Many, many times on this blog I’ve argued that Christian music is terrible. But Todd Pruitt takes it to a whole new level with this post, where he argues that Christian music may not even be Christian:
Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. He alone is the One who brings us to God. The popular but mistaken notions regarding worship music undermine this foundational truth of the Christian faith. It is also ironic that while many Christians deny the sacramental role of those ordinances which the Lord Himself has given to the church (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) they are eager to grant music sacramental powers. Music and “the worship experience” are viewed as means by which we enter the presence of God and receive his saving benefits. There is simply no evidence whatsoever in Scripture that music mediates direct encounters or experiences with God. This is a common pagan notion. It is far from Christian.
Oh, snap. But wait, there’s more:
In many Churches and Christian gatherings it is not unusual for God’s Word to be shortchanged. Music gives people the elusive “liver quiver” while the Bible is more mundane. Pulpits have shrunk and even disappeared while bands and lighting have grown. But faith does not come from music, dynamic experiences, or supposed encounters with God. Faith is birthed through the proclamation of God’s Word…
…it is important to understand that music in our worship is for two specific purposes: to honor God and to edify our fellow believers. Unfortunately, many Christians tend to grant music a sacramental power which Scripture never bestows upon it.
Well, well, well. I’d like to hear more about what Pruitt thinks is an appropriate church worship service. But even so, this is a compellingly bold critique of something that could use a little critiquing: that tingly, “close to Jesus” feeling that people get from worship music.
A lot of churches work very hard to cultivate that feeling, with music and lighting and interpretive dance and mime performances and trained eagles (ok, no trained eagles yet, but you know it’s coming). It’s all very cinematic, by which I mean that churches shepherd the emotions of their audience in much the same way that movies do. I don’t think churches should feel the need to do that, considering that they have so much more of substance to offer than movies, except for Christian movies, which are also terrible.
But if churches are doing it, and people are expecting their religious experience to look like the introduction of the Chicago Bulls, then aren’t we distracting people from Jesus more than leading them to Him? I don’t know, but I think it’s worth asking.
(Special thanks to one of my four regular readers, @thinmanwithin, for pointing me toward Pruitt’s post.)