by Ric Llewellyn
Music plays an important role in Christianity. It
always has; it always will; it should. Ephesians 5:18
and 19 reveal that music is instrumental in realiz-
ing the Spirit-filled life. Colossians 3:16 amplifies
this fact by emphasizing the way in which music
should enrich the spiritual life of every believer.
Today there is a musical movement away from
this biblical standard among Christian youth called
rock 'n' roll. Our young people have grown up with
this rock music, and now see no reason to give it
up. The idea that rock music is a valid biblical tool
for the evangelization of the lost and the edifica-
tion of believers is also becoming more accepted
by older saints, and more popular with pastors and
Christian leaders. In the past, older believers with-
stood the intrusion of the world into the [local] Church.
But now many of the saints are also clamoring for
the music their sons and daughters want - ROCK.
Youth leaders and pastors are facing increasing
pressure to incorporate rock 'n' roll in their pro-
grams for young people, because "more kids can
be reached." Out of this movement and with this
acceptance and popularity, Contemporary Chris-
tian Music was born.
It is essential to the spirituality of the whole
Body of Christ for Christians of every age group to
scrutinize Christian Rock in the light of God's Word,
and then allow the Holy Spirit to conform us to the
will of the Lord concerning the part music plays in
Contemporary Christian Music is a specific and
easily identifiable form of music. The sound of this
so-called Holy Rock ranges from soft pop-rock to
hard, pulsating rock 'n' roll to ridiculous and raging
punk. It is directed toward an audience in the 18 to
35 age group and is an attempt to provide a Chris-
tian experience which is adapted to the contem-
porary rock culture. Billy Ray Hearn, owner of
Sparrow Records and creator of ABC's Myrrh label,
described Contemporary Christian Music like this:
"We take the music of the street and apply Chris-
tian lyrics to it."
By considering two areas which are suggested
by the texts mentioned previously it may be observed
that Religious Rock poses a threat to the vitality of
the Body of Christ. Christian young people are
being saturated with a biblically deficient, superfi-
cial, religious emotionalism and the older believers
are being bullied into surrendering scriptural values
which make up the basis for building strong Chris-
And since there is only one Gospel which is
able to save a sinner and by which the Christian is
kept (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), the lost who are
influenced by Christian Rock are only assuming
vain religious trappings.
Contemporary Christian Music is neither evan-
gelistic nor edifying. Something must be done! But
are you willing to trust the Lord and do it?
The Word of God says:"And be not drunk with wine, wherein
is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
speaking to yourselves in psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs, singing
and making melody in your heart to
the Lord... ."
Ephesians 5:18 and 19"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you
richly in all wisdom; teaching and
admonishing one another in psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs, sing-
ing with grace in your hearts to the
The areas of consideration which are suggest-
ed by these two passages are: 1) the NATURE OF
THE MUSIC and 2) the EFFECT OF THE MUSIC. It is
important to address the lyrics, the score and the
character of music when considering its nature.
And when assessing the effect music has on its lis-
teners the doctrinal aspect and the personal impact
it makes should be considered.
Ephesians 5:19 alludes to the three com-
ponents of music which comprise its nature when
we are exhorted to speak to one another in "psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs." Of course, the
most overt method of communicating ideas, emo-
tions and values is through the lyrics. This par-
ticular ingredient of spiritual music is suggested by
the word "songs." Irrespective of the musical score
and the character of the music, the lyrics should be
spiritually oriented, sufficiently clear so as to con-
vey spiritual truth plainly. The lyrics must also be
consistent with biblical revelation. Most Contem-
porary Christian Music must be rejected at this
point for its lack of true spirituality.
Words can preach a message of purity, despair
or nihilism. Lyrics of Christian music should be
spiritual not merely religious. John Styll, an entre-
preneur of Christian Rock, recognizes the clichéd
and simplistic lyrics which characterize this music.
But his remedy is to make "more poignant and
truthful statements about the human condition."
The primary focus of a spiritual song, however,
should certainly be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
It is He who is our life if we have been risen with
Him (Colossians 3:1-4). Our hearts, heads and
hands should be directed heavenward - not in our
profession alone, but in our manner of life as well.
The music to which we listen should be foster-
ing this attitude of heavenly affection. And the
words of a song should encourage practical sub-
mission to God's order in all our personal affairs. In
family relationships (Colossians 3:18-21), in work
relationships (Colossians 3:22-24), in all our inter-
personal relationships (Ephesians 5:21}, the saints
must be sensitive to the Spirit and ready to do the
Lord's will. Having Jesus Christ as one's Saviour
should truly make a difference in one's life.
Too often this is not the attitude fostered by
Contemporary Christian Music. "What a Difference
You've Made," written by Archie Jordan and re-
corded by Amy Grant, is typical of the shallow view
of the new life in Christ which is characteristic of
Christian Rock. The difference Christ makes is that
"[He is] my sunshine day and night," and "[He]
replaced all the broken parts [in my heart]." This
characterization of the Christian life is woefully
short of the glorious practical differences the Christ
of the Bible has wrought for His children.
One might argue that music is an art form. But
as Christian musicians become more and more "ar-
tistic" the lyrics of Contemporary Christian Music
become more and more obscure until they retain
virtually no spiritual value. Lyrics become so alle-
gorical that a truly spiritual lesson is imperceptible.
This indefiniteness opens the door to many incor-
rect understandings concerning the point of a partic-
ular song, which fosters the acceptance of teachings
which are unbiblical and even antibiblical.
"Fairytale," written by Brown Bannister, vaguely
represents life without Jesus Christ as a Peter Pan
fantasy, which obliterates the biblical teaching of
the reality of living moment by moment under the
wrath of God. Likening salvation to the kiss of a
Prince given to Sleeping Beauty, there is room for
any "Christian" concept of the new birth. The Cor-
inthians were encouraged to speak plainly in order
to edify the [local] church (1 Corinthians 14:6-12). That
exhortation is as valuable today as it was 1900
The lyrics of Christian music must conform to
Biblical truth as well. A Christian musician has no
valid claim to artistic liberty when handling God's
Word and the truths revealed in it. Don Francisco's
"Too Small A Price" freely paraphrases the conver-
sation of the thieves who were crucified with the
Lord (Luke 23). This results in substantial variations
from the biblical account. The record that God has
left us may indeed be too inconvenient to sing or
perhaps less than marketable in our contemporary
rock culture. Nevertheless, a Christian musician
who claims to be singing for the Lord must be care-
ful to avoid any appearance of conflict between his
LP record and the Divine Record.
From the text in Ephesians the word "psalms"
suggests the second component which a Christian
should consider when choosing music - the score.
The arrangement of the musical notes is a no less
important ingredient in spiritual music. Studies
have concluded that the score will affect the lis-
tener physically, emotionally and spiritually. This
same principle may be observed in the Scriptures
in 1 Samuel 16:14-23. David played cunningly
before Saul and he experienced physical, emotional
and spiritual revival (verse 23).
The arrangements which characterize soft rock
cause emotional and psychological responses which
may not be perceived by the listener. The loud, driv-
ing syncopation of hard rock' n' roll causes involun-
tary physical responses over which the hearer has
no control. Just as the natural man can be soothed
by music (as exemplified by Saul), these natural
aspects of man can be bombarded and manipulated
until adverse spiritual effects are wrought. It is not
that Christian Rock has contributed to the perpe-
tration of suicide or mass murder, as with secular
rock music, but that spirituality is being eroded
and carnality is being propagated.
As the Christian is approached from the carnal
nature, that is, the natural man, true spirituality is
discouraged. Rather than setting the affections on
things above, the saint is spiritually sabotaged.
The arrangement of the musical notes should not
overshadow the message conveyed by the lyrics
but should compliment it. But when the style which
is characteristic of secular pop and soft rock is
employed, emotionalism takes over and essen-
tially supercedes that which is truly spiritual.
The style of hard rock known as heavy metal is
primarily loud. "Headbangers" is a more than suit-
able nickname for the heavy metal bands. Stryper
epitomizes this facet of Religious Rock as they
market their music as an "attack." One secular
music magazine noted that Stryper was a credible
metal band "from the first thunderous guitar riff to
the last holy scream." Bobby Sweet, drummer for
Stryper, conceded in ROCK magazine that "rock 'n'
roll is about making powerful music and touching
people's lives." When these Christian musicians
subordinated the message of Jesus Christ to the
heavy metal sound, the musical notes, their arrange-
ment and performance superceded the message of
The final and most obscure component in the
nature of music is its character. This is suggested
by the word "hymns" in Ephesians 5:19. While it is
more difficult to define the character of music, it is
no less discernible. Irreverence, universalism, a
superficial religiousness, new-evangelicalism or a
charismatic character may be presented. And be-
cause the character of music is not always readily
apparent to the listener, it has the most insidious
effect on believers. As the saint is slowly anesthe-
tized spiritually, tolerance or acceptance of false
doctrine can arise from constant subjection to
deficient and improper attitudes in music.
Servant is a Christian Rock band that features
"edgy, rhythmic, treble rock and an aggressive stage
performance... ." Not only is their show "filled with
the salvation message," but it is augmented with
smoke-bombs and flash-pots. Their 1983 national
tour was billed as "The Largest Christian Rock-
Gospel Show in America." Such a contradictory
testimony immediately suggests an irony. Imagine
the salvation message punctuated by smoke-
bombs, and presented a la P.T. Barnum. The frivolity
of a "show" detracts immensely from the gravity of
Barry McGuire has recorded a song about his
conversion and his new life in Christen titled, "Cos-
mic Cowboy." It does not present the way of salva-
tion nor the walk of faith. It demeans the Person
and Work of God the Son. Christian youth are afflic-
ted with the "Cosmic Cowboy Syndrome" when it
comes to a real understanding of who Jesus Christ
is and what He has accomplished. The character of
Christian music is easily adopted by listeners and
will draw them away from the firm foundation of the
The effect music has on the listener is obviously
related to the nature of the music. While Ephesians
5:19 reveals three aspects which comprise the
nature of music, Colossians 3:16 addresses the
effects music should have upon its hearers:Let the Word of Christ dwell in you
richly in all wisdom; teaching and
admonishing one another in psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs... .
When we sing or when the believer sits under
the ministry of song, it is the Word of Christ which
is to be spoken among ourselves and which is to
dwell richly in us.
There are two areas suggested by the words
"teaching and admonishing." First, the Biblical
requirement that Christian music be a channel for
correct doctrine is presented by the word "teach-
ing." Spiritual music will lead the saint into increas-
ing knowledge of his God and Saviour.
Does the song present a spiritual truth from
God's Word and then explain, clarify and apply it?
There is much false teaching to which unwary
Christians are subjected hour after hour as they sit
between a pair of headphones. As the lyrics, score
and character of Contemporary Christian Music is
absorbed, there is little consideration given to the
correctness of the teaching of the music.
Amy Grant's "Walking in the Light" illustrates a
popular but fatal doctrinal error:The sun woke me up real early,
It's a beautiful morn.
'Cause I'm goin' down to the river
To be reborn.
Now me and Jesus did some heavy
Talkin' last night.
So I'm goin' down to be dipped and
Come up walkin' in the light.
Contrary to the biblical teaching regarding
salvation from the penalty and power of sin, "Walk-
ing in the Light" teaches that baptism is essential
in salvation as well as personal sanctification.
Spiritual Christian music should not only teach
but also admonish the believer. An admonition is a
warning given to remind. Day after day the child of
God needs to be reminded to go on in the things he
has been taught from the Word. It is only a Scrip-
tural admonition which will have the effect upon
the spiritual man that the Holy Spirit intends.
Emotionalism has no place in the heart of a saint as
he purposes to do the Word of God. A commitment
to biblical principles which is based on human
emotion will fade and perish. It is the Word of the
living God which endures for ever and which in-
duces by the operation of the Holy Spirit a genuine
conviction in the Christian's inner man. Only this
Spirit wrought conviction will bring about a lasting
change in the saint's life.
Contemporary Christian Music is generically
deficient when considered in the light of God's
holy Word. It is established upon the false notion
that "you can't go blaring hymns...to someone who
only understands rock." The Bible makes it plain
that the conversion of a sinner results in the crea-
tion by God of a new nature. It is critical to nurture
that new born babe in Christ in order that he may
grow. To cater to the appetites and habits of the old
man is deprecating the power of the Holy Spirit and
the effectiveness and value of the Word of God.
This basic defect is aggravated by the way in
which Christian Rock is marketed. Shiela Walsh is
unabashedly presented as the Christians' equi-
valent of the "sexy 'secular' rock 'n' roll Grammy
winner," Pat Benatar. Amy Grant is compared to
secular soft pop-rock stars Carole King and the late
Karen Carpenter. Christians have their own hard
rockers as well - Steve Taylor, Rez Band and Petra
to name a few.
The attitude which is so prevalent in Contem-
porary Christian Music - we are just like them -
ensures the failure of Religious Rock to be truly
spiritual. The Christian is called out of the world,
but "more and more Christians are dropping their
old 'demonic beat' misgivings and deciding rock is
an acceptable and effective medium" for evangeli-
zation and edification.
Christian Rock has weaseled its way into
churches where the older, more spiritually mature
saints had previously resisted its intrusion. It has
left a pall of carnality hanging over the younger
generation of believers through the incessant
barrage of shallow lyrics and worldly music pre-
sented in the character of the secular rock culture.
That carnality is being perpetuated through a lack
of sound scriptural teaching and Spirit-empowered
admonition. True children of God are rendered
impotent in the warfare of this Age. There is little
understanding of the Christian life, the Person and
Work of Christ or the believer's judgment.
The results of this compromise are degenera-
tive. The situation within the churches will get
worse and worse as more and more religious peo-
ple are brought in who have no concept of biblical
salvation. Christian Rock encourages sinners to
"give [Jesus] all of your love." But the Bible says
"that Christ died for our sins according to the
Scriptures; ...and that He rose again the third day
according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3
and 4). The lost must believe this testimony and
receive Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Christian, it is time to take your stand against
the onslaught of the world as it is embodied in Con-
temporary Christian Music. Let us not be ashamed
at the Lord's return!
Fundamental Evangelistic Association
P.O. Box 6278
Los Osos, California 93412
[Christian Helps Ministry (USA)] [Christian Home Bible Course]