By Paul Proctor - October 22, 2003
Pastor Rick Warren said in a recent article posted on Pastors.com that: “There’s no such thing as Christian music. There are just Christian lyrics”, implying that any and all music is acceptable for worship as long as the lyrics were “Christian” – whatever that means. I would suggest to Pastor Warren that if ACDC were to provide the worship music at his church next Sunday morning, very few of his worshippers would be able to ascertain whether the lyrics were “Christian” or not due to the sheer decibel level created by the instrumentation alone. My question is: Under these conditions, what difference would the lyrics make?
In consideration of “music styles” deemed appropriate or not for Church and worship, many today believe that music, apart from its lyrical content, is amoral – that is to say, it can neither be good nor evil. These are generally the same folks who accept the humanist notion that there are no absolutes – that the world we live in is neither black nor white but only gray and relative. The fact is – music is a work, an effort, a deed, an action and a product of human initiative that can be just as moral or immoral as the one performing it. Today’s “progressives” from within the seeker-sensitive, purpose driven, church growth movement currently willow creeping their way into the mainstream of church life would have us reconsider what is good and bad for worship while suggesting that it is God’s will for you and me to experiment with new and exciting things simply because we’ve never tried them. Sounds like serpent logic to me. And by the way -- can somebody from the new paradigm please show me where the bible encourages experimentation in spiritual matters? Funny, I thought it was obedience God wanted.
Granted, the Lord gave no commandment saying “Thou shalt not play rock and roll at church on Sunday but He also didn’t say “Thou shalt not hold Sunday services in the middle of a busy intersection” either. Some things are just obvious.
Having come out of a lifetime of playing many popular styles of music professionally, I used to be of the same pragmatic mindset as those from the CGM. Frankly, such an attitude is quite common among musicians. Early in my Christian walk, I tried to incorporate my raucous and exotic tastes in music into my Christian life not realizing at that time that the two were largely incompatible – that, in reality, my “taste in music” had an adverse effect on my attitude and behavior as a Christian. Unfortunately, I was much too selfish and immature to accept that.
Music is a lot like alcohol and drugs. It can be very deceiving and destructive when misused and can distort one’s emotions, reasoning, judgment, perspective and behavior. Peer pressure only makes it worse. Music, with or without lyrics, can be a very powerful force in our lives. That is why instrumentals alone can bring a tear to an eye or screams from a crowd before a single word is ever sung. Likewise, other emotions can easily be stirred by lyric-free melodies and rhythms resulting in joy, happiness, excitement, anger, bitterness, depression and rage. To say that music without lyrics is amoral is like saying music without lyrics is dispassionate. It’s absurd.
As Kimberly Smith wrote in her book: “Let Those Who Have Ears To Hear”, music has a message all its own, regardless of the lyric. If you doubt that, watch what people do in a crowd where loud music and a strong beat are played. Under its power and influence they will move their arms, legs, feet, hands, hips, heads, necks, fingers and even their faces in ways they NEVER would in a quiet room or church sanctuary full of people. Then watch what they do when soft and gentle music is played. They become just as soft and gentle as the music. It’s not the words that compel our bodies to respond. It is the music. Why? Because, AGAIN, music has a message all its own – a compelling message that may or may not be consistent with the words being sung.
Combining kind, loving and evangelical messages to loud, aggressive, angry or suggestive music only confuses the listener into justifying and accepting whatever feelings, emotions, thoughts and attitudes may arise. To wrap sensual or in-your-face music with grace-filled lyrics and loving messages merely cloaks the danger in deceit and disarms an otherwise discerning listener into accepting the unacceptable – often resulting in confusion, dissipation, disappointment and defeat. It’s like saying it’s OK to drink lots of alcohol as long as it’s mixed with fruit juice. The truth is, the intoxicating effects of the alcohol will always overwhelm and negate whatever health benefits the juice offers.
The volume music is played is another area where boundaries and limitations should be set to facilitate worship. Exceeding those limits can be not only counterproductive but also quite dangerous. I learned long ago that the louder and more aggressive the music was in my car, the faster, more aggressive and more reckless I drove. It’s no different at work, at home, at school or at church. If the wrong music is played in worship OR even if the right music is played the wrong way, all positive effects can and will be lost. Even a good song can be played so loud in a room full of people that they’re forced to cover their ears and run for the exits, triggering a condition known as “Fight or Flight Syndrome”. Just as everyone has their own taste in music, everyone has their own threshold of tolerance when it comes to volume. Respecting boundaries and the selfless consideration of others are essential in pleasing God, not only in everyday life but also in Sunday worship. That’s why biblical principals of moderation and humility are always appropriate.
Did you know that loud music is so unhealthy that over time, it can wreck your immune system and permanently damage your adrenal gland performance so as to cause a litany of physical and emotional problems later in life from depression to fatigue to allergies, to high blood pressure, to joint pain, to muscle weakness, to constipation and much more – BESIDES rendering you deaf? This being the case, would you consider Christian rock being performed at church on Sunday in excess of 110dB to be good or evil? Kind of makes the Christian lyric issue irrelevant, doesn’t it? Do a Google search on Fight or Flight Syndrome and then get back to me on what’s Christian music and what’s not.
Though there are many ways to judge what music is suitable for worship, after much study, reflection and prayer, I’ve come to the conclusion that one’s music, like one’s character is best defined by attitude. Does our worship music convey the fruit of the spirit as outlined in scripture or does it encourage and celebrate our sinful nature and the impulses of the flesh?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” - Galatians 5:22-23
Do we seek to worship the Ancient of Days with our music or do we attempt to stimulate, gratify and entertain ourselves using whatever draws the largest crowd and the loudest applause? Does our music exalt a God not given to celebrity, fashion, appetite or whim or does it serve to advance something or someone else? Does our song compliment a suffering servant and a crucified Christ or a compromised culture of lasciviousness and vanity? Is our offering to God or is it to men? Is our song any different from the world’s song or, except for the lyrics, is it pretty much the same? Because, if our lifestyle is like our music style, no different from that of the world, what difference are “Christian” words going to make?
Psalm 33:3 says: “Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.”
Many of today’s CGM and CCM personalities will try and persuade you that what the psalmist meant by this verse was that we should do away with old songs, old styles, old ways, old instruments, old musicians and old singers and play only the latest and loudest in contemporary Christian music, be it rock, hip hop, grunge, metal, jazz, R&B, or whatever FEELS GOOD, till the crowd roars and the heavens shake.
Or was he instead encouraging us to sing unashamedly of our new life in Christ – a Spirit-filled walk of repentance, faith, humility and sacrifice that crucifies the flesh daily in obedience, discipline, dedication, perseverance, gratitude and praise?
Next: A New Song - Part 2
© 2003 Paul Proctor - All Rights Reserved
Other articles by Paul Proctor:
Confessions of a Facilitator | The Ten Commandments Controversy
Taking America back | DIAPRAX Goes to Seminary | The Kiss of Death
HEGELIAN DIALECTIC & THE NEW WORLD ORDER
Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state [Tennessee] and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990's to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer and columnist, he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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