What Does Carl Have to Do With Zeppelin?
Posted September 14, 2007
I was disappointed by your post on Led Zeppelin (as I mentioned in this blog post
<http://mytwocents.wordpress.com/2007/09/13/led-zeppelin-on-reformation-21/> ). I would be very interested to hear your understanding of how a Christian should relate to immoral elements in our culture. Specifically, I'm wondering how a believer can enjoy something like LZ. Do you have a biblical or theological grid through which you determine that enjoying LZ (for example) is legitimate for the believer, or is it just something you've assumed and to which you've not given much thought? I ask this sincerely, friend. I have no desire to "bait" you.
I understand that you don't know anything about me and that you're not accountable to me in any way. But since you published your thoughts on LZ publicly, and since we are Christian brothers, I'd invite you to explain your thoughts, either on the blog or via personal correspondence (which I will keep as private as you wish).
My own position is probably clear by now. J I believe that the biblical response to worldliness is to expose and reprove it, not to participate in it and promote it (Ephesians 5:11). I have no desire to be unnecessarily rigid or prude. Nevertheless, I believe that what LZ represents, celebrates and pedals is directly contrary to what the Scriptures commend for the Lord's people. The fact that LZ was positively referenced by a publication associated with a group like the ACE was very surprising, and as I've said, disappointing. Even if we don't discuss it further, I'd encourage you to reconsider this matter.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, brother.
First, let me say thank you -- both for your thoughts and for the gentle and pastoral way in which you express them. I much appreciate you taking the time to write to me in such a manner.
The issue you raise is, in context, involves a number of issues. Here are my thoughts on what I think are the various matters which are relevant.
1. There is the general question of Christianity and non-Christian culture. I think that the Bible certainly seems to grant non-Christian culture a legitimacy -- for example, Paul's respect for the civil magistrate. In practice, Christians do so as well. There is not sin (I don't think) in, say wearing nice clothes or driving a nice car. Of course, for any individual, it could be sinful -- if the money used to buy them means other, higher obligations are not met, or these things become idols. But that is a heart-problem, not intrinsic to the car, the clothes etc. I suppose what I am saying here is that most us just enjoy certain things and that, in principle, is not sinful. I would see it as part of God's goodness, part of `common grace.'
2. Next, there is the question of music. Again, I don't think that music which is not specifically sacred is necessarily sinful. Certainly, the Bible talks of, say, Tubal Cain without implying he is sinful; David plays for Saul and soothes him; and throughout history, Christians have enjoyed making music. My personal conviction: music, like sport or novels or theatre, is not necessarily sinful (again, it can be; but that depends on the specifics).
3. Then there is the question of rock music. I have heard various arguments used against rock over the years. For example, it is argued that its proponents live immoral lives. This is probably true in many cases; but this is not unique to rock -- artists throughout the centuries have had dubious lives; it is no monopoly of rock. Debussy, Wagner etc all had dubious lives. And I think it can be irrelevant to the appreciation of a work of art. I know little of the lifestyle of Vermeer, but I love his paintings. If I discover today that he was a rapist, I would be disappointed; but his paintings would still be beautiful. It may be that some think this argument from immoral lifestyle is a good one; if so, consistency really requires a rejection of all non-Christian culture, from cooking recipes to cars -- for anything produced by someone in rebellion against God (whether expressed in promiscuity or mere respectable self-righteousness) is in such rebellion.
4. This brings me to the specific case of LZ. The case against them would be that their music promotes anti-Christian values. This again is complicated. Derek Thomas frequently puffs Wagner on the blog, recently mentioning that he had seen The Valkyrie performed in New York. This opera contains pagan gods and a scene of incest. Worse than anything I am aware of in a LZ song; yet I rarely come across Christians who attack interest in opera as inconsistent with Christianity. But, granted, there are a couple of LZ tracks which contain crudities. I don't like those tracks and I don't listen to them; and being a Zeppelin fan no more requires me to listen to all their tracks than being a Beethoven fan would require me to regard everything he did as genius.. I do, however, think that, with these one or two exceptions, their work is both of a high technical standard and does not explicitly promote worldly values: Gallow's Pole speaks of the horror faced by a man about to be executed; SInce I've Been Loving You speaks of the anguish a man faces when he suspects his wife is cheating on him; Nobody's Fault But Mine is actually closely based on an old gospel song, speaking of how, if the singer goes to hell, it is his own fault as he has had a godly upbringing and rebelled against it. Each of these surely has a counterpoint in the Bible -- in the psalms, in Hosea, and in the prophets (where the sexual imagery is frequently far more graphic than anything in a rock song). Even the notorious Stairway to Heaven is, if the lyrics are studied, a mixture of portentous sounding gobble-di-gook, old English folk lyrics, and what is arguably a sarcastic take on materialism. Now, I don't want to make out that LZ are believers or that there work is biblical in the strict sense; but the music and lyrics are not, on the whole, the moral nightmare which critics think.
5. This brings me finally to the blog. The agenda here is really pretty eclectic -- to combine tongue-in-cheek fun with serious theological comment. Given that, we are always going to run the risk of getting the balance wrong or dropping a brick of some kind. I guess in this case I may have done the latter for some in the constituency. My intention was certainly not to offend or promote ungodly behaviour. I will try to do better next time.
Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time to comment so pastorally. You have certainly given me much to think about. ALso, I'm copying this to Derek at Ref21 so that he can see your concerns and my response.
With every good wish,
Preaching through John's gospel, I have paused to meditate upon the person and work of John the Baptist. Here was one who came as a "witness, to bear witness about the Light" (Jn 1:6). Consistently (1:7, 14, 20) we are told that the Baptist was not the Light but a witness to the Light.
One of the amusing things I have noticed in the last twelve months or so has been a shift in the rhetoric used by members of the older generation (40 plus) surrounding what twenty- and thirty-somethings will believe. Five years...