Those who defend Contemporary Christian Music often argue that the only thing that matters is whether or not the musicians are sincere. Note the following statement by Christian rocker Mylon LeFevre:
“Music is not good or evil because of the formation of the notes or the structure of the beat. Music is good because the heart of the person playing it is innocently and sincerely giving praise to our God” (LeFevre, interview by Pastor Rick Anderson, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rock Music--What’s the Real Message?, cited by Jeff Godwin, What’s Wrong with Christian Rock?, p. 122).
WE WOULD ANSWER THIS, FIRST OF ALL, BY REMINDING OUR READERS OF THE DECEPTIVE NATURE OF MAN’S HEART.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26).
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
These verses remind us that man’s heart cannot be trusted. It is possible for a man to deceive himself and others. It is therefore impossible to know whether or not someone is sincerely seeking to please God. It is impossible to know for sure whether or not a person has sincere motives for doing what they do. Man’s heart is complex, and he often has many motives for what he does.
SECOND, GOD REQUIRES OBEDIENCE TO HIS WORD AND DOES NOT ACCEPT MAN’S SINCERE DISOBEDIENCE.
There are many examples of this in the Bible. Moses was very sincere before God, but when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it, God judged him and refused to allow him to enter Canaan (Num. 20:7-14). There is no question that Moses was sincere when he struck the rock, but God did not accept his sincere and earnest disobedience. When Aaron’s sons offered strange fire, God struck them dead, paying no attention to whether or not they were acting sincerely (Lev. 10:1-7). When Saul disobeyed in the seemingly minor matter of refusing to destroy all of the cattle belonging to the Amalekites, God judged him and removed the kingdom from him (1 Samuel 15). Saul protested that he had done the deed in the sincerity of his heart, but this did not change God’s mind. When Uzzah steadied the cart holding the ark, God struck him dead (1 Sam. 6:6-7). It appears from the record that Uzzah was sincerely trying to assist in the service of God, but God did not accept it because it was not done according to His Word.
Dr. Frank Garlock, who has a doctorate from the respected Eastman School of Music, observes:
“Sincerity and motivation have never been a test of real spirituality or even of Christianity for that matter. The Word of God is that which will abide forever, and it is upon His Word that God hinges all spiritual truth. It is not right to ignore the Bible, to become worldly in philosophy and practice, to call things Christian which are not, nor to disobey the Word of God, even to try to win people to Christ” (Garlock, Can Rock Music Be Sacred? 1974, p. 39).
THIRD, THE BIBLE SAYS THAT THE CHRISTIAN RACE MUST BE RUN ACCORDING TO THE DIVINE RULE OR THERE IS NO REWARD FROM GOD.
“And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (2 Tim. 2:5).
This was one reason why Paul exercised his life and ministry so carefully and strictly.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
It is obvious that sincerity and earnestness in the service of Christ is not enough. I must run the Christian race according to the Word of God or God does not accept my service.
FOURTH, IF THE CHIEF TEST OF THE SOUNDNESS OF MUSIC IS THE SINCERITY OF THE PERFORMERS, IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE HEARER TO TEST IT.
As already noted, we cannot know for certain the sincerity of the musician. Many Christian rock musicians have admitted that they wrote and performed Contemporary Christian Music even while they were drinking and committing adultery and seeking fortune and fame. The members of the Christian rock band Stryper admit today that they drank and partied in carnal rebellion during part of their touring career. Michael English, Sandi Patty, Kirk Franklin, among others, admit that they were living in fornication and adultery during part of their careers. Mylon LeFevre admits that he wrote and performed music for years before he got right with God, that he was using drugs heavily and drinking and carousing even while producing Christian music. After their success with the Supernatural album and tour, Michael Tait of dc Talk admitted that he “went through a time where I dabbled in a lot of [wicked] things” (CCM Magazine, May 2001, p. 42). He calls this his “dark days.” Many CCM spokesmen honestly admit that this type of thing is a big problem in their midst, but a great deal of it is covered up to protect the careers of the worldly musicians and to protect the reputation and financial bottom line of the CCM industry. How, then, are we to tell if a musician is “sincerely” walking with God? How can we know that “his heart is right”? We cannot know this for sure, so it is unreasonable to make this the measure of whether or not the music is sound.
While it is important to examine the musician’s life, it is not possible to examine “his heart.” A more reasonable test is to examine how the musician lives and the character and lyrics of the music itself.
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