Reply to a West Coast Graduate About the Music Issue and My Warning
In the Friday Church News Notes for February 18, 2011, I published two warnings entitled “Lancaster Baptist Shouting to the Lord” and “Why Darlene Zschech’s Music Should Not Be Used in Bible-believing Churches.”
Following is one of the many e-mails I have received on this issue, and my reply. This student unwittingly helped me to see more clearly what is happening at Lancaster Baptist Church. It appears they are teaching the contemporary philosophy -- it's the heart that matters, don't criticize, focus on love, just be blessed by the music -- and there is no doubt that large numbers of their graduates will take that ball and run far with it.
It is all the more dangerous because it is so subtle and so wrapped up at the present time in a show of pretty strong fundamentalism and the claim (and I have no doubt that it is sincere as far as it goes) that they are opposed to the contemporary path.
The reason I am convinced that this student’s thinking and philosophy properly represents what is being taught at West Coast is that I can compare it with other present and former students I have had dealings with.
I trust that the leaders will heed my warning and renounce the philosophy that this student espouses. If they don’t want their students to come away thinking like this student thinks, they need to do a top to bottom review of what is being taught and what is being not taught, what is being emphasized and what is not. I have communicated with Pastor Chappell privately on this very matter. I don’t think they are forthright enough about many things that need to be dealt with today. When, for example, have they had a conference on Biblical Separation and really raised the flag against all of the harmful and wicked things that are doing on in the IB movement? It’s not a time to keep quiet or “keep it personal”! It’s not time to speak in generalities. It is a time to nail one’s colors to the mast. It’s time to shake up the IB good old boys network and take a stand for what is right.
In this present case, the problem is that the “don’t-be-critical, it is the heart that matters, just be blessed and don’t criticize” philosophy isn’t balanced Scripturally and sufficiently with a lot of strong stuff that needs to be added into the quotation.
Brother Chappell and others at the church and school will probably disagree with me about this, but the proof is in the pudding. What philosophy are the students coming away with? How do they react to warnings like mine?
One thing that encouraged me is that though this graduate’s philosophy is unscriptural and dangerous, he didn’t totally reject me or my warning. There is hope!
E-MAIL FROM A GRADUATE OF WEST COAST BAPTIST COLLEGE
Brother, I appreciate your stand for truth. I appreciate your ministry and the influence that you have and the way God uses you. I understand your concern. I am a graduate of West Coast Baptist College. While I was there, I had a critical eye toward all that they had going. While at West Coast 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 think of the fact that it was CCM artists that perform it. But seriously, are the words evil? Can a Christian not be edified by these songs? Is it not more important for a person to be edified than it is to be approved by men? The best I can tell Paul Chappell will give account at the judgment seat of Christ just like anyone else will. 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. Matthew 7:1-5 Are you ready to be judged by all the same standards that you judge people by? Romans 14:3, 4, 12, 13 gives us the standard by which we are to live concerning these matters. Have you not considered that you could be hurting rather than helping the cause of Christ? I am not for CCM, but at the same time I must be careful. There is a danger that I could develop a critical spirit that watches for iniquity in others while ignoring a growing self-righteousness in myself. Like I said, thank God for what you do and the stand that you take. I just would like to ask you if your disposition, motive, attitude, and heart with God are right in this matter. If so, have at it and don't let me stand in your way. But if you are not walking in love toward Pastor Chappell or any other man of God for that matter, maybe you should reconsider this. Last I checked, the Lord Jesus Christ was more concerned about our love than He was about our music or anything else. Just a thought.
God Bless You.
REPLY FROM BROTHER CLOUD
Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I am encouraged by your kind words in regard to my ministry and influence.
Thank you for the challenge about guarding the heart. Since I was saved from a New Age hippie, heavy drug-using, hitch-hiking, jail-going, foolish background 37 years ago, I have been acutely aware of the importance of judging myself before judging anyone else, and I have tried to walk in that light. In fact, I am more aware of that today than ever. Who am I to reprove others? I am only a sinner saved by grace! I am just a zero with the rim rubbed out apart from the Lord. But God has called me and I MUST speak out. I have tried not to, but like Jeremiah, God's Word burns in me and compels me. Long ago a very frustrated man told me, “You are either a prophet of God or the most stubborn man I have ever met!” I agree with that poor man and sympathize with his frustration. It’s one or the other, for sure! On the music issue, people have been trying to get me to change my mind for decades and I have only gotten stronger.
As for love for Paul Chappell, I can definitely say that I love him in Christ. I am sure that if we were to get together, we would like one another and enjoy spiritual fellowship and edify one another. I have recommended West Coast for years and many students have attended there by my recommendation. I am related by marriage to one of the teachers. I have a Christian love for Paul Chappell and a thankfulness for all that he is done for the cause of Christ.
I also have a love for God and truth and for His churches in these evil times.
I have an unusual understanding of the issue of apostasy and the progress of compromise because of my background, personal church planting ministry on one of the darkest mission fields for 20 years and the unique experiences I have had there in personal dealings with the ecumenical crowd, massive research, extensive travels, continual communication with God's people from all over the world, and unique calling from God to help IB churches in such a time as this. (Those not familiar with my ministry can get a glimpse into this through the major books such as What Is the Emerging Church, Keeping the Kids, Dressing for the Lord, The New Age Tower of Babel, Contemplative Mysticism, Faith vs. the Modern Bible Versions, the Advanced Bible Studies Series, Music for Good and Evil, the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, Things Hard to Be Understood, the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library, etc. My enemies will say I am tooting my own horn, but the fact is that many people don't know anything about my ministry and it is impossible to make a proper judgment without this knowledge.)
I hope my love for God will exceed my love for man and that I will always honor God more than man. To me that is the issue here. Candidly, the main thing I get for speaking out like this is personal abuse and a heap of closed doors.
I am acutely aware that I can hurt the cause of Christ by what I write. I did not publish that report about Lancaster's music lightly.
As for Romans 14, it has nothing to do with the issue. It is about judging in matters in which the Bible is silent (that is clear from the context, which is diet and holy days). Romans 14 has nothing to do with the issue because the Bible speaks a lot about music and evil associations and ecclesiastical separation and conformity with the world and many other things that bear directly on the issue of CCM. Your misuse of that passage concerns me deeply. Wasn't this explained at West Coast and Lancaster?
YOU CAN BE EDIFIED THROUGH CCM IF THE HEART IS RIGHT
I am concerned about your question, “Can a Christian not be edified by these songs? Is it not more important for a person to be edified than it is to be approved by men?”
I am amazed at those questions, because they reflect a precise statement of the CCM and emerging philosophy. I have read at least 100 of their books, have attended major conferences with press credentials, have attended their church meetings as research, and communicated personally with many of them, and they could not have said it better. What is spiritual edification and how does it happen? It 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. 1 Corinthians 14:3 associates edification with Bible preaching.
If I am acting contrary to Scripture and still say that I am being edified, I am deceived. That is blind mysticism. I am convinced that using charismatic ecumenical music is paying tribute to the end-times apostasy piper, who is the Devil. Is that not contrary to God’s Word? I believe the use of CCM is disobedience to Scriptures such as Psalm 119:128; Proverbs 4:14-15; 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; 1 John 2:15-17.
Leaders at West Coast argue that they don’t actually use CCM; they just adapt some of it. What is the difference? How can they legitimately tell their people that CCM is dead wrong when they are “adapting” it? Doesn’t someone have to listen to it in order to “adapt” it? They can try to make this fine distinction, but it won’t be effective, I can assure you. In fact, it is hypocritical.
Do you understand mysticism? I suggest that you read my book What Is the Emerging Church. It might shock you to know that you are well down the emerging mystical road in philosophy, at least, and philosophy ultimately determines practice.
Rock music has always been mystical. It is all about a good feeling. The 60s song “Hooked on a Feeling” summarizes 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.
Test yourself. If you need swing music to be “edified,” and sound doctrine sung in a truly sacred “old fashioned” manner doesn’t do the job without the syncopated music, then you are addicted to sensual music.
A good feeling does not equate to biblical edification.
THE “CRITICAL EYE”
I am deeply concerned about what you said in regard to how your thinking changed at West Coast in regard to music. You admit that you knew that Lancaster was using CCM and that you were concerned. You call it "a critical eye," but was it perhaps a godly criticism, a criticism from the Holy Spirit? I think it was, at least to the extent that you were concerned about the music itself (as opposed to a critical attitude toward the administration). A "critical eye" isn't wrong in itself. Paul had a critical eye toward false teachers and worldlings like Demas. You might split hairs here, but I don't see why we can't call that type of judgment "critical" in a sense. Like judging, criticism can take two forms - carnal and godly.
I remember 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 and I had devoured the Bible during that year and I knew that God wanted me to test everything by it. Psalm 119:128; Acts 17:11; and 1 Thessalonians 5:21 were as precious and real to me then as today. I began to see things that I felt were wrong, particularly the shallow, unscriptural soul winning (I have sense labeled it Quick Prayerism), the man-centeredness, the carnal over exaltation of man, the big numbers big church bragadociousness, and the refusal on the part of the leaders and visiting speakers to speak out plainly on some important issues (and men). I had a "critical eye," and insofar as I had an ungodly attitude and lack of mercy and compassion and "balance" 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 the depth of my spiritual life over these past four decades and I believe and hope that I am much more merciful and compassionate and 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 35 years 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 keep you protected spiritually. It is the devil who wants everyone to give up all criticism. If we do that, we have no shield. I am concerned that Lancaster might be putting humanistic eye wash in the biblical critical eye.
I have tried to keep myself and God's people balanced in these matters. I have often emphasized the importance of balance, of not having a carnal critical spirit, of always giving the church leaders the benefit of the doubt, etc. My sermon and article "Keys to Fruitful Church Membership" is one attempt. Another is "I Am Not Your Pastor." Both of these can be found with the search engine at the Way of Life web site.
EMPHASIZE THE HEART
You say you learned at West Coast to emphasize the heart. I agree with that as far as it goes and as long as it is defined properly in today's context. It is so important to emphasize the heart and true godliness as opposed to mere externals, and I have tried to emphasize that in my ministry (such as in the book "Keeping the Kids") and it is one of the things that has discouraged me about so many IB schools and ministries (the shallow emphasis on the externals in neglect of the heart). But that 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.
How is what you are saying and what you learned at West Coast different from what the contemporary crowd is saying, at least in theory?
Your e-mail reminds me that there are many who have been concerned about the music at Lancaster. I have talked personally to many on my travels and I have heard from others by e-mail. And your example tells us that at least some of the students themselves have been concerned. But the concerns have either not been shared with the leaders (perhaps because they are afraid to share them), or the concerns have been ignored, or the concerns have been dissolved by the "don't be critical, have a right heart" eye wash.
That's why I am glad that I published my warning about Lancaster's music. I heard today that Pastor Chappell has renounced "Shout to the Lord" and that he has ordered a review of the music program. While I have deep concerns that this will not bring the change that needs to be brought unless they will bring in a knowledgeable man to teach them, it is a start. And I am sure that it would not have been done had I not made a very public issue of the matter. A private conversation would have done very little if anything. It is not a private matter!
I am curious. Did you learn at Lancaster to honor spiritual watchdogs like me, or did you get the impression that we are carnal and critical and should be ignored? I would like to know the answer to this. From the feedback I have received, it appears to be the latter.
You said, "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."
Let me kindly but firmly say that I consider that a strange and dangerous statement. Why frame the issue like that? Why do we need to make that choice? No, we need to reprove BOTH errors (CCM and an unrighteous spirit), and that is what I do in my ministry and that is how I live my Christian life. It would be ridiculous to say that I have never had an unrighteous spirit or a carnal critical attitude. That old rotten flesh is an ever present though unwanted reality, and we have to deal with it. I can testify that I often have had a wrong spirit, and I have as often repented of it as ungodly and displeasing to the Lord.
LOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MUSIC
You said, "Last I checked, the Lord Jesus Christ was more concerned about our love than He was about our music or anything else."
Yes and no. This is another statement of philosophy that deeply concerns me, seeing that you are a West Coast graduate. Christ emphasized love and Paul emphasized love and John emphasized love. And the contemporary movement also emphasizes love, but Christ and Paul and John were saying something entirely different from what the contemporary crowd is saying. Christ and the apostles were careful to define godly love, and it is never set in contrast to godly judging and holy living. Never, never, never. Again, how is what you are saying different than what the CCM crowd is saying? Is this what you learned at Lancaster? Paul said godly love does not behave itself unseemly and thinketh no evil and rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth (1 Cor. 13). John said that godly love purifies the saints and keeps God's commandments (1 John 3:1-3; 5:1-3). This is true Christian love, not the feel good, rock & roll-driven mysticism of the contemporary movement that preaches a world-loving license and broadminded tolerance.
This business of being charged with having a "critical spirit" every time I speak out against something, particularly someone's hero, gets very, very old, and it is very wrongheaded. Typically, it is a smokescreen and a straw man. I am not saying it is in your case, because it is obvious from your humble attitude and the entirety of your e-mail that it is not. But in in my experience this is how it is typically used. It is shooting the messenger so we don't have to listen to the message; it is an attempt to change the subject. To charge a preacher with having a critical spirit in his reproofs is to judge a man's heart and motives, which a stranger cannot do. Who of my readers can say that I have a critical spirit? It's difficult for me to know from hour to hour what my motives are, and I happen to live in very close proximity to myself! My readers and listeners can't judge such a thing, but they can judge whether what I am preaching is right or wrong, and that is what you are supposed to judge.
THE PROBLEM OF SOFT ROCK
The problem with the music at Lancaster is not only that they are adapting CCM; it is that they are dabbling with soft rock. In fact, they have some pianists who really know how to rock. Apparently the music people don’t understand the essence of rock & roll or else they don’t think soft rock matters.
That is why I suggested that they listen to someone like Pastor Graham West, who has a background in writing and producing pop music and who understands the essence of rock as well as anyone I know. His series on “The Rhythm of Rock” is available as a download at the Way of Life web site.
I don’t have any personal association with Pastor West. In fact, I have never met him. I did not tell him that I was going to publish a warning about Lancaster. As far as I know, he might not even agree with how I went about it, which is really neither here nor there. I greatly appreciate the wisdom God has given him about music, and he could help IB churches like Lancaster if they would listen.
Graham West warns about the anticipated beat, which is often used at Lancaster. It is a subtle form of syncopation which produces a physical swing effect and it is at the heart of modern pop music. (He also explains that syncopation in itself is not necessarily wrong, if used in moderation, but as another music expert said in pop music syncopation is “a fundamental constant presence.”)
There are many aspects to the rock syncopation that create its danceability. Pop music uses syncopation to create a jerky, dancy feel. The music skips, stutters, pulsates. John Makujina in Measuring the Music says, “Rock’s danceability is due predominately to its emphasized syncopated rhythms, which invite the listener to supply the missing beats either mentally or through a series of physical gestures.”
In my new DVD presentation “Music for Good or Evil” I deal with six types of pop syncopation: the back beat, the silent beat, the staccato beat, the swing eighth, the break beat, and the anticipated beat. The Rhythm Bible has over 1,000 types of rhythmic styles that pop music uses. The essence of rock is much more than a heavy back beat.
West warns that when the anticipated beat and other forms of swing rhythm or pop syncopation are introduced to a church, even in the softest forms, the people quickly become addicted to it and they crave for more, just like a drug addict. Sensual music is that powerful. As Steven Tyler of Aerosmith says, “Rock music is the strongest drug in the world.”
“Once you begin listening to soft rock, you begin sliding down that slippery slope to the more aggressive forms of rock. Soft rock begins to orient the whole way of perceiving music around rhythm and away from melody. Your musical interest will change. Hymns will seem dull in comparison to your newly acquired tastes. It’s a progression I’ve seen over and over again in the lives of Christians. It’s a downward spiral. It happens in the lives of individuals; it happens in the lives of families; it happens in the lives of churches.
“There is a gray area of ignorance about the power of pop syncopation. And the devil, taking advantage of this, being not only the master musician but also the master of subtlety, comes along to a strong fundamental church or a Bible college and he offers his wars of CCM rock ballads.
“It sounds great. There’s no drums, no wild electric guitars, no obvious back beat, just the piano or guitar and the singer. And it’s ALMOST the same as the songs that they used to sing, except the rhythm kind of trips a little bit. But that’s O.K. because it’s exciting, and the young people love it.
“The problem is that when the rhythm does that little trip it means that the music contains a basic, distinctive rhythmic feature of all rock & roll since its inception in the 1950s.
“In this way, before you’ve even known it, you’ve been deceived by the subtle strategy of Satan. This is the blind spot that Satan is using to his advantage. He knows that once a church accepts rock ballads, complete capitulation is almost inevitable.
“In the case of vigilant, serious-minded Christians, he has to start them up at the very top of the slope with very gentle rock so that the conscience doesn’t scream out, ‘This music is wrong!’ Just as long as he can get your started, he has won, because just like a drug pusher he knows that his users will want more and more of that sensual rhythm” (Graham West, The Rhythm of Rock).
Graham West’s presentation “The Rhythm of Rock” is available as an immediate download from the eVideo section of the Way of Life Literature online bookstore.
Dan Lucarini, a former contemporary worship leader, also explains how that the slide toward CCM begins with soft rock. In the book “Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement,” he explains how that he led churches from a sacred music position to a contemporary position, and it was all about incrementalism. He did it in gradual steps, the first being the adaption of soft rock.
“The rock was softer, but it still contained the rock rhythm that undeniably appeals to our flesh. The listener soon develops a craving for it. Just like an addict, there is no turning back. What happens over time is a steady slide.”
I am convinced that like a great many other IB churches, Lancaster has committed itself to the soft rock slope which will eventually lead to full blown CCM, if not in the church services itself at least in the private lives of the people, if not under the watch of the present administration, at least under the next generation.
The only hope is that they leap off the sled and grab hold of some shrubbery and laboriously climb back off the slope. I’ve never heard of a church doing that, but by God’s grace anything is possible if the leaders and people are committed to it.
Thank you for saying that if my heart is right with God, "have at it." I will do just that. Not too many who said what you said in the middle part of your e-mail would have ended it as you did. That encourages me that you truly have a heart for Christ and truth and that you are humble enough to learn.
Let me say candidly before God that I have agonized over the issue of music more than probably any other thing. I have often discussed this with my wife and close friends. I don't want to take away any liberty from God's people that God grants. I feel passionately about that. Who am I? I am nothing. I truly hate legalism. I despise Phariseeism. My constant and earnest prayer is for God to keep me far from it. I don’t want to set up laws for God’s people that go beyond God’s Word. I have asked myself if I am just speaking against rock because of my background. Again and again I have taken this matter to the Lord and earnestly begged Him to give me wisdom and help me see the issue properly and back off if I am being too extreme. And each time (if I know the mind of the Spirit) the Lord has strengthened me and urged me to go on and to fight this fight against the world's music and even more so.
I am 100% convinced that God hates rock & roll and everything about it. I am convinced that it is one of the major factors of end-times apostasy and it plays a major roll in the spiritual downfall of formerly sound churches. The problem is that many who would agree with me on this don't understand what rock & roll really is. They think that if it doesn't have a heavy bass guitar and drums pounding out the back beat it isn't rock, but that is naive and ignorant. And it is ignorance that is destroying churches as much as carnality and willful apostasy.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.." (Hosea 4:6).
I would urge you in the strongest way to listen to my new DVD series "Music for Good and Evil." We will be glad to give you the eDownloads for free if you agree to listen with a prayerful heart.
May the precious Lord give us much wisdom in these deceptive, confusing times. Let us not be man followers.
In Christ, Brother Cloud
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