Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor, 

In the February 2023 issue, Onderwijzer was asked whether music’s rhythm or beat have “an inherent morality.” I appreciated his emphasis that music’s lyrics can be immoral. I am concerned with his view of music’s rhythm and beat as being amoral. He said, “Much of modern popular music is out of bounds for Christians not because of its beat or rhythm, but…” 

I am concerned that Onderwijzer gave our covenant youth the wrong message about an important issue. Music’s beat and rhythm affect one’s body, emotions, and spiritual state. Soothing harmonies to predictable rhythms (read: hymn music) calm people. Saul, afflicted by an evil spirit, had a harpist play for him (1 Sam. 16:16). As Elisha heard one playing on strings, “the hand of the Lord came upon him” (2 Kings 3:15). The emphasis here is not on lyrics, but the music itself. 

By contrast, a heavy beat and rhythm excite the emotions and affect the body. There is a reason why ungodly lyrics are usually paired to a certain kind of music, and God-glorifying lyrics to another kind. The world recognizes the point I am making. Find evidence in the article “So Music Is Neutral? Rock’s Performers Say No,” which quotes worldly performers’ own views about their music.1 

For further reading, I suggest three books: 1) T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal; 2) John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini, Can We Rock the Gospel? Rock Music’s Impact on Worship and Evangelism; and 3) John Blanchard, Pop Goes the Gospel. 

Young people, apart from its lyrics, rock music, and any other kind of music with a heavy beat, is wrong. Music’s rhythms and beats fall into three categories: 1) those suitable for public and private worship; 2) those suitable for secular occasions (marches, etc.) or recreational purposes (classical music); and 3) those which the devil knows he can use to his advantage.  

Christian rock is in the latter category. 

In Christ, 

Prof. Kuiper