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Larry Norman’s Goal and Reflections

Larry Norman is often credited as having been influential in sparking the Contemporary Christian Music Movement, with his famous question, “Why does the devil have all the good music?”

Ed Stezer just posted an email exchange that he had with Norman in 2004 that’s pretty enlightening for a couple reasons.

First, the email clearly identifies Normal’s goal with what he did. Norman says in the email:

I never thought of myself as a rebel. I was operating as a satirical surgeon; trying to remove an ugly cancer from the church: The dogma which proclaimed that dance, modern music and the theater cannot be used by God because it is wholly profane.

Because I believed that God created all things in life, including the arts, then that meant that all things BELONGED to God. Christians had an obligation to reclaim the arts for the church. They are not the possession, nor the invention, of the secular realm.

Second, the email demonstrates Norman’s concerns with where he revolutions in Christian music eventually went:

But in aiming to set the arts free from a scriptural doctrine, I’ve been very disappointed to see the direction which this liberty has taken people. I don’t see a balance in the exposition of most of the CCM artists’ music, unless it is a bank balance.

And while there is nothing wrong with the artforms themselves, I can only agree in silence many times when Christians accuse the CCM industry of being ungodly in its presentation. It makes me sick to see the tattoos and facial piercings and hair colors. It reminds me of what Babylonian worshippers may have looked like. In our times, some tribes in Africa still stick bones and plates in their nose and lips and New Guinea wildlings remind me of the Cornerstone Festival on a hot day. This is not what Christ died on the cross for.

This is not an older but wiser man rising up in me. I felt this precision was required when I first launched my assault against both the proscriptive church and the sybaritic pop culture. There has to be a balance in living a spiritual life in the material world. And only God can show each person how to live. We must die daily unto self and live unto God.

The praise and worship music industry has become just as hedonistic in its excesses. Instead of seeking God’s face, which would tell us to feed the poor and actively help our neighbor, we have petitioned His hands. Heal me. Touch my soul. Bless me. Benefit me. We forget to do His will, and instead ask Him to do ours.

The popularity of the Prayer of Jabez is enthusiastically misinterpreted inside our greedy Western religious culture. And our praise and worship music are very often about us and more than about Him. And we are continually making promising. I will worship thee, I will follow, I will lift up my hands.

I will, I will, I will. It seems much more sincere and effective to simply do, than to promise that you will, and then not do. If it is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and if week after week the poor go hungry and die in other countries when Christian organizations like Compassion are already in place to feed, clothe and educate more young people but for want of wider Christian support … do we actually follow God by simply attending a church and vowing that we will continue in this hypnotic worship which never penetrates the veil and from which we cannot seem to waken?

Source: A Fascinating Lost Email from Larry Norman on Music and Mi… | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

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 Culture, 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 four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

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