imageQuestion: “What music is or isn’t acceptable and why it is the case?”

Bill’s perspectives on music are never far from the discussion, often cited as the first thing that those that oppose him rejected.  He is known for his condemnation of all rock music, Christian or otherwise, counting it as one of the gravest challenges to the modern church.   With respect to precisely what is “in” or “out”, even among rank and file ATI families there is not unanimity; there are differences of perspectives among our own moderator group.

The following is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the topic, rather being highlights, data points from my own testimony.

Many believe music to be “amoral”, something of no consequence spiritually. So, first of all, one has to be convinced that music matters to God. Several Scriptures to ponder:

1. David’s harp music drove an evil spirit away, repeatedly, the only thing that worked (1 Samuel 16)
2. Elisha called for a minstrel to get ready for a great miracle – during the music the Holy Spirit fell on him and the miracle happened (2 Kings 3:15)
3. Lucifer (Satan) was specially created with/for music (Ezekiel 28:13 – “tablets and pipes” are musical instruments)
4. Paul commands music for Christians (Ephesians 5:19)
5. Harping in heaven (Rev. 5:8, 14:2)

Added to this are empirical evidences of the spiritual nature of music which I will admit are risky. Yet when you have even one modern example of music linked with demons or angels that you are convinced is real, it affects you.

Bill has his example of natives in the jungle approaching a missionary grieved that his children were calling the evil spirits . . . All they heard was Christian rock music, unable to understand the words.  I have seen an affidavit from the one who experienced this and testified to the veracity of the account.  Lesson: natives skilled in calling up evil spirits recognize the rock beat as a key.

My favorite is what was told in the story and movie “End of the Spear”, the “rest of the story” of the brutal jungle attack on the 5 missionaries in Ecuador in the 1950s that took the life of Jim Elliot. Nate Saint was also killed – through the contact and efforts of his son Steve the natives decades later finally disclosed the full account from their side. Part of this included visions of shining beings that appeared at the scene and frightened the natives, as alluded to in the movie. What is not told in the movie was an event years after the murders. One of the women there during the attack heard Christian choir music for the first time in Rachel Saint’s (Nate’s sister) home coming from a record player. She immediately recognized it as the singing they had heard of the shining “Cowadi”, foreigners that appeared as the men were dying. Read it and draw your own conclusion. “Angels, Yes, I Think It Was Angels” By Steve Saint January 30, 2002. Lesson: choir music appears to be of heavenly origin.

The point there is that music is far more than vibration of atoms – it is a unique area where the spiritual world and the physical world are both affected directly by same thing. Physical music is, or at least can be, spiritual.

If God cares about music, created it, then we do well to try to understand it from His perspectives. Almost everyone would sense that some music drags you up and other music drags you down. Some does neither. In an attempt to explain this Bill came up with this list of the components of music:

Melody – from the spirit, the spiritual world
Harmony – from the soul (emotions), the psychological world
Rhythm – from the body, the physical world

If you accept this then you can start analyzing music as good or not good based on:

  • Is the melody dominant or secondary – master or slave?
  • Does the rhythm control, drive the music? If so it will excite the body.
  • Is the melody from the “light side” or the “dark side”? There are dark spiritual forces that like music. Bill questions heavy use of minor keys as depressing.
  • Is there a heavy back beat or syncopation? That is opposite to the heart beat, and Bill sees this as producing sensual tension.

Bill suggests march music, with a dominant beat, is fine, being balanced by an equally strong melody. Some of the music he featured – southern Gospel – had definite syncopation . . . But not in a dominant role.

And then there are the origins of rock music . . . And it’s predecessor, jazz. Bill is much into roots, origins as an indication, indictment of the fruit. That “Rock and Roll” is a gutter term for the sex act is pretty obvious. Although there is hardly a consensus on every detail, Jazz music and most likely the term itself sprang out of the brothels of New Orleans.

Here is my analogy:

Beat, syncopation, minor keys, heavy, complex harmonies are a little like spices, caffeine, or alcohol in food and drink.

  • Everybody uses spices – too much and you ruin the dish.
  • Caffeine improves the appeal of foods and especially drinks – in moderation many of us really appreciate it, too much and it leads to problems. And it is slightly addictive and mood altering, and as such definitely is used to make people buy and consume large quantities of bad foods.
  • Alcohol – some feel it has no place for Christians, Bill one of them. My conservative, godly German heritage sees it a tad differently, but we have still decided that for us the risks and perceptions exceed whatever benefits it provides. Many good Christians would never drink or cook with alcohol.  It is also mood altering and addictive . . .  and used to change behavior.

Beat, backbeat, syncopation in music is somewhat like caffeine and particularly alcohol in food. In small, deliberate amounts it could be a good thing. Being addictive and pleasure inducing, though, lots of folks lose objectivity and start consuming ever larger amounts to satisfy a craving they may not fully understand. It is used to change our behavior, leading us to buy, participate in, consume things we would otherwise not. If alcohol becomes part of every day let alone part of every drink and even dish, suddenly you have an evil thing. People die, do horrible things, ruin their lives and the lives of their loved ones because of alcohol.

In response to that, seeing it affect them or their loved ones (by example) in ways they do not like, some purpose to eliminate the “drug” from their lives and homes. Like we did with alcohol. Are we more spiritual for doing so? Not necessarily. Are we smarter? We are comfortable that this has and will pay many dividends in terms of calamities avoided.

Some add rock to all music they listen to. Some can hardly listen to music without it, watch a movie without it, plugged in almost 24×7, sort of like an addiction. Some feel that the beat drags them and those they love and counsel down, to a darker place, sensual place.

Some look at the evidence above and decide it is not for them, purposing to eliminate the music “drugs” from their lives. Bill is convinced that there is no good use of rock beat, backbeat in the ideal life of the believer, and so has worked at getting all families to purge their lives from it. Sort of like health food advocates eliminate caffeine . . . And alcohol. We think he has a vital point.

Now you get to decide for yourself.