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. @Randy #48

    Hmmm….the lyrics you just posted certainly do help support Pastor Anderson’s statement that:

    “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….these lyrics do make God sound like a “Cosmic Boyfriend.”

    Hard to believe Derek Webb performed a concert in a Lutheran Church. 🙁

    @Victor Minetola #49

    Randy’s comments seem to be very relevant to the original post on CCM.

  2. The original post was about “CCM Praise Music.” Music being used in worship services. That is not what Derek Webb is.

    Song of Solomon makes God sound a little like a “cosmic boyfriend” too 😉

  3. Victor Minetola :
    May what we do as worship leaders (and as worshippers) bring glory to God and not sow seeds of division.

    Victor, Do you not support contemporary praise worship? By your comments it seemed clear to me that you do. Therefore, my point is to simply show that CCM is seldom rooted in the true Word and Sacraments, but instead serves to use whatever language the musician desires.

    Also, I disagree that my comments have nothing to do with the original post by Rev Andersen. In fact, they support his point.

    So, I ask you, did Webb sing the songs I referenced above at the University Lutheran Chapel in October? If so, do you believe that the lyrics are appropriate? You are a “worship leader” right? “Leader” means you set the standard, right? When youth see that you support music as I have cited they believe it’s OK, right? So, again, do you think Webb’s music is OK and appropriate for a Lutheran venue?

  4. @Randy

    Have you looked at the songs I referenced in my original post?

    If you would like to discuss that, I’m game. Otherwise I’ve given you options for continuing the Derek Webb discussion (who I wouldn’t even consider CCM, much like U2 isn’t CCM).

    Happy new year!

  5. I came up with the idea for this article after hearing a few songs on K-Love (http://www.klove.com/), a station that plays Contemporary Christian Music. After listening to shallow song after shallow song, it dawned on me: Lutherans aren’t listening for the text. I used to lead a praise band, and I can say with all honesty the lyrics weren’t what captivated me. The theology might be spot-on for a non-denominational church, but why do Lutherans bother with this nonsense? The aesthetics (at least in part; there’s probably also a catechetical issue here). It reminded me of that comment you sometimes hear, “I read it for the articles” (in reference to pornographical magazines). Well, that’s obviously a lie; it’s for the pictures. Likewise, with CCM. It’s not for the words; it’s for the “ear pictures.” So I spun the idea out from there. Obviously not all CCM fits the bill of what I’m describing. Much of it does. This was my experience as a worship leader (2002-2004), and has been my general observation since then.

    Hymns clearly have aesthetics, too- some are quite beautiful. However, the aesthetics of any good hymn will support the text, while the aesthetics in CCM typically dominate the text. This is inherent in the pop/rock genre (e.g., my Nirvana example in the article).

    It’s probably significant that so-called “contemporary” churches feature not only music that has an aesthetic that’s in competition with the text, but typically are held in spaces where the architectural aesthetic has its origins not in the gospel, but in the culture (stadium, movie theater, screens, etc).

  6. @Victor Minetola #3

    OK Victor, since you don’t want to play ball any other way than by your rules here’s what I found out regarding the two individuals you referenced. I will warn you, what I found out is as messed up as a “football bat:”

    Paul Baloche is a Worship Leader at Community Christian Fellowship Church in Lindale, TX. Here’s their “statement of belief” regarding Baptism from their website:

    Statement 6: Baptism
    We believe water baptism by immersion is an act of obedience for the burial, by faith, of the old, unregenerate self and resurrection into a new life as part of God’s family (Mt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; 19:1-5; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). We believe the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate and distinct experience from water baptism and is a special provision for life and service ( Acts 8:15-17, 10:44-47, 11:15-16, 19:2-6).

    Victor, I don’t even know where to begin. The “second baptism of the Holy Spirit” is a Pentecostal belief and it’s heresy. He’s also performed numerous times at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. We should not trust such individuals regarding doctrine or “Praise Songs” should we? Certainly you can see this.

    Glenn Packiam is the lead pastor of the New Life Church/Downtown in Colorado Springs. The same doctrinal issues exist there. Check it out, Victor. You really must be careful what you accept.

  7. I once attended a worship leaders’ conference where Paul Baloche was the main speaker/worship leader. During one of his “worship” concerts, he invited us to all open our mouths and receive “spiritual communion”, to “imagine the bread of life coming down from heaven… now feel it on your tongue, taste it in your mouths…” etc. There were no physical elements present, not even the verba, just a pure mystical communion via the means of the (instrumental) music.

  8. What an ironic article … Question: is looking for the number of hits on your site a similar self gratification to that described by CS Lewis?

  9. @J. Dean #25

    To be honest, if you had raised those issues, questions or opinions with me, I would have sat you down and had a good talk about your actual standing as a Christian.
    Any one who takes the stance you have espoused there is at best, just starting out in their Christian walk; at worst, not yet saved!

    There are also many false dichotomys in those ‘questions’ that, with a new believer or unsaved person, would be worthwhile sitting and talking about, but it would be a long discussion.

    If I want people to appreciate my furniture I would point out and emphasise the good points of it.
    I do not get them to appreciate my furniture by slagging my neighbours furniture which, to all intents and purposes, he may not even have!

    Many articles here on BJS are great stuff and abide by the mission statement: To Defend and Promote Confessional Lutheranism. Good, stick to doing that – show me the beauty of the teachings, do not go digging around for dirt in places that could hardly even be considered Christian Churches in the first place!

    I come to this site because I want to see the truths found in Gods Word proclaimed, the wonders of salvation (trumpeted forth – oops, not allowed to use trumpets!) piano’d forth, the glories of redemption clearly expounded, so unless someone else is clearly stating that their music is better than what Lutherans use (for what ever reason) and they are clearly and specifically attacking Lutheran teachings and understandings, why even broach this topic?

  10. @Stef #8
    Stef,
    Please listen to the hymn festival recording of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, IN 175th anniversary. The CD is titled, ‘Blessed Are They Forever.’ The instruments on the recording are: trumpet, french horn, trombone, percussion, oboe, flute and organ plus children’s choir and adult choirs.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  11. “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.”

    Are you talking about this music just in a church service setting? Or are you referring to listening to it privately in your car and home?

    If you are referring to listening to praise music privately then you also would need to include ALL Pop music in your argument, otherwise your whole argument is hypocritical. Praise music is Pop music that has had shallow spiritual lyric added to it.

    I can’t help but notice how many Lutheran radio & podcast use Pop music as their intro music.

    Your connection between “praise music” and pornography seems eerily similarly to what my wife was taught as a fundamental Baptist. The beat of Rock music was subliminally telling its listener to rebel, have sex, take drugs. Is this the path you are going down?

  12. Elisha: That’s a fair point. I’ve disabled the counter on my own blog. However, I’m not sure our counter here is accurate, so I don’t put a lot of stock in what it says. But your comment does not invalidate any of the points I’ve made in the article.

    Jason: my point is that the aesthetics, the “beat” tends to dominate the text. The music ought to be slave to the text, not the other way around. Whenever the aesthetics dominates the text, it has that in common with pornographical magazines. Sometimes you want the aesthetics to overwhelm the “text”, for example, in visual art. The description of the painting is supposed to be secondary to the painting itself. No so with music in the Lord’s house. The text should be primary. I’m not saying listening to the beat will lead to sex & drugs. That’s what Lucarini says in his book, “Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement.” I think he’s wrong. However, that aesthetic lends itself more readily to those activities (sex & drugs) than it does to gathering together in the presence of the Lord to receive Word & Sacrament.

  13. Pastor Eric: thanks for your clarification. That make what you are saying more understandable. Most people purchase magazine to read, but who really buys pornographical magazines for reading?

    Our church music should be about the text, but CCM has made it more about the music. That is obvious by the examples given above.

    Now that I’m Lutheran I go to church to receive the Word and the Sacrament of the Altar. When I was a evangelical I went to church to have a worship experience.

  14. “Will orthodox Lutheranism in America retain (or return to) its historic character as one of three liturgical churches of Western Christendom, or can all this be safely left behind as Old World cultural baggage, to be replaced with freewheeling, cheery popfests of snappy tunes and upbeat chitchat?”
    -Kurt Marquart, in “Liturgy and Evangelism,” from “Lutheran Worship: History and Practice.”

    Churches who pursue the latter become filled with unbelievers, period. I’ve been to these churches. I’ve worked for them and been complicit. The “Koinonia project” that my life has become is my due penance. But go to these churches. Ask people in the pews basic questions about the substance of the Christian faith. They don’t know it: they’re there because the presentation appeals to them, they like being involved in the community aspect of it, or some other organizational/institutional draw that has absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel of Christ.

    Pornography is a euphemism for what vapid, Christless, gnostic, enthusiast, sacramentarian ditties have done to the American church. The free market has spoken, and entrepreneurial capitalism has produced its own religion with the thin veneer of Christian lingo. Shame on our churches who are led around by the nose by such an industry. Shame on our leaders who are too bored with God’s Word that they resort to tacky gimmicks to garner participation. Faith used to have some associations with dignity, but I feel like it’s being reduced to spiritualized narcissism.

  15. @Victor Minetola #2

    Song of Solomon makes God sound a little like a “cosmic boyfriend” too

    Only when read through the lens of “me and my personal relationship with Jesus.” When we remember that we are not as individuals the bride of Christ, but rather, the church as a corporate whole is, we can take a much less personally romanticized approach to the spiritual metaphor of the text. I would not recommend it for doxological use (the Hebrews most certainly did not either) without either Trinitarian paraphrase or contextual interpretation. Just because it’s in the Scriptures does not mean we should sing it in worship. You wanna rock the boat? Sing the Psalms. Sing the imprecatory ones, the laments, and the penitential ones. That is a much more Christ-centered way to make people very uncomfortable in the pews without tramping in erotic imagery.

  16. @Stef #9

    To be honest, if you had raised those issues, questions or opinions with me, I would have sat you down and had a good talk about your actual standing as a Christian.
    Any one who takes the stance you have espoused there is at best, just starting out in their Christian walk; at worst, not yet saved!

    In other words, REAL Christians would never speak a critical word about something being done by another Christian… Pot, meet kettle.

    do not go digging around for dirt in places that could hardly even be considered Christian Churches in the first place!

    If only that were the case. This heterodox hymnody is being paraded through our churches as if it would usher in a third great awakening.

    You see, many in the LCMS are sheltered from the extremes of the Evangelical circus by the residual trappings of the Lutheran tradition which still somehow anchor them. But People like J Dean and I have come running for shelter from the three ring variety show, and let me tell you, it is painful to see what ought to be a sure place of refuge hanging a trapeze. We’ve seen the damage it does firsthand.

    There are also many false dichotomys in those ‘questions’

    Give me one. Seriously.

  17. @Randy #6
    Baloche is a heterodox Charismatic, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of writing any orthodox hymnody. Many authors in our hymnal held very bad theology, but on particular issues. When writing about topics where our theologies agree, they are capable of producing sound materials.

    Glenn Packiam is a completely different story. He may still be working for Haggard’s old church, but he is actually in the process of obtaining Anglican ordination and leads liturgical worship services for the downtown campus which follow the church year. It’s not exactly Lutheran orthodoxy, but boy, he is in a different world from the vast majority of CCM artists now. Remember, the Lutheran Hymnal stole a lot of worship materials (especially translations) from the Anglican “Book of Common Prayer,” so while his doctrine is still in err, he is rapidly becoming the least effective whipping boy of the Evangelical music industry. Here’s hoping for more mega-church leaders to recover the ancient roots of Christian doxology!

  18. @Miguel #19

    Miguel, Excellent information. Thank you. I always appreciate reading your comments. I suppose you’re right and I may have cast too wide a net. With that said, a comment you made really sums it up for me. In post #16 above you said,

    “Ask people in the pews basic questions about the substance of the Christian faith. They don’t know it: they’re there because the presentation appeals to them, they like being involved in the community aspect of it, or some other organizational/institutional draw that has absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel of Christ.

    Well put. My attempt at talking about Baloche, and Packiam (since Victor brought them up) was that I believe many in those pews and many performing the music at LCMS church services and in LCMS venues have no idea who wrote the music or what their motivations may be, because, as you said, they may not have a solid foundation themselves regarding Christian faith. A full-tilt Pentecostal may write a good song, but shouldn’t we also analyze such songs through a confessional lens before those songs are allowed to be performed in an LCMS venue? My concern is also that when youth see songs by Baloche allowed in a service they then can easily regard ANY song by Baloche as good regarding scripture and content. While some may even take issue with some of the hymns in our current LSB at least those hymns were looked at by more than one Lutheran theologian for content and meaning.

    Again, thank you, Miguel. I appreciate your perspective and knowledge in this area.

  19. @Miguel #19

    Thanks, Miguel. I could not have said it better myself.

    To Randy et. al. :

    I assure you no one is leaving our late service with intentions of becoming a Pentecostal. Much like I’m sure no one left either of our Christmas Eve services with intentions of following Watts’s or Brooks’s or Wesley’s … denominations.

    I also assure you that our services are no big showy “CoWo” emotion-fest. If you joined us for worship, I believe you would be amazed at how Lutheran the service is.

    We need to be very careful that we don’t paint pictures of each other that are mere caricatures of broad generalizations that do nothing positive for the Lutheran Church (at least) or God’s Church (at the most). Using something as vile as pornography and equating it to “CoWo” worship is no better than if “we” wrote posts saying you guys puffing up your chests about the superiority of your modes of worship is a big liturgical wankfest. It does no good for the body of Christ.

    From the “other side of the chasm,”
    Victor

  20. @Randy #20

    shouldn’t we also analyze such songs through a confessional lens before those songs are allowed to be performed in an LCMS venue?

    Exactly. Let us consider carefully what the lyrics teach and confess, because that is what the singers of these lyrics will come to believe.

    Yes, I have trouble using any Baloche/Tomlin/Hillsong etc… song because once we validate the brand, many will feel it is open season. I can’t tell you how many parishioners have come up to me and asked if I could sing this song they heard on k-Love that they just really really like and then draw a blank stare when I ask what the song is about. I am not currently in a position to sing none of them, but I see as my mission to try to get our people to learn to think critically on what is sung in church and why. A lot of music I do is stuff I can not stand, but my experience is showing that if you give people a taste of something better, they often respond quite well to it. As long as I do a little bit of the k-Love repertoire, nobody seems to complain much if I stick to the LSB for most of the rest. This gives me the ability to be very selective with the CCM texts we allow while still including enough of music from people’s favorite CCM stars to help coax them along. It’s the “spoonful of sugar” approach, and some may feel this is compromise, but through this approach I have brought tremendous doxological reform to our congregation and am teaching the youth to know the liturgy and sing the hymns. That is always a “win” even if there’s a little disposable pop thrown in the mix.

  21. @Victor Minetola #21
    I would like to learn more about your church and how they approach “contemporary worship.” Most days I feel like I am the only one in the LCMS using contemporary music that tries to do it faithful to the confessions, traditions, and doxological heritage of our church. I’m always looking for new ways to synergyize creativity and faithfulness.

    The thing is, though, nobody ever “intends to become Pentecostal” or any other heterodoxy. It creeps up slowly and unsuspectingly. False belief is spread more quickly through song lyrics than through anything else. That is why the utmost meticulosity in the scrutinization of lyrics is beyond essential. Remember the quote “let me write a nations songs, and I care not who writes their laws.”

    But when it comes to caricature, unfortunately, this article is not knocking over straw men. It may not be the case with your congregation and others who work to integrate recent doxological developments faithfully, but too many even in our synod are just following trends without critical analysis. Also, amongst those actually trying to be faithful, many are not equipped and lack the understanding to do so. It is not enough to intend to do “contemporary” in a way that is faithfully Lutheran. For every tradition discarded, replaced, or updated, you should know what it is, what it means, and why it was introduced before you lay it aside. All too often the approach is “as long as these lyrics don’t teach explicit heterodoxy they are just fine,” but if the lyrics don’t teach anything period, they can be a waste of time. LCMS congregations utilizing “contemporary worship” stand to benefit immensely from a conscientious study of their own worship traditions, learning to mine them for doxological treasures that will greater inform how they respond to current trends.

  22. Victor Minetola :
    We need to be very careful that we don’t paint pictures of each other that are mere caricatures of broad generalizations that do nothing positive for the Lutheran Church (at least) or God’s Church (at the most). Using something as vile as pornography and equating it to “CoWo” worship is no better than if “we” wrote posts saying you guys puffing up your chests about the superiority of your modes of worship is a big liturgical wankfest.

    Agreed.
    But to refer to Pastor Andersen’s posting (if that is what you are referring to) as “Using something as vile as pornography and equating it to “CoWo” worship” is a caricature already in itself.

    And agreed, again: caricatures usually do not do no much good. In this case seeking refuge in a caricature can very well be used (by the evil one, and by that in us which is subject to him) as an excuse or a diversion to keep those who prefer a certain style of worship from reading what it actually says, and from considering the points that it makes, and from sincerely asking themselves the hard questions as to why it is that their preference is as it is, and from being aware of what kind of criteria guides them in their selection of music and lyrics for worship use, and from being open to the application of other and more appropriate criteria in the future.

  23. @Miguel #23

    Very well written and stated. Thank you. Again, I very much respect your words and knowledge in this area. My point, and yours I believe, is when we enter an LCMS church or attend an LCMS event we should trust that what is being taught, preached, and sung is “truly good, right, and salutary.” You completely addressed this in your post and I appreciate it. You obviously have a good handle on it. But, as you also alluded to, others don’t have a good handle on this. Therein lies the rub. I freely admit that I greatly oppose tweaks and adjustments to the liturgy in the LSB for this very reason (and the reason you eloquently stated in your post to Victor:

    “The thing is, though, nobody ever “intends to become Pentecostal” or any other heterodoxy. It creeps up slowly and unsuspectingly. False belief is spread more quickly through song lyrics than through anything else.

    You nailed it! For me, the liturgy is like a road map. When we begin to stray off the path the dangers become greater exponentially.

  24. @Victor Minetola #21

    Victor, I thank you for your response. Please see my last to Miguel.

    Also, I know that Derek Webb wasn’t the original topic, but when we promote such individuals from a LUTHERAN posture and provide a LUTHERAN venue for someone such as Webb we are telling the world that we support what this person believes and stands for. The same goes for the others cited. That’s a dangerous place to be!

    The sinful world is much like a mine field. Why would we lay our own mines?

  25. @Miguel #24
    You are not alone. Your reference to “creativity and faithfulness” resonates here, as in:

    “Sing to the Lord a new song….” (Ps. 96:1)
    “but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21)

    When my congregation took an interest in contemporary music for worship several years ago, I had an opportunity to help shape the development of that. The result was newer musical idioms in a familiar liturgical structure.

    Screening material was a challenge with regard to both the music and the text. The standouts expressed Scriptural truths plainly, and those were the choices that also seemed to complement any hymnody included in the service.

    Some songs I would come across had a well-written verse or refrain among less desirable material. In a few cases, I found that an individual verse or refrain could work well as a musical element in the liturgy.

  26. A great article on this topic by Rev Wolfmueller from Table Talk Radio can be found on the Issues, ETC site (and his own blog). Yet another angle on CCM Praise music.

    http://wolfmueller.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/the-praise-song-cruncher/

    Now the nice Lutheran comes bopping along and a contemporary worship guru says, “You guys should sing this song,” and the Lutheran looks over the song searching for false doctrine and, finding none, says, “Fire up the amp.” They couldn’t find any false doctrine because there was no doctrine to begin with. Seeing there’s no false doctrine in the average praise-song is like saying there’s no false doctrine in the fire-hydrant. To be a false teacher you must first teach.

  27. Wow! I love the printable Praise-Song Cruncher mentioned in Wolfmueller’s article. What a great way to discern usefulness and appropriateness of a song!

    Teaching mysticism (often found in CCM) can be especially dangerous for our youth. Mysticism teaches youth to find God in their “feelings” rather than in scripture and sacraments. When their “feelings” change and they no longer feel uplifted, they believe that the Holy Spirit has left them. Let’s teach our youth to recognize mysticism when they hear it and keep them grounded in the true Word of God.

    Again, the Praise-Song Cruncher appears to be a great tool for determining whether or not a song should be used, as long as those using the tool recognize mysticism and false teachings when they hear them.

  28. I am a bit amused by the critics of newer songs which repeat certain phrases when I think back on the Ascension hymn in The Lutheran Hymnal which included 49 “alleluias” – seven in each of 7 verses. I remember singing that hymn at four services one weekend and enjoying all 196 of them!

  29. Porn is an abomination and truly hurts people. Praise music may be unpleasing but it’s nowhere near as harmful as porn, and I find it a little disturbing that they are used together in this article. Porn has hurt many lives. I know of many marriages that are struggling from it, and at least two that have ended solely because of it. Praise music doesn’t hurt like that, and I’m afraid this article minimizes the issue of porn at a crucial time when it’s all around in society and it is wreaking quite a bit of havoc, whereas praise music hurts no one. I know you acknowledge the harms of porn, but this is a very sensitive issue for many right now, and I wish it wasn’t used to make a point about music.

  30. @Klo #33
    Re-read the article. The point, I believe, is that yes – in the wrong setting (e.g. a church service) praise music can be just as harmful spiritually as pornography. Both encourage the listener to focus on feelings – and thus themselves – to the exclusion of what they are supposed to be focusing on. Both can lead towards idolatry and the worship of false gods; pornography by making you focus on a false, unattainable desire and promise of pleasure instead of a real person and the exchange of true gifts; praise music by making you focus on feelings of spirituality and goodwill instead of the real gifts that God gives through his Word and sacraments.

    In the present age – if not in all ages – the focus of the Devil’s work is on our feelings and on making them the most important thing in our lives – false gods. We teach students that there is no objective truth except for what we feel the truth to be. We have redefined marriage as being about two people’s feelings towards one another, instead of being a contractual union for the proper raising of children. We allow mothers to kill their children if they don’t feel the right way about them. So yes – if praise music encourages you to place feelings and your internal emotional state ahead of the knowledge of your gifts received from God and your proper response thereto, then it is precisely as bad as pornography.

  31. @Christopher J. Neuendorf #11
    Just ran across this comment years after…after much study and prayer, I am going on a crusade to get the Bride to seriously correlate contemporary “worship” music with eating meat sacrificed to idols…we are sinning against Christ when we use this music that those who have been saved out of a rock and roll lifestyle bristle at when they come into the church after genuine repentance and conversion (not deciding to become a “Christ Follower”).

    I also suspect the 50% to 67% of those in the church that are struggling with internet porn are doing so because of the influence of this music in their lives.
    We need to start a “it’s the music stupid”…or “it’s the stupid music” campaign.
    I have combined my study with a personal observation…during the many years I was listening to that music my spiritual wheels spun…once I took all the music to the rail, “everything” changed to my delight and shear surprise…for I was not expecting anything to change in my life…I just thought that dismal boring reading of the Word was the battle we all faced until I cleaned my life out of this music and everything took off and is building momentum each day (now after many years)…wow was I ever deceived! very frightening stuff!

  32. Regarding Pastor Andersen’s article, it seems like he is painting with a very broad brush. The danger of doing so is that it sounds like we are creating a sermon for the sole reason of appearing provocative, so let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Certainly some contemporary worship songs are more uplifting or doctrinal than others. There is no doubt about that. But let’s face it, we all pick favorites. Name your favorite Psalm. Psalm 23? Psalm 91? Psalm 139? Psalm 32? Psalm 54? Great Psalms with powerful messages full of doctrinally powerful statements. Now think of some of the ones you like least or maybe seem less doctrinal. Look at Psalm 118 which almost reads a bit like one of the contemporary worship songs. Not necessarily doctrinally deep, but offers the Psalmist the opportunity to just praise God. How about Psalm 137, a deep lament? There isn’t much doctrine there, only a call for God to remember his people.

    Now let’s look at some contemporary worship songs. How about the Newsboys song “I Believe” which is a praise and worship version of the apostle’s creed? Or how about their call to follow Jesus with our actions in “Born Again?” How about the song “What If I Stumble” by DC Talk, a song that calls us to be sober with our life of witness? How about Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust In You” which affirms that she will trust and follow God even when her prayers are seemingly unanswered? Ever listen to “The Proof of Your Love” by Casting Crowns? Pretty deep theology in line with scripture if you ask me.

    But even if a worship song isn’t necessarily theologically deep, sometimes its just ok to express our adoration for God and what he has done for us.

    Certainly we need to be selective about what we allow to influence our picture of who God is, but hey, that’s Lutheranism. We don’t try to put ourselves in a bubble and isolate ourselves from the world. We use the scriptures as our lens for how we view the world.

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