A theology that praises humans…

In light of the wide exposure that the mass media have given, and continues to give, to rock ‘n’ roll, together with the ever-present phenomenon of secularization, it seemed inevitable that rock music would someday invade Christian circles—and it did. Its users call it “Christian rock.” Often it is called “contemporary Christian music”…. Some Christian rock songs have religious titles or themes while others focus only on love and romance. In regard to the later, there often is little or no difference in the lyrics of these songs from those of non-Christian rock music. Even selections that have religious titles or themes often reflect a theology that indirectly praises humans rather than God. For example, one song (“Cartoons” by Chris Rice) says it is great to sing “praise in a whole new way.”

Some of the Christian rock music, like secular rock, also plays notes of rebellion. A few years ago Undercover, a Christian punk rock group, took the well-known Christian hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” and recorded it in speed rock form, greatly diminishing its sacred qualities. By altering this widely sung hymn, the Undercover group displayed a form of rebellion. Still other Christian rock music sometimes faults (at times rightly) the institutional church of today for having forgotten the poor and the downtrodden. Such music is probably more accurately seen as a social critique than an example of rebellion, especially if we remember the early church’s deep commitment to charity and compassion.

Even Christian rock that is not rebellious—and much of it is not—still leaves much to be desired in terms of good Christian theology. Often little or nothing is said about the nature of God other than the fact that he loves people. But that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is rarely heard, if at all, in Christian rock music. Many recordings speak about God’s grace, but they do not say how man receives that grace. That God’s grace in Christ comes through faith as heard from his Word is typically missing. Also, far too many selections accent people’s subjective spiritual feelings, as singers note how they feel about God rather than how he felt about them as sinful beings whom he chose to redeem through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Finally, in considering Christian rock, one must ask whether its performers and those who listen to it are not conforming to the world, contrary to Romans 12:2, where St. Paul reminds Christians, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The following indicate that conforming to the world is definitely a part of many so-called Christian rock selections, for they sometimes present a worldly or even a blasphemous picture of God. Here are some examples. Robert Sweet of the now defunct Stryker band used to display the words “JESUS CHRIST ROCKS” on the back of his drummer chair. The Messiah Prophet Band has called Jesus Christ “the Master of Metal”; Petra has said that God is “the God of Rock and Roll,” and Daniel Band plays a song called “Party in Heaven” that says, “There’s a party in heaven/The bread is unleaven/The tree of life is growin’ fine/It’s past eleven/My number is seven/The Lamb and I are drinkin’ new wine.”

Alvin Schmidt, from How Christianity Changed the World, p. 340

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