music style is moot. The Bible speaks of "difference" ("new life", etc), but these people can't comprehend or appreciate it, because it is spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). For this reason both approaches of trying to avoid styles to look "different", OR the depending on of the use of those styles as our means of winning people are misguided.
Fisher concludes his book "Let the social gospel crowd and the charismatics have their music. But let us who hold to the authority of the Scripture keep to that music which expresses praise to God in a way that is neither sensational nor sensual—not attempting to gain the applause of the world, but desiring the approval of God."(p.199) The last sentence is true (provided you have a sensible definition of "sensual" other than simply anything with a backbeat or some undisclosed amount of syncopation), but we must also guard against the opposite tendency, with music that is neither intentionally dry nor repressive, and not to try to gain God's approval through our own methods of controlling the flesh or living to oppose the world and at the same time gaining the applause of "traditional" culture (basing our choices on equally "worldly" values of the past that are upheld in many Christian circles, and patting each other on the back for agreeing on that).
We are to depend on God to lead us in winning people. We are not to try to depend on devices of our own making, whether old styles or new. Then, they may see something in us, and that a wall has come down in our communication. They all know traditional society was not heaven, so it's about time Christians stop pretending it was. And they'll see that the modern ways are not perfect as
Illustration (from Fisher, Battle For Christian Music, p 60-61) used to prove music is not neutral: a
neural element such as the letter "e" can be used either for good or evil:
praise God I hate God
This is true, but the critics fail to take this a further step:
The fool has said "I hate God"
So a seemingly unredeemable sequence of words has in fact been redeemed by the context.
Answers to Bill Gothard's statements on the fruits of rock
1. The "rock beat" deceives youth into violating the Fifth Commandment which is reaffirmed in the New Covenant (Ex. 20:12, Eph. 6:2-3). How many parents instruct their children to not listen to rock music only to have the CCM industry prey upon the same age group.
OK, if children disobey their parents, then they are wrong, but you can't blame the "beat" for that. In all this talk about the influence of beats, we forget that man is by nature sinful and rebellious and will do what he wants anyway. And what if a parent does not forbid them to listen to it?
2. The "rock beat" violates God's command to "give no place to the devil". This verse in found in Ephesians 4:27. The Greek word for place in this verse refers to a sphere of jurisdiction. When Satan is given authority, he uses it to control and destroy the one who gave it to him. Believers are to submit to the lordship of Christ and not mess around in the realm of satan.
This assumes it is necessarily the realm of Satan. This is based on assumption due to its supposed connection to tribal Africa
3. The "rock beat" mocks God's command to "love not the world neither the things in the world." These verses are found in 1 John 2:15-16. "You adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (Jas. 4:4)."
That the beat is of "the world" is based on the assumption that only classical/traditional church style is of God. But these styles are of the world as well, and are also influenced by man's sin.
4. The "rock beat" disregards God's command not to offend other Christians. This includes 1 Cor. 8:9-13 and Romans 14.
IF someone doesn't respect the other's conscience. But these passages are also violated by those who condemn the use of the music by others universally, and then try to judge those other people's consciences.
5. The "rock beat" defies God's command to judge all things as good or evil. "Strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14)."
6. The "rock beat" disobeys God's command to avoid "all appearance of evil." This is found in 1 Thess. 5:21-22. I know this phrase has reference to false doctrine. However, Paul says that we are to teach and admonish one another with psalm, hymns, and spiritual songs. Therefore, singing is a form of teaching.
You have to prove which it is; that it is by nature good or evil first, and this is not done satisfactorily.
7. The "rock beat" contradicts God's command not to be brought under its power. This is perhaps the most deceiving. Paul says, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any (1 Cor. 6:12)." This passage specifically deals with slavery.
Some people may be brought under its power (and they should examine that in themselves), but to generalize this to everyone (to make it universally bad) is conjectural and not scriptural
8. The "rock beat" opposes God's command not to mix light with darkness. What does Scripture say? "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?"
Same as the "good and evil" argument
9. The "rock beat" ignores God's command for all ministers to be qualified. Churches go through careful ordination services to make sure that those who instruct Christians are qualified. Ironically, teachers are being welcomed into churches to teach the young people through music.
You can't blame a beat for this
10. The "rock beat" violates God's command to protect our bodies as God's temple (I Cor. 3:16-17). Rock music is unnecessary. It has been linked to damaging hearing, brain cells, our concentration, stress, high blood pressure, ulcers, and hormonal imbalance.
This is all based on conjectural science studies, answered above (and ignores factors such as how loud, what was used in studies as a "rock beat", etc.). We who uphold God's word can take note of this stuff, but not make such a theological issue based on it. It is shaky ground and does not carry the weight of scripture.
One person, quoting these on a message board, adds a couple of his own points:
• I have not seen a rebuttal to the fact that Lucifer was the musical angel before his fall. He became completely defiled. How is it that certain kinds of music are not defiled?
This doesn't say which kind is "defiled". Obviously some acid or thrash style with hellish moaning, etc. and especially stuff that praises Satan. But remember, it's the beat you're talking about, and not all music with the beat in question is like that.
• There are plenty of Scriptures that address the sound of music that is pleasing to God. Here are a couple. "Praise the Lord with the harp; Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings (Ps. 33:2)"...Melody and rock music don't mix very well.
Once again, rock is a very broad category, and since it is the African rhythms people are getting at, it would also include jazz, soft rock, etc. You cannot say all of this has no melody. Most of it does. And it all uses "stringed instruments" which are related to the harp and lyre. We should not read a symphonic sound into these Biblical references.
SUMMARY OF LOGICAL FALLACIES
S statement/scripture C conclusion A answer
---------------------Separation from world/Flesh and spirit
S We must "separate from the world" (1 John 2:15, James 4:4, Rom.12:2); sing a "new song"
C we can't use any style used by "the world's music"; CCM only takes "world's music" we listened to in our "old life" and changes the words
A so called 'good styles' are from/used by 'the world" (English royalty sound, orchestra, etc. All things in world not bad in themselves (marriage-1 Cor.7:33); just telling us not to get too enmeshed that our spiritual life suffers; a lot of CCM is "new in character".
S if we don't set such strict standards, it will lead to "anything goes"
C We should rule out anything remotely associated with the world to be safe; CCM removes our established standards and is destroying the Church
A God gave us consciences which are led by the Holy Spirit where the written Word is not explicit. This is what would "lead us into all truth" (John 16:13), not tradition, which can be wrong (Mark 7:7-9)
S "Flesh & spirit are contrary to one another" (Galatians 5:17)
C any music with a rhythm that is "pleasing to the flesh" is bad and unfit for Christians
A ignores the lively nature of Hebrew worship music and dancing in the Psalms; not all fleshy pleasure is bad; "flesh" in passage referring to "natural" unregenerate nature.
S Music is so emotional
C CCM fans get so upset at criticism because "the flesh" enjoys it; this shows they are not right
A That is because of the massive attack on the music being waged. But the criticizers are just as or in fact even more upset at the abandonment of their traditions
———————————Guilt by Association———————————
S We must "abstain from every appearance of evil" (1 Thess. 5:22)
C The beats of rock, jazz and related styles once came in handy for voodoo, sexuality and rebellion, so obviously the beat causes or is caused by these things, and it doesn't look right for a Christian to have anything to do with them
A These were evil uses of the beats. Any evil can be committed with certain tools that come in handy, but the music styles do not have enough of an evil connotation to enough people to argue that they are universally evil.
S "The world" acknowledges that the beat is demonic and that CCM is no different
C charges of cultural bias are only distracting us from the real issues. If the world even acknowledges that it's bad, then it's bad.
A Christianity has always reclaimed things of the world for Christ, and people who make these statements see no difference in it, period. ("To the impure, nothing is pure" because "even their conscience is defiled"— Titus 1:15) Yet, others are drawn by it.
S When rock first began, all the Christians were against it; yet today the Church accepts it
C This shows that this contemporary Church has turned away from the Word of God
A The Christians of the past weren't always right. There was a lot of ignorance and unnecessary fear that was not from God's Word that the Church has had to repent of
S We must have unity in the Church, and not offend anyone
C We must stick to our established style and not change it
A while we shouldn't use well known secular tunes for worship, this does not mean that we must be limited to one particular style and never use anything different.
———————————Purpose and "acceptability" of music———————————
S God did not accept just any kind of worship in the Bible
C we cannot just sing anything to God, so CCM is bad, while TCM (traditional...) is good;
A God was very strict when He prescribed explicit details regarding certain elements of worship. These are not present regarding music style, and in fact, lively rhythmic music was accepted by Him, at least at certain times. (i.e. it was never regarded as universally "unfit")
S music is not 'neutral'; certain sounds cannot convey certain messages;
C Once again, CCM is bad while TCM is good. Prominent rhythm cannot convey Gospel message and distracts from worship;
S music should be "Christlike";
C serene, stately music is "Christlike", "humble" and "submissive", while rock beats are "rebellious", "loud", "warlike", "proud", "demonic", and "sensual".
A All of this is a general assumption that is subject to the listener's conscience. There are some variations that may be unfit, but to rule out all contemporary music is going way too far. Traditional music has pride and bad influences behind it as well (Platonism), lively beats can represent celebration, spiritual warfare, emphasis (as in loud preaching) etc.
S music should be based on what pleases God, not our selfish 'preferences'
C CCM is based on preferences, TCM is based on what pleases God. So people have no excuse to listen to the former and should give it up and listen to the latter whether they like it or not (God will make them like it if they "allow Him to make all things new") This is the "offense of the Gospel", the "narrow path" of Jesus, and the "hard truths of scripture"
A traditional music fits cultural preference as well; not satisfactorily proven to be "God's music"
S various scriptures show music is a ministry used for worship, teaching, and admonition.
C no music is for pleasure or even evangelism, and therefore all must conform to a standard worship format with a de-emphasis on the rhythm & beat, and no creativity or clever ideas. "The text is IT"
A such 'good' features as vocally and instrumentally "lifting up" the name of God are just such clever ideas. It's a gimmick. It's not wrong, but differs according to time and culture. Music for pleasure is not forbidden in scripture, even in principle.
S God is revealed in scripture as a musical being. Satan was also created as a musical being; "music is what he knows best"
C This is an ultimate issue. The very character of God is at stake. He is very particular about styles, so we have to be particularly strict in this issue. This is one of Satan's biggest tools of deception so we cannot take any chances. When he fell, his music became perverted, and he was clever enough to create lively rhythms in order to please man's flesh and thus deceive him with it.
A Both lively and stately music can promote Satan's as well as God's agendas; the flesh as well as the spirit.
———————————Effects of Music———————————
S Scientific studies show that mellow symphonic music is healthy for the natural processes of humans, animals and plants, and that "rock" is detrimental to their health, even killing houseplants
C This is the ultimate proof that rock is totally contrary to God and is nothing more than a perverted creation of Satan
A Scientific studies are subject to varying interpretations and situations. A lot of foods tend to have bad effects, but taken in moderation are OK. Ignores the stresses of exercise being good.
S So many Christians' walks have been messed up by Christian rock. It leads them right back to secular rock, rebellion, sin and worldliness
C The music has an unavoidable negative influence on all people. Therefore it is no good for anyone.
A Different people are susceptible to different effects, even physical/emotional/psychological ones. The Bible clearly gives us liberty to see how it affects us in order to tell whether it is bad or not for us.
S Abortion, pornography, and marijuana are not mentioned in the Bible, yet we know they are wrong
C The Bible doesn't HAVE to discuss music styles (neither does the Spirit HAVE to convict); you all know the contemporary styles are just plain wrong
A The three sins mentioned above do directly violate, respectively, the letter of the 6th commandment, the spirit of the seventh (Matt.5), and mind altering drugs would fall under the same category as drunkenness in Eph.5:18, and is directly condemned as "sorcery" in Rev.9:21 (Gk.pharmakia). The ban on music has no comparable scriptural support and is based purely on conjecture.
S in orchestra, rhythm (percussion) is only 4% of the music
C rhythm based music is "rebellious" against the "standards" of "all good music"
A this is pure personal preference and cultural difference—comparing one secular style to another
S Focus on Amy Grant and other big stars' flaws
C CCM is rotten to the core—just look at it's fruits
A there are others whose message and lives do not have such stigma; No one is without sin; And even those messages we do say are "shallow" or "unclear" are not contradicting the Bible
S CCM artists' whole goal is to make money
C their whole motive is wrong. They are no different then secular musicians
A while people should be aware of this, remember, this is capitalism. It's the same exact system conservative Christians proclaimed as "God's system" during the Cold War, PLUS churches and ministries are organized as corporations that need to make money and grow to survive, and the leaders of these organizations often demand nice pay and other benefits. Why don't we then shun all copyrighted music since they're making money off of it? This is the least important issue, as I too am critical of capitalistic greed, but the double standard needed to be pointed out. Traditional music advocates also profit from putting down others' products and selling their own.
Critics: We must have this "Philosophy of music"
Scripture: "Beware, lest anyone spoil you through vain philosophy and deceit after the traditions of men" (1 Timothy 2:8)
Beardsley, John various articles http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/crocke.htm
Blanchard, John Pop Goes the Gospel England; Evangelical Press, 1983
Cloud, David W Contemporary Christian Music: Under the Spotlight Oak Harbor WA, Way of
Life Publishers, 1998 (Website: http://www.dsinclair.com/~dcloud/index.html or
Fisher, Tim The Battle for Christian Music Greenville, SC, Sacred Music Services, 1992 (website:
Garlock, Frank and Woetzel, Kurt, Music in the Balance. Greenville, SC: Majesty Music 1992
Godwin, Jeff, What's Wrong with Christian Rock? Chino CA, Chick Publications, 1990 (websites:
www.chick.com, http://www.jeffgodwin.com or
Gothard, Bill (Institute for Basic Life Principles); website:http://www.iblp.org. This is the ministry that popularized the many of the scientific reports, "testimonies" and insists that classical is healthy while rock is harmful.
Ives, Alan How to Tell the Right Kinds of Music Lincoln IL (website:
Johansson, Calvin Discipling Music Ministry Peabody, MA Hendrickson Publishers, 1992
Lynch, Ken Gospel Music: Blessing or Blight and Biblical Music in a Contemporary World Chester, PA
Makujina, John MEASURING THE MUSIC: Another Look at the Contemporary Christian Music Debate (1999) Old Paths Books
Masters, Peter "Pop Idiom Music: In Worship and evangelism"
Maus, Cynthia Pearl Christ and the Fine Arts (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1938)
Nieman, Steven T. "Lords of Laodicea" Freedom ministries
Noebel, David Christian Rock, A Strategem of Mephistopheles; Christian Rock - Paganism in the Church (http://www.av1611.org/crock/crocknob.html), and other articles
Peck, Richard Rock: Making Musical Choices Greenville, SC Bob Jones University Press, 1985
Pyle, Hugh The Truth About Rock Music Murfreesboro, TN Sword of the Lord Publishers,
Sears, Gordon: Apostasy and Deception in Christian Music Coldwater, MI Songfest, 1998, and
Is Today's Christian Music "Sacred"?
Seidel, Leonard J Face the Music, Springfield, VA Unlimited Grace Publishers 1988
Spence, H.T. Confronting Contemporary Christian Music: A Plain Account of its History, Philosophy and Future Foundations Press, Dunn NC.
Smith, Kimberly Oh, Be Careful Little Ears (1997) The chapters "A Brief History of Christian Music" and "The Origins of Unnatural (Carnal) Rhythms" (Which assumes "Western" music is completely Christian in origin (and the Church always used plainsong), in contrast with African music which "rebellious whites" copied) can be read at http://members.aol.com/ats0922/history2.html or http://pilgrim.thriftyplanet.net/music/history2.html and http://pilgrim.thriftyplanet.net/music/myths.html
Van Manen, Adrian Dr. Their Rock is not as Our Rock Windsor Hills Baptist Church, Oklahoma
Watkins, Terry, various tracts, Dial The Truth Ministries (www.av1611.org)
Ankerberg, John The Facts on Rock Music, Harvest House Publishing
Camp, Steve, "A Call For Reformation in the Contemporary Christian Music Industry" (107 Theses)
Focuses on the legitimate areas where the industry has gotten worldly without getting sidetracked on styles and beats
Larson, Bob, Larson's Book of Rock Tyndale House, 1980, 1987
Best, Harold Music Through the Eyes of Faith
Frame, John M. Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense Philipsburg, NJ R&R Publishing, 1997
Kauflin, Bob various articles http://spiritual.crosswalk.com/CC/CDA/CC_Content/CC_Archive_Display_Page/0,,PTID74456|CHID194891|AUTID2050842,00.html; particluarly the 1-23 to 4-20-2001 series ("What Does Music Mean?" and following 9 articles) which were excellent and covered all the basis in the music debate.
Menconi, Al, Dear Mr. Gothard: A Common Sense Response to Criticism of Today's Christian Music Carlsbad, CA, Al Menconi Ministries. Website: http://www.almenconi.com/resources/books/gothsmpl.html
Excellent response to criticism by Russian pastors: /topics/chr_music/evil.html
Miller, Steve The Contemporary Christian Music Debate O.M. Literature, 1993
An excellent treatment of the issue, covering many of the same points this page does, but in the more
professional and less confrontational style
Strawbridge, Greg Music In the Bible and Music in the Church/[Radio]: Reconsidering the Contemporary Christian Music Style Debate booklet or audio download available at http://www.wordmp3.com/musicinthebible.htm
Christian Rock Apologetics Index
Horton, Michael S. Beyond Culture Wars Chicago, Moody Press 1994
Regele, Mike Death of the Church Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1995 (Percept Group, Inc.)
Roberts, Debbie Rejoice, A Biblical Study of the Dance Shippensburg PA, Revival Press, 1982
Romankowski, Bill Pop Culture Wars, Intervarsity, 1996
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