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post about the definition of Christian rock and some of the biggest questions about Christian music.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Criticism of Christian Rock Part 1


As you know and have read on my blog posts, I am a long time fan and supporter of the ministry of Christian rock.  But, the more I have studied this genre, the more I have found that there are people against Christian rock and even Contemporary Christian music.  In many websites, YouTube videos, and books, there are pastors, writers, and youth leaders speaking out against Christian rock.  Some even go as far as calling it satanic and dealing with the occult.

For my next two posts, I want to set the record straight.  In these posts, I will be answering some of the biggest criticisms of Christian rock music.  I want to dissect Christian rock and use the Bible, my opinions, and the opinions of Christian musicians to show you that Christian rock is bringing praise and honor to our Lord. 

The first criticism is that Christian rock is an oxymoron.  An oxymoron occurs when two contradicting terms are combined into one.  Critics believe Christianity and rock and roll are two contradicting terms, thus Christian rock is an oxymoron.  

According to dictionary.com, the definition of rock and roll is, “a style of popular music that derives in part from blues and folk music and is marked by a heavily accented beat and a simple, repetitive phrase structure.”  This definition simply states the meaning of rock music.  There are no religious, Christian, or non-Christian implications in this basic definition.  Some people and musicians have taken this definition a step further and made rock and roll into a lifestyle, not just a type of music.  Some people associate rock music with drugs, alcohol, sex, parties, anti-religious beliefs, etc.  This type of lifestyle has nothing to do with the style of music a musician plays.  Yes, there are rock musicians that engage in this lifestyle, but there are also rap, country, and pop artists who engage in this lifestyle.  This lifestyle is simply an occurrence in secular rock music, it is not the definition of rock music.  Rock and roll is simply a style of music, just the same as saying gospel, country, hip-hop, or jazz is a style of music.  Music by itself has no religious or lifestyle implications; music is amoral.

Plus, to fully understand this criticism, one must look at music within a vacuum.  When studying if music has any religious implications, one must strip everything else away.  Meaning, take away the band members, their beliefs, and take away the lyrics.  So, all you have left are the notes on a page.  No matter how you look at those notes, there are no religious beliefs or lifestyles attached to them.  Only when you add the band members, their beliefs, and the lyrics of the song is when music takes on belief systems and moral or immoral lifestyles.  Therefore, Christian rock is not an oxymoron because rock and roll is a style of music, not a lifestyle.  You can play rock music without engaging in an immoral lifestyle.

The next criticism is that an entity like a band cannot be Christian.  To be a Christian, one must be a follower of Christ.  Some argue that a band can’t be Christian.  A band is a thing, and a thing cannot follow Christ.  I agree, only humans can be Christians.  Things like a band, or a computer, or a television can’t be Christian.  But, the members of a band can be Christian, and their music can point people to Christ.  If you want to get very technical with words, then yes a band cannot be Christian.  But, for me, I believe a band can be Christian if the members pass three, simple criteria.

The first one is very simple: are you a Christian?  I know this point seems obvious, but to be a Christian musician, Jesus Christ needs to be your personal Savior and Lord.  Yes, I know the Christian rock industry is not perfect and there are people in the industry that are not Christians.  I know that, and I accept that. But, for the truly honest musicians, you first need to be a born again Christian before you can be called a Christian musician.

Second, I believe the musician’s lifestyle also defines you as a Christian artist.  The type of music you play is not what defines you as a Christian, but the life you lead before Jesus Christ and others is what defines you as a Christian.  Now I am not saying go out and judge every single musician you see and say, “They’re a Christian, this band isn’t Christian, this musician is a Christian,” and so on.  I am not saying judge Christian musicians.  In the Bible, it specifically states in Matthew 7:1-2, that you should not judge others or you will be judged by God accordingly.  God tells us to judge what is right and wrong, not the validity of someone’s faith and how they present their faith to others.  That is for God and ONLY God to judge.  What I am saying is the musician’s lifestyle should be a major factor in deciding if this band is Christian or not.  It should be very evident in the musician’s life whether or not they are a follower of Jesus Christ.

The final criteria, I believe, is lyric based.  There are really two major types of lyrics in the Christian rock scene.  The first type of lyric is worship lyrics.  These lyrics are pure worship songs unto God.  The main focus of these songs is bringing praise and glory to God.  The second type of lyric is issue based.  Most Christian rock bands, since they are geared toward teenagers and young adults, talk about issues that are occurring in teenager’s lives today.  When it comes to subject matter, most bands have a wide variety that they choose from.  The subjects can be everything from prayer and witnessing, to alcoholism and cutting.

You may ask, “How can singing about alcoholism and cutting be Christian?”  There is a very fine line that Christian bands walk when singing about these subject matters.  Most bands choose to sing about these subjects because kids are dealing with these subjects everyday.  Most bands believe that they can reach out to kids and witness to them by meeting them wherever they are.  They want to show teenagers that even though they are alcoholics, or they are cutting themselves, or they are thinking about suicide, God still loves and cares for them.  With this subject matter, there is one major difference between Christian rock bands and secular rock bands.  Secular rock bands glorify these subjects. Secular bands glorify alcohol, drugs, sex, and suicide.  On the other hand, Christian bands are showing kids that these life choices are wrong, but God still loves and cares for them.  That is one major difference between secular and Christian rock music.

If you want to get very technical with words, then a band cannot be Christian.  But, if you look at the beliefs of the band members and study the lyrics of a song, I think you can safely label a band Christian.

Next, two of the most popular criticisms of Christian rock music deal with drums and melody.  First, some critics of Christian rock say that you can’t use drums to praise God because 1. This instrument is not mentioned in the Bible. 2. Drums are used in voodoo worship services.

First, I totally agree.  I could not find once in the Bible the mention of drums.  Critics use the Bible verse Psalm 150:3-5 when talking about drums.  It reads:  “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.  Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and flutes.  Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.” 

Their argument is that drums are not mentioned in this verse.  I agree, drums are not mentioned in Psalm 150.  But, there are many other instruments that are not mentioned in this verse or in the Bible including piano, organ, guitar, and bass.  There are only a limited number of instruments mentioned in this verse.  But go back and read it.  It does not say that you can only praise and worship God with these instruments.  It simply says praise him with these instruments.  This verse doesn’t prohibit the use of other musical instruments.  It is inferred that you can bring glory to God with other instruments.  Also, in this verse, many percussion instruments are mentioned.  Timbrels and cymbals are percussion instruments, just like the drum. 

The second part is that critics believe that the origin of the drum was for voodoo and satanic services.  Personally, I know very little to nothing about voodoo and satanic services.  Could people in those services use drums to worship Satan, absolutely.  But does that mean drums, in and of themselves, are bad or evil?  Absolutely not! 

Let me explain it like this.  God created the universe and everything in it; thus He created music.  He also created man, and man has the ability to use and practice music.  Since God gave man a choice and free will on everything, including worshiping Him, man has the choice to play music however he chooses.  This includes all instruments and types of music, not just drums.  Therefore, people can use a drum or any other instrument to praise God or they can use an instrument to bring glory to Satan.  Instruments in and of themselves are not evil or immoral. 

As Christians, we shouldn’t look at things in this world to shun.  Yes, there are things explicitly told in the Bible that we should not do.  But, there are also many things not mentioned in the Bible.  Just because something is not mentioned in the Bible does not make it bad.  We should look at anything whether it is drums, music, movies, television, or whatever, as a chance and opportunity to bring glory to God!  Not as something we should shun.    

The next criticism is beat and melody.  Most of the time, these are used as separate criticisms, but I am going to lump them together for now.  Most critics say Christian rock is bad or evil because it emphasizes the beat and that there is no melody.  Before we can dissect this criticism, we must look at each of these definitions.  According to definitions.net, the musical term beat means, “marking the time division or an accent for music during performance.” 

A beat is in every form of music, everything from classical piano to heavy metal.  Every piece of music has a beat.  The time signature for each piece of music describes the beat.  The top number represents how many beats are in a measure of music, and the bottom number represents the note that gets the beat.  For example, if the time signature said ¾, this would mean that there are three beats in a measure and that the quarter note represents one beat.  I don’t want to take too long going into great detail about this.  But, if you want more information, you can definitely find it online.  What I am saying is that every song, every piece of music, and every genre of music has a beat.  Whether it’s a hymn, or a classical piano piece, or a Christian hard rock song by Skillet, every piece of music has a beat, and every piece of music emphasizes the beat.

Next is melody.  According to dictionary.com, melody is, “a succession of notes forming a distinctive sequence; or tune.”  Some also say that melody can mean the sweetness of the tune.  Most critics say that rock music emphasizes the beat and discards melody.  They say music must have melody, and since rock music has no melody, it is not really music.  Every song has a beat, and I agree rock music does emphasize the beat stronger than other genres of music.  But that does not mean rock music discards melody.  To have melody in a song, you simply need to have a succession of notes that make a tune.  That’s it!  The other definitions of melody are the sweetness of the tune and the pleasing sounds of music.  That, in my opinion, is in the ears of the audience.  Just because you don’t find any pleasing sounds in a type of music, does not mean that other people will not find a sweet or pleasant sound in that same type of music.  With this criticism, there are two things to remember.  The beat is in every type of music, not just rock music.  And melody is in every type of music, including Christian rock!

The next criticism is that Christian rock songs are ambiguous.  Some bands do not come out and say Jesus or God in every song.  Since God is not mentioned, critics say that Christian music is ambiguous, and it is not very clear what the song means or who the musicians are singing about.  As I said earlier, bands either talk about issues of today or they sing worship songs unto God. 

To tell you the truth, for me, very few songs in Christian rock are ambiguous.  If you listen to the lyrics, in most songs you can tell very easily what the song is about.  Plus, you can go to the band’s website or social media pages, you can go to YouTube and watch their interviews, and you can read reviews from music critics to find out even more information about the meanings of songs.  Some bands, like Disciple, even list Bible verses that go along with each of their songs.  If you study most songs, the meaning is easy to find.  

With that being said, I will admit some songs are ambiguous.  But, they are ambiguous for a reason.  Some bands like to leave the meanings of songs up to the listeners.  Many artists want to allow the spirit of God to minister to people in different ways and to connect with people on different levels. 

Finally, a lot of bands use a more poetic form of lyric writing that uses lots of imagery, metaphors, and symbols.  Christian bands use these to minister to non-Christians.  They use images, themes, and symbols that both Christians and non-Christians can understand and relate to.  By doing this, people can be impacted and moved.  Jesus Christ did the exact same thing in the Bible.  Jesus mainly taught through parables.  Just like a short song, Jesus used a story to minister to people in a way they could understand.

If you are ever unclear about the meaning of a song, do research.  Use the internet, research the band, and the specific song.  Talk to other people and ask them what they think the song is about.  These are so many great ways to find the meaning of a song if you are ever confused.

The final criticism in Part 1 is that Christian rock music does not make a joyful noise to the Lord.  Critics believe this for a number of reasons:  the music is too loud, the lyrics are ambiguous, drums are evil, etc.  But as for me, I definitely believe that Christian music glorifies God and makes a joyful noise.

I actually thought about this statement for a long time.  I kept thinking to myself, what is a joyful noise?  What does God consider a joyful noise, and how can I make a joyful noise when praising God?  I kept coming back to two answers: sincerity of the heart and that the music seeks to glorify God.  It doesn’t matter what you are singing, whether it is Christian rock, contemporary Christian music, hymns, or gospel music.  But what does matter is whether you are singing with a sincere heart.  It doesn’t matter if you sing bad, good, loud, soft, scream, or whisper. What matters is if you are sincerely offering this song up to God, giving praise to Him.  I think that is what makes a joyful noise to the Lord.  So, if you are sincerely offering a Christian rock song up to God, then I believe you are making a joyful noise.

This is Part 1 of me tackling the major criticisms of Christian rock.  In Part 2, I take a look at tattoos, long hair, bands playing in bars and clubs, and critics calling Christian rock satanic.  To see Part 2, click here.

14 comments:

  1. I'm going to study this article so I will have a good response to people concerning this topic. Sad that people in the church are still so narrow-minded about things like this.

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    1. Thanks for reading! Yeah, it's sad that people in the church still have these beliefs. Even worse, I think these criticisms also hurt our witness as Christians.

      I also have a Part 2 where I go in even more depth on this topic if you would like to check it out. Here's the link.

      http://christianrock123.blogspot.com/2011/08/criticisms-of-christian-rock-part-2.html

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    2. Wrong!Lets put this naturally,supernaturally,how can you glorify Jesus and play genre of music(melodys,beats,)the devils fiddle so to speak and say this is spiritually correct?

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    3. Thank you Jason for your response and sharing your opinion. I have seen this same argument being used many times. I have talked with multiple people who believe that Christian rock is under the authority and control of satan. At least in reading your comment, I am assuming that this is your opinion as well, especially when you say that the genre of rock music is the devil’s fiddle.

      As a follower of Christ, I believe that, in every discussion, Christians should always look to Scripture, in order to find Biblical answers from the Lord. In reading Scripture, the Bible never mentions rock music. Going further, the Bible never mentions certain styles of music as being sinful or under satan’s control. For example, when Paul or Jesus highlight certain sins, musical genres are never mentioned. Plus, in talking about instruments, melodies, and beats, not once do Jesus or the Biblical authors label certain musical instruments or musical characteristics as being evil.

      Because instruments, melodies, beats, and musical genres are not listed as sinful, nor are they described as being holy and perfect, then, this means that they are morally neutral objects in this world. So, one person can use music and melodies to glorify themselves or to commit sin, while another can use their talents and musical gifts to glorify the Lord. Yes, I freely admit that there are musicians who play rock music, and their lyrics and lifestyles are contrary to the truth of Scripture. But, on the flip side, I also believe that there are numerous Christian rock musicians who use their gifts and lives to bring honor to Christ.

      Once again, I think the whole debate comes down to what Scripture says on this topic. Since the Bible is silent on issues regarding musical styles, then, I believe that the person is given the authority and free will to use music as he/she sees fit. Because we live in a sinful world, this means that some people will distort the gifts of God in order to commit sin. But, on the flip side, if someone is redeemed and changed by the salvation of Christ, then, a person can also use music, including Christian rock, to bring honor, praise, and worship to the Lord.

      As always, thank you for your opinion, and I would be more than happy to talk with you further on this issue, if you have any more questions. God Bless.

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  2. Excellent, logical argument. You have definitely given me a clearer view of this topic.

    Also:"Music by itself has no religious or lifestyle implications; music is amoral. . . . Only when you add the band members, their beliefs, and the lyrics of the song is when music takes on belief systems and moral or immoral lifestyles."

    Well said.

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  3. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog. My intention when writing these two posts was to present a logical and well thought out argument on this topic. I am really glad that I could help you out!

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  4. Is really cool you make something to clear to the critics what Christian Rock Music is about... I totally agree with you and I think it doesn't matter wehre did you come (like the origin of rock music) All depens on what you do and how you show Jesus Christ in you life....

    It's a Great Article ! :D

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  5. Thank you so much for the kind words! I appreciate it. I just wanted to have a place that tackles some of the biggest criticisms of Christian rock. To God be the glory!

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  6. Very good brother =)

    I had so many conversations already with rock critics... The main arguments against rock music are always the same. They are those;

    it is - worldly music, -it has its origins in paganism, -it appeals to the flesh.
    But if you have a closer look on this topic, you will see, that the rock critics are wrong. But it seems like they will never believe, that they are wrong. Too many of them are too stiff necked and stubborn. And sadly they are convicted of their opinion. Wich is conviction in error. Im having a discussion at the moment with a rock critic... My point is this; If this whole music thing could be indeed so dangerious etc. God surely would have forbidden certain music(styles), instruments, beats, rhytms etc. Or he would simply say; You shall just and only worship me in this and this manner. To everything else i wont listen and it can be dangerious for you, because the devil owns some music. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but i bet, god would provide some words like this in the bible, if the critics would be right. But of course, we dont find such a verse, in the bible... Sad that the critics dont see this. Thanks for your website and god bless you! Simon

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    1. Thank you for the reply. I too have had many of the same conversations that you have had with Christian rock critics. Most of the time, their arguments are all the same. Sadly, I've learned that most critics are not even open to listening. But, we know that Christian rock is God-honoring! Keep supporting Christian music! God bless.

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    2. Yeah unfortunately most of them are too stubborn to listen. But their arguments are sooo poor and lame. They really dont have any weight. I always ask them 9 questions. But NONE of them could ever answer it. Thats, what i ask them:


      1. How does Gods music sound like?
      2. Does God ever limit us, in HOW we should worship him and HOW exactly it has to sound like?

      3. Look at the Psalms. Does "shout unto the lord" "make a joyful noise" "sing a new song" and "play loud and skillfully on a stringed instrument" sound like a limitation? Or do these things tell us, HOW it has to sound like? No it doesnt. These things from above can be pretty much anything.

      4. God does never give us instructions, in HOW EXACTLY worship music has to sound like, so that he is pleased

      5. If the whole music thing would be so dangerious, God would have let us know and he would have given us crystal clear instructions, in HOW we should make worship ONLY...

      6. The bible does Never forbid or condemn certain music(styles), rhytms, beats, melodies, chords and instruments..... so why do you???

      7. Psalms 150 says we should praise him with all possible instruments.... (and it does not say HOW it has to sound like)

      8. The devil owns NO music. (he has NO creating power, he just perverts)

      9. In a nutshell, content and use of something is everything.... We can use all musicstyles to praise God. No musicstyle in and on itself in inherently evil. Its all a question, of HOW and WHY do we use it.... THE HEART OF THE WORSHIPPER IS WHAT MATTERS!!!

      10. Go read this article. Your poor arguments are refuted there!
      http://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/christian-rock/

      Your turn buddy.

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  7. Hey Marc, what a great post! What do you say to people who say that metal singers sound demonic?
    Thanks, and God Bless.

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    1. Thank you again for your comments!

      Here, I’m just assuming that you are talking about metal vocalists who scream. If you are not, let me know, and I will give you another explanation.

      I, too, have heard these same opinions from many people. Sadly, there is still a large Christian population, who believe that screaming vocalists are demonic.

      Within conversations, my first question to these people is why? Why do you believe that screaming, in metal music, automatically sounds demonic? At least to me, if screaming in a song equals the promotion of satan, then, you also have to say that screaming in real life is satanic. If the act of screaming is satanic in one area of your life, then, it should be counted the same way in other areas, as well. For most people, they have not thought their argument all the way through.

      Largely, a person should view screaming as simply being a different style of vocals. Within metal music, the vocalists are not just screaming random noises. But, they are screaming the actual words and lyrics of a song. For most professional screamers, they can also scream at certain pitches and hit different notes with their voice.

      However, with all this said, there are demonic aspects of secular metal music. Especially those in black and death metal, there are widely known satanic bands and lyrics. There are quite a few metal groups, who proudly worship satan, through their music. For them, I would definitely say that their screaming voices are demonic. However, this is not because they scream, but this belief is solely based on the messages that they are promoting.

      Overall, there are satanic metal bands out there. That's a fact. But, for the average Christian artist who simply chooses to scream their lyrics, there is nothing satanic about it at all.

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  8. Thank you Marc, you're completely right! I know people who call metal music demonic sounding, and I didn't know what to say, so thank you!
    God Bless, and keep rocking for Jesus!

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