Music – it’s just so personal.
Musical Theory Crash Course – What is Music?
Let’s, for a second talk about music on a secular (wordly) level. It’s composed of melody, harmony and rhythm. Theoretically, then, a computer can write a song by adding all of these elements in some way and create ‘music’. And computers can and do this. On a secular level, it’s actually pretty good. So let’s be clear that music can also be 100% impersonal.
Genres are really just a ‘tendency’ of one or more of the three components above to follow similar patterns. I happen to really like reggae as a genre and the reason is syncopation or ‘off beat’ rhythms. Instead of a typical rock beat which goes:
So ‘reggae’ would follow a ‘tendency’ to do that or similar rhythm and would therefore be considered a ‘reggae rhythm’. There are, of course, other elements like the place where the bass comes in which is so different from standard rock as well.
And don’t think that church music is without genres and this is part of the discussion of this blog post. But if you were to step back there are two major ‘church genres’: the hymn and what Koreans call ‘CCM’ or what English speaking countries tend to call ‘Praise & Worship Music’. Now, on that topic, let’s start this blog with some FUN! Because I’m all about fun whenever possible, even if people get upset.
Note before clicking: do *NOT* go to the red URL because it seems to go to some very potentially *bad* places, although I haven’t researched nor will I.
Is it possible to make worse music for God? It’s music like this that has turned a lot of people away from Jesus I think! What the heaven genre is this? “Mullet Praise”? Dear God have mercy…
Let’s stick with this fun theme and watch another one, shall we?
Note before clicking: Based on my own research I cannot support Amazon (who owns Audible) or Facebook, so please do not support what he is selling until you have done your own due diligence.
How to write a perfect “Praise and Worship Song” (CCM):
This same guy made this similarly funny video.
The Problem with Christian Bands
But this topic of music is not actually that ‘funny’ in the church. I heard a statistic that I have never been willing to research myself but that I believed immediately upon hearing which went like this: “Music is the number one cause of all church splits”. As soon as I heard it, I believed.
When I became a disciple of Jesus I was coming from a rock and roll garage band kind of background. I was the typical teen with the guitar and amp and even made a little headway with our little band. Although music was, before I met Jesus, my god and idol, when I came to the church I realized that music was still important. Ever since then, and it has been over 20 years now, I have wanted to take a deeper look at what music is, what it should be, and why it’s so impacting. This blog post is supposed to just whet the whistle on the topic and hopefully spur some comments from people around me and out there so that I can build on the study and leave something useful out there for the body of Christ.
We’ve had some laughs, we’ve drunk some milk, but now let’s get into the meat (even though I’m trying to be a vegetarian). A Korean sister in the Lord found this video. I searched both high and low trying to find it in English because a) I want to know who this dude is so I can give him some credit and b) I desperately want to watch part 2 of this series. Anyway, if you speak either English or Korea, this video should be amazingly beneficial to you on this topic. If you know who this guy is, please throw some comments below and let me know:
Details about music, genres, right, wrong, harmony, melody, rhythm as it pertains to the church and worship
But for me, it didn’t stop there. There is more to discuss. Here is a good video to watch where a hip hop reggae Christian artist dude asks a very important and personal question: Why do some churches reject his music? Please watch especially the response from Ravi Zacharias at the end.
Why do some churches reject my music genre?
The first speaker answers with a very bold and, in my opinion overly generalized way when he said ‘If you reject a certain kind of music there is something wrong with you.” I totally disagree. There may be very good reasons to reject a certain kind or genre of music as we shall hopefully study over the next few months as I find time.
He also mentions the idea that ‘you can reach people with music’ and his implication is therefore ‘so you should use music as a tool to reach people’. I am now of the opinion that this is a very dangerous position to take because I agree that music is, at the very roots, a tool: a tool of expression of the soul, a motivation tool, a tool of influence, a tool of worship, and many more applications. But if a tool is powerful, the person using the tool must understand what the tool is, the benefits and dangers of the tool, the right and wrong time to use the tool, and essentially be well grounded in the usage of said tool. To just throw a ‘Christian band’ in front of your church and ask people to participate in whatever they lead you to do is, in my opinion, opening yourself up to some problems. Refer to the ‘Problems with Christian Bands’ video above.
I believe that Ravi’s answer was more grounded and has within it the core issues that need to be addressed when discussing music.
Music is the Language of the Soul
Ravi said ‘Music is the language of the soul’ – and how correct he is. But this brings us to the most fundamental problem in the church today: no one knows what the soul is, let alone that there is a difference between the soul and the spirit! To get immediately educated on the topic, I recommend that you go and buy Watchman Nee’s “The Spiritual Man”. I regret so deeply that I had this book on my shelf for nearly 20 years and never opened it until now. Now and only now things are starting to make sense in the world as this teaching of body, soul, and spirit comes alive.
What is the Soul?
As a quick snap shot, the soul is composed of the mind, the will, and the emotions. Simple as that. But as it pertains to music, you will note that *unsaved sinners* all have a mind, a will and emotions! And herein lies the greatest danger – what is the *spirit* behind the music? Is the person leading you into worship even saved? Are they born again? Are you sure? Or, are they leading you down a pathway to *their soul*? And who is the master of their soul? Is it Jesus? Do you know? Are you sure?
I’m not going to pretend to scratch the surface of this topic but I hope that up to now I have spurned some ideas and that we will be able to walk down a very deep path towards truth on this topic of music in the church and in worship.
As part of my ongoing ‘battle against the spirit of christmas‘ which started years back now, I continue to dig in deeper each year. This year the fire was truly kindled when our family decided that we may not go to our church’s ‘christmas service’ next week as a form of ‘personal separation’ (call it protest if you want but we aren’t feeling any hostility) from a practice that we believe has pagan roots.
As this is a big decision with possible implications for us and the church, I continue to study the topic. Today I came across perhaps one of the best articles defending Christmas for Christians. This article nailed down most of the items and did a fairly good job trying to defend them from a biblical perspective. I will, below, take the point, summarize it, and then comment on it:
The word ‘Christ-mas’ means ‘Christ’s Mass’
The author uses this as kind of a ‘proof’ of its Christian origin, saying that ‘Christianity took this idea from its Jewish roots’ and even goes so far as to suggest that there is a possibility that ‘the pagans may have adopted an already existing Christian celebration’. Unfortunately all other sources I’ve read up to this point suggest unanimously that Christmas didn’t exist anywhere near the first church until somewhere around 300AD. Most sources agree that it was put in by the Roman Catholics. And, just the fact that he pointed out the ‘mass’ is a good proof that this entire Christmas thing is rooted in ‘something outside of the Bible’. Mass is very much associated with the catholic church. Even if mass is considered an ‘ok ritual’ the question is ‘why the focus on Dec 25th’ and the ‘magnification of the day’? And the question remains for me “Is Christ the reason for the season or was a pagan celebration slapped with a Christian-looking label and finessed for the church to try to make it fit?” But this final quote is a good quote, and a good one to support Christmas as being ‘ok’ for Christians to join: “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”
This section, honestly, is so weak that I didn’t read it twice. Almost every source I read and most academia are in agreement that Jesus was likely *not* born anywhere near December 25th. But this author worked very, very hard to build a big defence story for keeping it on Dec. 25th – which, is kind of interesting to me….
This section was also quite good. I also know that throughout the Bible the tree has significance and often positive. “Cedars of Lebanon” and such terms of strength. His Hosea 14:8 scripture find was a great one. However, it doesn’t wipe away the very most key point of the Christmas tree debate. It’s not about the tree, it’s about the ritual. No one would deny his tree support scriptures. There are also other wonderful symbols in the Bible like Jesus being the Living Water and the Rock. And the Holy Spirit being like a flame and such. So a tree may represent strength and the evergreen more so. No problem. However…. what happens at Christmas is the tree is (traditionally) chopped down, dragged inside, and decorated! Come again? First of all, I’ve always thought that God did a great job creating the fir tree by itself and made it look pretty great. I’ve not felt the urge to decorate them. Then there are songs like “O’ Christmas tree’ which, quite frankly, should creep out any born again believer. Of course, it also doesn’t wipe away Jeremiah 10 which seems to be painting a pretty vivid picture of a ritual of idolatry related to a tree. Read this and you will see that God is not a fan of this practice. Try as hard as you want, but you really do have to fight hard to deny that this tree thing is steeped in something ungody that has crept into homes and even churches. I remain firm against the tree, the more I study.
Interesting to read, interesting to learn about but I still see it as a ‘pagan tree concept brought into the church’. It’s very interesting to me how hard we fight to keep this tree in our homes! To me, this might be the biggest marvel.
Again, the author takes and focuses on the ‘christian history’ of the wreath but going back further shows that the wreath can be found in pagan rituals. I don’t have a big issue with this one so far because it kind of reminds me of the crown of thorns Jesus wore – but what has that to do with his birthday? Not much…. so… strike that one, too.
As a side note, I also tripped across this nice summary of mainly what I have come to believe about Christmas.
The current debate that we are having with some leaders at our church is whether or not it’s ok to ‘celebrate Jesus’ in this way and at this time or whether by doing so we are getting in bed with a ‘pagan thing’. Here are some bullet point questions that we are grappling with moving forward:
- Did the first century church ‘do Christmas’?
- Does it matter if the first century church ‘did Christmas’ or are we allowed to tack on some new things as we move forward?
- Is there any biblical basis for celebrating Christ’s birth?
- Did Christ Himself ask us to focus on it as one of the most important days of the Christian calendar or is that something we have done?
- If a ‘day’ was originally dark, pagan or otherwise (ie. satan’s birthday to be vivid) does that day hold any power over us?
- Can a ‘day’ be dark, demonic, dedicated to satan or otherwise?
- Is there a spiritual benefit to celebrating Christmas?
- If it were decided that Christmas was even ‘partly pagan’ is it ok to keep ‘doing Christmas’ for the sake of the unity of the church (ie. not going so might send them fleeing to other churches)?
- and more.
A few analogies that are in the middle of being debated are:
- If one were to take AC/DC’s Highway to Hell song, keep the music, and change the words to “Highway to Heaven’ is the song now redeemed and ok for church/worship? The analogy here is that the ‘Christians’ have taken a pagan holiday and then thrown a ‘Christian cover’ on it.
To counteract that example given, the following was given:
- If a building used to be a whore-house, night club, casino, or concentration camp execution chamber, could it be now used as a place of worship for the children of God to gather and worship? The analogy here is that yes it’s ok to ‘redeem a day’ if the motives are for Christ.
And so because of these two ‘truths’ I have yet been able to conclude my position. Both seem to be true and applicable to christmas.
It will be most interesting to see where this week goes.
I will attempt a post-Christmas review.
- Article by a 15 year ordained minister with his top ten reasons why he doesn’t do Christmas. The comments at the bottom of this post are also very thought provoking.
- This is a good article, from a reliable source. The article tries very hard to explain the history of the celebration of Christmas yet, even here it falls short of convincing me that Christmas deserves our focus. In fact, oddly it further cemented to me that history backs the pagan perspective.