Christian Rock: Christian or Satanic?
Christian Rock? by Ric Llewellyn, published by Fundamental Evangelistic Association:
This tract carefully details the Biblical screens any music must pass before it can be labeled as “Christian” (Eph. 5:18,19; Col. 3:16); i.e., the music must be a channel for correct doctrine, and (a) its lyrics should be edifying, spiritually oriented, clear, conforming to Biblical truth, and point our focus to Jesus Christ, (b) its score (the arrangement of the musical notes) should not overshadow the message conveyed by the lyrics, but should compliment it, and (c) its character (the “attitudes” in the music and of the performers) should be consistent with the purity of the message it claims to convey (reverence, worshipful, etc.). (Each of the above screens must stand on its own; i.e., one “good” aspect of the music’s nature cannot sanctify any of the others.) (Please refer to Eph. 5:18,19 and Col. 3:16 at the end of this report.)
(a) Lyrics — Our spiritual songs must be sufficiently clear so as to convey the truth plainly, and must be consistent with Biblical revelation (i.e., sound doctrine) — the words should focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ and encourage practical submission to God’s order in all our personal affairs. Most contemporary Christian music (CCM) can be rejected on the basis of lyrics alone — even when the lyrics are audibly clear, the predominance of false doctrine and/or the shallow view of the person and work of Jesus Christ is often appalling.
(b) Score — The meaning of the word psalms originally denoted a striking or twitching with the fingers (on musical strings); only later did it come to mean a sacred song sung to musical accompaniment (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Our psalms, or the arrangement of the musical notes, is a vital ingredient of the all-encompassing term we call “music.” This is because it is the area in which we are usually the most ignorant; i.e., medical research clearly supports the contention that musical tones and rhythms in and of themselves (i.e., without lyrics) can cause physical and “emotional” reactions over which the listener may have little or no control. Since the score of contemporary Christian rock music, with its syncopation and slurring of notes, is virtually indistinguishable from its secular counterpart, one has to wonder if spirituality is being eroded and carnality is being propagated. (One should always assess “Christian” music thusly: “Does it stir the flesh to ‘boogie,’ or the spirit to praise the Lord?”)
(c) Character — Our hymns, or the character of the music, is its most obscure component. The character of much of what is called “Christian” music may best be characterized as charismatic, irreverent, universalist, socialist utopian idealistic, superficial religiousness, neo-evangelical, expressionistic, ostentatious, or in a myriad of other contexts (e.g.; What is the character of the music at a so-called Christian rock concert when whatever message is presented is punctuated by screaming guitars, smoke bombs, and a general atmosphere of frivolity?) And because the character of the music is not always readily apparent to the listener, it can have the most insidious effect on believers; i.e., tolerance or acceptance of false doctrine can arise from constant subjection to deficient and improper attitudes in music. The character of “Christian” music is easily adopted by listeners, which can then draw them away from the firm foundation of the Word. Music worthy of the name “Christian” ought to stimulate and simulate emotions compatible with true spirituality — the appropriate response to God and His Word.
– Larry Norman is frequently dubbed “the father of Christian rock.” Norman makes the incredulous statement that rock ‘n’ roll music originated in the Church hundreds of years ago, and that the devil stole it!! Therefore, Norman’s battle cry is to “take rock music back for Jesus’ sake!” (Since rock ‘n’ roll music did not even come into being until the early 1950s, Norman is obviously unable to provide one shred of evidence for this claim). Norman titles one of his songs, “Why Should the Devil Have All The Good Music,” and in another song he refers to Christ (at His return for His Church) as an “Unidentified Flying Object.” In still another song, he pitifully trivializes the Gospel of the Resurrection with the following lyrics:
They nailed Him to a cross;
They put Him in the ground;
Just goes to show you;
Can’t keep a good Man down.
– The origin of rock music and the term rock ‘n’ roll are interesting ones. In the early 1950s, a disk-jockey named Alan Freed was one of the first white people to be involved in “rhythm & blues” music, which was the direct forerunner of rock ‘n’ roll. (The complete genealogy of rock ‘n’ roll music is: voodoo to jazz to blues to rock ‘n’ roll [David Tame, The Secret Power of Music, pp. 187-204].) Rock ‘n’ roll was a kind of fusion between rhythm & blues and country & western music. Freed was one of the first white people to play this new rhythm & blues/country combination on his radio program, and was perplexed as to what to call it since it obviously needed a new name. Freed had been receiving bizarre reports concerning kids’ reactions to this new music, so decided to name it after a ghetto term that black people used for pre-marital sex in the back seat of a car — hence, the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was coined. Contrast the above true account of the origin of rock ‘n’ roll music with that told us by the so-called “Christian” rock band Petra in the lyrics of one of their songs; i.e., that God was the source of rock ‘n’ roll!:
God gave rock ‘n’ roll to you,
Put it in the soul of everyone,
If you love the sound,
And don’t forget the Source,
You can turn-a-round,
You can change your course.
– There appears to be a parallel between the attempt today to “Christianize” rock music and the “Christianization” of various pagan religious practices in fourth century Rome. The Babylonian mystery religions were introduced into Christianity by Constantine in 313 A.D. as he tried to incorporate the pagans into the newly constituted “Holy” Roman Empire. The Constantine-led Roman church was willing to adapt and adopt pagan practices in order to make Christianity palatable to the heathen. The heathen festivals were adopted into Christianity, and then eventually, many of the associated pagan symbols and actions were reinterpreted in ways acceptable to Christian faith and practice. “Christianization” of pagan customs, symbols, etc., occurred as Christianity had to undergo a transformation so that pagans could “convert” without giving up their old beliefs and rituals. Has not the modern church of today done much of the same adoption, reinterpretation, and “Christianization” of what is called “rock music” in order to make Christianity more palatable to the “teenaged” lost? And does not this approach smack of the traditional Roman Catholic method of making converts from pagans? — first adopt the pagan practices, and then reapply Biblical meaning to them. In this manner, the former pagans can retain their pagan idolatrous heritage by merely renaming the idols and changing the terminology used in the worship of them.
– Those today who are able to clearly see the error and futility of “Christianizing” secular psychology and its psychotherapies by merely relabeling them as “Christian” psychology and “Christian” psychiatric clinics, somehow are unable to see that they have incorporated the same erroneous relabeling process by taking secular rock music, adopting “Christian” lyrics, and renaming it “Christian” rock. Since when does something become Christian by merely “Christianizing” the terminology and placing Christ’s name in front of it? Are we not to call the lost out of the culture (world) to repentance and righteousness, rather than imitate the culture (world)?:
(a) “Christian rock [music] is the daughter of worldly rock. It tries to make the Christian message more appealing to the world by using a worldly medium. … Charismatics and New Evangelicals have tried to Christianize demonic rock music, mixing holy with unholy, to reach today’s young people. They said, ‘To win them, we must speak their language.’ But when they won them, what did they win them to? Whatever weak Gospel message [might be there] is lost in the process. May we similarly “Christianize” liquor by putting a Gospel message on the bottle label, and have Christians buy and promote it to reach drunks for Jesus? A good goal does not justify unscriptural methods” (8/15/89, Calvary Contender).
(b) “For those whose eyes have not seen and whose ears have not heard, Contemporary Christian Music, or CCM as the insiders call it, is essentially conventional rock or pop music with the lyrics changed to protect the innocent” (James Chute, The Milwaukee Journal).
(c) “… what many in the church today seem to believe: you must have an angle to present the gospel to a hostile world … It has opened the door to some bizarre evangelistic strategies. The church apes nearly every fad of secular society. Heavy metal rock, rap, graffiti, break dancing, body building, brick smashing, jazzercize, interpretive dance, and stand-up comedy all have been added to the evangelical repertoire. … It is nothing but hedonism under the guise of religion. Many assume that without some gimmick, the gospel message just won’t reach people, and unless we accommodate it to the fashion of our day, we can’t hope for it to be effective. … Thus modern churches feel they must plan and program for attracting unbelievers who cannot be persuaded with revealed truth …” (Our Sufficiency in Christ, pp. 145-146). (Emphasis added.) [Please don’t take the use of this quote as an endorsement of the book’s author or of his ministry.]
– The advocates of the “modern sound” declare themselves to be in good company: “Did not the [so-called] great church father, Martin Luther, take the tavern songs of the day and fit them out with Christian words, thus sanctifying the Devil’s tunes for the Lord’s work?” This argument, often heard, borders on the ridiculous if one has any understanding of the situation in Luther’s time. Carl Johansson, in a very fine and scholarly work, makes this observation (Music and Ministry: A Biblical Counterpoint, p. 50):
“But the thrust of the popular music of Luther’s time and the thrust of our pop music is as different as night is from day. There was a systematic unity in the sixteenth century musical world which no longer exists in today’s music. … The popular music of the time had a folk-like character far removed from modern-day pop.”
Says another authority concerning those sixteenth century times [during which the culture was the church and the church the culture]: “A difference between sacred and secular music hardly existed” (Eric Bloom, ed., Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th edition, I, p. 848).
– “Christian” rock groups almost always state that the purpose of their music is for evangelism and/or entertainment. Although Scripture records various folk songs, work songs, battle songs, etc., the Bible teaches that the God-approved purpose or use of music is primarily for worship, praise, edification, and the teaching of doctrine (e.g., Exo. 15:1,2,20,21; I Chron. 15:27,28; 16:9,23; II Chron. 20:21,22; Psa. 95:2; 105:2; Acts 16:25; Eph. 5:18, 19; Col. 3:16). Over fifty psalms were dedicated to the chief musician to be used in worship, and in heaven the 24 elders and angelic beings will also be using music in worship (Rev. 5:8 ff.).
Although godly music can have an evangelistic purpose or result (e.g., Psa. 96:1-3; 108:3), it is not used primarily for this in Scripture. In fact, nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Sing the gospel of Christ.” It says to preach it! God can certainly use music to bring somebody to Christ, but there has to be a presentation of the gospel somewhere along the line. Our music is primarily an expression of a Spirit-filled life, not really intended for the world’s consumption. We seem to want so much to sing our songs to the world that we put them in the world’s vernacular and think it’s going to be evangelistic.
So even if one could find nothing wrong with the lyrics, the score, the character, and/or the effect of “Christian” rock music, one would still have to question why the modern day, self-proclaimed musical evangelists/entertainers persist in using their music in endeavors where there is no clear Biblical precedent; i.e., although mentioned over 800 times in Scripture, music is never used for entertainment or for direct evangelism or for any end within itself. Music in the Bible is used primarily in praise and in worship, either to God (e.g., I Chron. 16:9,23; II Chron. 29:30; Psa. 9:11; 30:4; 33:2,3; 47:6; 135:3; etc.) or to Satan (e.g., Dan. 3:4,5,7,10,15; Exo. 32:17,18).
– Since the religious rockers almost always maintain that they are simply trying to reach people for Jesus, then why not go totally secular and leave out the appeal to the church altogether? Why bother with the crowd that’s already saved? (Of course, since about 80% of religious rockers’ income is derived through “Christian” bookstores, we already know the answer to that question.) It is our conviction that the religious rockers are not reaching the lost, but are instead making disciples to their rock music from the churched kids attending their concerts or playing their recordings. In fact, there is a good chance that the church could be losing the so-called “found” by bringing rock music into the sanctuary.
Jesus said that when He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself. Why then would the Holy Spirit need help today from the world’s music in drawing people to Christ? Why do the “musical soul-winners” think they can attract people for God by using the world’s standards and the world’s music, when the net effect of the music is to basically stir the flesh and the emotions rather than stir a love for God?
– When people generally speak of the evils of secular rock music, they often refer to the supposedly evil and/or satanic messages that are covertly placed in the minds of the listeners through a method called “back-masking.” The theory behind back-masking is that messages that are below the audio level (reversed messages in this case) will be received by the “unconscious mind,” thus bypassing conscious evaluation, and then at some time in the future, are able to affect the behavior of the listener. This idea of the unconscious receiving messages directly through finer perceptive mechanisms than available to the conscious mind is based upon Freud’s thoroughly discredited theory of the unconscious — discredited because the theory has not been supported either neurologically or practically. Moreover, the Freudian unconscious is in direct conflict with the Word of God, which is consciously and volitionally oriented. [See also a 9/96 AP story: researchers report that if there is any effect from subliminal messages, the influence on the mind is minimal, having a duration of 1/10 of a second at most! — 9/20/96, The Bloomington Herald-Times, “Effect of subliminal messages extremely brief, scientists say,” p. 12.] We do not doubt that back-masked messages have in fact been recorded, but since there is no proof that the human mind is capable of even receiving these messages, their effect on human behavior must obviously be zero. (In fact, in a court case a number of years ago involving the British rock band Judas Priest, the band was accused of culpability in the suicide deaths of two teenagers who had allegedly killed themselves as a result of acting upon the back-masked “subliminal” messages on the band’s recordings. The band was found not guilty, not because the subliminal messages were not recorded (they were recorded), but because the scientific evidence presented at the trial was overwhelmingly convincing that subliminal messages just don’t work!)
Therefore, it is quite disturbing to hear that so-called Christian musicians have also been getting involved with the back-masking of “Christian messages” on their recordings, under the guise of “subliminal evangelism.” Some have even made the incredulous claim that, unbeknownst to them, the Holy Spirit Himself did the back-masking!! Even assuming their ignorance of the non-efficacy of back-masking, are not these musicians in effect saying that the Holy Spirit needs to resort to trickery in order save sinners. Do they believe that the Word of God, preached clearly and without deceit, is no longer capable of convicting men and calling them out for salvation? (See PsychoHeresy Update, Winter 1991, for a more thorough discussion of subliminals and back-masking.)
– That music can be used for evil is clear from Scripture. Lucifer was created with a wealth of musical talents, which were evidently to be used for directing the angelic host in the worship of God (Ezek. 28:13 [KJV]). Lucifer’s fall (Ezek. 28:11-19) evidently led to the perversion of music (as well as to the perversion of most everything else), so that its improper use could actually be offensive to God (Amos 5:23; 6:5). That music can have a powerful influence on ones emotions, mood, or state of being is clearly taught in Scripture (e.g., I Samuel 16:15-17, 23; II Ki. 3:15).
Nevertheless, some so-called Christian music experts (e.g., Christians with university degrees in music) continue to say that music is amoral (rather than moral or immoral), and, thus, has no power to lead one into sin. This is said regardless of the Biblical record previously cited. Even the scientific research indicates otherwise. Some even say it is improper to quote an unbeliever’s research regarding the moral or scientific effects of music. From the “moral” perspective, just as there is nothing inherently evil in the culture, even unbelievers know what is moral or not (Romans 2). Regarding science, we quote scientific research of believers and unbelievers alike. It should be perfectly clear that we do not place such scientific evidence above Biblical truth. Since Scripture needs no scientific verification or research support, the medical effects of music are cited for the same reason the Christian should be interested in the medical effects of drugs or certain foods or the effects of shock waves from an explosion — mere exposure to these things can lead to unintended and unwanted physical side effects.
– David Tame (an unbeliever), in his 1984 book, The Secret Power of Music, not only further demonstrates the moral nature of music, but he also reveals extensive medical research demonstrating the destructive effects of rock music (on both the mind [emotions] and the body): [See the abbreviated bibliography at the end of this report for additional reference materials that details some more of the extensive research (including scientific) that has been conducted concerning the effects of music.]
(a) In commenting on the origin and the morality of rock music, Tame says, “… a certain cross-fertilization was becoming apparent between the ‘new music’ and the general jazz and rock style. It came to be seen that the technical differences between ’serious’ music, jazz, rock, or any other form of modern music were less important than the underlying factor that their philosophical basis was more or less one and the same: hedonism and anarchy” (p. 103). (Emphasis added.)
(b) “In the rock industry, money is basically what it is all about; and thus music is directed, not upward … but to the lowest common denominator. The question of questions is Will it sell? The standard of artistry could not be less relevant” (p. 116).
(c) “Were we to scour the globe in search of the most aggressively malevolent and unmistakably evil music is existence, it is more than likely that nothing would be found anywhere to surpass voodoo in these attributes … as the rhythmic accompaniment to satanic rituals and orgies, voodoo is the quintessence of tonal evil. … Its multiple rhythms [score], rather than uniting into an integrated whole, are performed in a certain kind of conflict with one another. … What is certain is that to hear this music is to become instantly encompassed by the sound of its raw, livid power. … Musicologists and historians are in no doubt that the drum rhythms of Africa were carried to America and were transmitted and translated into the style of music which became known as jazz. Since jazz and the blues were the parents of rock and roll, this also means that there exists a direct line of descent from the voodoo ceremonies of Africa, through jazz, to rock and roll and all the other forms of rock music today” (pp. 189-190). (Emphasis added.)
(d) “In the one corner: the ancients and traditionalists; the conviction that music affects character and society, and that therefore the artist has a duty to be responsibly moral and constructive, not immoral and destructive. In the other corner: the materialists; disclaiming responsibility and the need for value judgments, paying no heed to the outcome of their sounds. The second camp contains not only the radical avant-garde, but the entire mass of the much more popular and culturally significant jazz and rock musicians. Who, then, is correct? … Do life patterns follow music patterns or do they not?” (p. 136). Tame goes on to cite extensive research that overwhelmingly supports the contentions of the traditionalists: that music in general can be, and rock music specifically is, a negative influence on both the physical body and moral nature of man.
(e) “To the question, ‘Does music affect man’s physical body?,’ modern research applies in the clear affirmative. There is scarcely a single function of the body which cannot be affected by musical tones [score] … Investigation has shown that music affects digestion, internal secretions, circulation, nutrition and respiration. Even neural networks of the brain have been found to be sensitive to harmonic principles” (p. 136). (Emphasis added.)
(f) “Researchers have discovered that consonant and dissonant chords, different intervals, and other features of music [score] all exert a profound effect upon man’s pulse and respiration — upon their rate and upon whether their rhythm is constant, or interrupted and jumpy. Blood pressure is lowered by sustained chords and raised by crisp, repeated ones. [It has also been found that the tension of the larynx is affected by melodies, that sound stimuli can have a negative effect upon the skeletal muscles, that rock rhythms cause the heart beat to lose its perfect rhythm, and that certain rhythms can even cause a rare malady known as “musicogenic epilepsy” (76 documented cases as of 1984), with which some of its victims have been tormented to the point of committing suicide or murder.] … We can see, then, that music affects the body in two distinct ways: directly, as the effect of sound upon the cells and organs, and indirectly, by affecting the emotions, which then in turn influence numerous bodily processes” (p. 137). (Emphasis added.)
Julius Portnoy has also found that not only can music [score] “change metabolism, affect muscular energy, raise or lower blood pressure, and influence digestion,” but “It may be able to do all these things more successfully … than any other stimulants that produce those changes in our bodies” (p. 138). Musicologist Alice Monsarrat points out that it “is precisely at this point that rock ‘n’ roll … becomes potentially dangerous. This is because, to maintain a sense of well-being and integration, it is essential that man is not subjected too much to any rhythms not in accord with his natural bodily rhythms” (p. 199).
(g) Extensive research has also been conducted on the effects of music upon non-human life, both animals and plants. Paradoxical as it may seem, plant experiments concerning the effects of music upon life are even more convincing than human experiments — that music does affect life, including human life. This is because in plant experiments the effect of the mind’s subjective preconditioning and subjective reaction to the music, or one’s “feeling” for the music, or one’s personal tastes in music, have obviously all been removed; i.e., if music [score] can be shown to affect plants, then such effects have to be due to the objective influence of the musical tones and rhythms directly upon the cells and processes of the life-form itself. (It is also easier to set-up a valid, scientifically controlled experiment with plant life than with human life.)
The plant research findings are solidly in the traditionalist camp: not only did rock music stunt the growth of a wide variety of plants, but if played long enough, the plants actually died. And even more startling were the findings of Dr. T.C. Singh, head of the Botany Department at Annamalia University, India. His experiments demonstrated that not only did certain forms of music and certain musical instruments (specifically, classical music and the violin) cause plants to grow at twice their normal speed, but that later generations of the seeds of musically stimulated plants carried on the improved traits of greater size, more leaves, etc.! Presumably, the same effect can result in the negative sense, from bad music. The possible significance of Dr. Singh’s findings to human life is evident, and should be at least a little disconcerting to rock music fans (pp. 141-145).
(h) “Like human nature itself, music cannot possibly be neutral in its spiritual direction … ultimately all uses of tone [score] and all musical lyrics can be classified according to their spiritual direction, upward or downward. … To put it plainly, music tends to be of either the darkness or of the light” (p. 187). In his famous work, Laws, Plato lamented the musical revolution of his time and its “unmusical anarchy”: “Through foolishness they deceived themselves into thinking that there was no right or wrong in music — that it was to be judged good or bad by the pleasure it gave. By their work and their theories they infected the masses with the presumption to think themselves adequate judges. … As it was, the criterion was not music, but a reputation for promiscuous cleverness and a spirit of lawbreaking” (p. 189).
(i) In his closing comments on the roots of music styles and rhythms, David Tame, with a keen “spiritual” insight often lacking in many believers today, takes particular offense with rock music: “More than any other form of the misuse of sound, it is rock with which we must deal today. … It is a global phenomenon; a pounding, pounding destructive beat which is heard from America and Western Europe to Africa and Asia. Its effect upon the soul is to make nigh-impossible the true inner silence and peace necessary for the contemplation of eternal verities. … How necessary is it in this age for some to have the courage to be the ones who are ‘different’, and to separate themselves out from the pack who long ago sold their lives and personalities to this sound. … I adamantly believe that rock in all its forms is a critical problem which our civilization must get to grips. … if it wishes long to survive” (p. 204). (Emphasis added.)
For the world, it is impossible to separate from the lure of the pleasures of the flesh; they have no desire to do so nor do they have the power to do so if they did desire. But what reasons do we as Christians have to ignore our Lord’s command to come out and be separate? Instead, we adopt the world’s music in all its destructive forms [score and character], add Christian lyrics to it, and think we are being pleasing to the Lord and are a testimony of holiness to an unbelieving world. How pathetic!
– More recent medical research (than that cited by Tame) also disputes the notion of the supposed “neutrality” of music:
(a) Dr. John Diamond, a medical doctor, has conducted extensive research on the medical effects of music. He has noted that man is rhythmic in respiration, heartbeat, pulse, speech, and gait, and when the rhythm of music corresponds to the natural body rhythms, it produces feelings of ecstasy, alertness, and peace, and it energizes the mind and body, and facilitates balance and self-control. (These secular medical findings are also supported by Scripture [I Samuel 16:15-17,23]).
(b) Dr. David Nobel, another medical doctor and an authority on music, has done extensive research on the value of music rhythms [score] corresponding to body rhythms. He writes that, “None of these qualities accrue to the rock sound. Instead, rock contains harmonic dissonance and melodic discord while it accents rhythm with a big beat. In fact, the anapestic beat [two short beats, a long beat, then a pause] used by many rock musicians actually is the exact opposite of our heart and arterial rhythms [thereby causing an immediate loss of body strength].”
[Dr. Diamond confirms Dr. Nobel’s findings and adds that the stopped anapestic rhythm “heightens stress and anger, reduces output, increases hyperactivity, and weakens muscle strength.” (Admittedly, the technological ability to objectively measure stress and anger is problematical at best, while the measurement of muscle strength is quite precise and meets all the requirements of scientific reliability and statistical significance.)]
(c) The power of music to communicate is demonstrated in an article “Music’s Surprising Power to Heal,” by David Mazie, in the August 1992 Reader’s Digest — “Music reduces staff tension in the operating room,” says Dr. Clyde L. Nash, Jr. … “and also helps relax the patient.” [He uses classical music such as Vivaldi and Mozart.] Nash is one of many physicians around the country who are finding that music, used with conventional medical therapies, can help the sick in the healing process.
(d) Clinical researchers at the U.C.L.A. School of Nursing in Los Angeles, and at Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta, found that premature babies gained weight faster and were able to use oxygen more efficiently when they listened to soothing music mixed with voices or womb sounds. At Tallahassee (FL) Memorial Regional Medical Center, premature and low-birth-weight infants exposed to an hour and a half of soothing vocal music each day averaged only 11 days in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, compared with 16 days for a control group. At Baltimore’s St. Agnes Hospital, classical music was provided in the critical-care units. “Half an hour of music produced the same effect as ten milligrams of Valium,” says Dr. Raymond Bahr, head of the coronary-care unit.
How does music help? Some studies show it can lower blood pressure, basal-metabolism and respiration rates, thus lessening physiological responses to stress. Other studies suggest music may help increase production of endorphins (natural pain relievers) and S-IgA (Salivary immunoglobulin A). S-IgA speeds healing, reduces the danger of infections, and controls the heart rate. Studies indicate both hemispheres of the brain are involved in processing music. Dr. Sacks explains, “The neurological basis of musical responses is robust and may even survive damage to both hemispheres” (”Music’s Surprising Power to Heal,” 8/92, Reader’s Digest).
“In conclusion, we can say that insofar as the physical body is concerned, the notion that music has no effect upon man, or that all music is harmless, is absolutely in error” (Tame, p. 141). (Emphasis added.) “No longer [can] modern musicians possibly claim that music is a matter of ‘taste,’ or that the musician should be allowed to perform anything he chooses … Every moment of music to which we subject ourselves may be enhancing or taking away our … clarity of consciousness, increment by increment” (Tame, p. 144). In essence, what the medical experts are saying is that today’s rock sound (irrespective of the lyrics tacked-on to it in order to classify it as either secular or “Christian”) fights against the rhythmic nature of man’s creation. In the face of such evidence, it is difficult to understand how anyone can maintain that the music itself is neutral.
– In Tim Fisher’s 1992 book, The Battle for Christian Music, he notes: “Years ago I heard a tape of a man who was defending the neutrality of music in a public service. He walked over to the piano and played a C major chord. Then, he asked the audience if it was a good C major chord or an evil C major chord. After some scattered laughter, he said, ‘See, there’s no such thing as good or evil music.’ He made a rather obvious mistake, however, in his reasoning: a C major chord isn’t music! It is a building block of music — and there’s a big difference. … Why are we willing to admit these facts when it comes to literature, art, sculpture, or any other form of creativity — but not music? … When you enter a freshman theory class as a music major in any discipline of music, among the first things you would study are the ‘ingredients’ (neutral elements) of music: melody, rhythm, and harmony. … Eventually you would learn to combine these elements into a musical language that communicates what you desire. … Music always affects us, because music is not neutral” (pp. 60-63). Other quotes from this book:
(a) “Rock music elevates rhythm as the most stressed element, then harmony-melody is last. … Rap is the logical extension of the direction in which rock music has been headed. Once you demote certain musical elements into relative unimportance, they will soon disappear altogether. Most of rock music did away with melodic interest a long time ago. Therefore, if melody is unimportant, why have it? This is exactly what rap ‘music’ has done. It has emphasized rhythm as the only important musical element, while de-emphasizing melody and harmony to the point where they are virtually non-existent. By every good definition of music, rap is not music! It is merely rhythmic entertainment” (pp. 77,78).
(b) “Can you imagine Mozart being played in a bar? Not very likely — because the music of Mozart isn’t compatible with such an atmosphere. Can you imagine singing the Doxology to the tune of ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’? Would you receive a blessing by singing the words of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ to the Beatles’ tune ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’? These are ridiculous illustrations because the music is obviously incompatible with the message” (p. 102).
(c) “The tragic truth is that most Christians judge the effectiveness of music based upon the yardstick of the flesh, rather than the yardstick of the Spirit. If a song thrills us, we like it. If it doesn’t excite us, we don’t like it. Too often our opinion of a song is not based on the musical, textual, or even biblical worth of it — but rather on how it makes us feel. As in so many other areas of life, we take a sensual approach to music” (p. 104).
– By attending Christian rock concerts, does not one identify oneself with their ecumenism and their false doctrines and become a partaker of their evil deeds? (The Bible clearly teaches a theology of “guilt by association” — see 2 John 10,11.) And since we will all be accountable to the Lord at the Béma Seat for our stewardship with the resources He has entrusted to us while on this earth, how can anyone possibly justify allocating any resources to the support of rock music?
– “Christian” rock music offers no hope — since it is Spiritless, it can give none. It does not offer heaven, for the music within itself produces a vacuum — full of sound and fury, but no substance. It provides no foundation to the believer because its birth came from secular rock ‘n’ roll, which has no basis in God. The approaches of religious rockers all seem to suggest that, “We must become the world to win the world.” That method will not work simply because it is outside of God’s plan for the proper balancing of Biblically-ordained modes of evangelism with Biblical principles of separation. If one believes at all in the Bible doctrine of “separation” from the world (Rom. 12:2), is it not logical to include the Christian’s music?
– Gordon Sears, in his booklet, Is Today’s Christian Music “Sacred”?, asks six questions of those who think that CCM is indeed acceptable to God: If the new style and sound of music is of God then:
(1) Why is it causing so much confusion and division among Christians?;
(2) Why is it not received by all fundamental Bible-believing churches?;
(3) Why is it readily accepted by the non-Christian world? The ungodly never accepted the old Christian hymns;
(4) Why is it that Bible-denying universities and popular secular TV entertainment shows invite well-known Christian artists to give concerts with CCM? This never happened with the great spiritual hymns;
(5) Why are there hundreds of churches with godly pastors across America that strictly reject it and forbid it in their services?; and
(6) Why does it have such a strong effect upon the physical body? (As shown earlier, music does have a strong physical effect — to ignore this would be negligent.)
– What kind of music truly honors God? Ernest Pickering lists ten primary guidelines for Christians to follow (The Kind of Music That Honors God, pp. 11-12):
1. Its message is Scriptural (Col 3:16). Good Christian music must present a message that is true to the Word of God and doctrinally sound.
2. It should lead us to think in Biblical patterns and not be suggestive of evil either in message or in musical arrangement (Phil. 4:8). The text and music should not be cheap or tawdry.
3. It should help us to honor God with our bodies (I Cor. 6:19-20). Music which tends to imitate the effects of godless rock upon the human body or which either destroys or impairs one’s hearing is not Christian music.
4. It will maintain a balance between “spirit” and “understanding” (I Cor. 14:15). Music that is primarily emotional froth would not fulfill this requirement.
5. It will contain words that are full of beauty, dignity, reverence and simplicity, words that are worthy of the worship of a holy God (Isa. 6:1-6).
6. It will be free of mental association with worldly musical styles and evidence a holy consecrated character (Rom. 12:2; I Jn. 2:15). Music that seeks to “copy” the worldly approach is not honoring to God.
7. It should be expressive of the peace that accompanies the Christian life, not the clamor, confusion, din, and turmoil of the world (Col. 3:15-16). The various forms of rock music do not contribute to peace of heart but partake of the constant jangle of the sinful world. Christ promises peace to His people (Jn. 14:27).
8. It should be characterized by musical preciseness, finesse of poetic technique, and should evidence a structure of harmony and order. God is a God of order and not disorder (I Cor. 14:40).
9. It should promote and accompany a life-style of godliness, modesty, and holy quietness, and not modish fashion, suggestive acts, or sexual aggressiveness (1 Pe. 1:16; Tit. 2:11-12).
10. It should not contribute to the temptation of new or weak believers (Rom. 14:13,21; 15:2). Music that reminds newly-saved converts of their old life of sin is to be abhorred and rejected.
The erosion of musical standards among contemporary Christians parallels the erosion of convictions and practices in other areas as well. It denotes a spirit of compromise with the world which must be vigorously opposed by strong Christian leaders. As in all areas of our lives believers should ever follow the admonition of Paul: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).
– It is our conviction that rock music cannot be used to communicate spiritual truth. (Often the melody in the “Christian” version of rock music is obscured and overpowered by the heavy beat — the accompaniment is so predominant that it completely overpowers any message that might be present.) How can rock music, with its origins in demonic activities, and with its proven adverse medical and “emotional” effects, apply to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? Convictions must be based on the Word of God and not personal tastes, likes, and dislikes. Since most of religious rock, or so-called contemporary Christian music, has its roots in, and draws its inspiration from, secular rock ‘n’ roll, the result is worldliness in the music, and even worse, worldliness through music invading the church. Further, it “authenticates” the rock sound by having professing Christians playing the music. When one applies the standards of Scripture to this form of worldliness (e.g., II Cor. 6:17; I Thes.5:21, 22; Rom. 12:2; I Jn. 2:15,16; Js.4:4; etc.), the wrongness of such music should be obvious to all who truly desire to please their Lord.
– Being that the very term rock ‘n’ roll identifies with fornication, and the fact that music for the Christian is deemed to be worship, then the test it must pass is found in Philippians 4:8 — “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.” It is difficult to understand how a believer, in good conscience, could partake in that which is, at best, highly questionable. Rock ‘n’ roll is also so much associated with ungodly and outright Satanic rebellion against God, it is a wonder believers would want to be identified with it in any way. One would think a proper understanding of Ephesians 4:17-24 would be helpful to professing believers involved in rock music:
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Eph. 5:18,19 — And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms [score] and hymns [character] and spiritual songs [lyrics], singing and making melody [music] in your heart to the Lord;
Col. 3:16 — Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms [score] and hymns [character] and spiritual songs [lyrics], singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Note: What is Christian Music?
(From an editorial response to an ACCC [American Council of Christian Churches] resolution on CCM)
1. Music is an art. Because music is an art, it must be understood and evaluated in artistic and esthetic categories. Knowing what music is better is not a matter of taste, but of criticism. We may, and often do, develop tastes for things that are worse. Criticism exists to correct our tastes. Critical training and musical accomplishment, however, are different things: many fine performers are incompetent critics.
Style is not the major issue in evaluating music. Classicism and romanticism are not styles; fugues and sonatas are not styles; even jazz and rock are not styles. It is far more important to ask what a particular musical form exists to do, and whether a given composer has employed the form adequately for his purpose.
2. Music is a language. In common with all good art, music is written to say something. Quite apart from any lyrics with which it may be associated, music carries meaning. Of the two, the music speaks more powerfully. The best lyrics can never redeem music which communicates a false message, though second-rate lyrics have often been elevated in the hands of a great composer. It is often pointed out that music communicates subjectively, as if this should preclude our evaluating it. But what is subjective is not therefore unreal. It may be a subjective assertion that sunsets are more pleasant than garbage dumps; it is also a truth. For a person to say that he prefers garbage dumps would alter our judgment of the person, but not of the garbage dump. The question is not what a piece of music means “to me,” the question is what it means. This judgment must precede all moral and religious judgments with regard to the composition.
3. Music is a moral phenomenon. If music conveys meaning, then every musical composition may be judged in moral terms according to its truthfulness and propriety. Herein lies the error of those who claim that God has not revealed what “style of music He prefers.” To the contrary, God has clearly told us what He expects of our communications in general and of our worshipful communications in particular. To judge the meaning of a musical piece obligates us to judge its morality.
4. Music is a Christian duty. This is emphasized, not only by New Testament teaching, but also by those psalms that call upon “all that hath breath” to praise God with music. Music is the one art that all God’s peoples, in all times and places, are required to practice. Therefore, we had best take it seriously. It is not a public relations tool, nor does it serve a merely social function. It is with music that we worship God and edify one another. We dare not tolerate the tawdry, the base, or the thoughtless.
These same psalms name virtually every known category of instrument. We need not ask whether we can worship God with stringed instruments (e.g., guitars). The question is, which guitar: Christopher Parkening’s or Jimmy Page’s?
5. Music is the church’s heritage. Those who lack critical training must look to the church’s past for direction. The apostles did not invent a new music, but adopted the musical heritage of Judaism. Generation by generation this heritage was handed down, elaborated, criticized, corrected, and developed. Medieval plainsong was a direct descendent, and its use led eventually to the development of the various polyphonic forms. The hymnody of the Reformation stands in this tradition, as do the hymns of the Pietists and the Awakeners.
Only after the Enlightenment did Christians assume that they could safely dispense with the heritage of the church. Chiefly in America did they wish to ground worship in forms which were separated from the culture of the church. When one speaks of what represents the Body of Christ, he ought to include the whole Body, and not merely the current generation.
Purveyors of CCM are driven by this rejection of the Christian musical heritage in favor of popular forms. For the record, so were Victorian songwriters like Bliss and Doane, who are more closely related musically to Stryper and Petra than they are to Hassler or Mason. The question is about more than rock. But the breadth of the question should not prevent us from making definite musical choices.
1. Cyril Scott. Music, It’s Secret Influence Throughout the Ages. (1958)
2. Ceril Scott. The Influence of Music on History and Morals. (1933)
3. Ceril Scott. The Philosophy of Modernism in its Connection with Music. (?)
4. Paul Griffiths. A Guide to Electronic Music. (1979)
5. Podolsky. Music For Your Health. (?)
6. Gilman and Paperte. Music and Your Emotions. (?)
7. Lionel Stebbing. Music Therapy, A New Anthology. (1963)
8. Frank Tirro. Jazz, A History. (1979)
9. Orbis Publishing. The History of Rock. (1982)
10. Egon Wellesz (Ed.). Ancient and Oriental Music. (Vol. I of The New Oxford History of Music .) (1957)
11. J. Machlis. Introduction to Contemporary Music. (1980)
12. Peter Yates. Twentieth Century Music. (1968)
13. Paul Henry Làng. Music in Western Civilization. (1941)
14. Francis Routh. Contemporary Music, An Introduction. (1968)
15. Julius Portnoy. Music in the Life of Man. (1963)
16. Ernest Pickering. The Kind of Music That God Honors. (1988)
17. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Eric Holmberg. Rock Music’s Powerful Messages. (1991)
18. Ken Lynch. Gospel Music: Blessing or Blight? (1987)
19. Church of the Open Bible (Burlington, MA). Music That Pleases the Lord. (1993)
20. Jeff Godwin. The Devil’s Disciples: The Truth About Rock. (?)
21. Jeff Godwin. What’s Wrong With Christian Rock? (?)
22. Gordon E. Sears. Is Today’s Christian Music “Sacred”? (1993)