It may seem hard to remember but way back in the 1950’s a new style of music coalesced into what later became
known as Rock and Roll. Loudly denounced as “Devil Music” at that time for many, it is still the focus of rebellion
and evil. In fact as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) has made its way into Christian churches it is often still
identified as “Devil Music”. Today in numerous articles the focus of this evil is called Pentecostal music.
The fusion of
African tribal music with Southern Gospel, Country, Swing and Big Band music
gained momentum and
grew at a great rate. This mixture of different races in the new musical sensation was seen by some as terrible and
others as wonderful. In the 1960’s two influential books made their mark by proclaiming the evils of the Rock beat.
David Noebel’s book Rhythm Riots, and Revolution told us that Rock 'n' roll, with a voodoo inspired "jungle
beat", was a communist plot to hypnotize American youth into the communist world view. Bob Larson in The Devil’s
Diversion finds that the beat is the beat of the devil borrowed from primitive heathen rituals which beat in time with
the body’s natural rhythms, hypnotizing kids into moral decay. In a later book published in 1971 Bob Larson writes:
"When used excessively, under proper circumstances, the beat of rock is a force accommodating demonic
possession and therefore is not worthy as a vehicle to communicate the gospel". Bob Larson has since changed his
A recent trend in
Fundamentalist articles is to attack CCM as Pentecostal in origin and
ecumenical in direction.
Certainly not limited to the Seventh-day Adventist church, there is a Remnant mentality held in many other denominations
which see danger in the cross cultural and cross denominational appeal of CCM. A Christian artist or group who is
invited to perform in a Pentecostal church and a Methodist church and a Roman Catholic Church must be upto no good.
These fundamentalists have gone from “Devil Music”, that jungle music out of dark
of course is still the old “Devil Music” without the racial slur attached. Sadly when people don't have a real Biblical
principle on which to stand they resort to name calling and innuendo.
In the 1800’s
revivals spread across the American nation. With it came new ideas, new ways
of doing things, new
music, new denominations and new doctrines. The Salvation Army was a part of these changes with special emphasis
on Revivals and Temperance.
At one meeting
held by the Salvation Army on
his testimony in the words of “Bless His name, He set me free”. William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army asked
what was the tune to which the singer replied, “That's Champagne Charlie is my name". To which Booth responded
“Why should the devil have all the best tunes?”
“An early pamphlet made the Army's position clear by
saying that it 'considers all music sacred when used
with holy purpose'. For his Christmas message to War Cry readers of 1880 William Booth had already
written: ' Secular music, do you say, belongs to the devil? Does it? Well, if it did I would plunder him for it,
for he has no right to a single note of the whole seven. . . . Every note, and every strain, and every harmony
is divine, and belongs to us. . . . So consecrate your voice and your instruments. Bring out your comets [sic]
and harps and organs and flutes and violins and pianos and drums, and everything else that can make melody.
Offer them to God, and use them to make all the hearts about you merry before the Lord.' “(From
the Salvation Army website http://www1.salvationarmy.org)
It is popularly
thought that Martin Luther said, “Why should the Devil have all the good
music?” There is no known
reference for him making such a comment but he did write music in the style of his day which carried the beauty of the
best contemporary music into the church and the language of the common man. It can be easily imagined how some
would feel affronted that their beloved Latin chants were being replaced by the common German language of Martin
Luther’s hymns. A hymn of course in meaning is a song of praise to God, a song of joy or a lyrical composition used
in Religious services. Many forms of CCM are just as much hymns as anything in a hymnal, particularly those which
were written as modern worship music.
From the camp meetings begun at the beginning of the 19th century, religion on the American frontier was taking a
decided turn away from formalism to a more casual and accessible method of evangelism. Widespread through the
19th century, the Holiness Movement began to bring what many referred to as "excessive manifestations" of emotions
in the church. The Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians who began the camp meeting traditions saw tremendous
success as well as considerable charismatic activity at their gatherings which included more then just camp meetings.
James and Ellen White were present at such meetings and participated in some of the manifestations. (See Early Adventists
and Charismatic Worship Experiences by Ross Goldstone no longer available on the web... see instead Charismatic Experiences
in the Seventh-day Adventist Church; Present and Future by George E. Rice )
In 1898-99 a strain of fanaticism developed in the Indiana Camp meeting which has become a standard by which many
of the fundamentalist SDA’s found reason to attack CCM. Neil Livingstone writes in his article Holy Flesh &
“In 1898, Satan, through a false teaching known as the ‘Holy Flesh Movement’ in Indiana, made an unsuccessful attempt
to introduce a false Christ and a ‘Pentecostal’ or ‘Celebration’ type of worship into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
“Notice that Ellen White called the Holy Flesh deception a ‘din and noise’, and that this din and noise was ‘inspired by the
spirit of Satan.’ One of the outstanding features of this deception was a ‘Celebration’ type of worship and music, utilizing
a full band with drums. But that was not all. Along with the erroneous style of worship was taught dangerous heretical
There is no doubt that there were heretical doctrines taught by the Holy Flesh proponents. There always seems to be those
who want to create a new doctrine, certainly the SDA church has had its fair share throughout her history. But was this
music really the “din and noise” so many have taken it to be. If we look at the letter S.N. Haskell sent to Ellen White it
does not appear that the music was the problem. He writes:
There is a great power that goes with the movement that
is on foot there. It would almost bring anybody
within its scope, if they are at all conscientious, and sit and listen with the least degree of favor, because
of the music that is brought to play in the ceremony. They have an organ, one bass viol, [sic] three fiddles,
two flutes, three tambourines, three horns, and a big bass drum, and perhaps other instruments which I
have not mentioned.
They are as much trained in their musical line as any
Salvation Army choir that you ever heard. In fact,
their revival effort is simply a complete copy of the Salvation Army method, and when they get on a
high key, you cannot hear a word from the congregation in their singing, nor hear anything, unless it be
shrieks of those who are half insane. I do not think I overdraw it at all.--S. N. Haskell to EGW,
About the worst
thing that could be said from Haskell’s letter is that the music was loud, at
least from where he was
sitting. It is unlikely that the music was the problem there. Doctrine and fanaticism are most likely the “din and noise”.
Some of the Holiness movement emotional manifestations such as shouting “Glory,” “Hallelujah” jumping up and down
or fainting were possibly present. A letter to Ellen White by Ida V. Hadley dated June 1, 1900 offers clues to
what the Holy Flesh confusion was about. Some of her questions were: Was Mary's body made holy, sinless conception,
so that Christ was born from sinless flesh? Is it Bible doctrine that men need never have died, but all been translated,
if they only had grasped the "translation faith"? Is conversion a change of flesh from sinful to sinless? Is it possible to get
where we will not be tempted from within before Christ comes? (See Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years
Volume 5 1900-1905, Chapter Title: The Last Ten Days)
The issue was and is not music or drums but doctrines. As in many things it is what people think and teach rather than
what their musical preferences are that make the difference. Certainly not all music leads one toward God. Personal
preferences and opinions will always exist about music due to the complex of emotional and cultural as well as personal
experiences that come into play when a person hears music. But a distortion of history and blanket condemnation of fellow
Christians is not really a method responsible Christians should resort to. One does not need to be Pentecostal to appreciate
modern worship music.