And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. --- Ephesians 5:18 - 21
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. --- Col 3:16
These scriptures are usually quoted together in the critics work, and quoted often. They seem to feel that these two form a conclusive "gotcha" that precludes Christian rock music. Are they right? Let's start analyzing ----
The first scripture starts with "And". As always, I have to ask "what came before?" - it obviously goes with this. The exact extent of this thought is translation dependent, small changes in punctuation and / or prepositions make a big difference in the extent of the quotation:
29. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 1. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2. and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7. Therefore do not be partners with them. 8. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9. (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10. and find out what pleases the Lord. 11. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14. for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." 15. Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, 16. making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20. always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. EPH 4:29 - 5:21
This separates the previous thought in chapter 4 - that of how a believer should deal with anger, and how a believer should not steal, from this passage which talks about how a believer should talk and communicate. The next passage in EPH 5 talks about the relationship of husband and wife. The critics sometimes use other portions of this passage in their essays, either in combination with the core EPH 5:18-21, or other places to "prove" other points that they make. As always, I would caution them (and you) to look at whole passages, not just prooftexts. One thing is obvious - they are talking about SPEECH primarily here, not music. Specifically, the passage forbids:
I wish the Christian rock critics would obey the first item on the list - I catch them repeatedly slandering Christian rock artists in their material.
Talk which is commanded is:
The key ingrediants in the core passage, as it relates to the rest of the thought, are SPEAKING the words of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to ONE ANOTHER. This tells me that the lyrics to Christian songs should always be somewhere in our minds, ready to be spoken to another believer (along with scriptures) at moments of discouragement, etc. Perhaps the song lyrics speak on a heart level that the Word does not. It is closely related to the thought of making music in your heart. This was written in the days before Christian radio - so I can see how it might be a command to keep Christian music in your head at all times, similar to the songs that you just can't get out of your mind. The verse right after that seems to re-enforce the thought of keeping the melodies and songs in your mind all the time - as a way of giving thanks to God.
The passage in Colossians is an abbreviated version of what was said in Ephesians:
15. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. --- Col 3:15-17
Here, however, it talks about singing the songs to each other, not just speaking them. But the basic thrust is to have Christian music constantly on your mind and your heart - as a way of continual worship.
So --- does this forbid Christian rock? The critics say yes - based on the terms "psalms", "hymns" and "spiritual songs". A lot depends on what these words actually mean.
I couldn't find a good definition of the term "spiritual songs". But the first two are both "praises". The slow, harp implications came later, and have no bearing on the original meaning of the word. Can a "praise" be slow and melodious? Of course! Can it be loud, raucous, and exciting? I sure hope so - otherwise there is no joy in worship.
Unfortunately, the musical scores of the Psalms have been lost, with the exception of one word: SELAH. Nobody knows what it means. We only have the "lyrics" to the Psalms. Even if we don't have the musical score, we can make some guesses about the general style of the music based on those lyrics. The Christian rock critics themselves have said it well:
Harmony, on the other hand, is for the soul. A lot of Gospel tunes are written in major keys; they are bright and happy. As young children in grade school we are often taught that major chords are happy, and minor chords are sad. If I play a whole series of minor chords on the piano, you will soon be very weighted down and sorrowful. The minor chords depict sadness. There is nothing wrong with minor chords in and of themselves, but they must be balanced. If we are going to talk about how our Savior was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, we might want to use some minor chords but not a steady diet of them. You need to mix and balance them with other types of chords.
If I sing "There Is A Land That Is Fairer Than Day" in a major key, Heaven sounds like a wonderful place. But if I change that to a minor key "keeping the same rhythm and melody" all the sudden Heaven doesn't sound like such a happy, wonderful place. The only thing I have to change to effect this different mood is the harmony.
Silent movie music also makes this point. The piano player set the mood for each scene. The Psalms are divided into several different types. Some are prayers of repentance, such as Psalm 51 - which was written after Nathan the Prophet fingered David publically for the adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband. I doubt seriously if this song was written in a "major" key, or had an upbeat rhythm.
On the other hand - when I take Psalms of praise and worship - a lot of them talk about shouting, dancing, and loud musical instruments - such as 33 and 150. I seriously doubt these Psalms were written in a "minor" key. I also think they were loud, up-tempo, with a lively beat for the dancing. I think they sounded more like Christian rock than Christian hymns! I even looked up the musical instruments used in Psalm 150.
In summary, to use the terms "psalms" and "hymns" to imply that all Christian music should be slow in tempo and a specified harmony is not being intellectually honest. There is no doubt at all that loud, joyous music IS permitted in worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification (1 Cor. 14:7-10).
ICK! King James English. Lets get a better translation that can actually be understood (and get the whole passage while we are at it):
1. Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified. 6. Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7. Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8. Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9. So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 13. For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. 14. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17. You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. 18. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20. Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21. In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord. 22. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24. But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25. and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" 26. What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. 29. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. -- 1 Cor 14:1-33
Oops! This passage is talking about tongues, not music. Evidently the Corinthian church had a problem with tongues getting out of hand. Believe me, I can identify with that! I have been in some churches (but not for long) where tongues are pre-eminant, not the Lord Jesus Christ or His word. The passage the Christian rock critics quote is merely a comparison being made between tongues and bad music. And accusing Christian rock of not having distinction in the notes is ridiculous. If anything, there is MORE distinction, more precision - due to the precise beat and percussion used. Assonance and dissonance has been explored more in "classical" music of this century than it has been in Christian rock music. Christian rock, deriving its style from secular rock, is more logically an extension of the romantic era of classical music than it is something "new". Now - if you want to talk about indistinct notes, lets talk about so-called singing in the spirit. One of my previous churches tried in every service to cram this down our throats - and I thank God for a youth group that stared them down when they tried it on Wednesday night! When they abandoned the attempt at the forced assonance and dissonance of "singing in the spirit" - the TRUE Holy Spirit of God returned to the service. "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace".