Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Wed May 06, 2015 9:54 pm

I'm sure many churches would be totally open to the idea of having multiple worship/praise directors but the problem is it's limited by people willing to volunteer. On top of that, I would imagine that even if it's not required for the position, that a lot of people are going to think "I'm not musically inclined so I shouldn't be leading the music."
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby mechana2015 » Thu May 07, 2015 3:49 am

So I'm back with my thoughts on the time I was listening to small c contemporary Christian music in particular, and I'll see if I can get a bead on why capital C CCM didin't and probably still doesn't appeal to me. Looking back at the music I have from that time period... well its been a while. 15 years to be honest so this is going to end up being two posts, the first made now after I listen to the stuff I have in my music collection, the second later, after I listen to some time... probably at least a few hours to a day or two of music on Air 1, which is where I learned about a lot of the music I'll be talking about here, albeit 10-15 years ago.

First of all the bands that I liked (and still like possibly) enough to have a decent amount of songs (CD or CD's).

Audio Adrenaline - Lyrically, at the time I was all over it. Now I'm a little less engaged, but it still has some good stuff. Some decent guitar sound here, but they start sounding very samey after a short bit of listening, which I do remember from back when I first got this CD (Underdog). I used to do a lot of skipping around between this CD and others, since eventually the whole thing sort of turns into a big grey blur of the same chords and drum patterns.
(It just occurred to me that I haven't taken a case of CD's anywhere to listen to in a player outside of one installed in a car in... probably 10 years)

Avalon - Wow... super CCM style band... pretty much a worship band from a church plunked down on a stage. Oh right, they did a remix CD called 02/Avalon remixed that converted their songs to a trance/electronica with remixes by a lot of DJ's including Tiesto, and THATS what I liked, meaty beats and fun electronic synth and mixer overlays. Lyrically still nothing... exciting, pretty much early 2k worship band music, but the variety in styles and paces of the remix made this a CD I listened to a LOT. Still might actually now that I've been reminded of it.

DC Talk - Hoo boy. I loved these guys back in the 90's and early 2000's. On a listen now? I still really like their sound. They swung a little more contemporary towards the end but they had a musical edge that incorporated electronic content and hip hop rhythms that made them sound really good, almost a little 80's. Lyrically, its a mixed bag I think. You have sort of... songs that might have been edgy and confrontational (Jesus is Just Alright, Say the Words) but now feel pretty odd, or are related to 90's social movements of the time (Luv is a Verb) and are just kinda awkward. Others that are just lyrically solid, like In the Light which is a really solid worship song, Colored People, In the Minds Eye.
Overall the band says some stuff thats dated or, maybe just doesn't resonate with me as much a decade and a half later, but the sound still is solid, varied and entertaining and have a knack for delivering a message, when it's still something resonant very well.

Five Iron Frenzy - I already raved about them. Quite possibly my favorite band. My first introduction to christian music that didn't sound like Michael W Smith. One of my first concert experiences. One of the first CD's I bought (Our Newest Album Ever). An undead band from Colorado. Fun, funny, satirical, with a horn driven Ska sound that gives me a lot to listen to, even if they don't change the key they play in that often.
(Some) Favorite songs (I have 44 of their songs rated 4 or 5 stars in iTunes)- Greatest Song Ever Told, Fahrenheit (about judging others), All of the Hype (satire), A New Hope (about Columbine HS, released about a year later), Fistful of Sand (Greed), Suckerpunch (first song I remember from them), Every New Day, One Girl Army (female representation), Flowery Song.
Related bands and a fave song: Nifty Tom Fifty - Level Playing Field, Silage - none now really

Newsboys - I have 1 album by them but they used to be one of my highlight bands at the music festival I attended. I'm conflicted about them now. Clever lyricists, but with a rocky past and ever changing lineup. Something just doesn't catch me the same way it used to, maybe some of the tone in the songs, possibly something else related to the departure of... most of the band I knew when I watched them. God is not a Secret is an interesting song about compromise, but seems to also have a sort of straw man tone to it.
Favorite songs- Take Me To Your Leader if only just for the opening lyric weaving. Other than that its kinda just goofy fun. Let It Go - forgiveness.

OC Supertones - I used to think this band was so edgy. I don't think their stuff aged well lyrically but the sound is still OK, dunno how I never realized the singer sounded like they were hyperventilating when they sang. Simple sound, oddly I think the lyrics are a bit too chest poundy and militant sounding now even when I might agree with the general sentiment. Favorite songs now - Little Man I suppose, Revolution and Caught Inside (instrumentals)

Skillet - Harder rock group, still sounds good, but nothing super exciting. Lyrically decent, but they get a little far into the love songs about God territory and some songs have aged poorly. Best song- Collide and Best Kept Secret.

Switchfoot- I like this band but they're another bland that just blurs together for me like Audio A, but they have some major stand out songs.
Favorite (stand out) song- Something More- I chased this song with a tape player on Air 1 to record it onto a mix tape. It still resonates with me, and the song just SOUNDS good, I looked forward to its contrasting funky almost eastern music every time I heard it on the radio.

W's - Christian... swing nearly. They were I suppose a Ska band, but they were a lot jazzier to my ears. They're also pretty funny. Lyrically fun and just straight up danceable, and most of their songs are actually just about... silly life stuff. Most well known for authoring the Rumor Weed song from Veggie tales if you didn't know the actual band.
Favorite songs - Alarm Clock Average Day, Stupid

Sheltershed - Almost forgot them, but these guys were huge to me. Electronica pure and simple, and really my first introduction to this kind of sharp saw waves and trance type lyrical content. Its made by a pastor, but its not specifically christian usually. It just presses all the right buttons in my head musically.
Favorites - International Plastic... the entire album pretty much. Dreams would be my stand out. The song is just deliciously bizarre.
Manic Panic was another favorite DJ - Favorite Song- Dvine Kynematiks
AJ Mora was another DJ I listened to but... he's just not really as nice sounding as the other two anymore.

Looking through this... its pretty easy to see why I don't like capital C CCM very much, at least from the time period I was going to concerts and buying whole albums. I just straight up don't enjoy the kind of music those bands make. I don't find it engaging musically since its been pretty much set to a very specific formula of instruments, so it takes remarkable lyrics with deep personal impact to draw me into that side of the christian music scene. I was and still would be more likely to be out at the Air 1 stage, watching the above bands or other honorable mentions like East West, Pillar, RiverTribe (their version of I could Sing of Your Love Forever) or Project 86. I just like more variety in my music than people like Steven Curtis Chapman or Michael W Smith, Ben Folds, Gideons Press, The Waiting, Pete Stewert, Mark Shultz and many many more who could... literally be the same band in some cases if I wasn't looking at metadata on a screen or the back of a CD case.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Zeke365 » Thu May 07, 2015 5:32 am

here a few bands that are out of the norm I know I posted them before but I thought I post the site and albums to them,

1.http://www.group1crew.com/ with albums (Group 1 Crew, Ordinary dreamers, Outter Space Love, Fearless, and Faster)
2.http://www.rapidfireministries.com/ group called Rapid Fire alums (Unseen force, Epic, God in this City)
3.http://www.vicsworld.net/buymusic.htm (vic mignogna who does dubbed anime but is also Christian but his albums aren't necessarily sold in Christian stores this site shows you some of his albums.

These are the bands I have been liking so far. Though they fall more in the hip hop area.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Thu May 07, 2015 6:12 am

Nate wrote:I'm sure many churches would be totally open to the idea of having multiple worship/praise directors but the problem is it's limited by people willing to volunteer. On top of that, I would imagine that even if it's not required for the position, that a lot of people are going to think "I'm not musically inclined so I shouldn't be leading the music."

That is very true. My old church didn't really have enough volunteers for worship (or, to be honest, most other positions). Burnout was a very real issue. And we certainly didn't have the people who were big enough into music to rotate worship leaders. I guess that is one nice thing about slightly larger churches (50-100 people and up). But what about in sparsely populated areas? And, would people really be ok with having different music styles? I guess, ultimately, it boils down to this: What should be expected for worship in terms of singing a less-relatable style on occasion? All lyrics aside, I don't know if I can answer that since all music sounds the same to me.

That also brings up some big issues: church composition (many small churches in an area vs a few larger churches), willingness to volunteer (what can/should be expected), and the concept of musically inclined people (vs not, can they both lead worship?).

mechana2015 wrote:So I'm back with my thoughts on the time I was listening to small c contemporary Christian music in particular, and I'll see if I can get a bead on why capital C CCM didin't and probably still doesn't appeal to me. Looking back at the music I have from that time period... well its been a while. 15 years to be honest so this is going to end up being two posts, the first made now after I listen to the stuff I have in my music collection, the second later, after I listen to some time... probably at least a few hours to a day or two of music on Air 1, which is where I learned about a lot of the music I'll be talking about here, albeit 10-15 years ago.

Ah, that should be an interesting comparison. I don't really listen to either the "small c" or "capital C" CCM... since most of what I hear is in a church worship setting. Although, there may be some overlap in themes.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Mon May 11, 2015 8:31 pm

ok guys. So, I went to the music portion of church yesterday. I usually don't because I go to the early service (just sermon and discussion, no music), but I wanted to go with my parents and sister for mother's day. And, I have to say, I really didn't like the words of the music. I don't know about the musical aspect. After the service, my sister said that she really appreciated the songs (both for the words and the music quality).

I say this not to complain. But, while I was standing there trying to sing the songs, I had a thought...

What if we are being too critical? What if we are nit-picking the words or beat? As a result, what if we are missing the whole purpose of group worship? The article I posted in the original post was about how the heartbeat of those in a choir synchronize. What if we are focusing on meaningless things where we should be focusing only on the community-building (or unifying) experience and worshipful direction of music?

Just a thought. I'd be interested to hear all of your thoughts. Part of me says that, "yes" we are missing the point and, if we chilld out a bit, we could appreciate the songs for their positive things. But, another part of me says, "no" and that we should make sure the songs are unifying and worshipful (particularly in terms of lyrics, but I suppose it could be applied to the tune too) before we put effort into making them have a unifying/worshipful effect.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby ClaecElric4God » Tue May 12, 2015 11:43 am

Before I say anything, I have a question. I don't think I'm even really looking for an answer, but as I've read through the posts (wow, a lot has been said), this question has kept bugging me.

What is the purpose of music in a Christian setting? Not the "official" definition, but to you personally, what is it? Why is it?

I feel like its purpose and intentions have been rather skewed over time, and I think Kaori covered this far more efficiently than I'll be able to, but I'll throw in my two cents just because. Hopefully I can gather my thoughts and not just ramble. Forgive the inevitable wall of text.

I have an odd take on contemporary music that I won't bother to explain here, but I will say that the conservative Christian music I've heard generally doesn't seem to have the lyrical issues that everyone here finds in a lot of contemporary Christian music. I find that interesting. But as Kaori mentioned, there are a lot of different groups and albums and whatnot who have written a lot of different songs with a lot of different lyrics. I've noticed that whenever Christian music is discussed on CAA, the same handful of bands always comes up. And they tend to be the same handful of bands and albums I hear about from Christians around me, too. And perhaps that's because they're the ones who are "good" and popular. I dunno.

But I digress. My point is, there are many different forms of worship music that aren't cheesy or "love songs about God" or pointless and frivolous and shallow. Kaori mentioned a few. And I'm sure there are other names you could through out there (I wouldn't know because again, not my field of expertise). But the truth is, there are groups and individuals who write and sing music that most of the world will never experience.
For example, there is a family at our church singing this week that I am 93% sure no one here has heard of, consisting of a husband and wife and two daughters. They aren't publicized and they make no effort to be. They're travelling evangelists, who go from church to church, all across America, singing music that is meant to edify the congregation, give glory to God, and convict hearts. They sing songs written by other Christians, old hymns, and a few they've written themselves. Their only means of income is proceeds from people buying their CDs they put on display at church, and love offerings taken up by the congregation at the end of a week of revival. To the best of my knowledge they don't even have a website to sell their music on. They're not looking for profit, and being well-known or popular is the very least of their concerns. They want to edify the brethren and point to God. I find a lot of depth and meaning to the lyrics of their music. At the same time, that's not their main focus. They're happy if they can bless someone with their music, but their main goal is to bring people to Christ.

And this brings me back to my original question. What is the purpose of all these different songs? Music is a wonderful tool, I know this; but what are we using it for? Why should bands or groups or artists be concerned about what people think of them or how their popularity will be affected by one thing or another? I'm sorry if I'm being too blunt, but are these singers more concerned about doing what they believe is right or putting money in their pockets? I ask this question sincerely because I honestly don't know the answer.

Back to the topic at hand. What is the purpose of worship music in church? A recurring theme in this thread is "such-and-such music just doesn't do it for me". Holdup. What I'm about to say is hard for me to say because I. Love. Music. A lot. Music has had and probably always will have a huge influence in my life. But when it comes to music in church, music in the place where we claim to have come together to worship God, music we blatantly call worship music, I have to give myself a reality check. Why do I think it's about me? We're sort of acting like the very people we're condemning for being narcissistic and shallow by fussing about the fact that we don't feel emotionally invested in this music. And maybe this is where you differentiate between music you sing at church and music you listen to at home or sing to yourself in the shower. I dunno. But my point is, Christians are missing the point of worship, I think. The song leader, worship team, special singers, whoever, shouldn't have to be focusing on what makes the congregation feel good or satisfied. Worship is supposed to be about God.

And the points made are still valid ones. Music that focuses on us and our needs and our emotions and what we do isn't glorifying to God, I don't think. I don't really know that singing the same line four hundred times really is either. I love Scripture songs. And I think Kaori made some really good points as well. Also, I really liked that chant you linked, Kaori. I'll agree with a lot of what's been said here, that I'm not sure that a lot of what is sung and played at church really qualifies as worship music.

Going back to my point, I think the question of "what is the purpose of worship music" is bigger than I or anyone else can answer. I rather think it's different for each of us, and I frankly don't know whether that's good or bad. For me, I've recently been trying to bring myself back to the idea that it's about God, and I want to make sure my heart is right towards God as I sing or listen to it. Because there are a lot of times where I can't sing the lyrics of a song in church, not because I disagree with them but because they are so real and meaningful that I get lost in its truth or even convicted of shortcomings in my life, and find myself more inclined to bow my head and give reverence to my God than to try to sing. I know a young lady who is uncomfortable singing the old hymn "I Surrender All" because to her, surrendering all to the Lord Jesus Christ is a big deal, not just something you sing about lightly. There usually isn't anything hypnotic or overpoweringly emotional about 20-some people singing "Rescue the Perishing" with an out of tune piano, but I can still find myself lost for words when we reach the verse:
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.

I've heard so many times "We all worship God in our own ways." But how about worshiping God in the way He wants to be worshiped? That's what I'm striving for, to learn the heart of God and discover how He wants to be worshiped. I heard a song for the first time recently (that I think is pretty well known to everyone but me) that sort of slapped me in the face with it, The Heart of Worship.

But to try to answer your questions, Kraavdran, I enjoy a fair bit of contemporary music, but there's also a lot that irks me. I don't remotely care for "Jesus or girlfriend" songs. I have a tendency to indulge in narcissistic Christian music, but when I really think about it they bother me. I would have a hard time listing those I enjoy listening to because, for the most part, I tend to enjoy individual songs without knowing anything about the artists associated with them or what other songs they might do. One group whose music I've heard most of and enjoyed all I've heard so far is Rend Collective.

If I have trouble with contemporary music, it's usually because I feel the lyrics misrepresent what it truly is to be a Christian (because no, it's not always sunshine and rainbows), I find them doctrinally disagreeable, or my conservative roots flair up and I don't care for the music style. And I'm honestly content to remain a conservative at my core, because I've been more blessed by the good ol' conservative music that's passed through my church over the years than most of the contemporary music I've heard in the last couple years. And then there's the distinction (I guess what mech was talking about?) between "contemporary" music and conservative music that is, by the dictionary definition, contemporary. I still find the latter to be, for the most part, more beneficial and edifying than the former. Ultimately, I feel that for myself, traditional hymns are the deepest and most meaningful of Christian music. They tend to be filled with more Biblical truth, point more strongly towards God and away from ourselves, and frankly they were written by Christians stronger and more deeply dedicated to the service of God than a lot of the artists Christianity is churning out today.

Like Midori, I generally find more personal pleasure and edification in instrumental music. For one thing, it's usually more beautiful. I cannot fathom why Christian artists never seem to match the majesty and awesomeness of music like Two Steps from Hell, Audiomachine, AdrianvonZeigler, etc. For another, being very sensitive to music and the different emotions it expresses, I find it very easy to connect to it and spend time thinking while I'm listening to it. It's easier for me to split myself between instrumental music and something else than music with lyrics where I have to pay attention to what people are saying and share the exact emotion of the singer. Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I love listening to music while I pray. To me, it's spending time with God while enjoying his beautiful creation of music. Maybe I'm guilty of using music to get on a spiritual high, I dunno. But I also know that there are times I've really got down to brass tacks and poured out my heart to God while listening to music.
I also recall an event where a youth camp had a presentation where they had a strongman demonstrating his abilities, with Invincible by Two Steps from Hell playing in the background, while the speaker talked about the strength and omnipotence of God. It was awesome and really brought the whole picture into perspective. I think music can be a huge tool, which is why I feel a strong need to differentiate between "worship music" and music that is meant to encourage or uplift Christians. Music played a big part in the Bible on more than a few occasions, and music has played a very huge role in my Christian life. But I want to make sure it is what it's supposed to be, and that I'm not making it something different.

At this point I'm really just rambling, so I'll shut up now. This was going to be like...three sentences. As you can see, music is a very important topic to me.
I can't answer the question of what my favorite song is, because there are soooooooooooo many. It's constantly changing. But I do love Come Thou Fount, for the very same lines you mentioned.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Tue May 12, 2015 1:44 pm

ClaecElric4God wrote:Why should bands or groups or artists be concerned about what people think of them or how their popularity will be affected by one thing or another? I'm sorry if I'm being too blunt, but are these singers more concerned about doing what they believe is right or putting money in their pockets?


Honestly I think this is a pretty unfair question. While there are almost certainly groups out there who think they can make a quick buck by making songs about Jesus, that doesn't mean that just because a band or artists are trying to become more popular that they're trying to "put money in their pockets." The family you mentioned, that's really nice, nothing against them, they make some modest money but I'd bet that they have a job outside of the music, right? Most bands that are trying to be on a professional level are doing just that: making their music into a profession. And what's wrong with that? If they want their music to be their source of income, I don't think that's a bad thing. On top of that, I'm sure plenty of Christian bands do much more than just put money into their own pockets. They likely give money to charities, to their churches, to Christian organizations...not to mention conferences and stuff, which tend to be expensive! Are there maybe some bands out there who are just putting profits into their own bank accounts? Sure, there have to be at least a couple...but this shouldn't reflect on Christian music as a whole any more than the actions of Westboro Baptist Church should reflect on Christianity as a whole.

We're sort of acting like the very people we're condemning for being narcissistic and shallow by fussing about the fact that we don't feel emotionally invested in this music.


I don't recall anyone in this thread condemning anyone for being narcissistic and shallow. I have a bad memory though, so maybe I'm just forgetting where someone said it? I sorta feel like I would remember that.

My point of stating that I'm not emotionally invested in worship music isn't to say that it's dumb or bad or shouldn't be there, but rather that it doesn't do much for me. Yes, yes, I know. "It's not about you." That's very true, but on the other hand if I can't get emotionally invested then what's the point? Worship. Okay, great. But shouldn't worship be, I don't know, actual worship? If I'm just standing there singing half-heartedly, how is that worship? How is that pleasing to God? Well, it probably isn't. But if I don't have the emotional capacity for it to be more than that, then what is there to do? I could fake it, I guess. But God would know I was faking it, so that'd be pointless too, so now I don't have a good way out. Either I just sing not being emotionally invested, which means I get condemned by people for "not caring about worship" or I pretend that I'm emotionally invested which makes me a liar in the eyes of God. Kind of a tough choice!

Why is it only not caring about music that gets condemnation too? Why not other forms of worship? When was the last time somebody condemned someone else as "not caring about worship" simply because they hadn't gone on a mission trip?

I've heard so many times "We all worship God in our own ways." But how about worshiping God in the way He wants to be worshiped?


I would bet that the way God wants to be worshiped is by our hearts and lives being committed to him. Not how good we sang in church on Sunday. I really doubt God's going to say "Well, you raised your kids with strong Christian values, gave generously to the church, helped organize community programs to minister to the poor, studied my word with fervor, and...uh oh, wait a minute, looks like you thought that Shine Jesus Shine wasn't a very good song and didn't care for it much, well, it's the pit of fire for you, sorry."

I mean I don't really recall a verse where God says "You must sing songs to me, lest you be in danger of the fires of Hell." I mean, there's verses that say that singing praises to God is good, and wonderful...but I don't recall it mentioning that they're mandatory. Again though, bad memory, so maybe I'm forgetting where that passage is.

That's what I'm striving for, to learn the heart of God and discover how He wants to be worshiped.


And I don't think that's a bad thing, but I think the problem comes when you start judging others for not caring as much about music as you do and implying that maybe they're wrong for it.

They tend to be filled with more Biblical truth, point more strongly towards God and away from ourselves, and frankly they were written by Christians stronger and more deeply dedicated to the service of God than a lot of the artists Christianity is churning out today.


I'll give you the first half of that sentence, but everything after that period is a big ol' [CITATION NEEDED]. Prove that the writers of the old hymns were stronger Christians or more dedicated to God than the musicians today. And after you do that, please let me borrow your magical machine that allows you to read the minds of people from the past and present.

Music played a big part in the Bible on more than a few occasions, and music has played a very huge role in my Christian life. But I want to make sure it is what it's supposed to be, and that I'm not making it something different.


Nah. I don't think you are. I think you're using music just fine and there's no worries. Music is, as you said, a tool, and tools are all in how you use them. I don't think there's anything bad about using music during prayer or bible reading. The problem would come in when you decide to listen to music instead of doing those things. :p
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Tue May 12, 2015 4:52 pm

ClaecElric4God wrote: What is the purpose of music in a Christian setting? Not the "official" definition, but to you personally, what is it? Why is it?

A very poignant question. For the purpose of clarification, I will be talking about the music we would typically see in a worship setting. I can't speak to the other settings because I find no value in them (in case you missed, I dislike the musical quality of music... so "listening" music isn't something that I find good for me). Historically, I suppose, it was used to teach people. At least, that is one reason hymns existed. Without the words, I would say that music has no purpose for me. This lines up with parts of tradition. But, I think that music can't be used to teach like it once was. Not with the abundant sources of information available to us and plentiful copies of the Bible in a common language. And, certainly, prose is much more efficient at conveying information than song. Of course, I see my biases heavily influencing these conclusions and recognize that many might disagree. But, that is where I am... or, rather, who I am. So, what is left? Music minus lyrics minus chords leaves... nothing. Part of me thinks that music is, for me, useless. However, something in me disagrees. Perhaps it is the part of me that likes tradition... or the part of me that just goes along with what others say. Or, perhaps, music really does play an important role. But how? I've thought about this quite a bit, as you can imagine. All cynical responses that I will not mention here, I've come up with two possible answers... but I am not completely satisfied with them. First, a unity building exercise. Singing alongside fellow members on a similar journey unites the group even down to a physiological level. But, surely there are easier ways to promote unity. Examples may include fellowship, team-building, and community service. And the synchronization of heartbeats mentioned in the original post? They could just be circumstantial. When people take similar breaths (ones that are musically demanded) it simply synchronizes their heartbeat as they are processing similar amount of air at the same time. This argument does not hold much to me. Second, and this holds the most logical argument, is worship to God. This makes sense to me most because it is good to worship God. And how can we worship God directly (outside of following His commandments)? Well, looking at tradition, music was used. This can even be seen in the Bible, Psalms of exceptional note. However, how can you make songs that are worshipful? Is it ok to use someone else's words? How actively should you try to make them your own? What if, and this happens often, the words just make you feel like you are mocking God... or perhaps encourage an unhealthy sense of pride?

Fun fact though, did you know that there is no reference to music being played/sung in Heaven in the Bible. Just references to people "shouting." Not that you can base a doctrine on that or anything. Just a fun fact that I like to tease people about.

Anyway, with that interjection out of the way... I should conclude my answer with this: that is where I am currently. In short, perhaps the answer to your question is that it is meaningless. Although, with possible benefit. And, at the least, recognized benefits for others. I've known people who have been spoken to by music and people who really appreciate a chance to worship God through it. I can't deny those people their reality.

ClaecElric4God wrote: I feel like its purpose and intentions have been rather skewed over time, and I think Kaori covered this far more efficiently than I'll be able to, but I'll throw in my two cents just because. Hopefully I can gather my thoughts and not just ramble.

Actually, I appreciate your two cents. Kaori brought up some great ideas and was very well-spoken, but I had a hard time tracking with them due to my dislike of the more liturgical forms of worship. It will be good to get another perspective on similar ideas. I hope that I understand it better, although I might just be too different (hopefully not dense) and unable to agree (or, even, relate fully to either of your experiences).

ClaecElric4God wrote: Forgive the inevitable wall of text.

Forgiven and countered with a wall of my own :)

ClaecElric4God wrote: I have an odd take on contemporary music that I won't bother to explain here, but I will say that the conservative Christian music I've heard generally doesn't seem to have the lyrical issues that everyone here finds in a lot of contemporary Christian music.

I would be interested to hear your take on contemporary music, if you are ok sharing it. If you don't think it would be good to post here, I'd gladly read it in a private message.

ClaecElric4God wrote: I've noticed that whenever Christian music is discussed on CAA, the same handful of bands always comes up. And they tend to be the same handful of bands and albums I hear about from Christians around me, too. And perhaps that's because they're the ones who are "good" and popular. I dunno.

They are the ones who are popular, I think. Whether they are "good" or not is impossibly subjective, I think. A digression, yes. But an interesting point.

ClaecElric4God wrote: My point is, there are many different forms of worship music that aren't cheesy or "love songs about God" or pointless and frivolous and shallow. Kaori mentioned a few. And I'm sure there are other names you could throw out there (I wouldn't know because again, not my field of expertise). But the truth is, there are groups and individuals who write and sing music that most of the world will never experience.

Certainly. However, there might be one major issue. Since likes for music are so subjective, everybody can't agree that a particular song is good. Many will resonate with a particular song and say that it is great while others will say that it does not speak to them and, even, they feel uncomfortable singing it due to the words. I can't really prove that statement, but I have experienced it quite often. Some view a song as worshipful, others do not. Perhaps we are just not singing the right songs? I don't know.

ClaecElric4God wrote: [...] They want to edify the brethren and point to God. I find a lot of depth and meaning to the lyrics of their music. At the same time, that's not their main focus. They're happy if they can bless someone with their music, but their main goal is to bring people to Christ.

And this brings me back to my original question. What is the purpose of all these different songs? Music is a wonderful tool, I know this; but what are we using it for? Why should bands or groups or artists be concerned about what people think of them or how their popularity will be affected by one thing or another? I'm sorry if I'm being too blunt, but are these singers more concerned about doing what they believe is right or putting money in their pockets? I ask this question sincerely because I honestly don't know the answer.

Bluntness is good, and you make a good point, I think. Edification of the body and worship to God are, although different terminology, the same things that I said might be the purpose of music/worship. However, I can only assume that I would find some issue with (at least a few of) their songs. After all, songs that resonate with me (in other words, ones that I feel like are ok to sing) are very rare. Ones that I feel like they are worshipful are even rarer. After all, I don't have the "melodic oil" that keeps the system running smoothly. A blunt, perhaps overly cynical thing to think, of course. And, by the way, I mean no disrespect to that band. I honestly believe that they are doing a great work and wish them the best as they continue doing what they are doing. After all, I'm sure they reach people that might otherwise not be reached. However, my experiences with music has been an unimpressed one. Even my favorite song, Come Thou Fount, has phrases that I simply don't feel comfortable saying because I can't find them to be worshipful (or, perhaps, even find them to be insulting). Maybe I am too critical or, perhaps, paranoid. I'm not certain. But, whatever the reason, it is my reality. And, seeing so many different preferences in music, I can't see any particular song being ok with all believers. Even if you don't include people like me.

I just realized that I have started arguing for the abolition of all music in church. I don't necessarily want to argue this... but I have found myself doing so in response to your thoughts. Also, I apologize if it is a bit too blunt. But, for the sake of flushing out meaning, I will continue to do so... while trying to keep an open mind. Just, please keep in mind, I am not entirely sold to the idea of removing music. As mentioned above, it may provide benefit. And, at the least, I know it can help others and is deeply meaningful for others. Sorry for the interjection, but I felt it was necessary. The last thing that I want to do is offend anyone or convince myself of something that I don't believe entirely. I don't want to deny anyone their own tastes or realities. I appreciate everyone's replies because they help challenge (and sort through) my thoughts/ideas concerning music.

Thinking further, and especially while arguing against the use of music in worship in church, I recognize that it might be an internal problem of mine. Perhaps I am too cynical or hold too high of a standard/agreeableness for song lyrics. But, perhaps again, I simply see things clearer because the tune of music has no sway over my observations. Or, perhaps, I am simply the type who would do best without music in his life or worship. Perhaps, in that way, it could be analogous to those who worship through interpretive dance... there isn't necessarily anything wrong with it (and there can be lots of good that comes from it)... but it isn't right for me because it isn't a way that I can worship. It is hard for me to say. But, this being said, please note that I recognize it could be a personal problem that I must resolve before I can appreciate a traditional worship service completely (or at least mostly). I don't feel like it is, but I do recognize the possibility.

ClaecElric4God wrote: Back to the topic at hand. What is the purpose of worship music in church? A recurring theme in this thread is "such-and-such music just doesn't do it for me". Holdup. What I'm about to say is hard for me to say because I. Love. Music. A lot. Music has had and probably always will have a huge influence in my life. But when it comes to music in church, music in the place where we claim to have come together to worship God, music we blatantly call worship music, I have to give myself a reality check. Why do I think it's about me? We're sort of acting like the very people we're condemning for being narcissistic and shallow by fussing about the fact that we don't feel emotionally invested in this music. And maybe this is where you differentiate between music you sing at church and music you listen to at home or sing to yourself in the shower. I dunno. But my point is, Christians are missing the point of worship, I think. The song leader, worship team, special singers, whoever, shouldn't have to be focusing on what makes the congregation feel good or satisfied. Worship is supposed to be about God.

On most accounts, I agree. Worship is not directly about us... we are not the focus. However, to a certain extent, it is. Musical worship is not simply "praising God." Instead, it is "humans praising God." In this regard, songs should be considered for having the right effect on people, right? It doesn't matter if the congregation "feels good" or "is satisfied." But, instead, worship is supposed to be about us worshipping God.

Perhaps I should simply reduce everything I've said to these questions: What happens when (musical) worship does not feel worshipful? What is its purpose?

ClaecElric4God wrote: Going back to my point, I think the question of "what is the purpose of worship music" is bigger than I or anyone else can answer. I rather think it's different for each of us, and I frankly don't know whether that's good or bad.

Yes, definitely. I can agree with you there.

ClaecElric4God wrote: For me, I've recently been trying to bring myself back to the idea that it's about God, and I want to make sure my heart is right towards God as I sing or listen to it. Because there are a lot of times where I can't sing the lyrics of a song in church, not because I disagree with them but because they are so real and meaningful that I get lost in its truth or even convicted of shortcomings in my life, and find myself more inclined to bow my head and give reverence to my God than to try to sing. I know a young lady who is uncomfortable singing the old hymn "I Surrender All" because to her, surrendering all to the Lord Jesus Christ is a big deal, not just something you sing about lightly. There usually isn't anything hypnotic or overpoweringly emotional about 20-some people singing "Rescue the Perishing" with an out of tune piano, but I can still find myself lost for words when we reach the verse:
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.

I think that is great! I know that I can be a bit blunt and (perhaps overly) critical... but, in all that I say, please don't think that I think that everyone should follow my way of doing things. Quite the contrary, I think that we should pursue any good thing that can be done to worship God. I am happy for people if they have found that music (of whatever type) works best for them in worship. To be honest, I am envious of those people who can sing and feel like they are worshipping, no matter the words.

ClaecElric4God wrote: I've heard so many times "We all worship God in our own ways." But how about worshiping God in the way He wants to be worshiped? That's what I'm striving for, to learn the heart of God and discover how He wants to be worshiped. I heard a song for the first time recently (that I think is pretty well known to everyone but me) that sort of slapped me in the face with it, The Heart of Worship.

oh, I haven't heard that song in a while! All repetition (and ignorable nitpicking) aside, I actually appreciate that song and could, conceivably, see myself singing it with others in a worship setting. It does feel worshipful, I think. And it is a good reminder for other songs. Thanks for the reminder that some songs can be good. Sometimes, I forget.. :/ Perhaps, more than anything, I am suffering from burnout turned cynical. haha.

ClaecElric4God wrote: If I have trouble with contemporary music, it's usually because I feel the lyrics misrepresent what it truly is to be a Christian (because no, it's not always sunshine and rainbows), I find them doctrinally disagreeable, or my conservative roots flair up and I don't care for the music style. [...] Ultimately, I feel that for myself, traditional hymns are the deepest and most meaningful of Christian music. They tend to be filled with more Biblical truth, point more strongly towards God and away from ourselves, and frankly they were written by Christians stronger and more deeply dedicated to the service of God than a lot of the artists Christianity is churning out today.

For the most part (with the exception about music style), I agree with the first part. Although, like Nate hinted at, I don't know about the hearts of those who make music now (or in the past) either, but what you said does kinda make sense. Or, perhaps, the artists nowadays are simply trying to reflect their feelings instead of cater towards a more universal (universal as in more relatable to more people) worship.

ClaecElric4God wrote: Like Midori, I generally find more personal pleasure and edification in instrumental music. [...] For another, being very sensitive to music and the different emotions it expresses, I find it very easy to connect to it and spend time thinking while I'm listening to it. It's easier for me to split myself between instrumental music and something else than music with lyrics where I have to pay attention to what people are saying and share the exact emotion of the singer. Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I love listening to music while I pray. To me, it's spending time with God while enjoying his beautiful creation of music. Maybe I'm guilty of using music to get on a spiritual high, I dunno.

I kinda envy you in that regard. Instrumental music in general seems useless for my personal consumption. Except, possibly, in movies and tv show. I can't know your heart and I can't really know if instrumental music is like a "spiritual high" drug. But, I think, there isn't anything inherently wrong with it. And that is an ok place to be, I think.

ClaecElric4God wrote: At this point I'm really just rambling, so I'll shut up now. This was going to be like...three sentences. As you can see, music is a very important topic to me.
I can't answer the question of what my favorite song is, because there are soooooooooooo many. It's constantly changing. But I do love Come Thou Fount, for the very same lines you mentioned.

haha, seems like we are quite similar, both in our favor of Come Thou Fount as well as being a bit rambly. But, no worries. I have appreciated all your rambles. Thanks for bringing another thoughtful view (and, if I haven't said this already, thank you everyone for bringing your views).

whew, that was a longer reply than I expected. I apologize if I come across strongly opposed to what you think is good worship. Again, I don't mean to minimize your views or anything. They are valid views, but perhaps not so for me. This being said, I want to reassure you that I respect your views even though I seem to discount them personally. If that makes sense. If not (or if I have offended anyone), I'd be glad to discuss it further. In short, thanks for your post!

Just saw Nate's posts, so I'm going to make a few comments, but I'll try to keep it brief.
Nate wrote:
We're sort of acting like the very people we're condemning for being narcissistic and shallow by fussing about the fact that we don't feel emotionally invested in this music.


I don't recall anyone in this thread condemning anyone for being narcissistic and shallow. I have a bad memory though, so maybe I'm just forgetting where someone said it? I sorta feel like I would remember that.

To clear up any confusion, I think we did mention that much of CCM tends to be self-focused and watered-down. Or something along those lines. I think that is what is being commented on.

Nate wrote:
I've heard so many times "We all worship God in our own ways." But how about worshiping God in the way He wants to be worshiped?


I would bet that the way God wants to be worshiped is by our hearts and lives being committed to him. Not how good we sang in church on Sunday. I really doubt God's going to say "Well, you raised your kids with strong Christian values, gave generously to the church, helped organize community programs to minister to the poor, studied my word with fervor, and...uh oh, wait a minute, looks like you thought that Shine Jesus Shine wasn't a very good song and didn't care for it much, well, it's the pit of fire for you, sorry."

I mean I don't really recall a verse where God says "You must sing songs to me, lest you be in danger of the fires of Hell." I mean, there's verses that say that singing praises to God is good, and wonderful...but I don't recall it mentioning that they're mandatory. Again though, bad memory, so maybe I'm forgetting where that passage is.

So, Nate, can I summarize (and make sure I understand) what you are saying: We can't really know how God wants to be worshiped, but we do know that He wants us to live lives committed to Him. If that is correct, I think that I can agree. I can't say for certain how God wants us to worship Him.

Nate wrote:
That's what I'm striving for, to learn the heart of God and discover how He wants to be worshiped.


And I don't think that's a bad thing, but I think the problem comes when you start judging others for not caring as much about music as you do and implying that maybe they're wrong for it.

Honestly, I didn't get that vibe. I just thought that that quote was used to describe his personal journey and how he might best be able to worship God.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kaori » Tue May 12, 2015 7:47 pm

Took me a long time to get back to this thread, sorry. Real life and all that.

I’m still going to try to make a broad distinction between worship music in church and Christian music generally that isn’t specifically for church, but all in one post.

Part 1: Worship music in church

Mullet Death wrote:I think that at Mass music should be based strongly on Gregorian chant and the organ and other more "traditional" instruments. [. . .] Traditional Catholic music and liturgical practices like the use of incense are therefore pretty well the best of worlds, invariably creating an appropriate atmosphere while not looking like a concert or circus.

I don't know if I contributed to the thread or not.

Gregorian chant and incense FTW.

About chant, obviously I agree completely; there is something really special about it. During the time when I was visiting Catholic churches to learn more about Catholicism, I once had the good fortune to attend a Mass that was Ordinary Form but nevertheless had chant as the predominant musical style, and it was amazing how much more musical and stylistic unity and continuity with tradition that Mass had compared to your typical OF Mass at an average parish just by making plainchant the baseline for everything.

But speaking of traditional Mass, have you ever been to EF Mass or to an Anglican Use Mass? Those, I think, also have a great deal of substance in the texts that are used as well as having stylistic and liturgical integrity and unity (it’s just unfortunate that the EF is in Latin, so you have to bury your nose in the Missal in order to understand any of the Proper texts).


Kraavdran wrote:I would like to clarify that "protestant" is not really a uniformed structure of beliefs or service styles. Some even don't believe in music at all. Some use music as a solely intellectual (not emotional) drive.

You're right, of course. I used to be a Protestant and usually try to be sensitive to the variety of beliefs and practices within Protestantism when talking about it, but I was painting with broad strokes there, sorry.

Just for the sake of my own knowledge, I'm curious about which denominations don't use music at all (because that is something I have not come across) and which ones you would see as using music primarily in an intellectual way.

Kraavdran wrote:Are you saying that talking about how people compare to God (for example, us dedicating ourselves to God or, in a healthy way, humbling ourselves before Him) is bad? I'm not entirely certain how far you would take this.

You bring up a good distinction, and one that I tend to forget about because so much Orthodox music does not make any mention of the singer/speaker.

Basically, I would say that things that focus on talking about the worshipper's emotions or what the worshipper is doing, like "I'm so in love with you" or "I'm filled with awe" or "I feel like dancing" or whatever are not what worship should be. If people are able to sing such things while sincerely feeling those feelings for God, then that's not a bad thing, but the songs can easily be counterproductive because the focus is on the worshipper (and also it will be an alienating experience for anyone who doesn't feel those emotions at that particular moment).

However, in the Orthodox services we do have one really big exception to the general tendency not to reference the worshipper in our song lyrics, and that is the penitential songs that we sing. For example, we have one that says, "I have stained my soul with terrible sins. I have spent my whole life slothfully." It's a prayer for cleansing and repentance, and it invites us to look at ourselves to recognize our sinfulness and brokenness, which is something that is necessary for repentance. So when we are doing that sort of thing, we are looking at ourselves for the sake of realizing our sinful condition; it's a humble thing and it is for the sake of repentance. This is really, really different from, for example, a song I have heard on K-LOVE where the singer is talking about how great her relationship with God is, and although she had good motives and just wanted to share about her love of God, to me it sounds like bragging ("Look how great I am spiritually!") and is not helpful to me as a listener.

We also have in the Orthodox services some exhortations to specific actions (they are usually "let us" statements). For example: "Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence: and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage." It is not saying that we have these things, so it's not saying, "Hey look at all the good qualities we have," it is an encouragement to put on those qualities and to do those things (to follow the commandments, love others, pray, etc.) And here's another: "The time for combat is at hand and has begun already; let all of us set forth eagerly upon the course of the Fast." These are both from Monday in the first week of Great Lent.

So the short answer is no, I don't think that an exhortation to do good or songs of humbling ourselves before God are bad; I would say those are both good things to do.

Kraavdran wrote:I would really like to hear what you have to say about that [physicality in worship].

Sure. This goes back to something I *think* I mentioned above about how there's more to the human person that the mind and the emotions. The physical body is also an integral part of who we are (we are not souls that have bodies; we are soul-and-body, and persons are bodies just as much as they are souls). So for one thing, we have things in our services that appeal to all five senses. For sight, we have the icons and the visual beauty of the nave; for hearing, obviously the music and spoken word; for smell, incense; for touch, we have motions that we make with our bodies, and we also venerate the icons and other things by kissing them; for taste, there's the Euchraist, and blessed bread (that is something that even non-Orthodox visitors may eat, and we do so in the service itself), and also having a meal together after certain services is a huge part of Orthodox culture that goes all the way back to the first century where Holy Communion was a full meal, the agape feast. (Basically, we still have the agape meal, but we have separated out receiving the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion from the full meal to prevent problems like the abuses that Paul talked about in Corinthians.)

Speaking of the Eucharist, Nate said something above about not being able to physically interact with Jesus, and I'd just like to point out that those of us who believe in Real Presence would absolutely disagree with the statement that you cannot physically interact with Jesus in the service. It does not get more physical than eating his flesh and drinking his blood in the form of bread and wine. Since this is a theological issue, though, I just want to respectfully point out that there is a difference of opinion, not start an argument.

Not quite along the same lines, venerating the icons (and a few other things) is an important part of worship for us. For example, sometimes in Protestant worship songs or songs by Christian bands I have come across the sentiment of wanting to kiss Jesus' feet. Well, we have a crucifix icon in our nave, and I think it is really wonderful that we don't have to merely sing about it but we can do that: we kiss his feet. Of course, the icon is not Jesus himself, so it is like kissing a photograph of a loved one, but it allows us to express our love for Christ in a physical way.

But the main thing that comes to mind in terms of physicality in worship is that we make the sign of the cross and bow at various times. The sign of the cross is used as a sign of respect (e.g. when the persons of the Holy Trinity are named) or as a physical gesture that corresponds with a moment of prayer. Often we make the sign of the cross and bow from the waist. And we also have prostrations, which is bowing all the way to the ground. So in a Protestant service one might sing a song that says "We bow down," but I have never seen anyone actually do this in a Protestant service. We would say "We bow down," but we wouldn't literally do it. But in an Orthodox service, we have some times when we sing things like, "Before your cross we bow down," and we really do bow down when we sing that.

This is, by the way, not mandatory for anyone (well, with the exception of clergy I guess)--no one is required to bow or to prostrate or to make the sign of the cross. But doing so is helpful for a couple of reasons.

One is something that actually a Protestant friend said to me about going to more traditional Protestant services like Lutheran services where they do have some of those things like the sign of the cross. She said to me, "Even if I don't feel like worshipping, at least I can be obedient with my body." So there are times when the emotion is not there, you don't feel emotional or anything, but even in those times you can still as an act of the will choose to worship with your body even though you can't control what you do or do not feel emotionally. But to do something with your body does affect your internal disposition, also; kind of like how if you hold a pen in your teeth (making the physical gesture of a smile) you will feel marginally happier than if you hold it with your lips, when you place your body in a humble position, it does help to cultivate an inner disposition of humility.

Also, I just find that the body wants to be involved in worship. I never guessed, the first time that I saw everyone in the church prostrate all at once, that prostrations would be something I would come to value and that would be important to me, but I did, and they are. To me it's like this: if you are able to intellectually grasp or emotionally feel even a tiny portion of the concept of how lowly we are before God and how much we are in need of his grace, then why would you not want to make yourself as low as possible before him? Or to use a more general example (one that applies to other Christians, not just to Orthodox), when people do feel strong emotion in worship, it's very understandable that, for at least some people, they want to express that in a physical way, like by raising their hands. Basically, it is good for worship to be able to be expressed physically and to involve the body, also, because then more of the whole person is involved, the body as well as the mind/emotions.

Kraavdran wrote:To what extent does music create divisions by making some people uncomfortable. For example, singing about how events Revelation have already happened (preterism) or how women should not be in places of authority in church or men shouldn't have long hair (just to clarify, I'm talking about things that cause problems that would qualify as "non-essentials"). Maybe a more relatable example (which I might have mentioned earlier, I can't remember), I find some aspects of Calvinism particularly stifling in terms of spiritual growth/action. Would I really want to go to a church that sings about TULIP (or, if you are a calvinist, consider the opposite situation). Now, don't get me wrong. I think that this can be taken to the extreme to the point where you have watered-down words on a page. And, I recognize, that you might be a person who really needs specific/elaborate theology worked into worship. I can't really say if there is a "certainly good" or "certainly bad" in those terms. What are your thoughts on that? I kinda feel torn between the two extremes, to be honest.

You’re not the only one who finds Calvinism stifling. ;) (Apologies to any Calvinists out there, but this is something I have heard from multiple people.)

Back to the subject, though, this is a really big topic.

First of all, about the idea of singing about Preterism or men not having long hair or something like that, of course that would be silly, and I don't think there is anyone who would do that.

Now, this is a specifically Orthodox distinction, but I'm going to use it because I feel that it is helpful in distinguishing between two separate things. We use the word "theology" only to refer to statements about God himself. So that would be Trinitarian theology and Christology. Other Christian teachings we would call "doctrine," so we don't say "theology of the Fall" or "theology of sin" or "theology of hell," we would say that we have doctrines about those things.

I say this cautiously, because I feel like I'm very soon going to think of some exceptions, but I think that in general the Orthodox hymns are more focused on theology and on historical events (from salvation history, from the Bible, from lives of the Saints, sometimes from Church history), though there is doctrine included. Nobody is singing songs about why women are not priests (actually, I’m not sure that would even be included in the topic of “doctrine,” maybe it would be “liturgics” or “church discipline,” though that’s beside the point).

Obviously, my viewpoint is that specific theology and teachings should be included in the services. For one thing, when you do that, it teaches the laity correct doctrine and theology, so it's important for spiritual formation. For another thing, precisely as you say, if you remove every doctrinal or theological statement about which someone could possibly disagree, then you are going to completely strip your songs of all content and you will end up with childish, simplistic songs that have no intellectual appeal and are exactly the sort of thing we all have been complaining about throughout the duration of this thread.

So an Armenian walks into a Christian Reformed church and he feels uncomfortable because the Sunday School has the kids come up and sing a kid’s song that teaches the kids what TULIP stands for. Well, he should be uncomfortable! The feeling of discomfort is there to tell him, “This church teaches something different than what I believe.” That whole church is going to have an emphasis and theology that’s very different from the Armenian’s, so if he doesn’t feel uncomfortable during the worship songs, he’s going to start feeling uncomfortable after listening to a sermon or two and hearing the Calvinist emphasis and flavor come out in the pastor’s teaching. And if you want to get rid of anything doctrinally specific in not just the worship but also the teaching of the church, then all you are going to be left with is a bunch of churches that cannot say anything other than, “Jesus is my friend” or “God is love.” Everyone will only be getting milk, not solid food, because you cannot go very deep at all into teaching about Christianity without getting into some kind of statement that some other kind of Christian is going to disagree with. And then anyone who is at all intellectual and requires something to mentally chew on is going to say to himself or herself, “If Christianity is this trite and banal, it cannot possibly be true” and walk out. (Really! I’m not trying to make a slippery slope; I’m just pointing out that if you take all the doctrinal content out of worship and the teaching both, then that really is how people will react who need something intellectually satisfying.)

Now, to desire Christian unity is a really good thing. We should all want that. But I think that getting rid of any kind of doctrinal statement is not the right way of going about it.

To take a really big and glaring example, “God is Triune” and “God is One and is not Triune” are two very different statements about who God is. They cannot both be true, at least not if you believe in the law of non-contradiction and aren’t a complete relativist in a “What I believe is true for me and what you believe is true for you” sort of way.

The way that we ought to be taking to strive for greater unity is to come to a greater understanding of what the truth about God really is. So imagine a circle, with a point at the center and an edge around the outside. A true understanding of God is the center. We are all at various points around the outside of the circle (and actually not at equidistant points; some are closer than others). If we want to get closer to each other, the way to do so is for all of us to get closer to the center. In other words, we should be striving towards the truth. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should strive for more and more minute doctrinal minuteness, but it does mean that our response to the fact that there are differences among Christian denominations needs to be to try to dialogue with each other to come to an agreement, not just sweep things under the rug.

We have inherited a state of affairs in which there is a great deal of doctrinal disagreement, and Christians are very divided—but if we try to fix that by just ignoring the differences of belief that are there, then that’s like treating a disease by doing something that will bring a little bit of relief to the symptoms but doesn’t solve the root cause, or putting a band-aid on a bullet wound without fishing out the bullet, something like that. It’s not going to solve the problem. And likewise, having a song that has specific doctrinal content that matches the beliefs of the denomination is not “causing divisions,” it is just revealing the real differences in belief that are already there and are not going to go away just by pretending they aren’t.

I have a definite opinion about what I think is both the cause of much of the division among Christianity and is also an exacerbating factor that is continuing to make things worse in an ongoing way, but that is off-topic and I will probably start an argument if I go into that, so I’ll forbear. >.> If anyone really wants to know, you can PM me, and I’ll get back to you . . . probably not very quickly.

Kraavdran wrote:It sounds like you may have had experiences with churches who expect people to have emotional experiences (perhaps on the more charismatic spectrum).

Actually, no. Aside from college, when I sent a little while going around and visiting churches of various denominations before eventually settling in a Mennonite church for three years, my time in the Protestant church was entirely spent in non-denominational churches.

Kraavdran wrote:Now, I don't know about your situation, but it does make me wonder. Is that a problem with the songs or the church/worship-team with which you experienced the need to feel emotional? If you think that it is the songs, what specifically about the songs could be changed? Or is it something you find inherent in the musical medium itself?

I think I should clarify a bit about what my experience was like when I was in Protestant churches. I actually did generally enjoy worship music (more or less depending on the quality of it), and I did have a lot of powerful emotional experiences at times. Usually I would be able to produce a more or less appropriate emotion, I guess. It’s a little hard to say looking back, but I think at the time the biggest conflict for me was that there were some songs where I would look at the lyrics and think to myself, “Wait a minute, this song isn’t about God, it’s mostly about my emotions!” And I didn’t think it was right to sing songs that were mostly about us and about the worshipful emotions that we felt rather than mostly about glorifying God. This became a huge pet peeve for me my last few years in Protestantism. Actually, thinking about my posts in this thread . . . I guess it is still a huge pet peeve. ^^;;

But as for feeling relieved to get away from that sort of thing and from feeling that I had to try to make myself feel a certain emotion, it was kind of like this: sometimes you can miss something without realizing how much you missed it until you encounter that thing again, like when I was living in Japan but was back in the States for vacation, I would never think about rice much at all, but invariably when I was able to eat rice again I was always thinking, “Man, I missed rice so much, it’s so good to eat it again!” So kind of like that, I don’t think when I was a Protestant I was thinking very much about how certain Protestant songs made me feel like I had to produce a certain kind of emotion in order to sing them sincerely, but once I got away from those kinds of songs, it was like, “Man, it’s really a relief to get away from that.” All of a sudden I didn’t have to try to feel a certain emotion or else feel guilty or feel like something was wrong with me spiritually for not feeling a particular emotion at a certain time—instead, I found that sometimes an emotion would come, but if it didn’t, that was fine too, I could still worship.

As for what specifically it was in the songs, it’s the sort of thing I’ve been talking about, songs that have lyrics that reference some sort of emotion that supposedly the worshipper is already feeling, like “I’m filled with awe and wonder” or something like that. That isn’t a lyric from a particular song, it’s something I just made up, but I’m pretty sure there’s some song I’m thinking of that says something like that, and I just can’t remember what it is or what song it came from (haven’t been in a Protestant church in almost two years).

I don’t think worship songs should do that. For one thing, it’s not about God, it’s about the worshipper. For another thing, you have songs that say things like, “Oh, I feel like dancing” (this is a real song and actually one that I like a lot), and if you have someone in the congregation who realizes, “Wait a minute, I don’t feel like dancing, though!” then you’re creating a conflict for them and they’re going to experience some cognitive dissonance if they sing along, because then they’re singing something that is not a true description of their emotional state. If instead we just sang stuff like “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory,” we wouldn’t have that problem.

So, Kraavdran, looking at your question again: It’s the lyrics of the songs. It wasn’t any problem with the worship leaders or with music itself. Did that all answer your question, or is there anything else you’d like more clarification on?

Kraavdran wrote:I think that I view music in a similar light as you view chant... all semantics aside. After all, without the musical aspect of music, you are just left with easier-to-follow (at least for me) chant.

I do want to clarify that although I feel that Orthodox worship in general, and chant in particular, is not designed with the goal of arousing emotions, that does not mean that I don't ever feel emotion while listening to or singing chant. On the contrary, the emotions are often very involved--but it is not the goal of chant to produce emotion. It's a little hard to explain, so I think I will just leave it at that.

Kraavdran wrote:I have had quite an experience with different worship songs, having church-hopped for a few years and attended a Christian university. Every once in a while, we did sing a (non-hymn) song that was surprisingly rich in helpful metaphor and meaning.

Yeah, there are some good, substance-filled contemporary worship songs out there. “Days of Elijah” is awesome! There are even some that I like that despite being a bit simpler still manage to get quite a lot of meaningful content, like “Wonderful Merciful Savior” or “Jesus, Be the Center.” So certainly not all recent worship songs are bad just because they are recent, and not all hymns are lyrically all that great just because they are hymns. But I really wish that worship leaders had more discernment in choosing worship songs that have good, strong content rather than poorly-written but popular ones.

Kraavdran wrote:I have to wonder, now. In terms of worship songs (ones typically sung at church), do you think they should try to stay towards the more positive, God-only genres?

This might be somewhat a rehash of things I've already said, but yes, worship songs sung at church I think, should have specifically religious content. Besides God, we [the Orthodox] also do have some things focused on events in salvation history (e.g. a song about Joseph of Arimathea burying Jesus' body) or on realizing our sinfulness and need for repentance, and those things are referenced to God, e.g. we will recognize our sinfulness and ask God for help.

When you say "positive," I wonder if we're starting to conflate worship music used in church with the capital-C CCM (to borrow Mech's term), the stuff that plays on K-LOVE, which we've all been complaining about.

Worship music in the Orthodox church, insofar as it is mostly other-focused and not focused on ourselves, is not going to be positive in a "look how happy I am!" or "I have Jesus in my life and therefore everything is always okay!" sort of way. Neither is it going to be negative in the way that Christian extreme music bands (/bands who are Christian) often focus on the negative emotions and struggles that they or other people are going through. The events they are about might be somber or might be joyous, but they are not about trying to create a positive atmosphere by pretending things are always okay all the time or about looking at our own emotions and saying "I feel joyous" or "I feel like dancing" or "I feel awe" or whatever. Basically, worship is not about our own emotions (though there are a few exceptions here and there where emotions are mentioned, usually as an exhortation rather than a statement that assumes the emotion is already there). Let me give some examples:

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the cross.
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the cross.
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the cross.
He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who in the Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection.


Few were the words that the thief uttered upon the Cross, yet great was the faith that he showed. In one moment he was saved: he opened the gates of Paradise and was the first to enter in. O Lord, who hast accepted his repentance, glory to Thee.


Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.


These songs are not some sort of sugar-coated positivity that ignores evil and pain. Neither do they require you to say you feel some emotion that you might or might not actually feel at that moment. Rather, they are an invitation to contemplate and enter into the mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ.

Kraavdran wrote:Again with my example with God's love being "a hurricane and we are the trees."

I've been a bit reluctant to list specific examples of songs that exhibit the qualities that I think are unfortunate, either in worship music or CCM, because there's always the danger that I will end up execrating something that someone poured their soul into, with the best of intentions, and that expresses something very personal and very important for them about their walk with God.

This song is like that. The story behind it is that the songwriter who originally wrote the song had a very close friend who passed away, and he felt like he needed to be in a dialogue with God, and out of that prayer with God during a time when he was hurt and working through a lot of anger came this song.

So, actually, like you, Kraavdran, I have a lot of problems with the lyrics in the verses, like comparing the grace of God (something that is so good it exceeds comprehension) to drowning (something unequivocally bad), and some other things as well, and from a literary standpoint I don’t think they’re well-written. But I find that I’m reluctant to go into those things here because I feel bad about criticizing something that I know was so personal and important to the person who wrote the song and I’m not sure what benefit such a critique would have. (Would it edify those who are reading? I’m not sure about that.)

ClaecElric4God wrote:I really liked that chant you linked, Kaori.

Glad you liked it! There’s plenty more where that came from, though if you just do a search on YouTube for Orthodox chant, most of what you find will be in some other language.

Kraavdran wrote:All these things aside, it kinda makes me wonder if musical worship should even be a part of a church service. What do you guys think? I can see some real nice pros for removing music from churches. But, at the same time, that idea grates against my sense of what is good.

The Orthodox church fathers almost decided not to use music in worship at all because it is so prone to emotional excess that the emotion can become the driving force and distract people from the message. Fortunately for all church music ever written, the Arians were going around promulgating their teachings with catchy jingles, so the church fathers decided after some deliberation that there needed to be something to counteract that and also that it should be used because (for most people) music touches something really deep within us and can help us enter more fully into the prayers. So I absolutely do think that worship should be a part of music. "He who sings prays twice," one of the Church Fathers said (I think Augustine).

So my short answer would be “yes.” I can see how for you not having songs would not be much of a loss, since music just does not do for you what it does for other people. But please have some compassion on those of us for whom music is deeply meaningful and don’t deprive us of worship music utterly. ;)

Kraavdran wrote:What if we are being too critical? What if we are nit-picking the words or beat?

There's been a kind of theme in a lot of posts in this thread--the idea you seem to keep coming back to is how to try to appeal to everyone, or what to do about the fact that some things appeal to some people and other things appeal to other people.

Honestly, this is a really difficult issue, because any one church cannot be everything to everyone. Just in terms of time and resources (esp. having the people to lead worship), most churches can't offer a whole bunch of different services each of which has a different musical style so that everyone can worship with a music style that they like.

And in some respects, that's a really hard thing. For example, Nate mentioned that to him the repetitive songs didn't have anything to mentally engage him, so he would just mentally check out, but some people are the opposite way, and if they try to follow along in a song that goes rapidly and has different words every time that never repeat (some hymns are like this), then they have a hard time following along. I really feel badly for people on both sides of this spectrum and wish that there were something we could do that meets the needs of both.

But I also think, purely from a practical and realistic standpoint, if we're talking about musical style, like whether to sing hymns or whether worship should be like a rock concert or whether it should be that really bland church-music-with-guitar-and-drums, there really does come a point where you have to just accept a musical style that you don't like. If for whatever reason (e.g. moving frequently) you end up attending several congregations in your lifetime, probably some of them will have music you don't particularly like, and it's just something that has to be put up with. Culture came up at one point in this thread, but the thing about culture is that in modern-day American society (and I suspect in other places), we have not just one culture and one musical expression of that culture but a multiplicity of cultures. So it is just impossible for any one congregation to have a worship style that will please everyone.

(Also, as I’m thinking about this some more, I guess there is a difference between people who are trying but genuinely have a hard time following a certain style of music, like “Man, I’m trying to concentrate but my mind just totally checks out when we repeat the same phrase over and over again” or “I’m trying to sing along, but I just find those hymns really hard to follow” and people who just have musical preferences and dislike a certain musical style. And it’s more in the latter case where we sometimes have to realize that worship isn’t about us and our preferences and set that aside. In the former case, I really don't know what to say other than "That's really hard and I feel sympathy for you.")

On the other hand I think there is a lot of room for worship leaders to be thoughtful and use discernment--especially in terms of lyrics, but also in terms of presentation. For example, I've sometimes seen PowerPoint backgrounds used in a way that seemed to me counterproductive. If we see something animated, like a music video that goes along with the lyrics, then our minds are going to be preoccupied with the video (it draws the eye because of motion), and we're going to get sucked into the film-critic mentality because that is what our culture does when we watch movies or consume entertainment, and we will be so busy mentally critiquing the music video that we can't focus our minds (or any part of ourselves) on worship. At least that was my experience. And going back to lyrics, my personal wish if I were still in a Protestant church (or in a Catholic church, I guess, since their hymns can also be very mixed in their quality) would be that the worship leader choose songs that have a worshipful focus and aren't primarily talking about the worshipper instead of God. And then, of course, they should be sound doctrinally and not teach doctrine that is wrong (of course I realize each denomination is going to have a different stance on what is "sound doctrine," but at least they could choose songs that have good, solid teaching by the standards of their own denomination or tradition). And if they pick ones that are well-written and don't have problematical metaphors, that would be helpful also.

ClaecElric4God wrote:Because there are a lot of times where I can't sing the lyrics of a song in church, not because I disagree with them but because they are so real and meaningful that I get lost in its truth or even convicted of shortcomings in my life, and find myself more inclined to bow my head and give reverence to my God than to try to sing.


Nate wrote:As for memories tied to it, almost all worship songs have the memories of "Me standing up at church looking at a lyric sheet, sometimes hoping I wasn't singing really loud because my singing voice is terrible." Not really particularly inspirational memories! [. . .] Since I'm singing, my mind is focused more on "Make sure I'm singing the right words" than actually thinking about what the words mean.

You know, there’s a lot to be said for participating in singing the worship songs . . . but there’s also a lot to be said for attentive, concentrated listening, like what Claec was just talking about. This is a concept I came across from one Orthodox writer (apparently some Orthodox thinkers do not like congregational singing): the idea is that a few people sing so that other people can listen with concentration and mental focus. For me, too, even though I like singing, the act of singing itself can make it harder to focus on the content of what is being said. Part of my mind is occupied with the unique challenge of trying to read both the notes and the words at the same time other musical concerns. Sometimes, because of that, I sing a song, and then I find myself thinking afterwards, “Wait, what did that say?” and going back and looking over it again because I wasn’t able to mentally process what it was about. So just supposing you ever happen to be in a church sometime and they’re singing something, maybe consider giving attentive listening a shot, because it sounds like for you the fact that you are singing and you think your singing is bad is a distraction that is hindering you more than it is helping you.

ClaecElric4God wrote:Maybe I'm guilty of using music to get on a spiritual high, I dunno. But I also know that there are times I've really got down to brass tacks and poured out my heart to God while listening to music.

Probably something that brings you closer to God is not wrong. I mean, obviously if you were saying something like actively and deliberately harming other people brings you closer to God, then I would have to disagree with you, but as far as devotional practices go, probably anything that brings you closer to God is not something you need to worry about.

Nate wrote:But shouldn't worship be, I don't know, actual worship? If I'm just standing there singing half-heartedly, how is that worship? How is that pleasing to God? Well, it probably isn't. But if I don't have the emotional capacity for it to be more than that, then what is there to do? I could fake it, I guess. But God would know I was faking it, so that'd be pointless too, so now I don't have a good way out. Either I just sing not being emotionally invested, which means I get condemned by people for "not caring about worship" or I pretend that I'm emotionally invested which makes me a liar in the eyes of God. Kind of a tough choice!

Yeah, this demonstrates exactly what is problematical about worship songs that are making statements about the worshipper’s emotional state, like “I feel like dancing” or “I’m so happy” or whatever. If you sing them without feeling those particular emotions, then you’re singing a lie.

If, on the other hand, the worship songs in church are making statements about God and who he is without referencing the worshipper’s emotions, then the worshipper can sing it because it’s true regardless of what their emotional state is or is not like at the time.

Nate wrote:I would bet that the way God wants to be worshiped is by our hearts and lives being committed to him. Not how good we sang in church on Sunday. I really doubt God's going to say "Well, you raised your kids with strong Christian values, gave generously to the church, helped organize community programs to minister to the poor, studied my word with fervor, and...uh oh, wait a minute, looks like you thought that Shine Jesus Shine wasn't a very good song and didn't care for it much, well, it's the pit of fire for you, sorry."

:thumb: Couldn’t agree more.

And all around, thanks for the awesome post, Nate.

Part 2: Christian music / bands that are Christians / cCM not CCM

Midori, Mechana2015, and Kraavdran: You're welcome!

Xeno wrote:Definitely the former of the two scenarios. I grew up in a really conservative (morally) Protestant denomination, and they definitely did not like the "bands whose members are Christians" because all of the music wasn't about god. I, thusly, see christian bands and the other group to be separate types of bands/music, but I certainly believe the latter group should be just as included as the former as far as what Christians should feel is acceptable to listen to.

Okay, that's good. As long as we're all agreed that bands should have artistic freedom, I'm content. In regard to whether we call the bands who are not singing worship songs all the time "Christian bands" or "bands who are Christian," it's not that I think that it doesn't make any difference what term we use and that that might not be a meaningful discussion, but I just don't have strong feelings about it.

And thanks for the link to the song.

Nate wrote:Weird stuff! Video game remixes. And can't forget those rap/hip hop and anime mashups. I also listen to what is affectionately referred to as "dad rock," you know, the stuff you hear on classic rock stations that isn't from the 90s, and occasionally classical/opera. But mostly the first two.

Oh. Um, well then. Of course none of the bands I listed in my previous post is any of those genres, so I guess you wouldn't enjoy, e.g., Five Iron Frenzy even if you approve of the kinds of themes their lyrics are about.

But with the exception of rap/anime mashups, I like all of that stuff you listed too, and I'd be curious to hear sometime what your favorite VGM remixes are. (Not in this thread, obviously.)

Mechana2015 wrote:Five Iron is probably my favorite Christian band to this day because of those types of songs.

Yeah, they were one of my top three favorite bands at one time, and the fact that they have intelligent, humorous lyrics, often with very good spiritual content (but not in a candy-coated way) is a big part of the reason for that. But eventually I just grew out of punk and ska and can't listen to those genres with much enjoyment anymore (nowadays if I were to list my favorite bands, they would mostly be metal).

mechana2015 wrote:Newsboys

What do you think about "Lost the Plot"? I don't have an extensive acquaintance with the Newsboys' discography, but I found this song to be powerful.

mechana2015 wrote:Skillet

The album Collide is by far my favorite of theirs. I stopped following them after Comatose, but I generally enjoy everything before that. (Minus their worship album, which I just haven't heard.)

mechana2015 wrote:Switchfoot- I like this band but they're another bland that just blurs together for me

I like a couple of their songs, but other than that, yeah, they are pretty blurry. "Life and Love and Why" is a favorite of mine that sounds musically different from the others (minor key and a time signature with a triple rhythm help a lot), and I enjoyed "Meant to Live" (have some nostalgic memories with that one).

mechana2015 wrote:RiverTribe

They are really good. Have to say I prefer their second album to the first, but that might be because for such a long time it was the only one of theirs I had.

I'll have to make a note of those electronica bands you listed and check them out; that's a genre that I mildly enjoy but just never really got into.

ClaecElric4God wrote:I cannot fathom why Christian artists never seem to match the majesty and awesomeness of music like Two Steps from Hell, Audiomachine, AdrianvonZeigler, etc.


Ever heard of J.S. Bach? ;) To name someone more recent, there’s also Arvo Part (he’s more of a choral composer I think, but he also does have some instrumental stuff). Different genre, I know, but there have been Christians in the past who wrote art music, and there still are many Christians out there writing that stuff, we just don’t hear about it because it’s not what gets marketed to us (kind of like how when we think of “Christian movies” the ones that everyone has heard of are Fireproof and God is Not Dead, and no one thinks of Romero or I Confess). And If there are Christian artists writing stuff like what you listed, we probably don’t know they’re Christians (this is a case where Xeno’s “bands who are Christians” would be a very appropriate term) because if it’s instrumental there is no way it would get marketed as Christian unless it’s instrumental versions of praise songs.

These are also not going to be the same genre as what you listed by any means, but Rivertribe, which was already mentioned, is really good. I’d recommend the album Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble? (This is a case of they can be considered Christian because at least some of their music is instrumental versions of praise songs.) The metal band Schaliach has a few really good instrumental pieces (not just filler but pieces that stand on their own). And Altera Enigma is a metal band (progressive with some jazz influence) that has more instrumental songs than songs with lyrics on their album.

ClaecElric4God wrote:It's easier for me to split myself between instrumental music and something else than music with lyrics where I have to pay attention to what people are saying and share the exact emotion of the singer.

Yeah, I totally agree. When I was teaching and used to put on music while grading papers, I listened to a lot of VGM and Touhou remixes for that very reason; music with lyrics would often distract me from what I was doing.

. . .

So, it is a little bit ironic that when naming all of those bands in my previous post I actually left out my favorite band, Extol. The reason is because despite being a metal band Extol does tend to be extremely centered on God in their lyrics, often in a positive way, although they do have several songs that address the darker side of things (e.g. “Tears of Bitterness” is a song of doubt which asks questions of God but does not offer any answers). Anyways, they didn’t exactly seem to fit into the category of “bands that focus primarily on the darker side of human life and experience” or “bands who sing about a large variety of topics other than God.”

But as an excuse to bring their music into this thread, I'm going to go back to one of the original questions that was brought up (favorite song).

For me, classical music and popular/rock music are two separate categories, and I really can't compare them. But out of all music that isn't classical music, this is my favorite song:

Jesus Kom Til Jorden For Å Dø (lyrics here)
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby mechana2015 » Tue May 12, 2015 11:27 pm

Comment to respond to the new posts and a quick update on how the 'listening to Christian music on the radio now' is going.

Kraavdran wrote:What if we are being too critical? What if we are nit-picking the words or beat? As a result, what if we are missing the whole purpose of group worship? The article I posted in the original post was about how the heartbeat of those in a choir synchronize. What if we are focusing on meaningless things where we should be focusing only on the community-building (or unifying) experience and worshipful direction of music?

I do not think that we are being too critical. Not being critical enough or in the right ways is what got us into this mess in the first place. Music is an art form, as is lyric writing and some form of critique is always present in that circumstance. I find a plea for less criticism in Christian art to be a painfully common one, usually followed by 'but their heart is in the right place so you have no right'.
I think that Christian art should be striving for high quality, high value of production, and high levels of innovation. The highest really if you want me to be totally honest since we are creating art to orient the audience towards, comment on or tell stories about the Most High God. Do I expect that just to miraculously happen overnight? Not really, but a community that wasn't afraid to critique and press forward with improvements would be a nice. We should admit we are imperfect beings serving a perfect being, but acknowledge that being imperfect does not mean that we should just be 'good enough'.

ClaecElric4God wrote:What is the purpose of music in a Christian setting? Not the "official" definition, but to you personally, what is it? Why is it?


To make auditory artistic creations with the purpose of directing praise to, reflecting an aspect of, commenting on the nature or acts of, or telling a story about God.

ClaecElric4God wrote:What is the purpose of all these different songs? Music is a wonderful tool, I know this; but what are we using it for? Why should bands or groups or artists be concerned about what people think of them or how their popularity will be affected by one thing or another? I'm sorry if I'm being too blunt, but are these singers more concerned about doing what they believe is right or putting money in their pockets?


There's a whole lot to be said about the way churches treat art, and the commoditization of Christianity that there even is a Christian Music Industry. I would like to say that bands should be able to move and grow as the spirit leads, but it's not true for groups on a record label from what I've heard. Making money is definitely a problem as well, even for bands that are on a label and sometimes due to that. Five Iron Frenzy had to stop being a band because they had bills to pay, and they needed jobs to do that that weren't being a touring Christian band on a record label. Short version, Christians don't treat Christian artists very well regarding the financial side of things, and it's a cultural problem.

Kraavdran wrote:Perhaps I should simply reduce everything I've said to these questions: What happens when (musical) worship does not feel worshipful? What is its purpose?

That would depend on what one feels worshipful to mean or contain. It would also depend on the reason behind the feeling. Did they set a psalm to yakkity sax? Are the lyrics completely interchangeable with a top 40 romance song? Is it just not your person preferred style of music? Each of those is a different cause and most likely would garner a different response.
Criticism could be one response, with a hope for improvement. Acknowledgement of personal opinion or taste could be another, which I know could get tricky since people will just say 'it's not your taste in music'. To that I say... You can tell the difference between a Rembrandt and a stick figure. You can usually tell when something is well executed and not your style, as opposed to being poorly done.

What is its purpose? Again the responses vary. Much of it was probably just 'well meant but poorly executed'. It could be something that's offensive, or just outright copying. It could be musically devoid of life, a dirge about a happy subject. It's purpose is whatever the creator intended, but the real question is whether that purpose is passed on to the audience.

Kaori wrote:But I really wish that worship leaders had more discernment in choosing worship songs that have good, strong content rather than poorly-written but popular ones.


Just repeating this since that is a thing I agree with. I really enjoy when the entire service, verse readings, music, messages and sermons are related as it makes for a much more insightful, meaningful and contemplative experience of the topic.




Kaori wrote:
Mechana2015 wrote:Five Iron is probably my favorite Christian band to this day because of those types of songs.

Yeah, they were one of my top three favorite bands at one time, and the fact that they have intelligent, humorous lyrics, often with very good spiritual content (but not in a candy-coated way) is a big part of the reason for that. But eventually I just grew out of punk and ska and can't listen to those genres with much enjoyment anymore (nowadays if I were to list my favorite bands, they would mostly be metal).


Shifts in taste happen, nothing wrong with that.

Kaori wrote:
mechana2015 wrote:Newsboys

What do you think about "Lost the Plot"? I don't have an extensive acquaintance with the Newsboys' discography, but I found this song to be powerful.


I find it powerful, but in the context of some of their other songs I think my thought of what the song means vs what the band thinks it means might be different and I find that a bit unsettling in a way. I was reminded of one of my favorites from them which... Somehow escaped me during my previous listen through. Entertaining Angels, probably my favorite song by the band currently.

Kaori wrote:
mechana2015 wrote:Skillet

The album Collide is by far my favorite of theirs. I stopped following them after Comatose, but I generally enjoy everything before that. (Minus their worship album, which I just haven't heard.)

I'll have to make a note of those electronica bands you listed and check them out; that's a genre that I mildly enjoy but just never really got into.

These are also not going to be the same genre as what you listed by any means, but Rivertribe, which was already mentioned, is really good. I’d recommend the album Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble? (This is a case of they can be considered Christian because at least some of their music is instrumental versions of praise songs.)


Skillit is alright but... Just not great to me anymore. I may have more to say other once I talk about my current day Air 1 listening experience in a day or two.

Enjoy those electronica groups. I'm going to look up that river tribe album.

Kaori wrote:So, it is a little bit ironic that when naming all of those bands in my previous post I actually left out my favorite band, Extol. The reason is because despite being a metal band Extol does tend to be extremely centered on God in their lyrics, often in a positive way, although they do have several songs that address the darker side of things (e.g. “Tears of Bitterness” is a song of doubt which asks questions of God but does not offer any answers). Anyways, they didn’t exactly seem to fit into the category of “bands that focus primarily on the darker side of human life and experience” or “bands who sing about a large variety of topics other than God.”

But as an excuse to bring their music into this thread, I'm going to go back to one of the original questions that was brought up (favorite song).

For me, classical music and popular/rock music are two separate categories, and I really can't compare them. But out of all music that isn't classical music, this is my favorite song:

Jesus Kom Til Jorden For Å Dø (lyrics here)


Black metal isn't my thing but the message in the lyrics is straight forward and well stated. If I enjoyed it more I'd probably like the band more but that's all personal music taste, not a concern with quality.

As for my comments on how my Air 1 listen through is going?
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Tue May 12, 2015 11:38 pm

Kraavdran wrote:Perhaps, in that way, it could be analogous to those who worship through interpretive dance... there isn't necessarily anything wrong with it (and there can be lots of good that comes from it)... but it isn't right for me because it isn't a way that I can worship.


This is a pretty good summation of how I feel, yeah, kinda what I was trying to get at in my previous post. I feel like music is a tool through which we can worship God, but it is not the only tool available.

To defend music as a form of worship: I think that music can be a useful tool for teaching. As was already mentioned, many old hymns have statements of what God is like, what God wants, what God is capable of...it's a method of teaching about God. There are a lot of different learning styles, and some people are more receptive to others. I personally prefer stuff like sermons, they're more mentally engaging and I can take in information better. Some people can't focus on sermons, they find it difficult to follow, they're not good at learning in a lecture type environment. But perhaps this person can learn well through music. Music/rhyme is actually a really useful for helping learn things. Think about it, if you recite the alphabet, you're probably going to do it to the tune of the alphabet song, maybe even if not speaking it, in your mind you probably are. Why? Because the alphabet song helps you to remember it. And I know that I personally have memorized the words to They Might Be Giants' song James K. Polk, and I probably would never have been able to immediately remember those facts about him without a great song to sing along to.

So while a person might not be able to immediately recall verses of scripture with pinpoint accuracy, I know that as I'm sitting here right now, I remember the words to Jude 24 and 25, because it was a song we would sing often in the church I went to growing up. I remember the tune and thus the words and in that way, I have been able to remember those passages. I also could tell you the books of the New Testament, in order, because of a dumb little song we learned in Sunday School. So yeah, music is good for learning.

To clear up any confusion, I think we did mention that much of CCM tends to be self-focused and watered-down. Or something along those lines. I think that is what is being commented on.


Criticizing the music is not the same as judging the artists of that music narcissistic and shallow, though. I don't think Jars of Clay wrote Love Song for a Savior to be narcissistic, but as a genuine expression of their feelings about God. As far of the shallowness of the music, I've already stated that to a degree, this is a symptom of the CCM scene and how it treats artists. I'm not judging the artists themselves.

Nate wrote:So, Nate, can I summarize (and make sure I understand) what you are saying: We can't really know how God wants to be worshiped, but we do know that He wants us to live lives committed to Him. If that is correct, I think that I can agree. I can't say for certain how God wants us to worship Him.


That's not really what I was saying, no. What I was saying is that how we live our lives is a form of worship itself. Imagine a person who writes beautiful hymns, sings wholeheartedly in church, is really committed to praising God in music...but he also hates the poor, is extremely racist, he's constantly acting like a jerk in public, sleazily hitting on women and making sexual and sexist comments towards them, gets drunk constantly...do you think such a person is really truly worshiping God? Does the fact he composes and sings music beautifully make up for how he is in his life? I would say no, because the true worship is in how we act towards others.

Honestly, I didn't get that vibe. I just thought that that quote was used to describe his personal journey and how he might best be able to worship God.


She. :p It could be I was misinterpreting her, but I read statements like this:

I've heard so many times "We all worship God in our own ways." But how about worshiping God in the way He wants to be worshiped?


...as being a bit "Well, if you don't enjoy singing songs, maybe you're not worshiping God right." Again, could just be that I misinterpreted, especially since her next statement was that she's trying to find out how God wants to be worshiped. I'm fully prepared to admit I may have gotten what she means completely wrong.

Kaori wrote:I'm curious about which denominations don't use music at all (because that is something I have not come across) and which ones you would see as using music primarily in an intellectual way.


The closest I can think of is, long long ago we had a user named Lunis on the site, and one time in the chat he made a mention that their church did not use instruments at all. Apparently they sung everything a cappella. The reason for this, apparently, is that there are no verses in the New Testament that mention using instruments or music to praise God. While there are verses about playing instruments/music in the Old Testament (especially Psalms), that these do not count because Jesus' appearance changed the rules about lots of things (such as dietary laws or circumcision), and that without mention of music in the NT, that they're erring on the safe side in not using it. I do not, however, remember the name of the denomination, so I guess it isn't that helpful. But I do remember that discussion, so there's at least one somewhere!
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby ClaecElric4God » Wed May 13, 2015 9:23 am

Ah, Nate. Punctual as ever. :) (I realize I am not as punctual and a lot of posts have been made since Nate's first reply to me, but that's the one I'm going to be addressing since it was directed specifically at me. Hopefully my leapfrogging won't be too confusing.)
I'll try to make my responses as concise as possible. The first issue you brought up with my statement would be easily clarified if you didn't cut out the last sentence.
I wrote:I ask this question sincerely because I honestly don't know the answer.

My question wasn't meant to be judgmental, and it also wasn't meant to be all-inclusive. I'm not putting all Christian artists in a box. The question would be unfair if I was saying I felt that all Christian groups are greedy and awful. But I was simply asking a question in hopes of broadening my understanding of a number of different CCM artists. Thank you for clearing that up for me.
Also, no, the family I mentioned is supported entirely by the churches they visit and none of them have other jobs. "Their only income" means "their only income". =P

Hm, I guess we both read the posts here differently. Statements like "Christian music has difficulty dealing with darker topics", "simplified and candy-coated", "cheesy religious songs", "lyrically uninspiring", "focused on the worshiper", "self-focused instead of God-focused", and a handful of others were what led me to feel that we (and I say we honestly, because I don't disagree with the statements made) were labeling certain Christian music as narcissistic and shallow. But if that's just me, okay. I'm not necessarily talking about artists, either (since that's what you think I was doing.) Hence the word "people", not artists. Whether it be people who write, listen to, enjoy, or whatever.

The next three quotes you made I think you misunderstood. Because in the end I'm pretty sure we actually agree on the idea of worship (*gasp*). I mentioned music because, well, this thread is about music. But my point was more "why is music and how we feel about it the major deciding factor in whether worship is really worship or not?" Which was why it was hard for me to say, because I love music and automatically want it to be enjoyable. I feel happier and more fulfilled if I'm enjoying the music in church, and my point was that at that point it's no longer about God and I'm now focusing on myself. I think I was doing more self-reflecting than condemning other people, but I projected that onto everyone else. My apologies.
Long story short, my point was not to condemn people for not caring about music, but to address the fact that at times I think we care too much about music.
Nate wrote:I would bet that the way God wants to be worshiped is by our hearts and lives being committed to him. Not how good we sang in church on Sunday.

This is sort of exactly what I was trying to say, but you're better at it than me. My point in the end was that while music is a great tool, it's not the definition of worship. And in a scenario where the importance of music overshadows the sincerity of worship, it would be better to throw it out a window and worship by standing on your head and counting by fives if that does a better job of producing worship in your heart. But maybe I'm still wrong.

In regards to my statement about old hymns, you're right. Everything after that (I'm assuming you meant comma, not period) is a big ol' whatever fun word(s) you would have liked to use. Regardless of my cynical nature and observations I've made, I had no right to make that assertion. Again, you still took it to be more all-inclusive than I stated it, but that's fine. I was judgmental and let my cynicism get the best of me. (Sorry, I don't have a magical machine; but I am working on one!)

tl;dr - My ultimate point was that worship is about God, not about music. If you can use music to worship God, that's great! If you have a hard time enjoying or applying music to worship, then that doesn't exclude you from worshiping God the "right" way, or even the "best" way. There are lots of ways to worship God, I believe. Because worship comes from the heart, not the talent or enjoyment level. If your heart's right, I believe it all comes together from there.

There, that's four cents and you're not getting any more.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Wed May 13, 2015 11:59 am

Phew, quite a bit to reply to. Pardon in advance for this long post.

Kaori wrote: You're right, of course. I used to be a Protestant and usually try to be sensitive to the variety of beliefs and practices within Protestantism when talking about it, but I was painting with broad strokes there, sorry.

Just for the sake of my own knowledge, I'm curious about which denominations don't use music at all (because that is something I have not come across) and which ones you would see as using music primarily in an intellectual way.

oh, yeah. I assumed that you knew that, but I just wanted to make sure that we are on the same page. Thanks! In terms of denominations that have a rigid/limited view of worship, there is a "non-denominational" church locally that doesn't believe in the use of instruments during church. I think a specific group (if not the whole group) of the "Church of Christ." That's mostly what I was referring to. (as a side note, that might be the group that the person Nate was talking about was from, because they used the exact same argument). Perhaps I should have clarified about what I meant when I said "music." I was just trying to show an example of groups that don't follow traditional protestant worship norms.

Kaori wrote: You bring up a good distinction, and one that I tend to forget about because so much Orthodox music does not make any mention of the singer/speaker.

Basically, I would say that things that focus on talking about the worshipper's emotions or what the worshipper is doing, like "I'm so in love with you" or "I'm filled with awe" or "I feel like dancing" or whatever are not what worship should be. If people are able to sing such things while sincerely feeling those feelings for God, then that's not a bad thing, but the songs can easily be counterproductive because the focus is on the worshipper (and also it will be an alienating experience for anyone who doesn't feel those emotions at that particular moment). […] So the short answer is no, I don't think that an exhortation to do good or songs of humbling ourselves before God are bad; I would say those are both good things to do.

oh, that is really interesting. I haven't experienced an Orthodox service before. That is a really interesting distinction. On one hand, I like that quite a bit because it would encourage more God-focused (and earnest) praises. And, with the qualifier that we can have exhortations to do good or songs that encourage humbling (and natural response to said humbling like a renewed commitment to God, despite shortcomings), I don't see it to be terribly limiting. Based on your description, I think that we would find quite a bit in common in terms of what is healthy and what can be unhealthy. Although, reading your example of a humbling/penitential song, we might find some slightly differing views in what it would look like. I think that your example, "I have stained my soul with terrible sins. I have spent my whole life slothfully," sounds a bit dramatic and ignores God's work in us. But that might just be a matter of interpretation and I consider it to be ok, within my margin of understanding/accepting. So, I think that I'm with you so far in terms of song subject… if not in entire agreement on the specifics.

Kaori wrote: This goes back to something I *think* I mentioned above about how there's more to the human person that the mind and the emotions. The physical body is also an integral part of who we are (we are not souls that have bodies; we are soul-and-body, and persons are bodies just as much as they are souls). So for one thing, we have things in our services that appeal to all five senses.

Here is where I see some significant differences in terms of worship styles (and, for the example with the Eucharist, icons, etc… a theological issue that I can respect, but not agree with). To summarize the differences easily, this is a difference between "high" church and "low" church. Or, formal vs informal. However you want to define it. I can appreciate the use of formal churches and know people who respond much better with them, but I always find a disconnect in them. I appreciate how you said, "Since this is a theological issue, though, I just want to respectfully point out that there is a difference of opinion, not start an argument." Please know that I feel the same. :) And, to summarize this part, thanks for explaining your view of physicality in worship. It is quite a foreign thing, not having experienced it much outside of glimpses into the Catholic (and in parts, Anglican) side of Christianity.

Kaori wrote: So in a Protestant service one might sing a song that says "We bow down," but I have never seen anyone actually do this in a Protestant service. We would say "We bow down," but we wouldn't literally do it. But in an Orthodox service, we have some times when we sing things like, "Before your cross we bow down," and we really do bow down when we sing that.

I can really respect that, although I would personally probably find it distracting (or, perhaps worse, controlling and/or obligatory). I always have to stifle a chuckle when a song says that "we bow down" (or something similar) and everyone just stands there. A bit of disconnect/confusion. I can understand that people might say "it is a psychological bowing down, not physical." And if that works for them, that's fine. I don't mean to insult either side. But I always found a bit of humor in it.

Kaori wrote: She said to me, "Even if I don't feel like worshipping, at least I can be obedient with my body."

Although I don't think I could see the sign of the cross in this light, I really like the concept and heart behind this quote. Sure, we can't have complete mastery on our minds/hearts, but at least we can encourage worship through the physical body.

Kaori wrote: Or to use a more general example (one that applies to other Christians, not just to Orthodox), when people do feel strong emotion in worship, it's very understandable that, for at least some people, they want to express that in a physical way, like by raising their hands. Basically, it is good for worship to be able to be expressed physically and to involve the body, also, because then more of the whole person is involved, the body as well as the mind/emotions.

I agree, but with one disclaimer. Some people, perhaps the ones that lead with their cognitions, instead of feelings or actions, don't gain benefit from this. I think that this is true for myself. Although, that being said, I really appreciate services where people who find it worshipful do raise their hands in a genuine way.

Kaori wrote: Now, this is a specifically Orthodox distinction, but I'm going to use it because I feel that it is helpful in distinguishing between two separate things. We use the word "theology" only to refer to statements about God himself. So that would be Trinitarian theology and Christology. Other Christian teachings we would call "doctrine," so we don't say "theology of the Fall" or "theology of sin" or "theology of hell," we would say that we have doctrines about those things.

ah, very good thing to bring up. I think, we consider theology to be the study of nature of God and religious belief in general. Doctrine, then, is the beliefs that a specific group believes. For the sake of our ability to communicate, I will try to use "doctrinal differences" instead of "theological differences" from now on. But, be forewarned, I may forget.

Kaori wrote: So an Armenian walks into a Christian Reformed church and he feels uncomfortable because the Sunday School has the kids come up and sing a kid’s song that teaches the kids what TULIP stands for. Well, he should be uncomfortable! The feeling of discomfort is there to tell him, “This church teaches something different than what I believe.” That whole church is going to have an emphasis and theology that’s very different from the Armenian’s, so if he doesn’t feel uncomfortable during the worship songs, he’s going to start feeling uncomfortable after listening to a sermon or two and hearing the Calvinist emphasis and flavor come out in the pastor’s teaching. And if you want to get rid of anything doctrinally specific in not just the worship but also the teaching of the church, then all you are going to be left with is a bunch of churches that cannot say anything other than, “Jesus is my friend” or “God is love.” Everyone will only be getting milk, not solid food, because you cannot go very deep at all into teaching about Christianity without getting into some kind of statement that some other kind of Christian is going to disagree with. And then anyone who is at all intellectual and requires something to mentally chew on is going to say to himself or herself, “If Christianity is this trite and banal, it cannot possibly be true” and walk out. (Really! I’m not trying to make a slippery slope; I’m just pointing out that if you take all the doctrinal content out of worship and the teaching both, then that really is how people will react who need something intellectually satisfying.)

Very well said. And, I'd have to agree. In terms of a church setting, it is a wise idea to include doctrinal stuff (even if not for the purpose of teaching, at least for the purpose of having something to sing about). After all, different churches exist so that people with differing views (read: differing views that lead to different focuses and/or application) can worship and learn together in a way that is familiar and beneficial. Although, it makes me wonder if songs could be more universal in words, despite having theological tendencies (for example, predestinationists and free-willists both agree that God is in control to differing degrees. And that mankind is not completely good at heart). And, this isn't to say that churches can't have joint worship sessions. One church I went to before I moved got together 3 other churches and we would have a joint worship session before going out together and doing community service. It was really cool, a mix of a high church (presbyterian?), baptist church, charismatic church, and us all worshipping together. I don't remember the songs too well, but I think that they fit alright with all the groups. They had the "high church" communion, a brief "interpretive dance", and some liturgy stuff… which was odd to see in the same service. But it was good, unity was good. It makes me wonder if worship could actually be "universalized" without watering it down. Although, this might not be the case for the long-term due to the limited pool of songs (granted, more deep ones could be written, I suppose). And, in the case of sermons, may not always be wise… but I really like the idea of "multi-church" worship.

Kaori wrote: The way that we ought to be taking to strive for greater unity is to come to a greater understanding of what the truth about God really is. So imagine a circle, with a point at the center and an edge around the outside. A true understanding of God is the center. We are all at various points around the outside of the circle (and actually not at equidistant points; some are closer than others). If we want to get closer to each other, the way to do so is for all of us to get closer to the center. In other words, we should be striving towards the truth. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should strive for more and more minute doctrinal minuteness, but it does mean that our response to the fact that there are differences among Christian denominations needs to be to try to dialogue with each other to come to an agreement, not just sweep things under the rug.

This might be where my postmodern thoughts may get in the way of our agreement on this part. While I do believe in absolute truth, I also think that God is too big to be understood entirely. Perhaps Calvinism focus on one aspect of God while Free-will people focus on another. And, in truth, there are more similarities in these doctrines than people admit… just different focuses Or, in the case of the Trinity, perhaps it is just a matter of semantics as to whether you believe in 3 persons or just 2. In this way, I consider differences in denominations a good thing. Perhaps, some people need to focus on God's sovereignty more (Calvinism) while some need to focus on the human responsibility more (free-will). Unity, I think, has less to do with believing in all the same things… because that is conformity. Unity is more of working together for a greater cause, despite having minute differences. For example, one person may believe in predestination. Another might believe in free-will. But both believe that God wants us to witness to those who do not believe… or do good works in our community… the list goes on. Doing that sort of stuff together, I think, is what unity is really about. Division is not caused by differing opinions on minor things, division is caused when we think that those differences are more important than working together in love. I think that this tracks with what you said, "And likewise, having a song that has specific doctrinal content that matches the beliefs of the denomination is not 'causing divisions,' it is just revealing the real differences in belief that are already there and are not going to go away just by pretending they aren’t."

A bit off subject, I suppose. But applicable to a worship setting (although, I guess that this implies that universal songs are not quite achievable for a regular worship setting… at least with current systems and songs… but there can be special worship settings that include multiple groups)

Kaori wrote: I don’t think worship songs should do that. For one thing, it’s not about God, it’s about the worshipper. For another thing, you have songs that say things like, “Oh, I feel like dancing” (this is a real song and actually one that I like a lot), and if you have someone in the congregation who realizes, “Wait a minute, I don’t feel like dancing, though!” then you’re creating a conflict for them and they’re going to experience some cognitive dissonance if they sing along, because then they’re singing something that is not a true description of their emotional state. If instead we just sang stuff like “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory,” we wouldn’t have that problem.

So, Kraavdran, looking at your question again: It’s the lyrics of the songs. It wasn’t any problem with the worship leaders or with music itself. Did that all answer your question, or is there anything else you’d like more clarification on?

ah, I think that I understand better. It is more the disconnect of the songs words (example: "I feel like dancing" though I do not) and the over-emphasis of the individual feelings that are an issue. If I understand you correctly, it might not be bad for a person to sing something like, "I see that God is so majestic that I feel like dancing." But this would be a more situational experience for an individual (perhaps as listening music to convey the singers experience, not as a communal worship song). I think I understand you better now, and can agree. Although, I want to try to withhold saying for certain because I can't really understand the concept of feeling emotion through music. Even that part of music is foreign to me. Perhaps I have said already, but I tend to lead with my cognitions, not my actions or heart (as far as I can understand, there are three types of people in the world based on from where they primarily lead… this is based on stuff I've read about the Enneagram). That in combination with my dislike of music, a traditional worship at church has virtually zero effect on emotion. I rely on music as a way to praise God (with the words) and reflect/acknowledge/remind on the Christian life (how great God is, repentance, commitment to God, healthier ways to perceive the world, etc). This being said, I can't really understand those who lead with their heart.. or what role music (should) play in their lives. But yeah, aside from that hesitance, I understand/agree with you there, thanks for clarifying!

Kaori wrote: I do want to clarify that although I feel that Orthodox worship in general, and chant in particular, is not designed with the goal of arousing emotions, that does not mean that I don't ever feel emotion while listening to or singing chant. On the contrary, the emotions are often very involved--but it is not the goal of chant to produce emotion. It's a little hard to explain, so I think I will just leave it at that.

I think that I understand what you are saying. If I may say what I think you said in my own words: Anything involving God will, at some level, (can) produce certain emotions. But, the purpose of chanting is not to get those feelings because there is a strong focus on giving praise (or similar concept) to God.

Kaori wrote: When you say "positive," I wonder if we're starting to conflate worship music used in church with the capital-C CCM (to borrow Mech's term), the stuff that plays on K-LOVE, which we've all been complaining about.

Sorry for the confusion. When I say "positive" in that question, I meant more of "healthy." Either is quite subjective, so I can certainly understand the confusion. To expound further, I guess what I meant was songs that focus on God's greatness (and, therefore, not anything relating to the quality of us, except for how we should view ourselves in relation to God), not silly matters of unimportant doctrinal differences or "filler" that has not particular helpful meaning. For the most part, I think that the lyric examples that you posted (that addressed evil and pain in the world, but also God's goodness) would be great examples of what I am imagining…. if that helps clarify further.

Kaori wrote: Basically, worship is not about our own emotions (though there are a few exceptions here and there where emotions are mentioned, usually as an exhortation rather than a statement that assumes the emotion is already there).

You know, thinking about this further, I wonder if it is ok to involve emotion in the "listening to" music. After all, music is a way to convey emotion/feeling, right? Or, at least, that's what a friend of mine said (she was studying to be an anthropologist and talked a bit about the reason music was important to humans). So, in a way, having a musician sing about how he feels joyous as a result of something God has done (or is doing) isn't really that bad… in moderation of course. Right? The only problem would be if that emotion is the focus, instead of a passing remark to acknowledge that the goodness in God's work is recognized on a feeling level. And, like you said, if there is a disconnect if sung in a group worship-setting. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that more emotions may be ok if sung by individuals who are currently feeling that particular emotion because it could be a way of giving God the glory. But, due to the individual nature and circumstantial nature of it, would not be good to sing in a group where some may not feel the exact same way. If that makes sense. I don't know, just a thought.

Kaori wrote: I've been a bit reluctant to list specific examples of songs that exhibit the qualities that I think are unfortunate, either in worship music or CCM, because there's always the danger that I will end up execrating something that someone poured their soul into, with the best of intentions, and that expresses something very personal and very important for them about their walk with God.

This song is like that. The story behind it is that the songwriter who originally wrote the song had a very close friend who passed away, and he felt like he needed to be in a dialogue with God, and out of that prayer with God during a time when he was hurt and working through a lot of anger came this song.

So, actually, like you, Kraavdran, I have a lot of problems with the lyrics in the verses, like comparing the grace of God (something that is so good it exceeds comprehension) to drowning (something unequivocally bad), and some other things as well, and from a literary standpoint I don’t think they’re well-written. But I find that I’m reluctant to go into those things here because I feel bad about criticizing something that I know was so personal and important to the person who wrote the song and I’m not sure what benefit such a critique would have. (Would it edify those who are reading? I’m not sure about that.)

That is a very good point. And thanks for mentioning that such an example may cause trouble. So, I should make it clear: I don't mean to insult anyone's song preference or the author's experience. And, please note, I am not trying to dismiss their experience either. In fact, since you mentioned the story behind the song, I can better respect it. So thanks! I'm just trying to say that I can't say the same words and mean the same thing as them. This kinda brings me back to the importance of the idea of distinguishing songs used for listening (by whoever likes them) and songs used for communal worship (by a broad group of people at different places in their life and with different metaphors). This song can be quite powerful and meaningful to those that are on a similar wavelength, to be sure. I know people who really like that song I used as an example… and I thought that was great! I am glad that they can get edification from that song. But, for me to be expected to sing it, I can't really say that that is good.

Kaori wrote: The Orthodox church fathers almost decided not to use music in worship at all because it is so prone to emotional excess that the emotion can become the driving force and distract people from the message. Fortunately for all church music ever written, the Arians were going around promulgating their teachings with catchy jingles, so the church fathers decided after some deliberation that there needed to be something to counteract that and also that it should be used because (for most people) music touches something really deep within us and can help us enter more fully into the prayers. So I absolutely do think that worship should be a part of music. "He who sings prays twice," one of the Church Fathers said (I think Augustine).

So my short answer would be “yes.” I can see how for you not having songs would not be much of a loss, since music just does not do for you what it does for other people. But please have some compassion on those of us for whom music is deeply meaningful and don’t deprive us of worship music utterly.

Yes, very eloquently put. After all, those of us who dislike music only account for 5% of the population (or so I've read). That means that 95% of the population have use for music. It would not be good to deprive them of it. Especially considering how powerful they can be. I hope, in my zeal for talking about my problems with music as a form of worship, I did not come across as thinking all people should not sing music. I did not mean to imply that at all. Again, I am more jealous of you all than anything. Life would be easier if music was something that I could enjoy.

Kaori wrote:
Kraavdran wrote: What if we are being too critical? What if we are nit-picking the words or beat?

Honestly, this is a really difficult issue, because any one church cannot be everything to everyone. […] I really feel badly for people on both sides of this spectrum and wish that there were something we could do that meets the needs of both. […] But I also think, purely from a practical and realistic standpoint, if we're talking about musical style, like whether to sing hymns or whether worship should be like a rock concert or whether it should be that really bland church-music-with-guitar-and-drums, there really does come a point where you have to just accept a musical style that you don't like. […] So it is just impossible for any one congregation to have a worship style that will please everyone. […] I guess there is a difference between people who are trying but genuinely have a hard time following a certain style of music, like “Man, I’m trying to concentrate but my mind just totally checks out when we repeat the same phrase over and over again” or “I’m trying to sing along, but I just find those hymns really hard to follow” and people who just have musical preferences and dislike a certain musical style. And it’s more in the latter case where we sometimes have to realize that worship isn’t about us and our preferences and set that aside. In the former case, I really don't know what to say other than "That's really hard and I feel sympathy for you.") […] On the other hand I think there is a lot of room for worship leaders to be thoughtful and use discernment--especially in terms of lyrics, but also in terms of presentation.

So, in short, music/lyrical preference is too varied to please all people. And, while some worship leaders could work a bit harder on choosing lyrics/songs and presentation medium, some sympathy should be put on people that have genuine trouble with uncommon musical preference. But, that said, it might be worth people putting some effort into "getting the most out of" (in the non-selfish sense, but in the "learn to worship God despite not completely tracking" sense) the musical medium that they are presented with. That is my understanding of what you said, perhaps with some interjections of my own. That feels like a fairly accurate (and grace-filled) consideration.

Kaori wrote: consider giving attentive listening a shot, because it sounds like for you the fact that you are singing and you think your singing is bad is a distraction that is hindering you more than it is helping you.

I know that you are applying this to what ClaecEric and Nate said, but it struck me that this might apply to lyrics that I don't think that I can personally sing. Like in the example I used, perhaps I should focus on the message that the original author (or worship leader) is saying, not whether I feel right singing that particular phrase. That way, I don't have to sing something I can't resonate with. That way, I can appreciate it in a closer manner to how it was meant to be appreciated. Perhaps this could be extended to even songs that focus on doctrine/theology we disagree with? Just a thought, for times we find ourselves in front of a song that doesn't seem to fit our frame of mind. It might take some training to accomplish, but I feel like it might be a good rule of thumb. It would eliminate the "singing half-heartedly" part that Nate was mentioning and allow us to engage fully in the meaning of the song.

Mechana2015 wrote: I think that Christian art should be striving for high quality, high value of production, and high levels of innovation. The highest really if you want me to be totally honest since we are creating art to orient the audience towards, comment on or tell stories about the Most High God. Do I expect that just to miraculously happen overnight? Not really, but a community that wasn't afraid to critique and press forward with improvements would be a nice. We should admit we are imperfect beings serving a perfect being, but acknowledge that being imperfect does not mean that we should just be 'good enough'.

hm… that is a good point. While the extent of being critical is questionable, that doesn't mean we should not be critical at times. Like Kaori said, responsibility lies both on us (to accept what we have or make the best of it in a gracious way), but also on the music writers/artists/etc to make higher quality stuff (perhaps with "encouragement" from us, the consumer). Good point, thanks!

Mechana2015 wrote:
Kraavdran wrote: Perhaps I should simply reduce everything I've said to these questions: What happens when (musical) worship does not feel worshipful? What is its purpose?
Criticism could be one response, with a hope for improvement. Acknowledgement of personal opinion or taste could be another, which I know could get tricky since people will just say 'it's not your taste in music'. To that I say... You can tell the difference between a Rembrandt and a stick figure. You can usually tell when something is well executed and not your style, as opposed to being poorly done.

What is its purpose? Again the responses vary. Much of it was probably just 'well meant but poorly executed'. It could be something that's offensive, or just outright copying. It could be musically devoid of life, a dirge about a happy subject. It's purpose is whatever the creator intended, but the real question is whether that purpose is passed on to the audience.

Let's go with a situation where the lyrics in the music does not feel worshipful due to the unreliability and/or lack of agreeable theology/doctrine. I guess that we already discussed the answer. It becomes something to either change to fit or something that helps you recognize that you must adapt to fit. In other words, it becomes a quest to find something that is worshipful because, at the moment, the system is not working. I guess, like you kinda hinted at, the specifics would require different responses.

Nate wrote: To defend music as a form of worship: I think that music can be a useful tool for teaching. As was already mentioned, many old hymns have statements of what God is like, what God wants, what God is capable of...it's a method of teaching about God. There are a lot of different learning styles, and some people are more receptive to others. I personally prefer stuff like sermons […] So yeah, music is good for learning.

ah, very good points. I also prefer stuff like sermons, I feel more connected/understanding of the message. I guess I kinda hinted at this earlier in this post, but you did a good job of explaining it. People who lead from their thoughts might prefer a sermon, but some people lead from their hearts and prefer music. Nothing is wrong with either, but both are important for the people they reach. And, to be sure, some people need both equally (or, perhaps, need both for a better overall picture or genuine worship).

Nate wrote:
Kraavdran wrote: So, Nate, can I summarize (and make sure I understand) what you are saying: We can't really know how God wants to be worshiped, but we do know that He wants us to live lives committed to Him. If that is correct, I think that I can agree. I can't say for certain how God wants us to worship Him.


That's not really what I was saying, no. What I was saying is that how we live our lives is a form of worship itself. Imagine a person who writes beautiful hymns, sings wholeheartedly in church, is really committed to praising God in music...but he also hates the poor, is extremely racist, he's constantly acting like a jerk in public, sleazily hitting on women and making sexual and sexist comments towards them, gets drunk constantly...do you think such a person is really truly worshiping God? Does the fact he composes and sings music beautifully make up for how he is in his life? I would say no, because the true worship is in how we act towards others.

ah, I think that I understand you now. It is hard to say, but my leaning would be that, no, that would not be very worshipful to God. I think that I understand the tools analogy that you (or was it somebody else?) used earlier.

ClaecElric4God wrote: My ultimate point was that worship is about God, not about music. If you can use music to worship God, that's great! If you have a hard time enjoying or applying music to worship, then that doesn't exclude you from worshiping God the "right" way, or even the "best" way. There are lots of ways to worship God, I believe. Because worship comes from the heart, not the talent or enjoyment level. If your heart's right, I believe it all comes together from there.

Along with a few other people's posts, I feel like you guys might convince me that music is not a good investment of my time. Is this something that I can really accept as good? I know that some people, even some friends, would argue that worship must include (but is not limited to) music. What evidence suggests that music isn't as important as those people think?
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Wed May 13, 2015 2:09 pm

ClaecElric4God wrote:Ah, Nate. Punctual as ever. :)


I was in the military you know! If you're not ten minutes early you're five minutes late. :V

Also, no, the family I mentioned is supported entirely by the churches they visit and none of them have other jobs. "Their only income" means "their only income". =P


I can read good, I swear I can, honest. ;~;

Hm, I guess we both read the posts here differently. Statements like "Christian music has difficulty dealing with darker topics", "simplified and candy-coated", "cheesy religious songs", "lyrically uninspiring", "focused on the worshiper", "self-focused instead of God-focused", and a handful of others were what led me to feel that we (and I say we honestly, because I don't disagree with the statements made) were labeling certain Christian music as narcissistic and shallow.


Ah, nah, like I said, I was speaking more to the music itself than the artists making it. Kinda like when R.E.M. did the song "Stand," Michael Stipes said that the purpose of the song was to be similar to bubblegum pop songs, with meaningless inane lyrics. It would be wrong for someone to say that R.E.M. was a band with no interesting things to say in their music or that they were vapid and shallow based on that song. Again, the CCM industry sorta forces artists' hands in the kind of music they produce...and I think it's a bad thing, and I do think that the music is generally bad. But I don't think the artists are bad people, nor do I think that they are shallow people (though some of them might be, but I dunno them on a personal level so I can't say).

There, that's four cents and you're not getting any more.


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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Xeno » Wed May 13, 2015 5:16 pm

There is a whole bunch of text in this thread from the last few days that I didn't read, but I did see a bit about Skillet being "a good band" and I'd like to argue that they aren't. Most of their songs suffer from Nickelback syndrome, in that they sound the same. Here are some examples:
Awake and Alive - orchestral start which ends at 5 seconds, lyrics begin at 21 seconds, song is 221 seconds in length
Not Gonna Die - orchestral strings are joined by guitars at 9 seconds, lyrics begin at 23 seconds, song is 227 seconds in length
Hero - music ramps up at 9 seconds, lyrics begin at 24 seconds, song is 196 seconds in length
Monster - music ramps at 8 seconds, lyrics begin at 15 seconds (making this the most different of the group here), song is 186 seconds in length

All of their songs begin with the same basic structure and transition into "hard rock" at roughly the same point in each track, if you just turned on one of their songs without any lyrics, I would not be able to tell the songs apart. It's as if they figured out how to pull one thing off really well and so that's all they do. There is very little creativity or playing with things in their music; which is disappointing, because even if a band tries something and it flops, at least they tried something new and can incorporate that experience into their next endeavor, rather than just making the same thing over and over again. Note, this is in regards to the actual music in their songs, not the lyrical content when I could take or leave. A lot of bands all across the spectrum have this same problem, but when one of the big name "good" bands for christian rock has this problem it's indicative of a larger issue regarding poor criticism of what is considered good or acceptable.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Sheenar » Thu May 14, 2015 6:04 am

I enjoy Skillet's older stuff --like Collide, Comatose, Alien Youth, Invincible, and their debut album. There's lots of variety among those (especially in the older albums --I don't enjoy their newer stuff as much --didn't bother to purchase Rise as I didn't enjoy what I heard of it).

I have bands and artists I enjoy (Jars of Clay, Plumb, Red, Emery, Anberlin, and others --though Anberlin would be more a "band made up of people who are Christians" vs. a "Christian band").

Everyone has different tastes (some don't like the same bands I like and that's okay --we are individuals and each have our own preferences), but artists should definitely strive for excellence in what they produce and strive to grow as artists musically. Don't just find a "hit formula" and stick with it.

Plumb (Tiffany Lee) wrote a good bit about the CCM industry in her book "Need You Now" and her experiences with a certain big Christian record label. It's very much worth the read. (Plus, her story is an amazing story of reconciliation and grace between her and her husband.)
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby DaughterOfZion » Mon May 18, 2015 2:30 am

Nate wrote:Now see, this makes sense to me. CCM appeals to a very specific set of folks and songs about the things I'm talking about just flat out would not appeal to the audience CCM is going for. I do however think that there is definitely a niche market for music for say, Christian anarchists or communists...I mean, those groups do exist and at least some of them probably listen to music, right?


Christian Communist music
Christian Anarachist music

I'm just going to leave these here...
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Xeno » Mon May 18, 2015 2:49 am

DaughterOfZion wrote:Christian Communist music
Christian Anarachist music

I'm just going to leave these here...


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Xeno wrote:Hmm. I'm gonna go with "it's bad, and you probably shouldn't listen to it."
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kaori » Sun May 31, 2015 4:27 pm

Sorry to take such a long time to reply to this thread. I've been a bit busy IRL. -.-

Kraavdran wrote:But, I think that music can't be used to teach like it once was. Not with the abundant sources of information available to us and plentiful copies of the Bible in a common language.

Oh man. This is another point where I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but just because we do have the Bible available in our language now, I don’t see why we can’t also still get Christian teaching from other sources as well. The source of our disagreement is going to have its root in your view about the authority of tradition, which I’m sure is very different from mine, but still, just because “y is a source of information” does not mean “x is no longer a source of information.” Why can’t we get information from both?

As an example of teaching value, we (Orthodox) have a song that says, “At your baptism in the Jordan river, O Lord, the worship due to the Holy Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness to you in calling you His beloved son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ our God, You have revealed Yourself, and enlightened the world, glory to You!” This song explains and interprets the significance of a Bible passage and teaches the doctrine of the Trinity, which when you look for it is actually all over the Bible but isn’t necessarily obvious if you aren’t looking for it. I used to teach at a Protestant school where every student was given a copy of the Bible, but there was always rampant confusion among our students about the doctrine of the Trinity. If we had had songs like this, then maybe they would have had better doctrinal formation and would not have been so confused.

Kraavdran wrote:Music minus lyrics minus chords leaves... nothing.

Well, don’t subtract the lyrics. :p You’ve listed the two things are that are valuable in music—the two things that, put together, make music—and then said, “well, if we get rid of these two things that music is made of, we have nothing left.” That’s like saying, “What is ice water if you take away the ice and the water?”

Kraavdran wrote:Is it ok to use someone else's words? How actively should you try to make them your own?

I don’t know that a very large number of people are songwriters, and if everyone decided to only sing songs that they themselves wrote, we would never be able to sing songs together. But for the second question, we should definitely be striving actively to pray the words we are singing sincerely and to make them our own. Incidentally, that’s the same thing that churches who use “scripted” prayers (e.g. the Our Father [Lord’s Prayer] or any prayer that is recited and not spontaneous) would say about those prayers, that you should not just mechanically recite them but strive to make them your own and pray every word sincerely.

Kraavdran wrote:What if, and this happens often, the words just make you feel like you are mocking God... or perhaps encourage an unhealthy sense of pride?

Again that is exactly why we shouldn’t use songs in worship that are talking about what a good emotional state we (the worshippers) are in.

Kraavdran wrote:Fun fact though, did you know that there is no reference to music being played/sung in Heaven in the Bible. Just references to people "shouting." Not that you can base a doctrine on that or anything. Just a fun fact that I like to tease people about.

Erm, Revelation 15:3? I just looked at it in an interlinear Bible, and that verb seems to pretty clearly be “singing.” But as you said I don’t think there’s much of a case to be made from the fact that, for example, the angels “say” the thrice-Holy, and so on. Those things are written in verse form (poetry), and generally anything in the NT that is written in verse form is understood to be a canticle, a song, and a large portion of them were used in early Christian worship and were written down in the Bible word-for-word according to how they were sung in worship. So there were these songs used in Christian worship, and they wrote them down in the Bible in verse form. Sorry I can’t give a citation, but it was something I heard in a sermon from a Catholic priest who was super-intelligent and seemed to have an extremely strong historical knowledge.

And in our tradition we have a story of someone who saw a vision of heaven in which the angels were singing a certain song; when he came back he taught it to everyone else, and nowadays we still sing this song every week in the Divine Liturgy and recite it in all our other services.

Nate wrote:Apparently they sung everything a cappella. The reason for this, apparently, is that there are no verses in the New Testament that mention using instruments or music to praise God.


Kraavdran wrote:In terms of denominations that have a rigid/limited view of worship, there is a "non-denominational" church locally that doesn't believe in the use of instruments during church. I think a specific group (if not the whole group) of the "Church of Christ." That's mostly what I was referring to.


Oh, so by churches that don’t have music, you mean churches that don’t have instruments in their worship. That I am totally familiar with; I’ve experienced some Churches of Christ worship, which is a cappella, and also a lot of Mennonites don’t use instruments (though the Mennonite church that I attended for a few years did use instruments some of the time). The Orthodox also mostly do not use instruments and sing everything a cappella, though there are some exceptions, so that is not a hard-and-fast rule.

But I think of a cappella singing as music just as much as music using instruments, so that was the source of my confusion. So just to make sure I'm understanding you correctly, you meant a cappella music and didn’t mean that everything was spoken with no singing at all?

Kraavdran wrote:Although, reading your example of a humbling/penitential song, we might find some slightly differing views in what it would look like. I think that your example, "I have stained my soul with terrible sins. I have spent my whole life slothfully," sounds a bit dramatic and ignores God's work in us. But that might just be a matter of interpretation and I consider it to be ok, within my margin of understanding/accepting.

Although I could quote some other examples, I think you would find the other penitential songs that we sing to be similarly “dramatic.” However, unfortunately you don’t have the ability to see those lines I’ve quoted within the context of the whole teaching and atmosphere of Orthodoxy, which makes a huge difference. Actually, rather than limiting God’s work in us, I can definitely say that Orthodoxy is far, far more optimistic both about human nature itself, e.g. whether “human nature” should be considered good or bad, depraved or not depraved, and so on, and about the potential of what human beings have the potential to become through God’s grace. But it’s really interesting, along with that very striking optimism, Orthodoxy also encourages each individual to see in himself or herself the worst sins of humanity and to take upon oneself responsibility for the sins of humanity. This partly has to do with doctrine about humans having a shared human nature, the gross oversimplification of which is basically we are all connected, so we cannot totally disassociate ourselves with the sins of others, and each person’s life, whether they live sinfully or righteously, brings all of humanity higher or lower.

This gets into a lot of advanced doctrine, so I’ll leave that aside, but the one thing I really do want to say about these sorts of penitential songs is that they have never felt like a guilt trip to me. In my last few years as a Protestant I started to really have a problem with things like Good Friday services where the congregation is made to do things like read the crowd’s lines when they are saying “Crucify Him!” and doing some other things to really rub in the idea of “You are responsible for Christ’s death.” And although that’s not untrue, the way that things were deliberately arranged to make people feel guilty really rubbed me the wrong way, and I have a strong dislike for that sort of thing. But the Orthodox services—I don’t know what another person’s reaction would be to them, but all I can say is that I never felt like the Church was imposing some sort of guilt trip on me and doing things deliberately for the sake of trying to make me feel guilty. It is just not like that.

Kraavdran wrote:I can really respect that, although I would personally probably find it distracting (or, perhaps worse, controlling and/or obligatory).

It isn't obligatory. My first thought when I saw everyone prostrate at once was "That doesn't look optional," but when I expressed that thought to the priest, he immediately said, "Actually, it is optional." No one has to do anything they don't feel comfortable with. In the case of bowing, there are certain times when it's good to bow, but at those times, if you look around my parish, you will see some people bending all the way over from the waist so that they touch the ground, some people bending from the waist, I don't know, maybe 45 degrees, some people just making a slight inclination with their head and shoulders, and some people making the sign of the cross but not bowing at all. And making the sign of the cross also really varies from person to person. There are some places in the service where almost everyone does it, and there are other places where maybe half do and half do not, depending on the individual. It is really a personal, individual thing, and different individuals express their reverence in somewhat varying ways. So it is not controlling at all; it feels very organic and natural, people bowing and/or making the sign of the cross in the way they want to, and to some extent when they want to, within certain guidelines (i.e. there are times where we would say it is good to make the sign of the cross, or one can make the sign of the cross, so people will do so at those particular times, not just at any random time).

Distracting, though . . . I myself don't find it distracting in a "I have to try to remember to do this making-the-sign-of-the-cross-and-bowing thing in addition to whatever else we are doing" sort of way. I'm not terribly distracted by other people, either (I'm far more distracted by my own internal thoughts). Like I said, to me it just seems very natural and organic. But I can easily see how for another person, especially someone who is easily distracted by motions going on around them, it could perhaps be very distracting. One blog writer who visited an Orthodox church said something like it was an "ADD kid's nightmare" (no disrespect meant to anyone with ADD or ADHD; the point is that the service would indeed be very distracting to people with those conditions).

Kraavdran wrote:I can understand that people might say "it is a psychological bowing down, not physical." And if that works for them, that's fine.

Hmm, I can agree that if the "psychological bowing" works for those people, that is a good thing. But I wouldn't particularly say that those things are equal. The person who is able to physically bow while worshipping with his or her mouth is integrating and bringing into union multiple parts of the human person (the mind/emotions and the body), so more of the whole person is involved, and it is more holistic, whereas for the person who is "psychologically bowing," there is a separation going on between the mind/emotions and the body. A guy who loves his girlfriend probably isn’t going to say, “For me, I just imagine kissing my girlfriend, and I have a mental attitude of embracing her, and that works for me.” If in your mind, psychologically, you love a person romantically, then probably it’s going to be a lot more meaningful if you can actually physically kiss and embrace them, right? For me, expressing reverence in a physical way is deeply satisfying (BTW this applies to things outside church also, e.g. bowing to people in Japanese cultural settings), and that's not something I get from just singing the line "We bow down" while trying to have a psychological attitude of reverence and humility but remaining in a physical position that connotes boldness and confidence (standing) or even casualness and relaxation (sitting).

To acknowledge the other side, though, if for anyone physically bowing becomes something that hinders them for any reason, e.g. it's just too distracting for them or for some reason it is drawing them further away from God, of course for that person it would be better not to bow.

Kraavdran wrote:Some people, perhaps the ones that lead with their cognitions, instead of feelings or actions, don't gain benefit from this. I think that this is true for myself.


To categorize people into "logical" and "emotional" and to make a hard dichotomy between those two is a mistake; everyone has both logic and emotions, though some personality inventories will have a category for which is stronger, thinking of feeling. But reason and emotion are actually far more intrinsically intertwined than we tend to think they are (for further reference see the book Descartes’ Error).

Also physical worship is not a primarily emotional thing. I brought in the example of raising one's hands to try to give some representation/recognition to different forms of Christianity than the one I am speaking for, but I suppose that raising one's hands in worship is often tied to the very emotional services of Pentecostal churches and similar denominations. I am primarily thinking, more than feeling, and do not consider myself emotionally driven, nor are the physical motions we do in church emotional experiences for me. But I do gain quite a bit of benefit from it--besides which, more importantly, it is a way of giving honor and glory and respect to God. So, like good worship music, it is not totally about me and what it does for me; it's something I do in reverence for God.

Kraavdran wrote:But, be forewarned, I may forget.

No worries! I explained that mainly so that my own use of those two terms would be understood, not to make anyone else make that same verbal distinction. If you do, it's mildly helpful to me, but if you don't, it's nothing I'm not used to.

Kraavdran wrote:If I understand you correctly, it might not be bad for a person to sing something like, "I see that God is so majestic that I feel like dancing." But this would be a more situational experience for an individual (perhaps as listening music to convey the singers experience, not as a communal worship song).

Yes: it is neither a bad thing to write the song nor to sing it, and on the contrary I’m sure that it’s a good thing both for the person who sincerely wrote it and for anyone who is sincerely able to sing it. But I think because of the excessive emotional emphasis and potential disjunction between the lyrics and people's actual feelings we should probably not use these in communal worship.

Xeno wrote:There is a whole bunch of text in this thread from the last few days that I didn't read, but I did see a bit about Skillet being "a good band" and I'd like to argue that they aren't.

*Looks back to see what was written about Skillet in this thread*

Okay, all I said was that I enjoy them, so we’re good.

As a clarification about Skillet, I don’t particularly think that their music is great. I don’t think they’re bad, either, based on the albums up to and including Collide—they have good production, they’re playing their instruments competently, they are able to come up with memorable tunes (in contrast to some bands I’ve heard that are all quite decent technically but whose music just sounds really uninspired because something is lacking in the songwriting), the lyrics are so-so. Also, the songs that you posted are all remarkably similar in their structure, and I don’t have time to look over their songs from their earlier albums and analyze how similar or different every song is compared to the other songs on the album, but I can definitely say for sure that there is a lot of stylistic variety among their earlier albums. An example that comes to mind of a song with a non-typical structure is “Hey, You, I Love Your Soul,” which just comes across as being a bit idiosyncratic, e.g. in the way that the punchline, so to speak, of the whole song is delivered in a way that is so much quieter that the rest of the song.

However, although there is more variety in their other albums than there seems to be in the album you linked, I don’t mistake Skillet for being a great band. Extol is great, Lengsel’s Solace is excellent, In Vain is a bit pretentious but overall very good. Skillet is a band that I enjoy sometimes—like how just because I enjoy eating a hamburger sometimes doesn’t mean that I am for an instant mistaking it for a steak at a fine restaurant.

*currently listening to the ultra-underground, highly-regarded Argyle Park*
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:33 pm

Kaori wrote: Sorry to take such a long time to reply to this thread. I've been a bit busy IRL. -.-

No worries! Real life is much more important than not real life.

Kaori wrote:Oh man. This is another point where I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but just because we do have the Bible available in our language now, I don’t see why we can’t also still get Christian teaching from other sources as well. The source of our disagreement is going to have its root in your view about the authority of tradition, which I’m sure is very different from mine, but still, just because “y is a source of information” does not mean “x is no longer a source of information.” Why can’t we get information from both? ... If we had had songs like this, then maybe they would have had better doctrinal formation and would not have been so confused.

Yes, I think I should clarify what I said. I hadn't considered that what I said could be understood as "Music can't teach as well" or anything like that. So, let me rephrase: The necessity of teaching from music is no longer held in such high regard due to the common avaliability of knowledge from other sources. The same could be said for the church as a whole because they are not the sole source of biblical knowledge. So, while musical lyrics can (and I think, should to a certain extent) teach... it must compete with many other non-church sources. In this way, it does not hold the same role in churches (ie: it is not relied on by members of the church like it once was).

So, if I understand you correctly, it seems we would probably agree (more or less) on that. Even though I haven't experience it much, I do recognize that music and proper lyrics can be a great teaching tool.

Kaori wrote:
Kraavdran wrote:Music minus lyrics minus chords leaves... nothing.

Well, don’t subtract the lyrics. :p You’ve listed the two things are that are valuable in music—the two things that, put together, make music—and then said, “well, if we get rid of these two things that music is made of, we have nothing left.” That’s like saying, “What is ice water if you take away the ice and the water?”

Indeed. Hence my dilemma with instrumental music (I think that is what I was talking about when saying that line)

Kaori wrote:
Kraavdran wrote:What if, and this happens often, the words just make you feel like you are mocking God... or perhaps encourage an unhealthy sense of pride?

Again that is exactly why we shouldn’t use songs in worship that are talking about what a good emotional state we (the worshippers) are in.

That's true, focusing on good emotional states would certainly encourage that. But what about songs that don't focus on emotional states but still, for a specific individual, feel like they are mocking God or just singing the song for the sake of completing the words?

Kaori wrote:
Kraavdran wrote:Fun fact though, did you know that there is no reference to music being played/sung in Heaven in the Bible. Just references to people "shouting." Not that you can base a doctrine on that or anything. Just a fun fact that I like to tease people about.

Erm, Revelation 15:3? I just looked at it in an interlinear Bible, and that verb seems to pretty clearly be “singing.” But as you said I don’t think there’s much of a case to be made from the fact that, for example, the angels “say” the thrice-Holy, and so on. Those things are written in verse form (poetry), and generally anything in the NT that is written in verse form is understood to be a canticle, a song, and a large portion of them were used in early Christian worship and were written down in the Bible word-for-word according to how they were sung in worship. So there were these songs used in Christian worship, and they wrote them down in the Bible in verse form. Sorry I can’t give a citation, but it was something I heard in a sermon from a Catholic priest who was super-intelligent and seemed to have an extremely strong historical knowledge.

And in our tradition we have a story of someone who saw a vision of heaven in which the angels were singing a certain song; when he came back he taught it to everyone else, and nowadays we still sing this song every week in the Divine Liturgy and recite it in all our other services.

wow, I am actually rather impressed with your reply there. It is the best that I've read. I suppose that the verse you mentioned could be argued against (the source I found a few years ago that said music wasn't reference as being in Heaven could argue, that is. I won't because, like you mentioned, many of the things that are not specifically described as singing are probably singing), but that was a very poingant verse that nobody has mentioned to me when I jest with them. And, like you mentioned and I mentioned earlier, I'm not actually going to argue for the lack of music in heaven. To be honest, I can only assume that there will be music there... and it will be so good that even I can enjoy it :P Still, very nice response.

Kaori wrote: Oh, so by churches that don’t have music, you mean churches that don’t have instruments in their worship. That I am totally familiar with; I’ve experienced some Churches of Christ worship, which is a cappella, and also a lot of Mennonites don’t use instruments (though the Mennonite church that I attended for a few years did use instruments some of the time). The Orthodox also mostly do not use instruments and sing everything a cappella, though there are some exceptions, so that is not a hard-and-fast rule.

Yeah, I've never heard of a group (christian denomination or people group) that does not have music as a part of their lives. I have no preference in the matter.

Kaori wrote:Although I could quote some other examples, I think you would find the other penitential songs that we sing to be similarly “dramatic.” However, unfortunately you don’t have the ability to see those lines I’ve quoted within the context of the whole teaching and atmosphere of Orthodoxy, which makes a huge difference. Actually, rather than limiting God’s work in us, I can definitely say that Orthodoxy is far, far more optimistic both about human nature itself, e.g. whether “human nature” should be considered good or bad, depraved or not depraved, and so on, and about the potential of what human beings have the potential to become through God’s grace. But it’s really interesting, along with that very striking optimism, Orthodoxy also encourages each individual to see in himself or herself the worst sins of humanity and to take upon oneself responsibility for the sins of humanity. This partly has to do with doctrine about humans having a shared human nature, the gross oversimplification of which is basically we are all connected, so we cannot totally disassociate ourselves with the sins of others, and each person’s life, whether they live sinfully or righteously, brings all of humanity higher or lower [...] But the Orthodox services—I don’t know what another person’s reaction would be to them, but all I can say is that I never felt like the Church was imposing some sort of guilt trip on me and doing things deliberately for the sake of trying to make me feel guilty. It is just not like that.

ah, perhaps I was a bit too quick to type-cast that song. I guess I have experience too much of either extreme to relate. From what you have described, I'm glad to hear how balanced (all encompassing) the songs are in terms of human nature etc.. That sounds really cool.

Kaori wrote:It isn't obligatory. My first thought when I saw everyone prostrate at once was "That doesn't look optional," but when I expressed that thought to the priest, he immediately said, "Actually, it is optional." No one has to do anything they don't feel comfortable with. [...] There are some places in the service where almost everyone does it, and there are other places where maybe half do and half do not, depending on the individual. It is really a personal, individual thing, and different individuals express their reverence in somewhat varying ways. So it is not controlling at all; it feels very organic and natural, people bowing and/or making the sign of the cross in the way they want to, and to some extent when they want to, within certain guidelines (i.e. there are times where we would say it is good to make the sign of the cross, or one can make the sign of the cross, so people will do so at those particular times, not just at any random time).

oh, I just realized that I should clarify something. I wasn't trying to accuse your specific church or anything in terms of expressing concerns of obligation/controlling/etc.. I try not to speak on specifics, especially like those that I have not personally experienced. I'm not sure if I made that clear, so I just wanted to let you know. From what you have described, it sounds like there is a much healthier balance than some churches I have visited. Although, I don't think that it would be my preference due to the distracting nature for me personally. And, perhaps, self-imposed feelings of obligation so as not to feel like "that guy who doesn't follow the crowd." But, I think, that is ok. I think that each person has a different style of worship. Even if I don't think something would work for me, I can still recognize the merit it has.

Kaori wrote: Hmm, I can agree that if the "psychological bowing" works for those people, that is a good thing. But I wouldn't particularly say that those things are equal. The person who is able to physically bow while worshipping with his or her mouth is integrating and bringing into union multiple parts of the human person (the mind/emotions and the body), so more of the whole person is involved, and it is more holistic, whereas for the person who is "psychologically bowing," there is a separation going on between the mind/emotions and the body. A guy who loves his girlfriend probably isn’t going to say, “For me, I just imagine kissing my girlfriend, and I have a mental attitude of embracing her, and that works for me.” If in your mind, psychologically, you love a person romantically, then probably it’s going to be a lot more meaningful if you can actually physically kiss and embrace them, right? For me, expressing reverence in a physical way is deeply satisfying (BTW this applies to things outside church also, e.g. bowing to people in Japanese cultural settings), and that's not something I get from just singing the line "We bow down" while trying to have a psychological attitude of reverence and humility but remaining in a physical position that connotes boldness and confidence (standing) or even casualness and relaxation (sitting).

To acknowledge the other side, though, if for anyone physically bowing becomes something that hinders them for any reason, e.g. it's just too distracting for them or for some reason it is drawing them further away from God, of course for that person it would be better not to bow.

ah, I think that I better understand the side of physically bowing down. And, certainly, I can appreciate the sentiment. Although, I think that I would lean towards the side of not. Perhaps to use your analogy of the guy who loves his girlfriend, I would argue that the psychology behind the love is the most important and will result in his physical movements. However, each person speaks and hears different love languages. To continue the analogy, perhaps providing flowers would show the guy's girlfriend that he loves her more (because that is something that is more important to him than physical touch and thus is a better display of love for him personally). This doesn't mean that one is necessarily better than the other, but, like music, each person tends to find slight difference in what looks/feels/etc. more worshipful. I think, to a certain degree, I would be one of those people who would feel further away from God while bowing (all knee/back pain aside). Still, thanks for painting a picture of what it is like to appreciate the physical bowing of worship. Very insightful.

Kaori wrote:
Kraavdran wrote:Some people, perhaps the ones that lead with their cognitions, instead of feelings or actions, don't gain benefit from this. I think that this is true for myself.


To categorize people into "logical" and "emotional" and to make a hard dichotomy between those two is a mistake; everyone has both logic and emotions, though some personality inventories will have a category for which is stronger, thinking of feeling. But reason and emotion are actually far more intrinsically intertwined than we tend to think they are (for further reference see the book Descartes’ Error).

Also physical worship is not a primarily emotional thing. I brought in the example of raising one's hands to try to give some representation/recognition to different forms of Christianity than the one I am speaking for, but I suppose that raising one's hands in worship is often tied to the very emotional services of Pentecostal churches and similar denominations. I am primarily thinking, more than feeling, and do not consider myself emotionally driven, nor are the physical motions we do in church emotional experiences for me. But I do gain quite a bit of benefit from it--besides which, more importantly, it is a way of giving honor and glory and respect to God. So, like good worship music, it is not totally about me and what it does for me; it's something I do in reverence for God.

Indeed, that is why I tried to use the phrase "leads with." In this way, I was trying to acknowledge that each person has all three (cognition, feeling, and action). But, based on personality (I'm particularly drawing from the Enneagram where each of the 9 personality types can be placed in one of those three categories) each person may lead from (ie: this method is where they receive the most connection from, although they certainly have the other two). In this way, I didn't mean to suggest that feeling (emotional worship) was the same as action (physical worship). I hope that I am explaining that clearly. I guess, really, this boils down to what each person considers "in reverence for God" or distracting (or not worshipful). Although, to be honest, I no longer remember why we were discussing that.

I guess, relating back to music... music does involve all three (lyrics as cognitions, singing words out loud as action, and heartfelt worship as feeling). In this way, it may have the greatest potential for reaching a wide audience (I guess the fact that most people enjoy music as a medium also helps).

Kaori wrote:
Kraavdran wrote:But, be forewarned, I may forget.

No worries! I explained that mainly so that my own use of those two terms would be understood, not to make anyone else make that same verbal distinction. If you do, it's mildly helpful to me, but if you don't, it's nothing I'm not used to.

oh, good. I recognize now how hard it would be to remember to use different terms.

Kaori wrote:
Kraavdran wrote:If I understand you correctly, it might not be bad for a person to sing something like, "I see that God is so majestic that I feel like dancing." But this would be a more situational experience for an individual (perhaps as listening music to convey the singers experience, not as a communal worship song).

Yes: it is neither a bad thing to write the song nor to sing it, and on the contrary I’m sure that it’s a good thing both for the person who sincerely wrote it and for anyone who is sincerely able to sing it. But I think because of the excessive emotional emphasis and potential disjunction between the lyrics and people's actual feelings we should probably not use these in communal worship.

oh, cool. I think that we agree there, then. If I can boil down a basic principle from that: Music should aim at appealing to all people, no matter there current state of mind. In this way, if it does not encourage worship, it is not wise to sing it.

Perhaps that can summarize the answer from the original post? The bad? Disconnect and focus on self/individual. The good? Learning (a broad, but appropriate word), universality (of audience), connection, and, ultimately good worship.

ok, a bit off subject from the original post about "Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad..." But, I feel like I have to ask. Given everything said this far (in this thread as a whole), I am really curious to ask you (and anyone else who wants to): Can you accept (theologically and practically) that a person does not like music and thus does not participate in music as worship? If not, on what grounds? Also, what would be a proposed solution?

Ultimately, I feel like my dilemma with music can be boiled down to that question. For me, it seems like this thread has encouraged the idea that music is something that should be done for the sake of worshipping God... and if that isn't happening, in (ideal?) circumstances, perhaps it is an medium of worship that would not be of benefit for me and not wise to pursue... much like "interpretive dance" may not be something that a person does not pursue because they are such a person that can not use it for the sake of worship.

My answer? I feel like I am forced to accept that I don't find music worshipful for myself... and that avoidance of it seems like the best policy. But, at the same time, I can't accept that as a proper solution. On what grounds? Probably fear of other people's judgment (perhaps from lack of understanding or rigid views). Or, perhaps, knowledge that music is a time-tested method of worship. I can't be entirely certain. I am also uncertain about a proposed solution. Either magically like music or work on not fearing other people's judgment.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Zeke365 » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:19 am

let me ask this to everyone if contemporary music was to change from what it is to something new would you accept it or refute it? Think about the question before responding sink it in.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:48 am

Zeke365 wrote:let me ask this to everyone if contemporary music was to change from what it is to something new would you accept it or refute it? Think about the question before responding sink it in.


Zeke, I think that your question is too broad. It would entirely depend on how the contemporary music changed. And to what degree. And it may even depend on the motivations for the change and the general results of congregational worship (clarification on that last point: would the self-focused attitude of the church actually change?).

It occurs to me that the real question you are trying to ask might be something along the lines of: If contemporary christian music were to change for the better, would we actually accept it... or are we the type of people that will not be happy with any type of wide-used music? In other words, is it something that music should change or something that we should change? Would that be a more direct way of forming your question?

I can't answer that question, not really. I don't know what music should look like in a church. And I certainly can't imagine a worship service that I could appreciate for its musical quality. I can, certainly, imagine a worship service that would only have songs that I could relate to and sing with a clear conscience. But, to be honest, I don't see that becoming a probable reality.

I hope that that answers your question.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Zeke365 » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:57 am

yes you put in more perspective that what I was asking would any of you be willing to accept the change in the music or would you rather keep the style of music the way it is (what we call contemporary music)?

should have phrase that better I m not talking church music I m talking about the main topic on the tread though it could be considered church music to.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Jonathan » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:16 am

I'm not that big of a fan of hymns though I like "Amazing Grace" and "In My Father's House.
Honestly I prefer worship without music more but that's just me.

As for CCM I'm not that big of a fan, It has similar problems imho that that secular modern rock/alterrnative/indie music has, Mainly being that the songs are too average and overly simplistic for me.
I'm more into Classic Rock than Modern Rock/Punk, I'm also really into Prog Rock and Metal (Unless it's Grindcore or Deathcore or Metalcore.)

Anyways back on topic, I like the song "Midnight Oil" by Petra and "It's Love" by King's X but those are the only Christian Rock songs I like that I can think of.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Tue Jun 02, 2015 9:34 am

Zeke365 wrote:yes you put in more perspective that what I was asking would any of you be willing to accept the change in the music or would you rather keep the style of music the way it is (what we call contemporary music)?

should have phrase that better I m not talking church music I m talking about the main topic on the tread though it could be considered church music to.


Ah, I see. I consider "Contemporary Christian Music" to encompass both "listening" music and "church" music. Typically referring to new (non-hymn) songs. Although, I tend to focus on how music interacts within the church worship setting. So, I guess that I can't answer your question since I don't listen to the "listening" type of music.

Jonathan wrote: Honestly I prefer worship without music more but that's just me.

Do you mean a cappella? If so, I am curious as to why. Or do you mean other forms of worship that do not involve music. If so, what? And why do you prefer those over music?
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Jonathan » Tue Jun 02, 2015 10:35 am

Do you mean a cappella? If so, I am curious as to why. Or do you mean other forms of worship that do not involve music. If so, what? And why do you prefer those over music?[/quote]
I am talking about worship with no music at all whether acapalla or with music. The reason I prefer worship without hymns or any songs is because I get nervous and uncomfortable when I hear music in public with other people. I prefer to hear music privately by myself with no one around.
"And Jesus said unto him, 'Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God."-Mark 10:18

"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the father."-Mark 13:32

"Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I."-John 14:28
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Kraavdran » Tue Jun 02, 2015 10:51 am

Jonathan wrote:I am talking about worship with no music at all whether acapalla or with music. The reason I prefer worship without hymns or any songs is because I get nervous and uncomfortable when I hear music in public with other people. I prefer to hear music privately by myself with no one around.

oh, I see. So it is personal preference as opposed to preference of worship style itself. That makes sense.
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Jonathan » Wed Jun 03, 2015 6:05 am

I forgot to mention this, I onced watched a video on Youtube which played clips of Christian J- Pop, Christian K-Pop, Christian C-Pop, and Christian Indonesian Pop Songs. I actually liked it better than American CCM for some reason.
I guess I like the vocals better. (Though I wish the video had had fansubs so I could have understood the Christian Lyrics.)
On another note, I would give Christian Music a chance if it had something to do with the following genres: Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, Blues, Jazz, East Asian Pop, and some Southeast Asian Pop like Thai Pop and Filipino Pop for example.
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"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the father."-Mark 13:32

"Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I."-John 14:28
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Xeno » Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:42 pm

Jonathan wrote:As for CCM I'm not that big of a fan, It has similar problems imho that that secular modern rock/alterrnative/indie music has, Mainly being that the songs are too average and overly simplistic for me.
I'm more into Classic Rock than Modern Rock/Punk, I'm also really into Prog Rock and Metal (Unless it's Grindcore or Deathcore or Metalcore.)

A lot of alternative, punk, and indie rock lean very heavily on their lyrics as opposed to the actual music being played. So I agree that it's much less technical than a Dream Theater or Led Zeppelin track, but I would disagree that it's average and overly simplistic. Of course, there is modern top 40 rock that is just a single verse repeated for four minutes, so I can certainly understand where you're getting that impression.

Some examples of what I'm talking about (these are all secular groups/musicians):
"Harder than Stone" - City and Colour
"23" - Jimmy Eat World
"Silver Lining" - Jenny Lewis (cover of a song by her old band Rilo Kiley)
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Re: Contemporary Christian Music - The Good and the Bad

Postby Nate » Fri Jun 05, 2015 9:14 pm

Xeno wrote:there is modern top 40 rock that is just a single verse repeated for four minutes

They're just ripping off classic rock, Tears For Fears did that back in the 80s with Shout.
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