This is a shortened edition of a previous report by this same title.
In recent days I have warned about the “adaptation” of Contemporary Christian Music at independent Baptist churches and schools.
This is going on widely, but even more serious than the “adaptation” of the contemporary music is the adaptation of the contemporary philosophy. Of course, the two go hand-in-hand, which is why contemporary music brings such radical and rapid changes to churches.
I trust that church leaders will heed our warning and renounce the following philosophies. Every fundamental Baptist church and school today needs to have a top to bottom review of what is being taught and what is not being taught, of what is being emphasized and not emphasized. Every teacher should be vetted so that no foreign philosophy is creeping in.
I am convinced that every Independent Baptist church that refuses to plainly and boldly and unhesitatingly renounce both the music and the philosophy of CCM will be fully contemporary in stance within 10 years.
Consider some examples of the CCM philosophy that has been espoused to me in recent correspondence by students at Baptist colleges:
1. GRACE MEANS THAT IN QUESTIONABLE THINGS WE SHOULD COME DOWN ON THE SIDE OF THE LESS STRICT, THE PATH OF GREATER LIBERTY. STRICTNESS IS A MARK OF LEGALISM AND IS A GRACE KILLER.
A Bible college student wrote as follows:
“Another thing that is taught is that if there is a doubt or question concerning practice, standards, or anything else, that because we are under grace, we should choose the broader path, otherwise we are still acting under yoke of bondage” (Northland University student).
Grace is certainly at the heart and soul of biblical Christianity. The true gospel is called “the grace of Christ” (Galatians 1:6). The grace of God, though, does not lead to “the broader path.”
Yet this has long been a New Evangelical principle. Consider the following statement by Charles Swindoll:
“There was a time ... when I had a position that life was so rigid I would fight for every jot and tittle. I mean, I couldn’t list enough things that I’d die for. The older I get, the shorter that list gets, frankly. ... More than ever we need grace-awakened ministers who free rather than bind” (Grace Awakening).
Calvary Contender editor Jerry Huffman observed that Swindoll’s book leaves “the impression that rules or restrictions upon the believer steal from him the exuberance and joy of the Christian life and relegate him to a morbid and dreary existence.”
This is precisely the philosophy that is permeating Independent Baptist churches and schools today.
In the aforementioned book, Swindoll implies that those who strive for strict moral purity are legalists who need to learn grace. He claims that it is legalistic to make prohibitions about movies, dress, music, dancing, etc.
Actually Swindoll redefines grace as a form of license.
Biblical grace, on the other hand, teaches a strict form of Christian living.
“For THE GRACE OF GOD that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, TEACHING US THAT, DENYING UNGODLINESS AND WORLDLY LUSTS, WE SHOULD LIVE SOBERLY, RIGHTEOUSLY, AND GODLY, IN THIS PRESENT WORLD; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from ALL INIQUITY, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, ZEALOUS OF GOOD WORKS” (Titus 2:11-14).
To live in the manner described in this Scripture requires the continual exercise of judgment and extreme caution pertaining to all forms of entertainment, etc. It requires a “testing mindset.”
The “grace” that is typically taught by Contemporary Christian Music performers is not biblical grace because it does not produce strict separation from worldly lusts. It does not produce peculiar people; it produces worldly-minded people.
God’s people are to “have NO fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). That is a very strict standard and a very narrow walk.
Further, a strict position is a safe position. The Bible repeatedly and emphatically warns about spiritual dangers, particularly in the context of the end times.
The devil is wily and subtle and beguiling. He appears as an angel of light and his ministers appear as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11). There are seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (1 Ti. 4:1-4). There will be a great apostasy, a turning from sound doctrine to fables (2 Ti. 4:3-4). There will be men who operate by cunning craftiness and that lie in wait to deceive. (Eph. 4:14).
We must therefore prove all things and try the spirits. The danger of end-time apostasy requires is a very strict manner of Christian living.
“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24).
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
2. IT IS WRONG TO HAVE A CRITICAL EYE.
A graduate of West Coast Baptist College wrote the following:
“[When I first arrived] I had a critical eye toward all that they had going ... [But] I would rather give account for singing songs written by contemporary artists but sung in a conservative way than for having a critical attitude toward a fellow man of God.”
We don’t have to make a choice between being wishy-washy about songs written by contemporary artists or having a critical attitude. We should rather aim to have a “critical eye” without having a “critical spirit,” so to speak.
Like judging, criticism can take two forms: carnal and godly.
The Bible commends a “critical eye” in the sense of exercising keen spiritual discernment and testing everything by God’s Word. We are exhorted to “prove ALL things” (1 Th. 5:21). That requires a LOT of judging and “criticism”!
Paul had a “critical eye” toward Peter’s hypocrisy and Demas’ worldliness and Phygellus’ inconsistency and Philetus’ heresy and Alexander the Coopersmith’s evil (2 Ti. 1:15; 2:17; 4:10, 14).
Christ had a “critical eye” toward the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and the Saducees’ rationalism and the disciples’ unbelief (Mt. 23; Lu. 24:25).
When I went to Bible School at Tennessee Temple in the mid-1970s, I was only one year old in the Lord, but I had a powerful dose of salvation, I had been devouring the Bible, and I knew that God wanted me to test everything by it. Psalm 119:128; John 8:31-32; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21 were as precious and real to me then as today.
I began to see some things that I felt were wrong scripturally, particularly the shallow, unscriptural soul-winning technique I have since labeled “Quick Prayerism,” the carnal over-exaltation of man, the big-numbers, big-church, big-preacher braggadociosness, and the refusal on the part of the leaders and visiting speakers to speak out plainly on some very important issues.
I had a “critical eye,” and insofar as I had a wrong attitude and lack of mercy and compassion, I was wrong, but insofar as I was identifying things that were unscriptural and wrong, I was right.
By God's grace, I have grown in my spiritual life, and I believe and hope that I am wiser and more gracious than I was when I was a new Christian, but I also thank the Lord that I have not given up my “critical eye” in a biblical sense. I still reject the things I rejected decades ago, because they are still unscriptural.
If ever there were a time to have a “critical eye” in a right sense it is today. It will protect you spiritually. It is the devil who wants everyone to give up “criticism.” If we do that, we have no shield of protection and there is no way to bring correction to error.
I am deeply concerned that so many IB churches and schools are putting humanistic eye wash in the biblical critical eye.
At the same time, we must guard against a carnal, critical spirit. James described the right spirit as follows:
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (James 3:13-15).
I have often emphasized the importance of such things as giving church leaders the benefit of the doubt. Our free eBook Keys to Fruitful Church Membership emphasizes such things. So does the article “I Am Not Your Pastor.”
The CCM philosophy of not being critical about music comes from the charismatic movement, which teaches people to “let go and let God,” to go with the flow, to not “put God in a box.” This was the philosophy of John Wimber and many of the Vineyard churches. It is the philosophy of Hillsong. It is the philosophy of most of the CCM artists.
The Bible teaches just the opposite. We are to be very strict, very cautious.
The philosophy expressed above by the graduate of an IB college in an e-mail to me is something he was taught at school. The following is from the school’s web site from 2006:
“Students at West Coast Baptist College will be taught the importance of appreciating and growing spiritually through the means of godly music. Students will also be taught that worldly music and Christian rock music are destructive to their maturing as a Christian. West Coast Baptist College believes in the importance of following the Scriptural admonitions regarding music found in Ephesians 5; therefore, our emphasis revolves around psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The 200-voice choir of Lancaster Baptist Church, as well as all musical groups and instrumentalists, adhere to conservative music standards, emphasizing a distinct melody and godly music theory. STUDENTS WILL NOT, HOWEVER, BE TAUGHT TO HAVE A JUDGMENTAL SPIRIT OF OTHER MINISTRIES WITH SLIGHT VARIATIONS IN MUSIC STYLE FROM THAT WHICH IS TAUGHT AT WEST COAST BAPTIST COLLEGE. THEY WILL BE TAUGHT THAT A CRITICAL AND JUDGMENTAL SPIRIT IS AS GRIEVOUS TO THE LORD AS PERHAPS AN UNINTENTIONAL VARIATION IN MUSIC STYLE BY A LIKE-MINDED FUNDAMENTAL CHURCH.”
The first statement about the importance of having the right music and the destructive nature of worldly music is largely negated by the second statement about not judging or being critical, and it is the second statement that has become the predominant philosophy at West Coast. It has allowed the music people to push the boundaries farther each year.
While we should be gracious and wise in our judgments, we must judge! While we should not be carnally critical in attitude, we should most definitely be critical of sin and worldliness and error and compromise of the truth!
I would ask at what point is it right to be judgmental and critical toward music? If it has a backbeat and other forms of dance syncopation? If it has non-resolving chord patterns? If it incorporates worldly vocal techniques? If it is repetitious? If it has a vague message? If it is written by CCM people for charismatic mystical worship? If it is written by those who deny the Trinity and promote a non-judgmental god? If it is written by those who believe that Roman Catholics are part of the “body of Christ” and associate with the pope?
Where are we allowed to draw clear lines and become “judgmental” without breaking West Coast’s rules?
In my estimation, it is not possible to obey this school’s rules on music without disobeying God’s rules.
3. PERSONAL EDIFICATION IS A MAJOR STANDARD OF MUSIC.
A graduate of West Coast Baptist College wrote the following:
“Can a Christian not be edified by these songs? Is it not more important for a person to be edified?”
Another Bible college student wrote:
“The music standards were changed so that the students could listen to any music they wanted to, as long as it didn’t offend their conscience” (Northland University student).
These statements reflect a perfect description of the CCM and emerging church philosophy. If I am “blessed” by the music, it must be OK.
I have read at least 100 of their books, have attended major conferences with press credentials, have attended their church services for research, and have communicated personally with many of them, and the CCM crowd could not state their philosophy more clearly than it is being stated by students at many fundamental Baptist colleges today.
What is edification and how does it happen? “Edification” means to build up spiritually, of course, and it happens by God’s Spirit through God’s Word. True edification in a biblical sense can only happen in accordance with God’s Word. Acts 9:31 associates edification with walking in the fear of the Lord.
“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).
Knowing the deception of the human heart, the standard of “I was blessed by the music” is insufficient and dangerous. The devil is clever and subtle and can appeal to the “religious” side of the fallen flesh.
I must test every sense of “blessing” by God’s Word.
If I am acting contrary to Scripture and still claim that I am being edified and blessed, I am deceived. This is blind mysticism.
Multitudes who attended Kathryn Kuhlman’s preaching meetings said they were blessed.
Multitudes who attend papal masses say they are blessed.
Multitudes who fall on the floor and speak in gibberish in charismatic meetings say they are blessed.
Pentecostals who have heard voices telling them to not judge the Roman Catholic Church say they are blessed by these experiences.
Those who attend Marsha Stevens’ concerts and hear her lesbian “Christian” music will tell you that they blessed.
We must be very, very careful in this age that our “blessings” are not spiritual deceptions.
Jesus warned that in the last hours of the age false teaching will be so subtle that “insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Mt. 24:24).
When it comes to CCM, its use is disobedience to Scriptures such as Romans 12:2; 16:17; Ephesians 5:11-16; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:5; 4:3-4; Titus 2:11-12; James 4:4; and 1 John 2:15-17.
It is important to understand that mysticism is sweeping the planet, both in the secular, religious, Christian, and now fundamentalist realms. In the book What Is the Emerging Church? we document the fact that mysticism is a major element of the emerging church, and to hold the principle that “personal edification” is an important standard for testing music is to be on the emerging mystical road.
Rock music has always been mystical. It is all about a good feeling. The 60s song “Hooked on a Feeling” capsulizes the whole thing. Modern society is hooked on the feeling produced by sensual music. It stirs up powerful emotions. It doesn’t even need words.
Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, who recorded some of the first rock & roll hits, including Elvis’ first recording in 1954, knew the power of rock. Reminiscing many years later about why rock music became such a social phenomenon, he said, “It all came out of THAT INFECTIOUS BEAT and those young people wanting to FEEL GOOD by listening to some records” (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer Sam Phillips Dies,” USA Today, July 30, 2003).
Rock music can be hard or soft, fast or slow, loud or quiet, and it is still rock because it still has a sensual swing rhythm that moves the body, and it is still “infectious” or addictive.
If I need sensual, body-moving music to be “edified,” and if sound doctrine sung in a sacred “old fashioned” manner doesn’t do the job, then I am addicted to sensual music, and it is easy to mistake a sensual feeling for spiritual edification.
A good feeling does not equate to biblical edification. True edification is always in conformity to God’s Word.
The “personal blessing” factor is a very shallow, insufficient, and dangerous standard by which to judge Christian music.
4. LOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MUSIC.
When Bible-believing Christians take the Word of God and measure leaders, churches, denominations and movements by it, they are invariably charged with a lack of love. A woman wrote to me and said:
“You preach separatism from heresy. WHAT ABOUT LOVE? ... The lost will never be reached through SUCH HATRED” (Letter from a reader, May 1997).
A graduate of an fundamental Baptist college wrote along the same line:
“Last I checked, the Lord Jesus Christ was more concerned about our love than He was about our music or anything else”
To this generation, the “negative” aspects of “fundamentalist” Christianity are unloving. To carefully test things by the Bible is a lack of compassion. To mark and avoid false teachers is hateful. To warn of false gospels and to discipline heretics and to separate from error is mean-spirited.
Some years ago, evangelist Jack Van Impe, a former fundamentalist, rejected biblical separatism and adopted the ecumenical philosophy. He immediately began contrasting biblical discernment and separation with love:
“Let’s forget our labels and come together in love, and the pope has called for that. I had 400 verses on love. Till I die I will proclaim nothing but love for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, my Catholic brothers and sisters, Protestant brothers and sisters, Christian Reformed, Lutherans, I don’t care what label you are. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.”
This is the popular view of love in these end times: love doesn’t judge, isn’t critical, doesn’t separate. But this is a false and dangerous position.
If we define love by the Bible itself, we find that it is never set in contrast to godly judgment and holiness and a zeal for the truth.
Consider Christ’s teaching on love: “Jesus answered and said unto him, IF A MAN LOVE ME, HE WILL KEEP MY WORDS: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (Joh. 14:23).
Consider Paul’s teaching on love: “And this I pray, that your LOVE MAY ABOUND YET MORE AND MORE IN KNOWLEDGE AND IN ALL JUDGMENT; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Php. 1:9-10).
Consider the apostle John’s teaching on love: “For THIS IS THE LOVE OF GOD, THAT WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 Jo. 5:3).
This is true Christian love, not the feel-good, rock & roll-driven mysticism of the contemporary movement that preaches world-loving license and broadminded tolerance.
Biblical love is obedience to God and His Word.
Love is not a warm fuzzy feeling. Christian love is not an emotion, though emotion is closely associated with it.
Feelings of love come and go in this present life, but the action of biblical love can be steadfast. For a woman to love her husband means she submits to him and serves him according to the Bible as unto the Lord. For a man to love his wife means he treats her in the way the Bible commands. The emotion of love is important, but it is a very secondary thing, and true love is not dependent on an emotion.
Biblical love is spiritually and doctrinally vigilant. It is based on knowledge and judgment from God’s Word. It proves all things and approves only those things that reflect the will of God.
Was the Lord Jesus Christ unloving when He drove the moneychangers from the temple with a whip (Joh. 2:15-17), or when He looked on the people “with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mk. 3:5), or when he called the Pharisees a “generation of vipers” (Mt. 23:33), or when he addressed Peter as Satan (Mt. 16:23), or when He instructed His disciples not to give holy things unto “dogs” and “swine” (Mt. 7:6), or when He called His own disciples “fools and slow of heart to believe” (Lu. 24:25), or when He said that He hates the deeds and doctrines of the Nicolaitans (Re. 2:6; 15)?
Was the apostle Paul unloving when he rebuked Peter publicly for his compromise (Ga. 1)? Or when he named the names of false teachers and compromisers such as Hymenaeus and Alexander ten different times in the Pastoral Epistles? Was the apostle Paul unloving when he forbade women to teach or to usurp authority over men in 1 Timothy 2:12?
Of course not! And neither are preachers today unloving when they follow in these godly footsteps.
Jesus said to the churches, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
Biblical love does not mean that I ignore things that are wrong and things that are spiritually and morally injurious.
The contemporary crowd is very confused about the definition of biblical love.
5. WE SHOULD NOT BE AFRAID TO PUSH THE BOUNDARIES OF MUSIC AND STANDARDS.
“There was a huge push, at least toward me and another one of my friends who was struggling with the changes, TO RETHINK WHAT OUR PARENTS HAVE TAUGHT US. I was told by Dr. Olson and one of the dorm supervisors that I must rethink my music philosophy and make sure I didn't just believe what I am taught, but I need to choose my own standards” (Northland University student).
While it is always good and right to test everything by Scripture, the Bible itself warns us not to remove ancient landmarks (Pr. 22:28). This does not mean that we blindly follow tradition or that we accept something just because our parents did it, but it does mean that we not reject tradition lightly.
Christian rock has the same insubordinate attitude that its intimate friend secular rock has. It is quick to overthrow anything or anyone that gets in its way.
Rock & roll burst on the scene in the 1950s and 1960s chock full of insolence toward tradition and authority.
And the e-mails I receive from young people who defend CCM represent the same insolence. Typically they are filled with mocking ridicule and a flippant spirit, and this attitude is applauded in circles that love CCM.
Consider the following from a student at West Coast Baptist College in response to my warnings about the music, and don’t forget that this is a mere kid writing to a grandfather preacher who has been in the spiritual battle for nearly 40 years:
“Your hypocrisy and misinterpretation and out-of-context use of the Bible sickens me. May God have mercy on your soul you arrogant, raunchy man. I cannot help but wonder if those who call you ‘brother’ are sadly mistaken. Your choice of replies, continued attacks and unScriptural bellowing shows clearly who you are. I challenge you: post my previous email. Write a smart reply to the issues it addresses. Why haven't you? Because you're full of holes, arrogance and grotesque pride.”
To write and “rip into” a preacher like me who warns about CCM is the sporting, clever thing to do. “Let’s see how ridiculous we can make that “old fundamentalist” look. Who cares whether we are speaking the truth with godly respect. We’re ever so cool and clever, and we’re having fun, and we all know that he’s a nutcase.”
Young people have every right to challenge their elders and to disagree with them if they have biblical authority to prove an error, but God hates pride and mocking and disrespect. When God-loving Noah had a temporary moral failing, two of his sons showed honor to him even in that difficult situation, while one son showed disrespect and mocking. Which sons were blessed of God?
God’s Word is unequivocal on this matter.
Leviticus 19:2 Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.
James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Proverbs 14:3 In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.
Proverbs 30:17 The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.
I personally know the issue of rebellion from every perspective. I was an insolent adolescent. As a teenager, I rebelled against my dad in a pretty vicious way. I mocked him and told him he wasn’t going to tell me how to live or how long my hair was going to be or anything else. I broke his heart, but I didn’t care. Everything was about me. When I was drafted into the army, I did enough to survive and get an honorable discharge, but I was a rebel through and through, thumbing my nose at authority every chance I got. When I got out of the army, I made two foolish vows: one, not to wear green again, and two, not to cut my hair again. I became a rock & roll New Age hippie. I grew my hair down to my shoulders, and if I thought that someone was offended by it, that made my day!
The attitude that I have experienced countless times from CCM defenders reminds me very much of the attitude I had as a lost, drug-addicted, rock-drunk hippie.
Since I was saved, though, I have had a different spirit by God’s grace. I’m not saying I can’t get in the flesh, but thank God I no longer “live in the flesh.” There has been a tremendous change in my attitude toward authority, and I know that a humble, respectful spirit is what pleases the Lord. Until before I was saved, I really care about having a right attitude toward authority. I have stood against error since I was first saved, after the example of Psalm 119:128. “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” But I have always tried to do it in the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
And James 3:13,
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”
If your contemporary philosophy has granted you the liberty to mock and disrespect elders and spiritual authorities, to do anything but show godly humility, you are self-deceived because this type of thing is far more of this world than of Christ.
The fact that rock & roll has always been about thumbing your nose at authority and doing your own thing is 180 degrees contrary to the biblical Christian faith, and this is one of the many fundamental reasons why I reject rock & roll in every form.
Defend “Christian” rock and any other type of rock if you think you can. Disagree with me if you feel you must, but don’t mock me and treat me like a fool. A sincere believer who is trying to take God’s Word seriously can be wrong, but he is no fool.
Intimately associated with the insolence of secular rock and Christian rock (and even the soft CCM) is the unconcern about offence. Consider the following Scriptures:
Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
1 Corinthians 10:32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.
The Bible warns about giving unnecessary offence. Paul taught that even in matters of liberty, matters in which the Bible is silent and in which I thus have personal liberty before God, we are to restrict our liberty if we know we are causing offence and possible spiritual harm.
I find these Scriptures very interesting in light of the attitude that I have typically encountered among CCM defenders. Paul was willing to give up things such as meat, things which are not wrong in themselves, but the CCM crowd is not willing to give up even deeply questionable things for the sake of not offending others.
When you try to explain to the CCM crowd that as a young person you were almost spiritually destroyed by rock music and that you are convinced from personal experience and from the Word of God that every aspect of rock is of the world, the flesh, and the devil, they have no sympathy that I can discern. They have no fear of offence. They are much too busy getting in your face with their music and their “liberty.”
Live in contemporary dreamland if you want, but this is not genuine biblical Christianity, and it is yet another fundamental reason why I am opposed to the CCM movement.
6. TO APPLY BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES TO THINGS SUCH AS MUSIC IS GOING BEYOND SCRIPTURE.
I don’t have a quote at hand, but fundamental Baptist college students who have written to defend the adaptation of CCM have often brought up the philosophy that since the Bible doesn’t specifically condemn it, then it is not right to apply general biblical principles.
But while the Bible doesn’t condemn hard rock or soft rock or really any aspect of CCM’s music specifically, it does address such things in principle.
The Bible doesn’t specifically condemn wearing a bikini while teaching a Sunday School class, yet even the most liberal churches don’t allow that.
The same is true for the use of marijuana. This drug is not mentioned in the Bible by name, but there are biblical principles that apply to its use, such as being sober-minded, not being under the mastery of anything other than Christ, having a good testimony before others, and avoiding even the appearance of evil.
Likewise, the following are a few of the Bible principles that are applicable to Contemporary Christian Music:
● the principle of separation from end-time apostasy and not building bridges to that apostasy (2 Timothy 3:5)
● the principle of not conforming to, not being the friend of, and not loving the world (Romans 12:2; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16)
● the principle of doctrinal purity (1 Timothy 1:3)
● the principle that our music should be spiritual (Colossians 3:16)
● the principle of making a clear distinction between the holy and the profane (Ezekiel 22:6)
● the principle of being sober-minded and spiritually vigilant (1 Peter 5:8)
● the principle of not communing with devils (1 Corinthians 10:21; 1 Timothy 4:1)
And those principles are only a start.
Consider just one of these: the Bible principle of separation from the world as expressed in the following Scriptures:
“Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away” (Proverbs 4:14-15)
“I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked” (Psalms 26:4-5).
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12).
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
Strict separation from the world is a major teaching of Scripture. It is a fundamental Bible doctrine. It is a foundational principle of biblical Christian living.
It was this doctrine that convinced me as a young Christian that I had to give up rock & roll if I was going to please the Lord. It wasn’t an easy decision, because my flesh loved rock. I had long been addicted to the backbeat, the sensuality and fleshly excitement of it.
I didn’t give up rock because I was some sort of legalistic Pharisee. I was just a young Christian seeking the Lord’s will.
I didn’t give up rock because someone was preaching against it. My pastor at the time knew next to nothing about rock music and never mentioned it in his preaching.
I gave up rock for one reason, and that was because I believed that God’s Word required that I separate from such things, and that decision was based on the aforementioned Scriptures which was read as a young Christian.
It wasn’t that the Bible says anything specific about rock music. It doesn’t say anything about it directly, but it says plenty about it in principle!
God’s Word makes it perfectly clear that separation from the world, non-conformity to the world, is not an optional part of Christianity.
Watch any typical CCM performance and there is an obvious conformity to the world. The musicians sound and look exactly like the world. They dance sensually just like the world. The CCM promotionalism and awards system and charting system are all patterned after the world. Their marriages break up about as often as the world’s. They often curse like the world and drink like the world. They love R-rated movies and trashy sitcoms like the world. They love any sort of secular rock & roll like the world.
How is this not “worldly”?
As far as I can discern, if there is such a thing as worldliness as defined by 1 John 2:16--the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life--it would have to describe the modern pop music field and the pop culture and its religious counterpart, Contemporary Christian Music.
Therefore, we could not disagree more with those who claim that the Bible has nothing to say about the use of contemporary music in the churches.
It has a lot to say in principle.
7. AN EMPHASIS ON “A HEART FOR GOD” IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MUSIC OR ANY “EXTERNAL” THING.
A Bible college graduate wrote the following:
“While at West Coast Baptist College one the most important things I learned was the importance of having a heart for God. The music was a lot more of a concern to me when I first started to hear it and I thought of the fact that it was CCM artists that perform it.”
I agree with the importance of emphasizing “the heart” as long as this is defined properly in today's context. It is so important to emphasize the heart and true godliness as opposed to mere externals, and we have always tried to emphasize that (such as in the book Keeping the Kids). I have often been discouraged at the shallow emphasis on the externals and the neglect of the true heart issues in many fundamental Baptist churches.
But this is no excuse for going down the road of saying that music doesn’t matter as long as the “heart is right.” That is one of the fundamental philosophies of CCM and the emerging church, and it is heretical and eventually leads to a complete collapse of godly standards and even of absolute truth itself. This is because of the subjectivity of the principle and the duplicitous nature of the human heart.
The philosophy of testing music by the passion for God exhibited by the performers and listeners or by whether my heart is blessed by it is the mystical charismatic approach, which lies at the heart of CCM.
This philosophy is akin to John Piper’s Christian Hedonism doctrine. He says, “God is most satisfied with us when we are most satisfied with Him.” A passion for God is promoted as THE major principle and sanctifier of the Christian life. As Dr. Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London says:
“Delighting in God ... is made the organising principle for every other spiritual experience and duty. It becomes the key formula for all spiritual vigour and development. Every other Christian duty is thought to depend on how well we obey this central duty of delighting in the Lord. The entire Christian life is simplified to rest upon a single quest, which is bound to distort ones perception of the Christian life and how it must be lived” (“Christian Hedonism - Is It Right?” Sword & Trowel, 2002, No. 3).
Only a fool would say that a passion for God is not the most important thing in the universe; but it is also true that it is easy to deceive ourselves that we are being passionate about God when we are actually being passionate about ourselves and about what we like. It is not a sufficient standard for saints who are still “in the flesh” in this present sin-cursed world.
The Bible warns that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9), and, “he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26).
The passions of the heart must be continually and always tested by the clear teaching of God’s Word. If a “passion for God” were THE important standard of Christian living, the New Testament would make no sense. Take the book of Ephesians. It contains some 88 specific commandments, by my reckoning, that the grace-saved, born again believer is obligated to obey. Why didn’t Paul just summarize everything with one simple principle?
The test of our music is not merely whether our heart is pleased with it and whether we feel that we are being passionate for God when we enjoy it. A proper biblical test involves many things, such as the following:
● Is the music conformed to the world?
● Can the music be identified as “the lust of the flesh” or “the lust of the eyes” or the “pride of life”?
● Is the music associated with end-time apostasy?
● Is the music doctrinally unsound or even doctrinally questionable?
● Does the music lead to a lack of sober-mindedness and spiritual vigilance?
● Does the music fail to make a clear distinction between the holy and the profane?
If the answer to any of these is yes, then it doesn’t matter whether or not I think I like the music because of my “heart for God,” it is still wrong!
For more on this subject see the following free materials:
Baptist Music Wars (book)
The Transformational Power of Contemporary Praise Music (video)
The Foreign Spirit of Contemporary Worship Music (video)
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