Is Defining Terms Vital in the CCM Debate?

March 17, 2018

Over the past several years, I have participated in numerous, often-heated discussions with people on-line about the propriety of using rock music and CCM in Christian worship. Several people have raised the issue in these discussions of my not defining what CCM, rock music, etc. mean.

To understand whether defining these terms is vital in the CCM debate, it is necessary to consider several lines of biblical reasoning.

The Divine Example in General of Not Defining Terms for Sinful Practices

In many places in Scripture, God instructs His people about sinful practices that they must not engage in. Strikingly, God routinely does not define any of the terms that He uses in such instruction!

For example, consider the following passages of divine instruction concerning sinful practices:

Leviticus 20:27  A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.

God did not provide any definition here of what a wizard was nor did He explain specifically what activities such a person engaged in that were sinful or what made those activities sinful.

Deu 18:9  When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.

10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,

11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

God used many different terms here to denote obviously differing sinful practices of the Canaanites, but He does not define them. He did not explain any specifics about why these things are abominations, and yet He expected His people to understand and obey exactly all that He is saying in these prohibitions.

The Divine Example of Unchanging Use of the Same Undefined Terms for Sinful Practices

Not only does God routinely not define terms denoting sinful practices of corrupt humans, but also He repeatedly uses the same undefined terms to instruct His people on repeated occasions spanning various amounts of intervening time between those occasions.

Exo 22:18  Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Deu 18:10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,

1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

2Ki 9:22 And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?

2Ch 33:6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

Mic 5:12 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:

Nah 3:4 Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts.

Gal 5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

From the time of Moses to Jehu to Micah and Nahum to Paul, God has condemned witchcraft and related sinful practices but never once defined them! This data shows that God used the same undefined terms unchangingly to condemn the same sinful practices of various groups of wicked people over a vast span of time.

Furthermore, this data shows that such unchanging use of these terms was fully legitimate in spite of whatever changes may have happened in the “genres” of these sinful practices over the 1500 or so years spanned by the periods that these verses cover.

The Divine Example of Using Undefined Terms concerning Sinful Musical Practices

Of specific relevance to the issue of defining terms in the CCM debate are Scriptural statements about music that similarly do not define the terms used.

Isa 23:15 And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.

16 Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

God speaks in this passage about singing as a harlot but does not explain at all what such singing is like. Obviously, He expected every reader of these words to be able to know what such singing was like without His having to define the terms or explain what makes such singing sinful.

Ezekiel 33:32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song [Heb. sensual song] of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.

In this passage, God related that Ezekiel’s ministry to His sinful people was like as a sensual song, but He does not explain what comprised such a song or what specific elements of it made it sensual.

These two passages show that Scripture speaks twice about sensual music but does not define either time what such music is or why that music was sensual. God expected His people to understand what such music is like without His having to define it or explain at all what it was like.


The Scriptural data treated above clearly shows that God does not think that terms denoting the sinful practices of people have to be carefully defined in order to prohibit them and that those practices have to be explained thoroughly concerning what specific things about them make them sinful. Nor does God think it is invalid to use such undefined terms to refer to the same sinful practices in spite of any supposedly necessary changes in their “genres” over a vast period.

Concerning the CCM debate, the biblical data about God’s not defining terms denoting sinful practices, both in general and specifically about music, teaches us that it is not vital to define terms such as CCM, rock music, sensual music, etc. to be able to speak about the unchanging sinfulness of such practices over extended periods. Scripture does not support the contention that we cannot condemn rock music, CCM, etc. unless we first define them carefully and do so accounting for changes in the genres of these sinful musical practices.

Copyright © 2011-2023 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.



Copyright © 2011-2023 by Rajesh Gandhi. All rights reserved.

2 responses to Is Defining Terms Vital in the CCM Debate?

  1. Nate Patterson March 20, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Raj, Several thoughts

    1. God did not define those words because the original audience easily understood what it meant. Most people today, don’t need a definition of a plumber to know what one is. Maybe the reason God didn’t define is because it is because it wasn’t needed in this case. I hardly think these passages a prescriptive for never defining/clarifying what your talking about.

    2. One job of the preacher is to do exactly that clarify, define, explain what the bible means, your pastor is really good at this.

    3. By not defining terms you make a already murky issue, music and instrument used in your church have been considered wrong by others in different times. If we don’t define terms how can we possibly create standards? By refusing to define terms you can blunt your argument and make discussion difficult.

    4. Finally, I have a lot of concerns about many songs used in “worship” One thing we need to recognize that this is a very difficult issue, that we must carefully wrestle with. We will come up with different conclusions, adding reasoned analysis of God’s Word as it applies to music is important. But we must do so humbly knowing it is difficult to apply ancient principals to genres of music that didn’t exist until recently.

    • Hi Nate,

      Thanks for your feedback. I never claimed that they are prescriptive for never defining or clarifying a term. I agree that a preacher is supposed to explain what the Bible teaches. When it comes to sins associated with contact with supernatural spirits, a preacher does not have much explaining that he can do because God has not revealed the details of such practices. I believe that the Israelites also did not know about such details unless they disobeyed God and had the kind of contact with such people that they were forbidden to have.

      I have various purposes in not defining the terms that I am using in the ways that some insist that I have to do. These terms have been around for decades. There are many people who know what these terms mean. The claim that nobody knows what I am talking about at all is false.

      Yes, there are many concerns about worship music, and the issue is very complex and hard to sort through. The only way to do so is to immerse ourselves in the Bible. Although there are challenges, I believe that the only right way to address issues with the genres of our day is to apply exhaustively all that the Bible teaches about the subject of what music God accepts in worship.