Toward a Biblical Understanding of Music, Part 4

drumset.jpgThe purpose of discussing “the beat” is to put to rest some of the myths surrounding the use of rhythm in music. The use of syncopation in music is a sensitive subject, and its discussion features prominently in the so-called “worship wars” that have enveloped western Christianity. There has been much manipulation and false teaching in this area. My brothers and sisters, I issue a call for honesty and clarity in this conversation, wrapped in a spirit of unity, despite our diversity in musical preferences.

PART FOUR: The Big, Bad Beat

I am indebted to Dr. Gregg Strawbridge’s valuable paper Music in the Bible & Music on the Radio, presented to the Evangelical Theological Society in 1998. Dr. Strawbridge’s writing helped to clarify many of these issues for me and I have restated many of his thoughts in this article. The arguments against contemporary music styles usually take one of two forms. The first form is that of aesthetic arguments. These arguments are largely a question of musical quality. While important, I am not addressing this argument in this article. Rather, I am interested in the ethical-metaphysical arguments, that speak to the inherent morality in a musical style or in musical elements, like the beat.

Some presuppositions:

1. Without rhythm, music ceases to exist. At its most basic level, music is sound (pitch) in time (rhythm). All music has rhythm, by definition.

2. The Bible does not address rhythmic patterns. It does show the use of rhythmic instruments. It does address the issue of skillfulness. It does call, at times, for a loud volume from rhythmic instruments in the praise of God. It does not, however, address rhythmic patterns, to my knowledge.

3. Because the Bible is silent in addressing rhythmic patterns, it falls into the category of “opinion” as delineated in Romans 14:1. As such, it is not to be an area of divisiveness or separation between believers. Each believer must be convinced in his own mind.

4. I do believe, as previously mentioned, that musical expression through a moral agent always communicates good or evil. The process of determining the moral nature of musical expression is subjective. Reductionism in musical evaluation is not a method I favor; however, because the “beat” has been such a large and loud topic of discussion in fundamental circles, I believe it is worthwhile to analyze the arguments that have been put forward to test their validity. In making my musical choices, however, I evaluate the whole musical “package” and not just the individual components of that package.

With these presuppositions in mind, let’s launch into the actual meat of this discussion. Hang on!


I. Bill Gothard

A. His teaching

1. Listening to Christian rock is “fellowship with demons.”

2. Rock music causes “a mix-up in the alpha waves between the two hemispheres of the brain, resulting in what some researchers call ‘switching.’ ‘Switching’ is a phenomenon which occurs in adult schizophrenics to produce regression to infantile, reptilian locomotion (where crawling is done with the same, rather than the opposite, arms and legs).”

B. His source

1. Behavioral kinesiology (Psychiatrist John Diamond)

2. The anapestic beat Diamond asserted that the anapestic beat (“da da DA”) caused muscle weakening, even up to a reduction of two-thirds.

II. Dr. Frank Garlock

A. His teaching

1. “The emphasis of most of contemporary sacred and secular music is on the rhythm. Rhythm is that part of music which elicits a physical response. Therefore, most of today’s music, secular and sacred, feeds and satisfies the self-seeking, self-centered, and self-worshiping part of man.”

2. Contemporary music styles consist of 75% rhythm.

3. “The part of music to which the spirit responds is the melody…the part of music to which your mind responds is the harmony…the part of music to which your body responds is the rhythm.”

B. His source

1. Dr. Garlock uses a good deal of Scripture in his presentations. I have learned many helpful things from his teaching. In this area, however, I see no alternative for the basis of his assertions on the beat other than…

2. The Gnostic heresy The Gnostic heresy taught that the physical part of man equalled the sinful part of man. By Dr.Garlock’s equating “physical response” with “the self-seeking, self-centered, and self-worshiping part of man,” It seems as if he is indeed espousing Gnostic teaching.


1. The argument against the anapestic beat is easily countered by a simple observation that every day, all across the country, people work out in gyms listening to loud, anapestic music. The muscles do not weaken. 

2. Garlock’s claim of 75% rhythmic content to contemporary music is unproven and unprovable. It is an assertion that is not supported with any facts. There is a great variance in all music as to the amount of “rhythm dominance.”

3. The connection of spirit-melody, soul-harmony, and body-rhythm is spurious. It is not taught anywhere in Scripture. Strawbridge asks, “Is it even possible to praise God with rhythm instruments like timbrels or cymbals since they make no melody and God is a Spirit? Percussionists are apparently doomed to the basement of the physical, sub-spiritual, even sinful part of man.”

4. To equate the physical part of man with the sinful part of man is biblically erroneous. There are so many refutations that I could post on this point alone that it could be a separate article. Let me just mention one verse that strikes Gnosticism dead in its tracks: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). The spirit/soul of a believer is impacted by the sinful nature just as the body is.

5. As Strawbridge correctly points out, opponents of contemporary music are more precisely opposed to rhythm-dominated music, not just rhythm in music. If rhythm is the problem, there would be no music, since all music must by definition contain rhythm.


I have heard two primary approaches to demonstrating that rhythm-dominant music is immoral and should not be used by Christians. There are a few others, such as the “rock beat goes against the natural rhythms in creation”; but I want to address the ones I believe to be the most widespread.

1. The Genetic Fallacy

a. The Fallacy

*This argument basically states that rhythm-dominant music is evil because it comes from a demon-worshipping origin. In Africa, this type of tribal music was closely associated with demon worship. It was brought over to this country by Negro slaves and slowly permeated our culture.

b. The Truth

*Historically, most of the slaves came from parts of Africa where the drum was not a significant instrument as Steve Lawhead points out in his book Rock Reconsidered.

*”Drums were almost never heard in black American music until well into the twentieth century. . . .As for the charge that rock’s rhythm is demon inspired, most people overlook the fact that in other places where New World slaves landed (Jamaica, Haiti, the islands of the West Indies) nothing close to rock ever evolved.” (Lawhead, 57-58)

*The rock beat has its origins, actually, in music like bluegrass and other more country-related genres.

*Even if “the beat” had a demonic origin, it is still a fallacy to insist that the bad origin makes the beat itself bad. R.C. Sproul has even said “The devil can make a cogent argument.”

*A biblical example against the genetic fallacy would be Psalm 93. As Ronald Allen points out in Worship Leader magazine, the psalm was “written with a conscious attempt both to glorify God and to debunk Baal. The manner of singing would be very similar to the manner of singing in the worship of Baal. But the point of the song was opposed to all that Baal was supposed to represent.”

2. The Imitation Fallacy

a. The Fallacy

*This argument is presented as follows: music imitates human emotion and action. Rock music imitates the act of sexual intercourse, which, outside of marriage, is immoral.

b. The Truth

*It is true that the culture of rock music is clearly focused on sexuality. We have all heard or read the statements of rock musicians saying that “Rock and roll is 99% sex.” It is also true that even the term “rock and roll” is a sexual innuendo.

*However, there is no basis, musically or biblically, to assert that the rock beat imitates the sexual act. In fact, I would argue that there is no standard sexual rhythmic pattern. Without getting too crass, I would also say that the sexual act could be performed quite nicely to any rhythmic pattern or even time signature. It works as well to the marches of John Philip Sousa as it does to the perverted temple of Dagon scene in the Samson and Delilah opera of Saint-Saens as it does to the Beatles’ Twist and Shout.

*I would argue that the appeal to sexuality in the rock culture has more to do with the lyrics of the song, and dress and gyrations of the performers than it does with the rhythmic pattern of the music.

*Although this is only my personal experience, I have NEVER been sexually aroused by listening to a song with a rock beat on a CD or radio. I’m talking about a song without lyrics, only the music. If the rock beat has an intrinsic immoral appeal, then it would follow that I would have experienced this tug in the music. I never have.

*I apologize for the specific nature of these statements. They are, however, the truth.

Remember, I am posting these articles in the hopes of good, constructive discussion. I do not claim to know it all and I am eager to learn from the wisdom of others. That is precisely the reason I have started these discussions with the word “toward”–because I am still learning and want to be as accurate as possible in this very sensitive area. Thanks in advance for your honest responses to this article.


51 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John on December 9, 2006 at 11:28 am

    very good article. Well backed up and supported. The candor is appreciated…


  2. Posted by Ewan on January 3, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Although this issue is not as nearly as ‘hot a potato’ in the UK as in North America, its good to hear some common sense in the article above.


  3. Posted by Rebecca on February 4, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    It’s so easy to believe the impassioned arguments against the “rock and roll” beat that demonize all, even Christian, rock music. But then I think about the songs I have listened to by Third Day, and how absolutely dedicated to God they are (with their rock music and their lives), and how their lyrics AND their beat help me worship our God – and I get confused.
    Your article is a very helpful, confusion-clearer. Thank you!


  4. Posted by Cahmbriel Ann on April 30, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    I am glad to see someone on the net who is speaking against the teachings of audacious men like Frank Garlock, a man who twists Scripture to his own meaning, and binds men with a heavy burden. He has no Biblical basis to say that God is only pleased with the style Garlock himself appreciates. Or to determine how much rhythm is okay. Not to mention, Garlock and his son in law, Ron Hamilton, entertain children with a crude series called “Patch the Pirate” which contains a character named “Wyatt Burp” and another called “Guido Hallitosi” and often focuses on rude or bad things. Are these the kind of men, the kind of teachers we should be following? This sort of thing comes from not following the Bible alone, or Sola Scriptura.


  5. Cahmbriel Ann,

    I want to clearly state that I am not an opponent of Dr. Garlock or Ron Hamilton. They are, in fact, both friends of mine and my wife’s family. I do hold to a different position on rhythm as I wrote in this article; however, much of what the Garlocks and Hamiltons have done in the realm of church music has been helpful and I greatly appreciate it. They are not enemies of mine or the Gospel’s.


  6. Posted by Cahmbriel Ann on May 26, 2007 at 7:38 am

    I only choose to follow the Bible above ALL else. Maybe Garlock does not specifically and directly attack the Gospel, but he creates his own additions of Scripture… The Bible warns us against following the traditions and doctrines of men…


  7. This is the article I’ve been looking for. I’ve never thought that rock music was inherently evil, and I look at all these big name Christian rock groups and I see that they’re as genuine and contrite of Christians as can be.


  8. Michael,

    Thanks for your comment. I do want to emphasize that this article was written about the beat, not about the rock music culture–much of which I believe to be corrupt.


  9. Posted by Stephen on February 26, 2008 at 9:08 am

    This is EXACTLY what I needed. My girlfriend and I have been raised by two totally different ideologies, one that supports Garlock as absolute truth (hers) and one that says Kutless, Third Day, and others are good (mine). Thank you for providing a good argument!


  10. Posted by A lost pilgrim on March 3, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    I can sympathize with Stephen. My former fiance held Garlock as being absolute truth, among many bizarre things that he and his family held to. In the end, because of so many unbiblical traditions in a family which claims to follow the Bible alone, he eventually ended the engagement. I am in no way saying Garlock is responsible, please understand. I am simply saying that men who teach unbiblical doctrines make huge messes, and the consequences are worse than they know!


  11. Posted by Gary on August 4, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Stephen and other rockers need to ponder the addictive, and destructive nature of some kinds of music. We all need to make a careful moral judgement regarding input to our senses and prepare to answer to God.

    The Profound Effects of Music on Life

    • College students temporarily improved spatial-temporal IQ scores by 8-10 points after listening to
    Mozart, when compared with relaxation music and no music. (1)
    • Preschool children given six months of keyboard instruction increased spatial-temporal IQ scores by an
    average of 46% over other supplemental instruction (singing, computer, free play). (2)
    • Human attitudes change with music; hostility, fatigue, sadness & tension decrease with classical and
    “designer” music, but dramatically increase with “grunge rock.”(3)
    • Plants exposed to classical music flourished while those exposed to rock and heavily percussive music
    were less healthy and turned away from the source of sound, many finally dying. (4)
    • Mice exposed to Strauss waltzes showed increased and orderly neuron development, while those
    exposed to “disharmonic” non-synchronized drum beats showed erratic and pathological growth of
    neurons. (5)
    •Rats exposed to Mozart music from before birth to 60 days old were able to learn mazes over twice as
    fast as those with no music, whereas rats exposed to repetitive “minimalist” music were unable to
    navigate mazes at all. (6)
    •Mice exposed for 3 weeks to Mozart were able to run mazes significantly faster than mice with no music,
    and mice exposed to other forms of music–70’s, 50’s, 90’s and “heavy metal” all performed worse than
    the control group. (7)


  12. Posted by Gary on August 4, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    I wouldn’t ride too hard on the ‘gnostic’ duality thing. I think the point of Garlock is that our carnality, our sensuality (“affecting any of the physical senses” ), our physical body are what heavily percussive music, or rock music affects, because it is designed to do that. Rock music is sensual by design (that is its purpose) and pulls the listener (consumer) toward an ever-increasing sensual experience, by design. This progression is observable on the macro scale of our culture, in churches, and in the single lives of many a listener. This progression has the marks of lust and physical addiction. In contrast, the goal of Christian music should be primarily spiritual, not sensual because “…they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Gal 5:24
    Good Christian music seeks our active spiritual involvement and participation (Eph 5:19), not a physical response or dependency. It is not something to be passively consumed for its own sake.

    Sensuality is easily confused for the spirituality. Sensuality is a substitute for spirituality in every false religion. While, in fact, they are in conflict with each other:

    “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
    Gal 5:17

    The Holy Spirit is not found in the sensual. Sensuality is a common, poor, subtle substitute for spiritual work. Rather than seeking to get ‘pumped up’, we should seek to be filled with the Spirit. (Eph 5:18) I propose that the rock music style is at odds with that intent, because rock music style is designed for a sensual affect. Therefore, based on Gal 5:17, I propose that it is wrong-headed to use this style for spiritual things.

    Regarding the Big, Bad Beat:
    The ‘beat’ is a physical, audible, sonic phenomenon that has its sensual affect increasingly with its prominence. Since we know that sensuality (“affecting any of the physical senses” ) is often the substitute for spirituality (affecting the heart, the inner man, etc…), the arguement is still valid: Percussive music styles that are meant to be loud are inherently more sensual, due to their percussive nature (striking versus, plucking, or bowing, or breath) . And amplified music is more sensual than non-amplified music to the extent that it is louder. The anapestic beat quality of the rock music style means that even soft rock intends an addictive, physical, sensual affect.

    We seek the wind, the fire, the earthquake, when we should be seeking the still, small voice because that is where the Lord is. 1 Kings 19:13


  13. Posted by PhilipT on August 5, 2009 at 6:26 am


    I had a few questions for you just to help clarify your arguments if you don’t mind.

    Are you arguing that any beat is sinful/sensual? If not, what kind of beat is sinful/sensual?

    Exactly what are you referring to by “rock” or “rock style” music (Nine Inch Nails…Josh Groban…Michael Jackson…Casting Crowns…Aerosmith…Keith and Krystin Getty…Carrie Underwood…Scott Joplin/Ragtime/Jazz)?

    I noticed that you defined sensuality as “affecting any of the physical senses.” You also noted that the Holy Spirit is opposed to sensuality. Would you then be arguing that anything that affects a physical sense is inherantly wrong?


  14. Posted by Gary on August 5, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    >>Would you then be arguing that anything that affects a physical sense is inherantly wrong?
    I was using a dictionary definition of sensuality: “affecting any of the physical senses.”
    Sensuality is not sinful but there seems to be endless scripture and example in the bible from Genesis to Revelation to generally say that appealng to our cravings is at enmity with making way for the work of the Holy Spirit. In the biblical record, man at his worst is found overcome with lust, sin and then death (i.e. David and Bathsheba).

    James 3:15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

    While man at his best is seen overcoming these lusts, walking by faith in God’s words (Isaiah: “Here am I, send me”), denying himself daily to some extent and seeking God.

    Therefore, we would argue against a church service offering beds instead of pews, encouraging the congregation to eat and drink during the praise and instruction, incorporating erotic acts into the Sunday morning hour, etc… These are not inherently sinful of themselves. They are not appropriate, not conducive to the spiritual nature of christian worship as reavealed in scripture.

    As an aside, did you ever wonder why the other fine ‘arts’ go begging in Biblical worship? Not much Bible endorsement of visual arts, dance, or theatre in church worship. Only God knows why. He decided that they were not explicitly appropriate in His worship. Music has a special place in God’s definition of sacred.

    >>what kind of beat is sinful/sensual?
    >>Exactly what are you referring to by “rock” or “rock style” music
    I’m not interested in deconstructiong rock music into its parts, except to notice that Bible worship emphasizes melody and singing. But there is a technical description of ‘rock beat’ that is distinct. Probably the back beat and/or the dominant percussive nature are two qualities that are common and prominent in the night club, dance hall, arena, strip club, stadium, brothel, blues, gospel, barroom roots of this genre.

    The creators of this genre had specific places and activities in mind when they make the music. Its design goals include some of these elements: sensual, catchy, sexual, repetitive, sensational, danceable, casual, vulgar, comfortable, shocking, rebelious, unrestrained, careless, dangerous, proud, rude, irritating, contrary, happy. They seem to always include a percussive prominence.

    What’s new is that we see ‘Christian’ worship imitating these places and activites accompanied by the same music. There is no historical precedent for this in the sacred music written for western civilization. The church was always the source, not the imitator with it’s own God-ward goals.

    Historically, sacred music was distinctly created for sacred places and activities. Bible words/goals for worship are: true, simple, pure, sanctifed, humble, sober, joyful, prayerful, peace, chaste, holy…
    [Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phil 4:8]. The bible rarely mentions percussion instruments

    Rock CCM has blurred this distinction. It is a ubiquitous substitute for its secular pedegree.
    But the punch is spiked and it will inebriate the consumer.

    ‘But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
    These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
    But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
    Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’ –Jude

    ‘Syncretism’ is the combination of different forms of belief or practice. It’s still in vogue. It still offends God.


  15. Posted by PhilipT on August 6, 2009 at 9:03 am


    I would take issue with several of your arguments for a number of reasons. First, your argument about sensuality and corporate worship seems to be problematic. It seems to me that you are arguing against fornication, drinking, and orgies in public worship because of a rather unclear basis…sensuality. Rather, I would argue against incorporating these items into public worship on a much clearer basis…Scripture. Fornication and orgies are forbidden in Ephesians 5:3; drunkenness is forbidden in Ephesians 5:18. Scripture should be our final rule of faith and practice. I did note that you appealed to Scripture in your argument against fine arts/acting in church services; however, your argument was an argument from silence (i.e. because the Bible does not say anything about _____, therefore ____ is good/bad). In fact, a number of things have been incorporated into the Church and worship over the years that are not specifically “permitted” in Scripture (Wednesday night service, Sunday School, the Youth Pastor, and church buildings…just to name a few). When arguing from Scripture, attempt to use the clearest passages rather than using unclear generalities or making arguments from silence.

    Secondly, your argument against rock music could use some refinement. To preface this, I must tell you that I do not listen rock music and would oppose most of what is referred to as CCM (I can clarify that position if you want me to).

    I used to argue against rock music based on its nature. Its nature, I supposed, was its backbeat and percussion vs. the melody and singing emphasized in Scripture (Eph. 5:19); however, that argument is flawed because I eventually came to realize that a number of classical pieces (in part or in whole) had an emphasis on the second and fourth beats (not to mention the questionable theory behind whether this musical construction is inherently sensual or sinful). Furthermore, I enjoyed listening to marching bands, but their music is very percussive. I am not aware of anyone that condemns marching band music because of its percussive nature. I had to conclude that just because music is percussive or has an emphasis on the off-beats cannot make it inherently wrong. I also found myself questioning my “contrast” of biblical music vs. rock music as that which emphasizes a melody (“making melody” – Eph. 5:19). Upon looking up this word in the original language, I found that the word is simply the Greek word “psallo” (lit. to sing Psalms). Because of the lack of Scriptural support (and some other reasons), my argument that all Christian music should emphasize melody fell flat.

    I also used to argue against rock music based on its origins (in fact, I held this argument the longest because it seemed the most tenable at the time). I had been told time and again that rock music was the worship music of the witch doctors and the hippies. I argued this to numbers of people who looked at me with blank stares. Eventually I realized that the cultural separation between modern America and 1800’s Africa, or the counterculture movement of the 60’s was vast. In fact, dare I say, that someone’s culture appears to create or eliminate certain issues as a moral “gray area.” A mission trip to the Caribbean brought this cultural difference to light. There I found Fundamental Baptist believers worshipping in a way quite different and, frankly, somewhat uncomfortable to me. I am told that this feeling is multiplied exponentially upon visiting churches in South America and Africa. Their culture does not view certain beats and instruments as sinful. There was a time in American culture when Christians, and even the average unsaved person, recognized rock music as the music of the hippie, the drug user, the dance hall, and the strip club; however, American culture has changed. Today some of the beats formerly associated with rock music are now associated with Disney movies, shopping in the mall, riding the elevator, or watching TV. This popular use of percussion and “backbeat” in casual and non-sinful environments has caused culture to no longer view these elements as part of a drug movement of hippies and rioters. The original uses of these “rock elements” have been undermined to a large degree and American culture is a witness to this. Therefore, is it my duty to try to convince someone that something that is no longer recognized as wrong in my culture and is not delineated as wrong in the Bible is actually wrong?

    I also used to argue against rock music based on its ecclesiological usage. I found it very easy to make a number of arguments against the use of CCM in church (repetitive and weak theology, syncretism, etc.). These arguments have varying degrees of effectiveness in arguing why certain kinds of CCM shouldn’t be used in the church, but none of them could provide a good reason why my brother in Christ should not put the music on his iPod. Even the strongest argument against the ecclesiological use of CCM, the argument based on appropriateness, does not effectively give an individual a good logical or Scriptural reason not to listen to CCM personally.

    Is our calling as Christians to choose elements of culture that are not considered sinful in that culture and attempt to prove why they are sinful based on weak arguments? I still maintain a few arguments that help me maintain a certain position on music, but do not attempt to enforce these on others because I am aware that they do not see certain things as sinful or wrong based on their upbringing or culture. At first, this conclusion scared me because I felt that I was opening a moral can of worms. Was I opening the door to moral fuzziness? No, as a matter of fact I have come to the opposite conclusion. I can hold positions with far more clarity because I do my best to stand on the clarity of the Word rather than on human tradition. Please don’t take this analysis as condescending or harsh. Believe me, I have papers and recorded speeches somewhere out there that ascribe to these and a number of other arguments similar to these. So, in no way do I look down on you. Please let me know if I can clarify or explain these points or if you feel I have made any of these points in error.


  16. Posted by robert on August 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    excellent dialogue. I, too, at one time condemned the “rock” music or the “ccm” (is that even the correct term for modern Christian music today? was it ever? what if I recently set a passage from Isaiah to an antiquated piano piece – would that not be Contemporary Christian Music? Titles and phrases are tricky things – especially in a culture like ours that words change meanings so often. The purpose in this conversation (and no other Christian convo.) is not to split hairs on what is or isn’t [insert genre name]; it is to try to determine what is Godly and not by “testing the spirits.”

    What I (personally) cannot get past is the large degree of difference there has been in my life since my “fundamental,” anti-percussive days to now. Not to say that the music is to blame at all, but I have felt such an intimate communion with God at times as I worshiped within the context of “rock,” percussive, and LOUD music that I rarely or never felt when I sang my 3-stanza (skip from 2nd to 4th verse), 3 chorus, tagged church hymns to grand piano. That, of course, is a personal testimony that cannot be used to prove anything. However, it started me on a grand journey of “well if this is really so wrong . . .”

    “but none of them could provide a good reason why my brother in Christ should not put the music on his iPod.”

    God is not the author of confusion. To approach Christian music with this mindset that, “this selection of Christian music is for easy listening after work, this is okay as long as it is on the news channel and I get more news than music, this station is okay while I’m in the car, this music is for when . . . etc., and THIS is what I listen to in church!” Are we still so much children of the the Pharisees that we must tax our life down with extra rules that cause us to live double lives?

    The idea of sensual vs. spiritual – we are again dividing ourselves. When God created mankind after HIS own image, he did not create only spiritual beings – they had physical bodies. When Adam and Eve sinned, God did not then give them flesh (or sensuality), He only covered some of it. That being said, we I’m sure agree that humans are triune just like God (obviously not quite in the same way, though) – body, soul, and spirit. Jesus told us to worship the Father in more than that – our body, soul, spirit, & strength. I do believe that is a command to worship Him [even with our sensuality].


    • Posted by Gary on August 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm

      >>The idea of sensual vs. spiritual – we are again dividing ourselves.
      No, we’re not doing the dividing, God has spoken divisively on the subject:

      “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” -Jude


  17. Posted by Gary on August 6, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    You take issue with several of my arguments. Which ones?
    If my ‘argument against rock music could use refinement’ then take any sentences that I have written and refine or refute them. That would be helpful.

    I made it clear that sensuality is not necessarily sin, didn’t I? I did provide some scripture that mentions sensuality so that you could understand the need for concern as a biblical one. You can struggle with whether sensuality equals sin or not, but that’s not my belief. I haven’t labeled anything sin in anything I’ve posted here. That includes rock music.

    I never mentioned fornication, alcohol or orgies, did I? Nor did I mean those when I said bed, food, erotic. I was thinking about basic things that appeal to our physical senses: sleep, eat, sex. We design a building for Christian worship around a different objective — a place for spiritual growth and enrichment — not for sleeping, eating, or sex.

    My basic premise is that rock music is sensual, on purpose, and that there’s a conflict between the sensual and spiritual clearly described throughout the Bible.

    Maybe listening to the lyrics in the song “In Christ”, by Living Sacrifice will help clarify the conflict described in the Bible:

    Here’s the refrain:

    I am in Christ the son of God
    I am in Christ no longer condemned
    I am in Christ the son of God
    I am in Christ


  18. Posted by PhilipT on August 6, 2009 at 9:43 pm


    I apologize if I conveyed that there should be a difference between what an individual can listen to and what can/should be sung in church. The point I was trying to make is that I used to have what seemed like a lot of nifty arguments about why a church shouldn’t use a certain type of music, but I found that those reasons did not even come close to applying to individuals. Because of that, I have come to reevaluate those arguments very seriously.

    I also agree that there is no difference between the secular and the sacred. The believer’s walk should be one sacred devoted life to God (Tozer does a good job at addressing this in Pursuit of God); however, I still am pondering the relationship between what I feel free to listen to as a believer and what is appropriate/expedient (I Cor. 6:12) for a worship environment.


    I misunderstood your meaning in the first section. Eating food, drinking water, sleeping, and sex are all natural human desires that are good in their own proper place and time.

    It appeared that in the other segment that you were arguing against rock style music mostly based on its origins and nature, so I attempted to provide an analysis of my similar arguments; however, as you stated, I must really not be getting your argument at all then. Would you be saying that:

    A. Sensuality (that which affects a physical sense) is natural and is not a sin.
    B. Consumption with sensuality is in conflict with being spiritual.
    C. Rock-style music leads the listener to be increasingly more consumed by sensuality.

    If this be the case, the unstated conclusion is that someone cannot be spiritual (walking in the Spirit) and listen to rock music. Not walking in the Spirit is the same as walking in the flesh which is a sin; therefore (a further unstated conclusion), listening to rock music is sinful.

    Am I correct in understanding your argument in that manner?

    Whether or not this is your argument, I think we need to also examine the terms we use in order to be on the same playing field. For example:

    “Sensual” – Jude 19 and James 3:5 render the Greek thus in the KJV. The underlying word (psuchikos) is also found in I Cor. 2:14; 15:44, 46 (rendered “natural” in the KJV). The NT usage of the word is always contrasted another term (“Spirit” being the most common). The contrast that the Bible consistently draws between the “sensual” man and the “spiritual” man is not that one is more or less dominated by normal human desires, but rather that one is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and one is not. In essence this term refers to depraved humanity. The Biblical term “sensual” describes the currently natural and sinful state of the human soul prior to salvation.


    • Posted by Gary on August 7, 2009 at 10:55 pm

      >PT>I misunderstood your meaning in the first section. Eating food, drinking water, sleeping, and sex are all natural human desires that are good in their own proper place and time.

      More specifically that they are counterproductive in the times and places we sanctify for worship. We struggle with these in our fallen humanity. (“If anyone hungers let him eat at home”)

      >PT>It appeared that in the other segment that you were arguing against rock style music mostly based on its origins and nature,

      -No, I was attempting to make it clear that rock music in its origins or roots is all about sensuality. This is well documented. I think it is relevant.

      >PT>so I attempted to provide an analysis of my similar arguments; however, as you stated, I must really not be getting your argument at all then. Would you be saying that:

      >PT>A. Sensuality (that which affects a physical sense) is natural and is not a sin.

      -Sensuality may tempt us to lust. Lust bears a fruit, which is sin. Sin causes death. (Jas 1:15)

      >PT>B. Consumption with sensuality is in conflict with being spiritual.

      -Sensuality as a pursuit and a lifestyle is not walking in the Spirit or being filled by the Spirit. It would be closer to Hedonism.

      >PT>C. Rock-style music leads the listener to be increasingly more consumed by sensuality.

      -Rock music is intentionally habit forming. Achieving the same buzz requires increasing the strength of the dose over time. It makes loyal listeners.

      >PT>If this be the case, the unstated conclusion is that someone cannot be spiritual (walking in the Spirit) and listen to rock music. Not walking in the Spirit is the same as walking in the flesh which is a sin; therefore (a further unstated conclusion), listening to rock music is sinful.

      -This progression is were we differ. My point is that the sensual appeal of this style of music makes it counterproductive as a spiritual medium. So rather then sinful, I’d prefer words like impotent, conflicted, ineffective, butting heads, or ‘contrary’ as Paul said:

      “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
      Gal 5:17

      >PT>Am I correct in understanding your argument in that manner?
      -I guess not, because you seem intent on labeling everything either sinless or sinful and I’m not doing that. There are other measurements, for instance: See then that ye **walk circumspectly, not **as fools, but **as wise Eph 5:15

      >PT>Whether or not this is your argument, I think we need to also examine the terms we use in order to be on the same playing field. For example:

      “Sensual” – Jude 19 and James 3:5 render the Greek thus in the KJV. The underlying word (psuchikos) is also found in I Cor. 2:14; 15:44, 46 (rendered “natural” in the KJV). The NT usage of the word is always contrasted another term (”Spirit” being the most common). The contrast that the Bible consistently draws between the “sensual” man and the “spiritual” man is not that one is more or less dominated by normal human desires, but rather that one is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and one is not. In essence this term refers to depraved humanity. The Biblical term “sensual” describes the currently natural and sinful state of the human soul prior to salvation.

      -Well now most of the places in the N.T. where this topic (sensuality, flesh, worldliness) is covered are admonishing believers, so I disagree with you that only unbelievers are sensual or given over to sensuality. Paul described the believers at Corinth as ‘carnal’. James 3:5 is warning believers about sensuality.
      When Paul tells the Christians at Galatia to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” he is showing that it is possible for saved people to not walk in the Spirit and fullfill the lust of their flesh instead.

      -To be ‘dominated by normal human desires’ is to be lustful. Lusts are normal human desires that have become unhealthy desires which may lead to sin and death.


  19. Posted by PhilipT on August 9, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Are you saying that rock music is a natural desire of humanity or that it leads to other natural desires?


    • Posted by Gary on August 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm

      PhillipT, I’m not sure what you are asking. My comment about your comment about ‘dominated by normal human desires’ was referring to the clear progression described in James 1:14 15

      “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
      Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

      So my point is that things in this world, like rock music, that are intentionally designed to appeal to my flesh, are predisposed to lead into the progression described in James 1:14, 15

      You seem reticent to:
      1. accept the sensual nature of this style of music
      2. agree that sensuality inclines us toward lust, as described in the Bible.

      “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Galatians 6:7-8

      It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)” -Mick Jagger

      Maybe a helpful analogy would be looking for prohibitions on smoking in the Bible. Exactly where does it tell us not to smoke in the Bible? No where. But we observe its effects and draw valid conclusions and convictions from scriptural principles and even tell people not to smoke:

      The reason I feel compelled to debate this is not so much the sensual or addictive qualities of rock music, since there are many things in the world that people and cultures use for self-gratification. (Google ‘nicotine’, for instance.) But rather that, this self-gratification is used in reference to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Bible that call us to seek the opposite of self-gratification — self-denial. We Americans don’t use peyote for our worship experience, like the natives, we use donuts and/or rock music instead.

      Some people roll their own cigarettes and smoke them. Some people roll Jesus Christ into their aural drug of choice and ‘smoke’ Him, and offer Him to others to take a ‘hit’, because ‘Jesus really rocks!’ (I suppose a better analogy would be intravenous drug == iPod CCM)

      As a result, we confuse the emotional and physical buzz of ‘Christian’ rock with the Holy Spirit’s power to do a spiritual work in us. This confusion has a deceitful nature to it that is unbecoming to the holy God we seek to worship. Are we seeking God or an experience?

      I wonder, does Israel Houghton ever experience ‘worship burn out’? Does his audience?


  20. Posted by robert on August 25, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    While it is a difficult task to use one person to help substantiate your claims, I believe you found a good one – Israel. While I actually know little about his man, I have seen a few videos, read some lyrics, and sung some of the songs that he wrote. “Lord, You are good and Your mercy endures forever . . .” Obviously not an original phrase, but definitely a good line for a hymn!

    I’m unsure why you mentioned him – whether you are a fan or if you were questioning his methods. As far as his music – I don’t think anyone would really categorize it as “rock.” His methods – excitement, pushing the crowd to their limit, encouraging people to sing, shout, even dance in praise – definitely Biblical. Reminds me of a few worship leaders in the book of Psalms.

    I’d say really what this whole discussion boils down to is how much of ourselves are we going to give to God. I understand how much easier it is to encourage a congregation (or limit them) to only listen to music without certain syncopated or anapestic beats or without certain leading instruments. Surely that will keep them more focused on “what matters” and will not excite their lusts. But the problem is, that sounds a little too much like the Pharisees who would tax the religious people down with extra rules to “help” them keep them commandments of God. The result was only restriction and confusion.

    Music – by its character – touches the senses. It is more than rhyming lyrics, more than musical notes and tonal frequencies, more than a 4/4 or 6/8 beat . . . while certain people in history have tried to rip music of parts of its character, it cannot be done. Furthermore, music (and everything that makes it up) was given to us by God. It is narrow-minded to only accept a certain genre (or exclude another).

    The main point – God wants us to love Him with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (body). To not worship God with those things (including our bodies, senses, all that is physical about us) is disobedience or the sin of witchcraft.


    • Posted by Gary on September 2, 2009 at 10:03 am

      robert (and all)
      You still seem reticent to:
      -1. accept the sensual nature of this style of music (and in Israel Houghton’s performance, we’ll thrown in his light show, telling crowd to scream, etc… along with the music). It’s all quite intentional, ‘pushing’ as you say. I’m suggesting that the show is not intentionally spiritual, because according to scripture, sensual and spritual are mutually exclusive. You must reckon with this Bible truth and make unpopular (i.e. “narrow-minded”) decisions about music and worship that is supposed to be spiritual.

      -2. agree that sensuality inclines us toward lust, as described in the Bible.

      Like it or not, the Bible, not this blogger speaks clearly about these issues of carnality, sensuality, worldliness, purity, holiness, sanctity and music is as much a part of it as any other form of human expression. You and Israel Houghton will both answer for your respect of God’s standard, and ‘anything goes’ has never been acceptable to Him.

      Exodus 32:18 is an example of what is musically unacceptable to Him.

      The onus is on you to discern what is sensual and reject it. Especially when our Holy God is the subject of the music. The scriptures have issued the warning, you must heed it.

      >>Furthermore, music (and everything that makes it up) was given to us by God. It is narrow-minded to only accept a certain genre (or exclude another).

      No, it is clear, informed thinking to accept or exclude certain a genre of music, just as much as we would accept or reject certain genre of teaching in a N.T. church — based on what God has told us about Himself, what He is trying to accomplish, and what is acceptable to Him.

      “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing **with the understanding also**.” 1 Cor 14:15


      • Posted by robert on September 4, 2009 at 12:20 pm

        it is interesting that you mentioned Exodus 32:18. I’m unsure of what you mean, though, that this is evidence of music that is unacceptable to God. In this passage, Joshua and Moses heard the “noise of people shouting” as they descended the mountain. Joshua thought that it sounded like the sound of war; obviously he could not hear anything detailed. As they neared the camp, Moses could tell more of WHAT the shouts were saying or HOW the people were shouting. He could tell from the shouts that it was not the sound of victory or defeat and therefore wasn’t war. Then he could tell that it was actually singing (not shouting) that they heard. God’s view on these events is not described here in this passage, but we do see that Moses was angry. However, Moses did not get angry at the noise (when he thought it was shouting), the volume of the people’s voices (evidently they were loud!), or the singing itself. Moses got angry (vs. 19) when he saw the calf and the dancing. From this Scripture we can only conclude that he was angry because of either the idol or the dancing. Moses did not stop the dancing itself (I’m sure people stopped and stared at him, though!), he took the calf and burned it, etc. So what was the sin here? why did Moses get angry? He explains it to God in vs. 31 – “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made for themselves *gods of gold* . . .”

        Scripture does say about what music IS acceptable to God, though, in Psalm 150, “Praise him with the . . . trumpet . . . harp . . . lyre . . . tambourine . . . dancing . . . strings . . . flute . . . cymbals . . . (with emphasis) resounding cymbals.” All four musical groups – strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion (with resounding percussion!)

        Then David sums it all up – “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”


  21. […] thoughts about worship By hamp52 I have many more thoughts about this topic – but here are some things that I wrote on a forum discussing a couple viewpoints about worship.  The forum is at the bottom of: […]


  22. Posted by PhilipT on September 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I’ve been away for awhile, but I wanted to drop by again and ask another question of Gary if he doesn’t mind (I apologize if my questions are getting annoying…). I guess I would like to ask the following question: how exactly is rock music (for lack of a clearer term) more sensual (using your definition of sensuality) than other genres of music? In other words, what specifically makes it more sensual than other styles of music; its words, its beat, its history, its culture, its purpose, etc.? Thanks. –Phil


    • Posted by robert on September 8, 2009 at 10:23 am

      I would like to know this, too:
      I am in agreement with the concept of there is a lot of “Christian” music or “Christian” singers (wow – that word is overused!) that are not God-centered – they are centered on the music itself, the beat, the singer, etc. If we condemn a certain genre of music, whether it be Hip-Hip, Reggae, Rock, or the impossibly broad, “CCM,” which genre or type of style IS right? Were the believers of centuries ago correct when they tried to rip fluctuations of pitch and rhythm from their praise and worship music?


      • Posted by Gary on September 8, 2009 at 4:12 pm

        John Van Gelderen:
        It should be noted that all music in a believer’s life must be holy (i.e. set apart) unto God. I Peter 1:15 commands, “be ye holy in all manner of conversation”, which is a broad word describing lifestyle or way of life. Therefore, whether secular or sacred, all music in a believer’s life should be holy unto God. This allows for two legitimate categories of music: (1) Aesthetic Music – music based on God’s standards of law, order, and design, and, therefore, beautiful because it reflects the principles of the Word of God through musical message [sound only] but not through lyrical message (2) Christian Music – aesthetic music with the lyrical message of the Word of God.

    • Posted by Gary on September 8, 2009 at 4:02 pm

      >Phillip> how exactly is rock music (for lack of a clearer term) more sensual (using your definition of sensuality) than other genres of music?

      This is a difficult question. There is no lack of information that tells us that rock music is sensual (decades of experience with the rock music – cultural phenomena, consensus from crowds of rock musicicans and songwriters and consumers, etc…)

      What *exactly* makes it sensual? Try to answer that with any kind of human expression and you will see the difficulty of precision: Are some kinds of clothing women wear sensual? Yes. Is a bikini sensual? Yes. What exactly makes it this way? What kinds of women’s clothing are sensual and what kinds are not? Certainly, the designer has very significant input into this. The woman wearing the clothes has some input into its sensuality. The person looking at the woman has some say in the sensuality. But we draw general conclusions and make decisions about what our wife or daughter should wear as a moral decision, knowing that God asks them to dress with modesty. And everyone should condemn the bikini as more sensual than other women’s clothes.

      Here are two lectures that explore rock music’s addictive and destructive qualities.
      The Profound Effects of Music on Life (lectures one and two)

      You can read accounts og the physical effects of rock music in other christian books like
      “Can We Rock the Gospel?”
      Where they make a brief attempt in the third chapter, presenting the following three principles as being true of rock music:

      ◦Constant repetition. This repetition is dangerous because of the potential hypnotic effect of repetitive music.
      ◦A driving beat. “The backbeat dominates in most rock music songs, hard, soft or otherwise.” ◦Volume. “We need not waste time proving that volume is an important element in rock music.”

      Dr. Paul Jones, organist and choirmaster of Tenth Presbyterian church has a book that took the time to answer the question of what role music plays in worship. His new book is “Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today” and it really is a gift to the church.

      A good quote pro-hymn from a blogger: …you look at music as something subjective. This is where I disagree. Is the Grand Canyon’s beauty subjective? It may be in the sense of an individuals personal preference, but its beauty is not determined by that criteria. Most everyone would agree that the Canyon is breath takingly beautiful. It is beautiful not because we say it is beautiful , but because it is . You may personally like or dislike it , but you are not the judge. It has already been judged, so you as the viewer become the one who is judged. Now some people view that a person urinating on a cross is beautiful also. But does that make it so? Of course not , unless you wish to say that God’s attributes such as beauty , goodness and truth are subjective. This is exactly the route that pro-pop music folks wish to use. We do not define beauty. God does. Rock music was not initially consecrated for worship. Old hymns for the most part were. They did not borrow from the world a form of music but made their own style that concentrated the mind on what was being said and not on the beat/rhythm of the music. It has been judged by time and not by the whims and fancies of the present generations.


  23. Posted by Gary on September 8, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    >Robert>I’m unsure of what you mean, though, that this is evidence of music that is unacceptable to God.

    Read all of Exodus 8 and then read 1 Cor 10:7, 8 “…and fell in one day three and twenty thousand”
    The worship was clearly unacceptable. I will not seperate the music from the worship. The bible calls worship music a ‘sacrifice of praise’:

    Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Hevbrews 13:15

    All the scriptures on worship continually emphasize singing.


  24. Posted by hamp52 on September 8, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    In your comments on beauty you said, “We do not define beauty. God does.”

    That is an interesting concept – I asked questions about this in college. According to research, some cross-cultural characteristics that are attractive or beautiful are symmetry, baby-like “cute” features, and several other things. Despite these few similarities, though, culture and personal preference plays a huge part in perceiving attractiveness. There are certain things, like good hygiene, great body language/image, and physical fitness, that people perceive as beauty even if the face of a person is not necessarily attractive. Then there are people who fall “in love” for whatever reason and look past physical beauty and see internal beauty. Furthermore, there are blind people who see a whole different world of beauty in someone. Humanly speaking, then, it is really not possible to say who/what is beautiful or not. The only standard we can use is what God said about His creation; it is all “good.” I personally came to the conclusion that the only thing “ugly” in this world is the absence of God – sin. When sin is in something or someone, it or they lose beauty. God first created music in its entirety. No one has yet come out with an instrument or effects pedal or amplification device that God said, “oh yah – I didn’t think of that.” Everything has a place and a purpose. Then in Psalm 150, we are given a pretty broad list of what musical instruments are acceptable to God. Then Peter has a dream in Acts that God reveals a new idea of freedom in Christ. Then in 1 Corinthians 10, we find out that all things are permissible and even beneficial (in it’s right place). What ties it all together? What are we doing with it? Are we using the taxi-cab yellow Fender “fat” Strat, marshall 2×12″ amp, and line 6 FX pod (obviously what I have) or the $250,000 Quimby Pipe Organ with over 1,000 pipes FOR GOD?

    Not to pick apart the things you say, I hate being that person, but I simply do not agree with some of your comments on rock music –

    “Constant repetition. This repetition is dangerous because of the potential hypnotic effect of repetitive music.”
    1. Not all rock music has constant repetition. As a matter of fact, few modern rock songs have much repetition. Hip hop, on the other hand, has an unlimited supply of it.
    2. There is an important purpose for repetition. Encourage memorization, promote learning, simplify the song enough for reflection, and for emphasis of a certain idea. God has not gifted me (yet) with the gift of songwriting, but I do have some talent for arranging, and I am personally critical of the songs that I lead a congregation to sing. Sometimes to repeat a line or multiple lines in a song can separate songs that are just a bunch of words and notes and songs that touch the soul. Consider the psalms – we find quite a bit of repetition in his praises and prayers to God. Whether it can produce a hypnotic effect or not I’m no expert – but I imagine you would have to repeat something quite a few times in order to do that.
    3. Show me a rock song with repetition and I will show you one of the old “hymns” (again what an overused, out of context word) that has just as much repetition.

    “A driving beat. ‘The backbeat dominates in most rock music songs, hard, soft or otherwise.'”
    The backbeat – otherwise known as syncopation or a regular accent of the even number beats (2 & 4 in a 4/4 timed song). Every song, regardless of genre, has a beat. Different types of beats or time signatures point to different eras of music. The 4/4 signature (very commonly used in most Western music in the last century at least) is easy to recognize and easy to follow, especially lyrically. To accentuate a certain part of that rhythm (the 1 & 3 or the 2 & 4) especially helps the majority of people (who may not have the musical giftings of Brahms or Mozart) participate in a musical piece. Which is more important for a congregation – perform a hymn with a complex time signature and several modulations that requires the use of a 20-piece orchestra/band or play a simple arrangement of a hymn using 3 or 4 instruments (including some sort of percussion to keep time)? Which will a modern-day congregation be able to connect to and sing praise to God?

    “Volume. ‘We need not waste time proving that volume is an important element in rock music.'”
    Every possible genre of music (to be effective) utilizes volume. There are times in any song to be calm or have a lower volume and there are times to be loud and increase volume, or crescendo. It is equally as important in classical music as modern CCM, if you will. I normally do not hear much fluctuation of volume in bluegrass music, however, which is why much of it sounds identical (that and most of it is in the key of G major). Many songs are loud in volume for emphasis of the lyrics or a certain emotion that is being portrayed (anger, love, fear, etc.). It is interesting to me how many times in Scripture we are encouraged or told to “shout” or “lift up your voice.” I must say, I do not shout enough!

    Is that why some churches sing the verses of “Just as I am” 700 times during an invitation?

    I must say, I love music and I love worshiping God with it. I have many questions about what is right and wrong and that is why I’m here messing around on this blog. However, so far I feel that God has led me to the conclusion: God first created music – it should be used for Him and evil. All of it. End of story.


    • Posted by Gary on September 9, 2009 at 9:05 am

      You’ve taken these quotes out of context. They are excerpts from “Can We Rock the Gospel” By attempting to define what ‘parts’ of rock music are sensual, I was attempting to answer Phillip’s question:
      >Phillip> how exactly is rock music (for lack of a clearer term) more sensual (using your definition of sensuality) than other genres of music?
      I don’t think these characteristics of rock music (repetition, beat, and volume) are moot.

      Your thought about “all things are beneficial” is a mistake. All things are *not* beneficial:
      23All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

      That is why we debate this. Music with God’s name on it must be beneficial, edifying, etc…

      As far as your ‘end of story’, God also created methamphetamine and whiskey — it’s not clear that any benefits they offer outweigh the total destruction they wreak on people and society and their chemically addictive qualities raise the issue Paul raised abut being ‘mastered’ by something. We are hard-pressed to see similar symptoms with 300 years of church music. It’s easy to see the similarities with one generation of rock music and the company it keeps.

      Terry Hamilton:
      Why doesn’t the world use traditional Christian musical styles to communicate its message? It is because our music is not consistent with their message. They would be foolish to use music that is contradicting what they are trying to promote. Music offered to God doesn’t appeal to the flesh. It appeals to the spiritual side of man. Their music does not complement our message of a Holy God. Strangely, it is mostly Christians who want to believe in the neutrality of music.

      Neutral?…there’s an unending stream of evidence to the contrary.


  25. Posted by Gary on September 10, 2009 at 8:07 am

    “Music is not “Nice””
    By Andrew Pudewa

    Why would some musical structures enhance intelligence while others clearly injure the brain? Two factors seem to be involved: repetitiveness and persistent syncopation.

    …we must pray and consider the role of music in
    worship. Is it right to use intrinsically disordered (persistent, syncopated rhythmic dominant) music in a place where our goal is to become more in tune with spiritual truth?


  26. Posted by robert on September 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I should have worded that better, but I said, “Then in 1 Corinthians 10, we find out that all things are permissible and even beneficial (IN ITS RIGHT PLACE)”

    “We are hard-pressed to see similar symptoms with 300 years of church music.”
    What are the symptoms, then, of pre-CCM worship music or pre-rock church music? Has the church lost it’s fire now that we are not limited to a 400 page “hymn-book”? I would say not! As a matter of fact, the many churches that have lost their joy and rapture ARE those churches that still put their faith in their traditional songs.
    Let’s look back at Charles Wesley who felt called by God to change the way people worshiped God through music because the music had become stale and routine. Of course many people criticized his music and thought it worldly or fleshly, but a century later people are clinging to it in the same hand as their Bible. God is not changing, but God is moving and working! It would be best not to be left behind.

    “Is it right to use intrinsically disordered (persistent, syncopated rhythmic dominant) music”
    I wouldn’t really say that it is “intrinsically disordered” – I’d say quite the opposite. A main reason for much of the music in the past several decades has been written because of an appeal for SIMPLICITY and order in their music (praise choruses, 3-chord songs). Funny thing is, many people have gotten tired of that and are not producing much more complicated worship songs – ahh what a vicious cycle.
    This question – “Is it right . . .” Well, is it wrong? Depends on who you ask, right? The only way it could be wrong is if God deems it so because logically and musically it is not wrong. Did God say it was wrong?

    “Music offered to God doesn’t appeal to the flesh.”
    Of course it does. All music from classical, orthodox, rock, gospel, bluegrass, etc. etc. etc. appeals to the flesh in some way. Whether it makes you feel good, angry, sleepy, or whatever it appeals to the flesh. John Piper explains that Christians should be “Hedonists” – in the fact that we find our ABSOLUTE pleasure and satisfaction in God. God does not want us to get nothing in return for serving Him – no joy, no happiness, no satisfaction. He delights in us and wants us to delight in Him. He gave us physical bodies that respond to music in both physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual ways. It is interesting that no instruments are mentioned in the N.T. (in regards to church worship). However, Paul says to worship the Father with Psalms (scriptural songs), Hymns (not era-specific Christian music but praise songs to God – which is what many of our modern praise songs ARE), and spiritual songs (which is what most of our 19th and 20th century church songs are). The body of believers that we belong to across the world (the universal church) worships God in many different forms with many different instruments and many different genres. From what I hear, the most worshipful atmosphere many people have ever been in is in Africa where all the have are some djembe drums and love for God – no Steinways or Yamahas, no pipe organs or handbells, no guitars or upright basses, just something to keep rhythm – and they praise God with everything in them. We in American churches hold back like abused, children – afraid of letting loose and showing love to our Father because we’re afraid of doing something wrong, or that someone will see us; still suffering from being hurt by our sinful nature. I understand that some people (like Dan Lucarini, Why I Left The Contemporary Christian Music Movement) are stained mentally by their past life that they have difficulties praising God with rock music or country-styled music (which is the un-syncopated, non beat-dominant modern alternative). They are in bondage and only Christ can set them free. But for people like me and many people I know, have never felt closer to God in worship (having experienced many different environments) than at a time where they were singing praises to God accompanied by a drum set, bass, rhythm keyboard, guitars and a room full of Christians with their hearts turned towards God.


  27. Posted by Gary on September 10, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Regarding ‘pre-rock church music’: I disagree with your derision about the music of the last 300 years. I don’t think that our spiritual forbearers missed out on anything spiritually due to their music. My point was that the attitude of unrestraint you value in rock music for worship has already shown bad fruit in our society at large within our own generation, a short span of time. And if we look at broad-based statistics on declining church attendance in America, things look pretty bleak across the board (read the book “Already Gone”, for more info).

    Regarding Charles Wesley:
    Go to the United Methodists for an explanation about Charles Wesley’s hymnody and you’ll find that Wesley agreed with what I am saying (see section entitled “What About Today?”). He would have no association with the world’s music.,627,628

    Regarding “intrinsically disordered” music:
    You’d have to listen to the music in Andrew Pudewa’s lecture to make any relevant comments. I recommend it.

    Regarding Terry Hamilton’s quote:
    “Music offered to God doesn’t appeal to the flesh.” I’m sure he was referring to the many biblical exhortations to abstain from fleshly lusts that war against our soul. We should not forget that the apostle Paul also said, “Do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.” So Terry was just stating the obvious: If we would worship God in spirit and truth, musically (which He commands), our worship music should not appeal to the flesh (which He forbids). So you’ll have to sort out God’s clear concern with “the flesh” with your own choices, including music selection.


  28. Posted by robert on September 11, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Charles Wesley said, “Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature.”

    – nice! good words!

    Forgive me. Although it appears that Charles Wesley revolutionized “hymnody,” I meant Isaac Watts: when Isaac whats was a young man, he complained of the bad quality of writing in the metrical Psalters of his day. His father promptly challenged him to do better, and he undertook the effort. That’s what I meant when I said, “Charles Wesley . . . who felt called by God to change the way people worshiped God through music because the music had become stale and routine.”

    I thought this was very interesting (

    “There appears to have been little hymn writing between Roman times and the reformation , when, in the Lutheran church, the writing of Chorales, often based on the psalms became popular . . . The Calvinist church had . . . metrical settings of the psalms. . . it was not until Isaac Watts published a book of hymns in 1707 . . . that hymn books as such began to appear. An English church music tradition may have existed in cathedrals and some larger city parish churches, where no doubt the settings of the liturgy of Byrd, Tallis, Purcell, and other 16th and 17th century composers may have been heard, but church music generally, and hymn singing especially were generally unheard in the majority of ordinary churches.”
    So singing praise “songs” to God in church is (as far as the modern church is concerned) is still a relatively new thing – I know Gary that you mentioned 300 years, but I didn’t know why you picked that date – now I know. I’m sure it would be an interesting study how much music changed from century to century, though. We see change so stinking fast these days because as soon as someone writes a new song and posts it on the internet, the majority of the world is practicing it the next day. Not quite back when.
    “Charles Wesley [wrote] hymns of a devotional nature, hymns that had real meaning, and which gave comfort at difficult times. . . The 1780 publication, “A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists” became for the Methodists, after the Bible, their “devotional classic”. . . Even today many Methodists would regard [it] as a vital ingredient of their worship. . .”
    I understand now why many traditional churches find it rather difficult to accept or try to understand anything new – This was a big deal for the Methodists and they were apparently the first to have it. Whether this attitude of “next to the Bible” or not was right, I guess it’s human nature


    • Posted by Gary on September 11, 2009 at 1:27 pm

      Human nature:
      Where there is no vision, the people throw off restraint, But happy is he who keeps the law. Prov 29:18

      Speaking of happy…
      Another interesting historical fact is that the first book published in America was The Bay Psalm Book, published in 1640 (twenty years after the Mayflower arrived). Fifty years later, and after considerable debate, The Bay Psalm Book was revised the 9th time to contain music notation for every one. Music notation in the common song book is a ‘New World’ phenomena. Even today, the churches in England typically have text only (or on a seperate page) and it is unusual for the congregation to sing anything but the melody. In America, the common folk can learn to sing and read music with a hymnal or psalter providing 4 vocal parts. IMO, this culture of musical literacy has contributed much to the creative output of our land and the community-based music we enjoy and join (choirs, bands, symphonies, and yes bar bands, jazz clubs, and the like)


  29. Posted by PhilipT on September 12, 2009 at 8:29 pm


    I really feel that at the heart of this issue are some deep, and shall I say — fundamental, misunderstandings. I would argue that prior to deciding whether or not to use elements of modern music in a worship context based on its morality, sensuality, etc. we must first discern that such music is inherently immoral or sensual. In other words, you must create a compelling reason for why I shouldn’t listen to a particular song or genre on my iPod BEFORE making that argument for corporate worship (not visa versa).

    While I do not subscribe to everything that hamp52 has said, I would say that his critiques of the three arguments that you have put forth regarding the inherent sensuality of rock music are indeed accurate. The concepts of repetition, beat, and volume are nowhere condemned in Scripture, so you need to make a pressing case for these elements to be inherently sinful or sensual if you are going to successfully urge fellow believers to abstain from music that utilizes these elements. You must also evaluate your own practices to make sure that you are not binding laws on others that you yourself are breaking. For example…

    I used to tell others that their rock music was bad because of its repetition. I had been told time and time again that rock and CCM are very repetitive. On the contrary, I began to research these statements and found that this was not the case. What I found were examples such as this song from Keith and Krysten Getty:

    “In Christ Alone”
    Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
    Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

    In Christ alone my hope is found;
    He is my light, my strength, my song;
    This cornerstone, this solid ground,
    Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
    What heights of love, what depths of peace,
    When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
    My comforter, my all in all—
    Here in the love of Christ I stand.

    In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
    Fullness of God in helpless babe!
    This gift of love and righteousness,
    Scorned by the ones He came to save.
    Till on that cross as Jesus died,
    The wrath of God was satisfied;
    For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
    Here in the death of Christ I live.

    There in the ground His body lay,
    Light of the world by darkness slain;
    Then bursting forth in glorious day,
    Up from the grave He rose again!
    And as He stands in victory,
    Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
    For I am His and He is mine—
    Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

    No guilt in life, no fear in death—
    This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
    From life’s first cry to final breath,
    Jesus commands my destiny.
    No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
    Can ever pluck me from His hand;
    Till He returns or calls me home—
    Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

    Repetition is nonexistent in a song like this; shallow doctrine is not found in this and many other “CCM” songs like it either. On the other hand, I began to analyze some of the songs I would sing in church, listen to, or play. Suddenly I began to find that good “classical” songs were VERY repetitive (most classical songs repeat certain musical motifs and entire lines over and over (i.e. “Fur Elise” and “Flight of the Bumblebee” just to name two). Then I thought about some hymns I sang in church…hymns like Ron Hamilton’s “He is King” which basically repeats over and over again before it changes to “He is Lord.” Even a harder pill to swallow was when a friend pointed out that “Holy, Holy, Holy” involves repetition – repetition that is found in the inspired song of angels (Isa. 6). Repetition is clearly not condemned by Scripture, culture, or by any other means.

    You also mentioned the classic “backbeat” argument. This argument states that music that emphasizes the offbeats is inherently sensual. This idea, I believe, stems from the idea that it mimics sexual movements or something like that (a theory which Pastor Brian does a good job debunking in the article above). But can we pause to consider how many songs we listen to that include offbeat emphases or syncopation? For example, any musicologist (even from Fundamental Christian circles — I asked one from Bob Jones University about this yesterday) will admit that numerous “classical” pieces utilize syncopated or offbeat emphases. The music professor I spoke to especially pointed out music from the Romantic period as utilizing these tools. Furthermore, have you ever considered great hymns such as “Be Still My Soul”? This hymn uses a syncopated structure, but is sung in every Fundamental church I have ever been in! My point is that before we criticize those who listen to rock/CCM, we must first criticize ourselves and see if we are doing exactly what we condemn in their music. Syncopation is merely one of the tools of the musician, has been used for centuries, and is not condemned by Scripture, culture, or any other means.

    What about volume? This argument is often presented, but rarely developed. Volume is dangerous…I don’t question that for a minute. I used to sit off the runway at BWI airport (clearly pre-9/11) and watch the jets throttle up their engines right in front of me. The decibels were insane!!! It would actually set off car alarms in the surrounding parking lots. I also enjoy shooting. Occasionally I forget to bring my hearing protection and get to “enjoy” the ringing following an empty magazine of .40 ammo. I have tried in recent years to be more careful about this because high levels of volume are harmful to some degree. For example, most follow-up studies on those often-cited studies on rats going through mazes after listening to different kinds of music and plants dying after listening to different kinds of music have concluded that it was not the KIND of music, BEAT of the music, or the REPETITION of the music that was the problem, but it was the VOLUME at which the music was played that was the problem. But does the danger of volume (in particular, high volume) make an activity sinful? If I am listening to one of Bach’s preludes and I turn up the volume as loud as it will go, does it make the music sensual? You see…(I say to myself)…but Bach didn’t mean for the song to be loud, what about songs that are intentionally loud like something by Phillips, Craig, and Dean? But if I turn one of their songs down, does it make it okay? How about if I’m listening to an intentionally loud “classical” piece like the “1812 Overture” at a low volume, is it still inherently sensual because it was written to be loud? I believe that a fair and balanced look at the idea of volume making music sensual should lead a believer to acknowledge that neither, Scripture, culture, or good logic should lead us to conclude that the use of volume (even though dangerous at excessive levels) is not sinful in and of itself; in order to be fair, for the sake of protecting the temple of the Holy Spirit, purposely turning up ANY music or listening to ANY sound too loud and too long can have harmful effects and should be avoided.

    The final argument of yours (used in some more recent posts) I would like to comment on is your argument against music that “does not reflect God’s principles of order.” Although most hymns are, by nature, very structured (usually in order to be easily singable by the untrained singers in most congregations), a number of common “classical” pieces that we listen to are very disorganized and lack “structure” in some way or another. Look, for example, at every piece of music written by Claude Debussy; his music intentionally lacked structure, and was criticized by some in his day for doing so. Beethoven was also criticized for his departure from the Classical structure of his day and his acceptance of a more Romantic and non-structured approach to music. I would conclude, then, that structure is a highly subjective and culturally relative aesthetic concept that should not be used as a gauge of morality or sensuality.

    Having laid out an argument for why we should not accept the standards of repetition, beat, volume, and order as the ruler of judging acceptable listening music for the believer, I am about to make a startling announcement…I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT ALL MUSIC IS MORALLY NEUTRAL. 🙂 I know this may rub some people the wrong way, but I would feel Pelagian to argue otherwise (ask me and I will explain this if necessary). I would be the last to claim that all music is neutral. I am wholeheartedly in agreement with you on this point, Gary; however, my litmus test varies because I strive to use the clear principles of Scripture rather than the fallible standards that find their basis in writings that have circulated in the Fundamentalist camp for the last 30 years. What makes music immoral or sensual? I will list them in order from the clearest (most applicable to others) to the least clear (least/not applicable to others):

    (1) Some music is clearly sensual/sinful/wrong because it contradicts clear biblical standards regarding activities such as sexual activity (i.e. Britney Spears’ “Circus” and its sexual lyrics and overtones), abuse of others (i.e. the estimated 90+% of rap music that glorifies violence, murder, and misogyny), and abuse of self (i.e. some of the 60’s and 70’s music that praised the use of drugs). These are sound biblical truths need to be taught to the teens in our churches and the the members of our congregations! Freedom from the acceptance of sinful activities is a must for believers.

    (2) Some music is less clearly sensual/sinful/wrong because of how it is perceived in our culture. There was a time at which our culture viewed “rock music” solely as the music of prostitution, drugs, and promiscuity. My belief is that to listen to that music in that time and culture would be highly questionable spiritually; however, today, rather than the genre of rock or pop being characterized by culture as promiscuous, specific artists have been identified as such and the genre itself has proven itself to be morally acceptable. For example, culture today (basically across the board) recognizes artists such as Lady GaGa and Britney Spears to by promiscuous and sensual both as people and as entertainers. This designation of morality is annoying for most Fundamentalists because it requires that they observe their culture and attack specifics rather than broad generalities. Freedom from the appearance of evil in our culture is essential.

    (3) Some music can be sinful because we are addicted to it. I personally know some good, Fundamental, Christian piano performance majors who appear to be addicted to certain “classical” composers. They eat, drink, and sleep these pieces; they dream of being able to perform the pieces in front of large audiences some day. I also know a girl who admitted to me that she had developed an addiction to the music of the artist Josh Groban because of the quality of his voice and the excellence of his performance skills. Such an admission did not lead me to preach that all the teens in my youth group instantly burn their Josh CD’s, but it did lead me to advise the girl to stop listening to that artist and begin listening to other music. In more recent years (about 4 years has transpired since that event), the girl told me that she has followed my advice and has slowly begun to listen to a few songs by the same artist and no longer feels so strangely compelled towards her former addiction. Freedom from bondage is an essential for the believer as well.

    (4) Finally, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin…” Ultimately, your conscience should determine what you listen to. If your Holy Spirit-guided conscience sees no problem in drawing the boundary of right and wrong very close to the clearly sinful artists and songs, you have committed no sin. If, on the other hand, you conscience permits you to only listen to sacred and classical music from centuries ago, you have committed no sin either. It IS a sin for either of these individuals to force the other individual to accept the sensitivity or lack thereof of their own conscience. Also, (as a side note) be willing to admit the God-given autonomy of the human soul in all of this. In other words, when God created man, He did not create robots; therefore, one should not be surprised to see one human prefer a different color/article of clothing/genre of music, while another human prefers a different one. So we must also be careful to distinguish what we call a “conscience driven” decision from a personal preference. But in conclusion, freedom from sinning against your conscience is also a mandate for the believer.

    Any believer could attempt to argue against these principles, but they would inevitably find themselves confronted with clear opposing Scriptures. These principles do eventually have a weakness – they are hard to enforce. The majority of these principles (3/4) require that the individual evaluate his own culture, heart, and conscience as he evaluates his listening choices. Only one principle (often considered to vague by most Fundamentalists) can be easily observed and even enforced, if necessary, by believers. Once we can agree on the set of principles that will discern moral from immoral music (and only after that point), we can then forge ahead to determine some further principles to guide our worship at church. Given time and energy I may be willing to offer some suggestions to that effect….


  30. Posted by robert on September 14, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Good post, Phillip. the length frightened me when I first scrolled through, but great words!

    “Pelagian” – you said to ask if you needed to explain it. Yes, please!

    “Some music is less clearly sensual/sinful/wrong because of how it is perceived in our culture.”
    Is it really the music even in this context. How can it be sin in certain eras or cultural contexts and not in others? I do understand what you are saying, but I think it probably falls more into the “don’t do things to make your brother stumble” realm. The Christian life is a tough life to live – to be a leader we have to be selfless. Whether alcohol is a sin or not doesn’t really matter in certain cultures – we can’t do it in public lest we lead someone astray. It seems to me that the rest of our lives should testify to our genuineness, but many times people look past 99 holy, spiritual things that we do and are distracted by the one “questionable” thing.

    Something that I have came to understand myself and I now teach others: God gives us (the New Testament Church) PRINCIPLES to live by. He also gave us an innate conscience to help direct our actions. On top of it all, He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us – the same Holy Spirit that guided Jesus Christ lives inside of us! That gives me the authority to make decisions about the 3/4 standards that you mentioned (whether those 4 standards of Godly music are comprehensive or not, I don’t know, but they are a great start if not!).

    Philippians 4:8 tells us that we should think on things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.” While in one sense this GREATLY narrows down our musical selection (when applied to it); it also broadens it and offers freedom. Using this verse as a guide, there is music in an genre that we could listen to that would not be against our own conscience and may even be beneficial. Not even considering the “Christian” music world, there are songs that would not be unholy and could be used for entertainment, promoting certain values and morality, explaining points, education, etc – even in the rock world (like U2, Lifehouse, Gavin Degraw . . .), county [although I hate to admit it] (like Tim McGraw, Josh Turner, etc.), classical (you’ve already named quite a few), hip hop (LeCrae – although he is a Christian example), and others.

    Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m not promoting the habitual or even frequent listening to today’s top 40 radio stations (wow – there is some trash on them!) I’m saying we unscripturally misplace “Christian” and “secular” labels on so much of our lives. For example: why is TBN a “Christian” station and “FOX” or the “Discovery Channel” secular? What do those titles even mean when applied to anything other than people? The problem with labels and rules like these that we’ve put on music is that they’re not universal or realistic.

    I hope that’s not offensive. Take it with a “grain of salt” and appreciate the satire:

    Let me expound by way of hyperbole – what if this whole blog were against the color red in Christian’s lives? Let’s say that red symbolizes worldliness and sin. Although God created the color and HE even used it when HE painted the first rainbow in the sky, the world has taken it over and used it in their own sinful, sensual artwork. (Obviously, when he see a woman an a short, tight, red dress in the public, what do you assume about her?) We preach against having the color red anywhere in church, we say we shouldn’t wear red in our clothes, we should only use the green-colored ketchup and stay away from certain fruits and vegetables that happen to be that awful, forbidden color. We don’t go places that use red, promote red, or are even okay with red. When we bleed, we say it’s not really red, it’s crimson. When we watch a movie on our curse-free DVD players, we excuse anything with the color red because “it’s just in a movie” or “well, we can’t help that.” Purple is okay, pink is on the line, and orange (depending on your team-preference) is just fine. Hey – it makes us feel pretty special to have such a high standard for our palette. It really helps, too, when we are trying to find a way to separate ourselves from the world – “I’m a Christian – therefore I stay away from red . . .” We may even say, “A church that has adopted red into it’s worship service has compromised it’s standards, became like the world, and displeases God.”


  31. Posted by Gary on September 14, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Phillip>the three arguments that you have put forth regarding the inherent sensuality of rock music …repetition, beat, and volume are nowhere condemned in Scripture…

    I didn’t put forth these as arguments. What I said was that “Can We Rock the Gospel?” presented repetition, beat and volume as being characteristic of rock music. I assume that most anyone can agree that these are generally true of rock music as a style. These, then may help us identify what is sensual about rock music. That is why I mentioned them. I assumed that you wanted to try to determine what was sensual about rock music, because that is what you asked.

    Let me ask you some questions: I have raised analogies to other sensual influences to which you remain silent. Tobacco, methamphetamine, and bikinis are nowhere condemned in the scriptures. I believe that because they appeal to our senses in a destructive way they are characterized as sinful or a part of sinful living and rightly so. Why are we ready to tell people we love not to buy these, not to use these, and not to accept people who do? What verses would we use?


  32. Posted by PhilipT on September 15, 2009 at 10:02 pm


    My comment about a Pelagian view of music due to the influence and teachings of the heretic Pelagius during the early years of the church. He taught that humanity and its creations were essentially good because they were created by God; by doing this, Pelagius denied the sin nature of man. I feel that we can stray too close to this error if we attempt to argue that a creation of man (i.e. music) is inherently neutral and cannot be corrupted. We have to open our eyes to the fact that music can be used in a sinful manner.

    The statement regarding culture is definitely a tricky one. I know that I will draw more than a little flak for a statement like that. Some view my position on culture’s view of morals, etc. as an attempt to sweep sins under the rug or to claim that truth is somehow relative; however, others have characterized this position as an attempt to condemn acceptable activities simply based on the prevailing thought of the culture that you live in. My attempt is to explain why in my grandparents’ generation, attending a movie theater was considered a major sin, but now culture and Christians in general do not frown upon this activity. This is also needed to explain why churches in America have no problem having fun childrens’ activities where clowns dress up perform, but in numerous island cultures, churches dare not use such performers due to the cultural association with witchcraft. Both generational and geographical cultures often view certain activities different ways. Now, is this advocating some sort of moral relativity? NO! The Bible always trumps culture for the Christian. Just because culture accepts homosexuality, for example, does not change the Christian’s view of that activity as sin. These principles are not in contrast to each other, but work in concert.

    BTW, good point about the 99 good things and the 1 bad thing. I know believers are supposed to counsel each other, but often we get too carried away targeting the sins in others’ lives (often in an attempt to make ourselves look good) that we never encourage our brothers!

    Yeah…I didn’t mean for my list to be entirely comprehensive, and Philippians 4:8 would definitely be a good addition.


  33. Posted by PhilipT on September 15, 2009 at 10:30 pm


    If one is attempting to prove that rock music is sensual, they must present the proof and draw a conclusion. It appears to me that you have drawn a conclusion and are attempting to prove that conclusion by poor proofs offered by well-intentioned Christian writers. Using logic in this method is purely circular reasoning.

    The other elements that you brought up are like comparing apples and oranges. Rock music or CCM as a whole are not condemned in Scripture; however, activities that you brought up such as immodesty (1 Tim. 2:9), harming one’s body (1 Cor. 6:18-19), and being controlled by substances (Eph. 5:18) are condemned in Scripture. These activities (not the objects themselves) are sinful, not because they influence one of our senses, but because they violate the clear principles of the Bible. Starting with sola scriptura, we can develop a clear rule of faith and practice. We can be confident that God has provided us everything that we need for life and godliness (1 Pet. 1:3).


  34. Posted by Gary on September 17, 2009 at 11:58 am



  35. Posted by Gary on September 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks PhillipT.

    If you’ll indulge me…

    The Bible doesn’t say wearing a bikini is immodest. You do. Maybe you’ve drawn a conclusion and are just using a Bible verse about modesty to back it up? How will you reach a sola scriptura conclusion about wearing bikinis? What part of the bikini makes its use immodest?
    You need to make a pressing case that wearing bikinis is inherently sinful or sensual if you are going to successfully urge fellow believers to abstain from wearing them. You must also evaluate your own practices to make sure that you are not binding laws on others that you yourself are breaking with some other styles of clothing. Many bikini-wearing christians have experienced freedom in this area, and our culture no longer has the associations with bikinis and immodesty that they once did. Bikinis are even worn in innocent Disney movies like “The Little Mermaid”. So PhillipT, you must “present the proof and draw a conclusion” about bikinis. and you have yet to do that.

    The Bible doesnt’ say tobacco is harmful. You do. But maybe it’s just a cultural issue or maybe moderation in smoking is all that’s required. Plenty of people smoke moderately and suffer no ill effects. Spurgeon smoked. Smoking is not a problem in other cultures – there are tobacco-smoking Christians all over the world. How will you reach a sola scriptura conclusion on smoking tobacco (or marijuana for that matter)? Maybe it’s just bad associations we American fundamentalists have with smoking and we’re binding heavy burdens on people’s backs.

    –Have I made any headway using these apples and oranges?

    Since I’ve turned the tables on you, can you make a “pressing case” that *any* thing or activity is sensual?? And yet sola scriptura requires us to identify what is sensual and steer clear.


    • Posted by PhilipT on September 18, 2009 at 10:17 am


      I feel that it is a little unfair to characterize my last post as condemning the objects you have listed (to this point I have not even mentioned them by name). The only things that I feel obligated to condemn that have some relation to those objects are immodesty, destruction of the body, and addiction. My incorrect assumption was that you were trying to compare these sins (the underlying activities) to listening to rock music (this would be a true apples and oranges arrangement). I wasn’t aware that you were attempting to condemn the objects themselves as sinful (much closer to an apples and apples parallel). The condemnation of the objects you have listed, as you have already pointed out in this post, is very questionable.

      So we have come to this…bikinis and tobacco and meth (“oh my!”). I will deal with them in that order:

      The bikini should not be condemned as an object. The object itself does not sin or make others sin. If I lust because I walk past a woman in a bikini, that is my fault. If I lust because I see a bikini hanging in a store, I probably need to seek out a Christian counselor immediately. The object itself has no moral value; however, the activity of wearing a bikini is where we can more clearly bring the Scriptures to bear. The Bible forbids Christian women from being immodest. Obviously, culture and non-Christians will differ on what this means and this should not surprise us. But, now that we have the clear biblical mandate, there is always a cultural connection that must be made. How does the standard of modesty apply to the context that surrounds the Christian woman? I would expect the standard to contradict culture to some extent (otherwise Paul wouldn’t have wasted space addressing the topic); however, the standard must also be framed within the cultural context in which we are found. For example, the cultural context with regard to modesty changes with time (e.g. the Victorian era standard of modesty far exceeds the standards of modesty used by most fundamentalists today) and location (e.g. the standard of modesty in some jungle villages and pacific islands would make a woman in a bikini look VERY modest). Our goal is not only to examine our culture and attempt correctives where it has crossed the lines of Scripture, but also to examine our culture in an attempt to see exactly how to live within the culture in which we find ourselves. To my knowledge, the only place that our culture (I’m assuming general American culture as of the current time) actually finds the bikini to be appropriate is at some sort of water-related venue. Outside of those venues, it is considered mostly unacceptable by our culture (i.e. most restaurants around beaches have signs requesting that their patrons wear more than swimwear in the establishment). Even though the bikini is “acceptable” in this arena, it is not considered to be the best or “most acceptable/modest” method of conducting oneself in a water-related activity. In general, one-piece bathing suits appear to be less revealing (and, by definition, more modest) than their two-piece counterparts; therefore, I would ask my wife to at least wear one of these in an attempt to be more modest in that setting. Other good Christians will differ on either side of the fence on this issue and my goal is not to argue with them on that (as long as their consciences are informed and pure in this). Is it possible that a godly Christian woman could wear a bikini and not violate the Scriptural mandate? I believe that this may be possible, but my conscience feels much better when my wife chooses to wear something a little more modest in public settings than the most edgy thing that culture permits in those situations. In summary, our argument for modesty follows this path: Clear Scripture mandate -> acceptance of what most clearly follows that mandate in our culture.

      Tobacco should not be condemned as an object. The smell of a drying tobacco leaf is a wonderful thing; also, the tobacco leaf may contain some properties that would lend it to a medicinal use. The activity of smoking tobacco is where we can more clearly bring Scripture to bear. We have Scriptural statements against purposely damaging ones’ body (a clear mandate) and against bringing oneself under the control of a substance (a clear principle). In previous generations and cultures, the health dangers posed by smoking were not well known and Nicotine was not known to be addictive; therefore smoking was considered acceptable for believers. Once the serious health risks (which one would have to be out of his mind to deny) were identified as well as the addictive nature of Nicotine, Christians, in general, began to condemn the activity of smoking. In fact, the awareness of these two attributes of the activity has caused smoking to fall out of vogue in our culture as a whole (in the 1960’s about 40% of the adult US population smoked and now we are below the 20% mark). Our argument against smoking tobacco proceeded in the following manner: Clear Scripture mandate and principle -> rejection of what clearly and undeniably violates the two principles.

      Meth is a little different…the object itself is condemned not only by our culture, but by federal law and, as believers, we are told to follow the rules of our government; therefore, the object itself is sinful (and illegal) to posses in an unlawful manner. Even if the laws of the land were lifted, the believer would also have to reject its use due to the clear violation of clear Scripture noted in the above discussion of tobacco use.

      In all of these areas, I have attempted to use only 100% clear Scripture mandates and principles. I have also attempted to asses our modern culture, not only to discern what our culture views as wrong that should be agreed to, but also to discern what our culture permits that should be corrected based on these clear Bible principles and mandates. There are portions of each of these discussions where I can see that you could draw an analogy to the rock music debate, and for that I apologize for bluntly stating that these matters have no comparison to the debate; however, I believe that these matters do diverge in some very significant areas.

      In the discussion of modesty we concluded that we are most likely led to correct the culture of our day. One may argue that this should be the case in music. I would agree to the extent that we need to correct our culture’s acceptance (to some degree or another) of music that violates biblical mandates such as violence and sexual behavior. We need to live “counter-cultural” lives in areas where we have clear Scriptural mandates to do so. The pendulum swings in two directions here. We can either so forcefully deny our need to follow the clear “counter-cultural” mandates of Scripture that we essentially deny the life-changing effects of the Gospel (2 Cor. 5:17). On the other hand, we can so forcefully attempt to be “counter-cultural” in our living that we remove ourselves from the culture in which God has placed us to be lights (i.e. the Amish approach to living). If we are to balance the pendulum, we must be quick to correct our culture in areas where it violates the clear mandates of Scripture by the way we live. The rock music debate falls short because most proponents seek to condemn an entire genre or perceived style because some singers or songs contain anti-scriptural lyrics or themes. This is an example of swinging the pendulum too far and should be seen as a different kind of argument because it attempts to condemn things that Scripture does not condemn.

      In our discussion of tobacco and meth, I noted that the use of these products violates the biblical mandate of not damaging the temple of the Holy Ghost. One may argue that this is the case with rock music. I would agree IF this could be proven as clearly as the negative effects of tobacco and meth are. At this point, the anti-rock/CCM proponents are attempting to create an argument that contradicts not only the prevailing view of culture, science, and psychology, but also that of Christianity as well.

      In conclusion: If you can either prove that rock music or CCM as a whole (not just an individual song or singer) contradicts (or comes close to violating) a clear mandate or principle of Scripture or that it damages the body or psyche and creates addictions as clearly as smoking cigarettes or meth, I would then conclude that the individual should not listen to it.


  36. Posted by Gary on September 17, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Scripture tells us to be sober and vigilant lest the devil devours us. That means we have to make thoughtful decisions about the world around us lest we are snared and shipwrecked.

    If you’re sober and vigilant, you’re aware of evidence that listening to rock music is physically unsettling, is not conducive to clear thinking, is chemically addictive, is the music of choice in many wicked places, in many wicked activities, of many wicked people, is commonly idolatrous, has no christian heritage, and has been described as spiritually detrimental to many (search ‘Testimonies of Young People and Christian Rock’).

    When does rock music stop being these things and start being pure, holy, and worthy of Christ’s name?

    “And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” 2 Corinthians 6:15


    • Posted by PhilipT on September 18, 2009 at 10:43 am


      Plenty of sober and vigilant Christians differ with the Christians who have come up with these arguments against CCM/rock music. I simply beg to differ on these arguments.

      I am not aware of any negative physical results of listening to clean pop music or CCM.

      I have not had any of the problems with “clear thinking” I was told to expect when listening to the music either. Throughout my freshman, sophomore, and junior years of college, I only listened to classical or older sacred music. In my senior year of college and my seminary career, I have listened more predominately to southern Gospel and CCM. Throughout these years I have seen my GPA increase rather significantly. My personal experience has led me to see that this claim has no merit.

      I also feel no addiction to “rock” music. I listen to slightly more southern Gospel and CCM than I do of classical and older hymns (this having more to do with the more modern content of the music than anything else), but I don’t have any sort of compelling desire to always have it on.

      Is rock style music used in wicked places? Yes! Is rock style music used in common places (the mall, the grocery store, the elevator, the workplace)? Yes! Is rock style music used in good Christian churches where believers are being edified and the lost are being saved? Yes!

      Is rock music commonly idolatrous? Only in so far as an individual allows it to be. I’ve seen good Christians make idols out of classical musicians like Yo-yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis. I’ve also seen some people make idols out of hymnwriters like Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. This is a sin, but it is not a sin of only rock music.

      Does rock music have any Christian heritage? Yes. Look at the last 20+ years. Just because it hasn’t always been used in the church doesn’t make it wrong. This argument sound more like some of the KJV Only arguments than anything. There was a point at which classical style music had no heritage in the church, but was brought into the church. Was that wrong as well?

      I also have experienced no detrimental spiritual effects that I am aware of. If anything my experience has driven to evaluate everything I do (even what seem to be good traditions) in light of the Scriptures.

      These arguments do not resonate with me personally or any other believer that I know who listens to clean rock/pop music, CCM, southern gospel, etc.


  37. Posted by robert on September 18, 2009 at 7:12 am

    ” . . . rock music is physically unsettling, is not conducive to clear thinking, is chemically addictive, . . . is commonly idolatrous, has no christian heritage, and has been described as spiritually detrimental to many”

    I wish I could meet you on a level ground here, but I simply do not feel the same way. I was involved in an exciting tent crusade this week in Virginia. On Sunday we had bluegrass music (“doghouse” bass, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and rhythm guitar) – it got old quick but before it did, I found my hands clapping and my feet a’stompin’. Then we had a southern Gospel quartet and several other southern Gospel solo “artists.” That’s what I grew up on, so it had some nostalgia about it. Most of the songs were originals, so I did not know them. As is common with that type of music, those were just the “concert”-type songs where I just sat and listened. Then we sang psalms and hymns led by a “contemporary rock band” with just as many stringed instruments as the blue grass band and an added drum set. The voices were the most dominant sound, followed by the rhythm guitar, followed by the bass, followed by the drums, and then the lead guitar and keyboards – it was a pretty even mix. I found myself at times wanting to move my feet and clap, yet at other times bowing down my face to the ground as we worshiped God’s majesty.

    – I was not physically unsettled, but the music did make me feel unsettled – but that’s because singing just never really feels like it’s enough – I want to shout, dance, run, cry, or something more to praise God.

    – I was thinking very clearly, as a matter of fact, it helped focus my mind to pray.

    – I don’t really understand why it could be “chemically addicting.” I could see something random like Jazz or soothing like classical/nature music on NPR being addicting, but not rock. Without variety even in rock it gets old quick just like anything else. I did find myself wishing the praise music went longer, though – but I normally have that problem in church!

    – I was not idolatrous (although if you mean idolizing a band or singer, I can definitely see that happen – but that has nothing to do with the genre – how many people idolized Ray Boltz, the Gaithers, Celene Dion, the Notorious BIG, Sylvester Stalone, etc. – it’s not right at all!)

    – “has no Christian heritage” – wow. I don’t really believe that’s a fair or accurate statement any way. Elvis or the Beatles did not wake up one day and feel inspired to create a new genre of music based on sex. Just like anything else, the method of music evolved into what it was (and it is still evolving) and was pieced together from different sources. According to some, rock ‘n’ roll was born out of Black blues music and raised by Black artists . . . years later . . . white teenagers began [liking] the electric guitars and the pounding drum beats that Black artists were playing – ‘race’ and ‘rhythm and blues’ music . . . then white DJ Alan Freed re-named it ‘rock `n’ roll’.” So if this is true (and I’m sure it is) the supposed “heritage” of our modern rock music has nothing to do with the scene that we normally attribute to it – how far back do you want to go with a search for origins? In my lifetime, I can trace back Christian rock to Godly song writers such as Shane Bernard, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, and more. The farther back we go, we find other creators and influences. According to Wikipedia (they should come up with a Latin phrase for the truth in Wikipedia – like sola wiki or something), rock is a combination of the rhythms of the blues (1920s), from the African American culture, and from America’s country and gospel music as early as the 1930s. However, rock (as we generally understand it) didn’t even get it’s pseudo-name until the 1950s. So actually, rock has black gospel, white gospel, and southern gospel in its roots.

    – “is the music of choice in many wicked places, in many wicked activities, of many wicked people” – Okay this is the argument that I heard growing up – “Don’t go to the bowling alley because they play the ‘devil’s music'” I think we probably give the devil a little more credit than he’s due, but it is true that “garbage in, garbage out.” The truth is though, there is no realistic way (except for monasteries and convents) that we could separate ourselves from the world’s music, language, etc. In but not of and all that. But why do bowling alleys play the music they do – not because they are wicked places but because that is what the people want to hear (or at least they think they do). So it’s the people that are wicked, never the place (reminds me of church some places). The fact is, also, that people have committed sin to any form of musical soundtrack available – definitely not just rock. Rural bars play country, suburban bars play rock, urban bars play hip-hop . . . I imagine that Hispanic bars Hispanic music, Japanese bars play . . . etc. Get this though – some of the most grotesque sin goes on while listening to a man with a tie and a nice haircut singing one of Christianity’s centuries-old, tried and true, classical tunes: the sin of pride.

    – “search ‘Testimonies of Young People and Christian Rock’.”
    Believe me – I wish it were that easy. But I’ve never seen that to make a difference. A teenager that is filled with the Holy Spirit will give off good fruit while the opposite is true. The style of music they listen to does not change that.

    – I’ve heard that the sacrilegious show “SouthPark” made fun of modern praise songs on one of their episodes. It thought it silly or foolish for people to be singing “love songs” to God. Well as foolish and silly as the world thinks it is, I’d much rather be devoting my heart, soul, mind, and strength to God instead of the world. It’s kind of cool to think I could be considered as a fanatic and a “fool” for Christ!


  38. Posted by Gary on October 13, 2009 at 10:52 am

    PhillipT and Robert,
    Thanks, guys for the chance to sharpen my thinking on this.
    I’ve studied music composition and music literature at the best music schools in the U.S.
    I’ve been around long enough to remember when church music was sanctified in word and sound and was without controversy in our culture.
    Through all those years I’ve also been a Christian who said no thanks to rock music. Now I’m teaching our boys to do the same.

    IMO: PhillipT, you’ll have to come up with a less relativstic approach to identifying and condemning sensuality. Consider your approach versus heroes of the faith like Seth, Job, Abraham (vs. Lot), Rechab, Daniel and John the Baptist. I favor a timeless, distinctly Christian identity like theirs.

    IMO: Robert, I appreciate your good natured banter. Indeed, the music issue should be subservient to many things, but it is important, nonetheless. It seems that there is much passion in this music and this debate in general. I’m not sure why.

    John Bunyan once wrote:
    I saw, moreover, in my dream, that the Interpreter took him by the hand, and had him into a little room, where sat two little children, each one in his own chair. The name of the eldest was Passion, and the name of the other Patience. Passion seemed to be much discontented, but Patience was very quiet. Then Christian asked, What is the reason of the discontent of Passion? The Interpreter answered, The governor of them would have him stay for his best things till the beginning of the next year, but he will have all now; but Patience is willing to wait.

    Then I saw that one came to Passion and brought him a bag of treasure, and poured it down at his feet; the which he took up, and rejoiced therein, and withal laughed Patience to scorn. But I beheld but a while, and he had lavished all away, and had nothing left him but rags.

    CHRISTIAN. Then said Christian to the Interpreter, Expound this matter more fully to me.

    INTERPRETER. So he said, These two lads are figures – Passion, of the men of this world; and Patience, of the men of that which is to come. For, as here thou seest, Passion will have all now, this year, that is to say, in this world; so are the men of this world: They must have all their good things now, they cannot stay till the next year, that is, until the next world, for their portion of good. That proverb, ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,’ is of more authority with them than are all the divine testimonies of the good of the world to come. But as thou sawest that he had quickly lavished all away, and had presently left him nothing but rags, so will it be with all such men at the end of this world.

    CHRISTIAN. Then said Christian, Now I see that Patience has the best wisdom, and that upon many accounts: 1. Because he stays for the best things. 2. And also because he will have the glory of his, when the other has nothing but rags.

    INTERPRETER. Nay, you may add another, to wit, the glory of the next world will never wear out, but these are suddenly gone. Therefore Passion had not so much reason to laugh at Patience because he had his good things first, as Patience will have to laugh at Passion because he had his best things last; for first must give place to last, because last must have his time to come; but last gives place to nothing, for there is not another to succeed. He, therefore, that hath his portion first, must needs have a time to spend it; but he that hath his portion last, must have it lastingly; therefore it is said of Dives, ‘In thy lifetime thou receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.’ (Luke xvi. 19-31.)

    CHRISTIAN. Then I perceive it is not best to covet things that are now, but to wait for things to come.

    INTERPRETER. You say truth: for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. iv. 18.) But though this be so, yet since things present and our fleshly appetite are such near neighbours one to another; and again, because things to come and carnal sense are such strangers one to another; therefore it is that the first of these so suddenly fall into amity, and that distance is so continued between the second.

    I’ve chosen to draw defend a line against rock music and have sought to defend it using a variety of arguments from a variety of sources. Like Rechab, my concerns are primarily toward my family, but as a church member my concerns are also toward my church family.
    Thanks guys.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: