Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rock and Rap Music Are Becoming a Non-Issue in Fundamentalism part 1

I graduated from high school in 1980. At that time rap music didn't exist. Rock music of different types and styles had been around for awhile. I attended Christian school between 1974 and 1980, 7th to 12th grade. I graduated from Christian college in 1984, an M.A. in 1985 and M.Div. in 1987. I counseled at a Christian camp the summers of 1980, 81, and 82. All of those were plainly main-stream fundamentalist institutions. So I'm talking about a time between at least 1974 and 1987, thirteen years. This is the time period that I'm relating my experience.

During those thirteen years in every one of the fundamentalist institutions that I attended, you would be expelled from, shipped from, or kicked out from those places if you were caught listening to rock music. Rock music was forbidden. We would pray for those who had to work in places with rock music playing. If we went to a restaurant that was playing rock music, on almost every occasion we would ask the owner or manager to either turn it off or turn it down in the section of the restaurant we were sitting. It was understood that those who listened to rock music were either not saved or had some major sin problem as a saved person that would likely result in chastisement. I didn't know one person personally in those places that I knew first-hand listened to rock music. I was never even around it. I didn't know anyone who owned rock music records, tapes, or eight tracks (CDs and mp3s didn't exist then).

During those thirteen years, we would hear testimonies from people who had been saved, and they often included: "I used to listen to rock music, and then I got saved." Change took place that included getting rid of the bad music. Sometimes there were young people who acted rebellious. They did not talk about the Bible or spiritual things. They scoffed at authority. I would often hear later, after they had left the church or been expelled from the school that they had listened to rock music.

During those thirteen years, rock music was called ungodly music. It was also called the devil's music. Rock music was not only bad itself, but it was considered to be something that would also turn people toward bad things. Listening to rock music was a sin.

Between 1980 and 1987, I traveled around the country to many different churches. For three years, I went to 60-80 churches each of those summers. I remember being in one church in which the youth department had Christian rock posters all over the walls of the youth room. I looked at them like I would be staring at an alien visiting earth. I just wagged my head in disbelief. I assumed that the church had turned away from the Lord. It was normal to think this way.

During those thirteen years, no one would apologize for preaching against rock music. No one would say that it was a difficult subject. Everyone would say that it was an easy subject to understand and discern. No one who was godly would get along with someone who listened to or played rock music. Everyone at that time knew that we weren't listening to rock music because the music would kill plants. We knew that was a kind of trivial side story. We didn't apologize for not liking rock music at that time. If someone liked rock music, we wouldn't be friends. We would be getting as far as possible from anyone who said that he liked rock music, that promoted rock music, that went to rock music concerts. Rock music had been around for a long time and it was consistent everywhere in my Christian experience that rock music was wrong, was bad, and that the people who listened to it and played it were bad too. No one apologized for that. You wouldn't dare say that you liked rock music if you were to have any credibility as a Christian.

During those thirteen years, rock music wasn't viewed as a racial issue. I had never heard that rock music had anything to do with race. I had never heard that we were against it because it wasn't European enough. I had never heard that it was wrong because it wasn't J. S. Bach music.

During those thirteen years, the hatred of rock music, the separation from rock music, and the castigation of rock music was practiced by the rank and file of the institutions I was in, not just the leaders. The leaders were those who maintained the prohibition on rock music. The leaders were those who preached against it. The leaders were those who expelled those in the institutions who chose to go ahead and listen to it. Rock music was not tolerated by leadership.

Things have changed.

Were these institutions wrong then? Have we grown in our understanding of culture and aesthetics and art and meaning since then? If it was wrong then, a sin then, and prohibited then, then were we wrong then or are people wrong today? The difference is so stark that there really is no middle ground.

I know that the change must have occurred while I have been out in the world evangelizing and pastoring from 1987 to 2010. Our church has not changed, but while I have been out working for the Lord, something has been happening everywhere else. I didn't even know that it was happening until the internet came on the scene. It was then that I found out that the institutions had changed. It was now acceptable to affiliate with rock music. Rock music is now a non-essential issue. If someone wants to use it, it isn't a separating issue. It doesn't stop anyone from being friends. Some even consider the people that listen to it to be superior in their Christianity than those who don't. Rock music is not only not unChristian in many institutions, but it can be something good for those institutions.

I found out about evangelicalism after I got out of school. I went to Christian book stores and the music section and it was almost all rock music. I knew I was way different than evangelicals. The institutions I had been a part of and affiliated with were much different than evangelicals. They were a kind of Christianity that was false. You could see that easily by the music they listened to. They were worldly. They weren't separated from the world. I learned that there was the Christian rock music industry, which has now turned into all kinds of Christian music, including grunge style music that is called Christian by many.

That bridge between evangelicalism and fundamentalism has shrunk and perhaps even disappeared. The music isn't much of an issue any more, or it is at least becoming a non-issue. You can be fine with people who listen to rock music. You can listen to it yourself. That isn't going to be an issue any more. You'll even be more well-liked if you show your interest in rock music. That is the way that it is now. This has been a surprise to me.

What happened and what is the evidence that I see that says that it is becoming or already is a non-issue in fundamentalism?

I'll answer these questions in part two.


JSA said...

Rock has changed, too. Rock used to represent youthful rebellion against the establishment, but now is largely perceived as "your grandfather's music". For the sort of people who formerly sought self-destruction through "sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll", the "rock-n-roll" part is now an anachronism. The sex and drugs remain, but the music is no longer rock.

Anonymous said...

I don't usually post on the sights I read from, but this evil is so prevalent that I wanted to say thanks for the post. A young evangelist that I know was attempting to find churches in our area to call preachers concerning meetings. Of the 25 churches that he found in NM, 15 had rock music ON their websites. I was not raised in church & the battle to free my mind from rock & roll's control is ongoing to this day.
Thanks again for fighting the good fight.
Pastor Jim Camp
Victory Baptist Church, Lovington, NM

Charles e. Whisnant said...

I was a youth pastor from 1963 to 1980, then pastor of a church for 16 years. And in all those years I could not put the word Christian in from of rock music. There was no such thing. I am amazed like you are that today fundamentalist churches have now put the same form of music in their churches in the form of praise music.

I did not fine one church from 1963 to 1980 and on where rock music was okay in any form. Christian words do not made rock music Christian.

Today as you say, its not an issue. Well it is with me.

Claymore said...

I have heard and seen many of the same things through the years. One youth pastor that I talked to about the Southern Gospel sound that he was encouraging in the church compared it to the architecture of the mother church of his alma mater - as though having one style of floor over another and music that breaks every law of music and truly dishonours God are in any way with the same category of difference. In fact, he told me that Southern Gospel is sometimes "a bridge out of CCM" - is that not like saying that chewing tobacco is like a bridge out of smoking?

d4v34x said...

Some forms of expression are unsuitable for use in worshipping a holy God. I think that's simply manifest.

I also think there is a group that argued that music is amoral (something I'm not actually dogmatic about-- even if music is amoral, we are not) so they could let in music A-M, but now are without any argument against N-Z even though they find it offensive.

Gary Webb said...

Thanks. It is good to remember the "old paths" that are in the way of righteousness. Most every Christian realizes that Lot is one of the saddest characters in history: made righteous by faith but ruined his life & lost his family. The Bible tells us how he did it in 2 Peter 2:8 - he vexed or tortured is soul "in seeing and hearing". I am sure the music in Sodom was part of the "hearing" that harmed his soul.

Robert said...

I grew up in exactly the same time frame as you, but the case against rock music was explicitly racial in my church--perhaps because it was in Tennessee. Rock was wrong because it was rooted in the devil-worship music of Africa.

Other than that minor quibble you have summed up the silent sea change in approach quite well.

Jerry Bouey said...

It's funny how many professing Christians (such as some of my coworkers at the Gospel Mission) can't agree on anything doctrinally, BUT almost all of them listen to the same "Christian" rock artists and go to the same "Christian" rock concerts...

And then when you dig deeper, most of them are not even separated from secular rock...

I stopped listening to secular rock one year after I got saved (after comparing the lyrics to the Bible), then in 98 I stopped listening to all Christian rock in all its forms when I came to the conclusion that EVERY single Christian rock artist compromised in some way - either doctrinally, morally, ecumenically, or threw out their separation. I believe it had to be the medium, not just the message that made it corrupt. The almost 12 years since then have just reinforced the stand I have taken against Christian rock, country, and praise music. The artists look like, live like, and think like the world - and even sound like them! Maybe with a little "Jesus" or "God" thrown in their lyrics - many times not even that - we are just supposed to assume they are singing about the Lord God/Jesus Christ, because often they don't even come out and say that - it is mostly just "He," "Him."

Gary Webb said...

I don't know how the teaching about music you received was presented, but there is no doubt that the "devil-worship music of Africa" is a major source of the influence upon American music today. I am not sure how that is "explicitly racial", (again, not knowing how it was presented in your church). The pagan culture of much of Africa has had a tremendously bad influence upon the culture of many of the "black" people groups of the world today. That is not racist but a spiritual observation. In a similar way the influence of Roman Catholicism and paganism in Mexico and the Central America countries has corrupted their culture. The influence that Bible Christianity has had upon the United States in the past is currently being overrun because of the failure of Americans to reject these corrupting influences. This is not RACIAL but SPIRITUAL. Every religion & every culture has a music that matches its spiritual character - for good or for bad. The first mention of music in the Bible was from the godless line of Cain in Genesis 4:19-21. That is why we need to diligently study the character of the music (not just the lyrics) to which we listen & that is accepted in our culture & judge it by the principles of the Word of God.

Robert said...

Well the church I was in almost spilt when a couple of black teens got saved and wanted to get baptized. So when I say the argument against rock was presented on a racial basis, I mean it was clearly understood (though not explicitly stated) that African in that context meant black, and that the connection of rock to the black culture was one of the main reasons for the problem with it. I mentioned it because of Kent's statement that he hadn't heard the argument against rock presented as a racial issue...I did.

d4v34x said...

Bro. Webb,

Interestingly, I'm currently writing a poem about Jubal.

More to the point, with the exception of the golden calf incident, the OT never seems to address the character of music. Even with the calf thing, music was only addressed descriptively. It sort of drives me nuts that there are no prescriptive passages that I can find. If I'm missing some, feel free to point them out to me.

Jerry Bouey said...

There are certainly other passages about music in the Old Testament. The whole Psalms and order of service with the song leaders in the temple had to do with music. A evil spirit came upon Saul and was soothed by certain music. Nebuchadnezzar got everyone to worship his golden image when certain music was played. David invented certain musical instruments - and Amos 6:5 refers to others in rebellion to God who created musical instruments (that I am assuming God was against).

The NT refers to Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody in your hearts to the Lord. Melody is very important in spiritual music - so that the music is not dominated by rhythm or feeding the flesh.

d4v34x said...

Again, that's all largely descriptive. The use of "melody" may just be metonomy.

I'm not against using principles alone to fully define what's right and wrong in music, but I think it's imortant for us to admit that, when it comes to style and forms, that's all we have to work with.

Jerry Bouey said...

The Bible does clearly speak against worldliness, against things that please the flesh, against the philosophies of the world. Studying out the history of rock music in all its forms shows it is from the world, created by those in rebellion to God - but somehow taking a stand against it based on BIBLE PRINCIPLES along just doesn't seem to sit well with the average believer.

You can't make marijuana, alcohol or adultery Christian by calling it so. You can't make Dungeon and Dragons and other occultic things (whether games, books, or movies, etc.) "Christian" by throwing a Jesus or two in there, by adding a little bit of "Christianese" into the contents - neither can you make pagan rock music Christian by adding a few Christian words or adding the label "Christian" to it. It is the EXACT same music the world is giving us!! But too many are to blind to see or accept this.

d4v34x said...

I just pictured a couple of Sunday School kids playing a board game with prophets and mighty bands and rolling a D20 for power of the spirit enhancement.


Jerry Bouey said...

The sad thing is there are several versions of a "Christian" Dungeon and Dragons game out there. I have heard of one or two of them by others who have actually played them, and have read about two others - though can't remember the names right now.

Claymore said...


Jesus said "By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" Any music that is inherently evil, such as rock, rap, country-western, et al is known by its fruit, or its description, as this marks its characteristics. You mentioned the golden calf incident - a good place to start a serries on contemporary music.

We often, and rightly, think of Egypt as being a type of the world (if we apply the Old Testament spiritually), and so the worship associated with Egypt (the calf) is a false worship. We should note that Aaron said "tomorrow is a feast of Jehovah" immediately after making the calf - this would indicate that the people of Israel were equating the calf with Jehovah, and it said that the music they were singng was to Jehovah.

Joshua believed it to be a noise of war. There are some characteristics of war - discordancy, chaos (interestingly this word has its etymology in idolatry - see Alexander Hislop's "The Two Babylons") and confusion. We should note that God is not the author of confusion or chaos, but of Law, Order, Design, Purpose, and Beauty. Moses understood it to be the worship singing of the Egyptians.

The question then is "can that which is first given to idols and devils be given to God?" The answer may be seen concerning Elijah at Mount Carmel - did he use the altar to Baal to offer the sacrifice to Jehovah? As it is the altar that sanctifies the gift, the music sanctifies the lyrics. I have heard people say that as long as the melody is good, it does not matter what the rhythm and harmony (or lack thereof) are, or as long as the lyrics are good, it does not matter what medium is used to carry them. However, if the altar sanctifies the gift, music that is wrong does not sanctify the lyrics, most of which are ambiguous at best and blasphemous at worst.

d4v34x said...

Claymore, I see you applying principles, trying to discern. I think that's what we have to do.

I think it gets difficult when we start saying inherent.

PS Ferguson said...

If it was true that we could not judge our music objectively, we would have to ask the following questions: Are all music genres morally neutral and God accepts any type? Has God given us no objective ways of determining this? If music is morally neutral why does the world call it “the universal language?” Is music an exception to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and the doctrine of Sufficiency of Scripture? How are the Scriptures our supreme rule for faith and practice if it cannot objectively determine our church music in worship?

As far back as the Classical Greeks, Plato observed the power of music to influence the emotions of man. The secular world is certainly cognisant that certain genres of music communicate a certain moral message as they invest billions in composing music for concerts, movies, and advertisements. Music in these contexts is arranged with a deliberate agenda to move people in a specific way. Music can evoke joy, sobriety, pity, love, admiration, patriotism, sorrow, lust, and awe. Composers deliberately aim to evoke a response from those that read, watch or listen. The secular world uses music to improve the environment, attitudes, and performance within the workplace. They have built a whole industry of music therapists, behavioural scientists on the power of music to alter the mood. Even some surgeons and dentists use music as an anaesthetic.

Why some music refreshes and some stirs the passions cannot be easily explained, but neither can it be denied. Even the youngest of children intuitively react without instruction when they hear certain kinds of music. The spirit of music has an extremely powerful influence on the hearer as the writers of music soundtracks will immediately agree. Each of us consciously and often subconsciously react to the genre of music when we watch TV programmes and advertisements, as music here is professionally driven with an agenda to move people in a specific way.

Almost every human being can testify to have been moved deeply by some genre of music through the rhythms, melodies, or harmonies. This power inherent in music is true in every culture of the world. The Apostle Paul clearly, taught in 1 Corinthians 14:7-8 that certain sounds, by themselves, had meaning and are not neutral. 1 Samuel 16:23 discredits the idea that music is neutral and records its power to influence the emotion even earlier so that “when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” The reality is that the message of the music is just as potent as the lyrics, and the listener’s view of the message is greatly coloured by the medium that conducts it.

Fundamental Christianity has always been characterised by a combat between the living God of the Bible and the idols of the age. This is a clash between two opposing and antithetical cultures and presupposes that we have a culture. The Bible never offers a sanitized U-rated version of what the world offers, but a clear presuppositional paradigm of guidance. Until the 1960s, the Church believed that spiritual worship was never to be confused or mixed with, or even tainted by, the debased end of the popular entertainment spectrum. Nothing is ultimately meaning-neutral, once moral agents use it. If God is obligated to accept all worship given to Him, then why did He reject Cain? Worship that does not please God is ultimately an act of the flesh, and idolatry.

Claymore said...

Music: From the word "muse" means "to think" and as such demands that those who listen to it exercise their minds in the act of thinking. Passtimes such as music and reading are the best exercises for the brain because they demand thought. I heard once that no alzheimers patients ever took part in music lessons (just as an example). I say that rock music is inherently evil, not just because it was developed by the godless, but because it violates the law of music that I stated above - it must cause men to think. Why is it that Mozart, Bach, Handel, and Tchaikovsky wrote music that is proven to make the listeners smarter but that they understood the principle that music is to cause men to think. The off-beat in genres such as rock, rap, metal, country-western (incidentally, neither country nor western but rock), Southern Gospel, bluegrass, and various forms of Celtic music tends toward this because the off-beat (really a backward masking) works as a form of hypnosis, causing men not to think. New Age music and Easy Listening, as well as other forms of Celtic (those influenced by the NAM) also tend toward causing a lack of thought by relaxation. The idea that they have is to clear the mind of anything that is good and let whatever comes in come in. This is often a way for he devil to sever communion, as communion with Christ comes from meditating on His Word. A blank mind is an open invitation to sin.

BTW, Jerry's statement about musical instruments that God is against is a good point - I don't think God is in favour of the steel-stringed solid-body guitar because of what it was designed for, or the saxaphone (an illegitimate instrument for combining brass and reed - which is it going to be?)

d4v34x said...

PS, I agree the cultural meaning of various genres disqualifies them from use in worship (or personal entertainment for that matter). Furthermore I suspect that the reason the combinations of sound used to celebrate immorality etc are chosen because there is something inherent in them that makes them especially useful for that function.

But its hard if not impossible to prove that from Scripture.

After all, I know people whose spirits are soothed by listening to AC/DC.

JSA said...

@claymore - to be honest, I don't see you applying principles in your judgement calls about music. Unless, by "principles", we mean a random pastiche of half-truths and outright lies deployed opportunistically to back up an ill-founded patchwork of opinions.

Seriously, alzheimer's patients never taking music lessons? That doesn't even pass the giggle test. And your assertion that Pachelbel's canon in D makes people think, "coz music derives from muse", but apparently new age music hypnotizes people and puts them to sleep, since presumably "music" doesn't derive from "muse" when it comes after the word "new age"? That is some advanced application of Greek! And now God considers saxophones an abomination? Perhaps you were joking about that, but the sheer pompous ignorance of the rest of the post makes it hard to tell. And you claim that tchaikovsky has been "proven" to make people smarter. Can you share this research with us? Or are you thinking of some old and outdated "baby Mozart" article you read in "USA today" ten years ago and catalogued to deploy in conversations about worship music?

Proper exercise of judgment in music is very important, and requires FAR more sincerity than you seem capable of mustering. You do absolutely no favors for the cause, and in fact discredit the effort with such shoddy tactics.

Claymore said...


let me go over your points one by each.

1. Alzheimers - re-read what I wrote: "I HEARD once" - I did not say that it may or may not be the truth absolutly true. However, in a nursing home, it was said that none of the alzheimers patients had studied it. Learning music or reading excersises the brain and increases the faculty of learning and memory, just as reading does, whereas modern entertainment actually harms it.
2. I never mentioned Pachabelle, but it does help people to think, even if by minute, almost undiscerned steps - if they are giving any attention to it, something most seem to be incapable of because of the modern entertainment taking over the home.
3. Music does derive from "muse" and so requires men to think. Check the etymology of Music in the Oxford English Dictionary. I use the terms "rock music" "New Age Music" "easy listening music" in the loosest sense possible, because these terms are all oxymorons (look up oxymoron in the OED) and so are not truely music.
4. Regarding what you said about the saxaphone, look into its history - it was designed for jazz, which is rooted in the philosophy of existentialism. This does not mean that it cannot be played in such a way as to actually bring honour to God - I have heard of it being done - but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

I recommend that you acquire a set of lectures by Dr. H. T. Spence entitled "Philosophy of Christian Music" as well as a serries of articles that he wrote called "The Fundamentalist and His Music" as well as his book on the subject "Confronting Contemporary Christian Music". Just make sure that you are not reading it with an existentialist presupposition.

JSA said...

@Clayton - I cannot really commit to acquiring the lectures you cite, since I am seriously questioning your judgment and discernment right now. If your judgment about the simple matters discussed here is not trustworthy, I would question your advice on books. Just being honest with you. FWIW, I have read a number of Roger Scruton's books on the subject, and tend to agree with what he says. If you likewise find him to make sense, we might have a point of agreement.

Now to respond to your points:

1. You could spend 5 minutes researching Alzheimer's on Google. Calling it hearsay is no defense. If you cannot back it up, don't use it -- it would be like saying, "I heard that Joe beats his wife (to use just ONE example)". It's a terrible anecdote that reveals a great ignorance about how the brain works and how Alzheimer's progresses (and yes, I happen to know a lot about both). You should refrain from arguing authoritatively about subjects where you're ignorant, because you just discredit yourself.

2. You are arguing that modern entertainment does not exercise the brain, or that the old classical masters did not have a hypnagogic effect. Making such sweeping generalizations often leads to logical fallacy. Pachelbel is just one example of classical music which has been empirically shown to tranquilize and sedate; Brahams would be another. On the flip side, there are numerous studies showing activation of various brain regions with various forms of modern entertainment. For example, certain types of modern music will activate the caudate nucleus, while some types of video games activate the hippocampus much more than previous forms of entertainment (and can contribute to significant enlargement of this important part of the brain). These are just some examples -- the general point is that you can't just make sweeping generalizations claiming that modern entertainment doesn't activate the brain, unless you have research to back it up.

3. Modern research shows that music activates the limbic system, and not the cortex, which is what most people associate with "thinking". The limbic system is what we associate with "feeling". Your usage of the word "muse" is a classic case of the exegetical "word study" fallacy [0]. The word "music" has an accepted dictionary definition, and the fact that you have to assert "oxymoron" to support your refusal to use the dictionary definition should give you pause to consider.

4. Pointing out the Jazz roots of the saxophone and loosely relating to existentialism (and yes, I've read all of the existentialist philosophers and would consider the saxophone link to be tenuous at best) starts to look suspiciously similar to the word study fallacy. But that's not even what we were talking about -- at issue is your bizarre claim that the saxophone should be avoided because it's a mix of brass and wind -- as if the Bible has a prohibition on hermaphroditic instruments or something? It's utterly absurd. I shudder to think of the sorts of weird judgment calls and aspersions you would invent to denigrate the organ, if someone happened to insinuate to you that the organ was originally envisioned by a voodoo priest.

[0] http://www.studydesk.org/Hermeneutics/06%20Observation%20-%20Word%20Study%20Fallacies.htm

Claymore said...


I could argue this indefinitely with you, but I would ultimately accomplish nothing.

If you are merely trying to use constructive criticism, that is one thing, but to say that I have no judgement skills is quite another, and then to insult a man who has studied music thoroughly and has taught it for over thirty years such as Dr. Spence just because I recommend his studies on the subject is rather like the red Indian's (on whose stolen land you are squatting) of the pot calling the kettle black.

I do agree that hearsay and sweeping generalisations are bad arguments, which is why I use the constructive criticism above.

However, as to Jazz, if it is done right, it is never done the same way twice - while this may seem similar to your mind about improvisation, it is entirely a different matter. Improvisation is used to embellish the absolute principle of the note, not to do away with it. Jazz is designed to break the rules of music by not playing it the way it is supposed to be played.

If you have no more insults to offer, I will take my leave of this discussion.

Claymore said...

One more thing,

I use the statement that New Age Music (as an example, I include Rock, rap, et al in this as well) is an oxymoron because I do not consider them to be music. I say they are not music because they are sin. Sin is never art or music, which must have law, order, purpose, design, and beauty to be truly art, as that is what God designed for art and for music.

One may take rock music, or any other such genre, and have notes written on paper, play it with an instrument, or sing it with the voice (or shriek it as the case may be), but that does not make it music, anymore than having a picture on canvas or paper makes pornography to be art. In either case, it is sin, and as sin is never art or music but sin, to my understanding it would make it an oxymoron.

I believe that you do agree that these "music" styles are evil, but you disagree as to why. I admit that my knowledge of music theory is limited, but perhaps when I start my Masters' Degree I can learn more of it. Nonetheless, it would be helpful for all who wish to know more of the subject of CCM to read/hear what Dr. Spence has written. I also recommend Dr. Robert Wilson's radio program on FBC Radio called "Sacred Classical Moments", which airs Sunday afternoons about 1:30, North Carolinashire time.

JSA said...

@Claymore - OK, I was just reacting to your using OED as an authority for the definition "oxymoron" in the very same sentence where you defiantly refuse to submit to the OED definition of "music".

Words acquire their meanings one of two ways: either they acquire meaning through common usage among a community of people, or more rarely, established by a cadre of elites, as in the case of Academie Francaise.

Personally, I'm flexible, so if you want to redefine "music" for purposes of this conversation, I'm OK with that. If Michael Jackson wants to say that "bad" means "good", I can play along, too.

OTOH, I don't think you've thought through the implications of insisting that "Sin is never ... music". Are you going to create an entirely parallel vocabulary to speak about all of those man-made creations which are used sinfully versus when they are used righteously? Perhaps "smusic", "sdance", "spainting" etc.?

Besides the fact that this is extremely cumbersome, it seems incompatible with Christianity. You see, Christianity considers sin to be primarily a matter of the intentions of the heart, not of some objective physical measurement of an act. In fact, judging something on appearances and physical attributes tends to be seen as idolatry. Since the entire purpose of a word is to semantically signify the same thing to all people in a group, by using a word like "smusic", you effectively nullify the ability to judge the intentions of the human heart.

Even more importantly, if we are forced to create a parallel vocabulary that separates sinful words from righteous words, the word "sinful" itself would become irrelevant". If, indeed, it were an oxymoron to say "sinful music", it would likewise be redundant to say "sinful" in front of whatever word you choose instead of music. "Sinful smusic"? We might as well strike the word "sinful" from the dictionary, in that case.

Personally, I would simply communicate my objection to a musical style by calling it "sinful music". A quick Google search shows that this is a common usage, and not considered an oxymoron.

We have the ability to judge good from evil, which is distinct from our God-given right to name things. We ought to exercise our discernement and call sin "sin"; not try to redefine words so that we can escape the responsibility of making judgments. We can say "this music is good", or "this music is bad". Not only is this OK; it is our duty and responsibility.

Claymore said...

Is it really just a matter of intent? Sin is sin, whether one intends to commit it or not (see Leviticus 4). You say we have the ability to judge what is and what is not sin by exercising discernment - by what criteria do you categorise which music is right or wrong? It seems that you put it by your personal preference, which may seem like there is nothing wrong with it, but then somebody who likes the sinful style would say that it is not based on the same reason. Is there no objective standard? Woe unto them that call good evil and evil good, that put ligh for darkness and darkness for light, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter - does this include music?

JSA said...

@Clayton - Yep, that's why I emphasized the word "primarily". There were sins of ignorance (Leviticus 4) and sins of omission, too.

And I'm not arguing for moral relativism; quite the opposite!

Leviticus 4 is a very good verse for this discussion. Take a look at who gets called out first: the anointed priest. The implicit point is that no high priest, prior to Christ, had a perfect understanding of what qualified as a "sin". Out of ignorance of the law, the high priests and the entire nation of Israel were bound to sin at times. As God's law was progressively revealed, the priests would look back and realize that they had been in error, and would make a sin offering.

The passage foreshadowed Christ (see Hebrews 13:11-12), and was intended to encourage humility. It was emphatically not meant to argue that sin can be measured independently of the heart's desires.

Think of it like this. When Christ said, in Matthew 5:28, "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart", it was about the desires of the heart, and not about an actual physical act. It was also something that the anointed priest of the time would have been ignorant about. So, the "sin offering" of Leviticus 4 would be relevant in this case.

In fact, this point was foreshadowed when God rejected Saul's burnt offering, but accepted David's, because David was sincerely repentant, and Saul had a hard heart. God doesn't judge people based on the concrete, physical manifestations -- He judges based on the desires of our hearts. There is nothing relativistic about this: all authority rests in Christ, and He will judge. And when Christ was confronted with the Pharisees, who had all outward manifestation of holiness, but twisted motivations, he called them "whitewashed tombs".

Of course, Leviticus 4 is not directly authoritative for us today. As Hebrews 13:11-12 says, Christ is our all-sufficient sin offering, so we don't make sin offerings anymore. It just foreshadows Christ, and shows why he needed to be our sin-offering: specifically because the Pharisees confused the outward physical manifestations with the desires of the heart.

Miss Ginny said...

It angers me that fundamentalists are still making theclaim that rock music is Satanic.

First of all folks, there is nothing satanic about electrified guitars, drums, a heavy beat or aggressive sound, indeed there are many messages best played out with an aggressive or powerful sound that would not send the same message with soft music. Second, those musicians who embrace rebellion and satan do NOT speak for the rest of us! That is totally unfair, as it is branding all of us who have gone to church and been baptized as swayed by Satan. Lyrics make a song what it will be, either good or evil. Sure, you can get some really horrible sounding rock music, but I notice those of you who bash rock music never mention any examples such as Buddy Holly, John fogerty, foreigner or other bands that have absolutely nothing to do with rebellion or Satan! You always pick the worst examples you can find.

By the same token, I personally can point my finger at you beliefs by mentioning examples of corrupt, dishonest, and Satan inspired religious people and I can condemn your entire religion based on that. Do you think that is fair? Hardly.

Rock music is a sound, nothing more, and there is nothing evil about loud or powerful sound getting accross a message. I personally grew up on rock music going through all sorts of phases including hard rock, and my mother used to wail about how I would grow up a deviant and rebelling against God. Guess what, none of the things she said ever happened, not one of them, from the sex to the drugs to the rebellion.

There have been bands that played rock backing to religious messages and brought people to what you consider salvation. Would you condemn them for that? Evidently.

The bible says to make a joyful noise. Plenty of Rock music is joyful without any traces of rebellion or anything evil. It also teaches of blowing trumpets and sounding drums. Are we to read from this that only orchestras are alright with God? Do you know how many classical musicians died of sexually oriented diseases? They were hardly pure.

People condemn alcahol because people get drunk and cause trouble yet many of us have a drink or two now and then and cause no harm. They condemn guns because someone gets mad and kills someone, yet I raised kids around guns of all sorts and none of that happened.

Rock music is simply a sound, and had God wanted to stop it he had merely to go in the 1920's and stop the electrifying of the guitar and save himself alot of trouble.

I have no problem listening to "Gethsemane" by Nightwish, which is a hard rock song about Jesus, or Firestorm singing about his last hours and the pain he would have endured at the hands of those he wanted to save and driving to church to do it.

Has anyone heard of discernment? Really, I hope the day comes when Christians stop retreating from their enemy and take something back from him. Those of us who have written Christian rock have done that. Rather than run from something such as a musical style, we made it into something positive. Those of you who have to run away from a perceived evil cant say that.

I wonder how many of you who condemn rock music listen to country, the most booze, cheating, depression oriented music there is. That's why I quit listening to it, because it depressed me.

Alot of young people have come to Jesus after hearing a rock band singing about him. Were they all evil?

Anonymous said...

I guess I'd be in trouble with most of you. I'm gothic, I listen to classical music as well as rock music, and I've been baptised in a Christian church and drove there listening to rock music on many occasions. By your standards I'm probably as heathen as it gets. Funny, I hadnt noticed it myself. Guess it's because when I stood in the temple praying the last time, dressed in black with my hat in my hands God didn't hit me with lightning.

Anonymous said...

I wish to respond to a section of a comment made in here "I dont think god is in favor of the steel stringed solid body guitar because of what it was designed for...."

First, it is folly to assume a human can speak for God. The writersums up the matter with the term "I don't think" in which they are clearing up the entire misconception about Rock music entirely.

The steel stringed solid body guitar was designed for one purpose and that was to amplify a sound and make it sustain. It was perfected by one man among a few others, named Leo fender. Leo was not a guitar player per say but an engineer and radio repair man. He was not Satanic in any way.

God himself has voiced no opinion on the guitar, and as a musician I have heard them played for jazz, for rock, for ballads, due to the fact that they are a tool made to do a job, that is amplifying a sound and giving it the ability to have affects added, non of which can be defined as sin. This is in principle the same as saying "I dont think God would like the revolver because of what it was designed for." The revolver also has been used for murder and robbery and also to push the axis powers away from world domination.

The object is not evil, it's application gives it evil. I seriously doubt god would have an issue over a simple object such as an electric guitar. The first man to make the electric guitar poppular was a little black man who used one to play jazz.

I have several elecric guitars and a hollow body electric bass,and if I was to play music to praise I would not hesitate to use them.

~Baptized Goth

Mike said...

The electric guitar was introduced in 1931 and the first people to use them extensively were big bands and jazz bands, including Charlie Christian who introduced his as one of the first. The electric guitar is not directly related to rock music's roots. Chet Atkins used the Gretsh electric and he was more of a jazz musician, not a rocker. Drums were also used by native Americans for every ritual imaginable, and the altar is used by both pagans as well as extensively in the bible for worship of God. How does one reconcile that? The real reason why the fundies began to hate rock music is because during fifties segregation rock an roll was the sound which transcended racial barriers and made the black folk mingle with the white, and this angered the white supremicist mentalities. I quote "This rock an roll sound is simply a sound which puts the white man on the level of the nigra".

Anyone who tells you rock music is simply hated for it's supposed links to paganism (the Africans in question had nothing to do with rock an roll music, as the modern rockers such as Stevie Ray Vaughan who was in no way Satanic or in rebellion against God had nothing to do with the Africans) has not done their research, and if they try to tell you the hatred of rock does not have roots in racism is lying to you. It most certainly does.

You Goths are interesting as so many of you are into both rock and classical. Hard to shop for, I'm sure.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Your comment is about as ridiculous as one could get, pinning the needle. Genuine Christians---north, south, east, and west---opposed rock music from the beginning. It wasn't Christian music and it wasn't amoral. Around the time of the Jesus' movement did it begin to become accepted in churches and mainly because of the explosion of the Charismatic movement. On a personal level, I saw music as mainly white guys, having nothing to do with race. I never knew one person like you describe here. What you are saying seems completely made up on the spot just to portray the opposition in the worst possible light. I could say much more, but that's about the essence of it. By saying this, does not mean I'm endorsing everything that is said in comments here that seem to support what I am writing.

Mike said...

That's fine Kent, you can bash me all you want. Go for it. I have had years in music, released albums, written songs and played venues from country to rock and many in between, as well as doing my own research, so I think I'll stick with what I've experienced for myself. If you want to think rock music was inspired by Satan be my guest, and if you want to deny evidence, again be my guest.

Do you know why the main stream of Christianity keeps pagan holidays that are based in worship of the sun, child sacrifice and demonology and teach them every SUN day in church? Did you ever ask yourself why your church teaches certain things that do not jibe at all with the bible, such as change of the sabbath day and various other commandments? Because that is what all of you are taught without question, without any research, and so it is what you believe.

It has been pointed out here that the altar was used by pagans, satanists and cult worshippers, yet none of your Israelites had any problem using them to worship God. A child can figure out that by the same token an electric guitar is an object and music is a sound, no better or worse than the hands that handle them.

Did you bother to do two seconds of research into the the history of the guitar before you told me how rediculous you think I am? No you did not, just as I seriously doubt you have done one shred of research into your own system of beliefs.

Rediculous, my friend, is someone having someone dictate to you and accepting it without question. Why do you think there are many rock musicians and others who have no problem worshipping the way they do? Because they have done enough homework to know the difference between truth and falacy. So you believe a piece of wood with strings can be inherantly evil?

Consider this: If you did research you would find that the first ten years of the electric guitar's existence was spent in orchestras playing your music that is "acceptable to God". You will also find that rock music is nothing more than rythm and blues and jazz fused together and predated "rock an roll" by many years.

You're right, alot of white guys were playing the stuff in the fifties. So according to you they got their inspiration from a bunch of Africans who worshipped demons. Will you deny that Native Americans played drums also? I took my quote from the lips of a man who has been on videos cursing rock music in the fifties, so your arguement that it is not a racial issue is with him and those who think like him. You can find that video all over the computer if you look. It is very well known.

Well if you want to just bash me without information, go for it. It happens.

Before you go insulting someone else you should do some reading up on the subject not just buying into what some pastor tells you because he claims to be filled with the holy spirit.

A Goth posted here, and while I have seen their people bashed for doing "satan's work" I have also seen them start churches and turn witches from black magic and spell casting to Christianity, I've personally seen this twice, and my church once taught me to avoid them because theyw ere pagan and evil.

Do some learning before you tell others they are rediculous. Rediculous is buying what you are told without question.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I didn't bash YOU. I bashed what you wrote, essentially saying that "fundamentalists" opposed rock music because of racism. That isn't true. That's not a genuine narrative. I'm not going to piece by piece deal with what you've written here. Music is not amoral, it does mean something, like words and symbols mean something. You don't sanctify them by adding something holy or sacred to them. This is a clear scriptural teaching. It doesn't surprise me, however, that you would think you are right and that you think that the way to deal with it is by referring to those who oppose you as racists. It's not true.

Have the best day possible, Mike.

P.S. I enjoyed this sentence in a special way: "Do some learning before you tell others they are rediculous." I thought it was very fitting of your entire comment.

Mike said...


You attempt in your last paragraph to use my sentence against me, yet it is you who present nothing more than your opinion.

Sadly, a fundamentalist will maintain their view regardless of evidence. Indeed, as you say the words and symbols give the music it's meaning, yet by some double standard, rock music is said to be evil even when all of it's words and symbols are praise of Jesus. How strange.

I wish you the best, but I am afraid the biased opinions of people who see Satan where Satan is not will not sway mefrom personal experience.

If you should do research into any of this, I offer the history of the electric guitar, rythm and blues, jazz, rock an roll music, and also the "holidays" Christians claim are Christian for your consideration.

Sadly, the most research church goers do is what the man onthe pulpit tells them.

Regards. Mike

Unknown said...

The only ones having a hard time admitting the sordid history and philosophy of "Rock" music are professing Christians who straddle the fence. Even Rockers will tell you the truth, Rock music is sensual music. That medium is a profane offering to a thrice holy God. "What concord hath Christ with Belial?" And the obvious answer is none.

Gene said...

Mike you waste your breath. If a minister on the pulpit told these people that black was actually orange they would sear to it till their dying day. Threatened with the supposed impending doom of a hell full of torment by a "loving God" and following countless pagan traditions handed to them by the same ministers who bilk them out of millions of dallars a year, you think they will listen to reason?

Research to a Christian is going to what scripture is given and believing what they are told by whoever, not diggin for real facts. Why do you thinkthey only use certain examples and avoid doing any reading.

A Christian cannot question anything, he must do as he is told, period. That's why they can be led to suicide by a minister. Education and learning are for free thinkers who are damned to hell.

Your friend Belial has nothing to do with rock music.

But by all means, if ignoring facts and believing falacy works for you and makes you feel saved, go for it. David Bowie and the Beatles do not speak for every musician out there, any more than Peter Rippoff represents all religion.


Kent Brandenburg said...

I don't know how this thread suddenly started garnering attention, whether it was linked somewhere else or not. However, the "argument" that Christians aren't open-minded about the meaning of music is a stupid as it gets, and anyone who says that is as stupid as he can get. You are a fool if you think that. Music does have meaning and with some music that does not match up with God. To say that those who judge certain meaning to be wrong are just closed-minded dupes is not making an argument. It's just insulting. Well, the one making the argument is stupid. So if that's the argument you are making, Gene, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, then you are stupid.

Anonymous said...

Mike's miserable attempt to pose as a jaded, world-weary expert on rock and roll is a joke.

Mike, if you are as experienced as you say, but haven't experienced the debauchery of the rock and roll lifestyle, then I'm sorry for you. Why don't you bring in June Cleaver next, to tell us how swell and wholesome rock music is.

Gene said...

Ah, just listen to the love of Jesus coming from a bunch of closed minded sheep calling us all stupid and dupes. Given the fact that we have actually recommended that you do research and you are too full of fear to do any of it rather than slinging childish insults, I'd like to pose a question to you Christians:

You claim that rock music, which is used by Christians to bring people to conversion and has indeed done so is condemned by God yet you show no proof whatever. Then by the same standard, why does the God for whom you speak command the use of altars in his very temple, while altars are used by the church of Satan as well as Pagans for their ritual sacrifices?

While you bash those of us who have been in the music industry and have not lived up to your corrupt expectations and call us stupid, it is you who speak for your God who openly talks of making a joyful noise to him, and speaks of sounding drums in celebration of him in his own bible. It is also stated that the hebrews celebrated with loud voices that could be heard for miles? Perhaps you should tell God to tone it down.

Consider this, wise ones: The bible says "Remember THE sabath day to keep IT holy." Your emperor Constantine who was a pagan and murdered Christians moved the sabath day to Sunday. Nowhere in the bible does Jesus Christ change it by his almighty authority. You keep Christmas in honor of him yet Christmas is the birth date of the Sun God Mithras, and the bible itself says, and I quote "In vain do they worship me, teaching for commandments the doctrines of men".

The same bible also states that anyone who changes any detail of the bible will be condemned for it. The bible also teaches against paganism, and your Easter celebration commemorates Ishtar who was the mother/wife of Nimrod, who sacrificed babies to....areya ready for this? THE SUN GOD ON THE DAY OF WORSHIP, SUN DAY. But buns eggs and chocolate honor Christ with Easter egg hunts, right?

While you insult us and call us stupid, you not only demean the meaning of Christianity with your venom while we have been respectful of you and not insulted you once.

Mr. Anonymous, if you want to poke insults about the Cleavers, perhaps you could step up to the plate and use your name as we have. What have you to hide?

You people insult us yet is it we who have done research and gotten facts and you who are blind sheep and closed minded. I am betting none of you is willing to take the challenge and do some studying before calling us stupid.

I suppose those who have gone to religious rock concerts and accepted Jesus there should repent?

You cannot speak for God and you have put forth not one shred of viable evidence other than your own view that Christian rock is sinful.

Oh yes, by the way, I did play for various bands in my early years, and I played the hard rock venues also. No I did not engage in perverted sexual activity because I chose to raise a family instead. I avoided drugs because of how stupid it is to be a junkie with evidence around you of the destructiveness of it and I personally ended up with a fine guitar that was sold by a coke head to enable his habit. I still have the guitar, since I had better things to do with my money than he.

Personal experience taught me to be a better person, because at that time I was a church goer.

Thanks for calling me stupid, you who are afraid of doing any real learning, thank you for showing me what a Christian you are. Would you call me stupid to my face in your church? I doubt it. Is petty insulting the best you've got? Very lame indeed.

At least I can back my views with something solid. What do we do with the Christians who converted at a rock concert? Send them back?


Kent Brandenburg said...


Your whole comment was an insult, a stupid insult. I'm not going to argue with you about music here. I've written enough on it in articles here and in my book that I'm not going to go back and forth with you or Mike.

All I dealt with is that your comment that Christians, who believe rock music is sinful, are just dupes listening to false teachers is stupid. And if you think that, you're stupid.

I wrote this post awhile ago, and we're not going to write any more comments on it. The comments for this post will now be closed.