What types of music should we consider “demonic?” What forms of musical expression are out-of-place in the Church?
I received a question from Naomi, who writes:
I read your article where you talked about how music can be used to conjure up evil spirits. Do you know exactly what type of music this would be? I once heard a story about a missionary, I think in Africa, who had teenagers. They were playing their Christian rock music. The natives came to the missionary and asked him why his kids were using music to conjure up demons. So my question is this, can you take music that is used to evoke demons, put Christian lyrics to it, and call it good? How do you know what type of music is conjuring up demons? When I heard metal “Christian” music ... , I wondered if this was the same type of music that the missionary kids were listening to. Personally, that type of music disturbs my spirit. The church where my daughter attends youth group plays that type of music rather loudly at the beginning of their youth group meetings, and I can’t stand it. My daughter isn’t in that class yet, but I am contemplating not bringing her next year when she is in that class because I worry about what that kind of music may do to her spirit. I really don’t want her developing an appetite for music that may cause her to tune in to a secular station that doesn’t have a Christian message but is playing a type of music that she has developed a desire for. How can you be sure that ["Christian"] metal music isn’t conjuring up evil spirits? The Bible tells us we are to be set apart from the world, and not be like the world. Why does Christian music have to be like the music of the world? How do we justify that?
Great questions, Naomi! Let me try to answer each question as you asked it.
First, you asked exactly what type of music conjures up evil spirits. Actually, the type of music isn’t the point. Satan doesn’t have a handful of chord progressions trademarked. The devil doesn’t create things—he only perverts them.
Think about it this way: what is your favorite style of music? Let's assume that its classical—maybe you love the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Surely, we would say that such music wouldn’t be very inviting to demons. However, what if someone came along and changed the words to be perverse and vulgar. Same music, different heart. The music itself and the words themselves are not the point—the point is the heart behind it in the moment.
As for your story of the missionary’s kids, it is hard to speak to a specific scenario without having been there. However, I can imagine a handful of possibilities. First, it is possible that the Africans assumed it was conjuring demons simply because it reminded them of music that they knew was traditionally used in the same way (I don’t think this is the case, but I do think it is only fair to present all perspectives). Another possibility is that the band that made the music had the wrong heart. Maybe they were just trying to be popular rather than minister. Maybe they had hidden sin that tainted the spiritual dynamic of their music. Or maybe, everything was fine with the music, but the teens had been asked by their parents not to listen to that sort of music—the demons, then, were responding to the disobedience of the children, and it had nothing to do with the music itself. Still another possibility could be that the Africans didn’t like the music, so in their flesh, they assumed that it couldn’t possibly be honoring to God.
I think many times in our lives, we decide what pleases God based on what pleases us. We cannot assume that our own temporary discomfort automatically means that God is uncomfortable. He is bigger than us, and we are frail.
Additionally, a specific sound is not what invites demons. Just because something is loud and obnoxious to one person doesn’t mean the next person isn’t moved to worship. When Gideon’s small army blew their trumpets and smashed their pots, it was disorienting to the enemy army; but the result was a victory for the Lord. I’m sure it wasn’t “pretty music,” and I’m sure some of the Israelites didn’t like how it sounded. But the result was that God stepped in and fought the battle for them (see Judges 7:19–24). It’s not about the sound; it’s about the heart.
As for the Christian Metal Music by my friend, Bobby Guskovict, CDs of this music have been used to help people discover Jesus Christ and surrender their lives to Him. If you listen to the lyrics my friend Bobby wrote, each song presents one more aspect of a passionate Gospel presentation, calling people to surrender their lives of sin and embrace the life of the Spirit by coming to Christ. Even the music itself was written and performed after he became a Christian. I’ve seen the positive results of the music. If anything, it sets people free from the enemy rather than making them vulnerable.
However, some people don’t like that style. Metal music grates at their nerves. It even disgusts some. This doesn’t men it is conjuring demons–it just means that it is disturbing to some people. That’s totally fine. Most teens would probably find your favorite music disturbing. That’s just a matter of personal preference.
Your desires for your daughter are a whole different story. You’re the mother, and so you have a responsibility before God to bring her up according to the measure of wisdom He has given you. If you feel in your spirit that such music is inappropriate, then I support you one hundred percent in discouraging your daughter from listening to it. You cannot raise a child contrary to your own conscience. Don’t let a mere article change the way you raise your daughter. On the contrary, take your time seeking the Lord about the matter until you have clarity about your convictions and know what He would have you do.
I would, however, encourage you to consider some alternative perspectives and seek the Lord about the possibilities. For instance, if the youth group played your favorite music before the church service, many of the kids would probably find it strange and feel uncomfortable. They wouldn’t want to invite their friends because they want a youth group that is “cool.” By playing that music, the leaders are making an environment where newcomers can feel welcome and at-ease. This keeps everyone coming back and may ultimately result in many more salvations than might otherwise happen.
The music there is just a “first-impression” technique. Because of it, your first impression of the youth group is that it is disturbing. A teen’s first impression, though, may be that this is the greatest place they have ever been. I would encourage you to check out the youth group beyond that first impression. Ask the youth pastor or other leader if you can visit a few nights to see how things run. Then make an assessment based on the overall meeting. Is the Gospel being preached? Are lives being changed? Are students being drawn to Christ?
If all these things are happening, then why would you want to keep your daughter out of that environment? If these things are not happening, then I think the music should be the least of your concerns.
As for your last question, I have to say that I mostly agree with you. You said, “The Bible tells us we are to be set apart from the world, and not be like the world. Why does Christian music have to be like the music of the world? How do we justify that?”
In my mind, it can’t be justified. I do, however, think it can be explained. It could be considered the fault of the Church for stifling creativity and new expressions of music. People tend to prefer the “church music” that was played when they first came to the Lord, so new songs and styles are often fought religiously. Or it could be the Church’s fault for not reaching more creative people who could then express their creativity within the context of Christianity. The more creative people there are in the Church, the more likely we are to come up with something musically that is utterly different from the world. The question then arrises, how do we get more creative people in our churches? Perhaps it would help if we weren’t still stuck in the 1970’s…or 80’s… or 90’s… or, in some cases, the 1600’s. Just a thought.
Thankfully, I do hear new expressions of music arising from the Church. There are many Christian artists today who are making music that sounds nothing like the world’s. You just have to hunt for them because they’re not easy to find.
The Bible does indeed say not to be like the world, but we also see Paul saying this:
1 Corinthians 9:19–23 – Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (NIV)
There are those who don’t like the Church’s music, and someone has to become like them for the sake of winning a few. There is value in taking the music that people already enjoy and transforming it for Kingdom purposes. As the devil perverts music, the Church should redeem it. We are Christ’s Body in this world—the hands and feet of the Ultimate Redeemer.
So to answer your question in summary, remember that it is not so much the type of music that is being played that influences the spiritual realm. Lyrics play a role, but they are not the point either. The point is the purpose of the heart in the moment.
Even the most beautiful Christian song can be sung in pure pride to bring glory to oneself rather than to God. I would find that far more likely to conjure demons.
Thanks for the great questions! Feel free to comment or send further questions.