Friday, August 21, 2009

...contending for biblical theology in CCM

“Thy statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”
- Psalm 119:54

In one concise statement David introduces us to the Hymnbook of Heaven elucidating the triumvirate of Christian service - doctrine, worship and life. Thy statutes (doctrine); are my songs (worship); in the house of my pilgrimage (life). Just as the doctrine of justification by faith alone is like Atlas bearing on its shoulders the entire evangelical knowledge of saving grace[1], so is doctrine, worship and life the three central pillars for music ministry. True Christian music is God-conceived (doctrine); Christ-centered (worship); and Spirit-controlled (life). Take away any one of these pillars and the building topples. For example: a powerful doctrine sung in glory to Christ with an impure life is noise to the ears of our holy God.[2] Conversely, an obedient life given in worship to Christ absent of sound doctrine will be empty praise and on the path to error.[3] Lastly, right theology sung out of the beauty of holiness but vacant in worship to Christ leads to pride or self-glory[4] and the chastisement of the Father.[5]

Knowing God - Not Feeling God
In Christian music we are missing the key pillar, the cornerstone, which the other two rely upon - sound doctrine! There has already occurred a much needed return to praise and worship in the church and we’ve observed that across the board in evangelicalism. There is also a renewed heightened call for more personal ecclesiastical accountability.[6] Though we have not arrived in those areas, we are on the path, nevertheless, the Achilles heel of our industry is the blatant absence of sound biblical theology which has effected every level of Christian music.

This is most evident in it’s message. Christian music, originally called Jesus Music that once fearlessly sang about the gospel, now sings of a Christ-less, watered-down, pabulum-based, positive alternative, cream of wheat, mush-kind-of-syrupy God-as-my-girlfriend thing. There is an obvious reason this has taken place: artists primarily feel; theologians primarily think. We need artists who will balance their zeal with knowledge[7] to invest their lives in the daily discipline of Bible study, and then, to write with the fire, passion and enthusiasm which that study has illumined to communicate the glorious language of the church - the holy Word of God! Until this occurs, we are guilty of sentencing a generation of Christians to simply “feel” their God, rather than to know their God! In the early days of my own music ministry I wrote songs that neither represented good music or precise theology. It is out of the crucible of those experiences that God convicted me, which drives me to speak passionately to these issues.

Procrustean Pied-Pipers; Tailor Made Truth to Fit Anyway You Want
In Greek mythology there is portrayed a villainous son named Procrustes, of his father Poseidon, who would arbitrarily prescribe ruthless, torturous phenomenon for patrons of his hostel. He would force his travelers to fit into his "procrustean bed" by stretching his victims or severing off their limbs. In much the same way, there have been men throughout the ages that have tailored the truth of God's Word[8], having laid it upon the "procrustean beds" of deceived, depraved minds[9] stretching its truth or lopping it off to suit their itching ears.[10] The Apostle Paul says, “we are not like, as so many, peddling the Word of God for profit.”[11] Though others did, he would not succumb in making retail of the truth - selling it as cheap merchandise for whatever worldly prominence or power might be bought. Truth to the Apostle was a non-negotiable. Paul’s commitment to the truth wasn’t for sale.[12]

In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul says that the church is the pillar and support of the truth.” How we handle the truth of God’s Word determines and defines everything - our worship, our fellowship, our missions outreach, our music, our daily walk with the Lord, our effectiveness in ministry and ultimately our eternal destiny! You see, no one ever lives greater than their view of God![13] And our view of God is formed by what He has revealed in His Word. We may see His invisible attributes, eternal power and Godhead revealed through general revelation,[14] but the self-revelation of who God is and His redemptive plan for man is solely revealed in special revelation - the Word of God![15] Therefore, if in our worship we pervert His Word, we pervert the truth about God. If in our music we distort His doctrine, we distort a right view of Him. If in our song we misrepresent the Scriptures, we misrepresent the Savior. And if in our ministries we twist His truth, we dishonor His character.

What’s at stake here is not preferred shelf space at Target or Wal-Mart; but actually the gospel, the authority of Scripture, the life of the church and the character of God! That is why a proper, systematic theology consistent with the totality of Scripture must saturate our musicology. Under the banner of Soli Deo Gloria, this must be the predominate purpose of all our psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,[16] to preserve, promote, proclaim, protect and preach the Word.

CCMI-On The Down-Grade?
History is a lucid teacher and we can learn from her. Give ear to the account of one man’s battle against the roaring lion[17] of modernity in his time:
Charles Hadden Spurgeon spent the final four years of his life at war against the trends of early modernism which he rightly saw as a threat to Biblical Christianity. Spurgeon wanted to warn his flock about the dangers from moving away from the historic positions [of the truth]. ‘Biblical truth is like the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain,’ Spurgeon suggested. ‘One step away, and you find yourself on the down-grade. Once a church or individual Christian gets on the downgrade,’ Spurgeon said, ‘momentum takes over. Recovery is unusual and only happens when Christians get on the ‘up-line’ through spiritual revival.’ History has vindicated Spurgeon’s warnings about the down-grade. In the early part of the twentieth century the spreading of ‘false doctrine and worldliness’—theological liberalism and modernism—ravaged denominational Christianity throughout the world. Most of the mainline denominations were violently if not fatally altered by these influences. A hundred years later, we are seeing history repeating itself again…. ‘False doctrine and worldliness’—the same two influences Spurgeon attacked—always go hand in hand, with worldliness leading the way. Christians today tend to forget that modernism was not first of all a theological agenda but a methodological one.[18]
We are seriously close, beloved, to being on the down-grade in Christian music, if, in fact, we have not already begun the slide. Though we are seeing an unprecedented interest by the secular arena with more press and publicity, I believe there are some danger signs we can’t ignore: an absence of biblical truth; a reductionist gospel; being unequally yoked with the secular music industry; syncretism; pragmatism; aberrant and heretical themes accepted in lyrics; worldliness in business practice; relativism; moral pluralism; and experientialism. Could it be that the love of money is producing all sorts of evil?[19]

Brethren, God’s judgment is assuredly upon the Christian Music industry. Like the street courtesan, she has been sold by the “gatekeeper pimps” to the “secular johns” who have the deepest pockets and make the sweetest promises! It has patterned itself after the ways of the world rather than doing the work of God, by the will of God, according to the Word of God! There is no hope for gospel music apart from Heaven’s intervention. We need revival; we need renewal; we need repentance; and we need a new Reformation!

Biblical Theology Still the Greatest Need of the Hour
Much like in Spurgeon’s era, or in the days of Paul, sound doctrine is at wholesale rates and godly character is at bargain bin prices. The question still confronts us, why is biblical theology vital for the life of the church and the spiritual health of the believer? Why is it essential for the future survival of Christian music? Answer: because sound doctrine clearly taught and obeyed will always produce godly living and bring glory to God; but unsound doctrine disseminated will be nothing more than gangrenous[20] words to the body of Christ - producing nothing but poisoned, sinful lives. Even if expressed through the most gifted of orators or sung through the most stirring of melodies, in the end, it weakens the entire church!

When our grip on the sword of the Spirit[21] is loosened and our spiritual muscles have atrophied, the “once for all delivered to the saints faith”[22] is hastily replaced by a saber of our own carnal invention.[23] We cannot fight the good fight of faith with fleshly weaponry![24]

The Song of Tolerance
We can see the effects of the dumbing-down of doctrine by the pervasive tolerance of another gospel[25] which has resulted in redefining Biblical language. Sin is no longer called sin, but sickness; disobedience is called disease; and acts of transgression are now just addictions. This psychological sanctification has replaced the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Sprit in the predetermined work of God to conform us daily to Christ.[26] “Sanctify them by Thy truth, [Jesus said,] Thy Word is truth.”[27] Only the truth of God’s Word is sanctifying truth for all matters of life and godliness![28] “The sum of Thy Word is truth.”[29] We are to be “ handling accurately the word of truth.”[30] We are to proclaim “The word of truth, the gospel.”[31] Why? For God has “exalted His Word even above His name.”[32]

It is infinitely hazardous when the church embraces a Freudian anthropology justifying oneself for the purpose of abandoning personal responsibility (the abuse excuse) and allowing one to attach the blame outwardly to one’s environment, or on Mom and Dad, rather than finding solutions that come from only God Himself. Giving people a sense of becoming and belonging, addressing felt needs instead of real needs is the “theology” of the hour. Churches now hire full time psychological counselors fortuitously replacing faithful pastors and elders who are the ones called by God to shepherd His flock![33] “Preach the Word…”[34] is no longer the mandate of men of God but rather, “Go ye into all the world and relate!” In other words, I must increase - He must decrease![35]

Self-The New Audience of One
Os Guinness is spot on in his analysis when saying,
This… sea change is a particularly important precedent because it was not so much from Calvinism to Arminianism as from theology to experience, from truth to technique, from elites to populism, and from an emphasis on ‘serving God’, to an emphasis on ‘serving the self’ in serving God.”[36]
He is devastatingly correct! Even at the seminary level that change is evident. Men are no longer being taught today to preach expositionally but experientially. The object of faith is no longer Christ but self-esteem; the goal of faith is no longer holiness, but happiness; the source of faith is no longer the Scriptures, but experience.

“A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching.”[37]

“An aversion to doctrinal Christianity has been growing for several decades, along with an increasing intolerance for doctrinal and confessional accountability. Evangelicals have embraced the technologies of modernity, often without recognizing that these technologies have claimed the role of master rather that servant.”[38]

Theological Ebonics
Church growth expert, George Barna, arguing for how the church must find new ways to reach a post-church generation with the gospel, says, “Busters do not believe in absolute truth. This means that they, for the most part, reject the Bible as having any real answers. Thus, proposing Jesus Christ as the solution to a person’s sin problem is not likely to make any significant impression.”[39] Did you hear that? Dear people, the gospel never begins with man and his need but with God and His glory![40] Truth by definition is exclusive. When we declare the Scriptures to be the truth and Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life,[41] who is full of grace and truth,[42] we are declaring that every other claim to “the truth” is false. Every other way is a dead end. Every other faith system asserting eternal life is a path leading to death.[43] Crossover that! Make that seeker-friendly! Commercialism won’t tolerate a God-conceived, Christ-centered message! You can crossover the artist to the world pop genre, but you can’t crossover the message, why, there is an offense to the cross![44]

In a culture where absolute truth is considered obsolete it’s only inevitable that people will sink to the lowest common denominator to try to make sense of the extremes between depravity and salvation. Again, Barna gives evidence of this: “It is critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign.”[45] The evolution of his disconcerting ideology is significant: Contemporary Christian Music began declaring Jesus Christ as Lord. Within a few years His name was replaced by the generic but proper title of God. Still too offensive for some, dilution occurred, filtering the name of God to He, Him, “It”, or to the non-specific cognomen, “Love.” Today, His name is reduced to a multitude of pseudonyms: “The Man Upstairs”; “The Boss”; “The Big Guy”; “Chairman of the Board”; “My Higher Power”; “My Buddy’, “My Pal” and “My Lover”- ad nauseam… ad infinitum! This biblical illiteracy is theological ebonics - biblical language diminished to cultural unintelligible chatter affirmed as profound, acceptable spiritual truth.

It's About the Gospel Beloved
“Jesus is the Truth. We believe in Him,—not merely in His words. He Himself is Doctor and Doctrine, Revealer and Revelation, the Illuminator and the Light of Men. He is exalted in every word of truth, because He is its sum and substance. He sits above the gospel, like a prince on His own throne. Doctrine is most precious when we see it distilling from His lips and embodied in His person. Sermons [and songs] are valuable in proportion as they speak of Him and point to Him. A Christless gospel is no gospel and a Christless discourse is the cause of merriment to devils.”[46]
What is eternal is being traded for what is temporary with a helter-skelter recklessness. God has created man in His own image and it has been said today that man has now returned the favor! As the Lord said to a wayward Israel, “You thought I was just like you.”[47] God’s commentary on modernity is direct and clear, “Every man is doing what is right in his own eyes.”[48] Brethren, that philosophy is not just in the world, but heartbreakingly that is the pervading fundamental principle governing the minds of many in the church today as well.

Artist, Minister, or Entertainer?
What does all this have to do with the responsibility of the musician to Biblical Theology? The answer is - everything. You see, music very rarely sets the course for the church or society, but most times it mirrors what is already taking place. To encapsulate, if there be a famine of God’s Word in the pulpit, then the music that we are hearing in the pew will be just as weak, just as diluted and just as compromised. Remember, music is not fundamental but supplemental.

J.I. Packer saw this trend many years ago,
“The outside observer sees us as staggering from gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going. Preaching [and singing] is hazy; heads are muddled; hearts fret; doubts drain strength; uncertainty paralyses action…. Unlike the first Christians who in three centuries won the Roman world, and those later Christians who pioneered the Reformation, and the Puritan awakening and the Evangelical revival, and the great missionary movement of the last century, we lack certainty.”[49]
Sadly, that is currently our autobiography.

Pounding on Wittenburg's Door
We need to be pounding on Wittenburg’s door again - back to the foundation and convictions of the Reformers - back to the truth of Sola Scriptura… Scripture alone!
“Theologians are called to be the church’s water engineers and sewage officers; it is their job to see that God’s pure truth flows abundantly where it is needed and to filter out any intrusive pollution that might damage health.”[50]
At one time the great singer/songwriters were the great theologians. Martin Luther; John and Charles Wesley; Isaac Watts, to name a few, have given the church a wealth of tremendous music that feeds our minds and enriches our souls because they wrote out of the depth of God’s truth. That’s the distinguishing mark missing today: His Word - our music; His theology - our doxology; His lawbook - our songbook; His statutes - our songs!

The songs that we compose and the ministries that we forge must square with the Word of God: “Thy statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” Also in verse 172, “Let my tongue sing of Thy Word, for all Thy commandments are righteousness.” Here we have the content and theme of David’s song before the Lord, “Thy statutes…and Thy Word… for all Thy commandments are righteousness.” The subject matter is crystal clear, it is God’s Word. Is there any greater message to sing? Is there any greater love to proclaim? Is there any greater desire in our hearts than to do what Psalm 69:30 says, “I will praise the name of God with song, and shall magnify Him with thanksgiving.” Truth always results in praise!

The greatest declaration found anywhere in the Bible on the sufficiency of Scripture is in a song: Psalm 19:7-9. The Psalmist again reminds us that the redeemed people of God are to sing a new song to the Lord.[51] “God gives His new creation a new song, a different song, a distinctive song, a purer song, and a more beautiful song than anything the world can produce.”[52] It is the sweet song of salvation that new creations delight to sing to their Redeemer![53] We “sing with the Spirit and [we] shall sing with the mind also.”[54] (emphasis added). Doctrine leads to the overwhelming joy of doxology for all true worship is first cognitive and begins in the mind,[55] which ultimately finds expression in shaping and transforming the life!

Theology + Hymnology = Doxology
Great doxology is born out of the depth of theology! Doxology comes from two Greek words: doxa, meaning glory; and logos, meaning word. A doxology then is a word of glory, a note of praise, a saying ascribing worth. The reason why we study theology, which is the summation of His Word, is to know Him deeply and more fully; and it is out of that knowing which comes the humble and joyous utterance of worship, melody and praise!

Doxologies in the New Testament are abundant.[56] One example is Jude 24, a majestic doxology of our future glorification with Christ: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” This is the language of overflowing gratitude - the good theme[57] of the King’s glorious works inherited from the wisdom of the Scriptures. We are pilgrims on a journey to the Son and in this journey the Lord has given us a heavenly song to sing!

Music is powerful and must be used wisely not frivolously. No one ever buys a book, takes it home and memorizes it, but with music just after a few listens, it can be imbedded in your thoughts for a lifetime. That is why biblical truth needs to permeate the very fabric of our music. Still under the constraint of God’s Word, surely there is room for artistic license, when it comes to personal testimony about everyday life, relationships and common experiences. But we can never take artistic license when it comes to His person-hood, His acts, His gospel, His truth for fear that we might trivialize what is profound and sentimentalize what is holy. In other words, we should never unwittingly play marbles with diamonds.

We need to heed Colossians 3:16: "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Biblical theology in music honors the Lord when rendered with thankful hearts to Him, in response to His Word dwelling richly in our lives.

The Sand of Entertainment or the Food of the Gospel?
Spurgeon again confronts us with a riveting story of the importance of the Word of God:
In the days of Nero there was great shortness of food in the city of Rome, although there was abundance of corn to be purchased in Alexandria. A certain man who owned a vessel… noticed many hungry people straining their eyes toward the sea, watching for the vessels that were to come from Alexandria with corn. When these vessels came to the shore, one by one, the poor people wrung their hands in bitter disappointment, for on board the galleys there was nothing but sand which the tyrant emperor had compelled them to bring for use in the arena. Then the merchant… said to his shipmaster, ‘Take thou good heed that thou bring nothing back with thee from Alexandria but corn; and whereas aforetime thou hast brought in the vessel a measure or two of sand, bring thou not so much as would lie upon a penny this time… for these people are dying, and now we must keep our vessels for this one business of bringing food for them.

Alas, I have seen certain mighty galleys of late loaded with nothing but mere sand of philosophy and [entertainment], and I have said within myself, ‘I will bear nothing in my ship but the revealed truth of God, the bread of life so greatly needed by the people.
May the ship of Christian music bring to the shores of a drowning world, its galleys full of nothing except the life-preserving hope of God’s Word—through the gospel of Jesus Christ!

[1] James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1867) viii

[2] Amos 5:21-24

[3] 2 Timothy 4:3f

[4] 1 Corinthians 3-4:4

[5] Hebrews 12:5-11; Matthew 18:21ff

[6] Hebrews 13:7, 17; 2 Timothy 2:1-3; Matthew 18:15-20

[7] Romans 10:2

[8] 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 3:16

[9] 1 Timothy 6:5; Titus 1:15-16

[10] 2 Timothy 4:3

[11] 2 Corinthians 2:17; Isaiah 1:20

[12] Proverbs 23:23

[13] Exodus 20:4-6; Psalm 50:21; Jeremiah 9:23f; Ephesians 1:3-14

[14] Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1-6

[15] Psalm 19:7ff; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16ff

[16] Ephesians 5:17-20; Colossians 3:16-17

[17] 1 Peter 5:8f

[18] John F. MacArthur, Jr. Ashamed of the Gospel (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1993), 21-23, emphasis added.

[19] 1 Timothy 6:10

[20] 2 Timothy 2:17f

[21] Ephesians 6:17

[22] Jude 3; “Once for all delivered to the saints faith”- a synonymous term for the Word of God.

[23] Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:6-9; Colossians 2:18-22

[24] 1 Timothy 1:18f; 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

[25] Galatians 1:6-8

[26] Romans 8:29

[27] John 17:17

[28] 2 Peter 1:3f

[29] Psalm 119:160a

[30] 2 Timothy 2:15

[31] Colossians 1:5

[32] Psalm 138:2

[33] 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3

[34] 2 Timothy 4:2

[35] paraphrasing the antithesis of John 3:30, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

[36] “It’s The Gospel, Stupid,” regeneration quarterly, (volume 1, number 2, spring 1995), 25.

[37] “Another Word Concerning The Down-Grade,” The Sword and the Trowel (August 1887), 399.

[38] Al Mohler, “Contending for Truth in an Age of Anti-Truth,” The Formal Papers of the Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals (Cambridge, MA: April 1996), 4.

[39] “It’s The Gospel, Stupid,” regeneration quarterly, (volume 1, number 2, spring 1995), 24.

[40] Ephesians 1:3-14; Romans 3:24-26; Titus 3:1-7

[41] John 14:6

[42] ibid. 1:14

[43] Proverbs 14:12

[44] 1 Corinthians 1:22f; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 11:23ff

[45] George Barna, Marketing the Church (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1988) 41,145.

[46] Charles H. Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit, Volume One (Pasedena, TX: Pilgrim, 1856, 1990 reprint), vi.

[47] Psalm 50:21

[48] Judges 17:6

[49] J.I. Packer, God Has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1965), 11-12, emphasis added

[50] J.I. Packer, A Quest For Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 15.

[51] Psalm 33:3

[52] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Ephesians (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1986), 256.

[53] Psalm 40:3; 96:1-2; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9f; 14:3; 15:3.

[54] 1 Corinthians 14:15

[55] Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:1-4

[56] Among them are: Romans 11:33-36; 16:27; Galatians 1:3-5; Ephesians 3:20f; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:13; 1 Peter 5:10f.

[57] Psalm 45:1

[58] Charles H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxii (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1986), 385-386, emphasis added.

This has been an encore presentation


homo unius libri said...

As always Steve a powerful reminder of the need for truth.

I could use some help here: I have been stuck in a time warp of sorts in regard to my CCM. I still listen to my old Petra, Silver Wing and some guy named Steve Camp ;-)Most of my cassettes and records! are from the late seventies and early eighties.
What is good out there today if anything?

Bhedr said...

Thanks for posting this Steve. A lot of good info for use in this ongoing debate among brethren. Your voice is one of a few with a clarion call to stewardship in this area.

Sparks said...

Good question red state and reformed. I've been wondering that myself...who in "Christian" music today is doing it in the proper manner?

littlegal_66 said...


My comment on your proceeding article (re: Polycarp) reminded me of this (which I believe relates to THIS thread): As you are most likely aware, the GMA is no longer calling the concert series at the Christian Artists' Seminar "'Praise' in the Rockies," but rather, "'Music' in the Rockies. In your opinion, what do you think would be their motivation for dropping the term "praise" and replacing it with "music?" (I'm not posing this as a rhetorical question; I really would like to know what you think). Could they have come to the conclusion that there isn't much praising going on anymore?


Shawn L said...


I just saw on Carman's website you can get your name on an award that looks like a bowling trophy if you donate $500 a month to the ministry. This is the weirdest thing I have ever seen.

What is going on in some who claim Christ, I feel so lost in the haze lately with this kind of thing?

Sparks said...
CCM gets stranger every day.

Anonymous said...

AMEN! These are the same thoughts and passions that have been burning in my mind for the past month! Oh, that these words might be resounded in all the PULPITS!

I will recommend my family and friends to heed this wisdom from God's Truth!

Soli Deo Gloria

Dan Edelen said...

I agree with previous commenters; a lot of people would like to know who you feel is making good music today.

Will you clue us in?

SJ Camp said...


Good questions.

Here's what's in my iPod these days that I listen to and would recommend to others:

In no particular order:

1. The Keith Green Collection
2. Mercy Me's newest CD - very good music, lyrics are OK
3. "David - Ordinary Man, Extraordinary God"
4. Indelible Grace - great old lyrics from Watts and others with the new music of today
5. Casting Crowns - their first CD
6. Caedmon's Call - their newest is very good

What I find is great about iTunes or the iPod, is that you don't have to listen to someone's entire CD or even buy it for that matter. You can preview then download the songs you only want on your playlist. Most CCM releases today may have a few good songs on them that are truly biblical and great music; so eat the meat and throw away the bones.

Also, I want to include a few artists that are not Christians but are offering some excellent music choices for you for your enjoyment:

1. Anne Sophie Mutter - one of the great violin virtuoso's in the world today. Her Chopin sessions are amazing

2. Rascal Flatts newest release has some very fine music and is a great Saturday afternoon drive your favorite backroads with the windows down CD

3. Anything by Bruce Hornsby

4. James Taylor's collection (1 and 2).

5. Michael McDonald's Motown tribute CD's Volumes 1 and 2. Michael is a dedicated Christian and easily is the best voice in pop music for the past three decades. Warning: these CD's will even cause Reformed Baptists to want to dance :-).

The overall principle is this: be discerning. I am much harder on Christian music than I am on pop music for one reason: a wrong view of God is more damaging than a right view of the times because we are dealing with eternal issues.

I hope this helps a bit.

Grace and peace,
Col. 1:9-14

C. T. Lillies said...

This is easily the best article I have ever read on the topic of Worship. You have clearly stated where we are and where we should be but how do we get there? In other words, is there something concrete I can do about the cheesy glam-worship thats going on in my church?

4given said...

Indelible Grace, Casting Crowns, and Caedmon's Call are some of my top picks.

I do remember when I was in college, a friend of mine and I helped bring a musician there that we really liked... until we met him. He was so full of himself that his music became repulsive to me.

I appreciate your heart for the Lord and His Truth, Mr. Camp. I am not a follower of men, but of God. I do have to say, though, that the Lord shines through both in your music and in real life. To God be ALL the glory.

Dan Edelen said...

Thanks, Steve.

Good to see that some classical made the list, too.

~Mark said...

I'm a big fan of CeCe Winans and a lot of Third Day's work. Cross Movement is incredibly talented and as far as I've heard their work (Holy Culture and some singles from their recent releases), they bring real scripture to light.

SJ Camp said...

The following is a discussion began at the Driscoll -Schuller "quote of the day" but severely took a rabbit trail. I have moved it here and you may read Larry's and mine previous comments near the end of the thread there.

thank you.

You wrote: "I have read most of the major works on CCM from both sides. I have probably studied this issue a lot, although I don’t have the first hand accounts that you have. I simply haven't done it from an insider's perspective trying to defend it."

Your opinions are formed by the editorial of others. That is part of the problem here.

Some of your facts are inaccurate. I.E. - "The first Christian Rock album was probably the self-titled album by the LeFevre’s in 1970." Wrong. The first recognized commercial Christian Rock album was Larry Norman's "Upon This Rock" (1969).

The basic flaw in your information and presentation is that you equate any use of any contemporary style of music with a CCM music philosophy.

I.E. - Would you consider the great spirituals of the 1800's as being "CCM"; or would you consider the hymns of Luther as being "CCM" because he took the common music style of the day and wrote powerful theological lyrics to its melodies. Or possibly, taking your views to their logical conclusion, would you consider the hymns that Paul and Silas sang in prison (Acts 16:25) as "CCM" for they used the melodies of their time to sang the truths of Scripture?

Every generation in history has used the styles and melodies of the day to write songs of worship and praise to the Lord - even the great hymn writers. "In philosophy", as you say, CCM is nothing new--just the style of music in our time is.

You still have not answered my initial questions: what is the philosophy of CCM music and biblically define it or show its flaws? AND what is my philosophy of music ministry and biblically define it and how have I bought into "the philosophy of music of CCM?"

Your following statement was very surprising and nonsensical: "Obviously you can’t really post Scripture on this particular topic since this is a phenomenon of the last half of the 20th century, some 1850 years after the close of revelation... But you can’t really argue the nature of CCM from Scripture, so I have posted none. " Under your premise, no one can turn to the Scriptures on any issue for biblical clarity because we are 1900 years from the closing of the canon?

You also included this caveat: "I believe, as you do, that there are scriptural principles by which we can evaluate it, and I am happy to have that discussion." Then have it! What are you waiting for brother? That is what this blog is about; the biblical discussion on issues... So make it.

I will ask you again: What ARE the biblical principles by which you can support your pragmatic philosophical claims about CCM? What are the biblical principles for music ministry? I have laid them out in the 107 THESES. I am not a part of the CCM industry in philosophy, practice, functionality, or doctrine.

Happy 4th of July,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Larry said...

Thanks Steve, for your response. Please forgive the length while I try to clarify some things.

Your opinions are formed by the editorial of others. That is part of the problem here.

Are you untrustworthy? Your opinions served to form a lot of my opinions. I took it from you as an insider who knows what is going on. There is no way around the fact that historical research has to be based on the editorial of others.

Some of your facts are inaccurate. I.E. - "The first Christian Rock album was probably the self-titled album by the LeFevre’s in 1970." Wrong. The first recognized commercial Christian Rock album was Larry Norman's "Upon This Rock" (1969).

I misread my notes on this topic. Rabey, in “Age to Age” said that LeFevre’s album was the first true “Jesus rock” album. But my footnote states that Larry Norman’s album should have that designation. My memory had slipped on that one and I didn’t read my own footnote on it. That’s what I get for trying to do this quickly.

The basic flaw in your information and presentation is that you equate any use of any contemporary style of music with a CCM music philosophy.

Well, I didn’t actually equate that. However, in a real sense, it would be hard to avoid the conclusion. I think some don't really think about why they use the kind of music they do. But that wasn’t really my issue.

Spirituals and Luther are in such a different category that they should not even be included here. They were not CCM because CCM did not exist. CCM grew out of mixing pop culture and Christianity. There was no such thing as CCM prior to that. Pop culture did not really exist until the 20th century.

To say that every generation has used the styles of the day to write songs of worship is not entirely accurate either. But that’s not really the point. Using the styles of the day has significant import in what those styles mean in the day in which they are used. You cannot separate the music from the message it sends, at least while the music is clearly associated with a particular lifestyle or philosophy.

You still have not answered my initial questions: what is the philosophy of CCM music and biblically define it or show its flaws?

I did answer that question by directly addressing the philosophy of CCM. I have made no attempt to argue for it or against it, mostly for the sake of time. You can’t really biblically define CCM any more than you can biblically define classical music. The Bible does not serve that role. CCM has a philosophy that drove its style. The only way to understand that is read what the early musicians said about it.

Today, one can use the style not understanding the underlying philosophy. They cannot separate themselves from that philosophy however. I think over time that will lessen. I am not sure it has lessened yet.

The Bible addresses certain principles that could be brought to bear on musical styles such as separation, association, lifestyle, emotions, control, etc. Those principles do not allow inviolable conclusions for many reasons, which is why I am not sure that a few paragraphs in the comment section of a blog can really do it justice.

AND what is my philosophy of music ministry and biblically define it and how have I bought into "the philosophy of music of CCM?"

Your style of music that I have heard from you is the CCM style. You may have separated yourself from the industry, and I applaud you for that. I applaud you for speaking out and leaving as you did. I am not your enemy here, Steve. I don’t really care that much what style of music you use. That was not even close to my point.

Your following statement was very surprising and nonsensical: …Under your premise, no one can turn to the Scriptures on any issue for biblical clarity because we are 1900 years from the closing of the canon?

No Steve. Let’s not stoop to this level. Think about what I am saying. I was defining the philosophy of CCM by talking about its beginning. Scripture does not speak to that. You can’t argue the nature of CCM from Scripture, any more than you can argue the nature of reciprocating engines from Scripture. That’s not to say that Scripture has nothing useful for this topic. We can certainly evaluate CCM from Scripture. And we should. But that was not my point. I specifically said I was making no comment on that either way.

What are you waiting for brother? That is what this blog is about; the biblical discussion on issues... So make it.

My main issue, Steve, is time. I am not sure it would be the best stewardship of my time to engage a lengthy discussion of this. My priorities have to be focused on other things right now. I have summarized my philosophy of music by three simple points that could be elucidated at length if I wanted to take the time to formalize my chicken scratchings.

Essentially they are these:
1. Music must first be doctrinally and theologically sound. It need not be precise, but it must be correct. Singing wrong doctrine is as bad as preaching wrong doctrine.
2. The musical style should fit the nature of the topic. Music does communicate. It is not amoral, without meaning. So the style of music chosen for a particular song’s theme should fit the words. There is a reason why rock artists choose the style of music that they do. There’s a reason why night clubs do not play Bach organ numbers. It doesn’t fit the atmosphere they want to create. Music communicates something before you ever put any words with it. At the very least we can illustrate this through minor keys, recognized as the sound of sadness. To sing “Happy Birthday” in minor key would make everyone laugh. Why? Because the music communicates something that doesn’t fit the words.
3. Congregational music must be easily singable.

What ARE the biblical principles by which you can support your pragmatic philosophical claims about CCM?

My pragmatic philosophical claims? I hope you are referring to my claims that CCM began out of a pragmatic philosophical basis. My claim was not pragmatic at all. But I think you are missing my point. I can’t use Scripture to support my claims about CCM's origin because Scripture doesn’t address the issue of why CCM started. I would be forced to twist Scripture. Perhaps we are missing the connection on that because I can't imagine how you could disagree with why I didn't cite Scripture.

Perhaps an analogy: Would you use Scripture to lay out the reasons why WWII started? I don't think so. We could use Scripture to evaluate whether those reasons were good or bad reasons. The same is true with CCM. We cannot use Scripture to lay out the reasons why CCM started. We can use Scripture to evaluate whether those reasons were good or bad.

Now, I could use Scripture to refute the pragmatic nature of CCM. I could use Scripture to refute the lack of local church accountability in Scripture. I could use Scripture to decry the lack of theological purity in CCM. I could use Scripture to decry the lack of moral character and integrity in CCM. I could use Scripture to denounce the profiteering of CCM.

But how can I improve on what you have already done? I can’t. You said it much better than I ever will, and you have the credibility of having been there and walked away from it for these reasons.

But my post was not about those issues. I was merely addressing where CCM came from, and what its nature is. And Scripture doesn’t address that issue.

What are the biblical principles for music ministry?

I gave them in brief above. Over the years, my position has changed somewhat. But being the big local church guy that I am, I practice my standards in my local church. There are people who think I am very contemporary and others who think I am very conservative. My congregational preferences tend to be more conservative than not. But I leave other local churches to address their own.

I am not a part of the CCM industry in philosophy, practice, functionality, or doctrine.

Which, remember, was not my claim. I was speaking directly to your style and to the philosophy of music from which that style arose. Perhaps I was unclear on that. But it seems clear to me that the style of your music is the CCM style.

Steve, I fear that this is not going well. My point was not to attack you at all on this issue. I hope you will accept my sincere apologies for any offense towards you that might have arisen because of this. I appreciate what you have said about the CCM industry. I think you are dead right.

My only point was to draw a parallel about the complaints you made about Driscoll not separating from the EC. He has been as vocal about the doctrinal issues in the EC as you have about CCM. The fact that has not left an EC style of ministry is parallel to you not having left a CCM style of music. Which is fine. I am not saying you should have left it. That’s not my issue at this point.

Barefoot Guy said...

I really enjoy your blog! Thanks for your honest heart and truthfulness, it is refreshing to hear someone be real. Its cool to read about real people who serve Jesus.

I am a musician, and I would be honored if you would check out my music. All music on my site is free for download. Anyway, don't want to be a pest, I just thought that I'd share.

"All my music is free."

Rosemarie said...

Thanks for this post, I found it after writing about music in response to Carla Rolfe's blog. Your post has me wrestling with with my own thoughts on music and musical preferences. I appreciate the time and effort you put in here.

R W S said...

I do like CCM but I'm very discerning as best one can be . One of the things I look into is what type of Church does the artist attend .Then if they have a web page I check it out to see where they stand on crucial doctrines etc..Then I'll listen to a few sermons and hear what the artist is sitting under and hearing every Sunday.One artist I have always respected and enjoyed is Steven Curtis Chapman. There is good music out there ,but one should always be informed concerning any artist they listen to.

JackW said...

More modern hymns than CCM, but the Getty's new CD "Awaken the Dawn" is the best I've heard in terms of doctrine and music excellence in a long long time.

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