Bible passages that guide us about secular/unbelieving criticisms of Christian worship music/ministry?

“If you sing pop lyrics, you are going to have a problem with your ministry because rock n’ roll by definition, and popular music, is about sexuality." A judge then interjected, "And demons." Simmons then repeated, "And demons.”

— Gene Simmons, a famous rock musician; transcribed from a video clip from an episode where he appeared on American Idol

Should Christians care about what secular/unbelieving people say in negative comments such as these about the worship music/ministry of certain Christians? What Bible passages do you think guide us in knowing what to do with such comments?

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

In the interest of on-topic debate, I'll throw in a few thoughts... and also get myself subscribed to the thread that way.

My own view on the language of music is that it mostly derives its meaning from cultural context. With that as a premise, I'll add a second one: cultures are ever-changing, and as a result the meaning associated with forms changes as well. Those premises, coupled with observations of how various forms are used now vs. decades ago, suggests that much of the meaning of the form itself has faded away.  . . . but only most of it.

So argument 1 could be summarized under the heading "the changing culture argument." Gene said what he said quite a while ago.

Argument 2 is basically that Gene et al don't speak for everyone in the industry, if there can even be said to be a distinct "rock and roll industry" anymore. What we have now are all sorts of subgenres, spin-offs. In any case, no one artist or even a handful of artists speaking individually can authoritatively say what the entire form is "about." Who authorized them to do that?

Argument 3 picks up on my mention of subgenre. Gene was almost certainly talking about his own genre of rock, the heavy metal popular in the 80's and early 90's... admittedly, still liked, kind of nostalgically by many.

As for Scriptures that are relevant... I can't off hand think of passages that would apply to "what to do with the opinion of an expert who says his own art form is sexually immoral." But it seems logical that he could speak authoritatively about what he's trying to do with his own music, at least, if not anyone else's.

Having said all that, it's pretty obvious that many of the metal bands were all about decadence of all sorts. Probably don't need ol' Gene to tell us that. But what was it about the music that made it a good medium for that selling that sort of lifestyle? I don't know if Gene ever attempted to explain that but even if he did, see argument 1 above. In a variety of contexts now, I hear metal or metalish music from time to time that doesn't strike me as "about sex" at all... as movie soundtrack background, advertising background, computer game background. In most cases, it's not quite "heavy" metal that's used for these soundtracks, but it sounds similar in a lot of ways, and it's certainly "rock." But what it seems to mostly be "about" is action, blowing stuff up, vehicle chases, jumping out of helicopters . . .  When they want to communicate sex, they turn to soft piano and saxophone, seems to me (or various kinds of not-metal club/dance music).

But these are just my impressions.

Add to the mix that nowadays there's a lot of orchestra music with a bit of drum and guitar thrown in now and then, along with other electronic sounds. So we have new fusions of previously isolated and distinct genres. There was certainly a time when a certain sound meant a certain thing, but now those same sounds, mixed with other sounds and used in a wide variety of very different contexts, doesn't "work" that way anymore.

I can't prove any of this from Scripture or anywhere else. These are my observations from watching and thinking about the topic for four decades or so now. 

(Having said all that, I'm not in favor of church music being performed in the popular entertainment styles, with the pop vocals, drums, guitars and what not. The reasons why would be another long post... or several.)

Ron Bean's picture

Is there a link to the original source of this quote?

Is it possible that the two people in the conversation were both mocking Christianity's perceived view of pop music and didn't intend for their statements to be taken as absolute truth?

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

RajeshG's picture

Thanks for this meaty reply, Aaron. This is the kind of substantive interaction that I had hoped for but largely did not receive in my other threads on music. I hope that others who are interested in these specific questions will follow your lead and share their views in a similar manner.

It's getting late, and I'm trying to finish another project tonight. I hope to respond further by sometime tomorrow evening, D.V.

 

Kevin Miller's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Is there a link to the original source of this quote?

Is it possible that the two people in the conversation were both mocking Christianity's perceived view of pop music and didn't intend for their statements to be taken as absolute truth?

Randy Jackson was definitely joking when he added "and demons." He laughed afterwards, and then Paula Abdul added "and a long tongue." It seems both of them were mocking Gene Simmons' attempt to make a blanket statement about pop music.

Here's a link to a video of the comments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MweuGL0e7tA

Kevin Miller's picture

A verse that comes to my mind when thinking of how an unsaved person might criticize my ministry is Matthew 5:11 - "“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Ron Bean wrote:

 

Is there a link to the original source of this quote?

Is it possible that the two people in the conversation were both mocking Christianity's perceived view of pop music and didn't intend for their statements to be taken as absolute truth?

 

Randy Jackson was definitely joking when he added "and demons." He laughed afterwards, and then Paula Abdul added "and a long tongue." It seems both of them were mocking Gene Simmons' attempt to make a blanket statement about pop music.

 

Here's a link to a video of the comments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MweuGL0e7tA

Thanks for the link. I have been trying to find the original video, but was not able to find it.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

A verse that comes to my mind when thinking of how an unsaved person might criticize my ministry is Matthew 5:11 - "“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."

That's one possible way to approach these kinds of statements. Do you believe that what Simmons said was something that he knew was false and that he intended to revile or persecute (or otherwise speak evil about) this professing Christian minister/musician with these comments?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Kevin can clarify whether I'm reading him right, maybe, but perhaps he was trying to answer the part of your original post where you were asking for Scriptures that relate, and one possibility would be if, hypothetically, an expert of that sort were directing his criticism at a believer and/or his ministry.

Valid principle, but its relationship to the question seems a stretch. For my part, I'm sticking for now with "I can't think of any passages that relate to this sort of quoted material." But I haven't had that much time to think about that part of it yet.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

That's one possible way to approach these kinds of statements. Do you believe that what Simmons said was something that he knew was false and that he intended to revile or persecute (or otherwise speak evil about) this professing Christian minister/musician with these comments?

Oh, I think he personally believed it to be true based on his own standards of what he wanted to communicate with pop music. That doesn't mean that every other person who uses pop music also wants to communicate that. To assume such a motivation of every other person who uses pop music is a false assumption.

 He also said this - "The rules are different for country. You can sing Christian oriented lyrics and be acceptable." Do you believe that statement of Gene's is true?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

In general, I don't attach a whole lot of value to what Gene says. He's entitled to his opinions, certainly.

As for the country question, I don't think my own opinion on these things is of a whole lot of value either. But even the term "country" covers alot of variations. There are sad tunes, energetic tunes, reflective tunes, etc. So I would have to say that Gene seems to be overgeneralizing. There isn't any genre that you can literally put any words you want with any tune in the genre--if you want to create a piece that makes any sense artistically.

I'll grant though that country tunes do seem to me to be more flexible than, say, heavy metal tunes...if they can be called tunes. (But my experience with real metal is *extremely* limited. I just don't find it interesting.)

Edit: just realized you were asking Rajesh probably, but maybe there is something helpful there still.

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

As for Scriptures that are relevant... I can't off hand think of passages that would apply to "what to do with the opinion of an expert who says his own art form is sexually immoral." But it seems logical that he could speak authoritatively about what he's trying to do with his own music, at least, if not anyone else's.

Actually, my interest is more about what to do scripturally with the recommendation made by a secular/unbelieving musician to a professing Christian musician/minister about what that minister should not do with worship music because it would cause him problems with his ministry.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

Oh, I think he personally believed it to be true based on his own standards of what he wanted to communicate with pop music. That doesn't mean that every other person who uses pop music also wants to communicate that. To assume such a motivation of every other person who uses pop music is a false assumption.

 He also said this - "The rules are different for country. You can sing Christian oriented lyrics and be acceptable." Do you believe that statement of Gene's is true?

I do not think that what he said was a statement about what he wanted to communicate with pop music; I think he was expressing his view about the pervasively sexual nature of rock music. There are many other musicians who have made similar statements.

Having just watched the video again, it's hard for me to sort out exactly what Simmons was saying to him about country music, etc. To me, it seemed like his comments were not a recommendation telling Johnson that using country music in ministry would be acceptable. It seems that he was telling Johnson that he could be a country artist and sing Christian lyrics as a country artist.

Ron Bean's picture

“If you sing pop lyrics, you are going to have a problem with your ministry 

It seems that Simmons is telling the worship leader that "singing pop lyrics" would create a problem in his ministry. In other words, that singing pop music outside of church would create a problem when he sings Christian music in church. I don't see anything where Simmons is talking about using pop music "in church". 

BTW, I've been hearing pop musicians quoted as support for the arguments against CCM for 40 years. I'm sure there are pop musicians who don't consider their music about sexuality, demons, and long tongues. Are we to consider them reliable?

BTW, I don't really care what over the hill rockers like Gene Simmons have to say. (Unless, of course they support my position SMILE.)

My position? There's good pop music and there's bad pop music.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

Having just watched the video again, it's hard for me to sort out exactly what Simmons was saying to him about country music, etc. To me, it seemed like his comments were not a recommendation telling Johnson that using country music in ministry would be acceptable. It seems that he was telling Johnson that he could be a country artist and sing Christian lyrics as a country artist.

It seemed clear to me what he was saying about country music. He started by saying, "“If you sing pop lyrics, you are going to have a problem with your ministry." He then said, "The rules are different for country. You can sing Christian oriented lyrics and be acceptable." I'm not sure why you think he stopped talking about ministry. That's how Gene started his comments, by talking about the person in ministry who is performing music. Simmons was saying that country music is acceptable, but rock music isn't, and both comments were related to whether there would be a problem in ministry.

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

Actually, my interest is more about what to do scripturally with the recommendation made by a secular/unbelieving musician to a professing Christian musician/minister about what that minister should not do with worship music because it would cause him problems with his ministry.

I'm not sure it makes a difference whether an unbelieving person or a believer makes a recommendation. Any particular recommendation needs to be examined on it's own merits as to whether it is in line with Scripture or in opposition to Scripture. I would tend to be skeptical of the recommendations of an unbeliever in regards to Christian ministry, since the things that come from the Spirit of God are foolishness to the unbeliever (I Corinthians 2:14). I wouldn't completely dismiss the recommendations, however, since even an unbeliever can have information that also lines up with Scripture.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

It seemed clear to me what he was saying about country music. He started by saying, "“If you sing pop lyrics, you are going to have a problem with your ministry." He then said, "The rules are different for country. You can sing Christian oriented lyrics and be acceptable." I'm not sure why you think he stopped talking about ministry. That's how Gene started his comments, by talking about the person in ministry who is performing music. Simmons was saying that country music is acceptable, but rock music isn't, and both comments were related to whether there would be a problem in ministry.

I'll listen to it again and get back to you.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

I'm not sure it makes a difference whether an unbelieving person or a believer makes a recommendation. Any particular recommendation needs to be examined on it's own merits as to whether it is in line with Scripture or in opposition to Scripture. I would tend to be skeptical of the recommendations of an unbeliever in regards to Christian ministry, since the things that come from the Spirit of God are foolishness to the unbeliever (I Corinthians 2:14). I wouldn't completely dismiss the recommendations, however, since even an unbeliever can have information that also lines up with Scripture.

From what I have heard from several people in the past, it makes a big difference to them whether the one giving the recommendation is an unbeliever or a believer. I agree that all recommendations have to be evaluated in line with Scripture. Because Scripture does not explicitly tell us specifically in musicological terms what styles/genres of music may be used in worship and what may not be used, we have intense disagreement about believers about what God accepts and what He does not accept in worship.

I agree that 1 Corinthians 2:14 is a vital passage to consider in this discussion, but other passages also have to be considered to properly answer this question. When Scripture records that unbelievers deemed what God's people have done or were doing was shameful or wrong, Scripture itself points us to the reality that unbelievers can make accurate assessments of wrongdoing on the part of God's people.

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

my interest is more about what to do scripturally with the recommendation made by a secular/unbelieving musician to a professing Christian musician/minister about what that minister should not do with worship music because it would cause him problems with his ministry.

I was brainstorming a bit yesterday on the topic and came up with a sort of list but haven't had time to look up the references.

Off hand, some pretty clear themes come to mind though:

  • The head of the church is Christ, and His direction is the only direction that must be headed
  • Wisdom cries out in the streets: the principle is that you can find bits of wisdom anywhere and everywhere, but it has to be sifted out and recognized (it makes sense to seek wisdom in places it is most likely to be found!)
  • Occasional examples of unbelievers having some insight to offer do occur in Scripture.
  • Common grace means God blesses all sorts of humans with all sorts of abilities we can all benefit from
  • Every human is made in the image of God and is, therefore, capable of knowing truth and expressing it
  • All truth claims have to be weighed and judged by what we know to be true in special revelation

References later if needed. They aren't hard to find, but I don't have all of them memorized.

Bert Perry's picture

....to the leader of any ministry is that he not use fallacious guilt by association arguments, actually.  

Regarding Chaim Witz's claim to speak on behalf of all rock & roll, there's actually a fair number of acts that have breached the top 40 with religious and even explicitly Christian songs, so he's arguably wrong there.  There is also a tremendous amount of overlap between country & rock, an overlap that Simmons, who has shared a stage with Garth Brooks, knows very well.

Simmons' band, KISS, is the rock & roll equivalent of the Rocky Horror Picture Show;  it's a cult act that can keep playing the same set of arenas about once a year or so to about the same half-million people, and those same half million people will generally take their latest album to gold but not platinum.  The rest of us know KISS only from one song and their stage presence, which was beautifully spoofed by Berke Breathed in his introduction of "Deathtongue". (and the Banana Jr. 6000)  

Really, if we want to answer the question of whether specific genre might be used to praise God, we need to come up with a rationale for Christian music (I submit "to communicate the Word of God to the People of God in lyric form") and then ask ourselves whether those vocal, postic, musical, and other techniques lend themselves to that goal.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

RajeshG's picture

Thanks, Aaron. These are all applicable in one way or another and to varying extents. Do you have any specific passages in mind that would apply more directly to comments such as Simmons made?

Jim's picture

RajeshG wrote:
\Do you have any specific passages in mind that would apply more directly to comments such as Simmons made?

Do you?

RajeshG's picture

Jim wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

\Do you have any specific passages in mind that would apply more directly to comments such as Simmons made?

 

Do you?

I do, but I do not want me and my views to be the focus of any more threads, as they were in several of my previous threads. Instead, I would like to hear in detail what others on SI think about how the Bible applies to specific issues such as the one that I have raised on this thread.

Ron Bean's picture

We were asked: 

Should Christians care about what secular/unbelieving people say in negative comments such as these about the worship music/ministry of certain Christians? What Bible passages do you think guide us in knowing what to do with such comments?

 

I Corinthians 4:3-4 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

I suggest Proverbs 11:14:

Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
    but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Consider whether your music has holy lyrics, and is conducted in a manner that reflects honor and glory to God. Consider the credibility of the person making the complaint. Don't make ecclesiastical decisions without gathering careful and considered input from the congregation. Don't make ecclesiastical decisions based on public perception, or on the sycophantic urgings of people you already know agree with you. Forge genuine consensus, and consider the Scriptures.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

RajeshG's picture

TylerR wrote:

I suggest Proverbs 11:14:

Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
    but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Consider whether your music has holy lyrics, and is conducted in a manner that reflects honor and glory to God. Consider the credibility of the person making the complaint. Don't make ecclesiastical decisions without gathering careful and considered input from the congregation. Don't make ecclesiastical decisions based on public perception, or on the sycophantic urgings of people you already know agree with you. Forge genuine consensus, and consider the Scriptures.  

As I am sure you are aware, there have been many secular/unbelieving people who have said the same things about the essential sensuality of rock music, etc that Simmons said. There is also a multitude of believers who hold those views to be true and say the same things. Does Proverbs 11:14 apply to what should be the done with the statements of the multitude of counselors, both unbelieving and believing musicians and others, who hold the same view as Simmons does?

This is not a "gotcha" response or question. I have no problem if you do not respond at all.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Does the Proverb say "believe a multitude of counselors"?

If there is a multitude on both sides of a question, how would that work?

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Does the Proverb say "believe a multitude of counselors"?

If there is a multitude on both sides of a question, how would that work?

Good questions. Tyler mentioned several other things that would also need to be taken account, especially "consider the Scriptures," which seems to put us back to my original question.

RajeshG's picture

Here are some related comments/considerations from a current CCM musician that we also should consider how to evaluate scripturally:
 

Mario Sangermano
I'm a professional musician who has and does work with some of the most well known CCM artists. I've done tours, recorded on their albums , etc.. I can tell you first hand that it's about the bottomline, not Jesus. The hypocrisy is rampant. And I will say many are not believers. I was on a tour bus one year with a well known act and I was mocked for reading my bible. I was yelled at by the drummer for calling out heretics on TBN. Many musicians like myself who work in the CCM market are not believers. They all call themselves Christian's, but their words and actions betray them. And the biblical ignorance is beyond breathtaking. There ate [sic] true believers players and artists alike, but far and few between.

From the comments to this article: Lauren Daigle Rebrands Image as Non-Christian Artist

 

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