Doctrine Via Dialectic: Examining Biblical truths by means of fictitious conversations.
This conversation is based on a real event involving Perry Noble of NewSpring church, whose church infamously played ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” as the opening song of their Easter service in 2009.
Blogger: Pastor Noble, were you aware that one of the worst experiences of my Christian life was as a guitarist in a praise band, when I succumbed to the desires of my pastor and worship leader to play “Carry On My Wayward Son” as the opening song to our Easter service?
Perry: I was not aware until just now. That’s a shame what happened to you.
Blogger: Is it a shame that we played the song on Easter or that I felt bad for doing so?
Perry: It is a shame that you felt bad for doing so.
Blogger: I had a feeling you would say that, given what transpired at your church on Easter. Do you mind if we explore this idea of playing secular music in a church service?
Perry: No, I don’t mind. I like challenging the rigid doctrines of fundamentalist Christians.
Blogger: Sometimes, when exploring the truth of a doctrine, one must go to an extreme and work their way back to the middle. So consider this extreme – would you ever play a song, filled with explicit pornographic lyrics, at a church service?
Perry: No, certainly not.
Blogger: And the reason you would not do so is because you believe the Holy Spirit distinguishes between “godly” and “ungodly” music, right? Pornographic music is ungodly music and therefore unacceptable to God.
Perry: You are correct.
Blogger: How do we know the Holy Spirit finds pornographic music unacceptable?
Perry: Because of the revealed nature of God found in Scripture.
Blogger: And surely pornography is not the only type of ungodly music?
Perry: You are right. We could take what we know about the revealed nature of God in Scripture and find many other types of songs that are ungodly. It would be silly to think that only pornographic music is ungodly.
Blogger: With that being said, let me move this conversation from the realm of the theoretical. Do you believe that Highway to Hell, the song you chose to play at Easter, is godly and okay to play, or did you choose to play it even though it is ungodly?
Perry: If I were to say that the song is godly, you would review the lyrics and prove the opposite is true. But if I were to say that the song is ungodly, you would rebuke me for having a bunch of God’s people sing and play ungodly music at a service meant to worship Him. So you have put me in a hard spot and it is a hard question to answer.
Blogger: Don’t blame me for putting you in a hard spot. You are the one that played the song and put God’s people in a position to conclude only one of two things – that you think the secular song you played is godly or that you have no problem playing ungodly music at church for God.
Perry: Perhaps I had a good reason for playing that song at church. What appeared to be a bad thing – playing ungodly music at a church service – served a greater redemptive good. Many people came to Christ on Easter and were blessed by the church service, including the playing of the song.
Blogger: Oh, I see! You are adding a new term to our argument. The term is “a greater redemptive good” and you are defining this as a good end based on ungodly means, which God finds acceptable?
Perry: Yes, you have correctly understood what I said.
Blogger: Can you offer any Scripture in support of this?
Perry: You will have to give me a moment. I don’t have the Bible memorized.
Blogger: In the meantime, please explain how a pastor can tell if something sinful will serve a greater redemptive good.
Perry: I’m not sure I understand what you mean.
Blogger: Let me phrase it like this – before you played ungodly music for the greater redemptive good at your Easter service, you had no idea whether your good end would be achieved by your ungodly means. So on the one hand, if your plan worked, then God would be pleased with you. But if it failed, then you would have sinned, because there was no greater redemptive good achieved and you played an ungodly song at church.
Perry: What if I were to tell you that I knew beforehand the song was serving a greater redemptive good, and therefore I knew it could not be a sin in God’s eyes?
Blogger: How could you have possibly known such a thing?
Perry: The Holy Spirit laid it on my heart.
Blogger: Now the truth comes out! You received a direct revelation from God, and that revelation assured you that what you were doing was not a sin.
Blogger: And now it is time for our conversation to end.
Perry: Why is that?
Blogger: Because guys like you, who claim to receive direct revelation from God, can’t be reasoned with. No matter how unbiblical and illogical your decision to play secular music is demonstrated to be, you will always believe you are in the right, because you believe you are hearing from God when you are not. Yet I must ask, for your own safety, don’t you fear the words of Ezekiel being applied to you by God?
Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean…(Ezekiel 22: 26)
Perry: Why should I fear God’s judgment, when He is the one that told me to play the song?
Blogger: You are stubborn to the end, aren’t you? I think it is apropos to finish with a quote from your beloved Easter song. It sure seems to me to summarize your ministry:
Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothing I would rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me round