Music and Lyrics – Spirit and Truth

A number of weeks ago while I was listening to a local Christian music station (I was driving my parents truck so I didn’t have my cd collection) I heard a song by Jody Mcbrayer called, “To Ever Live Without Me.” The concluding two lines of the chorus are as follows:

‘Cause you would rather die

than to ever live without me!

I was blown away! How can music this self-centered, self-glorifying, and theologically inept be promoted by a Christian radio station founded by the most famous evangelical preacher of the 20th century?

It’s really an amazing thing. Christian radio has immense potential to be both a Christ-exalting usher into heartfelt worship on our commute to work, and a powerful teaching tool for Christians during our day-to-day lives. Just think about it—the average church-attending Christian, who listens to Christian radio, probably spends a fraction as much time under biblical preaching as he does listening to Christian music each week! According to the Barna Group, over one-fourth of church-going adults listen to Christian radio on a daily basis and 86% of Evangelicals listen to it monthly. Furthermore, nearly half of all Americans (Christian or not) tune to Christian radio at least once per month (Barna, “More People Use Christian Media Than Attend Church” March 14, 2005)!   Here’s the problem: instead of filling Christian music with the spiritual food that we need, we get music that is almost entirely theologically and doctrinally bankrupt. Apart from the songs that simply lack spiritual meaning (e.g. “The Days of Elijah”—what does that song even mean? These are, in no way whatsoever, the days of Elijah. I could go on…), we get songs like the one quoted above that are so far off that anyone with an elementary understanding of the Bible should be able to discern.

It is staggering to see that our artists—people who are often idolized in our Christian communities as being spiritual leaders—often lack even a rudimentary knowledge of Scripture. A case in point is Christian artist Jennifer Knapp. In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Knapp defended her newly-revealed lesbianism by saying this:

“I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about” (Christianity Today, Jennifer Knapp Comes Out)

Within one sentence Knapp has successfully shown her utter ignorance of basic biblical truth. I’m trying not to be rude, but anyone who has spent any time as a follower of Christ should be able to understand the distinction between the Mosaic law and New Testament revelation.

It is tremendously clear that the Church is not under the Mosaic law (Romans 7:6, Col 2:16-17, etc). One cannot place commands such as not eating shellfish (Lev 11:12) and not wearing clothes of mixed fabrics (Lev 19:19) on the same shelf as Paul’s pronouncement of homosexuality as “dishonorable” in Romans 1:25-28 and elsewhere, or even the pre-law, heterosexual pattern for marriage in Genesis.

“Feel-good” seems to be the defining characteristic of our music—the occasional reference to the spiritual, or the Christian cliches conveniently placed in the chorus are the only thing that can distinguish it as ‘Christian.’ Though there is nothing wrong with music which arouses emotion (this is what music does!), there is a problem when that is all that it does. Jesus said that our worship was supposed to be in spirit, and in truth. Its the truth that much ccm is lacking in. To be casual rather than precise with the meaning of Christ’s Work and words is in no way honoring to Him.

I don’t want this post to be nothing more than a disheartened rant, but I want it to implore us to test the actual theological content of music against the teachings of the Bible. Just because something is “positive and encouraging” doesn’t mean that it is ‘truth’ (John 4:23). In actuality, music that is biblically-inaccurate will be a negative influence on our spiritual lives.

Finding fault with contemporary Christian music as a whole is far from my goal in writing this post, in fact, the majority of the music I listen to could be classified as contemporary Christian. Simply, I feel that we have become apathetic about the theological content of Christian music. Maybe we have just grown overly trusting with Christian radio and artists. The question is not, “does our music teach theology?” but rather, “what is the theology that our music is teaching?”.

I Thessalonians 5:21-22 says,

“But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (ESV).

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2 thoughts on “Music and Lyrics – Spirit and Truth

  1. That’s why I listen to jazz- no agenda except to revel in the creativity given to us as image-bearers of the Creator.

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