Why Praise and Worship Music Isn’t

Belinda Luscombe wrote an informative for Time magazine concerning Christian song-writer Chris Tomlin.[1] The November 19th, 2006 article alludes to the nature, sound and purpose of Tomlin’s music, and in so doing reveals the principal short-coming of Praise and Worship music.

According to the main licensing agency for Christian music (CCLI), Chris Tomlin “is the most often sung contemporary artist in U.S. congregations every week… that might make Tomlin the most often sung artist anywhere.” CCLI marketing manager Paul Herman says, “He has really captured the heart of the church.”

Since Chris Tomlin obviously has a tremendous role in shaping the worship of the contemporary church, he has a tremendous role in shaping how contemporary Christians conceive of God and proper worship of Him. As such, his music (and Praise and Worship music as a whole) certainly deserves evaluation and biblical critique.[2]

So what is his music like? “Tomlin’s How Great Is Our God … currently the second most popular modern chorus in U.S. churches…is not particularly profound–the title pretty much sums it up–but it’s heartfelt, short and set to a stirring soft-rock melody that sticks in the mind like white to rice. That’s Tomlin’s gift: immediacy.”

The secular evaluation of Tomlin’s music, or at least his most popular piece, is that it is simple and memorable, with a soft-rock sound. Tomlin himself states, “I try to think, ‘How do I craft this song in a way that the person who’s tone-deaf and can’t clap on two and four can sing it?’ I hope that when someone hears a CD of mine, they pick up their guitar and say, ‘O.K., I can do that.’” To this, Luscombe responds, “Which is not the way people react to, say, Handel’s Messiah.” This off-the-cuff comparison to Messiah deserves some pondering.

There is certainly nothing wrong with desiring to write accessible music– music that can be easily sung or played. It would be improper to criticize Tomlin or other Praise and Worship musicians for having this desire. While Messiah is more complex than anything Tomlin has written, complexity alone does not make Messiah better. As Christians, we are to strive for things that are “excellent, virtuous, lovely, pure, and praiseworthy” (Phil. 1:10; 4:8). The characteristics of simplicity and complexity can certainly contribute to the goodness of certain music, but by themselves they are not determinative of goodness.

One danger in comparing the complexity of Messiah with the simplicity of Tomlin is failing to take into consideration the intended performers of the music. Messiah was written for choral use, not congregational. As such, it is not an extremely difficult piece. We sang several selections from it every year in (public!) high school choir. Tomlin writes for congregational use, not choral. Since he intends the congregation to perform his music, it would be foolish of him to attempt to mimic the choral aspects of Messiah. Regular attenders of a church with a choir should be able to recognize this distinction. The choir sings a different type of song than the congregation. This does not make one or the other superior, or inferior. Rather, each group sings songs appropriate for them.

What separates Tomlin, and Praise and Worship music, from Handel’s Messiah, is not complexity, but sound and purpose. After describing the nature of Tomlin’s music as simple and memorable, the author describes the sound of Tomlin’s music as “soft-rock” and “pop-sounding.” With this, two questions come to mind: why would one choose to write music with such a sound for the worship of God and is such a sound appropriate for worship of God?

Luscombe uncovers the purpose for his style by writing, “Tomlin is the chief American practitioner of the pop-sounding ‘praise and worship’ music that has replaced traditional hymns in congregations looking for a younger crowd. ‘We’ve been closing the gap between what you would hear in church and on a rock radio station’ says Matt Lundgren, worship leader at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. ‘Artists like Chris Tomlin help bridge the gap more and more.’”

The purpose of “Praise and Worship” music is to get the church closer to the type of music the world enjoys. Consider again the quote regarding the purpose of such music– “[to close] the gap between what you would hear in church and on a rock radio station.” Praise and Worship music is written and used because it sounds like the music on a secular rock and roll station: please note that this is not my evaluation, it is their own evaluation. The purpose of this music is to blur the line between what one would hear at church and what one would hear on secular radio. This is the reason that Handel’s music is “good” in the biblical sense of the term, and Tomlin’s music is not.

With his music, Handel meant to bring heaven to earth. With his music, Tomlin means to bring rock to the church. After composing the music for the “Hallelujah Chorus” in Messiah, Handel stated, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.”[3] Those who write and perform Praise and Worship music on the other hand, apparently state, “I hope this sounds enough like the current Billboard top-40 that people like it.”

Here we are facing one of the questions of the age. What determines acceptability in worship? Popularity? Chris Tomlin “is the most often sung contemporary artist in U.S. congregations every week.” Pragmatism? “Tomlin is the chief American practitioner of the pop-sounding ‘praise and worship’ music that has replaced traditional hymns in congregations looking for a younger crowd.” Tomlin is unquestionably popular, and churches which use Praise and Worship music seem to attract large crowds with ease. Popularity and pragmatism, however, do not determine what kind of worship God delights in: His Word is the sole guide.

It is entirely possible to demonstrate that Praise and Worship is aesthetically inferior to Handel (or Bach, Mendellsohn, Haydn –and a host of other “classical” composers who wrote music for church use), but one does not need to do this since the purveyors of Praise Worship music have already admitted to a more grievous sin than just writing trite music.

God’s Word admonishes us to not be conformed to the world (Rom 12:1), and to not love the world (1 John 2:15). When used in this way, “the world” refers to all those elements of secular life that characterize mankind’s rebellion against God and desire for self-satisfaction. One does not have to listen to a secular rock and roll station very long to discover that the music it plays definitely qualifies as belonging to “the world.” The music you hear on secular radio stations is sinful because it is the music of life apart from God. It is the music of rebellion and sexual gratification that glorifies man in all of his fallen-ness. Yet this is the music that Praise and Worship musicians want to “bridge the gap” to. This is what we are supposed to think when we hear it: “Hey that sounds like something I heard on the radio the other day.” How can music meant to sound like a rock and roll station be called, “worship” when God calls it “worldly”?

Such music touches the emotions, often in a profound way: it is meant to. If Praise and Worship did not create fuzzy feelings, it would not be so popular. Perhaps you think, “It’s not that bad. After all, it only sounds like the ‘soft’ stuff.” Is our God the kind of god that is sung to as a woman being seduced by a man? Is God adored in Scripture with soft caresses and tender kisses? Is eroticism acceptable worship? Praise and Worship stirs the emotions– but which emotions; and are those emotions properly worshipful of God? Oh if only our emotions could be touched by James 4:4, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

God is not glorified by his enemies. And He is neither praised nor worshiped by the vast majority of Praise and Worship music.


[1]http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1561156,00.html (Unless noted otherwise, all quotes in this Music Notes from this source.)

[2] (1 Cor. 2:15; Phil. 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 5:14; 1 John 4:1).

[3]R.W.S. Mendl, The Divine Quest in Music, (London: Rockliff Publishing, 1957), 63.

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37 thoughts on “Why Praise and Worship Music Isn’t

  1. Terry, this kind of short sighted judgment is what keeps the church from becoming relevant and radically influential today.

    In the 1500’s, Luther wrote what we consider venerable hymns today. He composed them to local tavern songs and bar tunes. He wanted his worship to the King to be memorable in the minds of unsaved and religious church goers alike. In the 1700’s, Charles Wesley did the same thing in England. Handel and other classical orchestral composers wrote their music as worship in the contemporary musical style of their day.

    If you follow the history of revivals, you will find that after every revival, reformation or spiritual awaking, there is a resurgence of artistic expression, including worship music. We are made in God’s image, and we create when we grow closer to him.

    These ancient contemporary worshippers wrote what is now our Classical, religious hymns, and genuine faith must constantly change the WAY we communicate without changing the SUBSTANCE of the message, or we devolve into irrelevant, religious traditionalists, like the pharisees that Jesus rebuked.

    When will Christ followers learn that symbolism and substance are radically different. Outward appearance has little to do with inward devotion, except that inner devotion grows fruit that seeks to glorify God in a way that is relevant to the worshipper, that is influential in the culture, and that seeks to build unity in the body of Christ.

  2. Someone from Hawaii “Isn’t it nice that someone has an opinion. Just because something is in print doesn’t necessarily make it true”

  3. Is this guy really serious? I have never worshipped my God so deeply as I do now with today’s worship music. It’s ok if someone else worships only to hymns, that’s awesome. But standing in judgement of how someone else chooses to worship and express their love for God is putting God in a very tiny box. I’m learning more and more every day just how impossible and foolish that is.

  4. Song of Songs touches the erotica of God’s holiness and longing for unity within ourselves and with others. Art depicting the emotion of Christ, the beloved, touches the depths of ones soul. In my mind, Chris Tomlin is following this same genre depicted in ancient Hebrew Scriptures and art from the time of Messiah’s composition and other choral music development. We cannot fear or dismiss our emotions or our sexuality and think we are growing closer to god by disowning how he made us as emotional beings as somehow “bad.” Christ was inclusive, meeting people where they were at, drawing them to him while condemning the “holier then thou” Pharisees. I do not find this posting aligned with the gospel truth.

  5. Timothy- Your supposed example of Luther’s musical writing, is lazy, worn-out, and not put forth by anyone who has honestly considered the “what and how” of Luther’s musical sources. You should be embarrassed, and I would encourage you to truly study the matter instead of blindly accepting opinions of the ignorant. Especially if you wish to have edifying discussions of any worth with people who know the truth. Also, do you recognize a difference between “contemporary” and “worldly”? That would be helpful…

    James- are you the most important person (or important at all) when it comes to worship? Is it your feelings, or anyones, that are central in worship? Do you think your feelings, emotions, etc. were at all warped by the Fall? If they are depraved, why would you use them as a guide to acceptable worship?

    L&F- a very apt screen name. You are right, this is a gospel issue- that Christ has so radically saved us that we are free to offer God acceptable worship. If God, in Christ, is so inclusive, why did he not accept Cain’s offering? Or Nadab and Abihu’s? Why did Christ Himself say the Samaritans didn’t know what they were doing in worship? That doesn’t sound very inclusive.

  6. Brad,

    I wanted to dialogue with you a little on your critiques if I may. Based on my reading of your post, I would see several key points that I’d like to address. First, you accept Luscombe’s description of “How Great is Our God” as “not…profound” and appear to see that as a pejorative concept. Second, while on the one hand you note that there is “nothing wrong with desiring to write accessible music”, you go on to critique said accessibility on your own terms – in seeing the use of common cultural mediums as wrong or worldly.

    First, I find the critique that you’ve parroted from Luscombe regarding the lack of profundity in “How Great is Our God” to be somewhat lacking. If lacking profundity means that the lyrics are not esoteric and simple to understand, then I would agree. If, however, this reference means that the lyrics lack insight or thoughtful reflection on the nature and character of God, then I would beg to differ. Here is an analysis of the text:

    Stanza 1: God’s splendor, glory, and majesty should lead us to rejoice (e.g., Psalm 21:5; 29:2; 45:3).
    Stanza 2: God is clothed in light and opposes darkness (e.g., Psalm 18:28; 36:9; 93:1; 104:1, 2; 2 Sam. 22:29).
    Chorus: We should call believers to worship this God (Psalm 67:4; 95:1; 149:3, 5; James 5:13).
    Stanza 3: God is eternal (Psalm 90:4; 93:2; 102:12, 24-27; Isaiah 57:15; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13).
    Stanza 4: God is Trinity (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph 4:4-6; Jude 20-21).
    Chorus: We should call believers to worship this God (Psalm 67:4; 95:1; 149:3, 5; James 5:13).
    Stanza 5 (Repeated): God is above all names (allusion to the Christological hymn and the implication of the deity of Christ, Philippians 2:9-11) and worthy of all of our praise (Psalm 96:4; 145:3).
    Chorus (Repeated): We should call believers to worship this God (Psalm 67:4; 95:1; 149:3, 5; James 5:13).

    In summary, I really see no “fuzzy feelings” or “eroticism” in the text in front of me as I write this.

    Second, I think that you’re conflating accessibility with worldliness. You state a purpose for Tomlin’s writing that I don’t think he would claim for himself. Let me go out on a limb here and say that he would not agree that he is trying to “get the church closer to the type of music the world enjoys.” As to your quotation of another worship leader who sees the closing of the gap between secular and sacred styles, I would suggest that his analysis of Tomlin is far from uniform within the body of Christ (many musicians don’t think he really is interacting with modern styles), and I don’t think this statement has anything to do with worldliness and more to do with accessibility. Your Handel vs. Tomlin tension is based on the supposition that the purpose behind Handel was to use heaven’s music on earth and that Tomlin is using earth’s music in heaven, but I would contend that both musicians use and used styles common in their day to communicate heavenly concepts. And while there are stark differences in the complexity of the choral music of “The Messiah” and the congregational style “How Great is Our God”, both men successfully implement styles and approaches of their day to make the texts accessible and memorable to the listeners and singers. Ultimately, though, I would suggest that your critique of “worldliness” in Tomlin’s music lacks a consistent definition. If using common styles of music in our culture today to communicate the Gospel is unacceptable, then what about men like Bliss or Watts who used a similar approach? Shouldn’t we just sing the Psalter? What about Paul’s use of secular Zeus-worshipping poets in his preaching? What about the use of common styles of speaking in our prayer and preaching? What about the use of translations of Scripture into the common tongue? What about wearing contemporary clothing, is that also worldly? In other words, does the fact that something is intentionally common or current within a culture make it worldly, or is there something else we’re missing? Can you define this and apply this definition without exception and in every culture? I think you would be well-served in defining what you’re talking about in terms of the “world” and “worldliness.” My argument is that worship in music is not the receipt and use of extra-terrestrial styles and means of praise, but the re-taking of elements of our own culture and the use of them to praise God.

    In conclusion, I challenge the assertion that the song lacks profundity (if, by that you mean that it is trite), and the concept that merely because a song that sounds similar to common music in the culture it is worldy.

  7. Phil,

    Thanks for stopping try and contributing something of substance to the conversation. I am not sure why this post of mine from over a year ago suddenly garnered so much attention…but I am grateful you sought a thoughtful interaction.

    I just listened to the song again on read your reply. I am going to stick by the evaluation that there is nothing too profound about the song. There is nothing really that profound about stringing together a bunch of attributes of God. It is certainly not very thoughtful. Now certainly the interested singer could take that list home and exposit it further- just as you have done. But just throwing together a series of truths about God, as profound as God himself is, doesn’t make a song profound. Your list of biblical references does not really come from an analysis of the text of the song in question.

    You said, “In summary, I really see no “fuzzy feelings” or “eroticism” in the text in front of me as I write this.” Neither do I. The fuzzy feelings and eroticism are in the music and the delivery of the text. There is nothing erotic in “Happy Birthday” but how would your wife respond to a stranger singing it to you the way Marilyn Monroe sang it to JFK?

    You state, “I think that you’re conflating accessibility with worldliness.” I don’t think so. Karl Barth supposedly called “Jesus Loves Me” the greatest theological truth he had ever learned. That is a pretty accessible song. The original article itself demonstrates the worldly intent of many “Praise and Worship” perpetrators: bring the church’s music closer to the popular culture of the world. That is worldliness.

    I think you are making a somewhat common mistake in not being able to differentiate between the criticism of the text and music of the song. While I did address the text of How Great, my main intent was to address the music of it and the P&W movement. It is the music that is often worldly. And even setting aside a disagreement over the text of How Great, it is the music that is often even more trite than the texts. What “heavenly concepts” does the music, the tune, of How Great communicate? I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

    It is unfortunate that you go so far off the rails at the end of your comments. “Contemporary” certainly does not necessarily mean worldly, but things that are worldly will almost always be contemporary. Say you take your teenage daughter to a large mall on Black Friday. Are there certain outfits that you would not let her buy? Might there even be certain stores you would not let her enter? Why is that? Is some clothing made in 2013 worldly and is some acceptable? Certainly. And the same is true for music. Newness does not equal worldliness: lust and pride does (1 John 2:15-17). So your long list of concluding arguments is pretty meaningless: the issue is not time. The issue is substance.

    To that end, you object to the concept “that merely because a song that sounds similar to common music in the culture it is worldy [sic].” Again, it depends on the culture. Are you proposing that the common culture of America today is not worldly? Are you suggesting that the most popular, the most exalted, the most treasured things in America today are godly? Do you mean to say that I can turn on the TV during prime time, flip on the radio at drive time, hit YouTube’s most watched and I will find things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise? If that is the case, I completely agree with you. The church should be doing all it can to ape the common culture.

  8. >>>”There is nothing really that profound about stringing together a bunch of attributes of God.”

    If this is the case, we’ll need to rule out a number of great hymns like “Holy, Holy, Holy” (which really is just a string of attributes).

    >>>”Your list of biblical references does not really come from an analysis of the text of the song in question.”

    It actually does. If you look up the verses I’ve supplied, there are numerous instances where the song actually quotes the passages I’ve listed. My analysis leads me to believe that he is drawing his lyrics heavily from the text of Scripture.

    >>>”The fuzzy feelings and eroticism are in the music and the delivery of the text.”

    I don’t see this conclusion as self-evident. I know how erotic things make me feel, and this song does not make me feel that way.

    >>>”There is nothing erotic in “Happy Birthday” but how would your wife respond to a stranger singing it to you the way Marilyn Monroe sang it to JFK?”

    It depends. You’re taking applications that we may make regarding that specific time and place and generalizing them. What do you mean by “the way” she sang the song? At that time, certain styles communicated different things than they do now. At that place, you had the female sex-symbol of the culture singing to a man that she was rumored to have been carrying on an affair with. So, in that time and place, the way she sang was suggestive of erotic behavior. This is a particular instance where we apply Scripture to the problem of the hour and obtain a critique. It is not a fiat template for how we handle vocal styles henceforth and forevermore. And, as you noted, the lyrics remain wholly appropriate for use elsewhere as well.

    >>>”the worldly intent of many “Praise and Worship” perpetrators: bring the church’s music closer to the popular culture of the world.”

    First, intent is a difficult thing to prove. So I would caution about making attempts in that direction. I would suggest focusing on actions and whether or not they violate clear Scripture. Second, I would suggest that in any discussion of another person’s views or arguments, it would be best to state those arguments how he himself would state that position, not how you would like to state that position. I think Tomlin would probably say that he is using neutral or positive elements within the culture (a culture which contains positive, neutral, and negative elements) to convey truth within the context of the local church. Yes, the end result is that churches are continuing to worship in a culturally appropriate way (as you refer to it: “close to culture”), but this does not mean that the worship music is in line with the values of the world.

    >>>”What “heavenly concepts” does the music, the tune, of How Great communicate?”

    A tune communicates little without a text or a performance. What little it communicates is perhaps simplicity, accessibility, and memorability in line with other tunes of the church through the centuries. Ultimately, I don’t believe that a tune itself can communicate as much as you’re presupposing in this question. For example, in Hispanic culture, minor keys are used in celebrations and Christmas tunes. To them it communicates a positive message, whereas minor keys communicate a somber tone in my mind.

    >>>”the issue is not time. The issue is substance.”

    Agreed. My questions were intended to make that point (and a couple others, but that isn’t necessary at this moment). So I would agree that our evaluation of the substance of various actions is what we should be concerned about. My critique of your post is that you don’t appear to be interacting with substance. Your arguments are in regard to generalities and assumptions about motives, not with objective substance. All of the case examples you’ve offered are areas where I will apply objective commands of Scripture to various specifics of my life. And this application may look different for me than it will for you. It may look different in the Midwest vs. Manhattan vs. Saudi Arabia. So it is to that end that I’ve suggested that you would do well to develop some sort of positive worldview on how to relate to your context and culture. I would recommend works by Niebuhr (Christ and Culture), Carson (Christ and Culture Revisited), and Keller (Center Church) to this end. These will help articulate some options for thoroughgoing biblical engagement with our culture that would be helpful in these kinds of discussions. In other words, I think it is easy to discuss reactionary issues that we don’t like than it is to discuss a framework (worldview) that we’re operating from in all those decisions. And it is to that end I’m interested in getting your opinion.

    >>>”Are you proposing that the common culture of America today is not worldly?”

    I am proposing that there are aspects of the culture that need to be confronted and rejected by believers because acting on them would disobey the commands of Scripture. I am also proposing that there are aspects of the culture that are either good or neutral that can be accepted and used by believers to communicate the Gospel and to edify the Church. This is the same approach that has been used outside the US by missionaries for centuries.

    >>>”Are you suggesting that the most popular, the most exalted, the most treasured things in America today are godly?”

    I’m not suggesting that *things* are either godly or ungodly. I’m suggesting that *people* are godly are ungodly based on how they use things (both in intent and action). For example, technology is a category in which an iPad is a thing. How I interact with that thing can be either good or bad. I can determine whether not my interaction is good or bad from Scripture.

    >>>”Do you mean to say that I can turn on the TV during prime time, flip on the radio at drive time, hit YouTube’s most watched and I will find things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise?”

    Well…let’s see. The most popular video right now is a video of the UM Basketball team beating the shot-clock. Based on my worldview, athleticism is part of the natural ability of man which brings glory to God when used well (like a violin player or the antelope running through the African plains). So I would say that I found something that is commendable and excellent just now. But that depends on articulating a coherent worldview for interacting with culture rather than just generalizing that everything must be sinful because it is popular.

    • Phil,

      I am very tempted to just thank you for making my points better than I could, but I suppose you would just charge me with being dismissive. So-oo..

      If you can’t see the substantive differences between the texts of Holy, Holy, Holy and How Great is our God I am afraid there are some remedial conversations that need to be had. One is a rather sustained meditation on how creation relates to a Holy triune God. The other is…what has already been discussed.

      On your second point, I think you got me in a lack of clear typing. Your list of Bible verses DOES come from an analysis of the text. That is what I meant to convey. i.e., you had to dig and exposit things that weren’t exactly on the surface.

      Obviously I don’t know how the music makes you feel. But do know the music is trite and the lyrics (as I listened to the artist’s performance) are delivered in tones that I would expect to hear from the “strange woman” of Proverbs. If you do not know what sultry, seductive speech sounds like, you are either naïve or being coy.

      Regarding your comments on Monroe’s happy birthday: you are really being obtuse. I think you could show that performance to pretty much anyone, at pretty much anytime, pretty much anywhere, and they would be able to tell you what was going on there. How many times is that song sung? Show me another performance that comes anywhere near the notoriety of that one. Anyone who is being honest knows the reason. If your wife would be fine with a promiscuous woman singing to you in that manner… I don’t know what to say. Does she know you are typing these things?

      Next, no. The intent is not difficult to prove when they tell you what the intent is. Again, please don’t be obtuse.

      A tune communicates little without text or performance? First of all, it communicates nothing without a performance. Obviously if music isn’t performed it doesn’t communicate—unless a person can read music. The first part of your statement is wrong as well. If music does not communicate why don’t (I assume) strip clubs play classical music? Why don’t baby crib mobiles play death metal?

      I would suggest you read authors like Tertullian, Lactantius, Augustine, Eliot, Weaver.

      Congratulations you found a popular YouTube video with nothing objectionable. You completely destroyed my entire argument. I cede the field.

  9. >>> “If you can’t see the substantive differences between the texts of Holy, Holy, Holy and How Great is our God I am afraid there are some remedial conversations that need to be had.”

    How specifically are the texts substantially different? If “Holy, Holy, Holy” is a “rather sustained meditation on how creation relates to a Holy triune God”, then “How Great is our God” could likely fall in a similar category. It is a “sustained meditation” on the character of God and several of His attributes as addressed in Scripture. I see no vast substantial difference here.

    >>>”you had to dig and exposit things that weren’t exactly on the surface.”

    Compare Psalm 104:

    1 Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
    You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
    2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
    stretching out the heavens like a tent.

    To the lyrics of the song in question:

    The splendor of a king
    Clothed in majesty
    Let all the earth rejoice
    All the earth rejoice

    He wraps Himself in light,
    And darkness tries to hide
    And trembles at His voice

    I’m struggling to see how that parallel isn’t obvious.

    >>>”But do know the music is trite…”

    If the music is trite, then so is Scripture (which it is quoting).

    >>>”…delivered in tones that I would expect to hear from the “strange woman” of Proverbs.”

    This argument is entirely circular. You assume that the “tones” are “sensual,” read that into Proverbs, and connect Proverbs to “How Great is Our God.” What makes tones sensual (assuming that you mean more than an effect on the senses and probably more of an erotic experience)? Is there something inherent in particular series’ of tones I can confidently say that I’ve never felt physically aroused when listening to Tomlin’s music. And if that’s your reaction, there may be deeper spiritual issues in play here.

    >>>”Regarding your comments on Monroe’s happy birthday: you are really being obtuse.”

    No. I’m trying to get your take on what specific elements in that performance should serve as universal negative norms of what is worldly. Your argument that it is “obtuse” is simply an argument from incredulity. My point is that the historical and cultural context of *that particular performance* leads us to a number of conclusions about what was being communicated. Each context must be evaluated individually through the lens of Scripture. To simplify my argument: Scripture should interpret morality in actions, not actions in history interpreting morality in actions today.

    >>>”Does [your wife] know you are typing these things?”

    Yes. And she agrees with my understanding of how Scripture should relate to music and culture. As a point of reference, we are both graduates of BJU and serve in a fundamentalist church.

    >>>”If music does not communicate why don’t (I assume) strip clubs play classical music?”

    Several points: First, you and I are both making assumptions about what music is or isn’t used in strip clubs because neither of us have been to one. But I will assume that your claim is accurate. Second, this is a logical fallacy called a category error or the fallacy of the shared characteristic. Because all cats have hair does not mean that all hairy animals are cats. So if all strip clubs used Tomlin-style soft rock, it does not follow that Tomlin-style soft rock carries with it the attribute of the strip club. Third, what is determining morality in this case? Because people use something wrongly, does that make it immoral? The fact that every online porn company uses the internet to purvey their wares shouldn’t make the internet immoral too! Morality should be objective and derived from the text of Scripture. Fourth, and this really ties to my line of argumentation thus far on this issue, this example proves the need for a thoroughgoing worldview rather than a reactionary one. If we’re always going to abandon categories of things once they are used wrongly, then ultimately we’ll end up with nothing left (or cart and buggy, in the case of the Amish). Better to develop a biblical worldview that works in every case.

    >>>”Why don’t baby crib mobiles play death metal?”

    Two thoughts: First, the simple answer has to do with the volume and performance of “death metal.” It isn’t conducive of sleep or rest, but action and movement. This is the reason why it typically plays Brahms’s “Lullaby” rather than “The Flight of the Bumblebee” or “The 1812 Overture.” Second, I find it instructive that in every conversation along these lines that I have, strip clubs, brothels, rap, death metal, etc. are typical talking points. If in order to make your point, you must resort to the most extreme examples that you yourself have had little/no interaction with, then perhaps it is because the argument cannot survive in the real world where most of us live. I’m not willing to stake my life on that concept, but thus far it has held true for me. I usually get cautious about my arguments when I find myself reaching into things that I don’t know about or that aren’t really common in my world.

    >>>”I would suggest you read authors like Tertullian, Lactantius, Augustine, Eliot, Weaver.”

    Thanks for the recommendations…especially Lactantius. I’ve spent a decent about of time in Tertullian and Augustine. If you mean T.S. Eliot, I’ve read a lot there as well, but if that’s the wrong one, I’m open to alternatives. I’ve never heard of Weaver before. Would you mind filling me in? Based on the way this list comes across, I’m guessing that you saw my suggestions as insulting or perhaps out of the question. My intent was to suggest that, even if you disagree with the writers, they certainly offer some very helpful categories for discussing worldview issues. For example, it is often helpful in these kinds of chats to discuss what view of culture you espouse based on Niebuhr’s categories. This summary is helpful: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/rit/webBook/chapter7/niebuhrTech.htm If you get a moment to check it out, I’d be interested to know where you fall on the spectrum.

    >>>”Congratulations you found a popular YouTube video with nothing objectionable. You completely destroyed my entire argument. I cede the field.”

    You may now enjoy “Charlie Bit My Finger” in good conscience. 🙂

  10. I certainly would be willing to dialogue further, but I think the core issues we have identified are as follows:

    1. Culture: Are cultural forms in and of themselves bad, or is it the substance within or implementation of them that is the problem?
    2. Contextualization: What does it mean to be a Christian in 21st century American culture, and how does this impact how I deal with cultural forms around me?
    3. Worldview: What is your operating principle(s) for viewing the world around you, and how does this impact how I deal with the cultural forms around me?

    Without hammering out consistent approaches in these areas we’re always going to tend towards wildly inconsistent applications in areas like this.

    • Phil,

      1) I am not sure what you think a “cultural form” is, but not everything in every culture is “bad.” But that does not mean everything is neutral, or good. This is where discernment enters the picture.
      2) Given what the Bible says about worldliness, being a Christian in the 21st century means pretty much the same thing it meant in the 1st century and every century since. We are in the world, but not of it. We “deal with the world” as if we had no dealings with it, for it is passing away.
      3) Pretty much the same as above. Seeing that all these things are going to be dissolved, what kind of people should you be?

      I am not sure where my wildly inconsistent applications are. It is pretty simple: if something is characteristic of the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- we shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Now I agree that such avoidance will manifest itself differently in different times and places, but it is amuses me how “legalistic” those who argue for greater liberty are. They want a bullet-pointed list with documentation about all the things we are not allowed to do…otherwise it is free game.

      I can’t go to Scripture and show you a verse that says CCM or P&W is “wrong.” I can only go to verses that say we shouldn’t love the things that characterize the rebellious affections of the world. I can only go to passages and say our sincerity, or desire, or motives, in worship are not the ultimate criteria for worship of the Lord. The Lord requires and forbids certain things. No amount of sincerity will change that.

      All of the talk about culture and contextualization is well-pickled red herring. I think it comes down to what A.W. Tozer said: The greatest problem confronting man is God: that He is and what are we supposed to do about Him.

      This is the problem: God. What kind of God is He? And what kind of worship does He deserve?

      • Sorry. I missed the inline reply. Several responses:

        >>>”not everything in every culture is “bad.” But that does not mean everything is neutral, or good. This is where discernment enters the picture.”

        I would say that this is where Scripture enters the picture. The works of the flesh aren’t mysterious and hidden, but “evident” (Gal. 5:19). We don’t need a musical expert to tell us what is sinful and what isn’t. The Word is sufficient.

        >>>”worldliness…We are in the world…We “deal with the world””

        You replaced my word “culture” with the word “world.” At the same time, you said that not everything in culture is bad. Are you using these two words synonymously or differently?

        >>>”I am not sure where my wildly inconsistent applications are.”

        Critiquing things based on personal sub-culture, preference, and habituation rather than critiquing things based on how the Bible speaks to them *will* result in wildly inconsistent application because one is objective and the other is subjective.

        >>>”They want a bullet-pointed list with documentation about all the things we are not allowed to do…otherwise it is free game.”

        I *don’t* need you to show me a bullet-pointed list of what I’m not allowed to do or not. The Bible already contains the material I need and I thank God that Jesus fulfilled those actions perfectly on my behalf. So please explain to me how submission to the Word of God alone as my rule for faith and practice is legalistic. The legalists were the ones who claimed the need for traditions of men to go beyond what Scripture said.

        >>>”I can’t go to Scripture and show you a verse that says CCM or P&W is “wrong.” I can only go to verses that say we shouldn’t love the things that characterize the rebellious affections of the world.”

        Assumption 1: That I “love” CCM or P&W. I don’t. I love Jesus and I worship him in various ways including via “CCM” (whatever that means exactly).

        Assumption 2: That CCM characterizes the rebellious affections of the world. Does the world really love CCM? Would the average lost young adult prefer to go to a Chris Tomlin concert over, say, Lady Gaga?

        >>>” I can only go to passages and say…the Lord requires and forbids certain things [in worship].”

        Assumption 3: That those things are violated by men like Chris Tomlin and not by ourselves.

        >>>”All of the talk about culture and contextualization is well-pickled red herring.”

        Nope. Paul understood his culture at Mars Hill and tailored his presentation to that culture. This is what we call contextualization.

        >>>”This is the problem: God. What kind of God is He? And what kind of worship does He deserve?”

        He is the transcendent-imminent triune God who deserves better worship than I could ever possibly give. Everything I give to him is like the scribbling of a little child, loved not for what it is but because of who he is — my Father.

      • “Everything I give to him is like the scribbling of a little child, loved not for what it is but because of who he is — my Father.”
        How did that work out for Cain? Or Nadab and Abihu? Or the Ten Tribes? How does that work for the Roman Mass?

        Would it make you fell better if I said you were a letterist rather than legalist? The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Jesus said they did not know the Scripture. Did Jesus then quote an OT verse on the resurrection. No. He quoted, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” We should be able to draw conclusions from Scripture. We should be able to see the implications of Scripture.

        There are no verses that say we can’t use trite, vapid, sensual music in our worship of the Lord. There are no verses that say we can’t use rap or hip hop, or death metal, or classical, or folk… There are no verses! All things are lawful! That is your argument.

        John says do not love the world. James says friendship with the world is an adulterous activity of God’s enemies. So tell me Phil, what is worldliness? How would I know if I am loving the world? How would I know if I am being a friend of the world? I would like your answer to that. How would I know if my life is out of step with 1 John 2:15-17 or James 4:4? There are some verses for you. What do they mean?

      • >>>”How did that work out for Cain? Or Nadab and Abihu? Or the Ten Tribes? How does that work for the Roman Mass?”

        Cain: He brought an offering our of line with what had been revealed. God indicated to him that his sacrifice was unacceptable and he responded wrongly.

        Nadab and Abihu: Were given clear expectations of how to offer sacrifice and they disobeyed.

        Ten Tribes: Disobeyed clear Scripture regarding idols.

        Roman Mass: Added to Scripture and subtracted from Christ alone.

        Today: You’ve told me that you can’t point to clear Scripture on this issue, so I see a substantial and fundamental difference between these examples and how you’re trying to apply them today. The common denominator in all of these is disregard for God’s revelation.

        >>>”Would it make you fell better if I said you were a letterist rather than legalist?”

        How about a Bible believer or a Christ follower? I like those a lot! 🙂 In all seriousness, instead of trying to fit me into a box, how about we spend less time trying to put each other in boxes and more time wrestling with the arguments and Scripture.

        >>>”The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Jesus said they did not know the Scripture. Did Jesus then quote an OT verse on the resurrection. No. He quoted, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.””

        You’re conflating his two arguments. Argument 1: The Scriptures say it. Argument 2: I AM. OT Scripture, contrary to the liberal arguments, certainly teaches an afterlife and resurrection (e.g., Job 19:25).

        >>>”There are no verses that say we can’t use trite, vapid, sensual music in our worship of the Lord.”

        Trite & Vapid: We are supposed to worship God in line with truth (John 4:24), so if trite words undermine or obscure truth, then I would suggest that it falls under the critique of truth. But different people mean different things by “trite” or “vapid”, so I usually prefer to examine particular songs on their own merits and see if their lyrics measure up to Scripture rather than dealing with abstractions. In the context of the broader discussion, I don’t see how “How Great Is Our God” could fall under this critique.

        Sensual: All music affects the senses (it is fundamentally aural). So I’m glad you can’t find any verses to that effect.

        >>>”All things are lawful! That is your argument.”

        We can go into a deeper discussion of 1 Corinthians 10 if you’d like. But suffice it to say that the argument in the passage is not “following Scripture+following extrabiblical commands”, but “following Scripture=concern for the spiritual state of my brothers and sisters.” The people making this argument were not taking into account the whole of Scripture, just the part they wanted to focus on. The call is to be whole Bible Christians and not partial Bible Christians.

        >>>”So tell me Phil, what is worldliness? How would I know if I am loving the world? How would I know if I am being a friend of the world?”

        These are great questions. I’ll offer some basic definitions…

        World: Used variously, but in general it refers to the negative force of opposition to God that is present within the hearts of unsaved people around us.

        Loving the World: Do I love what is opposed to God? Do I love the things that God commends or do I love the things that God condemns? Certain things that God condemns in Scripture can become common in particular societies. Christians can become blinded to these sins because they are common in the society around them. A blindness to sin in society calls for us to have our eyes open to Scripture. In God’s Word, he teaches us what he loves and what he hates. We must love what he says that he loves and hate what he says that he hates, otherwise we demonstrate that we love the world more than God.

        Friend of the World: Essentially the same as loving the world (the words for “friend” and “love” are semantically related).

        Worldliness: This term doesn’t appear in Scripture as far as I know. A related word “worldly” does appear, and typically makes reference to temporal and physical things and can be used in a neutral or negative sense. In the negative sense, one who is worldly is more consumed with things of this life than things of the life to come. They are more concerned with the physical than the spiritual.

        Summary: What it means to love God or be an enemy of God is revealed in Scripture. Within different cultures, fallen people pose different challenges to loving God and we must consciously recognize those points of opposition and push back with love. We must also not become obsessed with the physical (worldly) over the spiritual and eternal.

        Application 1 (loving the world): The Bible speaks repeatedly about trust and dependence on God. What are some areas where our culture emphasizes dependence on self or independence? In prioritizing what the fallen people around us prioritize rather than what God prioritizes as revealed in Scripture, believers are loving the world rather than loving God.

        Application 2 (obsession with the worldly): If the Bible warns about obsessing about the physical over the spiritual, and I’m more concerned about physical things that God doesn’t speak to (what someone eats, the sound of someone’s music, the style of someone’s clothing, etc.) then I must recognize this obsession as worldly and turn from it.

        Conclusion: The critique against the world in these passages is not an invitation to make moral decisions in light of extrabiblical authority. It is not simply a call to relativistic morals (derive your standard of what is wrong from the culture around you). It is an appeal for us to turn to Scripture with greater focus and intensity to see what God loves and hates. This is also a universal struggle for believers. For example, many self-identified fundamentalists believe that they are isolated from this problem because they’ve walled themselves off from the culture that surrounds them. The ironic thing is, that in walling themselves off from culture, the fundamentalist can often become just as worldly as those whom they are trying to separate from.

      • That is an interesting answer you offered regarding Cain. What revelation in particular you believe he violated?

        I have tried to express areas of revelation that control my thinking on this matter. Among those are the biblical passages that deal with worldliness. (I am not sure why you mention the word “worldliness” is not found in the Bible. Neither are many of the terms we have adopted to describe what the Bible teaches. Foremost among, of course, being “Trinity.”) From 1 John and James and other similar passages, I gather that Christians are not to embrace the attitudes, actions, and affections the congregation of sinners embraces in its active rebellion against God.

        Another important passage of Scripture that guides my thinking is Deuteronomy 12. There, I see the New Testament admonitions against “worldliness” stated in Old Testament form. Deuteronomy chapter 12 is particularly important since it is addressing worship.

        In Deuteronomy 12 I see clear instruction that God’s people are not to look to sinners for guidance on worshipping the Lord. I see that in 12:1-4. After describing pagan worship in verses 1-3 the Lord says, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.”

        This concept is re-stated and emphasized at the end of the chapter. In 12:30 God’s people are instructed, “take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?–that I also may do the same.’” God’s people are not to seek what makes unbelievers comfortable in worship. God’s people are not to seek what unbelievers find acceptable, or understandable, or enjoyable in worship.

        Secondly, I see in Deuteronomy 12 that God’s people are not to make their own decisions about how to worship the Lord. I see this in 12:8-14. Deuteronomy 12:8 summarizes the passage, “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes.”

        If God’s people are not to seek what pleases and attracts the world; if God’s people are not to do what they think is right; where do God’s people find instruction on worship? From the Lord and the Lord only:
        Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. (Deut.12:28, 32)

        When it comes to worship, it seems to me that Chris Tomlin is doing explicitly what Deut. 12 forbids. He is taking forms of communication that the world for decades has used to express its own sinful lists and rebellion and combining it with God-speak. I’m questioning the entire modus operandi and I am saying that it is explicitly forbidden in Scripture. God’s people are not to seek to make worship comfortable, pleasing, acceptable, to unbelievers…or even themselves!
        Worship is for God. He makes the rules. If God says he is not interested in receiving what the lost find pleasure in, I am going to go ahead and take him at his word.

        Thank you for engaging with the questions I asked about worldliness. I think I pretty much agree with the definitions you offered. But I think your thinking becomes confused when I get to the sentence, “We must also not become obsessed with the physical (worldly) over the spiritual and eternal.” From there on out you repeatedly seem to equate “world” with physical. I think this is wrong.

        Granted, in 1 John 2:15, John tells us not to love the “things in the world.” But in 2:16 he goes on to define those “things” as “desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions.” Desires and pride will almost invariably manifest themselves visibly, but I don’t see how they can be described as “physical.” As Jesus taught, the same command that forbids murder forbids anger. The same command that forbids adultery forbids lust. This is how I understand worldliness. The world loves and desires the wrong things in the wrong way. This manifests itself in different ways at different times and in different places. I see popular/secular musical forms to be one of those places. The musical forms used in CCM, or P&W, or Christian rap, hip-hop, etc. were not created by believers seeking to love, honor, and serve God. Those musical forms were created and “perfected” by unbelievers seeking to rebel against God and his authority.

      • >>> “That is an interesting answer you offered regarding Cain. What revelation in particular you believe he violated?”

        Certainly that of Genesis 4:7. God was clear with Cain about what was accepted and what was not. The principle remains: revelation addresses defects in worship.

        >>>“I am not sure why you mention the word “worldliness” is not found in the Bible. Neither are many of the terms we have adopted to describe what the Bible teaches. Foremost among, of course, being “Trinity.””

        I’m not against the use of the term, but we’re discussing how the Bible uses the concept of the world, so I dealt with it in biblical categories (which don’t include this term).

        >>> “From 1 John and James and other similar passages, I gather that Christians are not to embrace the attitudes, actions, and affections the congregation of sinners embraces in its active rebellion against God.”

        Indeed, you are correct. In relation to this larger issue of music, I would contend that genres of music are not (1) actions (2) monolithically asserted in active rebellion against God, but are (1) collections of good things (sound structures, instrumentation, etc.) that (2) can be used as tools to oppose God or to honor God.

        >>> “I see in Deuteronomy 12 that God’s people are not to make their own decisions about how to worship the Lord.”

        OT Context: Deuteronomy is a commentary on the giving of the Law. Deuteronomy 12 is essentially an expansion on and application of Exodus 20:4-5. God has told them not to worship in a particular way in his covenantal revelation, and Deuteronomy 12 is pointing out specific areas where the pagan society they will be surrounded with may tempt them to violate that command. Once again, this doesn’t give us warrant to just make up a standard of righteousness based on mere opposition to our culture. It is an appeal to apply Scripture whether or not the people around us approve of what we’re doing.

        >>> “When it comes to worship, it seems to me that Chris Tomlin is doing explicitly what Deut. 12 forbids. He is taking forms of communication that the world for decades has used to express its own sinful lists and rebellion and combining it with God-speak.”

        First, Tomlin is not violating Scripture, so he is not doing what Deuteronomy 12 condemns. Second, we all use forms of communication that can be used negatively every day. Consider the argument: “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” The point of those who use this argument is that guns (or communication) are just tools that have equal opportunity for abuse or proper use depending on whose hands they’re in. Your argument is that because a criminal uses a gun illegally, Christians should not own guns. No matter how you fall on the gun debate, this is poor argumentation at best.

        >>>”God’s people are not to seek to make worship comfortable, pleasing, acceptable, to unbelievers…or even themselves!”

        On the one hand I agree with the statement itself, but I think the way you’re implementing it isn’t quite logical. Let me offer some critiques. First, are you speaking about the comfort of an individual in light of the text or in light of music in worship? Music itself can have a comforting aspect. For example, when I listen to Handel’s Messiah on a cold winter night, I often feel comfortable. Are you saying that this feeling should be avoided? Are you saying that we should use only dissonant styles that no one likes in order to truly worship?

        Second, you do realize that we all worship in a way that is pleasing to ourselves? We are all seeker-sensitive in the sense that we intend to appeal to those like us in our worship (Philippians 2:21). You may have tastes that are pleased by Bach and Mozart, and I may have tastes that are pleased by more contemporary artists. Let’s not play the game that says that we’ve ascetically abandoned all our pleasures for the kingdom. This entire debate is full of people on both sides who have elevated their own pleasures over the kingdom of God. CS Lewis once argued that God gets the most glory when I worship in a way that my brother best worships, even though I may not appreciate it myself. Many who make a big deal about this debate are only saying: “I want worship my way.” I know that you only see those you oppose as making this statement, but you may be missing the possibility that this is what you’re actually saying.

        Third, while I agree that it is wrong when some churches push to please the lost, I think there is some danger in chasing this notion to the opposite extreme. One thing that I respect about the writing of the Gettys and Tomlin is that the texts are full of truth, but yet written in a way that is incredibly understandable. This is the sort of clarity that we’re instructed to convey in our public worship in front of the lost (1 Corinthians 14:23-24). So while I get your sentiment, I think there’s an equal danger of lack of consideration of the lost in our worship.

        >>> “Worship is for God. He makes the rules. If God says he is not interested in receiving what the lost find pleasure in, I am going to go ahead and take him at his word.”

        Yes. And he has told us what he wants and what he doesn’t want. And he has not told us that he doesn’t want music that is part of our culture. He’s no more fascinated with your traditional rural white Anglo-Saxon worship than he is with the worship of black islanders who worship using their folk songs.

        >>> “From there on out you repeatedly seem to equate “world” with physical. I think this is wrong.”

        This is divided because my application is divided into two parts: the former regarding “loving the world” (something that you and I agree on), and the latter regarding the use of “worldly” (which I applied against obsessions on music style as one possibility). I somewhat assumed that you wouldn’t appreciate that later argument, but it certainly seems appropriate because it is the overwhelming sense in which the term “worldly” is used in Scripture (cf. 1 Corinthians 7).

        >>> “The musical forms used in CCM, or P&W, or Christian rap, hip-hop, etc. were not created by believers seeking to love, honor, and serve God.”

        And neither were the forms that underlie traditional hymns and gospel songs. Ultimately you’re looking for God to come in and incarnate some form of heavenly worship that the church can use for all time. You’re looking for God to create cultural forms for us to use. But God didn’t do that (Colossians 2:18). David used poetic styles common to his day. Solomon used wisdom literature in line with conventions of his time. Paul constructed Greek poetry in similar manners as did Greek poets. Paul admonished the church to worship in a variety of ways which relied on Hebrew (psalms) as well as formal (hymns) and common Greek (songs). The Scriptures weren’t given to us in heavenly language that had never been used by mortal tongue to sin against God. The Bible was inspired in the vulgar languages of the day. Perhaps this could be used as a model for our worship too?

      • In response to PhilT
        You use a lot of words to say nothing of substance and your opinion is all you have to rely upon. You have the “right” to be wrong( this too is given by God) but in all the twists and turns, you have not made one, not ONE, single Biblical point. Your assertion in the last portion of you post that today’s CCM, P&W, rock, pop, rap writers and performers are just as high of quality as those of say, the 20th Century, is an absolute joke. All of the current “stars” combined could not hold a light to many individual writers and artists of the last century. You can write and talk all you want, but I assure you, Satan is laughing because he has you fooled, and your room temperature IQ is insufficient for you to realize it!

      • Eldon:

        >>>”You use a lot of words to say nothing of substance and your opinion is all you have to rely upon.”

        I would say the same regarding the article you referenced.

        >>>”you have not made one, not ONE, single Biblical point”

        The discussion between Brad and myself has revolved around numerous passages of Scripture. Please re-read those comments. My main point in this conversation is that our appeal should be to the Bible and that the substance of your argument rests elsewhere. You can certainly feel free to make the claim, as has Brad, that this appeal to Scripture is unwarranted and “letterist,” but you can’t accuse me of approaching this issue without regard for the Scriptures.

        >>>”Your assertion in the last portion of you post that today’s CCM, P&W, rock, pop, rap writers and performers are just as high of quality as those of say, the 20th Century, is an absolute joke. All of the current “stars” combined could not hold a light to many individual writers and artists of the last century.”

        I never made that assertion. I’m not interested in having a discussion about aesthetics or my musical tastes versus your own, but about biblical ethics.

        >>>”You can write and talk all you want, but I assure you, Satan is laughing because he has you fooled, and your room temperature IQ is insufficient for you to realize it!”

        What gives you the ground to make this sort of claim? Perhaps Satan is laughing because he has you trapped in blind superstition based on human traditions? But I’ve been very cautious about making such assumptions about you — a person I don’t even know.

      • Talk about not remembering what you said! You DID imply that the current crop of writers, musicians, etc. were just as high a quality as those of the 20th Century. Re-read your own words. That in itself is a joke. I have forgotten more about music than Tomlin ever knew. His simplistic, rambling excuse for lyrics AND music is proof. As for quoting scripture, Lucifer knows it better than any of us and he will burn in hell. So much for “knowledge”. It takes more than knowledge to be a Christian……….it takes a daily following of the Word, and “by their fruits ye shall know them.” Again, over the past 70 years America has become a Sodom and Gomorrha moral sewer led by the likes of Tomlin and Pastors, Deacons and Tomlin want-to-bes. You can write, talk and otherwise try to deny the facts of this, but it is none the less true. So, therefore, by their own fruit, they have proven me right, but more important, THEY HAVE PROVEN THE WORD OF GOD TO BE RIGHT! There are few, IF ANY, churches (congregations of ANY denomination anywhere in America) that have not been infiltrated by the stench. From accepting homosexuals (of both sexes), live-ins (known in my day as shack-ups), drug/alcohol addicts, money changers (does anyone know who Dave Ramsey is?), liars (truce breakers) (no one can be trusted to keep their word) and the list goes on and on. As long as they pay their tithes and offerings, the Pastor pats them on the back when they show up and never uses the Word to counsel them to turn from their evil ways. No one can serve two masters, and IF a person is truly a Christian, they CANNOT continue in the same old paths as before.

      • Eldon:

        >>>”Talk about not remembering what you said! You DID imply that the current crop of writers, musicians, etc. were just as high a quality as those of the 20th Century.”

        You’re incorrect. Please quote me. I’ve indicated parallels in the wording and content of “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “How Great is Our God,” to which no substantive reply has been offered. I also said that both modern and ancient musicians draw from their respective cultures alike. Neither set of writers pull from a heaven-sent culture, but from fallen cultures that surround them. We can certainly discuss aesthetic values and their relation to moral good, but to this point in the discussion, I have not addressed this issue.

        >>>”it takes a daily following of the Word”

        Agreed. And I think you’re missing the point. I’m saying that your points have *nothing* to do with following the Word and *everything* to do with following your traditions and opinions.

        >>>Your giant rant against churches.

        This falls flat on me. I interact with a number of churches and pastors from various conservative evangelical and fundamentalist backgrounds on a regular basis, and I’m not aware of any support of homosexuality, addiction, illicit sexuality, etc. in any of these churches. I believe that there are some dwindling churches in liberal mainline denominations that accept these positions, but this is far from epidemic in evangelical circles.

        >>>”No one can serve two masters, and IF a person is truly a Christian, they CANNOT continue in the same old paths as before.”

        Yes, we can only serve one master. If by “old paths” you are designating sins that are spoken against in Scripture, I would agree. If by “old paths” you are designating normal human behaviors like drinking coffee, favorite music styles, favorite brand of jeans, etc., then I think you’re off course.

      • To PhilT
        Regarding your opinion that there is little, if any, acceptance of the named morality problems in “conservative, fundamental” congregations proves you are either naïve or ignorant. Again, may I remind you, I have traveled all over America during the last half century and sung in thousands of churches of dozens of denominations. I have seen the decay first hand, even in so-called independent, fundamental “Bible believing” churches. If this were not true, America would not be where she is………..at her end.

      • Eldon:

        I’m sorry. I simply cannot share your assessment. Yes, there is moral failure on the part of individuals within churches. This is regrettably ongoing as it has been for centuries because of the fall and the fact that people are not fully sanctified. And if we pretend that we ourselves aren’t susceptible to the same thing, we deceive ourselves. As far as the churches and pastors I fellowship with, I see no approval of lifestyles that contradict Scripture. Would you care to share a list of 4 or 5 conservative evangelical or fundamentalist churches or pastors that actually support homosexuality?

      • Why did you narrow it down to just homosexuals? I mentioned several moral issues and yes, I will be glad to put together a list of churches covering many of the named issues.
        STAY TUNED!

      • >>>”Why did you narrow it down to just homosexuals?”

        It is a good starting point. Sometimes working through or discussing a single item at a time is much easier than massive lists with various categories. Just sayin’….

  11. BradKelly,

    Don’t be dismayed. You are not alone in your opinion, nor are you WRONG! Even Lucifer deceived 1/3 of Heaven’s angels and he was God’s “praise & worship leader”. The Chris Tomlins of the world will split hell wide open if they continue on their current path and they have the majority of the “church” following blindly.

    • Eldon,

      Thank you for the support. But I am not sure how eager I would be to say Tomlin is doing the work of the Devil. Before the Lord he will stand or fall.

      • In Chris Tomlin’s own words he said his central goal was to bring the music of the church more in line with what one would hear on a soft rock radio station when they are pulling into the church parking lot. In short, bring the world into the church and mix it to where it is compatible with the world. That central goal is an absolute Satanic goal and I stand by my fruit inspection……Chris Tomlin and ALL who follow him are headed straight for the fire of hell. If they don’t repent, turn from their evil way and follow the true Word of God, they will all split hell wide open. The saddest part is the fact that the vast majority of the churches are being deceived because the pastors themselves are more interested in numbers and money than preaching the truth.

      • I hear you. It is just a jump I am not willing to make. In many ways I realize you are only taking some of the arguments to their logical conclusion; but there are times when logic fails.

      • Bradkelly
        Please check the reference I listed on a previous reply concerning the three sections of music. Each one must stand on it’s own merit, and most, if not all of Tomlin’s “music” miserably fails the test. I studied music under one of the greatest instructors of the 20th century and I know of which I speak.

  12. Eldon: it certainly is easy to call out Christians as children of Lucifer as long as you don’t have to point to specifics of Scripture to condemn what they’re doing (there was a group in Jesus’ time that used this tactic quite effectively as I recall). I would suggest that blind allegiance to traditions of man (judging others based on opinion rather than Scripture) faces a high critique in Scripture that you may want to consider before you make these sorts of high allegations against other believers.

    • PhilT

      Specifically, Matthew 7:16 Christ said, “Ye SHALL know them by their fruits……” (emphasis mine) I will soon be 70 and in those years I have seen the church, as a whole, become a cesspool of moral rot. I am NOT a judge, but according to Christ, I AM a fruit inspector and the vast majority of the “church” smells like a gutter.

  13. I appreciate your perseverance in the faith, so what I’m saying is not intended to slight you, but I’m sure you realize that saying that the “church smells like a gutter” has several problems:

    1. You’re talking about the Bride of Christ. This is the Body that will overcome the gates of hell. Are you saying that hell has overcome the Church?
    2. You’re talking in generalities. Have you seen the whole Church Universal, or are you talking about particular churches? Are you talking about individuals you know or entire churches and pastors? Some level of specificity would be helpful.
    3. You’re talking based on personal opinion. Yes, we can inspect fruit. But fruit is defined by Scripture and not my opinion. What specific sins are churches okay with which are also condemned in Scripture?

    This may help me respond with clarity.

  14. I am speaking from nearly 70 years of watching congregations, large and small of most denominations all over America watering down the true Word of God. As for the “bride” not all who claim to be a part of the bride are going to make it. This is NOT my opinion….it is the truth of the Word, straight out of the mouth of Christ. Matthew 25 specifically says HALF of the virgins (the church) were foolish and verse 12 says “I know ye not.” I know fancy “educated” people may not believe it, but I can understand plain English and HALF of the CHURCH will split hell wide open……not because they had not repented, but because they did not keep their lives in line with the Word. You and others may find it hard to accept, but I have spoken the truth, MORE TRUTH than you will get at most “churches”. What you do with it is on your hands, not mine.

  15. Eldon:

    Thanks for the followup. I’d like to engage with you on a few points. Regarding your first post and the pessimism regarding the Church, I would agree that there are numbers of people who show up to Church every Sunday who aren’t saved. And that’s been an issue since the first century. People who “play church” and use religion are just as common in all strands of evangelicalism (including self-identified fundamentalism), because the problem is a problem of the heart. That said, I don’t think there is Scriptural warrant to make the claim that *literally half* the people who profess to be believers are not on the basis of Matt 25. Parables were intended to convey one particular point, and the details are not necessarily exegetically significant. Not only do I question whether or not that parable actually applies directly to what we’re discussing, I would certainly caution against spiritualizing the parable to this extent (see Augustine’s textbook fail in a similar sense here: http://sermons.logos.com/submissions/47795-Augustine-s-Commentary-on-the-Good-Samaritan#content=/submissions/47795). So I would say that I agree in one sense that many people play religion. I disagree that this springs from music or worship style or even ministry methodology. I believe that there is biblical warrant to say that this issue springs from the sin of the heart. The best biblical warrant for this is Judas. He was under the perfect ministry method, surrounded by perfect worship, and he still walked away.

    As to your critique that you have offered more truth in your blog comment here than the thousands of devoted pastors across the nation and around the world offer to their congregations every Sunday seems a little presumptive. While I don’t argue with peoples’ personal experience, can you at least admit that you’d need a little more hard evidence before making such a universal claim?

    Regarding the second post, I’ve heard all of these arguments and read much of the writer’s source material for myself and would be glad to respond to any of the arguments he offers. Which of his points do you find most persuasive? I’d be happy to spend a little time interacting with a particular point, but as the article is massive and rambling, I don’t really have time to write a paragraph-by-paragraph interaction.

    I will speak to the article’s overall paradigm. He notes three areas of critique. First is lyrics or the text of the song. In this area, the writer suggests that we can offer an objective critique by comparing the words with Scripture. Second is the score of the music. Here the writer suggests a number of extra-biblical and subjective ways to analyze the music. Finally, he suggests “character” and critiques the background of the writers based on how closely they compare with Scripture and his own sub-culture and theological background. I’ll offer some critiques in each of these categories.

    Lyrics: I agree that lyrics can be compared with Scripture and determined to be true or false on that basis. What I disagree with is the notion that “most” CCM doesn’t align with Scripture. Feel free to review my analysis of the popular Chris Tomlin song in the comments above and let me know if the article’s analysis holds up. As I’ve indicated in this instance, the song mirrors Scripture. So if we reject the lyrics on this basis alone, then we’re also rejecting Scripture. And I’m not comfortable with that conclusion.

    Score: This category is *entirely* subjective and borders on a “the Bible is okay, but I need to add my cultural opinions in order to make it work” sort of argument. It is essentially a re-heated Gnostic argument from higher enlightenment, rather than a critique based on Scripture. This is what I warned about earlier in our dialogue. Let me point out a little about why it is subjective.

    First, the writer doesn’t appeal to Scripture for criteria, because there is no biblical warrant for this critique. In fact, the Bible seems to offer arguments to the contrary in a number of ways. For example, note the variety in worship enjoined in Scripture (Col. 3:16) rather than uniformity urged in the article.

    Second, the writer critiques elements in musical forms that he doesn’t like, but strangely remains silent regarding the use of those same elements in music that he does like. For example, the “slurring” effect of anticipations is a common and important part of musical theory that is in no means new or sinful (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonchord_tone). “Syncopation” is also used in music dating back to Bach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syncopation), so I really don’t understand these critiques.

    Third, there is a bad theology of emotions being taught here. Music can certainly make us happy or somber, passionate or reflective. None of these emotions are inherently sinful and are aspects of the image of God in man. The problem with emotions is that of excess and defect. Excess is when we have too much of a good thing. To much reflection could lead to a melancholy state of mind that could lead to a despair. Music alone can’t do that, but a person who chooses to let his/her emotions take control can go to an unbiblical extent. A great example of this flaw is in terms of anger. The Bible doesn’t categorically condemn anger. Jesus himself expresses anger. Paul tells people to “be angry.” But yet other times anger is condemned in other contexts. Even in Paul’s context, anger should not be allowed time to fester. That is a problem of extent. The problem of defect comes in when an emotion is targeted towards the wrong thing. Passion isn’t bad, but misdirected passion is. This is why the Bible uses the word in two ways (Philippians 1:23 versus Ephesians 2:3). Lust and desire are the same emotion. One is good and the other defective. Direction of the emotion makes all the difference. I make these arguments to make the case that we can’t flatly condemn particular emotions that we experience in songs, because the emotion itself is not wrong.

    Fourth, the article reflects a poor theology of the Holy Spirit. The notion that hearing something will subconsciously make me think or do evil things is a power that is greater than the Holy Spirit. If you’re telling me that when the music comes over the loudspeakers at the gas station, or on the PA system at the mall, or in the elevator in the hotel, you cannot help but think evil thoughts, there may be deeper spiritual issues in play that people need to address between them and God. The problem is not the music but your sinful heart if you are not cooperating with the Holy Spirit to find control over your thoughts.

    Once again, let’s make this critique specific. Listen to “How Great Is Our God” and tell me what sounds, notes, rhythms, etc. you think should be critiqued and why.

    Character: This category is what I’d call objective/subjective. It is objective in the sense that it is actually attempting to deal with Scripture. It is subjective in the sense that it is totally based on personal preference in how these Scriptures are applied. For example, I’m guessing that the writer would reject Chris Tomlin’s music (in this category) because he is “neo-evangelical.” Allow me to make several rebuttals to this logic.

    First, “neo-evangelical” is not even a current category. Instead of dealing in made up categories that we try to force people into, we need to interact on an individual level. So we should be really asking questions regarding the extent that Tomlin cooperates with heretics (as clearly described in Scripture) in his endeavors. I’m not aware of any charges to this effect.

    Second, if the character of the musician rules out the song, let’s consider a few examples that you may actually use in your church.

    Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee – Beethoven: At best a nominal Catholic
    Angels We Have Heard on High – Traditional French Catholic Carol
    Be Thou My Vision – Traditional Irish Catholic Hymn
    Faith of Our Fathers – Fredrick Faber devout and militant Catholic
    In the Cross of Christ I Glory – John Bowring devout Unitarian
    Tons of stuff written by Isaac Watts – He was confronted over his Arian and Unitarian tendencies during his lifetime
    Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken – Tune is the same as the national anthem of Nazi Germany
    The Book of Psalms – Most of the lyrics are written by a murdering adulterer

    On that note, I would say that the article’s three areas of critique are basically flawed. Lyrics, in assuming that most CCM has shoddy lyrics. Score, in appealing to personal assumptions not Scripture, in misunderstanding fundamentals of music, and in poor theology regarding emotions and the Holy Spirit. And Character, in offering a critique that no man-made hymn could stand up to (i.e., perfection of the person who writes it). I would enjoy interacting with you regarding this specific song or any specific argument that the article brings out that you think is significant.

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