BOOK REVIEW: Books examining Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)
by Michael J. Penfold
“Christian rock”, “Christian rap” and all other forms of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) have long since swept away all the early objections that were raised against it by conservative Christians in the 1960’s and 70’s. Hardly anyone talks about ‘worldly music’ anymore. The once radical – and still totally erroneous – idea that “all music is neutral” has now become a universally accepted maxim in all branches of Christendom. From Larry Norman to Hillsong United, the transformation has been remarkable and complete.
Well, almost. There are still a few concerned Christian souls who have not bowed the knee to the highly addictive beat of CCM. The problem is, very few, even from among those who who rightly object to it, are able to elucidate a sound basis for their objections. The CCM fan’s “What’s your problem?” is met with a lame “Well, I just don’t like it”, or “It doesn’t feel right”.
Let it not be supposed, however, that this indicates there aren’t solid grounds for rejecting all forms of CCM. There are; and here are 5 books that will provide you with sound scriptural reasons why CCM should be shunned and avoided by Bible believing Christians.
Professional musician, Kimberly Smith, examines the effects of music and puts to rest the myth that music is neutral. Her 150 page book, with its accompanying CD, explains the problem with rock from a musical viewpoint. This is information you will never hear from any pulpit. Why? Because most preachers, not being musicians, aren’t aware of the difference between moral and immoral music techniques, nor do they know the underlying meanings of certain types of rhythms. And, to be blunt, since most of them and most of their audiences are already addicted to CCM’s beat, facing up to this kind of material would be just too controversial and involve too costly a sacrifice. Smith argues, rightly, that there is no such thing as Christian music or secular music. True, lyrics can be Christian or secular, but not music. However, music can definitely be ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Like it nor not, certain music styles, singing styles and performance styles are worldly, sensuous and sometimes devilish. From Burlesque dance music to music employing the swing beat, excessive syncopation, hip hop, rap, rock and roll and jazz, these are all forms of music that make a direct and unwholesome appeal to the flesh.
Here is a summary of Smith’s chapters. Chapter 1, Music and Morals, demonstrates how music is used successfully by the film industry to create moods and convey morality. This establishes the fact that music is a powerful entity and should not be considered amoral by Christians. Chapter 2, Nature: A Musical Creation?, explores the possibility theorised by early mathematicians and astronomers, as well as some 20th century scientists, that all of creation is designed to fit into the musical law of harmonics. Chapter 3, How Music Affects the Mind, draws from scientific research and explains how music affects the mind in both positive and negative ways. Chapter 4, How Music Affects Behaviour and Emotions, supplies more scientific research showing how our emotions and behaviour can be controlled by music. Chapter 5, Christian Lyrics Cannot Change Immoral Music, documents that even secular songwriters admit that lyrics don’t always matter. Just the music, on its own, can convey a message. Thus, Christian lyrics should not be paired with immoral music – Christian lyrics do not sanitise rock music. Chapter 6, The Power of Rhythm, affirms from secular sources that certain rhythms can cause entrainment, trance, altered mind states, and demonic possession. Chapter 7, Musical Intent and Manipulation, demonstrates how specific rock music techniques are purposely used to manipulate listeners, and if Christians imitate those same techniques, the intent of the manipulation remains, no matter what the lyrics say. Chapter 8, Consequences of Using Immoral Music, features testimonies and discussion about how CCM has caused moral failings in many people. Chapter 9, The Decline of Music Through the Ages, gives an outline which traces music’s history. Chapter 10, How to Discern Moral and Immoral Music, lists and discusses musical techniques and their moral and immoral connotations. Chapter 11, Religion Externalized, asks if we are we being influenced, musically, by the world’s philosophies and ideas. Smith also includes a mini-reference guide to different musical styles and their origins, as well as a listening CD with brief examples of moral and immoral musical techniques. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to know why rock, rap, jazz and other such music styles, are not suitable accompaniments to Christian hymns and songs. 157 pages. ISBN: 9781579217655
For many churches today, music has become one of the most important factors in both their mode of worship and their attempt to reach unbelievers with the gospel. However, writing from his own personal experience as a former ‘worship leader’, Dan Lucarini questions the use of contemporary music in the worship of God.
He explains why so many churches have been lured into using ever more worldly means to ‘reach the lost’. Lucarini has seen first hand how an emphasis on music and performance has turned the focus in worship away from the Lord towards ourselves. Some chapter titles in this book are: “My story”, “What is the true heart of worship?”, “Isn’t this just a matter of personal preference and taste?”, “Isn’t music amoral?”, “But God made music – isn’t all music inherently good?”, Doesn’t the Bible teach we can use all things to reach people?”, “Didn’t Martin Luther and the Wesleys use contemporary music in the church?”, and “Isn’t CCM easier to sing than traditional hymns?” Lucarini knows what he is talking about. He has been there. And he doesn’t pull his punches. He concludes at the end of the book, “I have shown from my experience that CCM’s acceptance into the church came into being out of our own self-indulgence and lusts, that it has been justified by deceptive arguments, and that it is fuelled by our desire for music that feeds our sinful nature. We have been deceived into believing that we can use any style of music in our worship service and that God accepts it. This is false! Our acceptance of this lie has harmed an entire generation of older Christians, has split churches, and is encouraging immorality, self-indulgence and divisive attitudes in the church.” This is a unique book and a must read. 141 pages. ISBN: 9780852345177
John Blanchard has consistently warned against the use of the world’s fleshly music in the worship of God. His first book Pop Goes the Gospel, was a best seller back in the 1970’s.
Does God endorse music of every kind? Can we ‘cut and paste’ secular rock music and ‘Christianize’ it in the process? Should the Christian church unite in bringing rock music to the altar or in sending it to the bonfire? John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini examine this controversial subject using both recent evidence and time tested truth.
The authors point out that “…there can be no serious doubt that the roots of rock do run back into the West African slave culture of the 15th century, which was eventually carried to the West Indies and on to the Southern part of what we now know as the USA. Rock and roll comes from voodoo roots and traditions.” With this secular musicians agree. Says Little Richard, “My true belief about Rock ‘n’ Roll is this: I believe this kind of music is demonic…A lot of the beats in music today are taken from voodoo, from the voodoo drums. If you study music in rhythms, like I have, you’ll see that is true. I believe that kind of music is driving people from Christ. It is contagious.”
This book is packed with information that Christians who see nothing wrong with rock music need to read and understand. The evidence from history, music theory and, of course, from Scripture, is presented in such a way as to convincingly and powerfully make the case for answering the question “Can We Rock The Gospel?” with a firm “No”. 267 pages. ISBN 9780852346280
Dr. Peter Masters writes with a burden to address the new trends in worship that have shaken traditional concepts and attitudes, and giving rise to much heart-searching and a flurry of books. Is it all just a matter of generation and taste? Are the traditions of today only the innovations of yesterday? This lively and clearly reasoned book focuses on three crucial questions, namely: Should worship be spiritual or aesthetic?; Should worship be rational or ecstatic?; and, Should worship be sacred or profane? Dr. Masters includes a fascinating review of how believers worshipped in Bible times, including the Old Testament. He discovers rules for the use of instruments and conclusively proves that the testimony of Scripture, in both Old and New Testaments, is clearly against the use of rock music in the worship of God. This is a uniquely helpful book in light of current trends. He includes a chapter on the issue of “raising hands” as well as another chapter setting out seven standards by which to judge “a worthy hymn”. He discusses the issue of “exclusive Psalmody” and comes down in favour of singing other hymns, in additional to the inspired Psalms of Scripture. As a Reformed Baptist minister, in Ch 7 he will outline an “order of service” that reflects his background, but this should be put off any reader from profiting greatly by studying the many helpful chapters in this book. 148 pages 9781870855334
This remarkable ‘dictionary’ contains biographical details of 84 Christian contemporary worship songwriters, performers and groups, including information about their spiritual views and links. The author, David Cloud, sets out to show how nearly all of them have woefully deficient ideas about salvation and a totally ecumenical goal. The associations and activities of many of the performers go far beyond what is generally known, and their unspirituality is clearly revealed. The author has conducted considerable research to show that the objective of CCM is to bridge the church and the world. He examins the folowing: 7eventh Time Down – Abandon – Amerson, Steve – Arends, Carolyn – Assad, Audrey – Baloche, Paul – The Beatles – Bickle, Mike – Bono – Borden, Tammy – Brown, Brenton – Brown, Scott Wesley – Brown, Tim – Building 429 – Caedmon’s Call – Maranatha Music – Card, Michael – Carman – Carouthers, Mark – Casting Crowns – Chapman, Steven Curtis – Christ For The Nations – Christensen, Chris – Cockburn, Bruce – Cooley, Lindell – Crowder, David – Davis, Geron – dc Talk – DecemberRadio – Delirious – Doerksen, Brian – Dorsey, Thomas – Downhere – Driscoll, Phil – English, Michael – Fischer, John – Forerunner Music – Founds, Rick – Francisco, Don – Franklin, Kirk – Gaither, Bill – Gaines, Billy and Sarah – Gateway Worship – Gay, Robert – Getty, Keith and Kristyn – Goodman, Vestal – Grant, Amy – Green, Steve – Gungor, Michael – Hayford, Jack – Hemphill, Joel – Hillsong – Houghton, Israel – Hughes, Tim – Integrity Music – International House of Prayer (IHOP) – Jars of Clay – Jesus Culture – Keaggy, Phil – Kendrick, Graham – Kilpatrick, Bob – Latter Rain – Ledner, Michael – LeFevre, Mylon – Lowry, Mark – Maher, Matt – Mandisa – Martel, Marc – MercyMe – Miller, Thomas – Moen, Don – Muchow, Rick – Mullins, Rich – Newsboys – Newsong – Nystrom, Marty – Paris, Twila – Patty, Sandi – Phillips, Craig and Dean – P.O.D. – Prosch, Kevin – Redman, Matt – Rend Collective – Ruis, David – Saddleback Church – Sampson, Marty – Sanctus Real – Scholtes, Peter – Michael W. Smith – St. James, Rebecca – Stevens, Marsha – Stringer, Rita – Stockstill, Jonathan – Stonehill, Randy – Switchfoot – Talbot, John Michael – Third Day – TobyMac – Tomlin, Chris – Townend, Stuart – Troccoli, Kathy – U2 – Underoath – Velasquez, Jaci – Vineyard Churches – Vogels, Jo – Walker, Tommy – Warren, Rick – Webber, Robert – Wimber, John, and the Vineyard – Wyse, Eric – Zschech, Darlene, and Hillsong. 542 pages. This book can be read online here.
(For a thorough explanation of why the Contemporary Christian Music rock beat is neither neutral nor suitable for use in the worship of God see The Sound of Contemporary Christian Music, Music for Good or Evil, a video presentation by author David Cloud).
Michael J. Penfold (firstname.lastname@example.org)