Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Is Rock Music a Sin?



"Is rock music evil?"

This question, or variations on its theme, comes up often in conservative Christian circles (within which I am proud to swim).

Before presenting the answer to this question, a few things must be established:

1. Music is not neutral; it is both an art and a science, and both elements of music must be submitted to Christ.

2. The Bible is the Standard by which all things are to be judged. (2 Tim. 3:16)

3. There are some areas of life which Scripture does not explicitly address; this does not remove those areas from the purview of Christ's Lordship, but it does make diligent searching necessary. (Proverbs 8)

I believe that music is one of those areas; while there are Scriptural principles that apply, there is no dissertation on musical theory between "in the beginning" and "amen".

I also believe that unless we seek God wholeheartedly on this issue He will allow us to be swayed by our own prejudices and lusts.

One other note; throughout this post I will be generalizing with glib impunity.  I trust my readers to give me the benefit of the doubt; I know that not all rock music is head-banging and backbeat-heavy; I know that not all classical is melodious and intelligently complex; I'm using the terms to connote the broad idea behind the genre or style without having to launch into a detailed explanation on every point.

Now, back to the original question.

"Is rock music evil?"

No.  I don't believe that rock music is evil.  I believe that rock music says evil.

Is there ever a time for something that says evil?  Absolutely.  Throughout the pages of Scripture we see many tales told of evil deeds; rebellious sons, abusive men, seductive women- God's Word doesn't hide us from our own depravity.

Even so, in the stories that we tell, there is a place for evil.  It must be handled in a God-honoring and lawful way, but it must be present in our stories, because it is present in God's Story.

So if there is a movie which honors God and which lawfully presents the struggle between good and evil, there may be a need for music which says evil.

However, to make a steady diet of music that says evil is a decision not to be taken lightly.  There may be a time for a Christian to act the role of a murderer, but to take that role on as a way of life is opening a door to dangerous consequences.

And so with every form and style of music.  The Pride and Prejudice soundtrack is beautiful and calming, but it certainly doesn't say the right thing to motivate me during an intense workout.  Bach's Brandenburg Concertos have a level of technical excellence buried within that warrants years of study, but they would not make a fitting backdrop for the bullet-dodging escapades of Jason Bourne.  An epic, swashbuckling Hans Zimmer theme may narrate a battle scene or inspire my run perfectly, but it doesn't belong in the background of an intimate heart-to-heart conversation.  A Chopin Nocturne would fit a gentle goodbye far better than scenes from the apocalypse- unless, as a storytelling tool, the calmness of the music is intentionally contrasted with the chaos and destruction.

To scream "Jesus loves you!" over a distorted power chord and a heavy backbeat is to tell two different stories simultaneously- and the result is chaos, which is contrary to God's nature.  This could be used appropriately as a storytelling tool, but it must be recognized for what it is; it may be appropriate, but it isn't beautiful, and we shouldn't pretend that it is.

Those power chords might exactly match the message of someone reveling in the pleasures of sin- and that would be a lawful and skillful and fitting use of that music, provided that the story is resolved in a God-honoring way.

So instead of asking whether the music is good or bad, let's ask what the music says- and how well it says it- and whether what it says is being used in a proper and God-honoring way.

The communicative power of music is obvious; there is a reason that directors pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a John Williams score instead of knocking on their neighbor's door to inquire about their teenage son's garage-band.  There's a reason that a country singer wears a cowboy hat, a rocker wears a mohawk, and an orchestra looks like a gathering of penguins.  Flames and neon lights don't fit the story of Handel's Messiah, but AC/DC is right at home in that setting.

Why?  Because music says something.  So does lighting.  So does color.

When we depart from the binary "good/bad" approach to analyzing aesthetics, things become more difficult.  Life is easy when we have a list of legalisms to check ourselves against- "Don't watch R-rated movies, don't ever drink alcohol, don't listen to rock music, don't play card games."

Scripture calls us, however, to press beyond the milk and into the meat- to seek wisdom. (Hebrews 5:14)

May God guide us in this search.

Recommended listening: Some excellent talks on music by Ken Myers

41 comments:

Bush Maid said...

Very good thoughts indeed, Gabriel. Even if our tastes in music differ, I can definitely understand the truth of what you're saying and I won't deny that a few of the groups I listen to (Planetshakers, for one, as much as I love a lot of their stuff) send mixed messages with some of their songs. The crux of the matter is that music should support the message, whatever that message may be.

On the topic of rock though, like you touched on a little, "rock" is a very broad term, and what some people may consider rock, I would never listen to; yet what I listen to would be considered rock by others, and dissed accordingly. Casting Crowns is considered rock, but I love their music. I've also recently discovered Petra and I'm really enjoying theirs as well. So you could call it partly a person's definition and partly taste.

Regardless, this post was very well articulated, thankyou for sharing, Gabriel. :)

Lydia said...

Excellent words spoken in true wisdom and Godly authority Gabriel! Keep up the really great work and lean into and depend upon God's word, as it sounds like you are. :-)

PrincessR said...

I don't think I have ever read an article so on-spot! Although a touchy issue, you have stated your viewpoints without a saucy/I-am-better-than-though attitude! Folks are going to be more apt to listen to your words than if you were! Thank you. :)

I think you hit it on the head at the bottom of your post- "Life is easy when we have a list of legalisms to check ourselves against-....
....Scripture calls us, however, to press beyond the milk and into the meat- to seek wisdom. (Hebrews 5:14)"

We as Christians would MUCH rather have our list of do's and don'ts! (It IS much easier that way!) We like rules. We like for everything to be black-and-white and right-and-wrong. No discussions of what is really the meaning, no differences.

You have obviously thought about this issue a lot. You make some excellent points that I haven't ever thought about.

Thanks for taking the time to write this out! I now have some food for though. :)

God Bless!
Rebecca


anna olivia said...

Excellent article. I've also heard some say that any kind of drum beat in music, even if not rock, is evil. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on that.

Amy Jo Underwood said...

That was an excellent post. :) Telling truth without legalism, thanks!
I am glad to see posts like this, since I love studying music and its philosophy.
Gabriel, do you agree that even in classical music, there are types of music that "say evil"?
I am pretty sure that some of Stravinsky (i.e. Rite of Spring) and much of Schoenberg, etc, portrayed evil, even though much of it is instrumental.
Just curious what your thoughts are on that.

Amy Jo Underwood said...

@Bush Maid,
I would say that Casting Crowns isn't the type of rock that would be referred to, but that's just my thought. I haven't listened to a whole lot of them, just heard it in movies and things like that.
I think that some Christian rock that is questionable/wrong would be groups like Skillet and others.
My mom always says to look at music videos of musicians and you can usually tell their intent. If they're dressed in punk clothes and have weird hair, or are just seeming exactly like a worldly band, there's probably something wrong in their thinking and worldview. Christians shouldn't look like they are attracted to darkness.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Anna, thanks for commenting!

You asked about drums and drum beats. As a film composer and a music lover, I LOVE percussion- when it's well used.

So to return to the focus of my article, I wouldn't say that drums, or beats, are wrong. I don't think that's even the question that we need to ask; rather, we need to examine what a given use of percussion says.

The percussion that we see in lots of rock music, I believe, is pretty shallow and sensual. That's what it communicates.

I also don't care for "drum kits," at least not as they're normally used. That isn't to say that those styles are wrong, but that they communicate a certain thing; they're a tool which can be used correctly, but because of what they communicate I don't care to listen to them and I don't usually write with them much.

I actually just finished up a piece using Taiko drums to create a feel-good beat. I think it fit the message of the piece and the video it was for; I think it was an appropriate use of the tool.

Does that make sense?

Amy Jo- yes, absolutely! Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor is a quintessential example of music that says evil and danger and fear. Yet, with that example, Bach did it in a way that also conformed to principles of beauty that stem from God's Nature, so that the piece, even as it communicates dark, foreboding messages, is still beautiful!

I do think it says a very different kind of evil than, say, AC/DC's "Back in Black;" again, we have to use wisdom as we discern these things.

In response to both Bush and Amy- when it comes to CCM bands like Casting Crowns, I think it again takes discernment. I don't think it's wrong to listen to their music; they have some good lyrics, and they match the lyrics to the music at least passably (though in my opinion it's not extraordinary). However, I wouldn't call their music deep, complex, remarkably skillful or particularly edifying- and remember, I'm talking about their music, not their songs, which have edifying lyrics.

I guess I would take this tack:

I can listen to Casting Crowns. I might even enjoy doing so. But given the vast wealth of musical depth buried in deeper, more complex works like a Beethoven symphony or an orchestral film score- why would I want to make that a major part of my musical diet? Why listen to the OK music when I could be listening to great music?

Now, I would say that while Casting Crowns communicates feel-goodyness and is rather shallow, I would say that AC/DC communicates death and anger. So I would consider the latter form of rock far more objectionable as a general musical diet than the former.

Does that make sense?

Brytni Jade said...

Great article Gabriel! Thank you for sharing... So many miss the importance of music and its affects upon the soul. I have 5 younger siblings and several of them get so very scared of something like Little House on the Prairie shows simply because of the music..(not saying the music on that particular thing is bad..just that it shows how much it affects people) if we mute it they are just fine. We are affected greatly by what comes into the body...it will all come out manifestly (like you mentioned mohawks etc). Everyone will know whether you are filling yourself daily with light or with darkness. Again..Great post! Amen! Music is not neutral!
P.S. I tried to comment on your posting of this on google + but it wouldn't allow it.. just telling you so you know..maybe it's a setting? Or maybe you don't want a bunch of comments on there ;) either way, just thought I'd say that :)

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Brytni- thanks for letting me know. I'll look into that!

Gabriel Hudelson said...

OK, could it be that you weren't in my circles? I just added a Brytni Jade. Hope it was you. :-D

Jordan said...

Gabriel, you and I both know that we tend to disagree on this topic, but I do agree that music communicates things, and I would agree that some part of what's labeled rock music says evil. But I dislike the generalizations, especially since I listen to a wide variety of musical genres and styles and enjoy them all. And I also then lean largely toward hymns for use in church, so it's difficult to say (as some have attempted) that the pop/rock music I listen to outside the church has colored my worship.

Anyway, I have a question and a challenge for you.

First the question: This debate tends to get divided into two musical camps of Classical and Rock. But music spans so much more than those two genres, so I want to know what you believe some other genres say. How about Bluegrass, Country, Jazz, Reggae, and Zydeco, just to name some examples?

Second, I would challenge you to look up a hard rock song with multiple parts to it like this one by Relient K and listen to it for a study in the variety and complexity that rock music can be: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpKoNH0ylII

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Hey Jordan! OK, let's look at a few other genres (again, generalizing with mad impunity):

Bluegrass: From relaxing family time to a little bit hick, bluegrass communicates a good ol' shindig and a piece of hay between the teeth.

Country: Family, beer, and a red pick-up truck; a good yarn told by the fire; memories and love.

Jazz: Sensual and seductive, unless it ventures into a more bittersweet realm where it communicates something a little more mournful and a lot more moral; usually relaxing, though there are upbeat examples like the quintessential Linus and Lucy.

There's my thoughts; I'm not familiar with the other two genres.

As far as the challenge goes, I have no doubt that some rock musicians do weave complicated musical webs, but if I'm going to study something I'll probably go with a different genre. :-D

Jordan said...

I find it interesting that you've come up with sentences to describe every other genre, but you seem to be able to define rock and classical in one word. I'm asking for a single word to describe each.

Respectfully, the fact that you won't study the music makes you incapable of making these generalizations. Gabriel, I view you quite highly as an expert on classical/film score/orchestral music, but for any other kind of music, I can't say as I've seen any evidence that you have the experience/research/knowledge to speak about it with any real authority. Do some study, then tell me what rock music is about. (And you're not allowed to only listen to grunge and death metal. ;-) )

Brytni Jade said...

Thank you very much Gabriel...It said you had already added me..i'll try to comment and see...and yes..that is me ;)

Sean Chapman said...

From one composer to another, well done Gabriel! :-) This goes to the heart of the matter. Each genre communicates something different. It goes back to the "rap" discussion Ben Botkin brought up on Facebook. The genre of rap is very usefully in communicating emotions of anger, and occasionally humility. Both emotions can be useful, if used at the right time and in the right context. It takes a skilled composer to draw out all the right features from each genre, but if our ultimate goal is to glorify God in everything we do, we can't go wrong.

Gods Country Boy said...

Honestly, who would waste their time on Casting Crowns and the like, when they could listen to Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Two Steps From Hell, and Audiomachine????? Need this question even be asked?

:D Jk

Excellent distinction from what an object is in its essence, and what it communicates - a point I think we forget sometimes. I have seen some good uses of general-flavored rock in movies and such, at points where they were portraying worldliness, and rebellion, and it fits perfectly. (Star Trek - car chase scene at beginning of movie with rebellious teen.)
I am sure you have done your research on this, but from some of the research I have done, I think Rock music (blatant over-generalization.....) can and might actually be classified as evil - i have heard some facts from various different angles and sources that shed light onto not what rock communicates, but physically what rock does, and what rock is.

That being said, Rock is obviously so much more than an obnoxious back-beat, but even still all the elements that are included in rock have a simply devastating effect on mind and body.

That standing, I wonder how something that might not be evil at its core nature have such a simply satanic (and I used that word intentionally) affect on people?

One of the things I like to bring up when discussions of this sort come kicking up....again.... is that big time rockers, the ones who know what they are doing, will state (as they have done before), hands down, to the press, that rock music is *evil* and *dangerous*, and that is why they do it.

If that is what the rulers of rock say about their art, why do we think we can 'sanctify' it?

Do you think Rock (loose term again) is enough of an acceptable art form to use it in certain cases?

(gotta love diggin up the 'rock' hatchet, eh?)

Bush Maid said...

I think you would gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of rock music if you had studied it more, Gabriel. I can tell you have a great love for Classical music and you support it so wholeheartedly because you have familiarized yourself with it, are passionate about it, and have studied it keenly. However to say that other music is "shallow" or "poor" in comparison to classical is more along the lines of personal preference over actual fact. I have listened to many kinds of rock, and have also helped produce a professionally recorded album of CCM praise and worship, and believe me; it still takes time and talent to come up with every single riff, instrumental and effect, just as it does to put together so many aspects of classical music.

I don't believe Casting Crowns communicates "feel-goodyness" at all in their songs. Try "What If His People Prayed", "If We Are the Body", or "The Word is Alive". Those have some lyrics that really pack a punch if you're listening. As for AC/DC, it's really no comparison as their music was written from evil hearts with evil intent. That music is evil. Music that promotes a lifestyle or ideal not compatible with Christian living should never be a part of a Christian's media diet. Period.

Music is art, and since the majority of what is considered "art" rests on an individual's taste, you can't really judge one genre over another. There is bad rock music, there is good rock music. There is bad classical music, there is good classical music. Just because the majority of gifted musicians in the rock world use their gifts to write evil music, does not mean they aren't gifted, and also does not mean that the type of music they play is evil because so many people play it. Music must come down to these two questions: 1. Does it encourage and exhort me in the things of the Lord or turn me away from Him? 2. Does it uphold Godly principals or fleshly principles? If you apply those questions to every song you listen to regardless of genre, and choose to listen to music that only supports a positive answer, then genre is irrelevant.

That is my perception of the issue. However your blog article has made me want to go and write my own for argument's sake, since I have discussed this with many people and would like to put down my ideas coherently. Thanks again, Gabriel.

@Amy Jo: I like what your Mum said about music videos. Very good point. :)

Gods Country Boy said...

@ Jordan
"Respectfully, the fact that you won't study the music makes you incapable of making these generalizations"

There is an old saying out there, or maybe just in my fork of the country - You don't have to live in the gutter to know that it stinks.

I don't think you don't have to be a case-expert to make a moral decision on something, especially when that certain something is blaring a moral message to the world. Music is not amoral, and whatever message it portrays will be obvious, and more than likely in your face.

Just saying that I think it is quite possible to make such statements without in-depth study. Music *pounds* message, and a lot of times you don't have to listen long to get that message.

Bush Maid said...

@David: Good point, you made me think of another thing. Music isn't just art, it is emotion. It can drive the emotions. Now you might find it easy to slam rock for its "driving beat", but take a look at every other genre. Every. Single. Type. of music invokes emotion. The sweeping sweet sounds of the piano during romantic scenes in movies could be taken as sensual or immoral. Creepy music of plucked strings and ghostly woodwind instruments make you shiver in fear. Laid back country music of strumming guitar and humming voice makes you sigh with contentment and ease. Rock makes you want to tap your foot or jump around to the rhythm. It all speaks something.

So to segregate rock as the only music that can invoke evil attributes isn't entirely accurate. I think there are certain types of rock that indeed are evil. Wholeheartedly so, and to the core. However your question about whether something that might not be evil at its core nature can still have a satanic effect on people, there are a billion examples of that in this world. I mean, God created it all for good. He created love, he created art, he created people, and a billion upon billion other things, yet look at how well humanity has perverted nearly every aspect of his creation. Music is certainly no exception. Though initially created for good, there are going to be plenty who mess it up. And what with satan who was once head of the music department in heaven, it's little wonder the world's done such a good job. /end ramble. :D

Patrick, Tsahraf. said...

Very true Mr. Gabriel!

I think that the standards for video, audio, images, and text, are all the same.

And there is one rule that applies to everyone making media: that there should be no foul language.

With some other limitations there are acquired temptations involved. For people who have lived in the sins of that culture it is better to break ties with the whole culture, because it can draw them back, even Christian songs of that culture.

Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.
Proverbs 19:27

This is not to say that it is a "worldly" culture, any more than classical music is worldly. Only some things cause one person to err and not another person.

I would also add that something that does not speak, something abstract, like instrumental music, cannot distinguish "evil," in the sense of badness, from "evil" in the sense of sin.

In other words, no instrumental music is wrong, any more than a mathematical equation, though it may be poor quality (and the equation can be wrong).

I think that quality (art) is an expression of thought, or strength, which are basically the same thing. Hence why rhyming intrigues people, because the connection expresses thought.

People will still like poor quality music, and say it is good quality, even though they know it is not, just as people will do sin, and say it is right, even though they know it is not.

And for the same reasons: they do not want the responsibility of doing good quality work themselves.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Aussie- this:

"Those have some lyrics that really pack a punch if you're listening."

...is very true! I'm talking only and solely about the musical content, as separate from the words sung.

As far as shallowness goes- this is what I'm getting at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhYuA0Cz8ls

David: "Do you think Rock (loose term again) is enough of an acceptable art form to use it in certain cases?"

Well, we need to define our terms. Rock as we generally hear it used (ala AC/DC) may never have a proper usage, however, the elements that make up rock music are simply tools by which to send a message. We just need to be wise in how we use them- like when using fire.

It's kinda like making a movie about Batman and the Joker. It's not wrong to have the Joker in your movie; it may indeed be a good thing! We need to show the triumph of good over evil. But if we spend too much time focusing on the Joker, and watching him enjoy torturing his victims, then we're going to end up defiling instead of edifying.

Same thing with the musical toolbox.

Bush Maid said...

*watches video* Ahhhhh, right. Well that shallowness I can definitely understand! ;)

Amy Jo Underwood said...

I would disagree with comparing music to mathematical equations. It's a lot more complex than that. The spirit and intent of the music lies the the heart of the composer, and can definitely come through to the audience. Instrumental music always portrays a message, and there's no neutrality in any form of art.
Take Picasso - some of his paintings don't portray anything we could say is morally *wrong*, but it warps the beauty that God has created.

God didn't originally create a world that is discordant. That came after sin, and so it isn't His intent to show discord as being good. God has created a world that has specific orderliness and beauty. When people twist God's example of creating beauty, they are either presenting evil or are portraying it.
Lyrics are more obvious, yes, but they aren't what makes a song moral or amoral.

I'm not saying everyone has to listen to only Bach or Vivaldi (I certainly don't, myself), but it is something to think about, regardless of style or lyrics.
We have to ask, "Is this glorifying God?" We were made to glorify him and enjoy him forever, and I think He has commissioned us to continue His example of creating beauty and harmony.
Bach has a wonderful quote: “The final aim and end (reason) of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the soul.” (I often have this written on a piece of paper and stick it on my mirror when I'm preparing for piano competitions!)


Ah yes... I have used that Messy Mondays video in discussions with friends several times! :-)
I would agree with the Batman analogy. We shouldn't focus on the evil so much that it overshadows everything and becomes almost a celebration of evil, even when it is supposedly being portrayed as villainous. Good stuff! :-)

Patrick, Tsahraf. said...

"I would disagree with comparing music to mathematical equations. It's a lot more complex than that."

Well, equations can become infinitely complex. And the patterns in (good) music, in both classical and rock music, are mathematical patterns.

What I meant by the comparison is that music without lyrics is abstract, and so the only evil it can show is the laziness of not making it skillfully.

"God didn't originally create a world that is discordant. That came after sin, and so it isn't His intent to show discord as being good."

My answer is to read the Bible. God's answer to sin is blood. The blood of sin cannot be cleansed except by blood.

I cannot help but think that those who say that harshness and darkness has no place in a Christian's life have not read the Bible.

A life of holiness is centered around a metal plated box with a spike on each corner, sprinkled with blood, where animals were killed, dismembered, salted, and burnt to smoke and ashes, every morning, every evening, and sometimes thousands beyond counting at once.

I also disagree that we should not see evil too much. God gave his prophets visions specifically to vividly reveal the hidden sins of a people, and overwhelm them with the abominations that were committed.

It would be physically to difficult for some, children for instance.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

"I cannot help but think that those who say that harshness and darkness has no place in a Christian's life have not read the Bible."

I don't think anybody is saying this, Patrick. Rather that we should not live in a world of death, darkness, rebellion, pride, anger, evil, etc.

Patrick, Tsahraf. said...

"we should not live in a world of death, darkness, rebellion, pride, anger, evil, etc."

If you rephrased it as we should live, have light, meekness, peace, and purity, I would agree.

You can not truly have one without the other. You can have light, and you can have darkness, only to the extent that you do not reject either.

But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 11:8

Also you read in the Bible the most vivid descriptions of sin. And every kind of destruction and torment is laid on those that reject God's love, and the joy of God and his saints is in it.

"Disobedience to tyrants is obedience to God."
Benjamin Franklin

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Proverbs 8:13

It is this hatred of evil and disobedience to tyrants that is the fear and obedience of God that can only be fully expressed in the hard songs.

This would be physically hard for some people to handle:
http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Shot+Heard+Round+The+World/58OAuL?src=5
These are the lyrics:
http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/lyrics/new/track.asp?track_id=14193

This is not as hard, but plaintive in the same way:
http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Hide+In+The+Fairytale/4iSkZp?src=5


I have heard some reggae music, but this is the only song I really know of; it is one of my favorite songs:
http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Forever+Young/4IOWt1?src=5

Matthew Johnson said...

Hi Gabriel,
I don't know you, but stuff get around on Facebook :). I found this to be a very well-reasoned, thoughtful post. I really appreciate the sensitivity you have given to this issue.

I do still have a couple questions which I have never had answered, however. First, I have heard many people assert that rock music communicates sin. I even read parts of a book which was about almost that exact subject ("Worship in Song" by Scott Aniol). But nowhere have I ever gotten an explanation of exactly WHY it communicates sin. What exactly in the power chords and back beat communicates these sinful messages? Perhaps you can answer that for me.

Second, if rock music is sinful, where is the line drawn? There is a pretty wide range of music out there as I'm sure you're aware of, and it can be a little hard to distinguish what is "rock" and what isn't. For example, would you think of singing songs by Keith and Kristen Getty in church, which are fairly traditional, but do seem to have a light amount of syncopation (not to mention having fantastic lyrics)?

Thanks again for your thoughts on this, and I hope to hear back from you! I realize I'm commenting quite a bit later than most, so if you'd like to respond by email, my address is mjservingjesus@gmail.com

Sarantos Melogia said...

Rock Music is energetic music. whenever i feel tired i will Listen Rock music only Sarantos

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Hey Matthew! Thanks for reading, for commenting, and for questioning. Questions are good.

"What exactly in the power chords and back beat communicates these sinful messages?"

Again, we're talking about tools, here. Let's break down some of the tools, and their harmonizing principles that we see in the Character of God as revealed in Scripture and nature.

1. Distortion - this effect is often used on electric guitars and such; the name of the effect pretty much makes obvious what its purpose is- to distort. Chaos. God is a God of order, and not of confusion. (1 Cor. 14:33)

2. Rhythm - in rock music we see a heavy focus on repetitive rhythm and a much lighter focus on melodic complexity and harmonic creativity. Prominent drum rhythms are a very effective way to call the body to action. The backbeat that we hear in a lot of dance music I think is sensual in nature.

3. Power Chords - this kinda goes back to the first point; power chords are a very driving tool; very emphatic; very powerful.

Now, none of these elements are wrong. Action music needs intense rhythm. Power chords and distortion can serve appropriate functions.

Which brings me to your second question:

"Second, if rock music is sinful, where is the line drawn?"

This is a great question, and one of the best reasons why I don't contend that rock music is sinful. To make such a statement would be to enter into the realm of arbitrariness, which is characteristic of humanism and not Scripture.

Nevertheless, music that communicates a steady stream of adrenaline, anger, rebellion, lust- while not being malum-in-se- certainly isn't the best choice for a healthy and steady musical diet.

Matthew Johnson said...

Thanks for your response, Gabriel! I will say that although I'm still not sure I follow exactly why the distortions create chaos and the strong beat communicates sensuality, I think I may be starting to understand what you're getting at. It's hard to imagine a drunken, carousing party being done with Bach in the background (although if I'm not mistaken, classical music has been used to communicate sensuality, as well).

Regardless, you have given me some great food for thought :).

Gabriel Hudelson said...

No, thank you for having an attitude of genuinely wanting to hear someone else's opinion! That's a blessing. :-)

"It's hard to imagine a drunken, carousing party being done with Bach in the background..."

exACTLY. Well put.

Patrick, Tsahraf. said...

" "It's hard to imagine a drunken, carousing party being done with Bach in the background..."

exACTLY. Well put."

Well put, but remember that it is also hard to think of Psalm 109, or other parts of scripture, being read with Bach in the background.

Also, with drunkenness, God condemns it as sin, but uses it to describe intense and unrestrained feelings that we should have.

Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.
Psalm 78:65

I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.
Deuteronomy 32:42

Basically, drunkenness is used in the Bible, and songs which use that kind of thing in the same way are right and good.

Caleb Romanowitz said...

I appreciate this post quite a bit - good one, Gabe.

A few thoughts:
1. Self-righteous people are hard to convict, because they bristle when you denounce the atmosphere they live in.
2. Habits involve atmosphere, because attitudes and choices create atmosphere.
3. From my own experience, I had an impossible time trying to become a mature spiritual man while perpetually listening to Switchfoot and Tobymac. Their pride and fatalism was completely antithetical to where I should have been going, and eventually I had to give them up.
4. "Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness" - Psalm 29:2. In this statement, the psalmist through inspiration defines holiness as inherently beautiful. Because God is the standard for beauty, and His dwelling is the standard of excellence, we ought to think agree with holiness as inherently beautiful.
5. Some people think they will find rock music in heaven. However, I believe this is more because they want to go to heaven to worship themselves rather than to worship God; they have difficulty recognizing that God's dwelling place is built to glorify Him.
6. Much of the so-called "worship" music is really an attempt to replace the Spirit's amazing power (which I have experienced, and it satisfies) with the power of loudness and jumping fools (which I have also experienced, and it is disgusting to even remember). Be careful that you know which spirit is guiding you.

Caleb Romanowitz said...

@ Patrick, Tsahraf:

I disagree. God is never unrestrained, and neither should we be; the Spirit is always to remain in control of us - that is the whole point of Eph. 5:18. (Also, check Proverbs on this - just about all of it, with emphasis on 16:32.)

Psalm 78:65 is giving a demonstrative of how powerful God's voice is, but God is never drunk, and we shouldn't mimic a drunk in order to get the real power of the Spirit (which is a real problem with modern "worship").

Deuteronomy 32:42 is using a metaphor to explain the devastating effect of God's war upon His adversaries. I wouldn't recommend that anyone be on the losing side.

Sure, songs that use drunkenness as in the Bible are right and good, but drunkenness should always be condemned and not exonerated in our actions or culture.

John-Mark said...

Great discussion. But Not fully convected to burn my Audio A. CD's with Hell's fire.

I think music is a neural medium that takes on the morals of the composer. (whether in lyrics or style)

For example, Take the Hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" It is not rock! Its sung in many conservative churches each week. Yet it is morally flawed. In it there is blunt idolatry:"To the old rugged cross I will ever be true," "I will cling to the old rugged cross"

Why would we cling to an object over the Lord or pledge our allegiance to a object?

A "Christian" rock song (again Rock is a loose adjective as we all know.) can surpass the hymn if it is Biblicaly sound in the truth.

So, as Gabriel said it's not Black and white, good and evil. Think of it as a sword. You can use music to protect or inflict harm on other people. You as an individual have to decide whether the music you listen to is protecting your faith or harming your faith. Keep in mind what may seem to be a log in your life may only be a speck in another.

@Gabriel, I did think it was interesting you squeezed the one liner in at the end about lighting and color. (I'm guessing in relation to lighting).

Would be interesting to hear you thoughts on using electric lights in church.

respectively,

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Hey John-Mark!

I'm all for using electric lights in church. Are you meaning colored spotlights, neon, etc.?

John-Mark said...

Thanks for the reply. It’s cool that you actually watch the blog. Many mens’ blogs are not manned anymore.

What are your thoughts about using stage lights in a church?
I’ve mulled over this thought for several months. My job as a lighting designer has sent me into churches to design new lighting systems for them. Often it has been a good thing because I believe in good stewardship and have saved thousands of dollars in expense for these churches and have cut their utility bills by using greener LED technology.

But in all honesty the churches sometimes want more than is what is needed. (Yep, churches are filled with people; people are sometimes immature like the rest of us) They usually end up with some color on their walls and nice shapes to shine on the floor. Very beautiful looking like a grand old church in England or the Boston Symphony Hall.
I often wonder though if this is how early pianist felt when bringing a piano into church?
I’ve always viewed it as something God allows us to do. 1 Cor. 10:23.
Note the last part of the verse though. That is where I’m at. I don’t really see stage lighting as harmful. It’s just not fully constructive.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Ah, OK, John-Mark, I think I'm understanding your question.

I would question the message that the use of stage lights sends. I don't readily see how it would direct or assist the focus of the audience to the worship of God.

The whole "the greatest show on earth" approach to corporate worship is far, far away from the Biblical model, I believe; if we turn to Scripture not just to see what we can't do but to see what we should do, I think we are led to a more family-based and family-like fellowship, not a weekly stage performance. I think stage lights lend themselves more to that latter than to the former.

Does that make sense?

John-Mark said...

Hey Gabrial,
I fully see your point. You are correct. The Bible does outline the family based fellowship model of worship. My family has attended family churches and really liked them when available where we live.
I think we are in agreement on this. I don’t agree with fake weekly “shows” of worship that often are in the main stream churches. (who use lights, etc.)
Thanks for the sharpening, It's nice to have peers that are staying in the truth.

Anonymous said...

Being a post based around music and religion, I can understand the fact that there will be inevitable disagreements on both sides. When reading the article, I was expecting (no offence intended) some sort of "Rock is the tune of the devil" and "those who listen to rock shall repent all sins and be shameful of their acts" ideology. I was impressed with the formality of the article and (naturally) I do not agree with everything stated. But I am more concerned about the lack of comments made atheists or people who prefer "darker" genres like metal (and sub it's many genres) with alternate viewpoints. I know that my chances of changing any opinions are minute, as religion is a huge commitment to undertake. Marilyn Manson, probably one of the most controversial artists to Christian people (see ridiculously biased page here http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20America/marilyn_manson-the_truth.htm ) has tought many positive lessons and changed the lives of many for the better. Admittedly, Marilyn Manson is one of the more blatant atheists in music, but he usually tries to communicate what is physically affecting the lives of many, be it forced religion, bullying or sense of right or wrong in terms of sexuality. Iron Maiden (arguably one of the best metal bands to date) also base numerous songs around history and what society wishes to sweep under the rug. They have little bias in their songs, and these are some of the things which make me a very big fan indeed.



"Run To The Hills"- Iron maiden

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQCN-R2Y4wM


"War Pigs"- Black Sabbath

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGPD0ZBiMs0



"Lunchbox"- Marilyn Manson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRFJoUBP54o


Just some food for thought:

http://musicthatmakesyoudumb.virgil.gr/

P.S- Please do not be too hard on me if I mis-state anything about Christianity. I don't really support the idea of having to follow more rules due to religion than I already do. And I don't think I am really influenced by Christianity and the prospect of there being a place where you can have total relaxation and peace without being able to do what you want (heaven). And a place where people get sent to be punished regardless of their striving to help others and treating others with equality (hell).

P.P.S- I am not too sure if many people here support the existence of hell... It tends not to be mentioned during church, perhaps due to the fact that everyone has done something unholy which would be severely punishable in the old testament maybe??? Christianity is a broad religion as far as I know, and the actions of certain members in certain Christian denominations would (in my opinion) likely not be approved by their god.

I don't want to hurt feelings or get any abuse over this, it's just my opinion and I am not really experienced enough to start preaching it. My only goal is to get people to think outside what their religions tell them to do for a few minutes, it may change them for the better, or it may not, either way, you just read my comment, and for that I am very thankful for your time.

- Mousery

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Mousery, thanks for stopping by! I think the music discussion is a downstream issue from the religious beliefs discussion. If we don't agree on the standard- which for me is The Bible- then we won't agree on how to apply the standard!

But I'd love to start there with you, and maybe we'll get to music eventually!

One of the biggest things I see in your comment is your desire to be free to do what you want. You referred to that multiple times. So do you believe that the freedom to do what we want is the highest good? Or is there anything that should govern our conduct- any rules we should follow?