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Christian music: Should Christian Music Rock?

Christian music is certainly one of the most controversial subjects of our day to write about or discuss. Whether in an online forum or within the confines of the church house, discussions about “acceptable” music for Christian’s can become very heated, very quickly…

Why do passions and controversy seem to run so deep and rampant surrounding the subject of music within the church and in the Christian’s everyday life? I believe it is because music is such a powerful medium. I have not always been “into” Christian music, because I have not always been a Christian or at least a Christian who is truly seeking God’s will for my life. But having said that, I must say that I have always been a music lover because music is powerful! Think about it, music, even without any words, has the power to set virtually any type of mood. If your are sad, grumpy, happy, feeling romantic, scared, or feeling any other way, the appropriate type of musical score can effectively and quickly change your mood to any other type of mood in the entire gamut of emotions! Music can literally change your entire emotional state of being!

Why do you think music is used so extensively in movies and every kind of television show from news intros to romantic (and most often, these days, completely inappropriate) love scenes? A musical score alone, Christian music or otherwise, has the capacity in and of itself to set or change any mood! Have I said that enough yet? Music alone does drastically effect people’s emotions, which in turn, more often than not directly affects their outward behavior. Music can delve into the depths of the human heart (not the thumping muscle in your chest cavity, but the heart of your being which contains your innermost desires and tendencies) and dredge up feelings and even actions that we may not even have consciously realized were there. Music can “inspire” us to greatness or great folly. This is why it simply must be discussed!

Anyway, on this subject, I recently came across a very interesting article on the subject of Christian music or, more specifically, “Christian rock music” or what is usually referred to as “contemporary Christian music”. You can read the article in its entirety here: Can God Use Rock Music? , then come back here and find out our take on this issue.

Conservatory Christian Music

As the author of the Christian music article found there discusses, the issue of “right and wrong music” is a multi-faceted argument. In fact, as I read and contemplated what he was saying, I was forced to think about my own position on the Christian music issue (which by the way has not changed in its conservative nature). I was forced to meditate on the facts that I know from personal experience, information and experience from others, as well as, and most importantly the Word of God (the Bible) and consider whether my past conclusions on this issue were indeed God inspired or messed up by my own sinful misunderstandings which we are all prone to.

So, here is my take: I would like to examine some of the main points of the article in question one by one and try to explain, not only my own conclusions, but why (the whys are always important) and how I derived the opinions I have about Christian music and music in general and the effects that they seem to have on believers in Christ and the rest of the world as well. I cannot overemphasize that all music is powerful and, not just can, but always does effect people in a multitude of ways!

One of the first things I would like to say about the article is that Keith Green’s conclusion about Christian music is honest and from his heart, but in my mind, it is true to a point, but flawed in that it is incomplete. Here is what I mean: Keith comes to the conclusion at the end of the article that “It’s all in the motives!” While this is true in the sense that the motive of the heart is the single factor that propels all human actions, it also must be taken into account that there are many outside factors including Christian music that directly effect and manipulate the heart of mankind. These factors and their ability to change, even at the spur of the moment the heart of people cannot legitimately be denied. This is why the Bible warns that we should “keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). We are told by God to keep our heart, or please allow me to expound on the word keep: “guard” our heart. To guard our heart means exactly that to keep it from evil influences to avoid corrupting it.

So, as the author so clearly points out, the question then is can music (without words) in and of itself be evil or have evil influence on the heart. Contrary to what Keith Green believes, I think the answer is yes, music is that powerful and it can effect the heart, mind, soul, and, most noticeably, the body.

Let me explain. I have observed my own children at even their smallest toddling age. They were never taught to dance or anything at all about music at the time, but their natural reaction when certain musical scores with a “rock beat” were played on something even as “innocent” as a simple commercial, even without anyone in the commercial dancing or moving in a way which would induce dancing and having never been exposed to or seeing someone else dance in a worldly or carnal way, the child naturally began to move their body in a carnal worldly manner. If an adult were to do the same, it could most certainly incite within others natural sensual thoughts. Melodious Christian music does not produce this effect. Yes, I am saying that the body naturally responds to certain stimuli in a certain way that can only be overcome by the conscious thought of the individual in a resistant manner. Now, if you must consciously resist a certain body motion that is induced only through the medium of music, then there are certainly potential problems there. The Bible clearly teaches self control, or more properly, us allowing God to influence and control our actions and even bodily functions. We are told in reference to controlling substances such as intoxicating beverages to “be not drunk” or controlled “with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit”. We are commanded not to allow ourselves to be influenced negatively by outside forces, but to be controlled by the Spirit of God. Music, like alcoholic beverages, is a spirit, or a strong influence on every part of us, even the heart. This explains the sudden changes of mood that we experience when under the influence of music. Therefore, if a certain “beat” or rhythm in “Christian music” or any other type tends to make the body naturally move in a way that to even a casual observer can be understood to be sensual or make a person look more sexually appealing, this music should be avoided by the Christian, because it cannot really be considered Christian music. The term Christian means “Christ like”. I could be wrong, but I cannot see the Savior dancing to a musical score: WWJD comes to mind. Even if the Christian is a “strong” Christian and has no real desire to do or think that which is not Godly, their heart and body can and may still be caused to stumble thereby. No matter how we love to think of ourselves to be in control, it has been proven over and over through the centuries that man, even redeemed man (and woman), is still fallible and the natural bent toward sinful thoughts and behaviors is not eradicated once a person has been born again. Those tendencies of the Adamic nature are still very much present and must be consciously suppressed and overcome by the nature of God that has been placed inside the Christian by God. I have often heard of the story of the “Indian” who was approached by a preacher who asked about how his Christian life was going. The story tells how the “Indian” replies, “It seems I have within me two dogs, one black dog and one white dog. Black dog no like white dog and white dog no like black dog. They fight all the time!” The preacher then asked, “Well, who wins the fight?” The “Indian” then replied, “Whichever I feed the most.” Whether that story is true or not is irrelevant, the point is that if we feed our sinful nature at all, it will have a better chance of overcoming our Godly “redeemed” nature and can potentially cause us to fall.

If “Christian music” has elements present even in the musical score which naturally tend to incite or increase sexual emotions, even in the slightest, or cause the body to automatically start to dance or tap the foot to an “off beat”, then we have an obligation to ourselves (keeping our heart), to others around us (lest we cause others to fall), and to God (who is grieved when we fall) to avoid that type of sound. Yes, the root of it is about a sensual and/or carnal worldly sound that is present. Christian music should be distinctively Christian in every way.

Now, some people would and have stopped me here and said, “Yeah, but God wants us to dance in the spirit. After all, King David, the man after God’s own heart, danced.” First of all, let’s be clear: King David also lusted, committed adultery, murder, and married multiple wives, but that absolutely does not give the Christian the right to do the same. In fact, it is very important to note that there are all kinds of events recorded in the Bible that are sinful acts committed by otherwise Godly men and women. These recorded events of history do not necessarily, and in most cases don’t, give God’s blessing on the matter or action. Having said that, let me also say that I have seen in a church service, what I believe to be someone “dancing in the spirit”. However, upon close observation, it was not at all with the rhythm of the music being played…And it was not because the person didn’t have rhythm either. I believe that, like David’s dancing; “dancing in the spirit” is completely without the influence of a “rock beat” or rather an “off beat” or any other kind of musical rhythm. (And Christian music does not produce that type of rhythm anyway. I believe “dancing in the spirit” is similar to what I would call, here in the southern United States, “dancing a jig”. Let me explain: I believe that there are times when emotional joy is induced within a person so much that it sometimes overflows from within that person in a way that can only be expressed with a joyful “dance” often characterized by a shuffling motion of the feet, etc. that could in no way be considered sensual or carnal, because it does not appeal to the flesh at all. In fact it looks horrible, but very joyful! It is my personal conviction that this is exactly the kind of dance that King David performed because he was overcome with the joy of the Lord in that the Ark of God was finally back where it belonged! I do not believe that David danced to any kind of rhythm from an outside musical influence, Christian music or otherwise. As always, due to my own inadequacy, I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. Christian music is distinctive.

There is a certain “sound” that I believe should differentiate Christian music from rock music. What I mean is that I believe that our “worship” should always sound like worship. For example, if a person were to walk by a gathering of Christians during a the musical portion of a worship service at any given place, if they did not know what was going on inside, they should be able to tell by the “sound” they hear if that this is indeed a worship service and not a rock, rap, R&B, pop concert or country music event. The sound of Christian music should literally speak of God’s Holiness, His glory, and righteousness. Christian music should be like everything else in a Christian’s life…it should make us stand out from the world and portray Christ as lovely. Just as there should be a clear difference in the way we behave versus the way the world doesn’t behave in other areas of life. Christians should remain unspotted from the world in as many areas of life as possible. Christian music is distinctive.

The conclusion in Mr. Green’s article is also faulty in that it promotes the type of Theology that states that the end justifies the means. In the common man’s vernacular, “If people are being saved and the church is growing, it cannot be wrong.” This Theology is faulty because it clearly negates the fact that although we should be careful not to be too legalistic in our methodology, God has always put a certain premium on ministry being done His way. God doesn’t always expect us to use the newest ministry methods available, because, believe it or not, every method is not necessarily acceptable or O.K. with God. For example, in 1 Chronicles chapter 13 the story is told of the children of Israel as they were moving the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem after it being away for a long time. David and the Israelites were so excited and in such a hurry to get the Ark back where it belonged that their zeal (which was a good thing) was turned into an evil thing in God’s site simply because they failed to follow God’s plan for transporting the Ark from place to place. What most folks would consider a small breech in protocol that wasn’t a big deal, God thought was such a big deal that He reached out and killed (yes I said killed) Uzza because of the whole ordeal! While the Ark was being carted to its destination, the oxen that pulled the cart with the Ark stumbled and Uzza thought it was going to fall, but his well intentioned move to reach out and steady the Ark to keep God’s property from being soiled was turned into death for him, because God had declared that only the Levites were to touch the Ark. God killed a man who was trying to do a good thing to protect a sacred object that God had ordained simply because the man, as well as the people of Israel, did not follow God’s methodology! Does that make you mad? It shouldn’t, because God is in control of this thing. He designed the entire creation including us. We are the ones who mess things up because we don’t follow His lead. Christian music is distinctive.

Uzza is not the only example of this we see in the scriptures. There are many more. Leviticus Chapter 10 tells of Nadab and Abihu, who were sons of Aaron, ordained by God into the ministry who offered what the Bible calls “strange fire before the Lord, which the Lord commanded them not.” In other words they burned something in worship to the Lord, not that He had expressly told them not to, but just had not told them to…and because they added something “strange” to the worship of God that He did not ordain, verse 2 tells us, “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” You see, we Christians should be very careful in adding anything to our worship of the Lord that we are not 100% sure that He approves of. This certainly includes Christian music, because (say it with me): Christian music is distinctive.

God commanded us to sing a “new” song. I think this necessarily means a song that is like no song we ever sang while we were unbelievers. True Christian music is distinctive.

Well, this short article on Christian music and a simple critique of a point of view on Christian music has turned into a long dissertation, so for the readers sake, I am going to break this thing up into several (not so bite size) issues on several pages which you will find the links to below as soon as I write them.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the webmaster of for graciously allowing me to quote the Keith Green article that was on his site and Keith Green for provoking some healthy thought within me on this vital issue of Christian music. Please be sure to read Keith Green’s article at and come back here to see the rest of my responses on Christian music.

I would also like to ask you to check out some of the links below for more resources to help you in your investigation of Christian music.

This article was written by former webmaster, Christian music singer, and preacher of the Gospel, Chris Long.

The following links lead to products or articles that are strictly about Christian music, contain substantial information about
Christian music, and some lead to only the best Christian music distributors:

For anyone seeking a better understanding the Christian music opinion on this page, I highly recommend this video about Christian music:
How to Tell the Right Kind of Music

Or get the same Christian music material on audio cassette for just $8 US here:
How to Tell the Right Kind of Music

Here is 6 hours of teaching from about 500 verses in the Bible concerning Christian music. Further discription and purchase info is here:
Music in the Bible

Christian music siminar with the beloved Alfred B. Smith:
Church Music Siminar

Christian Music Siminar (only $4.95 + S&H):
1999 Church Music Seminar #1

Christian Music Siminar (only $4.95 + S&H):
1999 Church Music Seminar #2

Christian Music Siminar (only $4.95 + S&H):
1999 Church Music Seminar #3

A message on Christian music:
A New Song

Christian music seminar:
Biblical Music Standards

A Christian music message:
Biblical Standards of Sacred Music

Christian music booklet:
Choir Tips – Vol. I

A book that provides council for guidance in Christian music and many other areas of life:
Dear Lord, Tell Me What to Do

Find top notch Christian music here:
Faith Music
Find more of the best Christian music here…melodious Christian music:
Asaph Music Company

The title makes this book about Christian music and rock music pretty self explanatory:
The Truth About Rock Music

This book discusses the role of Christian music in the Christian’s life, the philosophy of music, and answers commonly asked questions about Christian musical standards:
A Song in Your Heart

An outstanding book that takes an in depth look at the philosophy of Christian music:
Music in the Balance

Kimberly Smith addresses the issue of contemporary Christian music straight on:
Let Those Who Have Ears To Hear

The title of this Christian music book gives away the subject matter:
Why I Left The Contemporary Christian Music Movement: Confessions Of A Former Worship Leader

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