What Makes Music Christianly?

…contending for biblical theology in CCM

[A long-ish post, but worthwhile reading]

by Steve Camp

“Thy statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”
– Psalm 119:54

In one concise statement David introduces us to the Hymnbook of Heaven elucidating the triumvirate of Christian service – doctrine, worship and life. Thy statutes (doctrine); are my songs (worship); in the house of my pilgrimage (life). Just as the doctrine of justification by faith alone is like Atlas bearing on its shoulders the entire evangelical knowledge of saving grace[1], so is doctrine, worship and life the three central pillars for music ministry. True Christian music is God-conceived (doctrine); Christ-centered (worship); and Spirit-controlled (life). Take away any one of these pillars and the building topples. For example: a powerful doctrine sung in glory to Christ with an impure life is noise to the ears of our holy God.[2] Conversely, an obedient life given in worship to Christ absent of sound doctrine will be empty praise and on the path to error.[3] Lastly, right theology sung out of the beauty of holiness but vacant in worship to Christ leads to pride or self-glory[4] and the chastisement of the Father.[5]

Knowing God – Not Feeling God
In Christian music we are missing the key pillar, the cornerstone, which the other two rely upon – sound doctrine! There has already occurred a much needed return to praise and worship in the church and we’ve observed that across the board in evangelicalism. There is also a renewed heightened call for more personal ecclesiastical accountability.[6] Though we have not arrived in those areas, we are on the path, nevertheless, the Achilles heel of our industry is the blatant absence of sound biblical theology which has effected every level of Christian music.

This is most evident in it’s message. Christian music, originally called Jesus Music that once fearlessly sang about the gospel, now sings of a Christ-less, watered-down, pabulum-based, positive alternative, cream of wheat, mush-kind-of-syrupy God-as-my-girlfriend thing. There is an obvious reason this has taken place: artists primarily feel; theologians primarily think. We need artists who will balance their zeal with knowledge[7] to invest their lives in the daily discipline of Bible study, and then, to write with the fire, passion and enthusiasm which that study has illumined to communicate the glorious language of the church – the holy Word of God! Until this occurs, we are guilty of sentencing a generation of Christians to simply “feel” their God, rather than to know their God! In the early days of my own music ministry I wrote songs that neither represented good music or precise theology. It is out of the crucible of those experiences that God convicted me, which drives me to speak passionately to these issues.