I have encountered people in the past that have asserted that certain musical rhythms or beats are inherently immoral or sinful.

It seems to follow, then, that even if the words of Scriptures themselves are put to music with the wrong beat, the result is somehow still immoral.

What is the particular basis or argument for this belief? Is there any biblical basis for this? Did the Psalms follow a certain beat pattern that could be the basis for this thinking?

  • I thought I would share an anecdote. I once saw a heavy metal group perform on TV. The bassist died his hair red and had small horns like a faun. While playing a song that had a particularly pagan sound he danced and banged his head in quite an odd way. I did not see it again until watching a NatGeo special on some tribe some where. Just before a mutilation ritual, one of the participants moved in the exact same way, while the drums made a similar beat. I can't help but wonder since I saw that.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 18:36
  • I'm thinking that last question should probably be split off from the rest of this. Does that make sense? You've got the "why are some beats immoral" and "what beats were the psalms sung to" that seem to be disparate
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 19:01
  • @waxeagle I'm trying to ask in relation to whether or not that could provide supporting evidence or not. I reworded it slightly.
    – Narnian
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 19:09
  • It's not the beat, since almost all Western music is in a 4/4 beat, and that includes gospel and traditional European and American church hymns and related songs. (Notably, Gregorian chant has no beat!). It's more about the instrumentation (blaring electric guitars), the lyrics, the leather, the hair, the fans... There is also the devil's interval (the tritone) that just plain sounds "evil". Just to put some musical expansion into your thoughts...
    – Chelonian
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 15:49
  • @Chelonian Waltz's and many other songs are in 3/4 time.
    – Narnian
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 16:48

3 Answers 3


As I've read in several books on worship (see below), the basis for this belief goes back to the roots of various kinds of music in African tribal music. The reasoning goes that since the tribal music was demonic (by intention), therefore its successors must have a demonic back-beat.

However, I once read a senior thesis by a student at New St. Andrews College, in Moscow, Idaho, USA, that had a powerful argument against this line of reasoning. Alas, I do not have access to the thesis. She argued against the line of reasoning on various biblical bases.

We have virtually no idea how the Psalms were originally sung. We certainly do not have any original tunes, and we have very little idea of instrumentation. Again, that is simply something I have read in books (a few mentioned below).

On a more general worship/music note, I've found the book All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, by Ken Myers, to be extraordinarily helpful, as well as Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns, by T. David Gordon, and Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, by Marva Dawn.


Since certain types of music, like rock, were designed to make the music physically compelling and easier to dance to, many people believe they are not edifying for a believer. They believe that such music is trying to appeal to the flesh, especially in a sensual sense that Christians should avoid.

Also, if such styles are wrong, then it would follow that adding Christian words wouldn't help, as several Bible verses say to be separate from the world and unrighteousness.

Ephesians 5:11 (KJV)
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

James 4:4 (KJV)
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.


What is the particular basis or argument for this belief? Is there any biblical basis for this?

I once saw an interview with Graham Edge of the Moody Blues. He was describing a choice they made for the direction of their music back in the 60s. He said that they chose to follow cerebral music (citing a comparison to Simon and Garfunkel) as opposed to music that resonated with the genital portion of the human anatomy (also popular at the time). I do not think he was a Christian and it did not seem that he was aware of or concerned about what the Bible had to say. However, he did seem to understand that music can be used to resonate with different anatomical areas.

David played music to calm Saul. Music is used to lift worship and praise to God. However, many people have tried to time an act of fornication to Bolero by Ravel.

While the Bible does not contain any detailed assessment of music tempo, it is obvious that which lifts and edifies is more noble than that which debases and inflames. The problem is that the distinction is often difficult to quantify and convey and there is frequent disagreement as to where the border lies.

Many people in Christianity attempt to sharpen pencils and draw definitive lines for rules that others should follow. Music is not the only area this practice has been applied to. Sometimes it can be helpful to consider;

Romans 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

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