What makes something Christian?

May 17, 2010 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I have been in a few discussions lately that have completely boggled my mind. While I will readily admit that this isn’t hard to do, it didn’t happen because the depth of the discussion went over my head or because the words being used were too big. This happened basically because of some of the things that self-proclaimed “Christians” said during the discussion. The discussions took place on a page set up for a Christian radio station. If you’ve read my blog on Contemporary Christian Music, then you already know that this discussion didn’t start out good. The main topic of discussion revolved around the recent return to music of Jennifer Knapp.  For those of you that may not know, Jennifer Knapp, a Christian artist who decided to take a 7-year hiatus from music, has made her return to the music scene. Unfortunately, she isn’t the same person she once was. Ms. Knapp has made it known to the entire world that she is a lesbian and has been in a homosexual relationship for a few years now.

This announcement sparked a bit of a dialogue on the radio station’s page. There were questions as to whether or not the station should or would play her music anymore. This is where my adventure began. To me, this is a no brainer. Ms. Knapp, while possibly singing about God before, is no longer living a lifestyle that glorifies God. Because of this, the radio station should no longer play her music. If they did, it would look like the radio station was supporting her lifestyle and could confuse new Christians or mislead people into thinking that homosexuality is supported by the church. Then the discussions began.

A few people started posting how much they loved Ms. Knapp and her music and how “uplifting” it was. They talked about how Christian music isn’t about how many times a song mentions God or Jesus, instead it’s about “the deep emotions, the struggle, the quest to find God, live in God’s word, worship God, and be at peace”. Many of the participants overlooked her sin (because we’ve all sinned) and instead focused on the gift that God has given her and how she should be able to use it for His glory. People were upset that some would “judge” her or her lifestyle because we’re not supposed to do that. Others equated anything said against her as “hate”. They said that we need to “build her up” instead of “tearing her down”.  Others said that pastors, teachers, singers, and preachers should not be held to a higher standard than the rest of us because they face the same temptations that we do (even though it says that they are held to a higher standard by God…). The only time scripture was used in the discussion was when people wanted to remind others that we shouldn’t judge or “throw stones”.  There were even comments about how “one religion is no better than another “and how “all opinions should be respected”…on a CHRISTIAN music station’s page!

All of this got me mad, and then it got me thinking about some things. First, it made me sad that so few Christians seem to have an understanding of even the most basic of Christian doctrines. What exactly is being taught today in the church? Second, it made me think about what makes something Christian? What is it that determines whether or not something is Christian? Today, in churches, on Christian discussion boards, and all over the place, there are people talking about things being Christian; but what makes it Christian. Is it Christian because we decide that it is? What happens if we decide five years from now that it’s no longer Christian, does that mean that it’s not? Should we go by our feelings to determine if something is Christian? What if our feelings change? Is it not Christian anymore? Is the Christian faith built upon such a wishy-washy, flimsy foundation as whims or feelings? NO!

What makes something Christian has nothing to do with how we feel about it, or whether we like it, or even agree with it or not. Something is Christian because God said it is. Please stop and read that again. If something is Christian, it is because God said it is. Here’s what I mean. God Himself has determined what Christianity looks like. Jesus is the complete and perfect embodiment of Christianity. If something claims to be Christian and doesn’t match that embodiment, then it’s not Christian; no matter how strongly we desire it to be otherwise. This goes for people, doctrines, teaching, and everything else. Man has somehow gotten it into his head (I think this first happened in the garden) that he can come to God however he desires and God will be ok with it. He can live his life the way that he wants and give God lip service and things will be just fine. It has become so bad that some “churches” believe that a person can follow the doctrines of Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, or even atheism and still be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. As long as they follow the tenets of their chosen religious system, they are good to go.

Man has been trying this ever since the beginning and it has never worked. God has ordained specific ways that He wants things done and they are to be done that way or they are wrong. In the book of Genesis, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the garden but one. God even told them what would happen to them if they disobeyed. In chapter 3 we see Eve and Adam both thinking that they could disobey God without consequence. They ate the fruit, and they ushered death into the world.  In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu were killed on the spot for offering strange fire. God had laid out for them a specific way that they were to offer incense to Him and when they didn’t do it the way He prescribed, God killed them. In Numbers 20, the people were grumbling about not having water to drink. Moses went to God to seek guidance for what he should do. God told Moses to speak to the rock at Horeb and it would bring forth water. Moses gathered Israel together and then took the rod and struck the rock twice. Because they disobeyed God, both Moses and Aaron were unable to enter the Promised Land. Numerous times in the Old Testament Israel followed after other gods instead of remaining true to the one true God. Because of their disobedience, God punished them with famine, plague, invasion from other countries, and even captivity.

As I said above, God is the one who defines Christianity (not man) and He has chosen to do so through His Son Jesus. God has determined that for someone to be born again, they need to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ alone for salvation. He has determined that Christians are not to condone sin, immorality, or impurity. They are not to look or act like the world but should be more and more like Christ. They are to be making disciples and preaching the true gospel. They are to be teaching others to observe exactly what Jesus commanded us. Unfortunately, the church tries to imitate the world in a horrible effort to try and lure non-Christians in to church. They seem to think that those people will enjoy the worldliness of the “church” and will stay long enough to hear about Jesus (if they even hear about Him at all). When the non-Christians leave the church (and they will), it will be for one of two reasons. Either the church’s efforts to mimic the world are so bad that they can’t stand to sit there and watch; or, they have been deceived into “making a decision for Christ”, “accepting Jesus into their heart”, or “trying Jesus” and were let down when the promised better life didn’t come. Not only have they not been saved from sin and hell, they are now inoculated against the truth because of their experience.

The entire focus of the Bible revolves around one person…and it’s not you. Or me. It is Jesus. We are to pattern our lives after the scriptures that have been written down for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that ALL scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. The scriptures show us exactly how we are to live and not live. It shows us how we are to treat God, others, and even ourselves. It warns us of temptation, sin, pride, wrath, and hell. It encourages us to live lives that are worthy of the gospel. This and more come from scripture and scripture alone. And the church pushes that to the side in order to chase after hollow, “relevant”, worldly endeavors that will mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Until the church gets back to the biblical definition of Christianity, it will be filled with squishy, shallow, “feel-good” Christians who build idols of Christianity that suit them and their egos while offering no lasting hope or firm foundation.

CCM is a trainwreck!

March 31, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Christianity | 3 Comments
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I’ll be honest… I don’t listen to much Contemporary Christian Music these days (gasp!). One of the reasons is because I like to hear the songs that I want to hear when I want to hear them. I can do that with a CD. But that’s not the main reason. The main reason that I don’t really listen to CCM much anymore is because of the direction that much of it seems to be going. It seems to be a growing trend in CCM to write songs that are “uplifting” but have little to do with anything that Christianity is about. If you didn’t know that it was a CCM song, you might think that it was a secular love song being sung by one lover to another. Others teach weak or aberrant theology and it seems to be ok because it’s got the word Christian in the title. Many also seem to speak for God, but are they saying what He said?


After awhile, it just gets sickening to hear a breathless man/woman sing to Jesus like He’s their lover. It also gets trying when you hear bad theology coming through Christian music. Whatever happened to Jesus being holy and righteous? What happened to respecting God for who He is? One of the saddest parts (aside from a seeming total disrespect for God’s character) is that the most popular “Christian” bands around sing many of these songs today. I guess that this shouldn’t surprise me though. Many churches don’t preach or teach theology anymore either. Generations of young people are growing up hearing songs that tell them very little about the truth of God just like their teachers and pastors are at church. Many of the songs talk about love, hope, and joy, but say nothing about the source of those things. Very few mention sin, hell, or judgment. A lot of the “Christian” songs don’t even mention Jesus! Does anyone else see something wrong with this? These are supposed to be CHRISTIAN songs!!! What is more important: Singing songs that a majority of people (Christian and non-Christian) will like (under the guise of “reaching out to the lost”) so that you can sell the most records; or, actually singing the truth of Christ and telling people about sin, hell, and judgment and THEN giving them the hope of the true Jesus? Granted, one of these two options will make you a lot more money than the other, but if your focus is on selling records and making money, then call yourself a secular singer and let Christians sing Christian music.


In an effort to show what I’m talking about, I got some of the lyrics of the top 20 CCM songs over the past couple months. Are these songs really glorifying Christ? Are they teaching correct theology?


I wish I was more of a man, have you ever felt that way?
And if I had to tell you the truth I’m afraid I’d have to say
That after all I’ve done and failed to do
I feel like less than I was meant to be

What if I could fix myself maybe then I could get free?
I could try to be somebody else who’s much better off than me
But I need to remember this
That it’s when I’m at my weakest I can clearly see

He made the lame walk and the dumb talk
And He opened blinded eyes to see
That the sun rises on His time
Yet He knows our deepest desperate need

And the world waits while His heart aches
To realize the dream
I wonder what life would be like
If we let Jesus live through you and me
           Excerpt from Big Daddy Weave’s “What Life Would Be Like”


Is this sound theology? Can we “fix” ourselves? What dream is the world waiting to see realized? Is it up to us to let Jesus live through us? I was under the understanding that we live through Him (1 John 4:9). I’ve always been taught that we can’t fix ourselves and that it’s Jesus who “fixes” us. Does scripture talk about a dream being realized? Is the salvation of the people across the world a dream? Does Jesus’ heart ache? I’m sure that it bothers Him when people reject salvation through Him, but wouldn’t offended be a more accurate word? When people die in their sins I’m sure that God doesn’t like it (2 Peter 3:9), and I know that Jesus healed the lame, dumb, and blind; but that’s all we seem to focus on nowadays.


Here’s another one:


He never thought he cared so much about the minute hand
Until he started praying for, a second chance
If he could only do it all again
He’d trade the long nights that he spent behind his desk
For all he missed

He tells his wife, “I wish that this moment in this room was not me dying, but just spending a little time with you.”

You only get just one time around
You only get one shot at this
One chance, to find out
The one thing that you don’t wanna miss
One day when it’s all said and done
I hope you see that it was enough, this
One ride, one try, one life…
To love….

          Excerpt from 33miles’ “One Life to Live”


Is this considered a Christian song because it has the word praying in the lyrics? Or is this a deeply veiled reference to Hebrews 9:27 (And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment)? Is all the syrupy, sentimental music necessary? How does this teach about Christianity at all? I even agree with the fact that you only get one chance, but is there a more scripturally sound way to say it?


Here’s one that sounds like a secular love song:

If everything comes down to love
Then just what am I afraid of
When I call out Your name
Something inside awakes in my soul
How quickly I forget I’m Yours

I’m not my own
I’ve been carried by You
All my life

Everything rides on hope now
Everything rides on faith somehow
When the world has broken me down
Your love sets me free

          Excerpt from Addison Road’s “Hope Now”


Sure, the You and Yours are capitalized, but how many are going to see while listening to this? They don’t even mention the source of the love that “sets them free”! I really don’t see how this is Christian at all… Are we just supposed to assume that it is? If you didn’t know that this was a “Christian” band, would you be able to tell?


Ok, here’s one more and it’s one that really irks me:


Can you hear, there’s a new song
Breaking out from the children of freedom
Every race and every nation
Sing it out sing a new Hallelujah

Let us sing love the nations
Bringing hope of the grace that has freed us
Make Him known and make Him famous
Sing it out sing a new Hallelujah


let the church Arise
Let love reach to the other side
Alive come alive
Let the song Arise

Africa sings a new song
reaching out with the new Hallelujah
Every son and every daughter
everyone sing a new Hallelujah

          Excerpt from Michael W. Smith’s “A New Hallelujah”

This one gets up my nose because it says nothing about God (other than two pronouns – He and Him – with no indication of who they talk about) and yet it is from one of the most well known Christian artists! What does this song mean? Why would I want to sing a “new hallelujah”? Hallelujah means “praise ye Jah”. It is an adoring exclamation to God. Do we need a new one? Also, is it our purpose to make God “famous”? Is God worried about fame like Christian singers seem to be these days? It talks about hope and grace and joy and love, but what about the rest of the truth? What about the fact that those things can only come through an understanding of sin and repentance?


Before I go on, I should explain that I understand that not every song is going to be chock full of theology and loaded with scripture (why not?), but these songs are on the TOP 20 CCM songs list! These are the some of the most requested songs of today and hardly any of them talk about Christianity! Christianity isn’t just about hope, love, joy, peace, and a better life. It’s about sin, hell, judgment, righteousness, obedience, and wrath too but no one seems to want to even talk about this stuff. Like I said above, I understand that not every song is going to be brimming with theology, but shouldn’t that be our goal? As Christians, as the people ordained by God to share the truth of the gospel, shouldn’t we be using every chance we get to tell others the truth? Shouldn’t we be using our music to make sin apparent and warn people about the wrath to come so that they flee to the cross? Could the new crop of CCM coming out these days be an indicator that these kinds of things aren’t being emphasized at church? Could it be that these songs are just a reflection of the weak, diluted teachings of the modern church? I think that this is at least partly to blame.


I know that there are many songs that really do uplift the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ and they make it very clear. They do talk about sin and hell and judgment, and there are even some on the Top 20 list. But, these songs are very much the minority. To give you an idea of the type of music that I’m talking about I’ll post some lyrics. One song is by Chris Tomlin It’s called “Jesus Messiah”:


He became sin
Who knew no sin
That we might become His Righteousness
He humbled himself and carried the cross

Love so amazing
Love so amazing

Jesus Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer
The rescue for sinners
The ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah
Lord of all

His body the bread
His blood the wine
Broken and poured out all for love
The whole earth trembled
And the veil was torn

Love so amazing
Love so amazing, yeah
            – Excerpt from Chris Tomlin’s “Jesus Messiah”


This talks about sin in the very first line! It also talks about righteousness, redemption, and the sacrifice of Christ. Later in the song, it gives glory to God. Why aren’t most Christian songs like this? Is it that hard to write songs like this, or is it less appealing to “Christian” audiences that are looking and acting more like the world? There is one other artist that I would like to focus on. I had never heard of him until some of his music was played on Wretched Radio. The artist’s name is Shai Linne. He is a hip-hop artist from Philadelphia and, along with other artists at Lampmode records, writes lyrics like this:



We’re cursed from our birth, sinning from the beginning

The womb to the tomb, depraved to the grave

Astray every day, every breath brings death

In Adam all die, In Adam all die


We’re rebels like the devil, scheming like demons

Prideful with our idols, disgusting with our lusting

Twisted and sin-sick, selfish and helpless

In Adam all die, In Adam all die


Verse 1


Everybody knows that they’re guilty

Our conscience condemns us, shows us we’re filthy

Truth be told, we really have no answers

For why we fall short of our own moral standards

The evidence for God is simply bountiful

And it’s illogical to think we won’t be held accountable

A universal day of judgment approaches

Any rational notion of justice would presuppose this

And deep down inside, everybody knows this

But we disregard it because our deeds are atrocious

We prefer the vicious, our words are malicious

Our slurs pernicious, we find the absurd delicious

Depraved in our appetites- the things we crave are lacking light


Because sin’s got us enslaved and shackled tight

And if we are to understand the fruit

We need to go back and examine the root

          Excerpt from Shai Linne’s “In Adam All Die”


Do you see the theology? Sinful man, guilty conscience, judgment day; it’s all here. This is another:




It’s where we see Your holiness- at the cross

We see that You’re controlling this- at the cross

We see how You feel about sin- at the cross

Your unfathomable love for men- at the cross

It’s where we see Your sovereignty- at the cross

We see our idolatry- at the cross

We know that there’s a judgment day- from the cross

May we never take our eyes away- from the cross


Verse 2


We’re now in the realm of the sublime and profound

With God at the helm it’s about to go down

The Father’s wrath precise will blast and slice

The priceless Master Christ as a sacrifice

Willingly, He’s under the curse

To be treated as if the Son was the worst scum of the earth

The scene is the craziest

Jesus being treated as if He is the shadiest atheist

How is it the Messiah is in the fiery pit

As if He was a wicked liar with twisted desires?

The One who’s sinless and just

Punished as if He was promiscuous and mischievous with vicious lust

The source of all godly pleasure

Tormented as if He was a foul investor or child molestor

How could He be bruised like He was a goodie two-shoes

who doesn’t think that she needs the good news?

He’s perfect in love and wisdom

But He’s suffering as if He constructed the corrupt justice system

We should mourn at the backdrop

Jesus torn like He’s on the corner with crack rock with porn on His laptop

What is this, kid? His gifts are infinite

But He’s hit with licks for religious hypocrites

He’s the Light, but being treated like

He’s the seedy type who likes to beat His wife


He’s treated like a rapist, treated like a slanderer

Treated like a racist or maybe a philanderer

Jesus being penalized like He had sin inside

Filled with inner pride while committing genocide

I could write for a billion years and still can’t name

All of the sins placed on the Lamb slain

But know this: the main thing the cross demonstrated

The glory and the holiness of God vindicated

          Excerpt from Shai Linne’s “The Cross (3 Hours)”


This entire song is about the cross. Not only what it did, by why it happened and what it means to mankind in general. Why isn’t this the norm in Christian music? The last song I’m going to share from Shai Linne is called “Atonement Q and A”. This song alone should put most Christian artists to shame. Shai Linne has basically taken some of the most important theological words and defined them through rhyme:


Verse 1


Who is God? God is the universe’s Creator

And Sustainer plus the only Savior, there is no one greater

He triune, holy, omnipotent, omniscient, absolute

Loving, sovereign and righteous are a few of His attributes

How do we know this? Well, we know this from the Bible

Where God has revealed Himself- anything else is just an idol

What’s the Bible about? Man’s complete ruin in sin

And what God has done in Christ to bring us to Him again

What is sin? Sin is the breaking of God’s law

Plus our condition, which means from birth we all got flaws

What’s the result? The result is by nature we’re God’s enemies

And must pay the penalty unless God provides the remedy

What the remedy? The remedy is the cross of Christ

Where He suffered all the strikes for the lawless type

I’ve been rescued by the Lamb, I’m convinced that He’s risen

And blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven!

          Excerpt from Shai Linne’s “Atonement Q and A”


I’m not saying that Shai Linne has a corner on theologically sound songs. I’m not saying that there are no other artists that have God-glorifying songs. What I am saying is that these songs are in short supply and are being drowned out by thousands of songs that have nothing about the truth of God in them sung by “bubblegum Christian” bands who hope to cash in on the CCM fad. We don’t need pop-star Christians singing breathlessly about God. We don’t need hard rock bands posing as Christian bands to “reach a certain audience”. What we need are Christians who sing. We need people who are sound in their theology to write and sing songs. Singing songs is great, but it’s not going to save you or anyone else…

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