I've encountered all sorts of professing Christians (from Calvinists to fundamentalists) who say that
certain kinds/styles of music are Satanic, of the devil, worldly, fleshly, appeal to lusts, etc.
Interestingly, whenever I encounter them and challenge them, they cannot come up with any rational answers to my questions. Instead, they say things like, "You know it when you hear it," "You can just feel it," and other such cop-outs.
As a classically-trained musician who has studied advanced music theory, I am certainly qualified to make assessments about music. It doesn't take someone with my training to make assessments; however, since I've actually studied it, I'm able to ask these people some questions that might not readily come to others' minds.
So let's think about this for a little while.
One of the first things that these people will point to is the wicked lyrics of so-called "modern" music. I totally agree that most lyrics are wicked. And we shouldn't be listening to wicked lyrics. But lyrics aren't music. So as soon as I agree with these people that most lyrics are wicked, the whole issue of the words of songs becomes irrelevant in the argument. No matter what kind of music accompanies wicked words, this should be shunned. It is very interesting when you ask some of these people about what kind of music is "okay." Most of these people are against so-called "rock music" and long for the days when the popular music of the day wasn't "rock music." But what kind of music that has lyrics isn't devilish to them? The PRC magazine (Standard Bearer) once had an article on the evils of so-called "rock music," yet it lauded "non-rock" artists such as Frank Sinatra!! Talk about wicked! Have you ever heard the lyrics to Sinatra songs? They're full of sexual lust. So the PRC is just totally hypocritical. I wrote a letter to the Standard Bearer on this subject that never got published. (Oh, by the way, these people also talk about the wicked lifestyles of the musicians to say that the music is of the devil. So they would not say that Sinatra had a wicked lifestyle?!! How about the wicked lifestyles of the classical composers and musicians? Again, the argument falls apart.)
So let's get into our minds that we're talking about music, not words. Wicked words put to music should not be listened to.
But what about the music itself? Let's think of music without any lyrics.
Let's first think of musical instruments.
Is there any musical instrument that is of the devil? If so, what would they be? How about stringed instruments that are played with a bow, such as a cello or violin or viola? Is the sound that the string makes when the bow goes across it of the devil? How about if these same instruments are plucked? How about other plucked instruments such as harps or harpsichords? Is the vibrating string that results from a finger plucking the instrument of the devil? How about a string that is struck to make the string vibrate, such as a piano or hammer dulcimer? Is this of the devil? How about music that is amplified electronically? How about an electronically amplified cello or violin or viola or harp or harpsichord or piano or dulcimer? Is the amplification of the devil? Is the way that the vibration of the strings is picked up electronically by "pickups" and then sent to an amplifier and then comes out of a speaker made out of polypropyline of the devil? How about a strummed instrument such as a guitar? Is the strumming of the devil? How about if the guitar is amplified electronically and strummed? Or how about if the guitar is amplified electronically and one note is played at a time? Are any of these of the devil?
Then we get into percussion. Is a stick hitting a wood block of the devil? Is a stick hitting a drum of the devil? How about a stick hitting a cymbal or a tambourine? How about a hand hitting a drum or cymbal or tambourine? Is the sound that this makes of the devil?
Of course, I haven't talked about all kinds of musical instruments, but I've talked about the two instruments that are the most prominent in so-called "rock music," which is electric guitar and percussion.
Now if the instruments themselves are not of the devil, and the sound they make is not of the devil, some would say that the beat that these instruments make is of the devil. They call it a "rock beat." So much has been said and written about the devilish beat. They talk about the sensuality or sexuality of a beat or the fact that there is a certain beat that voodoo witch doctors have in their dances -- they even talk about beats that are in conjunction with or are out of sync with the beating heart (believe it or not!).
Let's ask some questions about the beat. What particular beat is of the devil? What time signature is a devilish beat? In a time signature, the top number signifies how many beats are in a measure, and the bottom number signifies the kind of note that fills one beat. So what time signature is a devilish beat? Is it 4/4? 3/8? 6/8? 5/4? 3/4? 7/8? If someone cannot come up with a particular beat that is devilish, then where is the argument? Perhaps they're not thinking about the time signature alone; perhaps they're also thinking about how the beats are emphasized. So in 4/4 time, there are certain songs that emphasize beats 1 and 3, and there are other songs that emphasize beats 2 and 4. In 3/4 time, there are certain songs that emphasize beat 1, and certain songs that emphasize beats 2 and 3. What beat emphasis is of the devil? Or maybe it's not just the time signature or the beat emphasis; perhaps they're also thinking about the speed of the beats. This is usually measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM). Is 40 BPM of the devil? 60? 80? 120? 200? 240? Someone might say, "It's a combination of all three things." Okay, so what is the combination that is devilish? Is a song that is in 4/4 time that emphasizes beats 2 and 4 that is played at 120 BPM of the devil? If someone cannot come up with anything in particular that is devilish, then where is the argument?
Or how about this: If someone says that all songs in 4/4 time are of the devil, then does that mean that all songs in 3/4 or 6/8 time are not of the devil? If someone says that all songs that emphasize beats 2 and 4 are of the devil, then does that mean that all songs that emphasize beats 1 and 3 are not of the devil? If someone says that all songs played at 120 BPM or above are of the devil, then does that mean that all songs that are 119 BPM or below are not of the devil?
Do you see how ridiculous this gets?
Some would talk about the loudness of music -- soft music is good, loud music is bad. Well, that would mean that God commanded something bad when He commanded the people to praise Him with loud cymbals (Psa 150:5)! Some would say that when the singer shouts loudly it is of the devil. Well, go back to the Psalms and look into all the loud shouting along with the loud instruments! Loudness and shouting cannot be evil in and of itself. (Of course, if the shouting is the shouting of wicked words, then it is evil. Also, if the music is so loud that it does damage to your body, then you should not be harming your body.)
So there really is no argument. Some would say they do not listen to certain kinds of music because it reminds them of their immoral days and brings to mind past sins. That is certainly a legitimate reason for not listening to a certain kind of music, and others should respect that person and not play that kind of music in front of that person. But that does not make the music evil in and of itself.
So, to conclude, there really is no such thing as an evil kind of music (remember - we're not talking about lyrics here). There is no such thing as music that is worldly, fleshly, or Satanic. Music is neutral. All instruments, from violin to trumpet to piano to guitar to drum, whether acoustic or amplified, are neutral. All time signatures, whether standard 4/4 or less common 7/6, are neutral. All the different beat emphases, whether 2 and 4 or 1 and 3 or anything else, are neutral. All the different speeds, whether slow or fast or in-between, are neutral. All the different decibel levels (as long as they're not doing damage to your body) are neutral. These things are just as neutral as a light bulb. Is a 40-watt bulb good and a 100-watt bulb bad? Of course not.
So am I saying that loud, amplified guitars and drums with a shouting singer (as long as the lyrics are not wicked), playing a song in 4/4 time that emphasizes beats 2 and 4 at 180 BPM is not evil in and of itself? Yes, that's what I'm saying. It's the same as soft, acoustic harp with a whispering singer (as long as the lyrics are not wicked), playing a song in 3/4 time that emphasizes beats 2 and 3 at 40 BPM.