This article recently came to my attention. Though [or perhaps because] I read it late in the evening, I was feeling particularly irascible and the article rubbed me the wrong way. This was mostly because it is sorely lacking in all logical merit. I have completely recopied the article here, and included my rebuttals in bold and italics below each relevant paragraph.
As a disclaimer, I do not own the original article [not that I would want to], and all its contents are owned by the original authors at Worship in Spirit and Truth.
Should Christians Listen to Secular Music?
I say yes. Let’s see why you disagree.
No study of Christian living would be complete without considering the influence of music. Secular music over the recent years has crossed the boundaries of language, culture and now even religion. The Christian church has been invaded by this so called ‘Christian Rock’ which has become the vehicle to communicate with the youth of the world. But what message is being communicated by this ‘rock’ music, and is God pleased with it? Should Christians listen to it?
“No study of Christian living would be complete without considering the influence of food. Secular food over the recent years has crossed the boundaries of language, culture and now even religion. The Christian church has been invaded by this so called ‘Christian pizza’ which has become the vehicle to communicate with the hungry of the world. But what message is being communicated by this ‘pizza,’ and is God pleased with it? Should Christians eat it?”
Instead of the Church converting the world, the world is converting the Church!
Instead of the Church cooking the food, the food is cooking the church!
Just think about this for a moment. The young people of today, and even some older people have been so saturated with rock, pop, dance and all the other kinds of secular music, that listening to and singing good traditional worship songs has become boring to them. Their minds have become degraded by this rock and roll, and pop and dance music. It’s the same with movies. People’s minds today have been so saturated with tv and big blockbuster movies, that Bible study has become boring. And who is the one causing this? Satan! His aim is to draw people away from God, and he has done a fine job in doing that over the past 30 years. He is infiltrating our minds through the medium of music and television, and we now have a generation of youth that spend all their time watching tv, going to the movies, listening to secular music and playing games. Christ Jesus their Saviour is out of the picture. He’s just not that interesting anymore to today’s generation. “Take up your cross and follow Me” means nothing to the majority of young Christians today.
Just think about this for a moment. The young people of today, and even some older people have been so saturated with pizza, burgers, soda and all other kinds of secular food that eating and cooking good traditional food has become boring to them.
Okay, at some point I had to stop. This article about Christians and secular music is ridiculously frustrating, because its primary argumentative structure is so vague that, as you see above, you could replace every instance of “music” with “food” and have a perfectly good fundamentalist article against eating fast food – and ad hominem attacks aside, that is something against which most overweight denominational pastors would rail.
You could equally replace “music” with just about any subject against which fundamentalist Christians like to rail, and it’s a generally “good” [read: good on the Internet, which is pronounced blaaaahhhhhhhhh] rebuttal of the chosen subject.
This is the reason why churches have started introducing the world into church. They are trying to find a way to make church “more interesting”, “more fun”, “more entertaining”, because people today have so FILLED their lives with entertainment, that a good old traditional church service with plain Bible preaching and good traditional worship songs would not be “interesting” enough for them. It’s not a case of going to church to worship God anymore, it’s about being entertained! WE HAVE THE LAODICEAN CHURCH ALL OVER THE WORLD TODAY!
The author of the original article ought to recognize the target audience of which they speak – lots of teenagers have the attention span of a goldfish on cocaine. Before the specter is raised that “they can play those darn video games for hours,” one must first observe the average teenager playing a video game, and note that the game is interrupted every five minutes to answer the flurry of text messages that have arrived in the intervening time. The argument is not about church being boring – it’s more a statement of the attention span of teenagers in general. The article paints the church as the only thing suffering from this phenomenon – a fear which is easily put to rest with a quick glance at the average standardized test score.
Effects of Secular Music
There are few people who understand the power that music has over the mind. The moods of listeners change as they listen to various kinds of music. Do you want an example? Put a young man in a car and let him drive it while listening to fast paced rock music, and see how he drives! Actual tests have proved that music has a direct influence on the pulse rate, blood pressure, and the nervous system. Take a look at this quote from Dr. Schoen:
“Music is made of the stuff which is in and of itself the most powerful stimulant known among the perceptual process … Music operates on our emotional faculty with greater intensiveness and rapidity than the product of any other act.” (The Psychology of Music, Page 39)
Yes, music exerts an influence on the mind. Please don’t rehash all the old “lima bean” experiments from grade school. Everyone and their cat and their cat’s squeaky toy knows that Mythbusters showed that peas grow better to the heaviest of heavy metal anyway. Just like words, music expresses emotion – there is no valid reason to disallow music on the basis of the effects of the melody, harmony, etc. upon the listener, unless we’re going to outlaw everything else in the world that has an effect upon the mind and body on that basis alone. And, for the record, I have already read the whole article before writing this rebuttal, and I invite those who insist that “rock music” has no melody or harmony to listen to a good Dream Theater guitar solo.
Let me give you an example from my own experience. Recently, a church I attended had a worship band on stage, which most do these days, and during a particular worship song, in the chorus, the drummer would start drumming really loud which would excite the people, and when he did it, I could feel the drumming inside me, and it created a false feeling inside. This is what concerns me in church worship, as our worship and joy for God should be totally natural and not manufactured by the drummer. And how many people are thinking they are being filled with the Holy Spirit, when in fact they are just feeling the beat of the drum inside them?
The author tells of an experience where a drummer in a worship band at church started playing very loudly during the chorus of the song, and everybody would get very excited. “It created a false feeling inside [me,]” the author writes. “… our worship and joy for God should be totally natural and not manufactured by the drummer.” I posit that this commits the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, or “in light of this, therefore this.” The article presupposes a causal relationship between the drummer’s volume level and the excitement of the churchgoers. While the volume of the music is a factor in the atmosphere in the room, is it plausible that in fact the reason the drummer gets louder is because the music is accentuating very weighty words which connect with very strong emotions, and the congregants are experiencing the same sensation? One cannot deny the weight behind the words of the song “Jesus Paid It All,” which though its antiquity may make it an imperfect parallel illustrates the point adequately: “O, praise the One who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead?” When my worship band plays this song, this passage is very loud and intense – it is because the emotions are so strongly underscored by the lyrics that the music must follow of necessity. Interestingly, this is a criterion Seidel notes as one for “good music” – that the music matches the words it underscores.
“The things you have described as taking place in Indiana, the Lord has shown me would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never reveals itself in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious methods for making of none effect the pure, sincere, elevating, ennobling, sanctifying truth for this time. Better never have the worship of God blended with music, than to use musical instruments to do the work which last January was represented to me would be brought into our camp meetings. The truth for this time needs nothing of this kind in its work of converting souls. A bedlam of noise shocks the senses and perverts that which if conducted aright might be a blessing. The powers of satanic agencies blend with the din and noise, to have a carnival, and this is termed the Holy Spirit’s working.” (E. G. White, Selected Messages, Vol. 2, 36)
“There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions.” I’m sure those present in Acts 2 felt the same way when they each heard their own languages coming from the same mouths.
An important discovery made in the field of music shows that music is heard in the portion of the brain which received the stimuli of emotions, sensations and feelings, and bypasses the brain centres involving reason and intelligence. Time magazine described rock and roll music in this way … “The hypnotic beat works a strange kind of magic. Many dancers become oblivious to those around them. They drift away from their partners. Inhibitions flake away, eyes glaze over, until suddenly they are seemingly swimming along in a sea of sound.” … The worrying thing for Christians listening to secular music is the assault of it upon the emotions and then actions. Since the music goes straight to the part of the brain which receives emotions and sensations, the Christian will be affected by the music without making any conscious decision.
Where’s the citation for this discovery? This kind of “plain assertion” doesn’t really work when you’re trying to argue against, well, most of the world. Further, this bit about music affecting the mind without making any decisions seems to be contradicted by those who find intellectual value in lyrics, as well as the technical structure of music which requires thought to construct and, on the part of the musically inclined listener, to deconstruct for musical understanding. That idea aside, it seems odd to me that we’re arguing about the effects of music, because we have already established that music has an effect on the body and mind. It seems that we as Christians would assert the same about the experience of worshipping God – should we ban that too?
When asked why he did sexual hand gestures on stage, Michael Jackson replied, “It’s the music that COMPELS me to do it. You don’t think about it, it just happens. I’M A SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM.” (The Evening Star, Feb. 11, 1993)
The author wants to make normative statements concerning sexual hand gestures based on the opinion of a man who was generally preoccupied with having sex with minors? Good call. Next, I’ll ask Jack the Ripper where he sharpens his knives.
Wait a second, did you just quote a secular source? Aren’t quotes from non-Christians destructive to the mind of the Christian? Shouldn’t we ban those because they don’t uplift God?
The main thrust of my rebuttal thus far subconsciously concerns the Augustinian idea that good comes from God, even when it “comes” from secular sources. This includes secular music. Christian music of most strains, and secular music too, are expressions of emotion.
Doctors have started using music to reach the minds of the mentally ill and retarded. Words may mean nothing to them, but the music opens up the sensory part of the brain providing a way in. The problem with this, although helpful for doctors with the mentally ill, is the fact that satan can use rock and pop music to make a sneaky attack upon any Christian who listens to it. When you think about the facts, it easy to understand how the beat of modern rock music has created so much moral havoc among the young. The theme of sex, drugs, violence and rebellion have been drilled into their minds, creating an emotional acceptance of these sins.
Further, I find the article’s linking of rock music to the emotional acceptance of sins like sex, violence and rebellion to examine a series of cultural tales. For example, the stories of the Greek gods are rife with arguments over who exactly had sex with whom. Can we even begin to name the violent deaths of many teenagers of history over myriad causes as varied as war and sibling rivalry?
Actually, on second thought, it occurs to me that the authors of this article are of the variety who will not accept historical facts not recorded in the Bible. Let me start all over again.
The stories of the Bible are often rife with arguments over who was allowed to have sex with whom – Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind. Can we even begin to mention the violent death of Abel at the hands of his brother Cain? And what of the rebellion embodied by the prodigal son? These sins far predate the influence of rock music.
Is there any Bible verses that show music can change a person? … 1 Samuel 16:23 …’And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.’ … So David played a melody on his harp and Saul’s spirit was refreshed. So if a nice melody can make you feel refreshed and relaxed, what will listening to rock and pop music do to you?
Take a look at these quotes from well known rock artists:
“Rock has always been the devil’s music … I believe rock and roll is dangerous … I feel we’re only heralding something even darker than ourselves.” (David Bowie, Rolling Stones Magazine, Feb. 12, 1976)
“Hopefully I’ll be remembered as the person who brought an end to Christianity.” (Marilyn Manson, Spin, August 1996)
“I’d kill my mother for rock and roll. I would sell my soul.” (Bon Jovi, Smash Hits Magazine (for kids!!)
“First of all we want to thank Satan!” (Red Hot Chili Peppers, receiving an award at MTV awards in 1992)
Here goes more quoting of rock stars. It occurs to me again that good things, such as music, can come from bad sources – particularly given the Augustinian arguments of the ultimate origin of good. Further, just because a guitarist or singer in a band says something silly does not make music [as the product of bands] evil. This is a truth on which the Christian clergy heavily relies: just because a pastor says or does something foolish does not make the whole of Christianity invalid – another gift from Augustine.
It is no secret that some rock and roll performers are not only tied in with drugs, but with spiritualism. Some performers have even attributed their success by way of a covenant with satan, meaning satan is controlling the production of the music. And the vast amount of teenage rebellion today can be attributed in part to the constant exposure of broken rhythms in rock music.
“Some performers have even attributed their success by way of a covenant with satan, meaning satan is controlling the production of the music.” I actually agree with this. I’m pretty sure it’s actually Satan behind the board tweaking the EQ, not Ralph from the studio down the hall. Come to think of it, Ralph’s hair was rather tousled that day. I’m sure it was because of the Satanic rituals he had just completed, not the windy day outside. Either way.
“A broken meter in a treble, played over an insistently regular beat in the left hand with gradually increasing rapidity almost to the point of frenzy, is capable of producing the identical disintegrating and almost hysterical effect on an organism; as if a person would try to rush madly in two directions at the same time. Any psychiatrist knows that it is precisely this two directional pull of conflicting drives of emotions that is helping to fill our mental hospitals with broken wrecks of humanity.” (Alice E. Monsarrat, Music – Soothing, Sedative or Savage)
I can’t be bothered to write a rebuttal to this quote from Monsarrat. I’m pretty sure the music has everything to do with filling the mental wards, as opposed to the drugs, personality disorders, and parental and pastoral abuse.
Christians and Secular Music
I suppose the distinction I have been trying to reach is that the distinction between “secular” music and “Christian” music is the lyrics. Though I believe one ought to listen to music that expresses their emotions so long as it does not interfere with their walk with Christ, at the very least it is noble of Christian bands to resemble the styles of “secular” bands, because particular types of music express various emotions.
There is only one correct attitude that the true Christian should have towards rock music, and that is to close the door to it. There can be no compromise with the degrading music forms which satan has used to corrupt and destroy the minds of people all over the world. Are you trying to be a friend to the world, by listening to secular rock music? … James 4:4 …’Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.’
The author raises the old specter of James 4:4. The idea boils down to the following: evangelistic attempts which utilize anything besides “friendship with God,” whatever that means, amount to “friendship with the world.” But as has already been shown and implied, there is no discontinuity between music styles and the worship of Christ. I consider it ungrateful to God to disallow forms of music he allows us to make. I consider it supremely ungrateful to further take issue with the use of such musical styles for evangelistic purposes.
I attended a church service near where I live a couple of years back, and they showed a video of Bono (from the rock band U2) being interviewed, talking about his “Christian” faith. And do you know what he said? …. “Rock music is my FIRST LOVE.” And this was openly accepted by the church!! Now Jesus warned the church in Ephesus in Revelation that they had fallen from their FIRST LOVE, which is Christ Jesus. And He told them to repent, otherwise they would no longer be His church. We cannot go around saying it’s ok for people to put other things before Christ Jesus, like Bono does.
Again, a rock star can say something stupid without making the whole of rock music invalid.
Christians should be listening to and singing real worship music that only gives praise and honor to Jesus Christ. And that praise should come from the heart, NOT from a set of drums or a guitar.
Worship in all its forms amounts in some degree to dedication to God – is it not honoring Christ to practice one’s instrument, be it drums or guitar or whatever, to play music to express the emotions we feel and to help evangelize the lost world?
Should not everything we do be for the glory of God?
Psalm 9:2 …’I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.’
Psalm 28:7 …’The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.’
Now they’re just starting to echo me.
The purpose of Christian music is to praise the LORD. When we accept Jesus into our lives and give ourselves to Him, and obey God, He fills us with His Holy Spirit and we sing a ‘new’ song of salvation to Him … Psalm 40:3 …’And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.’ … So it isn’t something we have to work at, or create ourselves to keep up with the times, or with the world, it’s something that God puts in us, and it is a result of Him redeeming us. It shouldn’t be the music that enables our devotion and feelings of love toward God, we should already have those feelings in our hearts. No, praise toward God in music is merely part of our expression of love to Him.
This portion of the article implies that the melody of the heart has no expression in concrete, preexisting forms of music. By the same token, should the “new tongues” named in Mark 16 have no expression in preexisting sounds or words? Even if these words are simply “groans in the Spirit” as some say, that sound has root in vocal expression – which this passage seems to outlaw.
Ephesians 5:18-19 …’be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.’ … Did you catch that? Singing and making melody in YOUR HEART to the Lord. Our praise should come from the heart, NOT from the music that the church worship team, or the Christian musician or rock band are playing. I feel God has done this with me as I have stopped relying on the world and now rely only on Him. He has put a new song in my heart and I regularly walk around each day singing praises to Him, either quietly or out loud.
I am reminded of Augustine’s words in his work de doctrina Christiana against those who insist that they have the ability to interpret the Scriptures on their own without any instruction: “But now as to those who… boast that they understand and can explain Scripture without the aid of such directions… I would such persons… could calm themselves so far as to remember that, however justly they may rejoice in God’s great gift, yet it was from human teachers they themselves learned to read. For, as I am dealing with Christians who profess to understand the Scriptures without any directions from man… they must surely grant that every one of us learned his own language by hearing it constantly from childhood, and that any other language we have learned — Greek, or Hebrew, or any of the rest — we have learned either in the same way, by hearing it spoken, or from a human teacher.” It occurs to me that they desire that our “spiritual songs” have no connection to existing musical realities. I find myself unable to conjure the words to rebut this idea, as I sincerely find it to be so elementary and juvenile as to be below negation.
Are Christians really singing a ‘new’ song to God when they are listening to Christian rock music and secular music? What about all the Christian rock concerts that millions of Christians attend each year? Is God really being praised in these places? Or are the performers being praised more? Listen to what Keith Green had to say about this:
“Why do we idolize Christian singers and speakers? We go from glorifying musicians in the world, to glorifying Christian musicians. It’s all idolatry!! Satan is getting a great victory as we seem to worship these ministers on tapes and records, and clamour to get their autographs in churches and concert halls from coast to coast.” (Keith Green, ‘So You Wanna be a Rock Star’)
I am amused that they lovingly quote Keith Green as agreeing with their position, though he is in fact a Christian musician who plays “modern worship music.”
Think about this: Why is it that the covers of the CD’s of Christian artists have glorifying photos of themselves? Why are they trying to bring attention to themselves? Shouldn’t they step into the background so that Jesus gets all the glory? Afterall didn’t John the Baptist say in John 3:30 …’He must increase, but I must decrease.’ … We MUST NOT put ourselves in a position to take glory away from Jesus. But sadly, this is exactly what a lot of modern Christian musicians are doing.
Yes, Christian artists release albums and have photos of themselves on the covers. Or, there’s always those bands that don’t have photos of themselves on the cover. One cannot generalize such great lengths about Christian musicians. “Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.”
“Oh but modern Christian Rock music helps to reach out to the world.” No! The Word of God is to be used to reach out to the lost world, not worldly music with a few Christian words added in. If you think you need to reach the lost with music, then you are denying the power of God’s Word in the Bible, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Did Peter and the apostles need worship bands playing at the day of pentecost? No, they relied on the Word of God and the power of His Spirit.
“If you think you need to reach the lost with music, then you are denying the power of God’s Word in the Bible, and the work of the Holy Spirit.” It occurs to me that God’s Word is so powerful as to not be confined solely to words. Besides, are not lyrics set to music words? Are they not expressions of ideas linked to intangible concepts by way of vocalizations defined by a preconceived constellation of meaningful sounds? It occurs to me further that the Word of God can come in many forms, both “spoken” word, sung word, and “otherwise expressed word.” It seems that the author is in fact denying the power of the Word of God to reach a person via many avenues.
Up until a few years ago, I listened to and loved all kinds of music, including pop, dance and rock music. But then as I grew with Jesus, that love of worldly music was replaced with a ‘new’ song. My new desire was to praise God with all my heart and to only listen to real Christian melodies that gave glory and honor to God. If you are walking with Jesus each day and are growing in Him, then God will put a new song in your heart.
“There are a lot of bands out now who do not feel it necessary to speak about God or Christ.” (HM Magazine, Issue 67, p.26)
It seems that a lot of the modern Christian bands are more interested in pleasing man than God. This is a good reason to leave them alone and not listen to their music … Galatians 1:10 …’For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.’
“Oh, but the Bible doesn’t give any guidance to Christian music.”. Actually it does:
Ephesians 5:19 …’Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.’
Colossians 3:16 …’Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’
Ah, the argument from omission. Because the Bible doesn’t mention the instruments prominent in the present day, it clearly means to outlaw them. Better toss out that Internet server, lads. Oh, and the car. And just about everything else in the house, while we’re at it.
I think God is pretty clear in His Word about how we should worship Him in song. ‘With psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs’ from the heart. What does this mean? It means that our song should be full of praise and devotion to God, and it should come from the heart, and not need to rely on drums and guitars with a worldly beat and rhythm to get you going. We are to worship God in spirit and truth. It’s from the heart. Worldly music feeds the flesh, whereas true Christian music should feed the spirit. That’s why the world loves rock music, because it is carnal. But we who are Christ’s have ‘crucified the flesh’ and no longer walk in it, but now walk according to the Spirit. Notice in Ephesians 5 it says that we should make MELODY in our hearts to the Lord. Not mad rock rhythms and beats, but melody.
And before the author rebuts that the Internet server simply represents an evolution in communication by way of mail, and that the car is an evolution of the chariot, or even of “walking,” I propose that by the same logic, modern musical instruments are continued evolution of the musical instruments mentioned in the Biblical text.
“True Godly music will be composed of three elements, all in perfect balance with each other. They are melody, harmony and rhythm. Rock music has no melody, only fragments of melody endlessly repeated. Since there is no true melody, there is no real harmony. There is only rhythm. And rhythm in of itself is not music.” (Leonard J. Seidel, ‘Face the Music’ – Contemporary Music on Trial, pp 46-51.
Stop talking, Seidel.
It has been said that the fundamental riffs, licks, bass figures and drum rhythms that make rock and roll can ultimately be traced back to African music of a primarily spiritual or ritual nature. “In a sense, rock and roll is a kind of voodoo.” (Robert Palmer). This is why a drum is not mentioned in the Bible (King James Version), because the drum was a common worldly instrument used in Egypt and the lands around Israel.
“My true belief about rock and roll is this – I believe this kind of music is demonic. A lot of the beats in music today are taken from voodoo, from the voodoo drums.” (Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard, page 197)
So because drums have their origin in African voodoo, that makes them inherently evil? In that case, speedy Internet and video streaming are inherently evil because they were initially developed by the pornography industry. Music is a tool, as are the Internet and video streaming.
Will the majority of Christians hear this message and act upon it, according to the Word of God? Only if God touches their hearts. The sad fact is that the professing Christian of today will try and make excuses as to why they should be able to carry on in their old sinful ways, rather than basing their lives on the true Word of God in the Bible.
Should Christians listen to secular music? From the evidence, I would say no.
Is Christian rock music true worship and acceptable to God? I would say no. There is no benefit for the Christian to listen to secular rock music, and God calls us to be separate and live holy lives for Him. We need to worship God in spirit and truth. We need to stop mixing our Christian faith with the world and walk away from secular music, and allow God to put a ‘new’ song in us, and worship Him in spirit, from our hearts, not from the beat of a drum. Do some research yourself about rock music, you might be surprised what you find out!
I plead with you to give your all to Christ Jesus and worship Him in spirit and truth. Stop listening to secular rock, pop and dance music and let God put a ‘new song’ in your heart today. Search through this site to find the truth about being a TRUE disciple of Christ, and find out why this message is so urgent from the end times prophecy website.
Nice promotion tacked onto the end there. Anyway, as I have been writing this rebuttal over the last 2.5 hours in between bites of Christian pizza and sips of Christian sweet tea, I may have missed some points in rebuttal. You can be sure I’ll add them later when I remember them.