by Tom Kraeuter

I have read numerous books and articles that have expressed opposition to contemporary music being used in church. Until now, I have always finished reading before offering my thoughts. The book, Music in the Balance by Frank Garlock and Kurt Woetzel, however, is so vitriolic (not to mention horrendously misguided) that I saw no need to read the entire volume. The authors consistently display a lack of knowledge of historic facts and a lack of understanding of honest, historic rules of biblical interpretation. Their arguments exhibit circular reasoning with no substantive basis.

Below I have offered some of my personal notes that I jotted as I read. These notes reflect only the first 57 pages (except for reading the final chapter, that’s as far as I got). Although this is not the entire book, it is enough to clearly show that their arguments have no serious basis. Each quote or section below shows the corresponding page number so the authors’ words can be checked in context (though I wholeheartedly recommend not buying the book).

“…neither [of the authors] can recall one person who was eager to find God’s will and who attended or heard every lesson who yet had serious disagreement with the conclusions and general thrust of the principles and their application to the Christian life.” (page xiii)

If anyone disagrees then obviously that person is not eager to find God’s will. This type of argument squelches any serious discussion before it can begin. Right from the start they are endeavoring to silence any opposition. Anyone eager to find God’s will is going to agree with the authors. If someone disagrees, the person is clearly in error.

This is communist-style propagandizing at its worst. This type of insidious argument is offensive to any thinking person.

The authors declare that music is a “universal language” (page 4) and offer Daniel 3:7 as proof.

“Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”

They say, “The music, understood by all, gave instruction to enter into the act of idol worship.” (page 4)

One must wonder why the authors ignored the earlier verses, 4 and 5. “Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up.”

Of course the people all understood, but it wasn’t because of some universal musical language. They had been told that when they heard that music they were to bow down. An honest look at the context makes this blatantly obvious. The only way to miss it is either to be ignorant of scriptural exegesis or to ignore it intentionally.

Further along on page 4, two “practicing certified music therapists” are quoted. “Music is communication and communication is music.”

Huh? The authors are communicating to me through written words with no music attached and yet they suggest that “communication is music”?! Maybe we could say bread is food and food is bread. That would be the same rationale. I am uncertain where these “practicing certified music therapists” practice, but I hope they practice somewhere far from me.

Another quote from the same two therapists: “Music is a form of non-verbal communication.”

Although this is true, it must be recognized that non-verbal communication is not universal. A non-verbal form of communication used by one person in one area may mean something completely different than the same form used by someone else in another place. For example, a young man raising his hand in a classroom, a man raising his hand at an auction, a individual raising her hand in a restaurant, or a worshiper of God raising his hand in a church service, would each be doing the same thing and yet each would mean something very different. How non-verbal communication is interpreted will vary depending on the setting and the people involved.

On occasion, the authors include statements that seem to be not only devoid of scriptural basis, but also of any rational basis. For example, they quote from a book, The Secret Power of Music, “…music is more than a language. It is the language of languages.” (page 5)

And that would be based on…?

The authors mention that many of their references throughout the book are taken from non-Christians. They say, “It is a strange phenomenon indeed when the world recognizes principles which some Christians refuse to accept.” (page 6)

And, might I add, often times a good phenomenon. The world recognizes (errant) principles about murdering unborn babies, homosexuality, greed (should I keep going?), that we should indeed refuse to accept. Here’s another: error-prone notions about music.

Quoting from Isaiah 12:2, Exodus 15:2 and Psalm 118:14 (“the Lord…is my song…”), the authors state, “These verses teach that music is a part of God’s very nature.”

So when we read about God’s wings, His eyes and His shadow in the Bible then that must mean He has a physical body, right? Could I suggest a remedial course in biblical exegesis for these guys?

Again quoting from The Secret Power of Music, the authors state that David Tame “suggests that the prime difference between classical and twentieth-century music is the ‘spiritual level of the two. It is a question of motive, of the goal of the music; it is a fundamental question of morality.” (page 16)

Is David Tame (and these authors) completely ignorant of the facts? Check out Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” Revel’s “Bolero,” and practically anything by Chopin. “A fundamental question of morality”? This statement may be convincing to those who know little or nothing about the history of classical music, but let’s hope there are still enough folks who know enough of the truth that will keep such ridiculous assertions from propagating.

On page 19, the authors quote Mick Jagger saying that their music (The Rolling Stones) is just “noise.” They then attempt to connect this statement with the words “horrible pit” in Psalm 40:2, and say that these words could be literally translated as “pit of noise.”

Although Jagger was apparently speaking personally, his words are stretched to include all forms of “rock” music, and are then connected to a secondary meaning (that no credible translation of the Bible actually uses as primary) of “pit of destruction” or “horrible pit.” How low will these guys go to “prove” their point?

“I suggest that the world’s music ought to be one of those things left behind.” (page 22)

Okay, let me offer an agreement here. The authors make several great points throughout the book about secular rock and country music. I agree. Most of these songs ought not be part of the life of followers of Christ. The words of the songs and the lifestyles of the artists are destructive and will cause harm to the believer. They should indeed be left behind.

On page 27 the authors state, “…the words are not very important when compared to the music itself.” Yet later (pages 144-146), they pan country music specifically because of the lyrics. They list specific titles to help reinforce their argument.

Which is it, guys? Are the words more important than the music or is the music more important than the words? You can’t argue it both ways and expect anyone to believe you are offering credible arguments.

From a book entitled, The Disciplined Lifestyle, further downplaying the importance of lyrics in songs, “Words are timid things.”

Patently false in any culture and in any time. These authors spend page after page of their book writing words that are far from timid. Words have the power to build up or to destroy. Words are not, and never will be, “timid things.”

From the same book, a suggestion that contemporary music “will not be an instrument which the Holy Spirit can use to bring awakening and conviction.” (page 29)

A quote that fits well in the context of this book, but one that is clearly not true. Thousands of Christians testified in letters, phone calls and emails to Al Menconi that God had used some type of contemporary Christian music in a very profound way in their lives (see his book, Dear Mr. Gothard). The Holy Spirit unable to use it? That’s preposterous. He uses you and me, doesn’t He? That is far more miraculous.

“How can that which communicates sensuality be used to worship the Lord or preach the gospel?” (page 30)

Okay, that’s it! They finally stated it directly. On page 11 they promised to offer biblical standards for music. I’m still waiting!

By what standard do they suggest that certain music “communicates sensuality”? Do they not remember that Johann Sebastian Bach (arguably the father of western church music) was almost removed from his position in his church because some thought his music was too sensual? It is a historical fact that the fine classical music of Bach was considered by some to be sensual. If so, then “how can that which communicates sensuality be used to worship the Lord or preach the gospel?” They have just shot themselves in the foot with their own argument.

Further, music that some in our society might consider sensual, would not be considered at all sensual in other areas of the world. The emotions stirred by music are determined more by the individual listener and his experiences than by some universal sensuality meter. Again these authors make an argument that is not based on any actual facts.

On page 30 the authors equate with poison any music they deem to be inappropriate, although they offer absolutely no evidence to make the connection. This is yet another example of an emotionally-charged argument that has no basis at all.

Page 33: “…rock is different from all other music due to the heavy emphasis on the beat.” This is another false statement. Many types of music from various cultures around the world have a heavy emphasis on beat. This is certainly not an exclusively “rock” characteristic.

The Firth quote (page 33) suggests that rhythm is the cause of physical responses. Although there may be a dimension of truth to the statement (only a dimension because other aspects in music can also cause a physical reaction), there is nothing in Scripture that suggests physical movements to music are inherently wrong. In fact, according to the Bible, dance (physical movement, which from an historical perspective in Hebrew culture was not a flowing ballet but an obviously rhythmic movement) can be a valid form of praise and worship. The authors later state, “There is nothing wrong with music which has a physical effect…”, even going on to cite the effect a march might have on the physical person. This is yet another example of the flip-flop arguments that make a point and then, some pages later, make the opposite point.

The lengthy quote on page 36 mentions “the nihilistic message” of John Lennon’s songs. The authors then attempt to connect that to their “previous evidence” regarding music. In reality, they have offered no real evidence, just lots of opinions from many folks who think like they do. With enough like-minded opinions stuck together, it begins to look like evidence. It’s not. Repeating a false statement many times does not make it true. Many people agreeing with a false statement does not make it true. This form of argument is called propaganda and it is exactly how Hitler convinced his nation to attempt a world-takeover.

So far, nearly all the Bible passages quoted (including those on page 38) could be used to vilify almost anything that someone might suggest to be ungodly. If you think that gas grills are wrong because the delicious food could make you a glutton or the tempting smells might cause your neighbor to covet your supper, then these passages would work fine. The authors have offered nothing from a scriptural basis specifically regarding music to solidify their theories.

Page 43: “When the music causes the entire body to gyrate…”

Here is a simple lesson in logic: To make a universal statement (as the authors have done here) means that the effect must always be evident. If the effect is ever not evident, then the statement is untrue.

There is no question that I have personally seen lots of folks listening to rock music and it did not cause their entire body to gyrate. Some people hated the music and stood stone still. Others liked it and tapped their feet (an acceptable response according to page 42). Some sat listening with no movement. Others swayed gently. Still others gyrated. The music didn’t “cause” them to do any of these things.

Because so many do not gyrate, the music itself did not cause the gyrations. It could have been some past experience with similar music. It could be the effect of alcohol or other substances at the same time. Any number of other factors could be involved. However, it is obvious that when so many people do not gyrate, logic absolutely would conclude that it is not the sole cause of the music.

On page 44, the authors talk about “anapestic beat.”

Clearly the book is outdated. Here’s why. There was a time when most people would agree that rock music would be defined by four beats accenting the first and third beat, with a heavier accent on the third beat. (Although I did note that the authors conveniently left out the fourth beat in their example: da-da-DA. Having the fourth beat would seem to mess up the neat and tidy illustration.) However, today’s music has been so melded with the African American culture that an accented second and fourth beat is just as common and perhaps more so. Using a da-DA-da-DA illustration would play havoc with their theory, though, so maybe we shouldn’t mention it. 🙂

The authors endeavor to convince the reader that their argument is strictly about musical styles, and yet they persist in giving examples of lyrics and performance issues to strengthen their case. I agree that secular rock musicians often write songs that are demonic and that many of their performances and lifestyles are demonic. No question. However, that does not directly affect the musical style. If it did then we should talk about classical composer Franz Liszt’s concerts where women would strip and offer themselves to the performer while he performed his classical music. If we are going to discuss musical styles, let’s stick to the point and stop attempting to bolster the case with irrelevant information. It is not bolstering. It displays a lack of continuity, a lack of genuinely valid arguments, and a lack of knowledge of history.

Another quote from the music therapists: “All music…evokes emotion within us…” (page 48) Possibly true although “all music” may be an overstatement. Regardless, the type of emotion evoked will be determined by the individual and their personal experience. An instrumental rendition of “Moon River” caused a very different emotional reaction in my dad than in me.

A quote from Richard S. Taylor regarding forms of music that “create moods of pensiveness, of idealism, of awareness of beauty, of aspiration, and of holy joyousness…” and other forms “which create moods of recklessness and sensual excitement.” (page 49) Of course, from the overall context of the book, classical music is painted as the good stuff and rock the bad. However, based on the historical record, this is simply not valid. The recorded number of incidents where classical music stirred up “recklessness and sensual excitement” are vast. Based on such clear historical facts coupled with the logic of these authors, classical music is clearly evil. Absurd!

On page 52 the authors quote Jeremiah 48:10, “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully.”

All of us have heard true stories of preachers who have done “the work of the Lord deceitfully.” Using the author’s argument, then, we must declare all preachers to be wrong. The authors continually stretch the rules of logic to make their point.

By the way, a friend of mine is a member of a national church organist association. He says there are more practicing homosexuals in that group than he ever could have imagined. Do we throw out all church organists because of association? That would be the only logical conclusion if we follow the arguments of these authors.

On page 57 the authors connect melody, harmony and rhythm with spirit, soul and body. The conclusions drawn from this analogy seem rather condemning to certain styles of music. Just one problem: the analogy clearly has absolutely no biblical support. When I first heard this analogy nearly three decades ago, I tried to find any support in Scripture. It’s simply not there. It continues to be perpetuated because it plays well with certain audiences. However, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible to offer any credence to this illustration.

If you agree with the authors’ perspective prior to going in to this book, you’ll probably love it. On the other hand, if you look honestly at their arguments, you’ll quickly see that their words have no real substance.

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