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A battle is raging for the heart and soul of Bible-believing churches, and music is playing a central role. Of the preachers who have been willing to stand on the front lines of this battle (and their numbers are small), few if any have had a greater influence than Dr. Garlock. Though I am sure I could disagree with him on some issues (I can disagree with myself on some issues!), I want to give honor to whom honor is due. I am convinced that he has been a great blessing to the Lord’s work in these days, and his influence has been vast.
Dr. Garlock is a man of God who knows music. He has a doctorate from BJU and has taken every graduate course in music offered by the celebrated Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He sat under Howard Hanson, who headed up Eastman for 40 years.
Dr. Garlock began teaching on the dangers of worldly music in about 1970. I was in the Army at the time, on my way to Vietnam. Three years before that I had been invited to play clarinet in the Lakeland (Florida) Symphony Orchestra, but I turned it down because I was much too busy wasting my youth on worldly vanities.
Dr. Garlock’s first book was The Big Beat in 1971. He warned about the danger of rock & roll. At that time, I was living the rock & roll lifestyle to the hilt. The next year I went to jail for drug abuse, hitch hiked all the way across America twice and then drove across two more times, and got involved with Hinduism. It was a busy year, and I lived it to the Big Beat that Dr. Garlock was busy warning about.
In 1973, Dr. Garlock published the Symphony of Life seminar on video, and it had a wide and godly influence. That was also the blessed year that God in His great mercy saved me and changed my taste both in lifestyle and music. I turned 24 that year, and a few months later I published the first of my own books warning of the dangers of rock. It was before I came to know about Dr. Garlock and his teaching.
In 1992, Dr. Garlock (with co-author Kurt Woetzel) published the book Music in the Balance, and that same year he published an expansion and update of his earlier music seminar. The six-part video series was titled The Language of Music.
In 2002, Dr. Garlock published a new single video titled Pop Goes the Gospel: God’s Principles of Music. It is basically a summary of The Language of Music with many new illustrations and quotes.
Dr. Garlock teaches that music is not neutral or amoral. It is a language; in fact, it is one of the most important languages on earth. He warns that the message of the music must match the message of the lyrics. He says, “The words only let you know what the music already says. ... The music is its own message and it can completely change the message of the words” (Garlock, The Big Beat).
He compares music with man’s tripartite nature. Man’s body responds to rhythm, while his mind and spirit respond to harmony and lyrics. Dr. Garlock teaches that these three aspects of music must be kept in balance, just as man must be careful not to emphasize his body over his mind and spirit. Rhythm in music is good and important, but if rhythm is emphasized over harmony and lyrics, as is the case with much of the contemporary music, it is unbalanced and unhealthy. A spiritual person is one who puts spirit first, mind second, and body last. Sound music will follow this pattern, using rhythm wisely. There is nothing wrong with the body as long as it is in a proper relationship with the mind and spirit, and there is nothing wrong with rhythm as long as it is in proper relationship with the melody and harmony. Rhythm is like salt; it must be used under strict control. An example is a symphony orchestra, which uses its rhythm section sparingly, in contrast with a rock band, which is at least 75% rhythm.
Dr. Garlock warns: “In 1 Corinthians 14:7-8 Paul is comparing language to music. Music, as language, must be distinct in its message. When God uses something for an illustration, you know it is good. Music has power; it is addictive. The world recognizes this and uses it to influence people. Thousands of young people have said that it is easier to get off drugs than rock music. The style of music you like tells whom you identify with and what your values are. It shows what kind of person you are. You must test music by the Word of God. It doesn’t matter what you like or dislike, but what is acceptable to God. The CCM movement says that music is amoral, which means that God doesn’t care one way or another. God does care (Isaiah 5:20). God wants you to have discernment in every area of your life. One of these areas is music. IF A CHURCH STARTS USING CCM IT WILL EVENTUALLY LOSE ALL OTHER STANDARDS. You need to draw a line concerning your music” (Garlock, Bob Jones University Chapel, March 12, 2001).
Amen, and we are seeing the truth of these words far and wide. “If a church starts using CCM it will eventually lose all other standards.”
To demonstrate his points, Dr. Garlock quotes profusely from the Bible as well as from a wide variety of experts in various fields.
Dr. Garlock is a Christian gentleman who teaches kindly but with fervency on this important subject. A person does not have to agree with every jot and tittle of his style or material to benefit greatly from it.
Dr. Garlock has traveled to every state in the U.S. and to 30 foreign countries, teaching God’s people on the subject of music and warning of error. He taught for many years at Bob Jones University, and in more recent years, at Pensacola Christian College.
Not content to warn about worldly styles of music, Dr. Garlock co-founded Majesty Music with his daughter and son-in-law, Shelly and Ron Hamilton, to publish godly music for churches, and they have produced some of the most lovely and spiritual music in our generation. They also publish the excellent Majesty Hymnal.
Dr. Garlock is not content to warn of wrong music; he yearns for the churches to worship God in spirit and in truth, with joy and enthusiasm and power:
“We can have the power of God on our music. I can remember hearing the Old Fashioned Gospel Hour with Dr. Charles Fuller on Sunday afternoons. That was where I learned what good gospel music was, where I learned to love gospel music. I’ve studied the classics; I’ve conducted operas; I’ve written symphonies; but I love gospel music. That’s the area where God has called me. And I love to use those other things to help me make good gospel music. I said if God ever lets me work in music, I’m going to have music like that--music that reaches the hearts of people, because it is full of the Word of God under the power of the Holy Spirit” (Garlock, The Language of Music).
We are thankful to the Lord for Dr. Garlock’s wide influence among independent Baptist churches. The independent Baptist and the fundamentalist Bible church movements have provided one of the final bastions for traditional style Christian music, and this has not been an accident. It is because these churches have emphasized separation from the world and have been taught in the area of music by men like Dr. Garlock.
Most mainline Protestants, Pentecostals, charismatics, and evangelicals bought into the “music is neutral” lie long ago, and now we are seeing rapid changes among fundamentalist congregations as well. The contemporary philosophy is creeping in. In some realms of independent Baptists, in fact, it is more like a flood!
Music is one of the most powerful influences in this world, and this is true both for the secular and the religious realms. As Dr. Garlock says, “Music is a language. ... Music is communication.” Indeed it is, and fundamental Baptist churches would do well to heed the wisdom that God has given Dr. Garlock and not heed the siren call of the contemporary paths.
In spite of ridicule and misrepresentation, Dr. Garlock has persevered and as far as I know has not weakened the message that God has given him. He has kept his enthusiasm and joy through all the years of ministry. He testifies:
“I am so glad God lets me serve Him through music. I love it so much that I feel guilty! That God would allow me to serve Him through something that I enjoy doing so much is such a tremendous privilege. I can’t get enough of it!” (Frank Garlock, The Language of Music, 1992).
In conclusion, I must say with much sadness that I cannot agree with the direction that some of Ron Hamilton’s Patch the Pirate music has taken, and since Dr. Garlock is intimately associated with Majesty Music, he must certainly share some responsibility for this. Ron Hamilton is one of the great songwriters of our day, and he has written some truly marvelous songs and hymns, but by incorporating island and blues rhythms and such things into some of the children’s songs, the productions have gone in a direction that is contrary to Dr. Garlock’s own teaching, whether or not he will admit it.
I readily acknowledge that there is much that is subjective in music, that lines are not always easy to draw, and that it is sometimes difficult to nail down precisely what is and is not wholesome. This being the case, isn’t the wisest approach to avoid all appearance of evil, to be certain that we offend in nothing, to draw the clearest line possible?
Isn’t that what Dr. Garlock has taught in his seminars for 30 years?
Instead of taking the wise path of avoiding every semblance of worldliness and maintaining only the most unquestionable standard for music, though, Patch the Pirate has pushed the musical boundaries for the fundamentalist and Bible-believing Baptist churches, accomplishing a subtle and gradual change in direction. This is the last thing that we need in this day and time. We desperately need our music men to draw a clear and spiritual line and THEN HOLD IT! A little mild boogie woogie here, a bit of honky tonk there, a dab of blues and a smattering of Caribbean rhythm -- it’s all pleasant and, hey, its not full-blown, get down rock & roll -- but is it the most excellent line that can be drawn and is it not leading in the wrong direction? Isn’t it pushing the edge? And isn’t that dangerous in a ministry with such a large influence?
I have written about this in another place, though, so I will not dwell upon it here.
With this caveat, therefore, I salute Dr. Frank Garlock and Majesty Music for the godly influence they have had among the Lord’s churches in an evil day and I trust they will always “approve things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10), reject carnal weapons of warfare (2 Cor. 10:4), “give none offence” (1 Cor. 10:32), and “reprove” those things that are wrong (Ephesians 5:11).
[Note our report “Dr. Garlock Misses an Important Point,” available at the Way of Life web site under the “Music” section of the Articles Library. See tab at the top of the web site.]
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