Volume 36 | Number 5 | September–December 2008

Inglés Español

The Fundamentalist and His Music—Part Three
Adapted excerpts from Confronting Contemporary Christian Music

By Dr. H. T. Spence

Fundamentalism as a movement has commenced a decline away from its legacy by entering the wide river of Neo-Evangelicalism. Considering the increased falling away in recent years, only a mighty revival from God will stop the demise of Fundamentalism. The music now coming from most schools which carry the banner of Fundamentalism verifies what my father announced over twelve years ago: “The battle against CCM has already been lost in Fundamentalism.”

We have witnessed in the past fifty years the public death of true Christianity in America; we are now witnessing the public dying of historic Fundamentalism. The potential public demise of historic Fundamentalism will be the product not only of its pulpits but also of its music, both of which have been crossing over into Neo-Evangelicalism.

The reader must understand that we are living in the end-time apostasy, an apostasy like no other. From its biblical perspective, apostasy is the final resolve of the principle of sin; it is the final outpost of sin; it is the link between the natural world of man and the demonic world of Satan. Apostasy is the permanent uniting of these two worlds. Yet, true apostasy must have something from which to fall. Because a falling away is identified more specifically as a defection or turning from truth, the one necessary ingredient for the final world apostasy is the globalization of Christianity.

Throughout recent decades in American Christianity, there has been a growing trend identified as the crossover. Not exclusive to our generation, the subtle tactic of a crossover has appeared at critical seasons throughout history. However, the contemporary crossover has grown into a subtle yet a powerful trend seeking to pull down the public testimony of true Christianity.

The term crossover in its simplistic understanding is a bridge. As a prominent term in today’s music industry, however, crossover is defined as the act of crossing over to a different style, usually with the intention of broadening one’s commercial appeal to a wider audience. The term also may identify the act of crossing over in doctrinal identification with the intention of broadening one’s appeal to a wider religious audience. A crossover is basically a compromising of two distinct points of view, philosophies, or characters.

In recent decades one of the most critical and delicate areas in which a crossover has been more evident is in the context of music. Though the contemporary sound may be traced back much further, during the 1960s and 1970s, many crossovers and changes took place in American Gospel music. Within these more than thirty years since, our country has been bombarded with a new type of Christianity that has been commercially promoted through its acceptable music. In this marketable music, worldliness increasingly has become a trait.

The crossover trend is a powerful enticement, especially in our generation. With the pressures coming upon us as Fundamentalists to gain more followers, to build bigger churches, to keep our academic halls filled, and to become more accepted by the lucrative crowd and the media, the temptation will always exist to cross over to the other side in our style of living, our style of worship, and even our style of music. Of course, it would also be very easy simply to follow those who are the trendsetters in Christianity or to seek the aid of those who are in the mainstream of what is in trend, in vogue, and in fashion in the worship and music industry. To do so would truly broaden the appeal to a wider audience. Some might say, “We must change to become more acceptable if we are going to survive in the days ahead.” There are always deceptive reasonings that will quickly come to the heart to entice one to make the crossover.

The temptation of present Fundamentalism is not so much a crossover toward the world or even to Liberalism. Our temptation is an attraction toward or crossing over into Neo-Evangelicalism. After all, the members of this movement were our brothers at one time, though disorderly brothers. We were one before the split. Their men have succeeded in building edifices, in accruing money, and in composing acceptable popular music. They are the acknowledged mainstream of evangelical Christianity in America and throughout the world. Their prime spokesmen, such as Billy Graham, are at the top of the list for the most admired individuals in America. Why should we not simply cross over in at least a few things and take advantage of these trendsetters? Will their methods work for us?

Yes, there is the temptation to write the music as they do, to make the preaching more palatable to the carnal man as they do, to “preach Christ” without any stand as they do. Once an individual or a church sets the crossover in motion, the tendency is to take advantage of it again and again. The results convince us that the end does justify the means. With a little bit of soft syncopation here and some sensual dissonances sprinkled there, one has easily composed the latest hit song. When Neo-Evangelical radio stations begin lauding our accomplishments and, more importantly, buying our music, we have crossed over to a contemporary, Charismatic sound. Inevitably, our young composers begin crying for the musical trendsetters to step forward and train them in this crossover sound. Our infatuation with this crossover sound and success becomes so strong that if we cannot write the music ourselves, we will hire those outside the camp to compose and perform our music. They may be Charismatic or any other brand of the Christian spectrum, but they are (as we will begin to reason) the more talented writers and musicians in the kind of music for which we are now seeking. After all, the success of these Neo-Evangelical and Charismatic composers proves they know what the people want. In the end, we become more accepted in their eyes simply because we have crossed over to their musical style.

Slowly but surely, the crossover tragedy is finally manifested. By trying to become more like them in our worship and music, we lose our identity as God’s chosen in the earth. The distinctives that made us great in our precious Lord are abandoned. Our worship, our music, our dress, our manner of living, as well as our failures and calamities are no longer different from those whom we secretly had longed to emulate and join. Our musicians now play like them because we trained them so. Our vocalists have the same soft, ethereal sound as they do, because we trained them so. Our composers write with the same surrealistic, modern musical chordality, with wandering, pretty melodies that have no strength and no conviction, because we trained them so. The sad day will finally come when the line of distinction will be erased between the Fundamentalists and the Neo-Evangelicals; the crossover will have succeeded. What we thought was exciting and innovative, a novelty to us as Fundamentalists, will become the razor to cut away our Nazarite vow of heart and life before God. Why? It is because the trendsetters trained us so.

Is the above scenario one of impossibility, possibility, or probability? Will music become Fundamentalism’s crossover bridge to Neo-Evangelicalism? We must be on guard for any dangerous trends and trendsetters making their way into the Body of Christ. Some will try to convince the Lord’s people not to be concerned or afraid of the changes; they will say it is time for a breath of fresh air and fresh innovations to come to our churches, even if we have to cross over the line which our forefathers drew on the battlefield. We must not give ear to the trendsetters and their lines of reasoning. Our churches do not need champagne music or the eclectic sounds to “liven up” the services. It is not the synthetic remedy of the Charismatics that we need. Dare we fall on our knees and in desperation of heart cry out to God for an awakening to righteousness and for a revival of communion with God? Such a genuine move of God will pull us back from the border of the world, its sound, and its acceptability. The crossover to Neo-Evangelicalism is not what we need. There is no hope to be found there. The crossing that we need to make is over the Jordan River that leads into the Promised Land of spirituality and holiness of heart (Hebrews 4).

The mutation of CCM is widening with such force and velocity that its aggressive intimidation for acceptance has pressed itself within the sacred precincts of Fundamental churches. It must be understood that CCM is not just “rock” music. Its elastic, existential nature produces a multicolored facet of the contemporary. What we are witnessing today in the Fundamental churches is more of an enticement on the perimeter: the surrealistic, ethereal, easy-listening sound heard in piano or orchestration introductions and the soft, meandering melodies even written for our traditional hymns. For this reason young people are delightfully being drawn to the “youth camp” songs which have this carefully marked identity. It is truly the “sound” of the contemporary; it will be just a matter of time before the rock beat will enter.

But we cannot put all the blame on the composers, for they are simply writing what they have been taught (or were not taught) in the Bible colleges and Christian universities. There is a glaring deficit of theology and Bible in the music degree curricula of such schools; a “biblical” philosophy is not thought to be a necessary, consistent sentinel in all the classes. The contemporary is flirted with and experimented with by the teachers, stretching more and more the boundaries of acceptability. The result is a proliferation of weak music composers. A simple Bible survey course is basically all that the music students are required to receive. Such graduates have no depth of spiritual study from which to draw; therefore, they can only write from what they know. With such an anemic view of Christian principles, the product gives evidence of a spiritual “dumbing down” of the people. Martin Luther strongly believed that a composer needed to be a theologian in order to write the music of the church. This belief is not held by many today. Eclecticism dominates the theory classes of these institutions. When these graduates take their positions in the churches, preachers are constrained with timidity to say nothing about contemporary changes. Musicians can be intimidating and temperamental, even in response to a pastor’s inquiry and concern.

I continue to plead with all Christian composers, teachers, and pastors to return to a biblical philosophy for their music. Do not be pressed into accepting the contemporary styles of music which are becoming more and more the norm of the “specials” of many church services. It is alarming to hear the recordings released from a large number of our Fundamental colleges; many of the musical selections chosen are of a surrealistic sound. It is a sedative to the soul and a slow but deliberate means for the heart’s assimilating of the world and the flesh. Unless the preachers stand up and clean out the contemporary song from both choir and congregation, all will be over for the spiritual soundness of our churches. Once the contemporary taste is in the heart, the return to a more excellent way will never be desired.

It should be obvious to every true Christian that rock music is diametrically opposed to the Christian Faith and is an intelligently designed medium to destroy Christianity. It is of the flesh, and it is contrary to the Spirit. Whatever some say, a Christian cannot listen to that which is anti-God and anti-Christ in substance and think that he knows the true Christ of Scripture as his Saviour. The Church has “stolen” the Devil’s music and tried to Christianize it and believe it is all right. It is still true: the music itself is the message. Whether the words are dealing with the occult world or with Christianity, the music itself becomes the key to the underworld of Satan. To take the thesis of Christ and the antithesis of Rock and Roll and put them together is a synthesis, a dialectic principle that cannot be sanctioned by Scripture. God condemns the dialectic principle of the world (read II Corinthians 6:14-18).

When one carefully studies Protestant hymnody, he will recognize that there were two levels of music springing forth from the eighteenth century: first, from those writers still identified in depth and burning of heart to that previous century, emphasizing a furthering of their walk with God; and second, from those who were drawn more to the burden of evangelism in the latter part of the 1800s. From one historical perspective it could be concluded that they complemented one another, yet from another perspective it is evident that the Gospel hymn which was birthed from the burden of evangelism became the more prominent influence that would lead Christian music into the twentieth century. Though evangelism is certainly part of the Gospel message, there must be the strength of a solid, on-going Christian life to preserve that born again experience. When the emphasis in Christianity shifts to “experience,” “feeling,” and “assurance,” without the greater call to a consecrated life, there will inevitably emerge a shallow, dwarfed concept of what a Christian is. Yes, we thank God for the revivals of the late 1800s and those appearing during the early 1900s, but evangelism will not keep the church when the enemy comes in like a flood. In such a situation, shallow Christianity will be swept under the tidal wave of doctrinal heresy; the present institutional church is the commentary of this. Getting souls saved is a fine thing, but what is going to feed and preserve those birthed babies? The lack of deeper biblical teaching and preaching concerning the consecrated life is what has produced the falling away of even a number of conservative local churches. Shallow preaching allows for shallow music, and such a duo will help prepare the casket for any church.

Things that may be “all right” sometimes lead to things that turn out to be “all wrong.” It is imperative that we, as the church of the Living Christ, choose between “good” and “best” rather than simply “good” and “evil”; for the best way is the safer way when time makes its mark on the matter.

May God save us from falling into the belief that the grass is greener on the other side of Evangelicalism. We as Fundamentalists have had a noble birth; rather than depart from it, let us pray for revival within it.