Every Christian seems to have a different opinion on music. It's evil. It's edifying. It's amoral. Rock 'n Roll is bad. Christian Rock 'n Roll is good. Ahhhh! We're never going to agree!
Over the last few months I've been reading books (both secular and Christian), reading Scripture, reading scientific studies, and watching sermons on music. Growing up I listened to a lot of hard rock but wasn't even exposed to contemporary christian music (CCM) until I was in high school. Today, I listen to mostly Gospel bluegrass, hymns, acapella, and some old country music. The church of my birth and raising began to transition into CCM during services, which made me progressively more uncomfortable (especially as my walk with the Lord deepened). I no longer go to that church and don't want to get too deep into this issue in this post, however I will say that CCM always bothered my conscience. This post is not an exhaustive defense of why CCM during worship service is sin. I only want to share my thoughts and some resources for your edification.
What I consider when deciding whether or not to listen to a song...
- What are the lyrics saying? If it's a contemporary christian song (last 100 years) are the lyrics "God centered" or "me centered" and are they doctrinally sound. Do they directly contradict Scripture, use foul language, or take the Lord's name in vain?
- Does the tone of the song match the message it's trying to convey? If it's an uplifting song about God's Grace, the 'feel' or 'tone' of the song shouldn't be slow and depressing.
- Who's the artist/singer/band? Are they living in heresy or a lifestyle of sin? As a consumer, I don't want to support a product (the music) that's contradicts my values. In other words, I wouldn't buy music from a Satanic band or a drug-addicted singer. Just like I don't buy Starbucks because they support gay marriage, I wouldn't buy a CD from a singer that supports gay marriage.
- Are the reasons why I'm listening to the song sinful? Am I resorting to music instead of bringing my worries to God (musical escapism)? Am I enjoying a song because of it's rock beat or sexual undertones.
- Is the rock beat overwhelming? Every genre and song within a genre is different. The general test I use in songs with a rock beat is, "Would I enjoy this song acapella?" If I wouldn't, then I know I'm listening to the song mainly because of it's rock beat.
Research on Rock 'n Roll and Heavy Metal*
- A 1978 study of 240 children found found that after administering an emotional stability test to children while they listened to rock, an unbiased psychiatrist (meaning he had no knowledge of the children other than their age) evaluated their scores and determined the test was given to children at a mental institution.
- A study of techno vs. classical music found techno music related negatively with hard avoidance scores and positively with novelty seeking temperament. Techno music also increased heart rate and systolic blood pressure.
- After listening to happy or sad music people then interpreted neutral facial expression in a corresponding way (meaning those who listened to sad music interpreted neutral expressions as more sad)
- The human brain shuts down after 3-4 repetitions, and excessive repetition causes people to release control of their thoughts
- Muscles in the entire body actually become weaker when listening to rock music
- A group of rats in a box listened to Bach, then listened to rock music in another box. All of the rats voluntarily chose to leave the rock box for the Bach box.
- Plant studies reveal that plants grow better when located near classical music, and grow poorly or die near rock music. (Dorothy Retallack's famous study)
- When scientists scanned the brains of musicians who had child os euphoria when listening to music, they found the same reward systems were stimulated as for food, sex, addiction, and drugs.
- Heavy metal listeners have higher depression, problematic parent relations, alcohol use, and negative thoughts (correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation, but this is still interesting)
* All of the above information was researched and compiled by myself from reputable scientific studies
A Few Related Scripture Verses to Ponder...
- Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things noble, whatever things just, whatever things pure, whatever things lovely, whatever things of good report, if any virtue and if anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
- Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
- Be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil (Romans 16:19)
Resources I enjoyed in my study of music... (linked)
- Dan Lucarini's book "Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement"
- Dorothy Retallack's famous study of Music and Plants
- T. David Gordon's Book "Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns"
- Michael Pearl of No Greater Joy video clip on music
- Kevin Swanson of Generations with Vision Radio Program - many broadcasts on music
- Sermons and writings of A.W. Tozer compiled in the book "Tozer on Worship and Entertainment"