Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Christian Music Theology - Bad to Worse?

By Greg Cooper

If you have listened to Christian music lately, you may (or may not) have noticed a trend, or a movement, that has evolved throughout the Christian Music Industry. It isn't what it used to be.  It is an ever-evolving theatre of Millennials and aspiring Genration Zs that are reflecting a new culture of mainstream Christianity through their music. More and more, Christian music is leavened with bad theology.  It is littered with unbiblical truths and extra-biblical claims. The youthful, up-and-coming artists are far too easily absorbed into the Christian music genre, and often given an ample amount of play time.  As a result, millions of listeners everywhere are being exposed to compromised “Christian” artists who can be compared to un-vetted guest speakers in pulpits. These musicians are being given a world stage to share their personal Jesus experiences.  But instead of proclaiming the fear and holiness of God (as in hymns of the past), they generally seem to be catering to the defeated and backslidden Christian, not necessarily the over comer. They oftentimes preach a very watered-down version of biblical faith, which can be an indication as to where they are in their spiritual walk. 

Improper doctrine has made its way into the Christian music genre, and has been widely accepted as both encouraging and undoubtedly Christian, having crept in unnoticed (Jude 1:4), and unchecked.

Skillet on Christian Radio

Skillet's John Cooper, 2016
Consider Skillet, a band that has been rising fast in the Christian music industry, as well as those completely outside of it. It is heavily endorsed, promoted, and played by Christian radio stations and online streaming channels nationwide and abroad, including those of giants K-Love and Air1 Radio.  An Air1.com article featuring Skillet in a positive light suggests:  “The band continues to produce songs that can appeal to people of all ages and from all walks of life. Over the years, the band has developed a cult-like following…” (link)  (“Cult-like” means 'resembling a cult.')  

All the while, these songs are unquestionably presented as Christian by those who claim to be Christians, and Hard Rock by unbelievers immersed in the secular world - who may very well not see them in any other light. Truly, it is hard to tell the difference.

Its acceptance and popularity in the Christian music world has helped Skillet soar to the top of the charts with their latest album, Unleashed.  Its release took it to #2 on the Billboard Top Albums chart in August of 2016.  Interestingly, it went all the way to No. 1 by non-Christian standards on Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums Chart, and simultaneously went to No. 3 on Billboard’s Top Albums Chart in 2016.  Cooper said of its success on both platforms: “It is such a huge honor to keep making music that people resonate with.” (link

Skillet also defines themselves as a full-on rock band.  In their latest song, Hero, has lead singer John Cooper’s distinguishing raspy, defiant, roaring loud voice, boldly singing:

I'm just a breath away
I'm just a step away
From losin' my faith today
Fallin' off the edge today
I need a hero to save my life
John Cooper flipping the sign 
of the Devil (again)

Sadly, Skillet has shown us its true colors in its music by looking a lot like worldly music and not proclaiming Christ as the “hero” they are looking for.  Their words and increasingly darker overtones show them as having one foot in the world and one (questionably) in the faith. “I just tell people I’m in a hard-rock band. I leave ‘Christian’ out,” lead singer John Cooper said in one interview.  “Everywhere we play, I talk about my faith. I leave the ‘Christian’ off because I don’t want to alienate.” (link)

Yet in stark contrast Cooper said in a CBN interview, “Absolutely we are a Christian band, we are not embarrassed about it at all.” (link)
Cooper and his band identifies well with the worldly standard of the rock industry, with all of its darkness, even flashing the rock (or satanic) hand symbols freely.  Claiming themselves to identify with Christianity, they also see themselves on both sides of the isle. “It was very important for us to cross over [from Christian to mainstream] because we were too heavy for Christian music to get to a success level that you could afford to do it,” Cooper says in one interview. “And I never just wanted to be a Christian act.  And I don't want to think that just Christian people - I don't want to turn people off about Jesus..." (link)

The bible tells us clearly in James 4:4:

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Skillet riding a raging skull during a
performance of their hit song "Monster"
Cooper seems to like worldly bands like Def Leopard, admitting that the album Hysteria is his all-time favorite, and says he enjoys listening to AC/DC during his workouts (link). He also identifies himself alongside with, and opened for bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, Korn, Slipknot, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath.  Each of these groups are anti-Christ.  As a professing believers, Skillet really should be completely avoiding these bands.

2 Corinthians 6:14 says,

“Don't team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?”

Based on the evidence then it is not surprising that Cooper is writing songs indicating he is grappling with his faith.  His lyrics in Awake and Alive leans away from the central gospel message of a life of following and doing God's will by declaring: “I'll do what I want 'cuz this is my life”.  This is a level of secularism which sounds more like Satanist Aleister Crowley, who coined the phrase "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” Yet, apparently he believes this is what it means to be "awake and alive". This way of thinking is simply anti-Christ in nature. 

In the song Monster we get a clearer picture of what's really going on inside:

The secret side of me, I never let you see
I keep it caged but I can't control it
So stay away from me, the beast is ugly
I feel the rage and I just can't hold it

The messages communicated here seem far from walking in the light! (1 John 1:6-7)

Their on-stage look also seems to be an evidence of a definitive move towards the darker side with their dyed hair, black clothing and even dark eye makeup applied for performances on lead singer Cooper.  

Multiple artists present wrong theology

Skillet’s lyrics represent just one piece of a larger deception in Christian music. Steffany Gretzinger, in her song Pieces, proudly and prayerfully proclaims,

Your heart is proud to be seen with me...
Uncontrolled, uncontained
Your love is a fire burning bright for me

These lyrics are probably heartfelt.  However, God has complete control of Himself and is completely able to contain himself. Saying that God is "proud to be seen with me" shifts worship from God to herself.  This theme is present in Bethel Music's Pieces: "Your love hangs on every word we say”. This unbiblical statement is also not based on God's Word.  In fact it is quite the opposite. It says that “even our prayers” can be detestable (Proverbs 28:9), and “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).

Another example of bad theology lies within the lyrics of the hit song, Your love Never Fails (performed by artists such as Jesus Culture, Newsboys, and others). The opening lyric falsely declares, “Nothing can separate, even if I run away".  It is also interesting to note that the Newsboys’ co-founder, George Perdikis, admits he is now an atheist (link).  In regards to these lyrics, while it is true that a prodigal (who has "run away") as the account goes in Luke 15:11-32 can return, there is no provision for one who never returns. The bible warns about falling away (Hebrews 6:4-6) and denying our Lord (Matthew 10:33).  We make our own decision whether to believe in and walk with Christ or not.  Jesus himself warned His own disciples: “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). 

Many artists offer false claims about the attributes of God, with the general idea that He is an inescapable, crashing tidal wave of love, one who recklessly pursues and embellishes and just about drowns a person in it. Many songs take this approach, such as newer artist Hannah Kerr in her song Lifeline"There's no escaping your embrace", she sings. God is not a broken love faucet!

The popular band Switchfoot speaks for God: “I won’t let you go”.  Interestingly, Judas, being one of the chosen twelve, chose to leave and betray Jesus, and of course God let him go and do that wicked thing and depart from the Lord (Luke 22).

A Love and the Outcome song clarifies a common message in Christian lyrics: "No strings attached when He Saved my soul".  But, the Bible says God will give us over to our sinful desires if we should so choose that route, and, ultimately, we can choose to be depraved and separate ourselves from God (Romans 1:24).

The pattern becomes obvious when you look at the messages these songs are sending.

Just barely holding on...

In other songs, such as Jordan Feliz's You Are beloved, the message is somewhat dire:

Sometimes the heart can feel like a heavy weight
It pulls you under and you just fall away.

But the Bible has something to say about "just falling away". This is something we Christians are never supposed to do at all! "And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another" (Matthew 24:10)

Mosaic MSC
The rising new band, Mosaic MSC, pastored by Emergent leader Erwin McManus who claims that Jesus isn’t the only way to God (link), in their song Across The Universe, request of God: "Fill my empty life”. Interesting since in Jesus, the bible says, we have an abundance of life as believers (Matthew 10:10).   

The song Walk On Water by Family Force 5 (feat. Hillsong Young and Free) might be an indicator of a lack of genuine conversion. The singer admits openly, "I'm back-and-forth like a wave of the wind".  The bible speaks bluntly to this condition:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5)

An assumption of failure in lyrics is often alluded to, including Switchfoot’s, When We Come: “I feel like I could get lost today…and I’m gone, gone, gone”.

Many of these musicians are genuinely trying to keep it positive and encouraging, which has a place in Christian music.  But the theology in the Christian music genre seems to include an overwhelmingly common message of solo grace.  It portrays God as a relentless pursuer of anyone trying to outrun Him or live in habitual sin, and rarely speaks to repentance or a cry in turning from sin.  Repentance is absolutely essential in becoming a believer and in sanctification. 

Jesus said:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (John 4:17)

Believers are in danger of opening themselves up to a lovey-dovey, easy-to-swallow musical experience, which can lead them to turn away from the more challenging messages.  As Paul stated in 2 Timothy 4:3:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

Perhaps we are seeing these days come to pass within what is described as Christian music, and, it's popularity.
Franklin McCay

Most disturbingly is the song Invincible by Franklin McKay (played on Air1 among others).  It bypasses even mentioning God at all! Instead suggests a secular idea borrowed from the likes of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Let your higher power guide you”.   This is not a Christian message. 
The idea of being “invincible” is also a common theme among other artists of our day.  Great care must be taken with such claims (Romans 11:22).

The take-away

It is clear that much of the theology within Christianity is becoming watered down, and is moving away from the sound doctrine that the Bible offers us. Many churches, and the music from bands such as Skillet, are representative of an indicator of this change. Of course, many songs and artists are very biblical, and right on track with proper doctrine.  A good example of this is artist Chris Tomlin.  But songs - such as the ones mentioned that otherwise can be described as biblical - do many times contain questionable lyrics that have to be watched out for.  Paul says in Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump".

Not every Christian artist should be assumed to be a regenerate, born-again believer communicating proper doctrine, even though their intentions may very well be good.  If the great deceiver, Satan, can transform himself into an angel of light, he can most certainly make music have the appearance of being Christian when it actually is not.  We must pray for these musicians, being watchful always, and discerning the times in which we live.  And, surely we must be careful what enters into our ears, minds, and hearts through music…, yes, even so-called Christian music.

Special thank you to Tony Palacio for his contribution to this article.

You may also like:

Why 'The Shack' Soundtrack's Artist List May Shock You
April 19, 2017 
By Greg Cooper

Questions or additional comments:  gregcoopersblog@gmail.com


  1. It does seem like a falling away in the Christian music industry. I actually do like some of the rock music but there are obvious questionable behavior. Just an hour ago I commented on a post from Skillet that had John Cooper in a photo with Nikki six from Motley Crue throwing up the bull horns. People have no clue that the sign of the bull horns in the original intent is paying praise to satan. They think if they use that sign in a different way then that's ok. By who's standard? That quote by Crowley is spot on. Do as thou wilt. It's crazy just trying to live my own life in the everyday struggles. God is good. He is faithful to forgive. These bands that have strayed are under trememdous spiritual warfare. God help them. and all of us. Good article. God Bless. ~ Greg

    1. Thank you, Greg. I also saw that photo. Unbelievable. I also saw on their Facebook page that they are endorsing the Shack. The Shack is very unbiblical. The fact that they are okay with it - and promoting it - is very telling and also another confirmation of where they are spiritually. We need to stay alert with bands like this!

  2. Good article .. good research .. good warnings ... thanks for caring and sharing. I go to a church where I learn to grow in the Lord and where the church is dedicated to reaching the community and the world with the Gospel. However, the music is contemporary and for two years, I still can't quite lock down my convictions on this subject. I guess the only one who can is God's Spirit .. so I will continue to worship, serve,and grow in the Lord until He instructs me differently. Thanks again for your insights.

  3. Great article! I've done quite a bit of research on secular music and have wondered about some of the Christian music that's out there.

    1. Thank you Greg. Nice name by the way! The secularism in the music more prevalent than ever. After noting about 30 songs as I heard them that were off, I was still finding more, and more. If you really listen to them and compare them to Scripture you realize it is more rare than ever to hear a really good, biblically sound song that you don't have to think twice about. When your hands are raised in worship, the last thing you want to do is sing something blasphemous.

  4. Hi Greg, thanks for writing this, it's an important conversation to have. I agreed with many of your points, there were a couple I disagreed with too.
    - on Skillet opening for other rock bands, Jesus had a lot of time for sinners of all kinds
    - on people who question their faith, ideally our faith would never be called into question (but that's not the world we live in). When it is, yes we should be prepared to have our faith tested so we can put our doubts to the side, but people in those places shouldn't be looked down on during that time, instead they should be supported!
    - Christians don't have to exclusively write and perform worship music. A claim to the contrary is similar to saying that Christian engineers shouldn't be doing anything except building churches...
    - Lastly I would agree that some of the music promoted as Christian is questionable, but it may have appeal to those who are searching for God, and where it does I believe it forms part of the pathway for that person to come to know God. As much as it may "grind our gears" that it would be played alongside other Christian music, I think it does have a time and place on Christian radio.

    1. Sadly, your disagreement with parts of the article are not much valid. 2 Corinthians 6:17 tells us to be separate, come out from among them. Skillet promotes secular and only defends their "faith" to help sales.
      Second, Jesus went to sinners for repentance (Matthew 9:13 KJV). He never assimilated the culture into God's will. You cannot be friends with the world and expect to please God in the same breath.

      Christians are taught to base almost everything with even the smallest bit of biblical undertone by our feelings and experience, including music and movies. We are called to worship Him in spirit and truth. The music today gives us praise for what we want Him to do, not for who He is. Many Christians artists and preachers want the popularity and prestige and make their music to touch heart strings, just as secular does. Steve Camp did his 105 thesis, and he hit it well. Artists proclaiming Jesus as their Lord would learn from this well.

  5. I'm not going to defend any artist, and personally I think this is a good discussion to have. However, I think the article is a bit biased in saying lyrics that say I'm close to losing my faith is the view of the artist. The artist is obviously singing from the perspective of someone in need of help, and the rest of the song provides the answer as it points to a Hero greater than ourselves.

    1. i agree. the lyrics reach out to people where they are, without Christ. the songs speak to you in the midst of your hurt, your pain, your hopelessness, and point you to the One Who can help you.

  6. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Sadly, some of these artists have been influenced by their pastors and others who do not teach whole council of God and distort His Word. I have been immersing myself in the hymns that last several months. How refreshing to say the least! Pure vertical worship! All the glory goes to Him, as it should.

  7. Please don't lump in all Christian metal music into one category of sinful unbelievers if you look hard enough I'm sure you'll find some Christian metal band that agrees with most of your doctrinal teachings just like some pastors and preachers are bad of course some musicians are not going to live up to everyone's Doctornal standards but we should not dismiss all of them because of this. Here are some of my favorite bands it didn't make your list

  8. The lead singer for Skillet is open about his upbringing in a very strict religious home. He was punished if caught listening to music his parents didn't approve of and he lost his mother when he was young. He also had a difficult relationship with his father (I don't remember all the details.). His songs resinate with me because I was raised in a legalistic, very strict, borderline cult and endured verbal abuse for several years. Skillet's songs wih lines like "I'll do what I want because this is my life!" has nothing to do with rebelling against God, but everything to do with struggling to throw off the chains of legalism as an adult. Something those of us who were raised in religiously abusive homes struggle with. He is reaching out to those who were abused and are hurting. Yes, he tours with secular bands, and he shares the gospel between songs as he shares the stories behind them. He also tours with Franklin Graham. Skillet draws in the crowd and sings and Graham comes out and shares the gospel. If Skillet labeled themselves as a Christian band, refused to tour with secular bands, and forced Jesus' name into every song, they would never draw a crowd of young, mostly secular people to hear the gospel preached to them.

    As for songs that speak of God never letting us go, some of us were raised with the idea that God is this sadistic bully ready to damn any Christian who makes the slightest mistake. So these songs are a great comfort to those of us who struggle with the idea of God as a loving Father. So images of his love "like a tidal wave washing over me" combats the mental picture of God either ignoring us or standing over us with a bat just waiting for us to make a mistake. All of the songs you reference are written by and for people who know or have known deep pain.

  9. The Bible is pretty clear... Anyone selling the Word of God in any form (books, dvds, or other media) and anyone charging for their ministries (preachers, teachers, apostles, profits, or musicians) are NOT OF GOD...

    1. Where in the Bible does it say that?

    2. 1st Corinthians 9:3-14: "Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
      Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? 12If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."

    3. I think you missed the point of the verses you quoted. In them Paul is tell his readers that he is in fact free to have them support him fully (the Old Testament reference of not muzzling the ox is to say that it is free to eat while it works, so the teacher is free to be fed and housed while he preached.) Paul is saying that he CHOSE not to so that nobody could even INVENT a rumor that he was mooching off the people. We as Christians are commanded to support our ministers, that is the reason behind the tithe. In the Old Testament, the tithe was used to support the priests and their families, they ATE the food sacrificed at the Temple. In the New Testament the tithes were used to support the teachers of the Word. Jesus himself told his disciples not to take money with them on their journeys, but that those they taught were obligated to care for them. How did you miss all this? It is all through both Testaments of the Bible and very clear and obvious in the verses you quoted.

  10. I get this article and not every Christian artist may not have in mind glorifying God in His works, but I will also say this too..

    In response to this article and the person who wrote this article. Im going to go there. My challenge to those who point fingers to songs of Christian music.. If ONE, JUST ONE person comes to Jesus Christ, because of that song that may not sound "Christian" enough to somebody else, then thats Big!! When other Christians also attempt to judge or challenge other Christians who are putting themselves out there to express themselves and glorify God in their gifts, to live the commission, therefore potentially causing that person to stop or get fearful of what others may think then stopping, then that person who is pointing a finger is unknowingly hindering another Brother or Sister in Christ from doing the works that Father God has given them to do. Like in any form of work. What? Phil Collins' songs cant lead someone to Jesus too? What if He wrote a Christian song that pointed out the moneychangers and todays hypocrites?(And did, Genesis " Jesus He Knows Me"). I wish our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ would focus more on those who are currently going to hell and do and continue to do what theyre called to do and even if they dont agree with another Christian doing something for God whether they think so or not,, PRAY for them anyway and PRAY that God will do HIS WILL!! Not ours or what we think is Gods will. PRAY OVER THEM! PRAY THAT THEIR WORKS are the WORKS of God. If this keeps up with people in Christ doing this, the unsaved will get so put off of Christianity and Satan will keep laughing at us and we're falling into his plans.

    1. Thank you for your comments. God can certainly use anything to draw a person to Himself, but if an artist considers them self as being a Christian, they have a responsibility to properly present the gospel with great care. Since they are supposedly representing Christ, this is very, very important. As you mentioned many people who listen to their music are in fact on a path leading to hell - which is so sad - and that's exactly why it is important to lead them to the truth. But what an opportunity they have to share the whole counsel of God that people may be saved! So the lyrics must line up with the bible. If they do not, thousands, possibly millions are being misled by a misrepresentation of God's word. Considering there a multiple artists are doing this (many more of whom I didn't have room to mention) it is even more concerning! This is so dangerous for everyone involved. I don't understand why a person would take this lightly. Like myself, I hope you are also praying for them. I have a love for these artists, and I do pray for them, especially John Cooper. God bless you.

  11. This article is perhaps the most divisive and judgemental anti-Jesus sentiment i've ever read from a person who chose to speak for God. There are so many twisted interpretations of many of these lyrics its stunning. That said, I dont think the way this skillet guy shows the horn symbol and the whole looking like spinal tap thing is in any way Godly. Thats as judgemental as I choose to be towards him. I once sent a song I wrote to someone called "Over Me".. There is a lyric in that song that says..."..so I asked him to come in, I was down on my knees. The flood gates opened his living water rushed over me. His Grace, his love, His blood, washed over me. I was blind but now I see why He died at Calvary." The person I sent it to replied with the question..."so are you over you?" The point is THEY missed the point. The lyric is purely salvational. It is a direct statement of how I came to God through his Son my saviour Jesus Christ and how ANYONE may do the same. I was so concerned that this lyric might not be clear enough, it caused me to be stumble blocked as to even going on with the attempt to complete the entire project. That was MY mistake! I think this article, by being so judgemental is a blatant attempt to subvert the works of God through Christian musicians much the same way as my listener did by missing the point. Are there people being used by the devil through modern Christian music? Of that I think there is no doubt. Are there some lyrics (often times taken out of context) that are Biblcally unsound? Again sometimes yes. But I say (in reguards to this article) attacks and misrepresentation are not the way to address the issue. The important thing should always be... did some one get saved? BTW didnt we all recieve disernment through the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation?

    1. I don't speak for God and would never claim to do so. But that's why I quote the bible. God does have something to say about what comes out of our mouths. By the way, do you endorse the portion of their lyrics that leave sound doctrine? When I point out things that don't line up, I'm judgmental? The bible tells us to judge those inside the church and not those outside of it (1 Corinthians 5:12). Since they claim to be Christian, I am free to make a judgment on what they say. There is nothing wrong with pointing out error with Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness). God bless you.

  12. 2Cor. 7:10, Gal. 3:24, Acts 17:30. I believe John 5:32 as well.
    We have missed the real message of the Cross, especially in "religious" media. Paul said it was all about Christ crucified. It's time we get back to "pricking" people's hearts as Peter did in Acts 2 then this real grace, popularity hunting and money grabbing.