Monday, November 25, 2013

In Defense of CCM

Posted by Elliott

The title of this post was hard to come up with because I have purposed to write about my personal defense of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), but as I thought through what I would write I found that I really don't care about the future of CCM. I write this out of care for the families who have succumbed to this legalistic sedition that has been created by Satan. So, with this matter in view, let me say that my motivation for this post is the future success of many families whom I have come into contact, that they would not yield to endless divisions and deceptions that cause a lack of communion among the saints. All of this being said, if you find that my opinion is faulty, please correct me. I do not want to live in error.

I cannot even begin to address the hundreds of claims made against contemporary Christian music. Many of these claims would not stand alone, but unified they give the appearance of a cause. It is clear, however, that the entire conspiracy against CCM is shrouded in mystery. Nobody can give a unified answer as to why it is harmful for the Christian. One person says that it's the back beat, another may say sliding notes, "It's those African drums!" one says, another has wised up and says it is all of the above. Everybody has a different opinion as to why it is bad, and the only thing that matters is that you join the club, regardless of your reasons.

All of these approaches do seem to agree in one aspect. It is often taught that music has "power" or that it has a spiritual nature that transcends human understanding. This provides the perfect atmosphere for these conspiracies to take hold. Let me remind the reader that this is exactly what we would expect Satan to use. He has used the same mysterious cloak for numerous cults and other divisions among the church. This belief has no scriptural grounds. Many will cite 2 Kings 3:14-16 to provide a basis for the notion that music has power. But let's look at this passage briefly:


14 And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee. 15 But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. 16 And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches.

 At first glance, one might presume that music has unknown powers that enabled Elisha to receive God's message, but upon further examination we should notice this part of verse 15:

"the hand of the Lord came upon him."

This tells us that it was not the music itself that enabled the prophet to hear from God, but it was "the hand of the Lord". We also should note that prophets are known for following seemingly strange impulses, as directed by the Lord. This gives us no basis for assuming that anytime someone plays an instrument he is being moved by something beyond himself or that the music is "spiritual" or has "power".
Another passage often cited is 1 Samuel 16:23:

23 And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.
This passage tells us only what we all can attest to as music can calm our emotions. The music was not the working force behind sending the distressing spirit away, the music refreshed Saul so that the spirit didn't have a hold on him. The proof for this is in 1 Samuel 18:10-11 where the music fails the test of supernatural mystical powers in its inability to send away the spirit:

10 And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand. 11 And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.

Even though David was playing his music, the evil spirit pressed upon Saul. Saul's emotions were not as easily calmed with his ever heightening rage against David and so the music didn't help him and the spirit still distressed him.
It is true that music affects the emotions, but I believe that it is plain to see that it does not possess any great mysterious power.

So often these types of things are adopted under the flag of personal conviction. That would be fine but it always grows into a moral absolute that is pushed on others. Suddenly, people are breaking fellowship with others because they disagree. You can be sure Satan loves it.
It is very saddening to see so many grown men, men who are serious about spiritual things, following after these ideas. Even more saddening to see numerous pastors let this thing become the very heart of their ministry. Instead of spreading the gospel and searching the scriptures to feed the flock, they are wasting their time proselytizing people to this fallacy.
Music is amoral. The music itself cannot be good or evil. It is a medium for conveying a message which might be good, evil or amoral.  Musical notes without a specific order are not really music at all.

God has given us music for many reasons, first and foremost, to glorify Him. But just as a beautiful mountain range brings glory to God and also delights the hearts of men, music is to be enjoyed. This goes against the old gnostic philosophy that everything in the world is evil and that virtue is only to be found in spiritual asceticism. Please, let's not adopt these Pharisaical standards that God never intended us to bear. Let's live in the full freedom that God intended us to have and not in any way bind our consciences with fables made by men.

This is my prayer for the church, that we would not sway to the right or to the left, but that we would remain in the center of God's will.
Elliott Alexander

7 comments:

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV said...

Elliot:

Thank you for this thoughtful consideration of church music, or of music in the service of the church in general and in worship in particular. There is, of course, a long history of such considerations. For instance, there is, perhaps strangely enough, no mention of a musical instrument in the New Testament. On the strength of that fact alone, there was a church in the town where I grew up in Tennessee that used no musical instruments in worship. Since we at the Presbyterian Church thought that the Old Testament was equally the Word of God with the New Testament, that always seemed not only odd to me but simply wrong (and I always wanted to tell them that the New Testament made no mention of electric lights or air conditioning either, but I tried to restrain myself!).

We should never object to music simply because it is new. One way to make this point with people is to remind them that every hymn and song was new one day! Even the oldest of our hymns and songs had a beginning at some point.

Far more important than the age of the song or even the style of the music is the content of the words and the quality of the music. Are the words worshipful or not? Do they glorify God or humanity? Are they confessional or bragging?

It is harder to analyze the music, but there are people who can do it. Is the music expressive of the glory of God or not? Is it appropriate to shared, public worship, or would it be more appropriate to a campfire setting or even to private worship? At least some music that is in 4/4 time is very stately, as if we were marching in to praise God or marching out to obey him in the world. Other music in 3/4 time, or 6/8 time, sounds like a waltz, like dance music. Some of that may be okay, but too much is too much!

The primary use of music in worship is for praise and prayer. I find that praise is often expressed in a major key with strong, bright music (often in 4/4 time), while prayers of either confession or intercession might be expressed in the haunting, plaintive tones of a minor key (still in 4/4!).

One major insight that Presbyterian, historically, have had about music has been the importance and propriety of singing Psalms. John Calvin argued, in effect, that since the Bible was the inspired Word of God, and the the Psalms were the hymnbook of the Bible, God had already told us what he want to hear us singing to him! Why should we sing anything else? Some Presbyterians have sung Psalms exclusively, though, of course, to many different tunes and styles of music through the centuries.

One of the clear advantages of classical or traditional music is that it has already stood the test of time and been used by worshiping communities of the people of God for centuries. But sometimes the time comes that even they grow old and stale, so that the people of God seek new ways to sing praise and prayer gladly to God.

I have not always communicated this well to people. Sometimes I have made it seem that my preference for Psalms and classical music has been exclusive. At one church I served, a couple wanted to have a western wedding. "Oh, no," people said, "Dr. Goodloe will never allow that." They did not understand. I asked to look at the words of the songs requested, and they were all wonderful, worshipful prayers to God for the couple, entirely suitable for public worship. The music was well done. And all the groomsmen doffed their cowboy hats for each song and prayer. It all worked out very well.

I am not saying that western music is contemporary. But it was an example of different music for that congregation, and it worked out very well.

That brings up another point. Not all music is done well. But contemporary music done well can certainly be a faithful and helpful way to worship.

Elliott Alexander said...

Good thoughts, Dr. Goodloe. Thank you for sharing your insights.

Graham Donahue said...

Very good post. I really liked it, I just thought I might add a few things.

I am not much of a CCM fan personally, but I don't have anything against it. I think all genres could improve on the songs that are written, but I think there is a place for all kinds of songs, but maybe not in every situation. For instance some of my favorite songs are not ones you would sing in a church service, unless it was as a special by an individual or something. That does not make the song bad just better for a different setting. I also think there is a place for secular music as well. I don't mean bad songs, but there is nothing wrong with singing about the home you grew up in, or your wife, or even love or heartbreak songs sometimes.

What I have a bigger problem with is worship music. A lot of those songs are not really appropriate to be singing about our savior. I don't think loving God is represented correctly by singing songs that sing to Him like you would be singing to your boyfriend (I think this could be part of why men are leaving the church). I don't know if worship music is considered CCM, but if it is, that is a place that could use some work.

I like contemporary songwriters like Keith and Kristyn Getty, or Staurt Townend who wrote "In Christ Alone". They are considered modern day hymn writers. I love the old hymns, but it is always good to hear new songs that are built upon scripture and have powerful lyric and melody combinations.

Here is a link to a post by Voddie Bauchum on proper worship. I really like what he had to say in it. I recommend it highly.

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1015131429140

Thanks for sharing!

Graham

Lisa Jones said...

As with anything, there is good and there is bad. I grew up singing hymns and still love them today, but CCM is what we listen to in the car. It has a contemporary feel with a righteous message. Besides, it isn't the music that makes a song "Christian", it is the lyrics. And I love catchy, God-honoring lyrics that I can sing over and over again.

Kimberly Mills said...

Very well written! I agree that we need to be in the center of God's Will. I also think it is good to sing from our hearts when worshipping God. (Not just mumble along but really be singing the words and mean them!) "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands"

Matthew said...

Elliot,

Excellent post. I agree with you on the point that there are many deep-seated errors in the claims that many people wage against CCM music, but underlying any claim is a small amount of validity. It will be the purpose of this post to bring in why I personally listen to very little Christian Contemporary Music.

It would seem your main point of the post is to point out that music itself is amoral. And while I agree on a technical level, I think there is an element that makes that statement false. There can be a darkness in music itself that tears down the soul and automatically brings dark feelings to the listener. Certain rock bands are played constantly in some prisons (in other countries) in order to torture and drive their prisoners insane. The way that music affects us is powerful. Haven't you ever heard a happy song with nonsense words that just brought up your mood? Nothing about the lyrics, just the happy beat made you cheerful. Sure, Pharaoh was angry for another reason. But this is no reason to make a generalization by cross-applying this situation to all others.

There was once a riot happening on the streets in Chicago. The police broke up this riot by playing a certain frequency on loudspeakers. This frequency made everyone in the crowd have to go to the bathroom. Now, we can see by just this one example that music and tones have monumental effects on us. Whether or not these are negative is up for debate, but not the fact that they exist. Music can be good or evil, but amoral music does not exist.

I listen to secular and country music, yet most Christian Contemporary Music does not even cross my radar. It isn't because of the drums or "evil backbeat." You could say I come from the secular side on this issue, yet I do have a clear-cut reason :)

It is the smallness that is placed upon the Lord.

I know you understand the greatness, awesomeness, and power of our Lord. His justice, love, mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness are incomprehensible, unimaginable, and just pure awesome.

Here's my challenge for you. Go turn on your favorite CCM station and listen carefully to each song you hear. Then think of the lyrics of these songs. If the song mentions God at all, could you replace each mention of God/He/Him with the name of a girl. For example, Jamie Grace/remastered: "I love the way Jane holds me, by her side I'll always be. In each and every day, she makes me feel special in some way. Oh, I love the way Jane holds me."

The songs that play on "Christian" radio have been labeled by many as, "Jesus is my girlfriend/boyfriend" songs. They punify Jesus Christ, the SAVIOR of the world, to someone that is equal in power to a significant other that is giving you a little pep-talk.

Sure, there are a few good bands out there. I enjoy Casting Crowns myself, but I feel the majority is degrading to God. And by painting Him as someone not worthy of our complete worship, we are almost creating an idol of a small, always only loving, Jesus. I can guarantee you there are non-Christians that tune into 90.5 every day because it makes them feel good, but doesn't convict them. Do CCM songs ever talk about the wrath of God? Maybe some do.

I would rather listen to secular artists who are just going along with the secular world than listen to someone that is supposed to be representing my Lord God drag Him down and not treat Him with the respect that He deserves. I hold Christians to a higher standard, and in the world of "Christian music," CCM has not reached that standard :)

Hopefully I didn't offend you in any way.

Mathew

Elliott Alexander said...

Good thoughts Matthew. I would still challenge the idea that music cannot be amoral. I believe your prison music scenario could be rooted in cultural preference. I recently read an article about supertankers turning on Britney Spears to deter attacks from Somalian pirates. The article said that the Somalians hate music from our culture. Something that is widely accepted by Western culture, is abhorred by these pirates.

Hebrew music is often times in a minor tone, one that we would find sobering or even saddening. I believe that everyone is raised with a cultural lens in which we view things through. I have an appreciation for bluegrass, but I know other people who could be driven insane by the same songs I enjoy. It is all a matter of preference. Don't misunderstand me, there are good songs and bad songs, the message in the song is what does this, but the music itself is amoral. There is also messages that are completely amoral, causing neither good or harm.

I dislike shallow CCM songs as well. But that is my preference and my judgement and I would never impose it upon others who might be lifted up by the simple themes expressed in these songs. I see your point in how these songs could just as well be love songs to a lover, but that should not surprise us seeing that the idea of Christ as a lover is clearly laid out in the Scriptures.

In the end, you, along with everyone else, is entitled to their own opinion. The only point that I hoped to drive home with my original post was that all of the little squabbles that we get into could really be dissolved if we were simply Berean with our approach to what the Word of God says. It is fine if I have a bizarre personal conviction, say, to never eat fish on Fridays. The problem occurs when I press this personal conviction on others as if it was required by Scripture. In the area of music, some have twisted Scripture to suit their own opinions about it, and then pressed it upon others, causing great division among the body of Christ. That is what I was primarily addressing.

Hope you are doing well. Sorry that Oliver and I will not be able to make it to your Eagle scout ceremony, we will have to stay home and milk the cows. :)

Elliott