from “Contemporary Music: A Confessional Perspective” by Rev. James Judson
Stylistic concerns aside, CCM lyrics pose an even greater concern. In his article “Contemporary Christian Music: An Evaluation,”VV Klemet Preus reviews the texts of CCM songs and finds them falling severely short of the theological strength needed for them to be considered for use in the Divine Service. Preus finds that CCM is characterized by Pentecostal theology, Decision theology, Theology of Glory, Pietism, Synergism, Millenialism and a lack of proper sacramental theology and understanding of the power of the Word of God. He finds that CCM mixes faith and emotion, focuses on commitment and turns faith into only a first step on a road of progressive salvation and consistently contradicts Scripture with bad theology and doctrine.V Preus also notes that although Christ is mentioned frequently in CCM, the Christology is generally flawed. On that note he writes that CCM turns “Christ into the best love or the most faithful lover or the drug with the highest high or the quickest rush.”II
When viewed in light of the conclusions of the first section of this article, ‘Worship Service’ or ‘Divine Service?’” one must admit that including such music is a dangerous practice. Who among us would not condemn a pastor who preached false doctrine from the pulpit? Why should false doctrine in music be any different? Whether Satan’s attacks on the true faith are open and blatantly obvious or subtle and under the guise of innocence, such as is the case with so much of CCM, it should be resisted at every turn by Christ’s Church and its entrance into the corporate services of the Church should be especially resisted.
“Contemporary” vs. Contemporary
Unfortunately, in some circles, this condemnation of the music genre known as “Contemporary Christian Music” has lead to the belief that any music, if it has been written in recent times, needs to be dismissed and rejected off hand for use within the Church, particularly within the Divine Service. In all times and in all places Christians with musical talents have sought to express their faith, give praise and honor to God and enhance the practice of the Church by the creation of new musical pieces. One cannot judge the worthiness of these works of music based solely on their date of composition. Every era has seen its share of good additions to the hymnody and musicology of the Church as well as poor, and indeed even downright horrible additions.
Each piece, whether of recent or aged vintage must be individually evaluated. Those that make the cut can be rejoiced over and happily added to our Churchly repertoire, while those that fail to make the cut must, on principle, be rejected, regardless of our sentimental attachments to them. We must not confuse the genre of “Contemporary Christian Music” with Christian music that is of contemporary origins. To reject music simply because it was composed within the last 20 years or 50 year etc… is to do the Church a disservice. Much like we would not reject a theological book written by a contemporary author (such as Marquart, Scaer, Veith or Preus) simply due to its recent origins, we should not reject theological music based solely on its lack of age.
Confessional Lutherans, the members of The Lutheran Church of the Triune God among them, believe very strongly in preserving our Divine Services from the influences of bad theology and practice no matter what quarter they may come from. The Divine Service is where we as God’s people come to be served by God in His service of Word and Sacrament. As such, we strive to protect the Divine Service from all false teachings and to preserve its solemn, rich, deep character and meaning. If you are interested in learning more on this subject, I encourage you to make use of the “Works Consulted” section that I have provided. If you have any questions or comments about our understanding of the Divine Service and what is and is not proper to be included in it, please feel free to contact the church office and we will welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with you.
If a different service is used each week “the people are denied the ability to learn as much as possible from the liturgy because they must concentrate on what to do next etc…rather than on what they are saying.” Richard Resch, “Hymnody as Teacher of the Faith,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 57:3 (July 1993): p 167.
These requirements are fully listed and explained in Table 6 of Alfred E. Fremder’s article “The Selection of Hymns,” and I would refer anyone interested in the subject to Fremder for a more detailed look at the criterion. However, for purposes of this article, a very brief summary will have to do.
Note that this is only in reference to the ceremonial law, not the moral laws which are made up of the ten commandments. Even though we are freed from the demands of the ceremonial law, we are still subject to the moral law.
Pentecostal theology is characterized by misunderstandings of the work of the Holy Spirit, including but not limited to, healings, speaking in tongues, holy laughter, violent body convulsions etc…
Decision theology teaches that the unbeliever, in order to be saved, must make a decision to follow Jesus, must decide to leave his/her sinful life behind, decide to call on the name of the Lord for help before they are saved. Biblical teaching on the subject reveals that we can only call on Jesus and ask for his help AFTER the Spirit has already created faith within us.
Theology of Glory teaches that those who are saved/those who are of strong enough faith will experience earthly glory and prosperity and that those who do not experience these things have been abandoned by God or punished by God. Lutheranism holds to the biblical Theology of the Cross which teaches that all of mankind, believers and unbelievers, strong in faith and weak in faith, etc…suffer because of the entrance of sin into the world and that God does not abandon us in our times of need but rather strengthens us so that we may endure our time of suffering.
Pietism confuses faith and emotions. Pietists teach that feelings indicate to a person whether or not they are saved and look to a “mountain top experience,” an experience of intense emotion to prove their conversion, their salvation. The Lutheran response is simple; “faith alone.” If one believes in Christ as their savior from sin, he/she is saved regardless of his/her emotional state. Faith is not always accompanied by subjective and fickle human emotions and thus emotion is not a valid indicator of salvation.
Synergism teaches that we humans cooperate with God in our conversion and salvation. This contradicts Scripture which plainly teaches that we are completely and totally dead in our sin when it comes to spiritual matters and completely incapable of cooperation with God in this matter because of our state of spiritual death.
Millenialism is characterized by an overly literal translation of figurative language in the apocalyptic writings contained in the Bible, such as Revelation. Because of this overly literal translation of the figurative language of these writings, Millenialism promotes a multitude of false teachings concerning the end of the world and the second coming of Christ.
A proper understanding of sacramental theology recognizes the sacraments (Baptism and Communion) as a Means of Grace, i.e. a means/method by which God distributes his forgiveness to believers. As such, Baptism and Communion are not mere symbols but are true and effective in creating, strengthening and preserving our faith.
[i]I. Richard Resch, “Hymnody as Teacher of the Faith,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 57:3 (July 1993): p 167.
II James L. Brauer, “The Role of Music in Seeker Services,” Concordia Journal 24:1 (January 1998): p 11.
III Kurt Marquart, “Liturgy and Evangelism” in Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993) p 68.
VV Klemet Preus, “Contemporary Christian Music: An Evaluation,”Concordia Theological Quarterly 51:1 (January 1987): 1-18.
V Ibid, pp 8-13.
II Ibid, p 9.