Thursday, October 11, 2018

Book Review: The Rock Generation

On another forum called Sharper Iron, I've had a number of discussions regarding whether modern music, especially rock-n-roll, is permissible in the church, and was always disappointed that nobody ever really had a Biblical exegesis that would, really, lead one to come to that conclusion.  I figured that since a lot of commenters mentioned Frank Garlock, professor of music from Bob Jones University, that maybe, just maybe, one of his books might be a little bit more scholarly.

Well, perhaps somewhere he's done this, but that is not done in The Rock Generation: 6 Decades of Decline.  As is noted above, there is no Biblical exegesis presented by Garlock that would lead one to suggest that any genre, let alone rock & roll, would be Biblically impermissible.  What Garlock does, really, is to tenuously tie together a litany of bad things he's observed about the modern music scene, and assert that there's something there.  In other words, it's 100 pages of the slippery slope fallacy.

But that noted, it's not just the slippery slope fallacy, as Garlock quite frankly tells a few howlers as "evidence", from false roots of band names and song lyrics to using the wrong units for sound power (watts vs. dB), from thinly veiled references to the "jungle beat" arguments of the Victorian era to a ton of guilt by association.  In short, it would be a great reference for an informal logic class to teach about logical fallacies--in all the bad ways.  Garlock even asserts that soft rock--e.g. Air Supply--is a gateway drug to heavy metal.  Now that would be a fun poll at your Metallica or AC/DC concert!

And why was it so bad?  Well, it starts quickly with a basic failure to define what constitutes "rock" music.  Garlock more or less says because it's "always loud", which of course comes as something of a surprise to factory workers who hear pop music played all day at basically a whisper level, and would further suggest that the end of the 1812 Overture diverts suddenly from classical/romantic in style to rock-n-roll--not to mention the Halleluiah Chorus and Beethoven's An der Freude. 

Totally absent was the notion that rock-n-roll borrows blues, jazz, and black gospel cues, combines them with hints of old style country music, and tends to be performed by small ensembles.  Of course, if Garlock had done that, none of his arguments would have worked, either, as he'd be in the very rough place of implicitly asserting that the spirituals that sustained blacks through slavery and Jim Crow were in fact sinful.

The end conclusion: there may be an argument against certain features in music, or against certain genres of music in the church, but quite frankly Frank Garlock does not make the case any more than does Bill Gothard.  Maybe instead of continuing to fight on this wretched terrain, the church needs to abandon Garlock and Gothard's arguments in toto and address the central question; does singing in the church function to impart God's Word to God's People in lyric form, and if so, what characteristics ought it to have?

Rating: -5 stars.  And to make up for this review, a little bit of the Harp Twins.


Hearth said...

Well, they lost a generation that formed the Jesus Freak churches (to which I belong). Sometimes you need to stand and fight. Sometimes - it's just another color of carpet, and it doesn't make a bit of difference.

Interestingly, I've heard more of the old hymns from my youth performed in church as special music in the last year or two than I have in a while. And everyone sings along... they stick in your heart in a way that the pop-music hymnettes just don't.

elspeth said...

Good review, Bike!

I think there is an argument to be made for "borrowing" from the world and pulling into the church with a Christian label slapped on it. But even there I would have to agree with you that caution is warranted. Christianity is a religion of conversion. We're not born into it, a fact that so, so many Christians seem to have missed over the years.

That distinction is important because as one generation dies off and another rises, some of the church accoutrements will naturally change a bit. That doesn't have to mean that doctrine is watered down or discarded as well.

Bike Bubba said...

Thanks, ladies. The scary thing is that the book was so un-academic, it took me only 20 minutes to figure out the whole thing was nonsense.