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|
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"
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...
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)
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.
“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.
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).
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.
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