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“What’s the deal with contemporary Christian music? Is it as great as some say, or is it evil and vacuous, as others claim?” — Katy
We may not dismiss “contemporary Christian music” with a broad brush of self-righteous condemnation any more than we can accept the genre uncritically.
The question reflects the incessant squabble between lovers of hymns, ancient as well as modern, and proponents of more current styles of music. The conflict tends to be largely generational: old folks almost always decry the “new fangled stuff” and young folks almost always reject the “boring, old school” ways of their fathers.
Paul instructed the early church to sing a variety of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19-20; Co. 3:16).
Interestingly, his phrase to some degree reflects the historic progression of Western church music. In broad terms, the church of the Middle Ages followed a psalmody. The Protestant church of the 18th to 20th centuries sang “classical” hymns. The evangelical surge of the mid-20th century introduced an increasing focus on “spiritual songs” (called “choruses” or “praise and worship” music.)
Good and not so good reside in both the old and the new. Many hymns possess grandiloquent lyrics and familiar, stirring melodies. Concurrently, many also come with archaic language and stiff, stodgy melodies.
Contemporary music, a mostly-mediocre emulation of a variety of “secular” styles, speaks to a generation weaned on driving guitar and percussion.
Some modern Christian music is biblically based and prompts sincere worship. Some of it is also maddeningly repetitive and mind-numbingly simplistic.
At the end of the discussion, style is not really the issue. What matters is the message. Any song, regardless of style, if it is worthy of our attention, should at the very least remain true to the Scripture, exalt the living God, and build up believers — appealing equally to both heart and mind.