Gregg Strawbridge

Music in the Bible and the Contemporary Music Styles Debate (Part 3)

Gregg Strawbridge continues his series about contemporary music styles in the church. Here, he discusses critical arguments against contemporary music styles.

The Origin of the Beat

If the reader tends to agree with the premise that rhythm dominant music is inherently sinful, the implications are grave - since, the music of many cultures (Latin America, Caribbean, African) is “rhythm-dominant.” Perhaps someone will even be willing to argue that the “beat” is evil because it was derived from pagan tribalism and brought to America via slavery. This is what some call the African Connection. One proponent of this view says,

It is irrefutable that rock and roll music owes some of its roots to the tribes of Africa….To declare that these are the only roots of rock music is to mislead and to be less than honest. A careful study of rock music reveals it to be more complex than that; however, to deny that an African connection to the rock rhythms of our day does not exist, is to be equally misleading and dishonest. To declare that a certain rhythm or beat is ‘evil’ cannot be proved entirely. What is far more important is the historical revelation that demonic activity has been observed in connection with rituals where drums and rhythmic beats have been the catalyst. (Leonard J. Seidel, Face the Music: Contemporary Church Music on Trial, 1988, p. 41)

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Music in the Bible and the Contemporary Music Styles Debate (Part 2)

This series continues as Gregg Strawbridge examines some common arguments against contemporary music styles in the church.

The Natural Law Argument

Bill Gothard (1986), a well-known critic of CM says, “There is no such thing as amoral music.” He diagrams an analogy between other disciplines and music. “The following disciplines illustrate how the purity of an item can be corrupted by adding even a small amount of another element” (p. 124).

  • Chemistry: H2O + CN = poison
  • Language: truth + lie = untruth
  • Math: solution + 1 = incorrect
  • Art: figure + nudity = pornography
  • Music: rhythm + imbalance = acid rock

However impressive this line up is on first glance, this presentation actually begs the question; it assumes what must be proven. Namely, it has not yet been shown that “acid rock” music style (whatever it is) is, in fact, evil. The illustrated argument rests on an analogy between different disciplines.

Accurate evaluation of music is only possible as we integrate it with the related disciplines of mathematics, science, history, and medicine. The laws of these disciplines act as an authoritative reference to confirm that the musical expression is either following or violating established principles….Just as there is a balance of power in the three branches of United States government, so the laws of related disciplines provide checks and balances for music (p. 123).

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Music in the Bible and the Contemporary Music Styles Debate (Part 1)

By Gregg Strawbridge. Posted by permission from the author.


As an analysis of music style, this paper offers a succinct theological synthesis of the Biblical information on music. The writer summarizes a mini-theology of music and addresses a current issue relevant to evangelical worship, ministry programs, missiology, and cultural impact: contemporary music styles. The paper argues that an exegetical and Biblical theology of music and a familiarity with the issues surrounding ethnomusicology are the foundation for any specific musical-genre critique. Moreover, some reflection on the larger issue of the relationship between Christ and culture are a necessary counterpart to this discussion. To accomplish this, the paper is divided into three sections: (1) a Biblical survey of music, (2) a dialogue with current critiques of contemporary music styles, and (3) directions and recommendations for Christian musicians.

“Why should the devil have all the good music?” - Martin Luther


A Brief Biblical Theology of Music

The Scriptures1 recognizes music as a means for praise (Acts 16:25; Rom 15:9 [originally sung]), a means of expressing joy (Jam 5:13), thanksgiving (Psa 92:1-3), sorrow for sin (Is. 16:10), a means of prayer (1Co 14:15; Psa 72:20), and a means of teaching and spiritual communication (Col 3:16; Eph 5:19).

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