We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Christian Rock

“In light of the wide exposure that the mass media have given, and continues to give, to rock ’n’ roll, together with the ever-present phenomenon of secularization, it seemed inevitable that rock music would someday invade Christian circles — and it did.  It’s users call it ‘Christian Rock.’  Often it is also called ‘contemporary Christian music.' . . . Some Christian rock songs have religious titles or themes while others focus only on love and romance.  In regard to the latter, there often is little or no difference in the lyrics of these songs from those of non-Christian rock music.  Even selections that have religious titles or themes often reflect a theology that indirectly praises humans rather than God.  For example, one song (‘Cartoons’ by Chris Rice) says it is great to sing ‘praise in a whole new way.’

“Some of the Christian rock music, like secular rock, also plays notes of rebellion.  A few years ago Undercover, a Christian punk rock group, took the well-known Christian hymn ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ and recorded it in speed rock form, greatly diminishing its sacred qualities.  By altering this widely sung hymn, the Undercover group displayed a form of rebellion.  Still other Christian rock music sometimes faults (at times rightly) the institutional church of today for having forgotten the poor and downtrodden.  Such music is probably more accurately seen as a social critique than an example of rebellion, especially if we remember the early church’s deep commitment to charity and compassion. . . 

“Even Christian rock that is not rebellious — and much of it is not — still leaves much to be desired in terms of good Christian theology.  Often little or nothing is said about the nature of God other than the fact that he loves people.  But that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is rarely heard, if at all, in Christian rock music.  Many recordings speak about God’s grace, but they do not say how man receives this grace.  That God’s grace in Christ comes through faith as heard from his Word is typically missing.  Also, far too many selections accent people’s subjective spiritual feelings, as singers note how they feel about God rather than how he felt about them as sinful beings whom he had to redeem through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

“Finally, in considering Christian rock, one must ask whether its performers and those who listen to it are not conforming to the world, contrary to Romans 12:2, where St. Paul reminds Christians, ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.’  The following indicate that conforming to the world is definitely a part of many so-called Christian rock selections, for they sometimes present a worldly or even blasphemous picture of God.  Here are some examples.  Robert Sweet of the now defunct Stryker band used to display the words ‘JESUS CHRIST ROCKS’ on the back of his drummer chair.  The Messiah Prophet Band has called Jesus Christ ‘the Master of Metal’; the Petra Band has said that God is ‘the God of Rock and Roll,’ and Daniel Band plays a song called ‘Party in Heaven’ that says, ‘There’s a party in heaven/The bread is unleaven/The tree of life is growin’ fine/It’s past eleven/My number is seven/The Lamb and I are drinkin’ new wine.’

“For centuries both sacred and secular music in Western society, much of it written by Christians or by musicians influenced by Christianity, had a highly edifying effect on people.  But with the continued growth of secularization and relativism, there has been a steep and rapid decline in the wholesomeness and beauty of music.  Hence, one wonders what the future holds, especially since much current rock music, including heavy metal and rap music, not only has assumed a major role but is preempting and displacing wholesome music of the past.  It is not an exaggeration to say that as far as the East is from the West, so far have hard rock musicians and their music moved from the goal that music should be performed ‘to the glory of God and the recreation of the mind.’  Christian rock, although different than hard rock in some respects, also appears to be contributing to this displacement.

Western music attained its greatness because its composers, such as Ambrose, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, and Vaughan Williams, were inspired by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  Unlike the God-denying and morally defiant writers of hard rock music, who see human life as meaningless and absurd, musicians in the past knew that God existed and guided their lives.  They believed that God willed their existence and that they were not biological flukes.  Their lives had meaning, and their music resonated those convictions.  That is why Bach, for instance, felt that all music, even his secular music, was ‘an expression of divinity.’  In a great deal of rock music, especially hard rock, this noble conviction is not only totally absent but is often rebelled against as well.

“From Christianity’s earliest years and for centuries thereafter, Christian musicians gave beauty and majesty to Western music, even to secular pieces.  They reflected the influence of Jesus Christ.  As Donald Grout has said, ‘The history of Western art music properly begins with the music of the Christian Church.’  Once the Christian influence no longer plays a significant role in the music of Western society, which is increasingly becoming the case, it will continue to deteriorate and sink to even baser levels.  One is reminded of the Greek philosopher Plato who said, ‘Give me the songs of the nation and it matters not who writes its laws.’”

Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, p.340-342


Doug Evans said...

Well said! I couldn't agree more! My bride and I are blessed to have found a church home where God is glorified through hymns sung from well loved green hymnals containing actual sheet music.These deeply moving hymns are accompanied by a gifted pianist, and occasionally a similarly gifted cellist.

Having not been raised in a biblical tradition I can safely say that quite often these hymns move me to tears in their beautiful worship of the Lord. I can also safely say that I've never been moved by Contemporary "Christian" "Music" to do anything more than cover my ears.

ali said...

After searching for almost a year, we too have found a wonderful church whose pastor preaches the uncompromising often uncomfortable Word of God. We too sing from hymnals with old time favorites such as Power in the Blood and All To Jesus I Surrender to name a few. AND we have preaching/church services Sunday night and Wednesday nights as well. We are truly blessed, and give all the glory to our LORD and King.

They are scarce, but there are a few good churches with good pastors around.

Jon Gleason said...

Churches that use Christian rock / CCM much almost always become more emotionalistic in their doctrine.

CCM tends to exalt the emotional response, both with the types of repetitions it uses and the musical techniques, the chord progressions, the crescendos, etc.

The performers (I'll not say worship leaders) tend to use performance techniques that emphasise the same, including often making a display of their own emotional response.

The result is a church full of people that are being taught, implicitly if not explicitly, that emotion=worship, and that music that generates emotion is therefore the right kind of music.

In addition, "worship" often becomes a spectator sport, because the songs too often are not lasting, hard to learn, and even when you know it you never know when the "worship band" is going to throw in a repeat or something else, or just decide to suddenly scale the musical heights leaving you in the valleys below.

But then, as a general rule we don't even use solos in our church. If it is worth singing and an expression of worship, it is probably better to sing it together and let everyone express it.

But all that said -- someone will surely be along soon to tell you that you are legalistic for publishing this.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I fear that is where our assembly is headed with our new "worship" pastor.

It won't be the first time I've been called legalistic, and it won't be the last. Notice, though, that those who make such charges rarely have any idea what real legalism is.

Ron Livesay said...

The really sad thing is that so many churches become "woopsie do churches" (my term for churches that use silly, doctrinally absurd music) in order to appease a small but vocal part of the congregation. Every time a church changes in this way, I have to think that there are already plenty of "woopsie do churches" out there. Let those who are dissatisfied leave and go elsewhere instead of trying to steal a church and drive away many of the older members.

Castiron said...

When I was 16 and in youth group, we (the members, not the leaders) would often pull the dusty hymn books and sing from them, all 4 or 5 or 6 verses. And loved it. We preferred them to the 70's style songs we were getting on Sundays:

"It's a happy day, and I thank God for the weather..."


"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty..."

I'm probably considered old and decrepit now (40's) so maybe this is irrelevant, but I still feel a lot of people my age (and maybe even younger) still prefer the classic hymns over the style we get today. I have noticed that the volume in the congregation goes up (more people singing, more people singing stronger?) when we sing something like Amazing Grace or Holy, Holy, Holy. It's a mixed congregation age-wise.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

If you're old and decrepit, I'm antique and dusty (62). But you are so correct. Meat is much more appreciated than fluff.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

Catching up after some time away from my usual internet reads. This was a well said post! The quotes from that book were spot on. I could say more but everyone else did a great job.

Ok, I will toss in that I don't mind church solos/special music. I worship just as much by listening to someone else sing/play as I do in participating myself.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I don't mind "special music," except too often the performer uses recorded music which is usually so loud you can't understand the lyrics!

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn, of course, whether for solos or congregational singing, the accompaniment can be too loud. :)