Christian rock is a genre of music that is usually characterized by a heavy beat and simple melodies. Instrumental elements may include guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, or any variety of orchestral or other musical implements. Lyrics of Christian rock generally focus on matters of the Christian faith. If the artists and musicians call themselves a Christian band, they usually profess their faith publicly on social media, album inserts, and at live rock concerts.
Rock and roll originated as dance music in the 1950s and ʼ60s. The musical style and lyrics were harsher and often more serious than previous musical offerings. During its rise in popularity, rock music was often associated with drug use, anti-establishment attitudes, and musical experimentation.
All musical talent is a gift from God, whether the person believes in God or not. At the same time, not all music glorifies God. Rock musicians of the ʼ60s and ʼ70s were not famous for their morality but rather often for their wild lifestyles and, later, tragic drug-related deaths. Despite this stereotype, many talented Christian artists, starting in the late ʼ60s when Christian rock music was born, have embraced the style of rock and used it as a medium for communicating God’s truths.
Christian rock music has always drawn a bit of controversy. A lot of Christians struggle with what kinds of music they should listen to because there’s a lot of great music out there that does not carry the “Christian” label. It’s important to note that having a “Christian” label doesn’t make something inherently good, and bearing the “rock” label doesn’t make it inherently bad. God does not condemn any style of music. The original purpose of music was as a means to worship and praise God. The Bible speaks of people singing and playing instruments to worship God. When Mary finds out she is pregnant with Jesus, in order to praise God, she sings (Luke 1:46–55). Music can also be used to express pain and grief, such as in Psalm 88, a song about the author’s struggle with depression and feelings of abandonment, yet it is still a song worshiping God.
One of our freedoms in Christ (Galatians 5:1, 13) is the ability to choose what kind of music we listen to, including Christian rock music. We must still be wise about how music affects us and our motivations for our interest in any particular song or musical artist, but we are allowed to enjoy any music that strengthens us as followers of Christ (Philippians 4:8). Whether it is Christian rock, Christian rap, or any other kind of music, we would be wise to examine a song’s benefit to us as individuals (Proverbs 4:23–26). If the Holy Spirit advises that we keep away from a certain type of music or song, we should heed that warning (1 Thessalonians 5:19). There are certainly songs that are appropriate for Christians to listen to and relate to, as well as songs that are not healthy for Christians. Unfortunately, a lot of today’s music is written with the purpose of going against Christian morality—perhaps not purposefully, but the lyrics may still create animosity in the listener toward God. The “appropriateness” of music is not defined by musical genres, such as rock, country, or pop. Music itself is amoral, yet certain songs or styles may affect us in certain ways. Listening to music about lewd women and one-night stands is going to affect our spiritual health differently than songs that encourage or promote caring for one another.
Whether or not Christian rock music is the appropriate style for any given person comes down to a matter of personal evaluation and conviction. We listen to music that we are drawn to. It is part of human nature. As followers of Christ, we need to make sure that we are examining our music choices against our desire to do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are free to listen to Christian rock music if it proves good for us, but no matter what kind of music we choose, we must be aware of how our hearts respond to it. We are not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). If you are not sure if Christian rock music is good or bad for you personally, remember Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”