Thoughts on Modern Worship Music (A Response To An Article Rejecting CCM)

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There was a time when I would have resonated with everything Marcel mentioned in his article on worship. However, while the issue of worship music continues to evolve and shift in my own life I would like to share some reasons why I disagree with the views presented in his article.

Marcel indicates in the form of a question that no negative music should creep into our worship service. I couldn’t agree more. Any music that makes one feel depressed, anxious, angry etc. should not be used for worship or, to be frank, for anything. However, I have never experienced any of these emotions during a contemporary worship gathering.

Marcel then points out that we shouldn’t mix darkness with light. This too is true, but how far do you take it? The instruments used to worship God in the OT are also used to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue in Daniel. The concept of a Hymn is of pagan origin. The organ was created for theatrical purposes, not worship. And God has never sent an angel to reveal to us exactly what music is heavenly. All music is, therefore, cultural.

We cannot say exactly what style God envisioned for worship either. Any position one takes would be an argument from silence. The only thing the Bible gives us are principles. Principles should guide all of our musical selections (love, joy, peace, patience…) and I have discovered that much of modern worship music is perfectly in line with these principles.

Marcel then quotes the idea of rock being revolutionary. The idea is that rock music leads to rebellion. While I don’t disagree with that, I would like to point out that not all rock music does. Most who are against CCM often quote these strong “rock music is rebellious” statements without identifying their context. If I walked into a church playing ACDC for worship (the type of music behind many of these statements), I would be appalled. But Chris Tomlin? Mat Redman? I have never felt rebellious while listening to these groups lead in worship. To the contrary, I am drawn closer to God. So while certain forms of rock music may in fact make one rebellious, it is an error to assume that all do.

The Ellen White quote is also misused. It says nothing about the right style or instruments. Ellen White condemns the way the music was used (to manipulate and hypnotize) not the instruments. This statement concerns an event that took place during EGW’s day with a fanatical movement known as “Holy Flesh.” They used music in such a hypnotic and manipulative way that people lost themselves in it. A good comparison of this would be Rave music. However, you can have the same effect with slow music like the Gregorian Chant or Yoga music used while stretching.

Is all CCM good? Absolutely not. But any good Hymnologist would tell you that not all Hymns are good either. This is why committees meet to determine what Hymns to put into the Hymnal and which ones to leave out. When it comes to CCM I propose we do the same thing. Select that which is good, uplifting, and conducive toward authentic worship and reject all that is negative, self-exalting, and conducive toward carnality. There is lots of CCM that is good. So the argument should not be on rejecting CCM but on developing a criterion for evaluating it.

Note: This article was originally published in the Southern Accent, the official newspaper for Southern Adventist University.

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