Why can’t CCM have any good tunes?

Thanks to a tip from sheet-music, I hereby smackdown the urban myths (leveraged by the smacked-down commenters in this previous post) that

  • Luther stole hymn tunes (in particular, A Mighty Fortress) from popular drinking songs of his day
  • Luther ever said “Why should the Devil have all the good music”.
  • If Luther said that, that he meant “let’s get secular-style music into the church”

Here is a quote, from Leonard Payton, Reforming Our Worship Music, Wheaton: Crossway, 1999 (p. 205), sent to me by sheet-music:

Many Christians who appropriate the goods of popular culture cite Luther as a precedent. A common claim is that Luther used tunes “from the bar.” However, musicological research since 1923 is weighing in heavily for Luther as the composer of his own melodies. Luther did use a musical form called a “bar” form. But this is a technical term referring to the architecture of music, not, as would normally be expected, a place where alcoholic beverages are consumed. Others mistakenly cite Luther’s famous question, “Why should the devil have all the good tunes?” When Luther spoke of the devil metaphorically, it was directed at the pope, not the pub. To rephrase what Luther was saying, “Why should we leave the great old hymns to the Roman Catholics?” It was an apology for the traditional, not the contemporary!

In searching the web, I found an excellent (and longer) article by one Paul S. Jones, organist and Music Director at Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA. The webpage itself was not available, so I was able to read it only from Google’s cached copy. Since it would be unfortunate indeed if this article were to perish, I blockquote the whole thing now, and I will eagerly replace it with a link if it ever appears in a live web page again.

Luther and Bar Song—The Truth, Please!

by Paul S. Jones, D. M.

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that Luther used tavern music for his hymns and that “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was a drinking song, I would be a wealthy man. However, such assertions are simply not true. These are falsehoods perpetrated on the evangelical world in an effort to support the CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) industry. Supposedly Luther’s hymn was a “bar song” which evidences use of secular music in church. This purportedly corresponds with a question attributed to Luther, “Why should the Devil have all the good music?” On this basis many have championed the use of popular music in the church provided it is “sanctified” by adding sacred text. Their conclusion: as long as the words are Christian, the music is of little consequence; and worse yet, the world’s music is the best way to win people to Christ. The careless acceptance of these errant ideas has done great damage to the integrity of church music and worship in our time. There are at least four errors to counter.

First, Luther’s battle hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, is NOT a tavern song, nor is it based on one. Luther composed both the text (based on Psalm 46) and the original tune for this chorale in 1529. Luther was a fine composer and none of his tunes can be traced back to drinking songs. While some were derived from Gregorian chant or other pre-existing compositions, only one was even based on a secular folk song—his Christmas hymn, “From Heaven on High I Come to You” (Von Himmel Hoch). And this tune was replaced after a time because “Luther was embarrassed to hear the tune of his Christmas hymn sung in inns and dance halls.”[1] Perhaps this is the source of some of the confusion.

Overall, Luther was careful in his choice of music for the church. And his purposes for composition are completely other than secular and as confirmed by his own words:

Therefore, I too, with the help of others, have brought together some sacred songs, in order to make a good beginning and to give an incentive to those who can better carry on the Gospel and bring it to the people. . . .And these songs were arranged in four parts for no other reason than that I wanted to attract the youth (who should and must be trained in music and other fine arts) away from love songs and carnal pieces and to give them something wholesome to learn instead. . . .[2]

The primary mistake made was confusing tavern music with “bar form.” Bar form is a standard form from German music and literature of the Middle Ages consisting of three or more stanzas. Each stanza was divided into two Stollen (the “A” lines) and one Abgesang (the “B” section). This resulted in an AAB structure, or other variations such as AABA. Bar form is used for many strophic hymns, perhaps most commonly in hymns from Germany and the British Isles. For example, in the famous tune by Beethoven from the fourth movement of his Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, the “Ode to Joy”, to which we often sing the words “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” the “A” melody line is repeated forming the first half of the hymn. The “B” line follows contributing further melodic and harmonic development. Then the “A” section is repeated to close the piece. Such is also the case with Luther’s ‘Ein’ Feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress) although the repeat of “A” at the end is modified slightly. Bar form has nothing to do with drinking.[3]

The second error is in believing that the statement “Why should the Devil have all the good music?” (as applied to Luther) has anything to do with pop music, or for that matter has anything to do with Luther. Pop music did not even exist in Luther’s time; it is a phenomenon of the twentieth century. Did secular music exist? Of course it did. There was music of the courts, music of the bards and troubadors, and folk/dance music of the common people. But this music was not mass-produced with the intention of making vast amounts of money, and it was not used in the church. The only association the statement has with pop music is that Larry Norman wrote a song by that very title. He and others used this song as a means of championing their music within the Christian church.

The third error has to do with the statement’s attribution. It was actually the Rev. Rowland Hill (1744-1833), a London pastor and evangelist, who said, “Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?”[4] Hill was concerned over the lamentable quality of music in his church (Surrey Chapel, built for him in 1783) and he wanted do something about it. So Hill wrote hymns and compiled/published five collections of psalms and hymns, three of which were specifically for children and schools. In spite of readily available documentation, the statement has been misattributed to Luther as well as to both Wesley brothers, Isaac Watts and even D. L. Moody.[5] In the January 1997 issue of Concordia Theological Journal, James L. Brauer offered a $25 reward to any Luther scholar who could find the quote in Luther’s works. No one met the challenge.

But even if Luther uttered such a statement, it would not have been in an effort to bring tavern or folk music into the church. It would have been directed at the Roman Catholic Church and its pope to whom Luther frequently referred as “the Devil.” In other words, “Why should the pope (i.e., the Roman church) have all the good church music? Our Protestant churches should have it too.” The music that Luther loved and redeemed for the Lutheran church was music written for Rome by Josquin des Prez, Orlando di Lasso, G. P. da Palestrina, and other master composers of the day admired for their musical skill and attention to text. In other words, if the question was Luther’s, it would support the idea that artistic music of great composers should be employed in worship—the polar opposite of what many would like it to mean.

The fourth error is the belief that adding sacred text or Christian words to a tune makes it worthy of use in worship. Adding scriptural text to a ‘heavy metal’ tune does not make it any more appropriate for worship than sprinkling confectioner’s sugar on moldy bread will make it suitable for communion. Its potential for harm remains undiminished. While some people will be fooled and will put themselves or their congregations in harm’s way, careful consideration will uncover the truth. A related error is the notion that as long as the words are inoffensive the music is of little consequence. The music used in worship is of great consequence because it communicates at a level deeper than words. In fact, the musical message may be more powerful than the verbal message in a particular song.

Text and music should match each other well. If the text is trite and meaningless, it has no place in worship. Yet, at times, profound texts are wed to music with inferior structure or harmony, so that “the aesthetic form communicates fun and good times to most people rather than the worship of Almighty God…”[6] This does not mean that all light or popular music is “bad”; rather, it suggests that not all music is appropriate to worship or to particular thoughts and ideas about God.

Our heavenly Father deserves and demands the best we have to offer. Our lives are to be living sacrifices (Romans 12). We are told to think on whatever is good, lovely, and virtuous (1 Thessalonians 5). This requires making choices about what is good, lovely and virtuous. As literature or art can be critiqued according to certain standards, so music can be judged according to objective parameters, specifically melody, harmony, rhythm and form. While some judgments will be subjective, absolute principles governed by the laws of science and nature and born out in human experience inform our knowledge of good form, artistic content, and musical excellence. Our relativistic, pluralistic society says otherwise, of course, in direct opposition to the gospel and to biblical standards for godly living.

Everyone will have an opinion about music and will know what they like, but a trained church musician with theological understanding will be best equipped to make decisions about what is “good” church music. One of the primary responsibilities of the church musician is to be a steward and protector of the church’s praise. This points to our need for musically educated, theologically astute church musicians who will care for us in this regard. It also points to our need for congregations and pastors who will search for and value these kind of musical leaders. Such is the kind of person Luther commended, and such is the quality of music that he sought for the church. Any other myth that abuses Luther and others in support of trivial, commercial, ‘pop’ music in worship should be put to death. Spread the word.

Copyright © 2003 by Paul S. Jones.

All Rights Reserved.

[1] Paul Nettl, Luther and Music, (trans. F. Best and R. Wood) Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1948, p. 48.[2] Martin Luther, from the foreword to the first edition of Johann Walter’s Geistliches Gesangbüchlein, 1524. [3] This does not mean, however, that Luther did not enjoy good beer.

[4] See John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 10th ed., (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1919), p. 861 as well as the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University press, 1979) and E. W. Broom’s 1881 biography of Hill, The Rev. Rowland Hill: Preacher and Wit, all of which attribute the quote to the famous preacher.

[5] Mark Nabholz, “Give Luther a Rest” in The Journal of the Church Music National Conference, Fall 2002.

[6] Leonard Payton, Reforming Our Worship Music, Wheaton: Crossway, 1999, p. 14.


75 Responses

  1. So are we saying that only music from Luther's time back is good for the church? There is plenty of great CCM—just becasue there is a lot of bad CCM does not mean it is all bad. Jeff Johnson has been making great music for years. Some of it worship music, some of it Christian worldview, but all with artistic intergrity.

  2. Fortunately, we're not presented with a Luther's time vs. CCM black-and-white once-and-forever choice (some of our TH faves, like We Are God's People and O God Beyond All Praising and We Come O Christ To You are late-1900s). But music which we still have from Luther's time has lasted through centuries of survival of the fittest, so we can be pretty sure it's good stuff. Undoubtedly one of the reasons there is a lot of bad CCM is that the natural winnowing process has not yet taken its toll. And not every church is as selective as ours when it comes to music choices.

    The intent of this post is simply to combat the incorrect concept that culturally popular music always makes for good worship music, simply because it is popular. Or at least that Luther sets an example for that fallacy. If you want an over-the-top, over-generalized critique of CCM, you should go here… (especially the comments).

  3. Not at all. I’m jumping in midstream here. I am a passionate music person. Having grown up in wildly different church backgrounds, I have encountered just about every argument about music, from evil beats, to no music at all in church. I am reading a collection of essays and letters by C.S. Lewis called Christian Reflections and the very subject he is writing about in the current chapter is church music. There is so much bad music in general, it is no surprise that there is bad church music. Sometimes, though, I suspect that church people like old hymns becasue they are old, and being old, are accepted, thereby relieving them of the obligation to creatively express themselves in words that come from a genuine love of the Lord, like Luther, Watts, Wesley and many others have. I love Graham Kendricks songs, as they are both well-written, and have music that works today, if that is the correct way of saying it. One thing is certain, most of the Marantha Praise music, isn’t worth the cost of the cd imprint.

  4. So, heavy metal is bad?

  5. Consider it; even without words, the music is about anger, aggression, and rebellion. Not to mention the clothes, hair, and sneering attitudes. There are no lyrics that can be put to metal music that can make it edifying. I guess I could grant that the less sanctified among us could find a use for metal in, say, maintaining bicycle cadence up a tough hill, or pumping through a hard workout. That would be leveraging the aggressiveness for the purpose of aggression (subtle difference). Maybe I’m just buying into a stereotype, but if there is heavy metal music which is not angry and rebellious, it’s probably not really heavy metal. I just can’t imagine a heavy metal devotee espousing that the essence of heavy metal is good clean fun.

    An interesting quote from Dr. Tom here as well, who condemns hippie music in the style of Peter, Paul, and Mary for the purposes of worship, because the message of the music is “there’s nothing worth fighting for”, and that message would fight any Christian lyric that might be paired with it. I’m not sure I would condemn all hippie music with that broad brush (wasn’t Keith Green a hippie (or is there more to hippies than hair?)), but there are certainly songs to which that would accurately apply.

    The point is not that we should be like Luther and only use music from Luther’s time. The point is that we should be like Luther, and discern which music from our time (or any other time) is profitable and suitable for worship. And I do believe that whatever those standards are can be considerably relaxed for Christian music which is for the purpose of personal entertainment (i.e. ‘Contemporary Christian Music’ as on the radio), rather than corporate worship.

  6. Okay, I’ll get serious here.

    I think of music like I think of a gun or money. The person using it determines the moral relevance or state. Yes, I would agree there are “Christian” songs that were written and performed by “Christians” that were more in the flesh than in the Spirit. However, I don’t think I could ever agree that a “style” of music is inherently good or bad.

    I would however agree that there are types of music that are less suitable or not suitable at all for worship.

    Okay, I think that resolves it and the problem is solved, right?


  7. As much as agreement that “God’s law staying valid unless the Law Giver Himself invalidates it” settles the question of Theonomy…

  8. It’s more agreement than 99% of any other non-theonomist I’ve ever met, so okay.

    Of course, I think you can tell I was writing tongue in cheek above. It’s nice to have some lighter threads to contribute to.

  9. I find that really surprising. I don’t see why 100% of Christians (even non-reformed) wouldn’t agree with that statement, because (by itself) it allows for the possibility that God invalidated all Old Testament law.

    But to continue discussing that here would be thread-jacking, and I’m pretty sure I saw a verse about that somewhere in II Hesitations…

  10. I know it’s hijacking, but quickly

    some others say that if it’s not repeated in the NT, then it is invalid. Still others say that only natural revelation is binding today. Still others say that God intruded justice on OT, so even if we don’t see a NT abrogation, there is much that is abrogated.

    See ya tomorrow!

  11. Case 1: God’s law is valid until the lawgiver himself invalidates the whole thing in the new covenant.

    Case 2: I’ve never heard of.

    Case 3: is kind of irrelevant to the question.

    But the lawgiver statement is a tautology, so everybody will agree with it, because everybody will reserve the right to define their own terms (how/when did the lawgiver himself invalidate what part of the law)?

  12. seehere for a heavy metal experience that is not necessarily rebellious, angry, etc. Instead, I find it to be rather well-concieved and executed, and yet still described as heavy metal. Consequently, the vocalist is a trained opera singer, which is just cool.


  13. I am way late in this post, but I found your blog looking for info on the Hoagies and Stogies event coming up. I thought I would post some lyrics for your consideration.

    The mysteries of the cross I cannot comprehend
    The agonies of Calvary
    You the perfect Holy One crushed Your Son
    Who paid the bitter price for even me

    Your blood has washed away my sin,
    Jesus, thank You
    The wrath of God completley satisfied
    Jesus, thank You
    Once Your enemey, now seated at Your table
    Jesus, thank You

    By Your perfect sacrifice I’ve been brought near
    Your enemy You’ve made Your friend
    Pouring out the riches of Your glorious grace
    Your mercy and Your kindness know no end

    Your blood has washed away my sin,
    Jesus, thank You
    The wrath of God completley satisfied
    Jesus, thank You
    Once Your enemey, now seated at Your table
    Jesus, thank You

    This was written in 2005 by a Sovereign Grace Ministries writer. It is not in a hymn style like most of Keith Getty’s new stuff, but it is a great song. Y\

  14. Hey thanks for dropping by! I gladly agree that your lyrics are clearly superior to most CCM (and it’s not that surprising, coming from a ministry named “Sovereign Grace”, since we know what kind of theological leanings those buzzwords imply)

    I have a lot of other irons in the fire right now, but I am brewing up a post on other modern hymns that I find to be excellent, including a recent discovery (“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”) from the serious back half of Gene’s satirical Seeker Community Church radio ad.

  15. I would like to add that…wait, I hear the bass and keyboard warming up in the sanctuary…TIME TO ROCK AND ROLL FOR JESUS BABEEEEEEEE!

  16. 2 keyboards, 1 electric bass, 1 trap set, 1 drum machine, 1 electric guitar, 1 aucoustic guitar, 3 singers, and, every once in a blue moon, an alto sax.

    Here is a raw sampling of my cousin singing “I Can Only Imagine” with the band (with no reahearsal) the Sunday after my Dad passed away…gives you an idea, anyway. http://iglesiabiblica.us/nrjimagine.mp3

  17. FWIW, “I can only imagine” is a song that floats my boat, and it’s a powerful choice to focus the body on the hope and the promise God gives us, especially in the wake of a brother who has experienced the fulfillment of that hope and promise.

  18. Yeah, I never thought I would be a graveyard visitor, but I’ve been out every couple of weeks to sing, pray and read my Bible by Dad and Sam’s graves. Nothing comforts me like the Bible.

  19. FACT: For the first 1,000 years of the Christian Church there were no musical instruments used, and this was based on synagogue worship (note: the synagogue is not the temple). The only matter up for debate is whether or not the synagogues used music in the past and stopped using it to mourn the destruction of the temple, or if they never had music in the synagogues at all. But of course, if they changed their practice to mourn the destruction of the temple, it would make no sense for Christians to follow it, because they were glad to see the temple destroyed, since Christ fulfills the temple worship.

    FACT: some of the psalms were originally Canaanite worship hymns to Ba’al. The psalmists merely changed “Ba’al” to “Yahweh”.

    PS about the law being done away with: the moral law remains, the ceremonial law is done away with. Why? Because the ceremonial law pointed forward to the coming Christ, so when He came, the ceremonial law became unnecessary, thus obsolete. Kind of like tongues. Christ fulfilled the law. And He did so on our behalf. That’s the moral law, dig? The ceremonial law pointed to Christ. Now we have the substance. The shadows and types that pointed to Christ now fade.

    Col 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
    Col 2:17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

    It’s not because God revoked the law, but because they had served their purpose. their purpose was to point to Christ, and to testify about him beforehand. Once he had come, you don’t need to point to him in shadows, he has come. He is with us. Dig?

  20. From the essay “On Church Music”, by C.S. Lewis:

    There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God.

    The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect.

    Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense.

    But where the opposite situation arises, where the musician is filled with the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on all who would try to improve their taste – there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.

  21. Music as a means of grace?

    Where’d you get that from?

    Please define means of grace. The reformed have restricted this category to Word and sacrament, and there is some debate about prayer, which I think IS a means of grace. But music?


  22. Judging from the context, and interpreting what I think C.S. Lewis was trying to say, and translating it into more theologically correct language, I think maybe “means of edification” would be a better phrase.

    I do like the whole quote though, and I would also add that one can go too far in this direction: if somebody immerses themselves in a church that has entirely opposite-brow music, they will end up all sacrifice, and no edification — like a bad, imbalanced marriage where, say, the husband does puts in all of the effort and sacrifice, and the wife is just out shopping all the time; or the wife puts in all of the effort and sacrifice, and the husband is just out golfing all the time.

    So there has to be balance. Whatever range of musical tastes exist in a congregation, each should be actively seeking to consider others above themselves, therefore everybody will be edified by their own kind of music — not because they are seizing the prize for themselves and forcing it down others’ throats, but because their brothers love them and are seeking to bless them.

    But if somebody is in a church with a musical situation where they are completely unable to be edified because the music is so crappy, and if they stick around just so they can take credit for the self-sacrifice, well that’s just pride.

  23. I get a kick out of Rube translating C.S. Lewis into more “theologically correct language”. Atta Boy!

    “But if somebody is in a church with a musical situation where they are completely unable to be edified because the music is so crappy, and if they stick around just so they can take credit for the self-sacrifice, well that’s just pride.”

    “They are completely unable to be edified” interesting…

    “music is so crappy” interesting…

  24. Wouldn’t it be awful if you were stuck in a church with a musical philosophy of “we want to sound like KYXY”?

  25. I think every reader of this blog would feel like they were stuck hearing unedfying “crappy” music (according to your subjective criteria)in say Phillipi 1900 years ago. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing what worship sounds like in India you would probably want to rip your ears off. Even tribal African music which we fantasize as melodious and rhythmic is extrememly uncomfortable to our american ears. It’s NOT like it is in the movies. Calling a style that is not your preference “crappy” is silly.

  26. who said music was a means of grace? whoever did, please answer echo.

    i recall godfrey recently speaking to this and he was dead on, and i had never thought of it that way.

    whenever the subject of worship comes up it ALWAYS revolves around music. why do people care so much about music? because they see it as a means of grace, just like all things experiential in our day.

    music as a means of grace! only in american piety.


  27. oh, i think it was albino quoting lewis…which appears to be sort of critical of this notion of music as means of grace, but it seems unclear.

    is that what lewis was saying? i hope so.


  28. Here is a link where you can find the C. S. Lewis quote, and another from the same article.

    By saying “Church Music will have been a means of grace; … They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense“, he seems to believe that anything that makes you sacrifice or deny self is a means of grace? I dunno. It’s a pretty ambiguous statement that I think makes best sense if “has been a means of grace” is read as “made you feel good”.

  29. this is just a case of something being “lost in translation”. I remember watching sproule tear apart packer over his use of the word “antinomy” on a DVD I was watching. rube you spent time in the UK, do you think Lewis is implying what Z and echo seem to think he is implying?

  30. I dunno. I don’t think I ever said or heard the phrase “means of grace” while I lived in the UK. In any case, C. S. Lewis is a popular theologian, not a systematic theologian. He’s also wrong sometimes, but I think not often enough or bad enough that he should be written off completely (like Finney)

  31. No, of course he shouldn’t be written off entirely. That said, he isn’t reformed in the strict sense of the word, so perhaps he did mean to include music as worship in the category of “means of grace” as some/most reformed include prayer, because that’s what singing in church ultimately is. Perhaps singing to the Lord, considered as prayer, might be considered a means of grace, but I think surely that should be divorced from the music. Anyway…

  32. C.S. Lewis rocks. And Ravi Zacharias rocks too. And I’m really pleased with myself that I used a musical term to describe them in this thread!

  33. ravi likes to show up on christian tv. i recently saw him on james robison’s always stimulating show called ‘life today.’ wow, riveting stuff.



  34. hahahahahahahahaha…


  35. I’m sure Ravi is devastated by Zrim’s rejection of his ministry. While he continues to preach Jesus Christ crucified to audiences full of skeptics at Yale, Harvard and UCLA.

  36. Look at that! Something actually IS sacred to Albino!

    In all seriousness though, look at this:

    That’s Ravi’s mission statement. Or the statement of his corporation that he named after himself. His belief statement shows that his hope is in Christ, but he seems to desire to reach the world for Christ by trying to influence culture. Once the culture is influenced, apparently, then more people will want to go to church. I find this approach seriously misguided, and I think the Bible would too.

    Just so you can see that I read it, I do see this passage:

    Act 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
    Act 9:16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

    And this:

    Mat 10:18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

    I see them. I don’t deny them. I still say Ravi has got the wrong idea. Way, way wrong idea.

    But he is a believer according to his confession, so he is merely misguided. I wonder what has guided him? But that’s none of my business.


  37. sigh…poor Ravi forgot to run everything by Echo first. But if you frown on Billy Graham, poor Ravi didn’t have a prayer of getting your stamp of approval.

  38. I, for one, can’t wait until you get out of seminary and get into the ministry. Less nitpicking from the sidelines and more getting into the action of the arena.

  39. He ministers to me every single day.

  40. Ok, I take back my snide comment. Don’t know Echo personally.

  41. In all seriousness though, look at this:

    What is wrong? We are all part of the same body, but not the same part. We need people like this with a LARGE vision and a LARGE calling. Not everyone will be a pastor of a 100 member church. You do what you are called to do and let everyone else do the same and the Word of God will get preached throughout the world.

    I sense that the larger one’s ministry becomes the more His “faith” and “motives” come into question (see Mega-churches, Billy Graham, Ravi, etc…), why is this? Hopefully not an inferiority complex.

  42. Matt,

    I was talking about his goal of ministering to the heads of state, those who influence culture. He wants to meet with heads of state in order to influence culture, and somehow, this is supposed to increase the number of people who go to heaven in some efficient way.

    For those of us who have a very strict view of the separation of church and state, this is a problem. So what, he’s going to convince the kings of the world that Christianity is ok, and they’ll then make it the state religion and institute theonomic states?

    If you’re against theonomy, it naturally follows that you would think what Ravi is doing is a bad idea. If you are for theonomy, then what Ravi is doing is a great idea, and a great way to advance your cause. Hey, maybe he is a post-millennialist, trying to usher in the eschaton. You can’t hardly blame a guy for that, unless of course you’re not a post-millennialist, in which case you would think that what he is doing is, well, misguided.


  43. Why can’t one of the groups Ravi feels called to be cultural and political leaders? Paul was sent to the Gentiles, and talks about limiting his boasting “to his assigned field”. Why can’t we accept that Ravi has been sent by God in part to reach heads of state? Let’s not limit God, here.

  44. Maybe you should read his mission statement again. His purpose in meeting with heads of state is not to evangelize THEM per se, but rather THROUGH THEM to influence the world’s culture. That’s what I’m taking issue with.

    And really, if you’re against theonomy, then you should be uncomfortable with what he’s saying he’s trying to do. Just think about it.


  45. Empowering others to minister the gospel to the people they influence. Leaders training leaders. Seems I have read this somewhere, oh yea the book of Acts!

    Don’t fear the spread of the gospel, embrace it, even if those doing the spreading are not seminary graduates with a doctorate in Theology!

  46. Matt,

    Why do you think I fear the spread of the gospel? You know I’m studying to be a minister, yet you actually have the nerve to accuse me of fearing the spread of the gospel?

    Why do you hate thinking so much? Do you want a government that mandates that everyone be a Christian? Do you think such a government would allow different opinions about Christianity? Do you want to go back to a blend of church and state? Apparently Ravi does.

    I am asking you to think for a minute. Do you know what theonomy is? Consider it, think about it, use your mind a little. Don’t just arrogantly react against me because you don’t like me and disagree with me about everything. Engage your mind, which you have so far refused to do. That you have refused to think is abundantly evident by what you have said.

    If you don’t know what theonomy is, Rube’s got plenty of threads on his blog about it. Surely you will learn what it is and you will see arguments for and against it.

    If you don’t know what it is, then how could you possibly understand what I’m saying about Ravi? And if you don’t understand what I’m saying about Ravi, how could you be so arrogant as to make these kinds of assumptions, such as my supposed FEAR of the spread of the GOSPEL!

    You’ve got a LOT of nerve making such an accusation. I don’t know how you thought that that would be a good idea.

    It is not the spread of the gospel that I fear. It is rather my belief, and it is taught in the Bible, that the church, NOT the state, is where the gospel is spread. I believe in the separation of church and state, and therefore I don’t seek to spread the gospel through the power of the state. And to try to do so is a very, very, very bad idea. Surely you know something about the history of the Roman Catholic church, don’t you, and the Roman Empire?

    Try and think for a minute. Everyone seems to think that it’ll be a good idea to have socialized health care in our country, but some of us think that the government will only make everything more complicated and inefficient. Ask yourself is socialized religion under the supervision of the state is a good idea. Just ask yourself that. Do you really want the government telling you how to interpret the Bible? What if someone who thinks just like me became President, and forced all the American churches to teach reformed theology? You wouldn’t like that one bit would you, what with all that deep thinking involved. Imagine having to go to church and think through what was being said!

    Having the government in control of religion is a very bad thing, and even you should be able to see that. What Ravi is doing is a step in that direction, and it is clearly a deliberate step in that direction. But if you don’t think that direction is a good place to go, then you shouldn’t want to take steps in that direction either.

    Don’t hate thinking. Thinking is a good thing. God does command us to love him with all our minds as well as our hearts. Don’t just feel things like a teenage girl. Think. Don’t just react, think about it. Carefully.


  47. Echo,

    Slow down tiger! Just because some people within a given government become Christians does not mean they are going to institute a state religion. How can you make this jump so easily? Are we not to preach to those in authority because we fear they will abuse their newfound faith?

    I do not see anywhere in his mission statement where he is advocating a state sponsored religion. You, my friend, are paranoid.

  48. it is intended to TOUCH both the heart and the intellect of the thinkers and opinion-makers of society and to REACH and CHALLENGE those who shape the ideas of a culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Maybe I can save 10,000 words from Echo, but this looks to me (just as Echo described) as one step removed from having important people do the work of the gospel for us. He even goes beyond saying that he wants to evangelize just any old important people, but he wants to evangelize “opinion-makers” and “those who shape the ideas of a culture”. Why would he describe his target mission field in those words, unless his ultimate goal was for them to use their power of “opinion-making” and “culture-shaping” to advance Christianity? Shades of Constantine!

    And was I the only one who noticed the astounding similarity between ‘zrim’ and RZIM?? Coincidence, or Conspiracy!

  49. Thank you Rube, my thoughts exactly.

  50. Frankly, I couldn’t get by this:

    The primary mission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) is to support, expand, and enhance the preaching and teaching ministry of Ravi Zacharias.

    because of all the vomit that I had to wipe off my monitor.

  51. I don’t see how it is negative to have policy makers who subscribe to Judeo-Christian Ethics.

    This is different then state sponsored religion.

    matt’s point is that in the book of Acts Paul clearly tried to convert Agrippa and Festus. Indeed Paul’s appeal to Caesar seems to have been an effort to gain audience with the highest possible authority. Every person needs the gospel, but the reality is that certain people can’t be reached by you or I. As much as i would love to have a ministry to professional Athletes I think a guy like Miles Mcpherson is better suited for that. As much as I would like to have a ministry to Public officials I think a guy like Ravi Z is better suited for that. As much as I would like to have a ministry to little kids I think a guy like Rafi would be better suited for that. You get the point.

  52. FWIF I don’t know anything about Ravi Z or any other Pop-Christian icon. Not enough to criticize them, not enough to condone them. I have enough concerns with my own ministry.

  53. Echo, either you are an awesome writer or you seriously have anger issues.
    I think you and Rube “have jumped the gun” on this one. For example, I look for the “lesser of the two evils” when I decide who I will be voting for in the next election. I want someone in power who on a moral basis “more closely” lines up with my morals (that’s a lot to ask for I know).
    If you ask me I would absolutely prefer a God fearing christian to be in control of our government over a say, Ms. Clinton or Romney. Where’s the problem?

    You said,
    ” Do you want a government that mandates that everyone be a Christian? I don’t even know if this is even worth repeating, …..mandating that you be a Christian? I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt because you were probably raging with anger when that was written.

    You said,
    “It is rather my belief, and it is taught in the Bible, that the church, NOT the state, is where the gospel is spread”

    I say,
    So we shouldn’t be spreading the gospel whenever and with whomever? You lost me there. Too big of a stretch for me to say that the gospel is only to be preached in the church.

  54. the gospel is only to be preached in the church

    Much more accurate to say “the gospel is only to be preached BY the church. Although it is also an important point (but tangential to this discussion) to remember that the gospel also needs to be continually preached IN the church and TO the church.

    Paul clearly tried to convert Agrippa and Festus

    Indeed. But is there evidence (beyond Dbalc saying “Paul’s appeal to Caesar seems to have been an effort to gain audience with the highest possible authority”) that Paul intended to convert them with a goal of “impacting the culture”?

    Now to turn this question inside out, we recently heard at our church from a missionary to Jordan (I think it was Jordan — some muslim middle-eastern country) who described how, due to doors that God had opened, half of their team had shifted their focus to evangelizing prominent politicians and members of the royal family.

    So does the question change if the purpose of evangelizing politicians is not to get them to promote Christianity through the state, but to get them to stop hindering Christianity with the state?

  55. Alex and Daniel,

    Obviously, neither one of you knows what theonomy is, because neither one of you seems at all interested in avoiding it, and I’m convinced that if you knew what it was, you would avoid any step in that direction.

    And clearly, neither one of you is reading very carefully what is said. Note Rube’s post 51 again. This guy is not going to heads of state in order to teach them to act justly within a judeo-christian mindset. He’s trying to evangelize them for the purpose of affecting culture so as to make it more Christian. As if to say that if only more heads of state were Christians, then there would be more Christians in the world. The OBVIOUS implication is a goal of bringing about a world wide theonomic state. Don’t you know what postmillennialists believe? They believe that the whole world will basically become entirely Christian before Christ returns. They believe that they are responsible for bringing that about. If you don’t agree that that’s Ravi’s motives, fine, bring your evidence for THAT. But if you can in fact recognize that that’s what he’s trying to do, then you would do well to be wary of it, because it shows that Ravi has a theonomic mindset and is working toward bringing theonomy about.

    Do not again make an argument that what he is doing on the surface of it is fine. Talk about his motives or don’t talk at all. If you want to argue that we have misjudged his motives, then make your argument for that. We are saying that what he is doing is bad because of WHY he is doing it.

    Do not tell me how heads of state are people too, and they too need the gospel. Do not tell me that they need to understand the law of God in order to rule justly. Don’t tell me that. That’s not what’s being discussed here. Thanks.


  56. Much more accurate to say “the gospel is only to be preached BY the church

    What is your definition of “the church”?

    The primary mission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) is to support, expand, and enhance the preaching and teaching ministry of Ravi Zacharias.

    I definitely found this to be slightly self-seeking as well.

  57. Echo,
    I don’t know the guy to be able to defend his motives.

    I didn’t get the “obvious implication” like you did but that may be because I don’t like over analyzing things.

    You said, ” He’s trying to evangelize them for the purpose of affecting culture so as to make it more Christian.”

    I say, again isn’t it better for the culture to be more Christian as opposed to more mormon, or liberal?
    I have kids, of course I would love the culture to be more Christ-like but I also understand the Bible says that it’s not going to be. Did you catch that? It’s not going to get better because the Bible says it’s going to get worse. This does not change my desire for all men to come to the saving knowledge of Christ and that includes the leaders of this great nation.

    “The primary mission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) is to support, expand, and enhance the preaching and teaching ministry of Ravi Zacharias.”

    I definitely don’t like this comment above.

  58. Alex,

    1) he gives us blatant clues as to what his motives are. Granted, a little bit of reading between the lines is required, but not much.

    2) Define over-analyzing. It seems like – and please correct me if I’m wrong – you’re trying to say that any analysis at all is over-analyzing.

    3) Is it better for the culture to be more Christian or more…pagan? Sure. But it’s not the church’s job to fix the culture, but to be separate from the culture. The importance of this point is hard to overstate. Again, we shouldn’t be seeking to save souls through bettering the culture. Saving souls should be done through the preaching of the Word by the church. Ravi is not a church. Let’s not forget that. He is an independent entity.

    Is the culture going to get better or worse? I don’t know, I think intelligent Spirit-filled theologians can come down on both sides of this issue. But the job of the church is not to worry about that. The job of the church is to be separate. We need to give up on the world’s culture and believe what the Bible says about it, namely that the world HATES God. And the Bible says that we ought not be surprised at that. There is no hope for the world as a whole. There is hope for the people of God. And we should try to bring people OUT OF the world and INTO the people of God. But it is not the world that will be saved, but only the people of God who will be saved. We need to give up on the culture, and work on bringing people into church, not exploding the boundaries of the church.

    This guy could be doing much more for the kingdom of God by preaching the Word to a congregation every week.


  59. I say, again isn’t it better for the culture to be more Christian as opposed to more mormon, or liberal?

    That’s like asking, isn’t it better for a snake to be more human, as opposed to more like a donkey, or a platypus (not trying to draw one-to-one parallels there, but that could be an interesting exercise!). There is the Kingdom of God, and there is the Kingdom of Man. Never the twain shall meet — except for US! The Kingdom of Man cannot be ‘Christian’, and trying to make any person or institution be ‘more Christian’ without first applying the required gracious, faith-based salvation, is to be dealing with a works-based version of Christianity. I.e. a watered-down, bastardized, worthless violation of the namesake of Christianity.

    The only possible way for a culture to be ‘more Christian’, is for the Kingdom of Man to have a larger intersection with the Kingdom of God — by filling the culture with Christians! And contrary to popular (Ravi’s) opinion, converting a head of state still only counts for one.

    No interaction with my middle-eastern (non-hypothetical) scenario? Muslim politicians and royalty are targeted, not just because of their individual sinful need, and not as a means to promote Christianity through the state, but as a means to remove barriers to Christianity (which are in place because of the Muslim state).

  60. Echo,
    over analyzer: Someone who never learned to take things at face value. ALWAYS looking for hidden meanings.

    Likely occupations: investigator, inspector, homemaker(this one is a joke)

  61. No interaction with my middle-eastern (non-hypothetical) scenario?

    I definitely think this is a great strategy for reaching nations with the gospel and it is not limited to Muslim countries. I know of examples in Peru and Africa to name two where missionaries have been given favor with the government and thus able to preach the gospel more freely.

    Not only are they able to save a few high ranking officials from their sins, but are then allowed to save many more people due to the open doors that are created.

    Perhaps you guys would go a little easier on Mr. Ravi if he would do more in his mission statement to tie into the church\missionaries\pastors preaching the gospel in the places he has “softened” rather than it seemingly being all about him?

  62. Note the distinction: the missionaries are able to preach the gospel more freely — they don’t expect the converted government officials to exert their influence to make the culture “more Christian”.

    We don’t need to make our culture more Christian; we just need to make more Christians.

    BTW, by now, this is an extremely heinous threadjacking from the original intent of the post! But since I’m not posting much new stuff for you guys to chew on, I’ll let it go…

  63. Feed us! We’re starving out here!

  64. Alex,

    Please explain the difference between a motive and a hidden meaning in someone’s actions. Surely you believe there is a difference?


  65. Motive:
    the goal or object of someone’s actions

    Hidden Meaning:
    Hidden= concealed
    Meaning= purpose or intention

    Why are you asking? What is your motivation for asking? =)

  66. My motivations inform the meaning of my words, but they are not the meaning of my words. :)

  67. Echo the last comment frpm 5najeras was actually from me. I apologize I was using my wife’s login.

  68. Oh, well, then it was a response to 63. You said that looking for hidden meanings is overanalysis, and I was trying to say that I wasn’t looking for hidden meaning, but motive. I just wanted to reiterate that there’s a difference between the two.


  69. many writers write songs just to sell, there are few who write from a relationship with Jesus

  70. I just posted an interesting article called, “Teaching Calvinists to Dance“, which has some tangental arguments in common with this thread.

  71. […] has been a topic of debate over in Daniel’s Den , on Blogorrhea, and, at some length on Who Owes Me Three Dollars? (although comments were closed after discussion […]

  72. Found some rather interesting complaints about the organ in church from a hundred years ago. Some things never change, and criticizing modern music in worship, it seems, isn’t one of them.

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