Volume 36 | Number 5 | September–December 2008

Inglés Español

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

By Dr. H. T. Spence

How often in the Christian schools the study of the philosophy of music is conspicuously absent when it comes to the presentation of Christian music. If it is taught, it is usually from the contemporary perspective rather than from a true, biblical perspective. Thus, even the concept of logic becomes questionable by the contemporary mind. The principle task of logic is to investigate the nature of correct thinking and valid reasoning, including the laws of rational thought. Questions related to this study that have often been asked through history include the following: “What are the criteria used to distinguish between truth and error?” “Are there fallacies of reasoning?” “Can truth be attainable?” These questions need to be answered; these principles of thought must be understood before we enter the realm of contemporary music. The sad reality of the present trends in Fundamentalism is that there is a deterioration of secular epistemology and its so-called logic. And finally, we need to see the major influences that lead to the musical concepts of our times.

Criteria for Truth

Man must have a criterion of absolute truth, a standard or rule, by which to judge the accuracy of statements, opinions, and thoughts; there must be a standard of verification. Absolute truth must be nailed down in our hearts and minds. Churches today (and I am amazed at the Fundamental churches that are questioning the standards of the Word of God) battle this question, “Is there a criterion of truth?”

Man has drawn from several sources for his truth. Customs have often been used as a criterion: “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Whatever church you are in or people you are around, follow their customs for truth. Dress as others dress; use expressions which are linguistically fashionable; practice the moral principles that are currently in vogue; do whatever is popular. Following customs calls man to the philosophy of being part of the herd. If the music is popular, go with it. Bill Gaither back in the early 1970s, used this concept to prove the acceptance of his song “The King is Coming.” So many people liked it, bought it, enjoyed it, were “inspired” by it that, yes, according to Gaither, it had to be of God.

Others follow the tradition route to prove truth, the notion that if anything lasts for generations, it must be valid. Any practice which has gained the loyalty of succeeding generations must deserve a measure of credibility. However, traditions can also reinforce what is false.

Others have counted the test of time. We have heard this line of reasoning to prove the validity of Christianity: “Christianity must be true, for it has stood the test of time.” Now we certainly believe that Christianity, at least biblical Christianity, is true, but not simply because it has stood the test of time. The assumption that if a belief is really erroneous, the error will sooner or later come to light is not necessarily true. In Acts 5:38-39, Gamaliel believed this assumption:

And now I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

Now this sounds good on the surface, and it seems logical especially in the light of the context of the apostles and true Christianity. Is something true simply because of time? How long has the Islamic faith continued and flourished? Even the oldest continuing Christian apostasy, Roman Catholicism, is experiencing a revival of popularity in recent decades. Does the test of endurance mean these are true religions? How often the above passage of Scripture has been used by compromisers who did not want to take their stand against men such as Billy Graham, Kenneth Copeland, T. D. Jakes, Robert Schuller, and others. These men flourish even when their sin and error are exposed. Furthermore, many errors have lasted for a good length of time before being exposed as such, and superstitions have endured through the centuries.

In addition, there are those who depend on feelings or emotions as the test of truth in situations. More and more this particular view is becoming the criterion for truth. Here man lives, boasting in the scientific age, yet deciding truth on the immediate feeling of the moment.

Yet, another group of individuals tends to base truth on a hunch, an impulsive generalization; and still others, on intuition, a judgment without recourse to reasoning from facts.

Some thought must be given to this subject, for the presupposition of a man’s heart will dictate how he views life. It also will dictate what kind of music he will write or listen to.

A New Concept of Viewing Truth

What about the concept of truth in the light of the 21st century? The “new” concept or the “new” consciousness (as the New Age was formerly called) is settling across the civilized world as a London fog. One of the greatest tragedies of our times is that we are being fundamentally affected by these new ways of looking at truth. This must be acknowledged in the proclivities of the conservative, fundamental churches in recent years. It is already underway in mainstream Christianity. If you had lived in Europe prior to about 1890, or in the United States prior to World War II, the main reasoning and thinking of people would have seemed to be clearer. One basic presupposition was the existence of absolutes in knowledge and in morals. In that time absolutes were the guardian principles of thought concepts. In morality, if one thing was true, then it was clearly understood that its opposite was false. There was no question about adultery or abortion, or fornication, or a preacher living in these evils. Life was easier to live then when everything was clear-cut.

The concept of logic itself is simple: the first concept in classical logic or the study of logic is that “A is not non-A.” If you have “A,” then that “A” is not “negative A.” This truth of logic means that absolutes have antitheses, which are definitely not the same. Even non-Christians have thought this basic way for centuries. During the earlier years of the twentieth century, it was still possible to discuss what was right and wrong or what was true and false. A non-Christian child could be told to “be a good girl,” or “be a good boy,” and while he might not follow your advice, at least he would understand what was said and meant. But today, to the modern child this statement would be utter nonsense. Forty years ago one could have said, “This is true” or “this is right,” and people would have understood. Even in spiritual things and evangelistic witnessing, the congregation understood what was being said, though they may not have lived it.

We as Christians were not ready for the changes to come. Before the shift took place and the chasm was fixed as it is today, we should have realized what was happening and preached with a clearer grasp of absolutes. Back in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s my grandfather preached as if what he was saying was true, and he could prove it, for it was absolute. In all the days of my father’s preaching there was a clear-cut line given in the preaching, even to the day he passed away. Nevertheless, a false set of presuppositions has taken over today in modern thought and literally permeated the very fabric of society to the point that nationwide it will be impossible to change. While the true Bible Christian may continue in the old set of presuppositions, the world has left them. If a preacher stood before his audience years ago and stated in his message, “Believe this; it is true,” those who heard would have said, “Well, if that is so, then its opposite is false.” Historical Christianity has always addressed the thesis of truth and its antithesis, error. Without this clarion message, historical Christianity is meaningless. There is Christ, and then there is definitely an Antichrist.”

The New Way of Thinking

The breakdown of absolutes and principles leads to a new society that is given to pragmatism, relativism, surrealism, and personalism. New approaches are now invading both our society and the institutional church: new ways to evangelize, new ways to organize churches, new methods, and new music. Innovation is the key. The message of truth is changing both on the streets with the common man and in the services of the churches. The medical world is changing its ethical procedures. Sympathies are being illogically fabricated to succumb to accepting abortion, euthanasia, ecumenicity, and the breakdown of national and ethical distinctions. Music is becoming the pied piper to cause us to march to the destruction of our beloved country and public Christianity.

It is all part of the Cultural Revolution, which must take place before the coming of Antichrist. All absolutes must go; the God of absolutes must go as well. Truth must be rendered inoperative in order for a new set of standards and logic to be set up. The philosophy working through the music is also affecting our conversational language, our clothing, our culture, our education, our government, our view of the world, our jewelry, our entertainment, and the total outworking of life itself. And to what is this leading? It is leading to the ultimate goal of Satan and workers of iniquity to get to the heart of man, to control the mind and soul against the things of God, to question God, and to ultimately deny the need of God.

The very spiritual life of most Bible colleges and Christian universities is being sucked out. It is rare to find a preacher, a church, or a Christian school standing unashamedly for the absolute principles of God’s infallible Word. It is a rare jewel to find a music composer who is not being philosophically influenced by the trends and spirit of our times. Fundamentalism is facing the potential danger of losing its anointing from God and His presence, for we are slowly allowing our “locks” of separation to be shaven by the barbers of our generation (as Samson was). And if preachers and musicians give in to this age’s mood and spirit of compromise, they will be selling Christ as Judas did nearly two thousand years ago. To exalt Jesus in “praise” is not all that is needed in the music; the Charismatics are “verbally” doing that. But we must take a definite stand in the music against the powerful undercurrents, which are pulling our churches out into the immense sea of secular humanity and are eroding godly living.

The need goes back to our thinking. What is the philosophy of the heart? When the strong stand is no longer evident in the life, the thinking has obviously changed. The professing Christian world is beginning to believe that carnality and the world are not as bad as we thought twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. Has the change which has come to our nation’s churches been the effect of shallow music and empty preaching? And has this music and preaching become the cover-up for our ugly and undealt-with sins? Is the mood of “feeling” giving us a false hope? Are we oblivious to the judgment of God that will begin at His house? Have our clothing and our children’s clothing changed in recent years? Are we being influenced by the fads of the time? Are we buying due to psychological manipulation? Are our children pressured by their school peers (even in Christian schools that are fast losing their biblical standards) to dress a certain way, speak a certain way, or act a certain way?

We might be coming to a point in this battle that we say, “I get tired of dealing over and over with these things with my children or in my church.” It may be true, for who wants to fight? But if we ever quit the war, we will lose our souls; we will lose our children, our homes, and our good conservative churches. The power of the age is overwhelming. It is one thing to wear the Christian down in prison through torture, but mental and philosophical pressures are wearing us down. The pressure to relax in morals, standards, and doctrine is found in the business world, corporations, medical staffs, hospitals, schools, government, and even in the churches. “Just relax . . . relax!” We are being lulled to sleep, sedated in mind, not to do our own thinking, but to go along with the mass. And, oh, the irony of it all! They tell us we are brainwashed, we are narrow-minded, and we are following a man. They cannot even conceive that they are the ones who are the puppets, the gullible mental pacifists, who are brainwashed and cloned by the age!

When we become Christians, there is to be a biblical change. The Word of God becomes the power to mold us in lifestyle and thinking. Yes, we even have to relearn how to think, for the age has had a greater holding power over us than what we thought it had. The institutional church has actually lost the biblical concept of what a true Christian is. Have we noticed the pulpits of many churches? The preachers have not been teaching the Bible, but filling their sermons with jokes, at times bordering on the risqué. More and more their sermon content is psychology rather than biblical exhortation. This is part of the root problem evident in the music being written today. As the pulpit, so goes the music. If the pulpit is shallow or becomes weak and anemic in absolutes, it will be a matter of time before the music will reflect philosophically this shallow pulpit. As a result, the music and its composers have more influence on the people than the preachers do.

Music has become the most popular method to change people’s philosophy; the inner circles of compromisers know it. They are going to use it to accommodate and promote their own heart changes. A steady stream of a nebulous diet of music after a while becomes like leaven to the mind and soul. Over a period of time the sedative will begin to work. The philosophy will then be planted, and time will tell the outworking of it in the life. The war cry will be gone from the soul, and compromise will be inevitable. People will change and not even know they are changing. But the implantation has already taken place. And as the milk, the message will gradually be watered down. Yes, we will be clapping and making a joyful sound, but the heart will be void of the stand and strength of the Word of God to counteract the age. Christ may seem to be exalted in the words and pretty music, but the message chosen will separate Christ from our lives and the real living of life in this dark and evil world. Feelings will dictate actions and words. The flesh and the Spirit will be thrown together as compatible.

The world system knows that a great power is found in the mind of a human being. It sees the capability of the mind to be molded with a mixture of an age and false religious philosophy. While the evil molding is occurring, it can have the sound and name of Jesus; however, it is not the same Christ of the Scriptures.

A Final Warning to Forms of Music

A number of years ago we would not have to have dealt with “forms” of music, for God’s people knew what forms were right and what forms were wrong. But this is not true anymore. Back in the 1960s Mick Jaggard of the Rolling Stones declared that rock ‘n’ roll music was the devil’s music, and the churches were stealing it from the devil. Professing Christians do not see this, but believe that rock music can be sanctified and used for God. We are seeing this in other areas as well today: Christian leaders from Southern Gospel to leaders in the National Association of Evangelicals believe you can be a homosexual and be a Christian, or you can dedicate your tobacco and cigarettes to the Lord or even your wine and whiskey. There is no longer a line of demarcation of what belongs to the Devil and what can be used by God. More and more we are seeing Fundamentalist churches and radio stations giving in to Southern Gospel, a style often preached against years ago.

Developing alongside rock music, Country-Western had its own history. Of course present day CW is neither true “country” nor “western” but has eclectically drawn from the contemporary decades to make its own identity in the modern music world. Its message hits the middle-class worker, the blue-collar man of the town. Its message feeds infidelity, drinking, gambling, vices of pleasure, and yet speaks of lovingly standing by one woman or man. Its slang and twang, its slur and blur of voice, its beer-guzzling promotions, its jeans and cowboy look, all add to another aspect of the ever-growing and mutating slob, loose-living culture. It is clearly evident that the classic, general culture of the past is gone; in fact, it is now hated by society. Music was the medium through which this new philosophy was sown. No matter what part or class of society in which an individual finds himself, there is a form of music which will sow the philosophical message into him. It is all part of the variety of choices that Satan causes man to think he has; yet, all the choices end in man’s death and the demise of any hope.

We are also seeing the inroads of Jazz and Blue Grass music coming into Fundamentalism. What is so appalling is that the Fundamentalist music leaders will not publicly take a stand against these forms of music and thus permit its usage in the churches. It causes grief to the soul to know that such music concerts are being given on Christian campuses without any shame or apology. There are those who have endeavored to “sanctify” Blue Grass music by stating that it is a form of American roots music, with roots in Irish, Scottish and English traditional music. But any simple background study of Blue Grass music would truly reveal that it is an amalgam of country, ragtime, jazz, and blues. Bill Monroe has been referred to as the “founding father” of this form of music, but men like Earl Scruggs, Snuffy Jenkins, Rex Brooks, Smith Hammet, and others made their early influence. Where is the church pulling in rock music? Where is it pulling in Country-Western? Where is it pulling in Blue Grass and Jazz? It is from the contemporary sound of the world. This music ought not to be played in church. It does not promote spirituality; rather it promotes the carnal side of man.

Fundamentalism has truly lost its way in this contemporary maze of modern Christianity. It is becoming more familiar with this world than it is with God. We are boldly hearing of a “Neo” Fundamentalism emerging among the ranks of its leaders. May God have mercy on our generation as well as the next generation of those being trained for the ministry both in the pulpit and in music? They will have never known historic Fundamentalism or its God of Scripture. And sadly, there seems to be no desire to return to the God of our forefathers and the life they knew with God.