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Is Pop Culture Bad?

Of course it’s bad. It’s deplorable, an oppressive bore, and the very Lazarus of culture for, like Lazarus, it “stinketh.”

Read more: First Principles – Is Pop Culture Bad?.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Cutlure, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and three children.

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Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns

33 Responses to Is Pop Culture Bad?

  1. Scott,

    In truth, I did not read the full post you linked to. But if I may, I would like to ask: to suggest outright that pop culture is bad and awful is also to suggest those who are “a part of it” are bad an awful, too, would we not agree? If I play an electric bass and my worship leader plays an electric guitar, does this count us as “pop culture” participants, and therefore are we awful and bad? Rapper JA RULE says that a certain group in NYC (which most of us know as a group that first became popular in Australia) led him to Christ! (and we would probably have to count that particular worship group that originated in Australia as as “pop culture participants” or “pop culture musicians”.) But in this case, therefore, was pop culture an element in the situation of JA RULE being led to Christ Jesus, our Lord? If the group who led him to Christ is not necessarily “pop culture”, then why not? And how so? If someone has somehow been labeled as a participant in “CCM”, does that make them bad, shallow, mal-intentioned, ungodly, or in any way less a Christian than others?

    One of my favorite Christian singers/composers over the years has been, one would think, put into the category of “CCM”. Is “CCM” evil, and therefore is anyone who might fall into the category of “CCM” evil?

    I am tempted to be more specific as to names and worship groups, but as you have said in the past, it is not beneficial to name names, reason being that anyone who likes / is drawn to / enjoys the music of / someone or some group, may be offended and may discontinue listening to the argument.

    (And if I may ask: Did the Apostle Paul refuse to name any names in his letters to the Romans? What about Apollo? Didn’t Paul name Apollo in his discussions with the Romans? I believe he did. Therefore, why are we so hesitant to name names, I wonder?)

    One central point I look at is this: must we all be scholars in order to worship in spirit and in truth? Why do I ask this? I ask this because it would seem to me, having written many posts — perhaps a few dozen posts — it would seem to me that if one is not schooled in conservative Christian thought, then one is plain misguided from the very start and cannot come to the truth.

    Have certain mega-churches not led hundreds, — nay, thousands upon thousands — of people to Christ Jesus, our Lord? Are those mega-churches conservative? I would say: probably not. Do we, then, need to do whatever it takes to have them cease whatever they are doing? If they want to appeal to many who have followed such-and-such secular TV show, secular film, or secular author, — then is it a sin to try to appeal to their enjoyment of that person, film, or TV show? Is it a sin? If not, then do we judge?

    According to the article I recently read, several secular — if not downright deep in immorality — personalities have been known to have attended the same fellowship that JA RULE has — then what then? Are we to judge that fellowship?

    JA RULE, mind you, has been led to Christ Jesus! That’s his testimony! And so if he uses pop culture elements to appeal to the unsaved youth in America, what then? Should we judge him for it?

    I appeal again: must we be scholars to worship in spirit and in truth? Must I be of the scholarly stature of a Martin Luther or a John Calvin?

    Meanwhile, mega-churches are seeing thousands upon thousands coming to the knowledge and love of our savior, Christ Jesus. What, then? Should we criticize and criticize because they play a clip of a popular film during a sermon? Should we criticize if they play a thumping-four-on-the-floor pop style or if they use a synthesizer keyboard and top-of-the-line drum machine?

    I think I am spent at this point. As always, I welcome comments.

    – Todd

  2. Hi, Todd. Just a couple thoughts. First, we are all sinners, so certainly it is true that people do bad things are are indeed bad. That seems to be a quite biblical perspective.

    But having said that, claiming a certain action is bad does not necessarily mean that the person doing it is intentionally sinning. There are certainly plenty of examples of otherwise good people who unintentionally do bad things.

    Finally, there are many times when things that are not the best or even bad result in good things, but this does not justify the actions.

  3. I have read the whole article.
    With tongue in cheek the author is saying that “Popular culture” is really a mass marketing ploy.
    In other words, every body who is anybody is doing this particular thing. Therefore you must get on the band wagon and do it too.
    This is what I consider the “bad” part of it.
    My mother used to say, “Just because Peggy jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge, does that mean you have to do it too?”
    The scriptures are very clear in telling us that we are God’s peculiar people set apart for Him.

  4. Thanks to the both of you, Scott and Rose, for your responses. I would like to ask whether pop culture is evil. I think Professor Whalen would say that pop culture is evil. Yet are churches apparently not utilizing pop culture to bring the salvation message of Christ to the lost?

    Scott, of course I agree with you on the first two paragraphs of your response to me here. But as to the third paragraph — “Finally, there are many times when things that are not the best or even bad result in good things, but this does not justify the actions” — I wonder whether pop culture cannot in many cases be utilized as an auxiliary device to help deliver the salvation message of Christ Jesus. Your statement may be true, but I don’t know if it’s supremely relevant above all other statements in all cases. Ja Rule credits Hillsong NYC for bringing him the salvation message of Christ Jesus. I’m not saying we should all listen to Hillsong, but I am suggesting we look at the testimony of Ja Rule and see what we find. And testimonies in the New Testament were of God — and testimonies were responsible for many others being saved according to Acts and other books of the New Testament.

  5. Scott, I want to comment on your statement: “Finally, there are many times when things that are not the best or even bad result in good things, but this does not justify the actions.” Regarding good things: is there no thing equal to that wondrous occurrence of a soul being saved? Regarding results, is there scriptural precedent for any result to somehow equal that of a soul being saved? That is the outcome to surpass all outcomes, is it not? And I ask: are not churches across the nation — nay, across the globe — using different elements or modes of pop culture as auxiliary elements to help bring the message of Christ to the lost? Are we to disallow and forsake any and every element of pop culture?

  6. Todd, sorry to chip in but I’d recommend reading up on pragmatism – the end does NOT justify the means in Christianity, so when you say that people came to the Lord through CCM this does NOT sanction CCM as a means to bring people to the Lord. Question: what does the Bible recommend for this purpose?
    My take on this is that we need to pursue Truth at all cost. Never mind what others do, praise God if the Gospel is preached (Lk 9:50) but let’s not forget that some build on straw, others wood, others gold (1.Cor 3:12) – there are different qualities of work, and we should strive for the best. It is even possible to preach ‘another Jesus’ (2.Cor 11:4), so if you read Scott’s recent post on ‘Meaning in Music’ and realize that you can attach the wrong emotional cues to the right words, you can see how maybe JA RULE did not find Christ so much because of Hillsong, but despite Hillsong (to name names, for once). Personally I find if you’re exposed to a steady diet of Hillsong day-in, day-out then you do indeed receive a false gospel that projects an easy-going, triumphalist Christianity that is a far cry from the daily struggles and realities we actually have to wrestle with. As such, it remains shallow and is not helpful – maybe a reason why many young people leave the church, having no real foundation. Just focusing on those who claim to have found God may obscure the full picture.

  7. Martin,

    With all due respect… And I don’t intend to be in any way petty; I rather intend to clarify… If an individual is associated with “CCM”, is that individual therefore evil? Is “CCM” — and every single one of its composite parts — evil? And if “the end does NOT justify the means in Christianity” — as you stated — then could it not follow that the means by which you purposed the end(s) of your post(s) could have been unjustified? And if not, why not?

  8. I can only speak for myself, so here’s my take on your questions:
    1) If an individual is associated with “CCM”, is that individual therefore evil?
    No. They may not have thought about music as deeply as they should but that does not make them evil.

    2) Is “CCM” — and every single one of its composite parts — evil?
    I also don’t think CCM is evil. And let’s not forget that this discussion is anyways framed wrongly if we use the term CCM. I don’t care when a song was written as long as it’s good art. Most of what is called CCM is bad art.

    3) Unjustified means?
    Maybe I get this q, maybe not. Let’s say, the means of communication I used (English language in writing and logical argument) need no justification – they are the only means we have to communicate as humans. Likewise, musical communication needs no justification. It is a God-given ability that is universal to mankind. So I can communicate in writing or with music without leaving the God-intended sphere of activity. Yet. when it comes to communicating the Gospel specifically, we have clear instructions in the Bible (1.Pet 1:23-25- we are saved by the word preached). Also, there are God-given rules as to how music communicates that we need to respect if we want to communicate properly.

    What I’m saying should be self-evident: if I reinstate the inquisition and force people to ‘convert or die’, obviously I will make many converts. Yet, these means cannot justify the end! In addition, things are complicated since I don’t know whether my ‘converts’ are actually real: they may have confessed Christ but their motives may have been wrong (actually, in this case, most likely). So the means are really important in this case.

  9. Martin:

    Have you watched the full video interview with JA RULE? Why are you so compelled to distrust his story of how he came to “accept God into his life” (his words)?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxwawipKUE8

    Is “CCM” evil?

    Why are you so compelled to deny that a person was influenced enough by a church to accept God into his life? Why are you so ready to deny that he had a valid life-saving experience? Why are you so ready to say, “Oh, it was in spite of ………. that a person came to be a believer” or “Oh, we need to investigate further……” Why do I get a sense from you that we can’t ever fully verify or perhaps can’t even fully investigate a person’s salvation until we have proven that so-called “pragmatism” was not present in the most miniscule, infinitesimal form? Why are you so ready to cry, “Pragmatism”?

    One more question: Can God use Hillsong to lead a person to the Lord? Yes, you acknowledge that God can use Hillsong to bring people to the Lord? Yes?

  10. Yes.

    Yet, I have more questions than answers on this topic. The question as to who is actually saved is a haunting one. JA RULE’s testimony is just one example. He say he ‘accepted’ God and goes stepwise, simply because he thought this church was more authentic and less artificial (my rewording of what I think he means) so he felt that THIS is something he would be ‘comfortable’ with. Are sinners really meant to be ‘comfortable’ when they come into a church?
    We can go on and question, when did he get saved? Has he been baptized yet? What will happen now that he is on a theological Hillsong diet?
    There are testimonies of people who went to church for years only to realize they had never been saved. Others claim they ‘accepted Jesus into their lives’ but later leave the church in droves. You tell me what that means.
    Is the ‘awesome’ (read, cool) God people are nowadays introduced to the same God of the Bible who we should serve acceptably with reverence and godly fear?
    I don’t have the answers to how to tackle this but I doubt that a shallow theology is helpful.

    I don’t consider CCM evil, yet if you only eat sugar, you will die of malnutrition after a while (and lose your teeth).

  11. “Are sinners really meant to be ‘comfortable’ when they come into a church?” Should unbelievers be given comfort? Maybe they should be, in one way or another. Maybe churches should be more “seeker friendly”, so-to-speak. If I were sporting PG-13 tattoos, so-to-speak, and if I had a nose ring, and I only had ragged jeans and a T-shirt, maybe I’d appreciate being with people dressed similarly. Otherwise, maybe I’d feel like the “odd man out”, maybe I’d feel “less accepted” to begin with.

  12. Martin,

    If I may: You said, “Are sinners really meant to be ‘comfortable’ when they come into a church?” To a certain extent — to a certain degree — perhaps yes!

    Suppose an unbeliever were to visit a church service and were to feel condemned, outcast, mistreated, judged, scorned, looked down upon — and not accepted ‘for who he is’ or ‘for who she is’ — what then?

    And if we define ‘pragmatism’ as ‘whatever works Scripturally for a person to be saved’, what then? Are we to be ‘anti-pragmatists’, if you’ll allow me to use the term?

    Was JA RULE sinning in any way? If No, then where’s the wrongdoing?

    And you say the newly saved are leaving the church in droves. Really? If so, how would you keep them in church? Can you guarantee that you can keep them in church?

  13. Good questions, Todd. I don’t pretend to be able to answer them authoritatively but let me at least try to give you my perspective:
    1. A sinner should indeed feel welcome at any church. We are all sinners albeit saints in Christ. So our attitudes should be accordingly. Yet, this is not the same as worship style. Ideally, 1.Cor 14:25 should lead a sinner to repentance, to acknowledge that God is indeed among us.
    2. Yes, I hold that we should be anti-pragmatists. We should not look for any easy, fashionable or popular way to make the Gospel less offensive, or more acceptable. Rather, we should work by principle and according to the example set in the Scriptures.
    3. I do not hold that JA RULE was sinning. People may also come to Christ if we use means that should not be used, but then they come to Christ despite that, not because of it. The wrongdoing is in his not informing himself as to how he can serve God best in his quest. We should not assume all we do is God-pleasing just because it produces apparent success now and again (1.Cor 3:12).
    4. I wish I knew how to keep the youth but I could only be sure if I tried it (talk to you in 20 years!). But I don’t want to ‘keep them in church’ as much as that I wish they had a firm foundation, and true conversion. This means teaching right doctrine and how to defend the faith (1.Pet 3:15). It also means teaching them right affections, which is where the music comes in again. Maybe worship that does not reflect God’s attributes is giving our youth a wrong picture and they then come crashing down when they are confronted later in life. We cannot overemphasize ‘gentle Jesus’, nor can we portray God as the judge who waits for you to make mistakes. So balance is needed, but much has been written about that question by those far wiser than I am.

  14. Martin,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Maybe I don’t quite understand exactly what “pragmatism” is, or what effects it brings, or why it’s supposedly so wrong. The definitions I’ve read basically are: “whatever works”. Perhaps I’m just not sure what that means.

    Yes, we should hold to Scripture. But I don’t know where Scripture specifically talks about how to reach the “millennial” generation(s).

    I’m going to go out on a limb here, and attempt an analogy to the ‘Fox News Channel’, owned by NewsCorp. I wonder if they haven’t figured out that providing physically attractive television Anchors and hard-hitting newscasters — whom the camera is focused on during television newscasts — brings viewers. Is NewsCorp somehow doing something bad, or wrong, or foolish? They’ve got Megyn Kelly, Martha McCallum, Monica Crowley, Catherine Herridge, Lis Wiehl, and others. Talking news ethics and broadcasting ethics, is it somehow wrong or foolish or tasteless or unethical to bring more attractive female anchors and reporters?

  15. It’s exactly the difference between commercial enterprises and the church that I find important. If you think it’s fine to use beautiful newscasters to attract viewers, would you also agree the church should use sexy pastors to attract people? Or maybe make sure only the most beautiful girls with revealing clothes are allowed onto the worship team? That should at least solve the problem of not attracting enough men to church?

    What did Paul mean when he said he didn’t come with lofty speech or enticing words (1.Cor 2:1-4)? Does this indicate he used marketing techniques or anything else to appeal to the masses, or did he preach what most considered “foolishness”?

    Pragmatism is indeed “what works”, but it leaves open the question as to what is achieved. If we are looking for numbers in the pews (and associated church income) then a lot of things “work”. If we are looking for discipleship, knowledge of God, and coming to spiritual maturity, not everything works – which is why so many young people leave the church. So ‘whatever works’ in the short term does not necessarily work in the long term, if you know what I mean. Some turns out to be gold, some stubble.

  16. Martin,

    You responded, ‘I hold that we should be anti-pragmatists. We should not look for any easy, fashionable or popular way to make the Gospel less offensive, or more acceptable. Rather, we should work by principle and according to the example set in the Scriptures.’

    I’m not so sure I understand exactly what pragmatism is.

    If “millennial” generation(s) of visitors (or, if you will, “seekers”) are drawn into churches where they perceive (to their admiration) that there is more energy and gusto and excitement, or where visitors perceive there are accommodations for more varied types of personalities, or where they perceive there is more of an “acceptance” of visitors wearing torn jeans, tattoos, and bare feet, are those churches necessarily doing anything wrong or unscriptural? Are those churches necessarily minimizing the Gospel message?

    I used to think that visible tattoos were, by nature, unscriptural and should be totally banned — because of my understanding of the Old Testament accounts of forbidding tattoos. But then I saw a video where a preacher cautioned that only in the most extremely specific and narrow and rarest of cases were that true. You had to belong to a certain group; Otherwise, tattoos are OK.

    Former actor Stephen Baldwin has commended new believers for their faith, acknowledging that they have visible tattoos yet commending them for their love of the Lord Jesus. It might not sit right with me (Todd), but is a visible tattoo necessarily wrong? Is coming to church with a visible tattoo necessarily sinful? You mention holding to the ways spoken of in Scripture — but tattoos only applied to a very specific, very narrow group of people.

  17. You noted, “Pragmatism is indeed what works, but it leaves open the question as to what is achieved.” OK. Then, assuming what is achieving includes effective discipleship, knowledge of God, productive teaching and learning, people equipped to lead, spiritual maturity, Godly people, Christlike servants, spiritually mature and righteous believers, faithful family members, effectively ministering to the sick and the blind and the poor and the elderly and the lonely and the abused and the alcoholics, — where’s the wrong in those things?

    If something’s working, and it’s truly helping others and has the data to prove it — yet it holds true to Scripture and holds true to the Word and is producing solid and faithful lives and families and effective discipleship — where’s the wrong?

  18. Pragmatism lies in exactly what you described: they are drawn to churches for reasons other than God’s Spirit bringing them (1.Cor 2:5;13). If they are there because they think tattoos are accepted then they are not there for the right reasons. They need to come because they are convicted by the Holy Spirit, and stay because they believe in what the Bible says.

    Again, I don’t know why you keep repeating the same argument, i.e. that some churches are more accepting or torn jeans etc. (varied personalities are fine, yet the Bible says we should be of one mind). YES – I hope any church, independently of how they worship, are accepting of any sinner that comes through the door, whatever they may look like. Yet, a Christian that comes to maturity is probably going to consider dressing appropriately for the occasion. Ripped jeans may be more appropriate for working in the yard than for coming to church, so they would not be a constant asset of a church assembly even if nobody gets kicked out for wearing them.

    I am not advocating that people who have tattoos (not so sure why you brought this up) get rid of them when they become Christians. Christians, however, should consult the Scriptures and consider the societal associations related to tattoos before getting one.

  19. On you last post, hasn’t this already be answered before? I can only repeat: God can work despite our mistakes – if perfection was required, nobody could ever get saved.

    We may agree that a church that is alive but makes lots of mistakes is better than one that is not and does everything right, but in the end, that is not even possible. If they did everything right, they surely would be alive!

    So again, seemingly or objectively good results do not mean we do not need to examine ourselves. Do one without neglecting the other. Our worship says who we are and what we believe: so if the worship music is lopsided it will misrepresent how we should feel about biblical truth. This will necessarily impact on our spiritual growth process. So music, since it teaches us to have certain affections, is an important part of the teaching ministry in church and deserves to be considered to the same degree as preaching.

  20. If there are objectively good results, then it seems to me that indeed we have, by necessity, examined ourselves. For how can true goodness come without at least examining ourselves properly. There seems to be a presupposition that something resulting in goodness means that one is neglecting something else.

  21. You mean, envy of pragmatism’s success?
    Not really.
    What I am saying is that you need to keep examining yourself EVEN IF you are successful (you’d normally do so if you don’t have success).
    If there are good results, maybe that indicates that we are doing something right – great!
    Yet, we must not say that we are fine in all areas because people attend church and we have a ministry to the poor and addicted.
    Got an effective ministry to the poor? Fantastic. You are reaching the young and they are learning? Wonderful. Now try and bring your music ministry to the same level!

  22. Martin,

    If you’ll allow me, my Fox News analogy was not a good one. At this point in time, I can’t demonstrate that Fox News results were/are objectively good. Do they get more viewers? Perhaps an overwhelming majority of viewers? Apparently so, according to Nielsen ratings. But more viewers doesn’t necessarily translate into better objective results. If I were to demonstrate that somehow an overwhelming number of unbelievers were somehow coming to Christ through Fox News, and that an enormous amount of believers somehow had their faith strengthened by broadcasts of Fox News, then that would be another thing. But I can’t demonstrate that. Thus, I’d like to retract the analogy.

    What I would like to say, is that if we are indeed producing objectively good results, then I don’t see the wrong.

    You cited 1 Corinthians 2:5-13. From Verse 11: “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Why can’t we take JA RULE’s testimony in good faith and acknowledge that the LORD knows JA RULE best, and then secondarily, JA RULE knows himself best.

  23. Your persistence is admirable.
    You are asking a philosophical question, and I think we can easily show that it is NOT unimportant how you achieve something. Stupid example: the prince’s task is to rescue the princess from the tower, which is guarded by 20 guards. Strategy 1 is to distract the guards, climb the tower with a backpack with two parachutes, enter her room and escape by jumping out of the window and gliding outside the caste’s premises at night, unseen and unheard. Plan 2 is to use toxic gas to kill all the guards, blow up the door and kill the guards inside and then escape with the princess, killing any extra guards trying to intervene on the way.
    Would you agree with me that Plan 1 would be preferable to Plan 2? Yet, both lead to the same result and would be of equal value if your premise was right (that is what is meant by pragmatism – the means don’t matter as long as the goal is achieved).

    So we conclude that it does matter how we do things. I referred to Paul above to show he was concerned about how he preached the gospel. Clearly, we are warned by Jesus that there are some people who hear the gospel and run with it but later reject it because of offense or because they don’t have a good foundation. Surely, the way we are led to Christ can have something to do with this, which would explain Paul’s carefulness about methods.
    So without denying JA RULE truly came to believe in Christ we still need to ask whether this was the best way, and where it now left him. Would he be any different if he had been converted in a different way where music did not play any role? Would he be more mature now? Would he have a surer foundation that would keep him safe in the future or is there a risk he built on sand and not on the rock?

    We cannot ultimately answer these questions now but we MUST raise them when thinking about our own methods to preach the gospel. One more thing needs to be mentioned, i.e. whatever means we use, it is the Spirit of God who convicts people – our methods are secondary. He can do so both with “Method 1” and with “Method 2” but if our methods have no good biblical basis He may do it DESPITE our methods, not in unison with them. I doubt this is what we should aim for.

  24. Hope you don’t mind someone else joining the party! Martin, using your analogy, I think Todd had something else in mind. Let’s throw in a plan #3. This plan is to distract the guards, get up to the room, disguise the princess and yourself as guards and walk out the front gate. You rejected plan #1 because your preference is to not have to jump since you are afraid of heights. There is nothing wrong with either plan but you chose the one you preferred. If I’m not afraid of heights, does it really matter which plan I choose? In fact, I jump all the time so the 1st one would actually be less risky for me.

  25. Good analogy….it is still running through my head. Let’s make it a little more biblical because there is another party involved….the princess. I go to the tower and tell her we are going to jump. She says she is afraid of heights and isn’t sure she can do it. However, she says that she will jump if it is better for me. I then tell her that I want to consider what is best for her and will go along with disguising ourselves and going out the front gate. There is nothing wrong with either plan and now we have a reverse battle, trying to do what helps the other the most.

    What we typically see is the princess and her knight in shining armor arguing that their way is the best and they end up spending the rest of their days in captivity in the tower while throwing things at each other!

  26. Thank you Rick – I enjoyed your broadening of the story :-)
    Two thoughts:
    a) You are correct that there are more options than the two I outlined, and determining which one is morally preferable may not always be obvious. This does not, however, moot my point. Which was, of course, that not all ways of achieving a goal are created equal, so pragmatism is (and remains) wrong.
    b) Now I must spin the story a little further: the king not only gave the prince the task to free the princess by whatever means, but actually specified the means he should use (let’s say Plan 1). Using any other plan, even if it likewise does not lead to losses among the guards, would be disobedience and may lead to other negative consequences, including unexpected obstacles, the death of the princess, etc. – but at the least, it would mean the king would be disappointed at the prince’s not following the exact instructions. Even that is a great loss by itself. (and mind you, God sometimes gave instructions that DID entail the loss of life – but He had reasons, and avoiding such clear instructions had negative consequences – think of Saul, for example.)

    The way I understand this dilemma in biblical terms is that we want to achieve a certain goal (in this case, conversions) but unless we do follow the instructions as to how to achieve them, our efforts may misfire = we are building upon sand as mentioned above. Only if we do it the one way that is prescribed can we hope to achieve sound conversions, and results that will stand the test of time.
    This leads into a bigger discussion as to what conversion really is but I merely want to highlight that even if there is a genuine turning to God involved in each case, we may still miss out on what follows after that, i.e. consolidation, maturity, and orthodoxy when we use the wrong methods.

  27. Martin, I certainly agree that not all ways of achieving a goal are created equal. No argument there. But if there are two ways that neither violate Scripture and are equally good, does it matter which method is used?

    Concerning the King’s instructions, what the King prescribes is what his subjects must do. That is what is best for all. Bringing it back to the subject at hand, you must then show that the King prescribed hymns and condemns what you would call contemporary Christian music.

    You go back to achieving conversions through music which Scripture doesn’t define as a purpose of music. It can certainly have some influence in this manner, but see it as a side issue. That being said, you state “Only if we do it the one way that is prescribed can we hope to achieve sound conversions, and results that will stand the test of time.” You and Todd were talking about music that helped influence some to come to Christ. When you say “do it the one way,” are you saying one way of conversion (I hope so) or are you saying one style of music that is prescribed by God. Not sure I’m following what you are trying to get at completely.

    Chris, with all due respect, you are terribly cynical and seem to enjoy being critical rather than having a conversation. This is exactly what I was referring to in the analogy above where the princess and her rescuer stay in the castle arguing and throwing things at each other. It doesn’t help.

  28. As I contemplate the things discussed here, as well as the original post, I’m coming around to a more conservative view, so-to-speak.

    First, as I view JA RULE’s testimony, at least as broadcast via this Youtube video>, nowhere does he mention Christ Jesus. He says (I’m quoting): “I see a bar… a disco ball… It was a different — a real eclectic group” inside the Hillsong church in or near Brooklyn, NY. I don’t know whether he’s avoiding Christ’s name intentionally. I don’t know whether he’s intentionally avoiding words specifically referring to Christ’s atoning work on the cross and in Christ’s resurrection. But he isn’t mentioning them. He seems to be highlighting the way the pastor dressed — T-shirt, jeans, and (from what it seems) red shoes. In other words, clothes that perhaps seemed more real or genuine to JA RULE at the time.

    Rick, you stated: “But if there are two ways that neither violate Scripture and are equally good, does it matter which method is used?”

    If we ask that question, then we must define “equally good”.

    Now, lest I jump the gun and imply unwarranted assumptions or conclusions, I do want to point out what one senior pastor said to me as I talked to him in person more than a decade ago.

    I approached the senior pastor at a large, well-known church. I think everyone here would surely recognize his name immediately. We only spoke briefly, but I had been attending the church and I told the senior pastor that someone with whom I’d been conferring had been raising questions about my involving myself in activities at the church.

    The pastor replied to me simply, “Has (that person) been here?” (and the pastor emphasized the word “been“.

    And I think that I replied to the pastor, “I don’t think so.”

    That’s all I remember. I went home and I proceeded to confer with the person I’d mentioned, and I told him: “[The senior pastor] inquired as to whether you’d actually *been* there.” And the person, to my recollection, said, “No, but that matters not. To question the church in question, it is not imperative that I actually go there. Can you prove to me that it’s imperative that I actually go there? And where do the rules of logic dictate that I should visit there before attempting any sort of criticism?” And I could not prove it.

    However, at this point in time, I ask the following question: “Is it not a valid or worthwhile defense, — that is, to ask whether the person has actually been to that church and seen firsthand, for himself or herself, the Christ-centered activities, and the love for Christ, and the good judgment — of the members of that church?” I think it is a worthwhile and valid defense, is it not?

  29. Todd, to provide some thoughts on your last point, it is certainly better to have first hand experience before making a judgment. Yet, how much experience do you need? Is attending once enough? How would you know the character and maturity of those attending a megachurch if you’re only there once? Do you then have to attend for a longer time, maybe be a part of small groups etc. before you know? And what about the members = many will not have been converted there but have come from other churches, so whose fruit is their maturity (or lack thereof)?

    So it seems unreasonable to require all that. I hold it’s legitimate for anyone to say, “I heard Pastor X does Y in his church but we don’t because of Z, i.e. I believe Pastor X is mistaken in doing Y.” Pastor X may or may not be genuine in his motivations but we can certainly say where we disagree with what are his known practices.

    Of course, it it much more difficult to judge the fruit (Lk 6:44). And again, there can be a lot of positive aspects in a church whereas some aspects really need to be fixed. Think of the Corinthians – not lacking in any gift but still in much need for correction.

    (Maybe someone else would like to chip in as well.)

    Rick, thanks again for your thought-provoking comments. I purposely steered away from the possibility of two equally valid methods in my previous comments, as you surely noticed.

    In general, I guess there are many ways someone can receive salvation, all including the working of the Holy Spirit through whatever circumstances they were in at the time. All would involve an understanding of our position before God as sinners, Christ’s effective sacrifice, baptism, and a change in attitudes and fruit in both changed character and good works.

    You do well in asking for a definition of the original problem. I agree with you that music should be secondary in conversion. My understanding was, however, that JA RULE made it central. If the “right” music (and dress, bars, etc.) is a condition for someone to come to Christ then it becomes central to conversion. It is that case I was arguing against, i.e. if music should play no role in conversion then we must ask whether conversions are sound (what a pun!) if music is given such a central role. Maybe Todd can let us both know whether I was up the wrong creek without a paddle in formulating the problem as such…

    As to the music style, I would then mainly object that someone argue that one or the other style is better for conversion, since music should not even play a role in that. Now we all know that God did not prescribe hymns, which didn’t even exist 2000 years ago (at least not what we call hymns today). I understand the point of this entire blog as trying to demonstrate that there are biblical principles and extra-biblical information that can inform us as to what God would ‘like’ or prefer in terms of worship music. We can look at how the psalms were written and can then easily see that many aspects included there (despair, lament, even anger etc.) are not expressed in CCM. Many such feelings cannot even be expressed through a soft rock medium, so it necessarily falls short at some point. Scott is doing a good job at explaining that music informs our affections regarding truth about God, and so I see this as a discussion about what is better, rather than what exactly God decreed in terms of music.

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