God saved me in October 1980. All things Christian were completely new to me. Although I grew up in a Presbyterian church, this new life in Jesus introduced me to a lot of different things. I grew up in the north. I attended college in the deep south. That’s where God saved me. That’s where I learned a lot about the cultural style of southern Christianity versus what I was used to up north. I also learned a lot about other styles of Christianity by listening to Christian radio WLFJ.
The early 80’s brought on a new style of music called contemporary Christian. This moniker set apart this brand of music from the traditional hymns. Down south at that time there were two kinds of music at church: hymns and southern gospel. From my experience, hymns were sung in the conservative Baptist churches; southern gospel was set apart for the black churches and the Pentecostals. Soon after the war started about this new contemporary Christian music, the name changed to scale down the conflict. We called these new tunes “choruses”. Today, opponents call them “7-11” songs: seven words sung eleven times. Choruses were sung by the independent churches and increasingly at the conservative churches too, but only during the evening service.
The worship war camps established firm turf and they have remained entrenched ever since. Many church divisions and broken lives lay in the wasteland between. Many Christians have fallen asleep because of this war. It is a war created by Satan and Christians are fighting it for him. Why do I attribute this war to Satan? Because it is wrought with confusion. Satan is the author of confusion. Chaos reigns in the churches where this war is fought. This need not be so.
The primary issue of confusion centers around two points. First, the belief that music is a form of worship is a myth. Second, the belief that any music we make, whether hymns or choruses, is worthy of our use to praise God.
Music is the combination of words and notes played by voice and/or instruments. The words we use to praise God are supremely important. Years ago a senior pastor taught a Sunday School class about the history of our favorite Christian hymns. He pointed out that quite often the doctrine of some of those hymns was either questionable or flat out unbiblical. He warned us to be careful therefore that we never adopt our theology from the hymns. Only the Word of God can be trusted for truth.
I took his advice to heart and paid close attention to those hymns. I stopped singing the ones that were false. No matter how precious, traditional, or beautiful they sounded, they stopped passing my lips. If the words were false, I would not sing them to my Father.
After a short time, hymns left my church for a while. We went 100% chorus. I applied the same warning to these songs and soon stopped singing them too. I was left with nothing to sing. This struck me as a shame because I knew that God loved music and praise. As the church split over the hymn versus chorus war, I discovered the obvious.
God wrote 150 wonderful songs of praise, contemplation, and thanksgiving. He calls them the Psalms. Sometime around 2006 I discovered that some churches actually use the Psalms as their music. The words were put to music and became the Psalter. My delight lasted for a little while until I found out that even this wonderful work has a hidden war. There are different Psalters depending on which camp you are in. I can only imagine the grief of God as He sees how we bastardize His holy Word like this. Currently I am searching for the most ancient versions of the Psalms. I have queried many Jewish sources for their music and words. No success yet.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that the Psalms are the sure path to musical praise of our God. We can be sure that the words are true and pleasing to Him. All that is left is to settle the score with folks who prefer one Psalter translation to another. This is similar to the Bible wars with the King James camp versus everybody else. In an earlier post I pointed out the foolishness of this. Most of us have no idea what we are really fighting about and how these battles arose. I urge you to read a book by Frank Viola called Pagan Christianity. Like my former senior pastor, Mr. Viola points out the errors made in our Bible translations and then warns us to carefully heed the scholarly work of the Greek and Hebrew translators. He uncovered the great difference between the language and context of the original texts and the language and cultural context applied to the Word 1600 years later by King James.
I will leave you with God’s point of view on this. Do not add to His Word or He will reprove us and find us liars. (Proverbs 30:6) Do not take away from His Word or He will take away our names from the Book of Life. (Revelation 22:19)