Should Christians listen to secular music?

[John E.]

I don’t know about the validity of the purported experiments or not, nor will I vouch for their methodology, but remember that sound waves are a physical cause with a physical effect. My brother, who has his masters degree in voice and is a voice professor, and who has no skin in this argument (about two years ago or so he performed with The Rolling Stones) told me that one of the reasons bass players go deaf is because they don’t understand how sound waves work. The sound wave for bass notes is physically longer, and bass players often stand so close to the stacks that they can’t hear the bass. They think it’s because it’s not loud enough and so keep turning the volume up, not realizing that they’re standing inside the first sound wave. The physical force blows their ear drums out.

Along those same lines, about four years ago I went to see Bob Mould (one of hardcore’s founding fathers). The next day, I could only hear buzzing.

It’s a fact that sound waves are a physical cause with a physical effect. Who knows, maybe blaring rock music at plants for extended amounts of time has a negative effect on the plants. More importantly, who cares?

Even if someone were to jump into this thread and provide a link to a relatively methodologically sound study proving Dr. Garlock and others right, it wouldn’t have any bearing on the question of whether it’s morally okay or not for Christians to listen to rock music. It would be evidence that gardeners should be careful in which direction they point their speakers.

More importantly, I am pretty sure that mocking Dr. Garlock and others on this thread is counterproductive and violates Paul’s admonition to speak with charity and the desire to edify and build up. No doubt, being SI, many readers of this thread know and love Dr. Garlock and have been hurt by this thread. For what? To prove what? Brothers, and I feel silly saying things like this, but I’m pretty sure that I know more about rock music and love rock music more than anyone on SI, but my Christian liberty to listen to rock music, or any other kind of “secular” music, is far less important than speaking with charity and love. So, please brothers, and I pray that this is received in the spirit of charity that I intend it, we should endeavor, by the power of the Spirit, to argue our points and positions without mocking other Believers.

Thank you for your concluding challenge in these comments that “we should endeavor, by the power of the Spirit, to argue our points and positions without mocking other Believers.” The apostle Paul sets a very high standard for all believers in this regard:
2 Timothy 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

…it was the day in the early 1970s Frank Garlock spoke at our church.

During his sermons/lectures, Garlock would demonstrate various points by playing snippets from rock & roll albums – nothing obscure – all of his selections were from the popular heavy-hitters of the day. Garlock aimed his points at parents, informing them of the “true meanings” behind the music, laying bare the corrupt hearts of the rock artists and explaining how these evil musicians where after, not only their child’s money, but their very soul. “Watch out! Garbage in, garbage out!” Dr. Garlock would shout.

It was easy to pick apart the lives of some of these musicians and point out the overt and covert lyrics that were “designed” to entice us into a life of sin – that was easy and Garlock took the time to do it. But Garlock went further and assigned evil to the music itself. Understand that the music, even without lyrics, the musical notes and the rhythm – the arrangement itself could be, and in the case of rock-n-roll was, sinful.

This was the first time I had ever heard anyone assign morality to certain sound frequencies and intensities played in such a way that one may sense a repeating rhythmic pattern. Music was no longer amoral but, depending on the arrangement, possessed an intrinsic morality. Bad music would always be bad even with good words. Demonstrations were given and scientific evidence cited where plants died, heart-beats changed, and tension levels were altered. Saul and David were mentioned at some point…

Dr. Garlock further reasoned that everything was wrong with rock & roll, rhythm & blues, jazz, and country & gospel music; the origins, the composers, the performers, even the music itself “it’s the beat, it’s the beat, it’s the beat”, he would say. It’s all wrong.

Then, for his very white audiences, he would detail the origins of the music and “the beat” noting that rock & roll had its origins in the music of Africa, South America, and India, places he said where voodoo, sex-orgies, human sacrifice, and devil worship abounded. This is a quote from his “Big Beat” album…

There’s a “village [in Africa] that was completely given over to marijuana. Not only do I hear the rhythms that they used in their heathen rituals used in rock and roll music, I actually hear some of the same tunes. I watched [from the bush] those people in their heathen rituals. We’d watch them make human sacrifice. I’ve seen them take knives and cut themselves and they wouldn’t bleed. I’ve watched them put darts through different parts of their bodies and they don’t even seem to feel the pain! And I always wondered why…

I used to read stories about men over in India who would lie down on a bed of nails for hours at a time and not seem to feel any pain. Partly, of course, as we said before, is demonology. I definitely believe that. These people give themselves over to the devil and the devil controls them. But have you ever noticed that while they’re doing such things their heathen music is going? And I believe that’s part of the answer. The music actually anesthetizes them so they don’t feel the pain. Their normal bodily functions cease.”

If you didn’t hear Dr. Garlock “Live and in Concert” during the glory days of “The Big Beat,” you really have no idea how it was. It wasn’t clear to me back then, but now, upon reflection, opposition to rock, jazz, blues, big band, etc., was based in race, and a perceived separation of races and cultures.

"Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason."

Makujina’s book was the single biggest influence that pushed me away from the traditional music position. I remember going to a fellow GA who was studying music while I was at BJU and asking him “Does this make any sense to you?” To his credit, he said that it didn’t and he would not have recommended it for a textbook. We had more good, profitable, and edifying discussion in that hour alone that I think I got out of the entire class, certainly more than I got out of the book itself.

Someone threw out the term pugnacious - One of my questions is at what point does standing up against something that doesn’t make logical or theological sense but has ‘Christian’ or ‘Fundamentalist’ backing become necessary? “Pugnacious” implies people who seek out and desire a fight. Peter rightly rebuked some of the Jerusalem believers for putting a burden on people that their own forefathers had not been able to bear (Acts 15:10). Was that pugnacious? Was Jesus being pugnacious when he told the Pharisees to take a message to Herod that I’m sure Herod wasn’t expecting in Luke 13:32-33? This is the same Jesus that tells us he has come to pit family members against family members in Luke 12:49-53, right?

Personally, I’m done with this debate and have been for years. I wouldn’t even talk about music standards if it wasn’t for this website, and I’ve made no bones about that. I have enough real-life spiritual crises in my church and friends’ lives that the thought of asking them to give up Lauren Daigle (and yes, I know about the recent kerfuffle with her) or Casting Crowns is simply not worth it. It makes no sense to yell warnings about the broken door when the roof of their home is on fire. I will, and do, however push back on Hillsong (and the like) if the songs or bands are bad enough, and if I’m aware of problems, but I’m not here to play God’s music cop for the church.

I’m sure that this debate will rage on for decades to come in some form or another, but it isn’t good enough to turn a blind eye to bad teaching because ‘that’s what we do’. We have to be careful, articulate, reasonable, and Scripturally grounded. Peter’s admonition is to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. I listen to CCM because it encourages my walk with the Lord, because it can (when done properly) unify our congregation in a way that nothing else can, and because good music that is well written can be a great way to catechize the believers in our assembly and to instill doctrinal teaching in a mnemonic form (which is why I linked to Shai Linne’ Attributes Of God album a few weeks ago). 95-99% of CCM is drivel that wouldn’t be worth putting on a rocket into space even if doing so removed it from the earth entirely forever. So take what’s good, reject the evil (or not-good), and move forward.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

[John E.]

“Whatever is under the whole heavens is mine.”

The seemingly never-ending arguments about what kind of secular music Christians can listen to aside, the larger, umbrella discussion is an important one to have. Throughout much of conservative evangelicalism and cultural fundamentalism (although, I don’t like separating the two) the sacred/secular divide that denies God’s lordship over all creation still runs rampant. The fact that the question needs to be asked and answered reveals how much neo-Platonism still infects our churches.

Having carefully read through all the comments on this thread once and skimmed through them a second time, I do not think that anyone has followed up with you specifically on your comments here in relation to the verse that you quoted. I would like to hear more about your view on how this verse relates to “how much neo-Platonism still infects our churches.”