The Good, the Bad and the Metal

I don't think it's a secret that I don't care for Christian music. It's bad enough that most of it is tailored to the lowest common denominator of pop accessibility and musical form. This is also true of the Billboard Hot 100. I mean when was the last time you knew someone who didn't refer to their music collection in terms of 3½-minute sound bytes complete with forced rhyme schemes? Besides, pop music needs only a pretty face that can hold a tune and strum a G chord. And this description can easily be applied to both seasoned musicians and grade school children.

Perhaps Christians simply can't compete in the more artistic arenas. Few of the world's greatest musical forces have confessed Christ, and Christian music in general is about as up-to-date with trends as Eastern Europe. But all of these things are forgivable for one simple reason: they're ignorant. And ignorance can be fixed. In fact, a simple seminar on music history before the 1950's could accomplish this. No, the real problem that I have with Christian music is that it "glorifies God."

photo credit: mithrandir3 via photopin cc
First of all, if you've ever spent time in an evangelical context, you've heard someone talk about music that doesn't glorify God. For me growing up, this was most often applied to bands like KoRn, Limp Bizkit, and Slipknot—all of which I listened to in protest. And while I've heard this said of many artists from Elvis to Lady Gaga, heavy metal is the clear winner in the offensive category for evangelicals. Granted, some of the Scandinavian acts are pretty sketchy and have spent well-earned time in prison for murders and church burnings (see Mayhem). And I suppose they could rightfully be called evil.

But it always makes me laugh when someone refers to the music as evil. Most of the time, what they really mean is that the lyrics promote evil. Again, throw instrumental music (a redundant phrase) into the mix here and most people will look at you like you've asked them to solve pi. Now if you pin them against the wall and ask them to explain why the music itself is evil, they usually fall back on the "because the artist didn't give glory to God" argument. And to this I would say, you don’t know what it means to glorify God.

It's a mistake to assume that man has any control over whether or not God gets his glory. Glory is inherent in everything that he does. When David says that the heavens declare the glory of God, the heavens were not consulted beforehand (Psalm 19:1). The fact that it was God who created them—their very nature—is what gives them the attribute of glorifying. In other words, when the work of God's hands does what he intended it to do, that is what brings him glory.

But what about those musicians who openly glorify themselves with their vulgar displays of showmanship? Honestly, even if Yngwie Malmsteen refuses to admit it, we all know that his immense talent was something he was given, and his exercise of it gives all the glory to the one who gave it.

So what about those musicians who glorify Satan in their music? Uh, Satan has no glory because a creature created cannot create. Or put another way, "purely evil music would not be music, because evil is nothing." We forget that Satan, though powerful, is literally nothing before God. So even the most evil-sounding heavy metal, the devil's music, is still the property of our almighty God. And believe it or not, God is glorified by defiant death metal just as much as he is by vapid worship music. Because both accomplish his purposes in music.


  1. Here's a link to a blog post I made a million years ago about how Christ was a metalhead.


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