When I was first applying to attend PCC, I asked a friend and current student about the rules concerning music. They basically limit you to a very conservative selection of Christian and classical music, he told me. I believed that they wanted to “err on the side of caution” and thought they simply set the standard so tight to avoid any controversy. My friend explained that they truly believed that music outside of their standards was, in fact, ungodly. I thought this was quite odd, and as I was soon to learn, they only created controversy by picking and choosing measure by measure through songs to decide whether they “passed.”
We’ve received a few comments from readers noting that the school draws a vague distinction between which of their rules are actual sins and which are simply their “way” at PCC. From the vehement chapel messages I would gather they feel quite strongly that their music standards should be the universal standard within Christendom. It is here which I have a bit of difficulty. Their broad denuciation of “Contemporary Christian Music” (CCM: a regrettable label, but adequate for this discussion) as well as modern Twentieth Century styles, such as blues and jazz, is simply too much to biblicaly justify. Would they have us believe that absolutely everyone involved in CCM is out of God’s will? I know of no single case of a musician, singer or producer leaving modern Christian music because God had laid that on their heart or because they felt guilt (which the Holy Spirit promises to bring to convict us of wrong). It seems quite improbable that the witnesses of thousands of honest believers is invalid (which the PCC standard would require). In fact, the only guilt I know of from listening to CCM is that which is heaped on you by people with the mind-set of PCC.
To that I say there is great danger in forcing your personal convictions on others. It is also ludicrous to go through a song measure by measure and suggest that when the drum-beat kicks in the artist has evidently become a servant of Satan, which is effectively the argument of PCC. There is the perception that because the music style is new, that is to say, less than 100 years old, it is almost by default bad. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible and more to do with the tastes of the people making the rules. I would venture to say that among the administration, every music style they enjoy passes and every style they dislike does not pass. The music performed at PCC seems at times to be strictly for the personal enjoyment of the older generations, but more on that later.
A great contention of PCC is that music is not neutral. Granted, but I think the mistake is made by then presuming it is therefore good or evil. Not so. You could no more draw that distinction with a gun. The object has power, but it is how it is used and the user which determine morality. Music of all styles induces EMOTION, but that should not to be confused with morality. Before I go on, let me first clarify that I am not discussing lyrics. Obviously, lyrics can be godly, ungodly or neutral (e.g.”Take me out to the ballgame”). I make no argument that Christians must be aware of what they put into their minds, but that certainly wouldn’t exclude CCM or instrumental jazz.
To return to the point, a song written in a minor key may suggest sadness or even pain, but that is simply using the music to communicate. Negative emotions don’t instantly invalidate a song. A song may depress you or get you “up,” but that is no different than an illustration used by Pastor Shettler every time he speaks. Music is communicating and trying to stir a reaction. Of course, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be manipulated by it any more than we should blindly follow a speaker. Now, what about “upbeat” music, the type which PCC quickly disqualifies from our lives? I am no music scholar, but I believe a contention of “conservatives” is that older “passable” styles are melody driven while newer styles have a more prominent rhythm. This may mean it is poorer music (although not necessarily), but it hardly makes it sinful. God created rhythm just as surely as melody, and since He proscribed no songwriting rules, we are simply using the different things He gave us. A driving beat or repetitive rhythm is no more or less ordained than an organ solo. I will say this, though – our ASSOCIATIONS with a style of music may be ungodly, based upon what we’ve experienced or seen. It may very well be that because of your past you need to avoid certain styles of music, regardless of lyrics, to keep your mind clean; but the mistake is made when you force your own weakness on a brother. Let me also add that the volume and the rate of music is completely subjective and certainly is not a sin issue.
I am reminded of the story, which most of you have probably heard, concerning the missionary kids who were playing Christian rock in the jungle, and the redeemed native commented to the father about how it was the same style they used to call up demons. Well, this may or may not be true (it IS doubtful), but it only illustrates the principle of the weaker brother. The kids were hardly in danger of accidentally conjuring up some demon. As with any tool, it must be used wisely and appropriately.
Another common perception is that “rock” or “blues” styles are worldy, and thus unclean for any Christian. Unfortunately, this is a mind set that has caused the Christians of today to be artistically mediocre and culturally irrelevant. Simply because a style of music was not originated by Christians does not eliminate it from being a tool we can use. We can’t shrink back from the creativity of the world. We should be the ones leading in the arts for we are children of the Creator Of All. We think that because the world does
something they have “claimed” it. Not so. What if homosexuals became known for painting nature scenes? Could Christians then not? Or if Atheists all wore yellow? Throw out that color! That’s ludicrous!
All music needs to be captured for Christ’s use and we are negligent to ignore any of it.
From a solely educational standpoint, for PCC to offer any sort of general music degree, it would be negligent to not insist on teaching about the blues and jazz styles. They have made of profound impact on music and they explore areas untouched by classical music. That a student should be restricted from learning about and listening to these forms in ANY liberal arts degree suggests a deficiency in our overall education.
“And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3
I would also like to comment on the oft abused “new song” phrase used throughout the Psalms. Supposedly this suggest that as a Christian we should have separate music from the world, thus the hymns and ensemble music (of which the world certainly wants no part!). I propose that this complete butchery of these verses is a poignant example of wanting so bad to find a scripture to fit your beliefs that you are willing to ignore anything you know about common sense and hermeneutics. What I would assume to be a clear
meaning of the “new song” phrase is the condition of our heart. God gives us a “new song” spiritually, or a renewal, and as suggested by David, it happens more than once, and in this case well after he was “saved.” It should be an evidence to unbelievers that we are a different person. It has nothing to do with what style of music to listen to. Even to take this idea literally would suggest that the Lord would be constantly giving us new music to sing to worship Him, which would contradict the fact that PCC revels in music that was written before any of us were born. The Lord should be inspiring creativity and “new songs” as we explore music and our desire to worship Him.
Other references to “new song” in Psalms: 33:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1.
I would also like to mention what can only be considered my personal opinion – the music at PCC is completely lame. The idea that because something is old or a hymn we should sing it is ridiculous. As with any style of music, there are far more bad hymns than good ones, and unfortunately when that’s all you sing, it’s inevitable that you get your fair share of dogs. Don’t get me wrong; hymns are fine – but not all the time. Second, the ensemble music is at best trite and immature. The little tic-toc or “animals
on the ark” songs seem designed for the under 10 crowd. And while I am no song writing expert, it seems like poor writing when a listener can continually guess the next line because it is assuredly another Christian cliche which rhymes with the last. The tunes are in no way original and seem to be the first thing the writer plunked out on the old country piano. Good “specials” are usually just contemporary Christian songs instrumentally watered down. Is this the “new song”?
And that opera voice the women sing with? Come on. It may be classical or “proper” but it is intelligible and at times painful. A women’s NATURAL voice sounds so nice – why not use it. Unfortunately, PCC has backed themselves into such a corner by their misguided standards that they have effectively eliminated so much good Christian music (and secular music, as well). Their students (and themselves) miss out on so much of what God is doing today.
In closing, I would like to be clear on one thing. While attending PCC, you have given your word to obey their rules, and I am in no way suggesting that it is okay for you to disobey their music standards. I think very strongly that their music standards are WRONG, but, as it is not sin to obey, you must. This essay was written to hopefully show the wrong thinking in the PCC policy and to assist in positive change. It may also (by God’s grace) free many of you from the irrational burden placed on you by the PCC
“morality standard” when you are free to choose what you listen to, although let me reiterate that the “weaker brother” principle is not an insult, and all of us should be wary of what we put into our minds.