Why Say NO to Charismatic Music

“Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), was the apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians. And the imperative is for us, as well. “From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator.”1 The fullness of life that the Lord is offering (John 10:10) cannot be produced by us! It is His life, gracefully imparted to us. A life of abundance in the things of God; a life empowered by the Spirit of God, bringing forth the fruits of Christlike character, and conquering “every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This has been the hope and the goal of His true disciples from the time He promised, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7), until today.

The apostles understood that in their own power it was absolutely impossible to achieve the work entrusted to them. After the Lord’s ascension to heaven, they humbly persevered in prayer for the Holy Gift—and it was richly bestowed upon them. The results were greatly overpassing anything else seen in the past.

“All heaven bent low to behold and to adore the wisdom of matchless, incomprehensible love. Lost in wonder, the apostles exclaimed, ‘Herein is love.’ . . . “Under the influence of the Spirit, words of penitence and confession mingled with songs of praise for sins forgiven. Words of thanksgiving and of prophecy were heard.”2

Thousands were converted by a single sermon (Acts 2:41), miracles were accompanying the powerful preaching (verse 43), the apostles were miraculously and correctly speaking in the languages of those present (Acts 2:6–12), and all this because of the Mighty Agent given from above!

By the Spirit, through the centuries of oppression, the martyrs kept their faith pure and sealed it with their life, the reformers broke the chains of ignorance and apostasy, and the light of the gospel was victorious over the powers of darkness.
And on this so important field of the Spirit, the arch-deceiver was preparing a subtle but terrible deception.

In 1901, in Topeka, Kansas, USA, Charles Fox Parham started a movement which soon became a phenomenon in the Christian world–the Pentecostal Movement. Especially after the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 with William Seymour, Frank Bartleman and others, the movement has been regarded as the First Wave of Pentecostalism. Its followers were driven by the understanding that people are led by the direct guiding of the Holy Spirit, and the exterior sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues, supposedly as in the apostles’ times. Yet at closer look we see the wide difference between the apostles’ holy experience, bringing “penitence and confession” as mentioned above, and this counterfeit movement.

What characterized the “awakening” on Azusa Street in downtown Los Angeles? “Men and women would shout, weep, dance, fall into trances, speak and sing in tongues, and interpret their messages into English…. In the middle of it all was ‘Elder’ Seymour, who rarely preached [!] and much of the time kept his head covered in an empty packing crate behind the pulpit.”3

Could this be the effect of the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), the Holy Ghost? Jesus has promised that “the Spirit of truth, … will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). Yet, this movement started with “rare preaching,” with less of the Word, and with more of emotions; with a spirit that was speaking of himself, not as the promised One, of God’s words! The newly-formed Pentecostal church expanded rapidly to virtually the whole world.

The so-called “second wave of the Holy Spirit” began in Van Nuys, California, on a Sunday morning in 1959, when Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian clergyman, announced to his congregation that he had been baptized with the Holy Spirit and had spoken in tongues. Before 1955, the majority of Protestant churches would not accept such views/experiences, and those having them would separate themselves and join the Pentecostal church. But by the 1960’s, the Pentecostal teachings and practices of supposed spiritual gifts–charismata–were gaining ground in the traditional Protestant churches. The members were encouraged to remain in their churches, enjoying these “gifts of the spirit,” rather than separating from them. So along came Charismatic Anglicans, Charismatic Lutherans, Charismatic Presbyterians, Charismatic Roman Catholics, Charismatic Methodists, etc.

One of the marks of this current is the prosperity-gospel–the so-called “name it and claim it”–an approach that entertains the idea that the children of such a rich God as we have, should be rich in all type of gifts, not only of the spiritual ones! It makes sense, partially, because we do have a rich and Almighty Father; but it is deceitful, as God didn’t necessarily promise riches and worldly wealth to His followers even though He is blessing them in so many ways.

This opening to feel well, to feel blessed, widely opened the doors for charismatic music. A music descending from the popular rock singers of that time, adapted to Christian churches by receiving Christian lyrics, fit perfectly their tastes. It was a music generating a large emotional response, far more carnal than spiritual; but it was perceived as a sign that the spirit was hovering over the congregation. This “wave,” very appealing to the human, selfish heart, made many churches to get the “wind”, choosing the charismatic line.

What were the characteristics of this “second wave”? Less emphasis on the Word and “thus said the Lord,” as people were thinking they were enjoying direct guidance of the Holy Spirit; feeling intensively its presence, rather than bringing forth the fruits of repentance and conversion, feeling the joy, almost no conditions for God’s promises to be honored–just name them and claim them–a religion of abundance, with less responsibility and more privileges.

About two decades later, “the third wave of the Spirit” was initiated by C. Peter Wagner of Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, California, in the early 1980s. The Neo-Charismatics practice the spiritual gifts similarly to the ones under the previous waves, but they don’t believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order to have them. Nor do they view speaking in tongues as the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Charismatic music continues to play an important role in maintaining the pleasant feelings–as a proof of God’s acceptance–and in increasing the popularity of Christian churches in the unbelievers’ ranks. Being less obtrusive, the values of the third wave have largely penetrated the ranks of Protestant and neo-Protestant churches, so that in the year 2000, more than a half of a billion Christians were belonging to a Pentecostal, charismatic or neo-charismatic way of religion, enjoying what they believed to be the presence of the Spirit in their life.

Intriguingly, the Lord Jesus warned His disciples, not to rejoice because of similar reasons, although that they were so inclined to do so! “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). We see that the danger of the disciples of His time–and we may assume that of all times–was to rejoice more in an external, miracle-working religion through the spirit, instead of a faith-based, heart-changing, saving religion. Do not rejoice in what you see, although it could be a positive evidence of God’s power; rejoice in what you see with the eyes of faith! (see 2 Corinthians 4:18) Rejoice in the relationship you have with the Lord, rejoice in His goodness and salvation, freely offered to you!

Jesus was repeatedly proving that He was interested in their genuine joy, named His Own joy. He prayed “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). And then He clarified the means provided for this: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them…” (John 17:14). The Word was the means to root them in the Father’s truth, the light for their feet. “God’s holy, educating Spirit is in His word.”4 And simply explained, having the Spirit means bringing life into subjection to the Word. The Lord Himself conquered the enemy with “It is written” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10), rejecting the temptation to do a miracle to prove His connection with His Father.

“The truth as it is in Jesus is obedience to every precept of Jehovah. It is heart work. Bible sanctification is not the spurious sanctification of today, which will not search the Scriptures, but trusts to good feelings and impulses rather than to the seeking for truth as for hidden treasure. Bible sanctification is to know the requirements of God and to obey them.”5

Dear friend, we don’t want to build our faith on the moving sand of “sentiments, feelings and impulses,” however pleasant they may be to us, or to other millions of Christians. We choose to build our experience on the Rock of Ages, which is the Holy Word. And by His grace, we choose to obey Him!

The religion of God addresses through the Word to the reason, and to the will, which are superior, leading faculties of our mind. The feelings, sentiments and passions are too subjective, and are inferior faculties, therefore it is so dangerous to base our religious experience on them.

Some reasons for which Charismatic Music is not for Christians

Anything connected with God–and this includes the music–should be governed by the laws of God, which are as good and as exigent as Himself. The cross of Christ stands as a testimony of the exigency of God’s law and principles. Infinite love is and should be jealous, exigent! (Exodus 20:5.)

Which principles of God’s word are trampled upon by charismatic music? I would submit to your consideration the following few:

a) The law of cause-effect (Galatians 6:7)

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Summarizing the above-mentioned thoughts, sentiments and feelings of joy and happiness should be the fruit of an experience, of a battle, and of the victory obtained. They should be the fruit of a re-birth, after a painful crucifixion: “they that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5) This joy is enduring, is constant, is His joy in us (John 15:11). It is not produced by music, but instead produces music in the heart!

Charismatic music offers an easier way: altering the conscience through means of music itself, manipulating the biochemistry and the psychological response of the person,6 it brings it to a similar desired goal—a kind of joy, a kind of a “happy life with Jesus.” This music acts like a drug, and there are thousands of evidences to prove it. What happens afterwards, when the effect is gone? Sadness, depression, unsafety. Is this a fruit of sound spiritual experience? Not at all!

b) The law of liberty (James 1:25).

Charming and enchanting, to lie to people is very dangerous. Jesus was full of charm! But how? By living in righteousness. His life, His principles exemplified at every step, His heart and His experience altogether were a charming power! “Never man spake like this man.” (John 7:46). He was “altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16), “the chiefest among ten thousand” (verse 10), as prophetically seen by Solomon. But that kind of “charm” never acted by overpassing the liberty of the souls He was addressing! The moral law of Ten Commandments is a mirror of His character, therefore is named “the law of liberty” (James 2:12). Although He loved them so much, He carefully avoided charming the senses of His fellows (Isaiah 53:2)—rather addressing their reason and will (Luke 14:27). He was living what He was preaching and the beauty of His character was charming the listeners, without overwhelming them. By that, He was not subjugating or manipulating them; but just the opposite, He was liberating them (John 8:36). He loves all, but knocks patiently at the door, respecting their freedom of choice. (Revelation 3:20).

Is charismatic music doing the same? No, because it cannot. The musical styles used are invading, altering, taking control. It is known that the specific features of rock music and its “colleagues” (jazz, blues, pop, and so forth) are altering the chemistry of human bodies, inducing stages of conscience similar to a trance.7
“Rock is an instrument of conscience alteration.”8 “Rock is the key giving access to the human mind; we are running after the minds of our listeners, as all the other Rock bands do.”9 So strange: the Creator respectfully knocking at the door. Meanwhile fallen creatures are invading the heart, after unlocking the door with the magic key: rock music.

Therefore: can such invasive, abasing, soul-controlling music have anything in common with the respectful, loving Jesus? Can it serve and please Him anyhow?

c) Willful, intelligent submission (John 1:10, 14)

Christian religion brings people into submission and willful, intelligent obedience to Christ, “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It brings heavenly peace, balance (Philippians 4:7).

What does Rock do? Its own appearance has been as a movement of rebellion. Its structure– mainly due to its rhythm–induces rebellion, as a natural response, in the listener. What is Christian Rock producing? In the best scenario, confusion: the music—rebellion, and the words—submission! How is it possible to reconcile these, in a so-called “Contemporary (meaning rock-descending, rebellious)–Christian (meaning Christ-pleasing, submissive) Music (CCM)? We should ask one insider, who devoted his energies over twenty years in promoting CCM music:

“In the beginning I believed that I may disinfect some old rock music…, transforming it into some acceptable gospel. But now I’m realizing that no compromise could be made with the world and its music, its entertaining, its philosophy.”10

d) The ruling of higher faculties over the lower faculties of human mind.11

We are to rule our bodies: “but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27), said the apostle Paul. We are told, “mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection…” (Colossians 3:5). This is the victory of the Spirit over the flesh, the crowning work of the grace in human hearts.

On the other hand, the enemy pushes hard exactly in the opposite direction: “The corruption of the world is seeking to steal our senses, all the unholy influences on every side are working to hold us to a low, earthly level–blinding our sensibilities, degrading our desires, enfeebling our conscience and crippling our religious faculties by urging us to give sway to the lower nature.”12

Exactly in this line comes charismatic music into picture: to allure, to enfeeble the conscience and the religious faculties by subjecting them to the lower nature.
There are Christians thinking that jazz is not all that bad. “Syncopation is the Jazz key which produces the swing. The name of Jazz comes from a word not anymore in use which means ‘sexual intercourse.’ Initially, jazz music was produced for brothels. Eventually, the jazz gave birth to today’s Rock.”13

What about soul music?! “Soul music is entirely sex” (Arthur Brown). The rock feature of the off-beat—widely spread in the majority of the other related musical genres—of accentuating continuously the weak beats 2 and 4 out of a compass of four—has a disturbing, stressful effect over the nervous system. “The rock-beat creates a hyper-abundant secretion of sexual hormones and adrenaline…. That makes such music profane, provocative, sinful.”

What about Christianized variants of the same? “Soul music is only rhythm’n’blues modernized … and the only new thing it has is harmonization with big amounts of Gospel [wording].”14 To assume that we may take such music and then add Christian lyrics, and eventually obtain holy music, acceptable to God, is a terrible deception! “…What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

But we should agree that the danger is even greater. If one is simply listening to rock, which “is sex thrown straight in the face of the teenagers,”15 he or she may be touched by the Spirit of the Lord to understand the depravation this is causing to the soul, and by grace he or she may cease. But by listening to soul [or similar…] music—which is the same thing adorned with Christian lyrics, the deception is worse: people may think that they are cherishing their spirituality, therefore not seeing the need of any reform.

e) The good intention doesn’t excuse the wrong means/methods. (see 5T 562)

In the experience of the first children-worshipers, we noticed that “in general” Cain obeyed God’s requirements for worship: he built an altar, he brought a sacrifice, he offered it to God, he burned it as God had requested. The only difference was that he “considered the local traditions”16; being a farmer, he altered the means of his worship with his own tastes/perceptions about worship. We assume that the Lord would have accepted his originality, as He cherishes ever the development and the dignity of his creatures, never designing us to be “mere automatons.”17 Yet, Cain’s sacrifice could not be accepted! Cain was to freely choose the way the Lord required, in all its aspects, or simply not to offer any sacrifice.

For us this means that we are respected as free agents, to praise the Lord for His infinite goodness in His way, in a way He established as acceptable for Himself, in harmony of all others laws and principles He has set, or simply to deny to worship Him. To try to “cooperate-with-the-Author”, altering the means/methods He Himself has established, means not to please Him in an original way, but simply to mock Him, His love and His authority.

“Singing, … is as much an act of worship as is prayer. The heart must feel the spirit of the song, to give it right expression.”18 The solemn lesson for our days is, if Cain’s prayer could not be accepted because of one aspect being divergent against God’s will, proving his unbelief, then our music could not be accepted by the same God, if some of its aspects are against His principles. If aspects of music, like rhythm, accent are imported from voodoo—the African religion of invoking and worshiping the evil spirits—via blues, rock-and-roll,19 which is the “spirit of the song”? Trying to please God in a different way than He has designed is not an alternative way of obeying Him, but the worst form of idolatry (see 1 Samuel 15:20–23).

And as a consequence, we should reaffirm:

f) Nobody can please two masters in the same time! (Matthew 6:24)

“No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Rock star David Bowie confessed, “Rock has ever been the devil’s music. I believe that Rock is dangerous. I feel that we’re promoting something even darker than ourselves.”20 Then, whose is Christian-rock? Is it not turning itself into a worship-mockery, as offensive to God as the golden calf of the Israelites? We remember that they build the idol, and Aaron tried to call a feast to the Lord, while worshiping it! “What presumption in him [Aaron] to proclaim a feast to the Lord over their idolatrous worship of a golden image! Here is seen the power that Satan has over minds that are not fully controlled by the Spirit of God.”21 As we know, the result hasn’t been a new, modern way of worshiping Jehovah, but a fearful way to separate from God, bringing disaster and death.

But I like it! Surely it can’t be so bad!

Six thousand years ago, a holy person looked at a forbidden fruit and trusted her own discernment and taste, discarding the explicit Word of the Creator. She said almost the same: “But I like it. I feel that it will bring me higher. It shouldn’t be so dangerous.” (See Genesis 3:6.) What did she felt after eating? “She felt no evidence of God’s displeasure, but on the contrary realized a delicious, exhilarating influence, thrilling every faculty with new life, such, she imagined, as inspired the heavenly messengers.”22 Meanwhile, she was widely opening the gates of misery, suffering and destruction! What about our tastes today, after six thousand years of decay!? Therefore, we are to trust God, not our feelings. “You have covenanted to walk by faith, not to be controlled by feelings. Feelings vary with circumstances.”23

The Choice

Then should we accept and do in our Christian life only unpleasant things? Is not God the One who put taste among our faculties? Should we deny any pleasant experience, or particularly any pleasant music? Not at all! The most important question is: What part of me should I please?

Being all of us corrupted by the tragedy of sin, our human nature has been corrupted from the true values of God’s eternal life, to the standards, tastes and perceptions of the arch-deceiver.

On the other hand, being redeemed by Christ’s blood, a new nature is given to us. He “hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, … exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3, 4).

Music is a power! That’s a fact! Which part of me do I choose to please and to boost with this power? The sinful nature? By doing that, I am cherishing that part of me which is bringing me to destruction. And the more I’m pleasing it, the more it grows, requiring much more of that kind.

The other option is to please the divine nature, given to me by Christ! This is in spite of and against my natural tastes. This is by faith! I understand by reason, by His Word, which music He likes, and I’m hearing and singing/playing that music! Because He loved and loves me so much, I choose to please Him! And the process is similar: the more I enjoy this music, the more I like it. By cherishing this spiritual nature I have received, it requires more. This means to educate my taste! This is part of the wonderful process of salvation. This is the Freedom he has provided for us, so expensively paid on the cross. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, 2).

And the promise is that He will help us along! Through His Spirit He will “take the stony heart”, together with its sinful tastes and inclinations, and He will give us “a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). “This ingrafting in Christ separates us from the world. No longer will we love the society of the vile and contaminated and contaminating. We will be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Then rich clusters of fruit are borne. The graces of the Spirit are borne in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness. We have new affections, new appetites, new tastes. Old things have passed away, and lo, all things have become new.”24

Will you choose this path for your feet? If you do it, the music of your heart will harmonize with the music you hear, you sing or play; and it will harmonize with the music of the courts above, in which soon He will invite you to join the heavenly choir! May He bless you, and your choice!

1. Ellen G. White: The Desire of Ages, p. 161.
2. Ellen G. White: The Acts of the Apostles, p. 38. [Emphasis added.]
3. Rev. Angus Stewart – The Three Waves of Charismatic Christianity.
4. Ellen G. White: Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 132.
5. Ellen G. White: SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 5, p. 1147.
6. Andrews Neher: EEG and Clinical Neurophysiology, p. 449.
7. Roger Liebi: Rock Music in a Dying Era, p. 4.
8. William Shafer: Rock Music, p. 76.
9. Mick Jagger: Hit Parader, p. 12.
10. Rick Shorter, former rocker, quoted in the SDA magazine, Insight.
11. Ellen G. White: Messages to Young People, pp. 237, 238.
12. Ellen G. White: Our High Calling, p. 71. [Emphasis added.]
13. Ewin Wilson, The Pied Piper of the Pentecostal Movement, pp. 49–51.
14. David A. Noebel, “CCM,” August–September 1981, p. 26.
15. Richard Oldham in USA Today, January 13, 1984.
16. Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium AAS 56 (1964) 97–134.
17. Ellen G. White: Steps to Christ, p. 44.
18. Ellen G. White: Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 594. [Emphasis added.]
19. Robert Palmer: Rock & Roll: An Unruly History, pp. 46, 53.
20. David Bowie in Rolling Stone magazine, February 2, 1976.
21. Ellen G. White: Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 300.
22. Ellen G. White: Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 56.
23. Ellen G. White: Mind, Character, and Personality, p. 495.
24. Ellen G. White: Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, p. 135.

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