|by Ron Rhodes
Serge Denisoff, sociologist at Bowling Green University, said: "If you want to reach young people in this country, write a song, don't buy an ad" (Newsweek, 30 December 1985, p. 54). Christians have long recognized that music can be a powerful platform from which to communicate God's truth to the masses. Of course, music can also be a powerful platform for communicating wrong interpretations or misrepresentations of God's truth.
Though lyrics in most contemporary Christian songs fall within the boundaries of orthodoxy, a small but growing percentage of Christian songs have lyrics that are either shallow, confusing, doctrinally errant, or even blatantly unbiblical. To illustrate this, I will cite specific examples of lyrics which fall short in one way or another. Since I have no desire to go on a "witch hunt," however, I will not mention any Christian artist's name. I would also like to mention that some of the songs I will cite are performed by artists who -- for the most part -- sing perfectly orthodox songs. But singing orthodox songs most of the time is not enough.
To begin, I am seriously concerned about lyrics which portray Jesus as either less than fully divine or inferior to the Father in some way. One song declares that Jesus "was just an ordinary man...just a carpenter from Galilee." Since I am familiar with other songs by this artist, I know that he believes in the deity of Christ. In His incarnation, Christ also had a fully human nature, which is what I think this artist meant to say. But Jesus was certainly no "ordinary man." Jesus was God in the flesh!
Since Jesus is God, He is all-powerful. Yet He is often portrayed in a less-than-omnipotent way. One song -- a testimonial -- laments that "the Devil was in me. There wasn't enough room to let sweet Jesus in." Another song about Jesus' second coming says: "If you see a Man in sandals, please send Him down my way; It might be my Master, He's coming back some day; If you see a Man in white that's like no one you've seen before, won't you let me know, That's the man I'm looking for. And if you can remember, ask Him what's His name; And if He tells you Jesus, say, 'We're so glad you came'...Then send Him on to me." This is a description of the King of kings and Lord of lords coming in glory?
Salvation is another issue that is sometimes shortchanged. One song portrays Jesus as saying, "if you're sorry -- I'll wash away your sin." There is no mention of faith even though faith is mentioned around 200 times in the New Testament as the condition of salvation. Being just sorry never saved anyone!
Another song, performed by one of today's most popular Christian artists, seems unclear regarding the exclusivity of Christianity. Though other songs by this artist portray Christ as the "only way," this is not clear in the song under question: "There's a call to us all to love all humanity; Every race on the face of the earth come to unity; Reach a hand to the Hindu mother; And a hand to the Buddhist father in love; ('Love one another as I have loved you.') Hold the hands of the Muslim baby; And you'll see we're all created by God; (All in the image of God); Sweet salvation calls the nations with His voice; Every man who hears must make the choice; Who are we to know another's heart or mind? For God alone is judge, He loves all kinds."
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for loving people of every religion. At the same time, however, it seems to me that the highest expression of this love is displayed not by merely reaching out "a loving hand" but by sharing with them that they are totally and irrevocably lost as long as they don't have Jesus in their lives.
It is not surprising that the Positive Confession movement has also found its way into contemporary Christian music. As one popular Christian artist sings, "Let the weak say 'I am strong;' Let the sick say 'I am healed;' With words of faith confess it. And in the name of Jesus claim it. Because what you say is what you get."
And what gives us the strength to get through each day? One song tells us: "In my heart I know there's someone [Christ] who believes in me. I know that He believes in me. He believes in me. That gives me the courage to be what I must be, He believes in me." Where's the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit in this?
Those of us who succeed in living a life worthy of God can look forward to the Rapture, according to another song. We will be raptured "if to God we have been true, and we've lived above all sin." This "Rapture" may be a peopleless event!
Before I'm accused of being a mudslinger, let me affirm that I praise God for Christian music. I can't count the number of times I have been personally blessed by one Christian artist or another. Make no mistake about it, Christian artists have been mightily used by God to communicate His Word. And many people have come to know the Lord through such music. My point, however, is that every artist -- by virtue of the enormous platform they have, commanding the attention of millions of people -- must be extremely cautious to insure the doctrinal accuracy of what is said in each and every song.
Perhaps one safeguard might be for songwriters and Christian recording companies to develop working relationships with reputable theologians and Bible scholars who can glance through lyrics to insure doctrinal accuracy. At the very least, songwriters could have their pastors read through their work. I don't think this is asking too much, especially in view of the potentially enormous number of people who may be influenced by the lyrics.
from the Viewpoint Column of the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1989, page 31. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.
Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.
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