I love music. I listen to it all the time. I require my music to meet certain standards, though. I believe these standards are very biblical. Basically, is it pure, wholesome, noble, admirable… or is it not? Which leads me to a very controversial topic I would like to discuss today: contemporary Christian music. (I hear the Traditionals gasp.) I’ll be writing my own views on this issue and have thought them through very carefully. However, I would love to hear someone else’s ideas. One of the ways that we become wise is by listening to others’ arguments. So, let’s hear them! Politely and with love, though, please.
The church that I attend has the mindset that all contemporary Christian music (CCM) is evil. There is some CCM that isn’t edifying, true, but I disagree with their blanket statement and stance. Anyway, I had it in my head for a long time that it was just their old fashioned ways, that they simply weren’t open to any music besides hymns. But then I started to wonder, what is their reason for so proactively speaking against CCM? I never heard them give any proof or scripture to back up their teaching. Therefore, it made me question the whole idea that CCM is wrong.
There was a time that I kind of believed them, that CCM was evil. I only believed them because I was at a point where I was believing everything I heard without analyzing it. I didn’t consider myself gullible; after all, I’ve been raised to look at everything analytically, to process what one calls “truth” and pick it apart, to separate truth from fallacies. But I wasn’t putting this into practice; I merely accepted what our pastor stated as truth. Therefore, I thought that hymns were the only way to go.
That was for a season. I eventually decided it wasn’t worth giving up all I had known to listen to these hymns only. Since I wasn’t truly convicted, I didn’t act on what I had thought I believed as truth. So I listened to CCM again. It didn’t seem in any way bad to me. If it was by a Christian artist, it had to be a “Christian” song by my reasoning. That made sense. But then, one day, there was a special speaker at our church revival, and he gave a message that made me question all I had thought to be true on the topic. After hearing him speak, all of us went home convicted in one way or another. My brother and I felt convicted of the music we listened to. I now believed that what I listened to was wrong, and I was determined to weed out what didn’t honor God.
But I still didn’t have clear, set beliefs for what I thought was right and wrong. Again, I simply followed what I had heard someone else proclaim as truth. So, my conviction/repentance didn’t last long. I quickly sank back into listening to the same old music. The songs I listened to were never actually bad in themselves; they were just really fluff, not edifying at all, but not blaring out “evil” messages, either. I always had in the back of my head a slightly guilty feeling, though I didn’t act on it.
So eventually, I started hearing more about how this CCM stuff was bad, evil, wicked. I sort of blew it off. There was nothing wrong with the CCM I listened to, I thought. I was hearing arguments and debates on why it was evil, and I thought the reasons that these stubborn people were giving was all ridiculous. They had no legitimate reasons for why CCM was wrong. It all sounded foolish, like they were trying to prove why they were right, instead of why the belief in itself was right.
So I started doubting, starting to question my own beliefs. Why did I think that CCM was good? Was it really? What did I believe about the music I was listening to?
I eventually came to a decision, and acted on that. This is how I determine what songs I should listen to:
The song should be God – honoring, not sound like the world in any way, and not try to draw attention to the artist; rather, to God.
I drew this from the verse: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Actually, I drew most of my convictions from this verse. Don’t conform your mind to the world; you will grow to reject the truth. I know this first – hand. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can know what God’s will is for you. Don’t choose styles of music that sound just like the latest Taylor Swift song, done with “Christian” lyrics. How are you separating yourself from the world when you take worldly tunes, beats, and rhythms and set Christian lyrics to them so you can enjoy the pleasures of the world under a Christian label? It doesn’t edify you at all as a believer, and you’re not standing out from the world.
The lyrics should be God – honoring. This one isn’t as hard to draw a line for as it may seem. Would you feel comfortable if Christ had an earbud in, listening to it with you? Do you think He would be pleased? Would He listen to it? Does it praise him, glorify Him, speak of Him at all? I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true. I know of many, many songs that are just fluff; they literally have no point. It’s like a bunch of random words flung together to a really catchy beat. I don’t think those would honor God in the least. To me, those qualify as dishonoring God; because there’s no neutral between dishonoring and honoring.
Also, the artists have two ways they can present their music. They can do it with exaggerated voices, showy movements, gaudy apparel, or fashionable modern poses, words, or other actions. This simply cannot please God. What we do will reflect what condition our hearts are in; if we are filled with self and pride, it will flow from our actions. If we are filled with Christ, everything we do will have the love of Christ emitting from it. Or, they can present it in a humble fashion, directed toward the Lord and away from themselves. These are key things I look for when listening to music.
I want to present my answers to some common questions concerning CCM:
Is CCM evil?
Most legalistic, traditional churches will tell you yes. I’m not here to dispute that. There are songs, as mentioned before, that I disapprove of. However, I am not of the mindset that CCM overall is evil. I don’t think we’re limited to hymns only. I think it depends on the song. As I’ve said, if it’s a Taylor Swift – style song that simply has “Christian” lyrics, I don’t think it’s God – honoring. On the other hand, if it would honor the Lord and help me to praise Him, I think it’s perfectly acceptable. It depends on your personal conviction. I don’t know where that invisible line is drawn. I haven’t met anyone who claims to know the answer. This is kind of a dangerous line to walk; but I can’t control your relationship with God. Only you know the depths of how your relationship with God is growing or diminishing. You have to go by truths, and, when it’s controversial, your convictions on how the truth is proclaimed.
But anyway, the kind of churches that oppose this style of music will tell you that it’s because it’s “worldly”. I agree, to a large extent. Most of the CCM I hear on the radio today absolutely imitates the world. However, much of their additional reasonings aren’t legitimate to me. I heard one man protest that you must first know if the artist is truly saved by knowing their testimony to deem their music appropriate for listening. I disagree. I don’t think you need to pore over every artist’s life story to approve of the songs. But then, that’s my conviction. I’m not here to tell you what to believe. I’m just stating what I believe and feel is right.
Why do some think CCM is evil?
I briefly touched on that in the paragraph above, but I want to focus on it solely. Some think that it imitates the world too much. Others think it encourages your interests in the style of music and leads you down worldly paths into enjoying that same style of music, but in the world. I even heard one man say that people listen to CCM because they’re trying to revamp the emotional love for Christ they lost. I can’t disagree with all of this. It’s true, sometimes certain CCM does lead you to enjoy the same kind of music of the world, and some CCM does imitate the world. A lot of it does. However, I can’t agree with it completely. I know of some artists who do a very good job of honoring the Lord with their music and voice.
Where do you draw the line between “worldly” and “clean”?
I’m not afraid to say it; I don’t know. For me, it depends on personal conviction, unless someone shows me differently and I agree that it matches up to the Scriptures. Set your standards for acceptable songs. Be reasonable. Don’t bend the rules to satisfy your fleshly desires; don’t cheat God. Then, see what songs you listen to meet that criteria.
What about drums and guitars? Are they sinful?
I personally think it’s a matter of presentation. Drums and guitars really do have the capability to provide a worldly effect to a song. They’re instruments: as with all instruments, you can either use them to glorify God, or dishonor Him. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to call them sinful. There’s nothing about the instruments themselves: it’s the way you use them that creates the effect. However, for a church I would say no. It does create that “rock – concert” feel, and though there’s nothing wrong with the instrument, it invites in things you wouldn’t desire to have in your church.
What if the song has an amazing message, but worldly beat?
It depends if your standards let you bend far enough to wade through the stuff you disagree with to get to the message. Some songs to me just aren’t worth it, and others are. Personal conviction.
Is dancing sinful?
Okay, so maybe this one’s not exactly CCM, but it’s another legalist church argument that’s in relation to music. Dancing can be a way to express joy. David in the Bible danced for joy. But these days, it’s become a source of entertainment; one that can quickly go beyond appropriate. This is the argument for the legalistic church. Dancing is sinful because of what it leads to. Okay, so in the sense they’re talking about, I agree. What dancing can lead to isn’t exactly pure, and I think that the kind of dancing they’re referring to can have a bad effect on some. However, I don’t think dancing’s bad. I don’t see how some forms of dance could be considered evil.
Am I being too picky? Too analytical? Maybe. But I don’t think that common arguments are something to just stand by and watch go on all around you. Take a stand, take a side. Discern what you believe, and ground yourself in faith. That way you may know how to take your stand against the devil’s schemes.