Is contemporary Christian music Satanic?

Let's get a few things straight up front:

This means that when someone asked me of late to comment on some material alleging that contemporary Christian music (CCM) was "satanic" (the source of the material was an extremist fundamentalist website, but it has been reprinted elsewhere), I had to shake my head. We obviously have CCM that is from bad sources (such as the heretical Philips, Craig and Dean, who ought to not be offered on any sound Christian radio station).

But satanic? No, I think that even if Satan was loose, he'd be too busy just now to be doing such things; and even if he were not, he'd probably come up with a better method anyway.

But let's reduce it to a more basic question even so: Is CCM immoral?

I will say this to start: Too often I think artists offer "pop" theology either because a) they don't know any better; b) they try too hard to make a rhyme at the expense of clarity.

The measure for this, for me, is that my dearly beloved wife (who enjoys some CCM) will tell me what a song is saying (since I can't understand it) and then pose some deeper theological question about what the singer means. Most of the time my answer is as above: What they did say has little or no meaning; it was just an effort to make a rhyme using the lingo.

Thus I can agree with certain "Biblical screens" set out by the material, at least in terms of whether something represents Christianity in a worthwhile way. It goes too far to say that music must pass all of these screens to merely be labeled "Christian".

Let's go over those "screens," in fact:

It is in the specifics indeed that we must deal. Cited first is someone I must admit I have not heard of much: Larry Norman, allegedly "the father of Christian rock." It is claimed that Norman makes the incredulous statement that rock 'n' roll music originated in the Church hundreds of years ago, and that the devil stole it!!.

Norman is not actually quoted to this effect. But here are some more specific charges:

The critic closes with another series of brief points which, while offering some gems (such as, not making "how we feel" a criteria for whether music is good -- which sort of contradicts the points above about how bad it is supposed to make us feel on the other hand), are also mixed with a few threats of hellfire for those who disagree, and closes with questions from a "booklet" by someone of unknown authority, Sears:

Gordon Sears, in his booklet, Is Today's Christian Music "Sacred"?, asks six questions of those who think that CCM is indeed acceptable to God: If the new style and sound of music is of God then:
(1) Why is it causing so much confusion and division among Christians?;

Is it? I see no confusion at all over it, and no division either, except among types such as this critic. One might add that the same could be said over the doctrine of the Trinity.

(2) Why is it not received by all fundamental Bible-believing churches?;

I am inclined to reply that restricting to the category of "fundamental Bible-believing churches" rather skews the results (not to mention that it begs the question as well that such churches are the sole and final arbiters).

(3) Why is it readily accepted by the non-Christian world? The ungodly never accepted the old Christian hymns;

They don't? Funny, because the movie Minority Report, for example, made use of the old song, Jesu: Joy of Man's Desiring. By the way, why is Christian charity so readily accepted by the non-Christian world? And when was the last time you heard Internet Infidels unite in saying that they found "Breakfast" by the Newsboys to be an "acceptable" tune?

(4) Why is it that Bible-denying universities and popular secular TV entertainment shows invite well-known Christian artists to give concerts with CCM? This never happened with the great spiritual hymns;

No examples are given of which universities and secular TV shows do this (much less is it shown that this is any sort of norm), so it is hard to comment, but I have to wonder if a) it is Christian groups on university grounds that offer such invitations; b) whether authors of "great spiritual hymns" would be invited to shows if they sang, "Happy Birthday". In other words, maybe it is the subject of the songs and not the genre that makes for the invitation?

(5) Why are there hundreds of churches with godly pastors across America that strictly reject it and forbid it in their services?;

As with (2) this simply begs a question of who is a rightful arbiter (not to mention that it makes no effort to count how many "godly" pastors hold the opposite view).

(6) Why does it have such a strong effect upon the physical body? (As shown earlier, music does have a strong physical effect -- to ignore this would be negligent.)

As noted above, the issue is a particular range of frequencies, not a genre of music. I wonder again if these fellows would lose their objection if the frequencies were outside the range in question.

In the end, the critic is forced to resort to guidelines that are hardly exclusive of CCM ("The text and music should not be cheap or tawdry.") or else have more to do with subjectiveness and weakness of character ("It will be free of mental association with worldly musical styles and evidence a holy consecrated character (Rom. 12:2; I Jn. 2:15).") than with anything specific or objective -- which is no doubt why our critic offers so little in the way of specifics.

In the end, the critic chases himself in a circle, setting his own guidelines and then force-fitting Scripture into validating those guidelines. As a tone-deaf listener who doesn't care about CCM in the first place, I think I can objectively say that beyond the warnings that could be applied as well to any form or art of communication, critics of CCM I have seen are far not engaged in serious exegesis or understanding.

A reader with more knowledge of CCM comments here (Word document).

-JPH