By Edward Thal /
A recent online report from a major newspaper about “the Christian hard rock and metal scene” leaves me groping for the correct response, so at the outset I will simply provide extracts that speak for themselves. For those who may be concerned about the spiritual temperature of contemporary evangelical Christianity, no further explanation is necessary. For those who may wonder why I draw attention to this, no further explanation is possible.
The reporter identifies himself as “a teenager growing up in the evangelical subculture [who] was a huge fan of Christian hard rock and metal in the early 2000s.” He says the music helped him “feel adventurous and unique.” It was, he claims, an important way for him “to craft an identity.”
A veteran hard rock festival goer recalled the days when he couldn’t wear his “Slayer T-shirt” in church. The implication is that those bad old days are gone! For the uninformed, Slayer is a heavy metal “punk thrash” band that glories in violence, anarchy and death.
Then there was a transgender teen who claims to have both come to Christ and “come out as trans” at a music festival. More precisely, “he came to Christ in a mosh pit in 2015, and came out as transgender in 2016.”
Another festival-goer was interviewed drinking beer and smoking while lounging in a makeshift pool in a pickup bed. Apparently, the festival was supposed to be alcohol-free so security put a stop to the pool party. The last word came from a young mother: “Sometimes I don’t want to tell people I’m Christian because of what it represents,” she said. (It would be fascinating to know what she thinks Christianity “represents”). But despite her problem with a Christian witness she is happy that the church she attends in Evansville, Indiana, hosts punk music shows in its basement.
These young people and so many others like them respond to a sugary gospel that presents Love as God. It’s a strange contemporary version of Christianity promising salvation with no repentance, no regrets and lots of exciting “music”. Sound Bible teaching is traded for a premium on entertainment. The pastors are frauds, preaching shallow sermonettes that distort God’s love and ignore God’s law, never plowing the stony ground of human conscience to produce the repentance necessary to receive the seed of God’s Word. Their “seeker-friendly” message about the guaranteed good life that follows when Jesus becomes our best friend, toting a goodie-bag of forgiveness, love, joy, peace, plenty and no problems fails to acknowledge that God does not love indiscriminately, and we are not the only things He loves.
The uncomfortable truth for those comfortable with Christianity-lite is that God also loves His Law, His Justice, and His Holiness, and we should never make the mistake of expecting God to choose between us and the other things He loves! The Apostle delivers a stern warning in this regard: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” (Romans 6:1)
In Christ’s awful suffering and death we see not only God’s amazing love for sinners but also His absolute love for Justice and Holiness. His mercy can only be extended to us if our sin debt is paid – to excuse us on any other basis would mean tacit approval not only of our individual sins but of all the evil in the world. Since we are incapable of righting what is wrong in us the answer devised by God in his wisdom and love is astounding in its simplicity and terrible in its implementation: He punished Himself, paying our debt in full.
The benefit to us is free, but it must be fully received and properly understood. Anything less would cause us to think not only that we are worthy of such a priceless gift but would also lessen the impact on our conscience when we sin. We need (gradually perhaps, but finally) to come to the sobering realization that disrespecting and rejecting a thrice-holy God would be to experience the opposite of His endless love. That’s the point of the unchanging Law of God: it acts as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ by making us aware of our shortcomings when measured against His perfect standard, and convicting us of those shortcomings when we fail to surrender wholeheartedly to Him. The commitment God requires removes our self-esteem and our self-centered priorities. Our Savior must take His rightful place at the center of who we are and what we do; we in turn draw on His strength to empower us as we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
This reality is a long, long way from the vanity that permits some to be comfortable with both Jesus and a lifestyle that accommodates hard-rock-punk-thrash-metal “music”. The Apostle Paul condemns the “vain jangling” of those who so casually mingle light with such darkness as “understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” (1 Timothy 1:7).