Parallels of Pornography and “Praise” Music

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Warning: this post contains sexually explicit material

Pornography is wicked. So is the sinful flesh, which is why porn sells. One source reported a “conservative estimate” of U.S. pornography revenues around $8 billion in 2012. Pornography is just as damnable a sin as any other sexual sin, but for all the outcry from (orthodox) churches over the legalization of homosexual marriage, where is the same outcry against the legality of pornography? Pornography is a much greater problem than homosexuality, statistically speaking. Maybe this one hits too close to home?

Pornography is such an abomination because, like all sin, it dehumanizes people. In the case of pornography, it reduces living, breathing human beings, made in the image of God, to nothing more than objects for sexual pleasure. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis observes:

We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he “wants a woman.” Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want.

He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes).

Speaking against the evil of masturbation in Volume 3 of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, he writes:

For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.

And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman.

For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival.

Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.

In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. . . . After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.

At the risk of making a very obvious point: sexually explicit magazines sell because of the aesthetics, not because of the words. Take all of the articles away, make it purely a picture book, and I guarantee it will still sell. Porn is all about the aesthetics.

The same is largely true of CCM “praise” music. It’s not about the words; it’s about the sound, the aesthetics. The texts tend to be very shallow, and sometimes even teach false doctrine. Just as pornography encourages lust for a “woman apparatus” over intimate knowledge of a spouse, so-called “praise music” is nothing more than a cheap “God apparatus” that encourages lust for a catchy beat over intimate knowledge of God’s Word. Consider the chorus to “Trading My Sorrows”:

And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

I know, it’s profound. It’s not for no reason this genre has earned itself the label “7-11” songs (songs where you sing the same seven words eleven times).  So why do some churches tolerate this nonsense? For the same reason pornography sells: because of the aesthetics. Remember Nirvana? Nobody could understand what Kurt Cobain was saying, and if you finally did figure it out, it was mostly nonsense. Granted Nirvana wasn’t a praise band, but this principle remains true of much praise music. Much of what passes for “praise music” is shallow, nonsensical, and sometimes even false. True praise of God consists of declaring who God is and what He’s done, not in singing about how much we like to sing about Him. Consider this gem (“I Love to Praise Him”):

Verse 1:
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise His name) {x3}
I Love to praise His holy name
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to praise up my Lord (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to praise His holy name
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to put my hands together and praise Him (I Love to praise His name)
Is there anybody out here feel the same tonight (I Love to praise His name)
I Love to praise His holy name

Verse 2:
For He’s my rock (He’s my rock, my rock, my sword, my shield)
He’s my will (He’s my will in the middle of the week)
I know He’ll never (I know He’ll never, never let me down)
He’s just a Jewel (He’s just a Jewel that I have found)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
I Love to praise His holy name

Repeat Verse 2:
For He’s my rock (He’s my rock, my rock, my sword, my shield)
He’s my will (He’s my will in the middle of the week)
I know He’ll never (I know He’ll never, never let me down)
He’s just a Jewel (He’s just a Jewel that I have found)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
Hallelujah (hallelujah)
I Love to praise His name
I Love to praise (x8)
I Love to praise His holy name
I Love to praise Him (I Love to praise) {x3}
Make me feel good to praise Him (I Love to praise)
He’s worthy of the praise (I Love to praise)
He’s worthy of the glory (I Love to praise)
Everybody Love to praise Him (I Love to praise) {x2}
Help me say
I Love (I Love) {x15}
I Love to praise (x8)
I Love (I Love) {x16}
I Love to praise (x8)
I Love (I Love) {x16}
I Love to praise

Well-meaning Christians are sometimes even able to tolerate false doctrine in a song they really like. Consider, for example, the once-popular Michael W. Smith song “Breathe”, which sounds quite pantheistic:

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

Or consider “Dance with Me” by Jesus Culture, which asks God to “romance me” and frames our relationship with God as if we were His sexual partners:

Won’t You dance with me, Oh
Lover of my soul,
to the song of all songs?
Romance me, Oh
Lover of my soul
to the song of all songs.

Hymns, on the other hand, are not about the aesthetics. They are about the Word, not the music. We sing them because of what they teach us about the faith. Augsburg Confession XXIV.2—3 says:

Meanwhile no conspicuous changes have been made in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that in certain places German hymns are sung in addition to the Latin responses for the instruction and exercise of the people. After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.

Likewise, the Apology (XXIV.3) says:

The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray. Therefore we keep Latin for the sake of those who study and understand it, and we insert German hymns to give the common people something to learn that will arouse their faith and fear.

In a good hymn (and certainly they are not all created equal), the music serves the text. I suspect this is why many people dislike hymns today: they are more interested in singing something that has a catchy beat than in learning something about God’s Word through music.

This is why most praise music is ear porn. People like it because of the feeling it creates; they listen for the aesthetics, not for the words. Nobody sings or listens to this stuff because it’s such an eloquent expression of the faith; they like the way it sounds.

This is not to say that there are not any doctrinally sound, substantive praise songs out there. However, the genre is flooded with songs that are mostly shallow, and when they do teach doctrine, it is usually false. There aren’t too many orthodox theologians writing praise songs these days, and most of those who write CCM songs are hardly orthodox theologians. And even where the text is orthodox, the music still usually takes center stage and the text is an afterthought. The music should serve the text, not the other way around.

Aesthetics do matter, especially in God’s house. Which is more suitable for use in the presence of the living God? A genre of music where the emphasis is clearly on the music and not the message (not to mention is a genre that has strong ties to sex, drugs, and rock and roll), or a genre that seeks to decrease so that Christ might increase?


Comments

Parallels of Pornography and “Praise” Music — 86 Comments

  1. I posted a link to this article on my Facebook timeline for all my friends in the wastelands of charismania and “Lutheran” evangelicalism. Considering what I might expect their reaction to be, I suppose they would try to justify it by the “fruit” they find in their music. It is (allegedly) changing people’s lives by the power of the Gospel… and so on, and so forth. I think they would acknowledge that the article makes some good points, but they will simply presume that hymns don’t have the ability to “reach” the people that their music will. So, good points or not, they will just keep doing what they do.

    In the end this is not merely a matter of taste for the people on the other side of this aisle. They condemn us for not “loving” the people that their music (and only their music) will “minister” to. It can be a very painful point of division sometimes.

  2. I am not quite sure about the “not a matter of taste for the other side” thing .

    I cannot help but wonder what would happen, if a massive cultural shift – and a such should not be considered absolutely impossible – were to make it absolutely and objectively clear, even in the worldly terms of appeal and effectiveness always referred to by Church Growth and Contemporary Worship enthusiasts, that the vast majority of the unchurched would be significantly more likely to respond favourably to Classical Christ-centred worship and preaching.

    Let us imagine, for example, that a such cultural shift were brought about by a wide spread openness, or even a longing, for the mystical, or for the profound, or that which does not demand an enthusiasm of me which I am not always able to muster, or that which allows me to spend time in a sphere that is different from the shallowness of the culture surrounding me – in other words, an openness, and perhaps even a longing, for any of that which Contemporary Worship is not.

    Somehow, when I play this thought experiment through in my mind, I find myself not entirely convinced that the champions of Contemporary Worship would be ready and willing to give up their style of preference for the sake of the “Mission” …

  3. Nobody listens to this stuff because they like the message? While that maybe true for the Jesus is my boyfriend songs you listed, I am pretty sure I like this one because it is a blend of good message and a good sound. Personally, I find it rather sad that our theologians are more interested in throwing the baby out with the bath water while the Reformed are remembering the power of music and are attempting to write stuff worth singing and listening to.

  4. I’m not sure to what extent cultural shifts affect a particular local neighborhood.  I think there are many pastors who try very hard to share the gospel based on their assessment of the particular culture in their own neighborhood.  They don’t necessarily care what worship format is used on the other side of town.

  5. @Rev_aggie #4
    I am pretty sure I like this one because it is a blend of good message and a good sound.

    I’ll give you the ‘good message’….
    That kind of voices appeal to me like chalk made to squeal on a blackboard.

    (Obsolete simile; they are whiteboards and felt markers now.)

  6. We personally experienced the downward spiral into bizarre sensuality among our enthusiastic brethren. Much of what takes place in these “services” are at best spiritual masturbation. There is a huge push for what is called “Bridal Union” with Jesus gets really perverse. ” Michael Koulianos teaches on “Bridal Union” at the Benny Hinn School of Signs and Wonders. An awesome Presence of Jesus was felt.” — Just an example.

  7. Much of what passes for “praise music” is shallow, nonsensical, and sometimes even false. True praise of God consists of declaring who God is and what He’s done, not in singing about how much we like to sing about Him.

    Personally, I find it rather sad that our theologians are more interested in throwing the baby out with the bath water while the Reformed are remembering the power of music and are attempting to write stuff worth singing and listening to.

    Excellent comments.  I have high hopes that the Koinonia effort will encourage the development and use of worthwhile synod-approved contemporary materials for those congregations that choose to use them.

    “In other words, we want to make full use of the worship treasures of the past, present, and future.” – Pr Matt Harrison, Today’s Business, Issue 1, May 2013

  8. @Rev_aggie #4
    I’ll also give you the message, but I hope you are not saying historical hymns are not worth singing or listening to. That too would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. And you seem to have missed the part that says, “This is not to say that there are not any doctrinally sound, substantive praise songs out there….”

  9. This is a most unhelpful and destructive criticism of contemporary praise music. To compare contemporary praise music to pornography is to miss the real problems with both, and to play into the hands of those who claim (justly?) that our opposition to contemporary worship lacks a scriptural basis. Pornography, literally the publication of prostitution, leads men to break the sixth commandment by beholding forbidden nakedness and, in the heart, lying with a woman not his own. The sexual depiction of nudity is not “aesthetics,” it’s fornication. Contemporary praise music, on the other hand, bears little relation to fornication, except perhaps to the spiritual fornication of idolatry. At its worst (barring false doctrinal content), it is irreverent, failing to promote the fear of God and any real interest in what He has actually said and done. This is a real problem that should be addressed. Plenty contemporary praise music just fails aesthetically (and I regard that as a real failure, not just a matter of subjective opinion), and in that case the criticism should be aesthetic. As for hymns (and actual Lutheran hymns are the best of the bunch), if it’s all about the text, and if the music is just about aesthetics, and if aesthetics don’t matter, then why do we sing hymns at all? Why don’t we just speak them? And why do we make them rhyme or fit into a meter? The music matters! I dare say even the beat matters! Have you tried singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” to the evened-out isometric version? I’d almost rather sing a praise song (almost). Or is my love for Lutheran hymns—including the tunes and rhythms—merely pornographic? Contemporary praise music needs to be criticized, as do many of the more recent hymns that have made it into our hymnals, but the criticism needs to be valid, not unnecessarily inflammatory, and it needs to eschew comparisons to sinful acts that are irrelevant to the case.

  10. @Rev_aggie #4
    Here’s the problem: even when the message may be good, the music still can get in the way of the message. It’s like taking an apple and throwing it like a fastball to your child when he wants something to eat: good content, bad delivery.

    Even with much of the “not-as-shallow” stuff, the music still tends to get in the way at times. The medium needs to get OUT of the way of the message, not obscure it.

  11. Brothers:

    Here’s a question somewhat related to this. And of course, since I don’t write briefly as much as I’d like, a lead-up.

    A friend of mine at seminary had a unique background that not many people have. He was a former radio technician, based in Nashville and this man had worked with many of the major CCM artists of the day. (I met him in the late 90’s / early 2000’s, and he had worked in radio some time before that, if that makes a difference). Not only did he have extensive background in hearing (and mixing) the songs of CCM, but also got to observe many CCM artists backstage and off set. Anyway, there were some he had spoken of who were less than moral backstage. My friend spoke with disgust about one artist, who was well-known and recorded, and yet whom my friend witnessed going into a hotel room with two attractive blonde women, one under each arm.

    My question is: Does anyone know if there is any connection, causality or susceptibility between CCM leaders and pornography? Have there been any studies on this? Does this play out in the parish life as well?

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  12. Anyway, there were some he had spoken of who were less than moral backstage.

    We learn from the clergy abuse scandals that there were some priests and pastors who also were less than moral backstage.  Respectfully, what is your point?

  13. @Rev. Robert Mayes #14
    The “enthusiast” answer that was inculcated into our minds was that “spirits fly on the wings of music.” According to this belief (which may hold some water theologically) Satan originally led the music/worship in heaven, he was after all one of the 2 covering angels and his body was theorized to be made “out of instruments” (Bill Hamon, I think) —- music has power good or bad. David played and evil spirits left King Saul, so evil people could play and invite “in” evil spirits, some sort of yin/yang causality going on there. Ergo — if one plays demonic “music” (music being a spiritual force, so spiritual fornication) then demonic fruit, i.e. fornication on the physical plane will follow was the line of thought.

  14. I am by no means a fan of praise music. In fact, I abhor it. However, music IS a gift from God. I’m not sure there’s anything inherently wrong with beautiful/sacred music stirring up “feelings” of joy, happiness, and comfort. Am I wrong?

    Quotes on music by Martin Luther:

    “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it
    is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” ― Martin
    Luther

    “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”
    ― Martin Luther

    “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through Music.” ― Martin Luther

    “Music is the art of the prophets and the gift of God.” ― Martin Luther

    “The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God….Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity, and other devices.” ― Martin Luther

    “A person who…does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” ― Martin
    Luther

    “As long as we live there is never enough singing.” ― MartinLuther

    “Next to theology I give music the highest place of honor.” ―MartinLuther

    “I have no pleasure in any man who despises music. It is no invention of ours: it is a gift of God. I place it next to theology. Satan hates music: he knows how it drives the evil spirit out of us. Who has skill in the art of music is of good temperament and fitted for all things.” ―Martin Luther

    “My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.”― Martin Luther

  15. @Rev_aggie #4 This (“Not in Me” by the Gospel Coalition) is good stuff! I wouldn’t be comfortable with having it performed in a worship service, but the music and text are both wonderful. The singer sounds like a more refined version of Bono. And the music doesn’t “get in the way” of the text at all. What if our youth were listening to this instead of Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga and whatnot? This fits nicely alongside Praetorius’s settings of Lutheran hymns. It’s one of many instances of recent Contemporary Christian Music that have really impressed me, though again not for a corporate worship setting.

  16. @Rev. Robert Mayes #14
    Unfortunately, that’s not an isolated story. When I was in the CCM scene and had the opportunity for my band to open for two larger bands (on smaller stages), I heard a bit about it. Granted, it’s not true for all CCM people, but there is some immorality.

    But.. and just as bad.. is that there is quite a bit of false doctrine in the CCM community. Look at Phillips, Craig, and Dean, who are modalists. Look at people like Michael W. Smith, who publicly endorsed the book THE SHACK. And there are other examples of this as well.

    Not all CCM people are satanic. But not all of them are as Christian as they maintain, either.

  17. I once defended this type music coming over from evangelicalism to Lutheranism. I deleted all post related to the defense of this music from my blog. This was the last of the stronghold of evangelicalism that I’m freed from.

  18. It’s important to remember that CoWo Praise songs are seldom vetted according to scripture and doctrine. For me, that’s crucial. Music that teaches according to scripture is a blessing. But, I/WE have to be on guard regarding the content of Praise Songs. We must ask, who vetted the lyrics of this Praise Song? The Band? CoWo clergy?………….yeeeeesh! It’s a roll of the dice – heterodox or liturgical????????
    ……..Aaaaand, for those that believe the LCMS should vet praise songs I pose this question – why? What is the intent or purpose? To attain a more emotional “relationship” with Christ? My response to that would simply be – perhaps you’re not properly able to educate your flock without “feel good” gimmicks.

    Rev Andersen – great article. Thank you Sir!

  19. When it first came out, A mighty fortress is our God, was also considered a modern/contemporary song – Not?

    So why can those of us, who have a different taste in music, not be permitted to utilise that style without being called porno addicts – that is just a ridiculous arguement?

    It was said of ‘modern music’ that it is like throwing an apple to your hungry child, good food but bad delivery – but what if your child just does not like apples and would prefer a pear, do you still force the child to eat the apple? Is the child not permitted to have differing tastes to you?

  20. Actually , what is presented here is not really an argument as such, but rather an observation regarding two phenomena in terms of what they offer (instant emotional/aesthetic gratification) and to which elements in human nature they appeal (the desire for such gratification and the willingness to embrace anything that offers it, including that which is not only shallow and hollow, but also is neither genuine nor true).

  21. @Stef #23
    The issue is not whether or not a song is “modern” in the sense of it’s date of composition. The issue is whether or not the modern songs are stylistically appropriate for church.

    And as somebody who has worked in Contemporary Christian music, and who has also played in CoWo services many, many times, I can tell you that the assertion made by the OP is quite valid in many aspects.

    Tell you what–take a look at these questions I posted on another site concerning CoWo music. Think about your answers carefully before you answer. Because I and others here who oppose CoWo who have actually participated in it have seen firsthand the damage it has done, and we do not speak hastily or capriciously against it.

    1.) What is the focus of your worship service? Now, I’m sure that the first answer to roll off your lips is “God,” but is that true? Suppose for a moment that your music director were to propose that your band (and it IS a band, let that be clear) be moved to the back of the church or to the upper balcony of a church, as it is done in so many liturgical churches. Would you welcome that? Would it be offensive to you if your people were not front and center stage like they are in secular concerts? After all, the way that most sound setups are put together, it’s not absolutely necessary for the band to be in front of the audience.

    2.) If people applaud you, do you encourage it? Let’s be frank: applause is meant for the performer, and that is the common, public perception of the practice in society. I know people will say “well, we’re giving God the praise,” but to be honest I seriously doubt that. If an unbeliever were to walk into your service and hear the applause, do you honestly think his first thought is “That applause is for God”? I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that. Applause in modern formats, and particularly in music venues, is understood to be a praise for the people who use it. And I would politely remind you that it was the Pharisees who did things for the admiration of men.

    3.) Who is the music for? If it is meant to be praise for God, then why is it designed for the attention of man? Is God somehow put off by hymns? Did God give a divine order to ditch pianos and acapella pieces by Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley because He wants people to jam in church? I would think that, if the church remembered that the songs were sung to God and for God, that the first order of business would be the glory of God rather than the entertainment of the audience (Notice btw I’m saying “audience,” not “congregation”)

    4.) Is there a particular reason why CoWo (contemporary worship) advocates seem to be pushing for more and more time for music and less and less time for the preaching of the Word?

    ​ ​

    In nearly every experience with CoWo I’ve had, the musical portion of the service seems to be lengthened with more and more songs, or with songs repetitively sung to a mind-numbing point. Why is this? Is this a worship service or a concert? Historically, singing has been put on a secondary level in church worship; while it certainly has its place, it is not to become a replacement for the proclamation of the Scriptures. Is there something more “spiritual” about more and longer song sections, or is this simply some scheme to get people “in the Spirit” (which in truth is emotionally pumping people up: see question 5 below)? Because last I checked, the Holy Spirit does not require rhythms and melodies to work in a person’s heart, but He DOES work through the proclaimed Word.

    4.) Where is the theological depth to your music? Is your music about actual theology (The Trinity, God’s glory, our sinfulness, God’s grace, Christ’s substitutionary atonement, etc) or is it “7-11″ theology (seven words sung eleven times, with shallow repetition that makes God sound more like a Cosmic Boyfriend than the Sovereign Savior)? Sometimes we in the church seem to forget that our music is to instruct the congregants as much as it is to glorify God. How do you justify shoddy and shallow doctrine in the name of “relevance”?

    5.) I’ve found that the contemporary worship experience often confuses emotional reactions with the Holy Spirit. People think that the Holy Spirit is moving them when they hear a particular beat, chord progression, or lyrical hook, when in truth the same thing can be found happening in a secular concert. Such a confusion of emotion with the Spirit is unscriptural and deceitful. What steps are you taking in your worship services to prevent this confusion from happening. Also related to this: are you truly playing the music to honor God, or are you doing it to get a reaction from the audience? One of the things I remember hearing while in the CoWo (contemporary worship) movement was a music pastor who said that he “wanted to blow the congregation (read: audience) away” with a particular piece. His intent was to put on a show and provoke a reaction from those hearing it. Tell me: who in that situation is the music glorifying and centering on? If you’re truly honest, it’s not God.

    6.) At what point do you draw the line with what is considered “contemporary”? If you play music that sounds like Smile FMs Top 20 list, what’s preventing you from switching to R&B, or rap, or heavy metal? After all, if such a switch would bring in more people, what’s to stop you from moving simply to one sort of contemporary style?

    7.) Related to the last question, has it ever occurred to you that something may be not sinful and yet still be inappropriate? One of the quickest reactions to any concern about contemporary music goes like this: “Well, guitars and drums aren’t forbidden in the Bible!” And you know what? You’re right; they’re not. Neither is wearing pajamas, or swimsuits, or facial mudpacks. Yet, I hope everybody reading this has the common sense to realize that pajamas, swimsuits, and mudpacks, while not inherently sinful, also would be considered inappropriate for wearing in worship. Do you see the problem? A preference may not be sinful, but that does not necessarily mean it is appropriate for the sanctuary. Recall the words of Paul: All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. Maybe a little more of this thought should be put into the planning of worship music before the schedule for Sunday is drawn up.

    8.) One of the criticisms by CoWo advocates against traditional worship advocates is that they seem to reject it out of hand without good reason. And yet I’ve seen this very same “out of hand” attitude taken more than once by CoWo advocates against traditional music. I’ve worked with musicians who have stated that hymns “should be thrown out” of churches, and it’s not an isolated opinion stated by one person; it’s more common than you may think. If such an attitude describes you, isn’t that a little bit hypocritical to believe? What would your reaction be if your church suddenly decided that the music service would be nothing but acapella hymns for the morning services? Would you respond with enthusiasm (as you would demand of those on the other side of your argument), or would you roll your eyes or mutter a sigh about it? It’s a double standard to demand respect for your point, yet disrespect the point of others.

    9.) If you want contemporary songs, what is wrong with writing contemporary hymns? I would invite those looking for new music to consider the works of people such as Keith and Kristen Getty, who have put out contemporary hymns that are both musically stirring and theologically deep. There is more to putting out new music than simply three chords with dumbed down lyrics (and yes, a good number of CoWo songs are full of dumbed down lyrics).

    Think long and hard about these questions before answering.

  22. @J. Dean #25
    There are quite a few contemporary hymns in our hymnbook, LSB. Stephen Starke, Jaroslav Vajda and Carl Schalk all have written text or composed music for LSB.

  23. I agree with the analysis on pornography. We definitely need to talk more about it in the church. I also agree with the assesment on CoWo songs. But Christopher Neuendorf’s assesment is spot on. The attempt to compare the two in some way seems to be merely for shock value. If this is the case then why not compare murder to CoWo? Most serial killers admit to getting some kind of emotional reaction and rush when they kill, just like CoWo people getting an emotional rush from the music and band. See how silly this can become? There is a good Scriptural basis for why CoWo music is bad. Let’s appeal to Scripture instead of shock value when we make our arguments.

  24. Excellent points.

    It drives the sappy sentimentalism and has us all frantically running around searching for the next mountaintop emotional/mystical experience rather than just reading and studying the Word and trusting it and obeying it.

  25. Great article. I had no idea how bad these songs are written…REALLY creepy. It’s funny, a neighbor of mine who is unchurched says she feels uncomfortable when the religious songs become “love songs to God.” Amazing even she has noticed this.
    It’s just another distraction from the Gospel. I guess it comes down to this: Does God need our emotional highs? No. Do we need God to come to us with His gifts? Yes!
    And the music should reflect this.

  26. @J. Dean #25

    J.Dean,

    Excellent questions. I too, used to be part of a CoWo congregation and witnessed firsthand the damage it can do. What bothered me the most was that the youth were being immersed in the “emotional” and not the Gospel. CoWo is NOT a good way to prepare youth to enter the world as young adults. The damage can be catastrophic.

    Sadly, I have also witnessed former CoWo youth attend a confessional/liturgical Divine Service and in no way recognize any part of the service.

  27. I shall refrain from judging, or even insinuating a judgement, as to what was Pastor Andersen’s sole motive for sharing with us the similarities he has observed between pornography and Contemporary Worship in terms of what they offer, and to which elements in human nature they appeal. Whatever his motives may be – and I have no reason to think they were anything but honourable – the concept of a relation of idolatry and adultery, that is: anthropocentric/self-centered worship and sexual indulgence, is not Pastor Andersen’s own invention. The comparison of the two, or rather, the identification of them, is made all through Holy Scripture, perhaps most notably in Romans 1:21-27, where the strife for self-fulfillment in homosexuality is seen as an expression of the self-fulfillment sought in idolatry.

    And, although I am certainly no expert on this, I think most serial killers will actually describe the satisfaction they achieve in making themselves lord and master of life and death in terms very similar to a sexual satisfaction. Be that as it may; Holy Scripture makes that connection also: idolatry-adultery-murder; see for example Revelation 9:20-21; 21:8.

    And I can see how pointing out these similarities can serve other purposes than merely that of providing “shock value” – or, to use another phrasing one could also choose to utilise to express exactly the same: “pointing out how serious this is, and what might be at stake”. To me the observation of the similarities represents yet another encouragement to the champions of Contemporary Worship to search their hearts and take a long, hard look at why it is that this is their preference – as opposed to the Gospel sobriety of Classical Christ-centred worship.

  28. Great article. I had no idea how bad these songs are written

    There are many, many flavors of CoWo songs.  I’m guessing the examples in the article are the worst of the worst.  In my limited attendance at CoWo services, I also noticed songs that were reverent, intelligent and centered on God’s gifts to us.

    Are we over-generalizing here?  Are we talking from experience at a typical LCMS CoWo/blended service? (It looks like Randy does have this experience).

  29. @Caroline Mueller #17
    You miss the point. Sex is a beautiful gift from God too! Yet it can most surely be abused. The question is: do the “feelings” take precedence over the Word? Is the emphasis during a service solely on the feelings and your “spiritual experience”? Remember also that music that may be appropriate during a concert is probably not appropriate for a worship service.

  30. @John Rixe #32

    John, I believe I know where you’re coming from. Allow me to make a few observations from my perspective. First, I never use the word “Typical” when I refer to a CoWo/Blended service since there is seldom uniformity from one church to another when it comes to such a “setting.”

    Next, I think the word “Blended” is an appropriate label for CoWo, but have always wondered why a church would openly and proudly use such a label. To BLEND is to mix two or more things so that the original parts are no longer distinguishable. That should be a disturbing concept for a Christian. Here’s an example of my experience with CoWo/blended services. The Sacrament of Holy Communion in the blended service was presented as nothing more than, “something we needed to do.” In other words, there was no liturgy leading up to communion. Instead, it was just an event that occurred at a given time in the service. It almost seemed out of place!!! It didn’t mesh with the praise songs or the pastor’s 30 minute “touchy-feely ” sermon, nor did it seem part of the prayers that were prayed while background music was consistently played. Blending liturgy is bad and it troubles me that I was a part of it at one point.

    Finally, to stay on point. Rev Andersen’s closing comment ties it together nicely:
    …… A genre of music where the emphasis is clearly on the music and not the message (not to mention is a genre that has strong ties to sex, drugs, and rock and roll), or a genre that seeks to decrease so that Christ might increase?

  31. @John Rixe #32
    We are definitely generalising. And we are doing so on a topic where definitions are anything but clear cut.

    That is why any examples presented will not really make any difference in terms of drawing any definitive conclusions. For any examples will always be the exception or the extreme, for better or for worse.

    Sometimes I am not all that sure that we are all referring to the same when we use the term “contemporary”. Obviously it is not a matter of dates. And I am fairly convinced that the examples we would chose as representative of Contemporary worship would not be the same. I suspect that in this regard we are all more or less operating with a maxime similar to justice Potter Stewart’s so-called “Casablanca test” for determining what is Pornography and what is not: “I cannot define it, but I know it when I see it”.

    Now, that would be another similarity.

  32. @Jais H. Tinglund #31
    I’m not doubting the authors motive either, I’m sure he is an honorable chap. But clearly choosing a topic and comparison to pornography creates shock. It is supposed to. Otherwise why not pick a comparison to binge eating or watching television? Both of those are stimulating the pleasure centers in much the same way. But pornography is more of a shock value. Let’s just call it what it is instead of trying to spin it.
    Despite your quotations of Scripture the problem is that there are no Scriptural references at all in this article. None. Just a comparison between CoWo and pornography. I think any article would do much better to stick with what God’s Word might say. Without grounding anything in God’s Word our thoughts and opinions simply come across as that, our own thoughts and opinions. A CoWo supporter could easily make comparisons between serial killers and some of the postings on BJS since some posters on here are clearly interested in being lord and master of the converstation and “killing” their victim with numerous posts and puffed up psudo-philosophical ramblings.
    I dunno, I guess I’m just old fashioned and like to hear and see the connection to God’s Word and what He says about something.

  33. Thanks – it’s kind of hard to generalize.  The blended service at my church is pretty tame and carefully follows the traditional Divine Service order.  The only difference is the use of the praise band and use of CoWo songs.  

    @Randy #34

  34. The more I think about this, the more it angers me. I totally agree with the first half of his article about the porn- it’s destructive and a real epidemic. I realize people have preferences in worship – there is nothing wrong with that as long as it is taking you into His presence but.. his comparison of worship to porn – way off. The ONLY comparison I can see of worship and porn is this: as many men that stand in the church today singing hymns, or more modern worship, there are as many of them that are addicted to porn, cheating on their spouses, and because of sin in their lives are offering false worship- pretense and hypocrisy. There are definitely worship songs out there that are lyrically wrong – but I seriously doubt any lyrically wrong worship song, or upbeat, catchy worship song, has ever caused a man or woman to cheat on their spouse, or worse yet, snatch someone’s kid to use as their sex object, like porn has. If a person can’t sing “dance with me, O Lover of my Soul”, and put themselves dancing in their heavenly Father’s arms, then they probably couldn’t handle reading God’s word either in Song of Songs – because they have a terrible frame of mind. His mention of “singing the same words seven times” is quite absurd too- as we see that the angels are doing exactly that- “holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” – over and over and over, and one day we will join them! The last thing I see wrong with his theory, is that he views worship is to teach us doctrine. While it can, and should bring us into a realization of who God is, His holiness and majesty, and also who we are in Him, when I read about worship in His word, it really isn’t about that- it’s about giving our glorious Savior the thanksgiving and praise He is due!!! “Praise the Lord”- “Sing to the Lord a new song” – “You have turned my mourning into dancing”- it’s all about giving Him glory!

  35. What a bunch of sycophantic replies. “Oh, you’re absolutely correct.” “This music IS of the devil.”

    I will wager that none of those who imply that porn and “CoWo” (what kind of acronym is that, anyway?) are one and the same, have ever experienced a worship service where the Spirit has moved extremely powerfully using many different kinds of music, including hymns AND contemporary songs. Many very good contemporary songs are based on Psalms, written by a man after God’s own heart who also committed murder, adultery, and the like but we keep reading them from God’s own Word. (Or is that too tittilating to even mention in church?)

  36. Rev. McCall :
    I’m not doubting the authors motive either

    Clearly not:

    Rev. McCall :
    But clearly choosing a topic and comparison to pornography creates shock. It is supposed to.

    No doubt there whatsoever as to Pastor Andersen’s motives …

    Of course, again, “shock effect” is but one phrasing one can use to put one’s own spin on the original posting. Another phrasing one could choose, which would put a completely different spin on it, or construction (oops; the forbidden Commandment strikes again), allowing for a different theory than your definite judgement regarding Pastor Andersen’s motives and honesty and integrity, would be something along the lines of “pointing out how serious this is, and what might be at stake”.

    Rev. McCall :Despite your quotations of Scripture the problem is that there are no Scriptural references at all in this article. None. Just a comparison between CoWo and pornography. I think any article would do much better to stick with what God’s Word might say. Without grounding anything in God’s Word our thoughts and opinions simply come across as that, our own thoughts and opinions.

    I see your point here, which is a valid one. I am not sure, though, that I can completely agree. I think it can be legitimate to make merely psychological or cultural or even philosophical observations, all depending on what kind of context you make for them, and what kind of authority you claim for them, and what kind of authority you claim for yourself while making them.

    I also think it can be legitimate to assume basic knowledge of the basic teachings of Holy Scripture without necessarily looking up and lining up references as proof of that which should be common knowledge.

    So I am not sure the legitimacy of a posting depends entirely – or even at all, depending, again, on the context – on whether or not specific references to specific passages of Holy Scripture are made, let alone how many of those …

    And apparently there might be some problems getting the system to accept Scripture references on this site. Otherwise, how could all of yours, which I assume you must have listed, since your point is that each and every posting needs to have those, have been lost, as they obviously have?

  37. Veronica Jacoby :
    If a person can’t sing “dance with me, O Lover of my Soul”, and put themselves dancing in their heavenly Father’s arms, then they probably couldn’t handle reading God’s word either in Song of Songs – because they have a terrible frame of mind.

    The last thing I see wrong with his theory, is that he views worship is to teach us doctrine. While it can, and should bring us into a realization of who God is, His holiness and majesty, and also who we are in Him, when I read about worship in His word, it really isn’t about that- it’s about giving our glorious Savior the thanksgiving and praise He is due!!! “Praise the Lord”- “Sing to the Lord a new song” – “You have turned my mourning into dancing”- it’s all about giving Him glory!

    Well, some of us work with a different concept of worship, namely the Lutheran and Evangelical one, that Christian worship is Gottesdienst, or Divine Service, perceived as God’s service to us, in which the heart of all things is that Christ comes to His Christians and gives Himself to us, and His Holy Spirit, and all His gifts of salvation, in His Word of promise, namely the Word of the cross, which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24), as this Word is spoken and sung, preached and praised and prayed. Therefore it is crucial that what is spoken and sung and preached and praised and prayed is indeed His Word of salvation rather than the word about our love for Him, and how much we enjoy to sing His praises.

    The joy (let us, for the sake of argument, call it “peace”) His Christians find in such worship is of a different kind than what the world has to give (John 10:27). As such, it is not worked by stimulating and appealing to the flesh or the natural instincts of Man, but rather by the Spirit of God, through His Word of salvation. That is why worship based on a such concept of the faith will be different than that which is based on stimulating and appealing to the flesh – as is pornography, which is the point of comparison, and, might I add, the only point of comparison.

    Therefore the benefit of such worship is also available to those who find themselves in a such situations where it is impossible for them to manipulate themselves into a frame of mind, where they can “sing “dance with me, O Lover of my Soul”, and put themselves dancing in their heavenly Father’s arms” – as your concept of worship seems to demand that they should always be able to – and also to those who have too much integrity and take their salvation too seriously to even try to pretend before God that they are feeling something that they are not feeling at all (cf. 1 John 1:8-9), and who know of the need to be honest to God.

    And, obviously, this objective Gospel perspective on worship, and on the Christian faith, will not be quite so judgemental of people in such situations, nor of their faith. In fact, it will not be judgemental at all, or should not.

    And since such worship is focused on the Word of God of His salvation, it will teach doctrine, as the Apostle also commands it in Colossians 3:16.

    In other words, also for our worship does it hold true that “the Son of Man has come, not to be served, but to serve Himself: (Mark 10:45). Now, that is a different perspective.

    I believe I read it once, but do not presently remember where, that Luther points this out, and adds (I seem to remember that it was in a sermon for Epiphany) that although Christ has not come to be served, He does receive our service (in casu the worship of the wise men), now that He is here, and so we have the privilege also of serving Him – which is indeed a privilege for those who know His love and mercy, revealed in what He Himself has done.

  38. Arrogant, ignoramus, self-righteous post…brother of Jesus or not, this is the kind of thing that breaks the heart of God and does nothing but cause all Jesus followers despair.

  39. I tried posting a link to my response on my blog, but something must have happened. Here is my response in its entirety.

    I am not an apologist. I have wasted countless hours in the past fretting about internet arguments over matters of faith and doctrine. However, when I read this blog post I felt a need to respond in some way.

    In the post, the author (rightly so) talks about the evils of pornography, even quoting one of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis—I love his thoughts on human appetite and sin. He then goes on to equate “CCM ‘praise music'” with being a “‘God apparatus’ [referencing Lewis’s notion of a “woman apparatus”] that encourages lust for a catchy beat over intimate knowledge of God’s Word.”

    Throughout his post, he continues to use language like “largely true … much … most…” in regards to what he regards as the self-serving CCM “praise music.” If he doesn’t feel comfortable lumping in all “praise music,” then his argument is as if he is saying most porn is bad, much of it is merely about aesthetics. It’s just poor logic and a poor analogy.

    This argument does nothing except deepen the chasm between steadfast traditionalists and those who see the benefit of good modern worship. It creates an “us-them” mentality.

    I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of “Trading My Sorrows” (one of the examples he uses). He uses the “yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord” chorus to drive home his point. But he completely ignores the “I am pressed but not crushed / persecuted not abandoned…” part. What do you say about that? Because last I checked, that’s right out of 2 Corinthians!

    I wonder if he has pondered the lyrics of Paul Baloche’s and Glenn Packiam’s “Your Name,” of The Brilliance’s “Mother of God” or “Our God Alone.” These are just a few that have entered our recent repertoire at University Lutheran Chapel. These are songs that sing of God’s salvation through Jesus—the name above all names! It took me a while of singing Joel Houston’s “The Stand” to fully realize the beauty of the Trinity in its three verses. The author of the blog would likely argue about where the song ends up (“so I’ll stand…”), but I would argue back that it is all in response to what God has done and what was sung about in the verses (“in awe of the One who gave it all”).

    I am not (I pray) prideful enough to think I have it all figured out. There are songs I used to do that I don’t anymore. I believe discernment needs to be used in selecting music to be sung in our worship services—of both lyrical content and musical qualities. We have sung hymns with beautiful words that the congregation awkwardly stumbled over—in our traditional service! The same can be said about modern songs that just didn’t click, as well as songs whose poetry got in the way of the message.

    Luther was about getting the Word of God and the worship of His people into the vernacular. “A Mighty Fortress” was a new song that first week, and took some getting used to. There were wonderful hymns written before Luther, and many written after. Some are still in our hymnal while others have dropped off. I do not think all modern worship music will stand the test of time, but there are some that will—songs that are wonderful testaments to who God is and what he has done for us.

    May what we do as worship leaders (and as worshippers) bring glory to God and not sow seeds of division. Let iron sharpen iron. Bring light to darkness. Where words of truth need to be spoken, let them be rooted in God’s truth and not just subjective personal taste based on limited empirical evidence. Shock with the gospel, not with things of man.

  40. @Jais Tinglund #40
    Excellent comment Rev. Tinglund. I remember well Dr. Norman Nagel’s introduction to Lutheran Worship where he states:

    ‘Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Music is drawn into the thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious giver God. Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure.’

    That paragraph is possibly the best description of the Divine Service ever written, IMO.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  41. @Jais Tinglund #39
    I am making an assumption about the motive of the author, glad you picked up on that! The very title and shock value of the subject matter invites it, perhaps even demands it. Most people see through the charade of those who make shock statements or comparisons and then try to claim they didn’t mean for it to be shocking. So I believe in addition to your commandment there is also the one about lying. So lets stop pretending the emperor has no clothes here.

    I didn’t write the article and I’m not sure where I said every post must have Scriptural references. I said that it would be better if the article did.

    “I also think it can be legitimate to assume basic knowledge of the basic teachings of Holy Scripture without necessarily looking up and lining up references as proof of that which should be common knowledge.”

    You know what they say about assuming, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. Also, if it goes without saying, it ought to be said.

    Please feel free to douse me with more of your psud-theological/psudo-philosophical wisdom on this because clearly, as evidenced every time you post on a thread here or elsewhere you are never wrong. As my father used to say, “A legend in your own mind.”

  42. @Victor Minetola #42

    Victor, You stated the following:

    “This argument does nothing except deepen the chasm between steadfast traditionalists and those who see the benefit of good modern worship. It creates an “us-them” mentality.”

    The reality is that a chasm does exist and I don’t see compromise as the solution. I think I ran across an article you wrote about Derek Webb. In it you reference Webb’s song, “Wedding Dress” in which the lyrics state, ” Cause I am a whore, I do confess, I put you on just like a wedding dress, and I run down the aisle.” Such songs have no place in a Lutheran church service or event.

    Of course, difficult and awkward topics MUST be covered in church. That’s the job of the Pastor, not a musician who wishes to use a church service to get his or her point across.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvQRd7D9BDM

  43. @Randy

    I did reference that song in my article, but I have never done that (or any) Derek Webb song in a worship service. Derek didn’t perform the song in his concert, either.

    I (and he) consider him a music artist who is a Christian, not a worship artist or someone who writes music to be used in worship. He writes songs about life and faith. As I mentioned in my article, Hosea and Ezekiel contain similar subject matter to that particular song as well, and shouldn’t be merely glossed over.

    But that is beside the point of this conversation.

  44. @Victor Minetola #47
    Victor,

    I’m just using Derek Webb as an example of how CCM is seldom screened from a confessional perspective. It appears Webb put on a concert at the University Lutheran Chapel in Oct to perform songs from his, “I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You” album. You were promoting him – Is this correct?

    If so, here are just a few examples of what I’m talking about:

    His song titled “Lover Part 3” seems to indicate Jesus said the following:

    Because I am my beloveds and my beloveds mine
    So, you bring all your history, Ill bring the bread and wine
    Oh and well have us a party oh where all the drinks are on me
    And as surely as the rising sun, oh, you will be set free
    Oh, you will be set free

    His song titled, “Closer than you Think” seems to indicate Jesus said the following:

    Baby, can’t you feel my arms around you
    The poetry whispered in your ear
    I know sometimes I must confound you
    Just wishing my words would come in clear
    Like a spark in the dark to let you know I’m near

    These are just examples, but in my opinion not what I think the LCMS should be promoting and supporting in any way. In the CCM magazine the following can be found regarding Derek Webb, “….. Webb spent the last few albums exploring and expanding his musical interests and theological ideas.

    What theological ideas? See what I mean? In fact, in your article you stated that, “Derek seemed to take the path of a modern day prophet.”

  45. @Randy

    Do we know each other?

    I appreciate you reading and posting about the Derek Webb article, and if you’d like to discuss it on that blog, that would be great.

    If you have concerns with our hosting of his concert, I invite you to discuss it with our pastors.

    However, again this has nothing to do with what this article or my response addressed.

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