Music - The Beat of Society

By Pastor Rick Rogers

Key Verse: Colossians 3:16

Introduction: You may well ask why this chapter (and the following on television and movies) is included in a course discussing the Bible and social ethics. The response to that is funda-mental: music is a representation, and a testimony, of that cultures views, philosophies, beliefs, ... Thus, it music has a tremendous impact on social ethics. As an example (at least for those growing up in the 1950’s – 1970’s) what type of music did you listen to in your teen-age years? How did it effect you? How does the music of your day compare with music today? Would you say that this culture is greater in morality or less in morality than it was when you were a teen-ager? Note: This topic could be a course by itself, and there are many things that could be taught including music theory, timing, principles and purpose. However, we will be limited to discussing some of the evils associated with the most diabolical form of music poisoning our culture - rock music - and then look at the New Testament principles of music that glorifies God.


A. The Roots:

  1. "The origin of rock music go to the blacks of the deep south, and from there can be traced directly to Africa where it was used to incite warriors into violent frenzy."1
  2. "Rock music has an appeal to the old nature and depraved instincts of man. That is probably because of where its roots lie … Music historians report evidence has been found to indicate the same melodic and rhythmic styles found in rock music existed in Africa centuries before classical music appeared in Europe. Also, Far Eastern pagan societies show the same rhythmic savagery found in rock music in various religious rites, especially those which involve self-torture."2
  3. The very term "Rock & Roll" was formulated in the 1950s by a Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey. He was looking for a term for the "new sound" that was gaining popularity. He conferred with local prostitutes about the nomenclature of their trade, which was of course "Rock & Roll."3

B. The Rhythm: the identifying marks of rock music

  1. the relentless beat
  2. unique rhythm patterns
  3. chord progressions and melodic idioms
  4. amplification
  5. electronic altering

C. The Religion: (the following is truly a microcosm of the multitudes of information available. But make no mistake – rock music is a religion, and promotes a "religious" message, doctrine and lifestyle!)

  1. Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier) claimed to be the reincarnation of a 17th century witch – named Alice Cooper.4
  2. Beatle star John Lennon: "Christianity will go. We’re more popular than Jesus Christ now."5
  3. Black Sabbath: name of a group, it refers to a day of Satan worship.
  4. Blue Oyster Cult has the cross made into a question mark as its symbol on each album.
  5. David Bowie was the first rock star to openly proclaim his homosexuality.
  6. David Crosby (from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young): "I figured the only thing to do was swipe their kids. I still think it is the only thing to do. I’m not talking about kidnapping, I’m just talking about changing their value systems, which removes them from their parents."6
  7. Elton John: "There’s nothing wrong with going to bed with someone of your own sex. I just think people should be very free with sex."7
  8. Iron Maiden: is a group who’s name refers to a spiked body case used to torture people to death.

Consider: This is, as stated earlier, just a tiny example of the religion of rock. I would like to have listed some words of a few "songs" but refused to do it in a Christian (or any other!) setting. Lyrics are loaded with blasphemy, pornographic and sexually explicit words of all kinds, brutality (including killing, dismembering and eating babies; killing a handicapped person and driving them through a key hole with a sledge hammer; etc.), cannibalism, prayers to Satan, death, destruction, rebellion, drugs, alcohol, demon worship, occult activity, killing police officers, child molestation, sadism, masochism, … coupled with the chaotic, driving noise that has a control over the listeners (cf. I. B. above). Since children and youth are so easily influenced by music, what effect has this had on them? Look at our youth – enough said.


Consider: As I begin this point, I want to make an assessment of so-called Christian rock music as it is played in churches and evangelistic meetings. With the roots of rock music listed above, and the religion that it promotes, is there a legitimate Christian rock? I do not believe there is, any more than there is Christian pornography, drug addiction, drunkenness, Satanism, … I believe that Christian rock music has given the devil a very powerful hold in the church that is likely here to stay. We can prevent that from occurring in our churches by learning what the New Testament says about music. I am using the New Testament as our model, but it is the same for the Old Testament – music was and always designed by God to demonstrate His glory and majesty, and the beauty of His creation. The Psalms include the hymns of the nation Israel, and they continually magnify the LORD God, telling of His greatness and faithfulness. (The Psalms also make a great prayer book, reading the various passages as a means to worship God!)

A. New Testament Music Glorifies God, Not Man

Consider: When so called Christian rock musicians perform (not minister!), do they draw attention to God above by the beauty of the music and the words? Or is the attention drawn to the musician and the beat, rhythm, and noise of the music? I would suggest the latter, and it is promoted and disguised under the name of "worship." Note what Dr. George Houghton states: "There is a great deal of confusion today about what constitutes appropriate worship, whether we are talking about personal or corporate worship of God. Some expect worship to make them feel good and therefore want church services by which they feel affirmed and satisfied. Others link worship with entertainment, and church services are planned accordingly. These views mistakenly assume that worship is intended to enhance the personal pleasure of the worshipper."8

  1. The New Testament Elevates God, not Man, James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5
  2. John’s desire was for the Lord to increase, and he to decrease, John 3:30
  3. We are to glorify God in everything, not ourselves, 1 Cor. 10:31
  4. Man’s nature is to be mortified, not magnified, Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5
  5. New Testament Music Magnifies God, Not Man, Rev. 4:8-11; 5:12-14; 7:11-12; 11:16-17; 19:1-6.

B. New Testament Music Involves Worship, Not Entertainment

Consider: When the word "worship" is considered, several truths must be observed. It comes from the word proskuneo, and has the idea of 1) "to kiss the hand of one in toekn of reverence; 2) to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence; 3) by kneeling or prostration to do homage to one, or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect of make supplication. In each instance, there is a high degree of humility, homage, honor and respect for the Person / person worshipped.

  1. John 4:24, God is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Thus, and unsaved person cannot really minister in Christian music. It also means that a believer cannot legitimately perform in the flesh, nor perform in a means which would encourage the flesh! That is neither worshipping in spirit or in truth.
  2. 1 Cor. 14:15, words that are sung carry messages, and they should be clear to understand. It must lift our thoughts toward God’s being and greatness. Paul also says he will sing with understanding also. This implies that we have an understanding of the Bible, Theology, and music philosophy. It would then be important for the words to be sung in a clear, meaningful message, which a sound, biblical hymnody will produce.
  3. The great hymns of old, written and composed by numerous believers, contained good scriptural truth and theology coupled with a melody and meaning that lifted the mind and heart toward God above. Since so many in the Reformation Period were illiterate, the hymns were written to teach the people Theology and Bible truths! See, for example, the great hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Consider how Handle's "Messiah" truly magnifies the Lord Jesus Christ, while leading you to worship and thrilling your soul for the privilege of knowing the One Who is the Object of that great chorus – based on Scripture (the entire "Messiah" is Scripture!). (It has always been my guess that the angels may sing this at the Lord Jesus’ return – we’ll have to wait and see!!)

Consider: I would encourage you to study music and worship biblically. The Scriptures contain hundreds of references about each! If God is to be worshipped properly as Psalm 29:1-2 states, "Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness" then our words, melody and motive must be designed to fulfill that purpose. Worship must not be designed merely to make the worshipper feel good, though it should have a emotional effect upon the worshipper. In short, true worship should be God centered, not man centered. True worship glorifies God, and exalts Him for Who and what He is – the LORD of glory, King of Kings, Lord of Lords!

End Notes:
[1] Dennis Corle, quoting Dr. David Noebel, The Pied Piper of Rock Music, p. 63
[2] Dr. Michael Doonan, Why Not Christian Rock?  p. 2.
[3] Doonan, ibid., p. 1
[4] Circus Magazine, 12/19/78, p. 23
[5] Newsweek, 3/21/66
[5] Rolling Stone Interviews, Vol. 1, p. 401
[6] Rolling Stone, Oct. 7, 1976, p. 17
[8] Dr. George Houghton, “Faith Pulpit,” October 2000.