The Christian and Rock Music
Music has played a lesser role in my life than in the lives of most people. I suppose that is a deficiency. I enjoy singing in Church choirs, and I enjoy classical, jazz, folk, and sometimes even opera and country music. But you would never ask me to be a music critic because I lack the qualifications.
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi is concerned with the growing trend to bring hard rock music into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In Australia and New Zealand, he ran into a buzz saw when he objected to rock music played to accompany his lectures at SDA camps and congregations. As a result, Bacchiocchi gathered a team of music experts, and recently published a 384-page book, The Christian & Rock Music: a Study on Biblical Principles of Music. Of the fourteen chapters, Bacchiocchi wrote seven chapters, and seven were written by several others, experts in the musical field.
As has been Bacchiocchi’s habit, this book has been very poorly proofread. Typographical errors should be embarrassing to Dr. B., such as the header for every page of Chapter 7, “Biblical Princples [sic.] of Music.” It is ultimately the responsibility of the author, not his proofreader, to ensure technical accuracy for his books. Such sloppiness detracts from his scholarly qualifications and the veracity of his message.
Not being a musician himself, Bacchiocchi, nevertheless, did a credible job. His analysis is well done and the issue of what kind of music is appropriate for worship services should be discussed and analyzed. Here is Bacchiocchi’s summary of the book:
Contemporary Christian Music, known also as “Christian” rock, is fast replacing traditional music and instruments across denominational churches, including an increasing number of Seventh-day Adventist churches. In many churches today “praise bands” have replaced the choir, overheads have replaced the hymn books, synthesizers have replaced organs, and drums and guitars have taken their place in the repertoire of church music instrumentation.
These changes in church music are causing controversies and divisions in many congregations. Some see the new “pop music” as the music of Babylon, while others as the prophetic “New Song” to reach and satisfy the baby-boomers’ taste for rock music. Often the arguments generate more heat than light, reflecting personal taste or culture rather than a grasp of the Biblical principles of music.
The Christian and Rock Music: A Study of Biblical Principles of Music has two major objectives. The first is to help people understand the true nature of the various styles of rock music popular today. Special consideration is given to the problems arising from transforming rock music into a medium for Christian worship and evangelism. The second objective is to define those Biblical principles that should guide Christians in making good musical choices.
The aim of this symposium is not to dismiss all contemporary music as “rock,” because there are contemporary songs with music and words which are suitable for divine worship. Rather, the aim is to clarify how the music, words, and the manner of singing should conform to the Biblical principle of worship music.
Contrary to prevailing misconceptions, The Christian and Rock Music shows that the Bible clearly differentiates between the secular music used for social entertainment and the sacred music worthy of the worship of God. There are ample Biblical and historical evidences indicating that music and instruments associated with social entertainment, were not allowed in worship service at the Temple, synagogue, or early Church. The reason is that such music would have tempted believers to turn their place of worship into a place of entertainment, as happens in some churches today. To prevent this thing from happening, God’s people in Bible times were taught to use only the sacred music suitable for divine worship. The authors of this book believe that the same principle applies to the church today.
The Bible teaches that church music is to be God-centered, not self-centered. The notion of praising the Lord for entertainment or amusement is foreign to the Bible. Percussion instruments which stimulate people physically through a loud and relentless beat are as inappropriate for Church music today, as they were for the worship service in Bible times.
The Biblical principles of music outlined in this book are especially relevant today, when the Church and the home are being invaded by various forms of rock music which blatantly rejects the moral values and religious beliefs espoused by Christianity. At a time when the distinction between sacred and secular music is blurred, and many are promoting modified versions of secular rock music for Church use, it is important to remember the Biblical summon to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (I Chronicles 16:29; cf. Psalm 29:2, 96:9).
The Christian and Rock Music is a most timely book for today. It clearly delineates the issues and provides Biblical answers to the problems which have caused so many Christians to stumble. For concerned Christians, this book may well be a musical survival kit in our compromising society. This ends Dr. B.’s summary.
Coming from a Worldwide Church of God background through 1975, I was musically deprived. Even today, Church of God groups sing old or new songs with little feeling, little variety, basically to be endured rather than enjoyed. Music should be a sermon in song, stimulating to the singer, respectful to the Creator, and filled with love and praise. In many congregations, it is difficult even to get a pianist to play our old music. I can see why some want to go to the opposite ditch and bring in rock music to the Church. I believe the answer to our musical famine is not to bring rock music into the Church, and not to continue in our musical doldrums.
Those who have musical talent need to stimulate us to express ourselves in musical praise and worship of our Master. Sharon See, of the Springdale, Arkansas, Church of God, has been one such individual. Her sterling example of bringing good music to the Feast of Tabernacles at Lake Texoma, Oklahoma, has brought joy to many of us who attended the Festival with her.
The Church needs musically-talented individuals to record Christian music for distribution, and provide music and sing-alongs for Festivals, Sabbaths sermons, and special occasions. Step forward and serve! Let us know if we can help you distribute your Christian music.
If you study the subject of music in the Bible, you will be amazed at how great a part music plays in the worship of God. See our article, “Yahweh is My Strength, My Song, My Salvation,” Study No. 42, which we hope to reprint in a future newsletter, or view it on our website at www.giveshare.org/BibleStudy/042.song.html.
Bacchiocchi has recently raised prices on all his books to $20 retail. You may order a copy of The Christian and Rock Music from Giving & Sharing for a suggested donation of $12.50. Or, borrow for a 30-day loan for $5.