Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, KISS, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Megadeath, Pantera… the list of popular rock bands that market themselves with a the hell-devil-satanic kinda theme could fill up a ream of paper before we even got to the hard core death metal and thrasher bands like Slayer, and Cannibal Corpse. The reputation of rock as the Devil’s music has been well deserved… but does that mean it is the Devil’s music?
There’s a range of “Christian” sources out there that want to affirm that it is. Some even claim that Satanists use the 4/4 rock beat in their satanic worship ceremonies… Others will encourage you to throw away your rock T-shirts and CD’s because “that kind of music” is not compatible with the christian life…
But the Bible is far from giving us any reason to believe rock music is of the Devil. In fact, the Bible declares that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1), and surely this must include (yes, you guessed it…) rock music. All things belong to God, the earth is his and so is all the music within it.
However, you could make a good case to say that the devil uses rock music to sometimes promote himself and his values. But this is nothing new. There is a range of good, God created, and enjoyable things that the Devil has used and still uses to tempt us into selfishness and rebellion against God. For instance, in Genesis 3 the serpent uses the God created and pleasing fruit to tempt Adam and Eve into rebellion against God. So if we wanted to run with the line that “anything the Devil uses must be his” then we would also have to say that fruit is Satanic… but that’s just not the case. In fact, when it comes to food Jesus declares “all food clean” (Mark 7:19).
So what do you do with good, God created, and enjoyable rock music that is being used by the Devil to promote selfishness and rebellion against God? What do you do with anything that is God created, and enjoyable but has been manipulated by the Devil?
This is a much harder question because most things we experience in life are like this. Sex is good and created by God for our enjoyment, and yet, in billboards and advertisements and on TV and in relationships all around us, it has been manipulated and distorted by the Devil’s influence to arouse our lust. Money, sport, work, beauty, entertainment, music, are all good, God created things for our enjoyment, but often they are manipulated and distorted into instruments we use to serve ourselves.
Living in a world that opposes the values of the God who created it presents tough choices everyday for the Christian believer who is trying to follow the way of Jesus.
So here are some quick tips from the Bible:
1. If it is leading you into sin, flee from it!
In the case of rock music (or any music for that matter) it may not be a sin to listen to it, but it is a sin to promote a false view of God, hatred towards God, hatred towards others, and to racially or sexually vilify another person. I think all of these would be examples of failing “to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”, and failure “to love your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
2. If it is occupying the priority of Jesus in your life, then flee from it!
There is no other influence that has shaped youth culture like music does. It seems that almost every genre (and sub-genre!) of music comes with an image, and a certain dress code, language, and behaviour that is associated with it. For example, if you like goth music you wear a lot of black, Dr Martin’s boots, white make up and dark hair. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the question we need to ask is: How much does the music I choose to listen to shape my identity? I love music, but when music shapes my values and behaviour more than the Lord Jesus, then it’s become my idol, and the apostle Paul says “flee from it!” (1 Cor. 10:14).
3. If it is causing problems for other people, then for their sake don’t do it.
The music I listen to may not be leading me into sin, and it may not be occupying the priority of Jesus in my life, but if the music I listen to is unhelpful for other people to know I’m listening to, then for their sake I won’t listen to it – at the very least, not around them. This is Paul’s instruction to the Christian church in Corinth: “I have the right to do anything – but not everything is beneficial [helpful]… No one should seek their own good, but the good of others… So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:23, 24, 31, 32).
So what’s the deal? Is rock n’ roll really the Devil’s music?
Short answer: no.
Can I listen to rock music?
Short answer: go for it. Be mindful of the influence it has on your life and the people around you.