Rock music has always held a controversial position in pop culture, mostly due to its anti-establishment, “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” reputation. Because of that reputation, it’s no surprise that the idea of Christian rock has often raised eyebrows.
We’ve already explored a little bit about what makes music “Christian” or not. When we’re talking about Christian rock, we do so with the basic understanding that the term "Christian rock" refers to songs with a rock musical style and lyrics that deal primarily with themes connected to living as a Christian.
One of the things to keep in mind is that art forms cannot be inherently good or bad in and of themselves. How an art form is used is what determines if the art honors God (or doesn't). Even within the Bible, we'll find multiple “genres” of writing—from poetry (Psalms, Song of Solomon) to wisdom literature (Proverbs) to letters (Romans). All of those literary forms together are like a well-stocked tool kit for connecting the character of God to the full spectrum of human experience.
So if we know that God has revealed Himself that way before (using different writing styles), it is in keeping with what we know of His heart that He would continue to use a multitude of art forms.
Psalm 98:4-6 says, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King.” That is just one of many Psalms that shows the people of Israel using the sounds and instruments of their time to honor God. These days, we might be able to echo that same heart by saying “make music to the Lord with guitar solos, with drums and the sound of singing.”
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." —Philippians 4:8
Although this clarifies that Christian rock can be beneficial to your faith, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean it always will be. With any media, we have to ask ourselves if it’s producing the fruit of the Spirit in us. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
This means that if a song is producing those things in your life, it’s appropriate for you to listen. That truth has been proved by the countless testimonies of those who have listened to Christian rock, stories that every band could tell by the hundreds—stories of addictions overcome, families mended, hope in chronic or life-threatening illness, and life-changing encounters with God’s love.
These basic principles apply to Christian rock, but you can also apply it to any other kind of music. Rock songs by those who do not identify as Christian may or may not be appropriate for you to listen to; you must use your spiritual discernment.
If it’s a song on mainstream radio, but it’s still in some way producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in your heart, then it’s OK to listen to it. God is powerful enough that nothing is beyond His ability to use. He doesn't need a song to be "Christian" in order to touch your heart and change you for the better.
The flip side of this is that if there are songs that produce the opposite of those traits in your life—if you find a song influencing you to being resentful, despairing, aggravated, angry, bitter, selfish, harsh, or feeding damaging sin patterns—then it’s probably not wise to listen to, whether it has the Christian label on it or not. As believers, we are called to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), which means being aware and intentional of both what we put into our hearts and what is coming out of them.
If it seems overwhelming to gauge how something is affecting you, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Ask God for wisdom if you're unsure about a certain song (James 1:5). Try talking to trusted family and friends who know you well to help identify how a rock song might be interacting with your spirit. They should be able to support you through choosing what is healthy for your own relationship with Christ.
Photo by Mary Nikkel Photography
Christian rock or secular rock can be beneficial to your faith, but it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean they always will be. Use your spiritual discernment to determine what a song is producing for you personally in your life: traits that bring you closer to God or traits that lead away from Him. Specifically, music that produces the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is OK to listen to. God is powerful enough that nothing is beyond His ability to use.
Mary is a fan of stories about grace—whether they show up in writing, music, or photography form. She's been listening to and telling those stories as a professional writer for over 10 years. Mary is the founder and editor of Rock on Purpose, where she talks about rock music centered around truth and redemptive justice.