A response to Christian Berdahl; #1 – Syncopation (Part Two)

So Theomusicologist, you do realise that I have been waiting a considerable time for this conversation to continue, don’t you??

Yes indeed, and I’m so sorry! It has been an incredibly intense period with pretty much no letup. And you’re not the only one. But as we get into this, I thought I’d share a comment that came from a reader of Part One of this mini-series.

Really? OK, what did they have to say? Let me quote verbatim:

“hmm..interesting piece…Where is your scientific or whatever to refute berdahls “claim”? sorry but it seems all you have here is opinion rather than fact.”

I hate to use the word ‘interesting’ as they used it, but this is a very ‘interesting’ comment… I can only agree. The evidence suggests that they must have read the last exchange we had, but somehow I still find myself wanting to ask if they actually read it… What do you think? Hard to tell from this, I must say. I mean, the fact is that the very ‘claim’ itself…(and that’s a question, why on earth have they put ‘claim’ in inverted commas when the video is as clear as daylight? That IS what the man said!) is  as wild as it gets, and having thought about it a bit, I can see that Berdahl could have made a diatribe against syncopation without over-stating things as he does with that claim.

Yes, I would say you are definitely tracking on this one. I’ve not begun to unpick the issues regarding syncopation itself as yet – so our friend has shown us all exactly how to read and respond to something without a coherent grasp of what has been read. And so it is easy to now accuse me of having only offered opinions rather than fact. As it is, what I have done is very simple: I have drawn attention to a “fact” of history and the video is evidence (for those who accept). I have proceeded to ask a series of questions, and I have also made statements that are definitely more than mere ‘opinion’ – an example being my point that not everyone who speaks an ‘untruth’ has set out to lie. This is just the kind of unfocussed, empty question that I have come to expect from some people, and I am only drawing attention to this for the benefit of those who would actually like to grow their understanding of matters such as these but who are woefully short of “match practice” in the area of thinking for themselves more rigorously. If you want to be taken seriously in a serious conversation with actual technical content, learn how to ask serious questions!!

Okay, right, got you. This person obviously failed to get the fact that they needed to wait to see what case you were going to make in a future post rather than looking for all your answers in the last post. But don’t you think you’re being a bit harsh? Not everyone thinks as you do, Theomusicologist, and I just worry that people who just don’t think like you will just back away from what you say because…well, to be fair, you’re not what a lot of people expect and your firmness about stuff is hard for people to deal with. I find you hard work sometimes and I’m your friend!

I really appreciate that, and I guess this is why I am trying to communicate on this occasion using a conversational style. It is my professional – not personal – opinion that what Berdahl has said about syncopation is dangerously misleading, and this is why we are engaged in a public conversation about it. But look, I am more than ready to step up the technical conversation. Shall we?

Absolutely! I think it’s time you broke down syncopation in more detail!

Good stuff; so, let’s keep grounded in the context – Berdahl claimed that syncopation itself is the source of ALL occult power in pagan rituals. So my first question is: does the conceptual and practical entity that we call syncopation have what it takes to be the source of any kind of power in and of itself?


Hmm…not entirely sure how to make this one simpler, but let me see…okay, let me put it this way. Just for a moment, freeze on the fact that syncopation is a word with a definition. I’m asking a question on a level of principle here. And the question is this: does “syncopation” have the scope or capacity to actually be a source of occult power in and of itself?

Okay, I am sort of following; I guess Berdahl is saying that it does. Or rather – he is making an assumption on the basis of whatever information he has acquired that syncopation not only has the capacity to be a source of occult power, but that it really actually IS the source of occult power…whoa!

Technical point: that would presuppose that he has actually ‘acquired some information’ – do we know this for a fact? Or has he made this statement on a basis of his own beliefs and opinions?

I’m starting to see where you might be going with all this, Theomusicologist. I’ve just thought of something. I am ALL ears, talk to me! Well, a PhD in systematic theology is not required to understand that Satan himself is the author of sin…sin comes from him, right? That’s what my Bible says – and I’m kind of starting to get a line of thought going in my head that the actual source of ‘occult power’ has be the occult itself, right? Semantically speaking, in this line of thought it can ONLY be the occult itself, my friend! Right! It can only be the occult itself – therefore, the actual source of occult power in pagan worship services is…Satan himself?? Hang on, that would mean that he is the one they are worshipping, but he is the one empowering them to worship him??? Whoa…Theomusicologist, you are a very dangerous person. I can’t always keep up with you, now you’ve started asking questions and my own mind has begun to run into directions faster than I can keep up…you academic theologians are mad, do you hear me?! Mad! My life was simple before I met you…

It’s been said before… But I would hasten to point out that you were responsible for that line of thought, not me! But as you are showing such commendable enthusiasm for the task of thinking through this issue, I think that perhaps we ought to shake things up a bit more. What you’re saying is that you enjoy seeing me even more confused than I am already! Go on, admit it! My good friend, while of course I know what you are getting at, we both know that we can only joke about this because we both respect each other and you know that nothing matters more to me than people having a correct understanding of issues such as this – because sometimes salvation can literally depend on it!

Yes, of course I know this. So shake away, I can take it! What are you about to drop on me? Well now – what do you think the word ‘occult’ actually means?

I already don’t like this question as I know you too well by now! But I will play the game. I’m assuming that it means to do with witchcraft, paganism and satanism. In the way I have tended to use it, I see it as one of the words that defines the kingdom of Satan. Are you about to tell me that this is not quite right? Because if so, I am seriously intrigued!

Loving the framework of that definition, my friend. I can also say that for most of my life I would have said the exact same thing. But I then learnt that the word ‘occult’ comes from the Latin word family starting from the word occultere which means ‘secrete’ – that’s a technical word, but the rest of the word family gives us “to hide,” “conceal” and “covered over.”

Okay…hmm. Wait – are you saying that the word ‘occult’ refers to secret stuff – supernatural stuff that we can’t ‘see’ physically – but that it is not actually always specific to Satanic stuff??

Well, that is unfortunately more complicated than some might find ideal. Why am I not surprised?! Such is life, but let me explain. Okay!

Generally, the modern English word “occult” pertains to: “mystical, supernatural, or magical powers, practices, or phenomena.” That’s a difficulty because theologically we know that good and evil are not equal. What do you mean? Just that! God is the very embodiment of “good.” If God is eternal, then good in any ultimate sense is also eternal. But who does bad come from (if you’re a Christian)?


And is Satan eternal?

Er…no, I know he’s not, somehow, but I can’t say why… Let me help. Question: what was Satan? Well, he was Lucifer before he was Satan, and as Lucifer he was an angel, the chief angel in heaven. Of course! And did angels create themselves? No, God made them! Right, so they are not eternal, are they? No, and that means that Satan is not eternal…

Now this is theology, isn’t it? Lucifer had a beginning, and as Satan he will have an end. Sin has a beginning, and it will also have an end. So good and evil are therefore not equal.

You know, I kind of knew they weren’t – but at the same time, I didn’t know that. So how does this relate to the definition of ‘occult?’

Well, the linking of ‘mystical,’ ‘supernatural’ and ‘magical’ is complicated because ‘magic’ cannot apply to God, but ‘supernatural’ can and does, and even ‘mystical’ can and does. I know that some people will get bent out of shape on that issue because they honestly associate the word family around ‘mystical’ to heresies such as Gnosticism, but I can’t stop to fix that right now. My point is that for many people (maybe even most people), all of this ‘supernatural’ stuff is essentially in the same dimension of life.

Okay! So, this is what you call ‘an overgeneralisation to make a point’ isn’t it? Absolutely. Right. And yes, that makes sense to me, actually – because most people I know outside the Christian world have a much more vague conception of the real differences in beliefs across different religions, and even different worldviews. But even that’s not straightforward – because for some African Christians, belief in both God and what we Westerners would call ‘magic’ is not as far apart as would be ideal…

It really could not be less straightforward. Both inside and outside religious communities, confusion reigns. I jokingly refer to what I call the ‘divine magic wand’ when I want to make a serious point about some Christian people’s views regarding and expectations of God and what He is supposed to be doing. There is NO divine magic wand – the very concept is reprehensible on every level – but my point is that one of the great deceptions of the modern world (and the pluralistic notions that are now as common as litter on the streets) is this mish-mash of religious understanding. Result: for too many of us, the dividing line between good and evil is now seriously blurred. I have a confession to make, by the way!


I used to watch shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer regularly when I was younger. I comforted myself with vague notions that all this stuff was not real, so it wasn’t hurting me. But eventually I realised – and I know it had to be the Holy Spirit – that to watch these programmes was effectively endorsing the values they espoused, even if I was only interested in being “entertained.” If the storylines were effectively “make-believe” based on lies, then how on earth was it coherent for a Bible-believing Christian to be watching this stuff?

I’m with you, Theomusicologist, and I have a few tales of my own in that regard. But look, we both have to go soon. You’ve spent all this time talking about the word ‘occult’ and our understanding of things to do with the occult. And I am STILL waiting to get to grips with the actual business of syncopation itself! So I need a signpost to where we’re going to go before we part company today, if that’s ok…

Of course, and I really appreciate your willingness to engage with me and my very strange mind. Here’s the signpost: It is not just the secular people whose notions of the occult are scrambled – it is also many Christians! We needed to talk through the fact that good and evil are not equal, didn’t we? You had access to all the information to know that fact, but you hadn’t put those pieces together. Uh-huh. So when anyone talks about “occult power” and “pagan worship services” it is imperative that we break down those phrases – because where I’m going is this: if Berdahl really knew anything about this stuff on any serious technical level, he would not have expressed himself so loosely. I’m not merely questioning his credibility in the area of a technical musical concept such as syncopation; I am questioning his actual understanding of words like ‘occult.’ He insisted that he had somehow come into contact with information from “all occult experts around the world” and on that basis his statement about syncopation ought to be taken seriously.

This is not about a simplistic, emotional response to a highly questionable statement. This is about asking how and why Christians don’t think more rigorously than they do, and encouraging everyone to think more deeply about the stuff that they hear preached and taught. Until next time, my friend: God bless you!

And you too, Theomusicologist!

45 thoughts on “A response to Christian Berdahl; #1 – Syncopation (Part Two)

  1. I found your blog while doing research on Christian Berdahl. I appreciate what you’ve done so far and look forward to your future articles.

    I must say I was rather disheartened (though not at all surprised) when I started watching one of Berdahl’s videos and couldn’t get more than five minutes into it without discovering glaring factual errors. In the video I was watching (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki3-VcoEkfY), Berdahl misattributes a quote to Marshall McLuhan. The first part of the quote is accurate; McLuhan did say “the medium is the message.” But Berdahl continues to quote as if the rest came directly from the McLuhan: “That is to say, the music: its melody, harmony and rhythm, all by itself disposes man to virtue or vice by moving the emotions. Therefore, the way in which they move the passions should serve as a principle basis for judgment on whether any given piece of music is good or bad.”

    The quote actually came from an article written by a Catholic priest, Basil Nortz (http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/arts/al0221.html). That such an obvious and misleading misattribution is present within the first five minutes of Berdahl’s presentation gives me serious doubts about his credibility.

    1. Hi Matthew, thanks for this and I believe I have also seen your name elsewhere online in dealing with issues such as this. Thanks for reading, for getting in touch and for the kind words.

      It might be argued that Berdahl did not intend to suggest that what he said following the word ‘message’ was part of the McLuhan quotation, but as he has both stated and implied so much that has wrecked his credibility this would appear to be yet another example of his “scholarship…” Thanks very much for taking the time to share that, I definitely appreciate it.

  2. I heard Christian Berdahl on Amazing Facts last night, which sent me searching the internet today and I landed here. I’ve read both your responses and am eager to hear more. I didn’t hear Berdahl make any outrageous claims in the partial segment I watched; I did hear him refer to the effect of polyrhythmic music on the frontal lobe, which Dr. Neil Nedley has written about. I also learned about the alter-egos of certain musical stars and quotes from those stars about their alter-egos; pretty disturbing stuff.

    Berdahl is in ‘good’ company when he makes impossible-to-substantiate claims while trying to sound a needed warning call. I’ve heard it done in warning about music, diet and evolution, especially. It is most unfortunate and hurts God’s cause. Is it worse than the prevalent Laodicean condition that leads so many to shrug off everything as harmless? I don’t think so.

    Last year (or 2011) we had a guest speaker at our church speaking on the subject of music and the dangers of that which is rhythm-driven; I thought he did a credible job. Can’t remember the guy’s name; it was Eastern European. He basically shared the subject of his doctoral dissertation, and said that he is still researching and learning. Do you know of him?

    1. Michelle, there is a huge amount that comes from the popular/contemporary music world/s that we should only be deeply concerned about! But that does not make it a good thing to toss out the baby along with the bathwater.

      I am now considerably more familiar with Dr. Nedley’s thinking concerning syncopated music and brain activity than was the case before he attended our Camp Meeting a few weeks back. I also took the Depression Recovery Seminar training that the Nedley Clinic does, and it was fascinating. I’ve huge respect for much of his work, but I am disturbed by aspects of the musical facets of what the Nedley Clinic propagates. I can see why he has drawn the conclusions that he has, but I am disturbed by the objectivity of the science that has been undertaken in this area. This may require a whole book, never mind a blog post…

      Your middle paragraph is well-observed and well-received. As for your last paragraph, are you maybe referring to Karl Tsatsalbidis? He’s a former drummer now doing a PhD at Andrews who talks about this sort of stuff…

      Music can be ‘rthythm-driven’ without a percussion instrument in sight, and just having drums/percussion does not even mean that the music is now ‘rhythm driven’ – especially if there is no (for example) backbeat…so all these technicalities become a real question…

      1. I happen to see this comment and watched the video/audio of Karl Tsatalbasidis. He seems to share pretty much the same information Christian has shared. Do you happen to like what Karl shares in his audios?

      2. Interesting question! Karl and I have now dialogued via email (etc), but not yet met in person and I have not seen his own work – only heard about it. So while I suspect that Karl and I will not see eye to eye on a number of things, I get the impression that he is a good guy, serious about ministry and he is also unquestionably more theologically literate than Christian (not that this is the be-all and end-all). At some point I can see I will need to hear Karl’s audio for myself.

      3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJFKgDR8Frs is where I heard the audio you can see all the audios on the left and saw a few videos on there as well. In one of the videos he demonstrated with a drum set along with a piano. Was very interesting to hear the examples.

        He also really makes me think about what he shares. Still trying to weigh all that he shared.

      4. This is great!

        I started this blog five years ago in the hope of generating conversation and discussion such as what is going on now. Ah well, it shows that we have to wait sometimes, which is pretty Biblical…!

        Look forward to checking out Karl’s ideas rather more seriously, including these practical examples. So, thanks very much!

      5. Yes, Karl Tsatsalbidis was the person who gave a presentation at our church. He stated that his research is still a work in progress; I found him humble but convincing.

  3. I’m glad I found your article about this. I did listen to Christian Berhdahl’s message. I was wondering about drumming in general. It was as if he was saying no drumming at all, since it shuts down part of your brain. Some things I thought were really good, others parts left me to question what he was saying.

    Do you not agree with the rest of his message about music? The lyrics, the repetitiveness, etc?

    1. That is kind of you, and I like your question.

      Somehow, the word-concepts ‘drumming’ and ‘syncopation’ have become inextricably intertwined in ways that are not always in fact the case. Dance music of the hyper-contemporary variety (house, deep house, trance, techno, drum’n’bass, etc) does not always feature out-and-out syncopation…so an argument against drums and drumming is not necessarily an argument against syncopation. I have been seriously waylaid by life pressures in my quest to complete parts three (and possibly even four) of this series, but there are indeed certain elements of what he has said (both in the video in question) and elsewhere that I do not disagree with. There are serious problems with many songs in the CCM nexus, and at times the repetitiveness is an example. But even with that, I would suggest that we look closer at how repetition in this sort of music is utilised (I’m planning another post on this very issue).

      Bad theology abounds and he is right to put his finger on that too. And I am sure that he is sincere in his desire to help others find a better, more informed level of musical praise and worship to a holy God. Yes, he is a music-maker – but the depth and scope of his thinking, reflection and research is just much less than would ever have been ideal.

      1. Thank you for responding to my comment. I found Christian’s audios and video after reading this article, http://www.empoweredbychrist.org/the-demonic-worship-of-ihop.html I was trying to see if there was any more information on music and it’s effect on the brain, emotions, etc.

        Listening to Berdahl, was very informative. but I’ll admit, part of it left me kind of confused. Is all contemporary worship music with it’s repetitiveness, rock influence, bad and now what do I do? Do I sit there during worship and analyze everything? Do I walk out? I’ve heard Christian mention he won’t stay in church if all that is going on during worship. Most churches sing these Jesus Culture, Hillsong, IHOP etc. With the things he shared, left me with an impression, all that the drumming, too much repetition in these songs are bad.

        I’ll admit I liked what he shared about about worship and feelings. It’s not the about “feeling” and living by faith and not by sight.

        I can’t wait until you share more on what Christian has said in his audio and videos. I

      2. Kananigirl,

        Reading your comments has served as yet another reminder as to why the ministry that I am trying to do is so important. Your questions are hugely important – pastorally, musically and theologically – and so many of the answers out there are more limited than would be ideal. I am not saying for a second that I have all the answers, but I am certainly convicted that we can address questions such as yours with more intellectual, spiritual and biblical integrity than is often the case. Please do stay in touch and continue to ask questions!

      3. I’ve been in several pentecostal churches for number of years and have seen some really crazy extremes with the music and other things. It’s left me asking myself questions and searching ou the answers. I’ve amazingly found articles and videos that have opened my eyes. Only thing it’s been hard to talk to anyone about it. Hardly anyone I know thinks the current worship music is bad. Everywhere I go, I hear IHOP, Jesus Culture dominate music. I’ll admit, I like some of Hillsongs etc and other worship music. The very, very few that will agree with me don’t know what to do about it all. As, you’ve seen in my other comments, I’m not too sure if I can just dump it all out yet. It’s HARD! I love many genres of music.

        It seems in the modern churches, same with the pentecostal worship too, it’s about “feeling God.” Honestly, I’ve never really felt anything in worship. Not in the way, my friends seem to describe anyway. It’s all feeling, feeling, feeling, weeping, crying, I need to “feel God” in worship, the high. Thanks for allowing me to ask these questions and hear the feedback. I appreciate this.

      4. It’s all good.

        Two questions please!

        a) What exactly is IHOP?

        b) When you refer to ‘Jesus Culture’ I have a pretty good idea of the kind of thing you could be referring to, but I’d like to know if that particular phrase means anything more specific??


      5. Uhm, are you sure you wanna know what Jesus Culture and IHOP music is? LOL Well there was a link in my comment early. If you look there you can see what I mean, the IHOP music is mantra based, heavily repetitive and quite hypnotic, it’s Jesus is my boyfriend songs. Jesus Culture, sings some IHOP songs, but they write their own stuff as well. I’m also gonna admit, I listened to IHOP until, I happen dawn on me, all these songs isn’t glorifying God. It’s just Jesus is my boyfriend lyrics. I couldn’t stand it anymore. As for Jesus Culture, there are a few songs I like too, but well…you can see same thing going on in their conferences.

        http://www.empoweredbychrist.org/the-demonic-worship-of-ihop.html There’s a video of one of the songs in that article. As for really listening to the rest, Misty Edwards is one of their worship leaders Her songs “I Will Run” “You Won’t Relent” you can find on youtube, but the song structures are the same. Btw, I found an article about IHOP aka International House of Prayer how they were instructed to use music and chord progressions, repeating phrases over and over again to hypnotize people.

      6. Wowee!

        Well, I was not so much interested in the musical elements of IHOP and Jesus Culture in the first instances – I’d not heard of either of these two things at all, but when you explained that IHOP is short for International House of Prayer I then googled that and my oh my, did I find some material!

        So I then did the same for Jesus Culture – looks like these two movements both began in exactly the same year (1999), but I have never heard of them until now.

        I am going to respond to the rest of what you said later on – and in more depth – but it is really nice to be able to talk about these things. I think one of my former friends has become part of Jesus Culture or something very much like it – the last I heard of him, he was using language very much akin to what I just saw on their website. People are so sincere, but some of the teachings and doctrines now flying about the place are very, very – complicated.

        And of course, the music that they do can only be a reflection of their theology…

      7. Oops! I guess I should have read your questions better. It’s 2 am in Hawai’i. LOL! I’m sorry about that.

        I read that IHOP article a while back and I began finding out about their’s and Jesus Culture’s music and their theology. Most of my friends like their speakers and will attend their church and conferences, and worship schools, after hearing the music. I think in some ways we’re a little country separate from the mainland, but these things are here as well.

  4. Hello ! Thank you for sharing this ! As a member of the very same denomination as well as a composer myself, it’s nice to see someone else who can and will dare to think outside the box.

    1. Thanks David, the encouragement for that very activity of thinking outside the box is much appreciated! Wishing you well!

  5. One thing I have noticed about some of our SDA music is that some folks are so afraid of getting “Pentacostal” and being carried away with feelings that they eliminate all emotion or depth from their music and play this one dimentional, shallow fluff that seems devoid of any feeling whatsoever, thus throwing out the baby with the bath water and going to the other extreme. Or, I seen folks shun music that wasn’t bad, but it was different from they liked so they made it out to be “evil”. I’m so tired of that. Which again, is why I find it refreshing to read your articles as it challenges us to dare to ask questions and again, “think outside the box.”

    1. This is very-well observed.

      We have become one of the Christian denominations that spends more time defining ourselves by what we are NOT than by what we actually are! That is why, for example, when David Asscherick preached a sermon on the supremacy of Jesus at GYC Europe last year (2012) and the ways in which huge swathes of conservative Adventism have failed to make Him the cornerstone of their mission and witness, I had to ask myself how we even got to this position in the first place!

      Each of the musical observations you have made are spot-on, and as the Music and Worship Advisor for one of our church conferences this is a monstrous challenge – but praise God, nothing is too big for Him! However, it is sad that as both conductor and composer/arranger, I work to a far, far higher technical/musical/artistic standard than is possible within the church community, where the real depth of the poverty of musical (and spiritual) understanding is heart-breaking.

      1. Very well put ! 3ABN is one of the examples I’m referring to. Watching them sing is painful to me. It’s so canned and choreographed with their phony hand gestures and I roll my eyes as I watch them try to maintain their fake smiles and cheesy antics through out the song. I find it insulting to one’s intelligence. Everything is so sterile and Mayberry like, it’s like a Christian version of Barney the dinosaur. And I’m afraid Mr. Berdahl fall into this category as well. I’ve listened to many sermons of his over the years as well as seen enough of his songs performed and I have to say in all honesty that there seems to be an element of self exaltation in his work which others have told me that they picked up on that too. I get the impression that he likes to hear himself pontificate or something. I have a friend who did some music for him some years ago and she got the same impression too, so as a result, henceforth, anything coming from him, I just tend to let go in one ear and out the other, considering the source. And that’s if I even give it the time of day at this point as I choose not to pay much attention to his stuff anymore. And I say this as someone who used to sign up and get his sermons some years ago….

      2. As far as theology goes, I am pretty conservative (although my serious interest in Continental theology means I often enjoy better academic conversations with more liberal and progressive Adventists), and I am happy to say that I really enjoy much of what is on 3ABN in terms of spoken-word ministry (which many people would not). But I fully agree that the music on 3ABN is an absolute disgrace much of the time – and lethally non-diverse. That said, at times you can hear something and someone worth hearing, but you need to play it a LOT to have much chance of having that experience!

  6. I have been confused about this issue for the past few years. I was raised in a home where country music was played all the time and when we became Christians we changed the station to the Christian station. A few years ago while at college I heard some things on music and became very confused. Recently I listened to Chrystal’s series and thought finally principles. a long story short I found some inaccuracies in his studies. Recently I have been praying to find out God’s principles so that the music I listen to glorifies him . It seems that without even wanting to make this an issue it keeps coming up in one form or another and I have no solid foundation on which to stand and I’m tired of sand.

    1. Hi Erin,

      Which ‘Chrystal’ are you referring to? I’m not sure I have heard of this person – or do you mean ‘Christian??’

      Whoever they are, I am sorry that you feel that you are on quicksand in this area. My heart is very burdened to hear stories like yours – and I am but a mere human being with struggles like everyone else. I am making no claims to have all the answers and to be able to help and heal all those who are broken in this area, but I have just been at an amazing conference on congregational music – very academic, but very real – and I am inspired to continue working in this area of ministry.

      Please pray for me as I am preparing Part Three, as it is going to have some difficult technical content. For those patient and serious enough, I hope that there is going to be a genuine reward for their efforts.

      I hope not so much to give a solid foundation as much as to help others learn to think themselves to solid foundations in Jesus. God bless you and don’t quit searching for the truth!

  7. I recently watched Christian berdahl’s summary of the distraction dilemma. My first thoughts where that he had a lot of good points.
    Thinking about it longer, and is music acronym. Means that what he sees as ok music will be different to what I see as ok music, and everyone else.

    But I do agree that music is just as important as lyrics.
    If the music takes your mind back to a rock concert. Should we really have that in our church.
    I guess with anything you hear, you have to pray and study about it. Not just take what some says as gospel.
    At the end of the day we are told to study the word of God and use that to determine right from wrong.

    I guess the way I see it is, I couldn’t picture Jesus rocking out I some of the music we play in our church.
    Hopefully that is not complete jiberish.

    1. Brayden, he has certainly made some good points. Some very important points. That is precisely why this sequence of blog posts is targeting the very specific issues that are wholly problematic. Not the entirety of his output!

      Rock gospel is not my favourite. And although I do play jazz, I would not use that musical language in a church setting. Not all rock concerts are necessarily a bad thing! Sometimes the songs and the messages are very much worth hearing. But in truth, it is a medium that has evolved to mean something very specific – rock = rebellion in ways that totally eclipse jazz, which was never about rebellion (for starters, jazz is sophisticated in ways that rock is not (until they got more creative) and constructed on principles that can only point to something more intrinsically musical).

      I too am not sure that I can picture Jesus ‘rocking out’ the way that some people do. And some of the songs we sing in all genres – I couldn’t see Him accepting them. But I do know that you can play really, really respectfully and worshipfully in a rock style. And secular people really notice the difference.

      Definitely not jibberish. Really appreciate you taking time. You made me think too!

  8. Ok – I just discovered our “buddy” Mr. Berdahl the other night, during my quest to find a video of “Take Me To The King” on YouTube. I’ll be playing that song on the keyboard at my church for an upcoming special prayer service, and wanted to hear a sample of the song… Lo and behold, there was Christian Berdahl’s face with the intriguing video title “Satan’s musical church”…. Curiosity got the best of me, so I was introduced to his wild notions of this evil thing called syncopation…

    This hit close to home with me, since my husband and I are both members of a praise band at our church. (We emphasize beats 2 and 4 on a regular basis – uh, oh – syncopation!!!)

    A couple of thing stuck out to me as I watched his video:

    First – much like Theomusicologist, I wondered how he obtained this knowledge from “All Occult” leaders, that supposedly agree about the power and use of syncopation. I had this mental picture of him sitting in the woods with the satanists in an interview format, just after they had finished an animal sacrifice, or sitting around the cauldron with some witches… (comical, I know – but really – how did he gather all this information from ALL occult groups in the world?? I don’t think they are all on facebook…

    Second – and most important to me: GOD CREATED MUSIC! GOD CREATED OUR BRAINS (and that would include all types of brain waves that are encased in our brains). When we are saved, and the Holy Spirit (God Himself) comes to live in us, to guide us into all truth (1 Corinth 3:16, John 16:13), how can you then even claim (or outright state) that something that God created (music), when it is being used in a format of worship, would be so powerful in and of itself, that it could overpower the voice of the Holy Spirit or even remove Him from our hearts/minds. I’m referring to Berdahl’s claim that the syncopation affects the “beta brain waves, and removes the frontal moral lobe from our brain, leaving us suseptible to being possessed!” What??

    Even if it were true that the beat of music moves me from an active-thinking state to a relaxed state, or, heaven forbid, when I am in a natural sleeping state (which doesn’t involve music, but would involve a whole different set of brain waves), I still have the Holy Spirit living and active in my life, regarless of what set of God-given brain waves I’m operating on at any given moment…

    Of course, I’m not in defense of all music. There are very questionable genres out there, but what makes them questionable is their lyrics, content and the motive of the artist. I am, however, in defense of Christian music, old and new, with various beats, syncopations, and the like – the music that lifts up the name of my Heavenly Father!

    I think the whole issue with syncopation is purely an issue of personal preference. To Christian Berdahl I would say: Keep your personal preferences to yourself. Worship as the Spririt leads you, and don’t let your personal preferences cause division in God’s church.

    1. Thank you, Becky!

      Some very important points and well made. And as for your great observation about what he says about beta brain waves – you have very nicely stolen my thunder, as I plan to get to that very issue later down the line. I have had another SDA musicologist get in touch on that very issue, so while I had begun to get weary of this whole issue, the truth is that folk are both deceived and confused. I don’t even approve of every single style of music that contains syncopation, but I think we need nuanced arguments, not haphazard non-academic statements that are almost designed to emotionally manipulate a person into thinking that if they don’t come round to the ‘approved’ viewpoint then they are simply not spiritual… He could have made his points without resorting to that kind of chicanery.

    2. This subject is a kind of interesting one and it looks like Berdahl really hit a nerve with you! Seems like to summarize what you have said is God created music therefore all music is good and can be only used for good. If you extend that line of reasoning to other things that have been created by God I think you will find that maybe you should approach it from another angle.

      1. Quite the contrary… I don’t assume that all music is good and can only be used for good… See this quote from my original comment:
        “Of course, I’m not in defense of all music. There are very questionable genres out there, but what makes them questionable is their lyrics, content and the motive of the artist. I am, however, in defense of Christian music, old and new, with various beats, syncopations, and the like – the music that lifts up the name of my Heavenly Father!”

        Analogy: police officers use guns to protect and serve usually with good intentions. People with evil intentions use guns to murder. Does this make all guns evil? Does this make any gun evil? No, and no! It is a created hunk of metal… The good or evil stems from the heart of he who holds the gun… Same is true of any created thing, be it human, gun, music, etc…

  9. I think sometimes we tend to anyalize things way too much. It is very clear if we look back a 100 years or so we can see what is right and what is wrong with music and even theology. Only by forgetting the past will we repeat it.

    1. “Only by forgetting the past will we repeat it?”

      I like that.

      How does that link to ‘over-analysing?” At least that way we won’t forget. Didn’t you just say that the idea was to not forget the past? There are things that we need to jettison from the past. And others we need to hold onto for all we’re worth.

      Not following this, I fear…

  10. I will relay my interactions with Mr. Berdahl. I saw his videos a couple of years ago and as a lifelong Christian SDA musician, had several objections to his beliefs and comments. It appeared to me that he cherry picks the research that he presents, only presenting what fits his agenda. On his Facebook page I sent him a message or two with some questions and comments about what I believed. I was not confrontational in any way, but merely asked him some questions. He sent a respectful reply, but refused to answer anything. When I pressed him further and challenged him as to why he was simply giving me boilerplate responses, he stated that he was very busy. He then promised that if I contacted him in a ‘couple of months’, he would engage me in a ‘deeper discussion’. I never heard from him, so in a couple of months, I contacted him again. He again stated that he was very busy and that a ‘deeper discussion’ would ensue. Again, I never heard from him. I gave up and concluded that he was completely unwilling to honestly engage anyone in debate or discussion…which I believe to be very irresponsible and a tip-off that his findings cannot be defended. I believe that he is sincere in his beliefs, but most of them I do not agree with.

    1. Greg,

      I am very grateful that you have taken the time to post this comment and share this information.

      We are on the same page. Including your last sentence!

  11. I would just like to say , Michael made a statement that ALL involved with the occult agree, But it is up to US to search for truth, when learning. Christ will lead you. No matt what, Satan uses the best weapons available and sadly , music is one of them. Just remember, jesus is your best teacher and friend, trust him. All men can make mistakes. At least Michael is seeking the truth. God bless you all and lead you to the truth, keep your eyes on jesus.

    1. Michael??

      You do mean “Christian,” right???

      Music as a ‘weapon?’

      Satan can use the Bible itself as a weapon. And he does that all the time.

    2. If you mean Christian and not ‘Michael’ is seeking the truth then try questioning him or engaging him in a discussion about his message. He is NOT seeking the truth. A truth seeker will engage and listen to other views, will show respect for views that might be different than his and will not get rid of people by promising ‘deeper discussion’ in the future and then blow them off…as he did with me. He presents a false message (in my opinion) and makes a career doing it…so he does not dare to accept challenges to his beliefs. I believe that any music ministry that spends its time putting down other music ministries, will have a lot to answer for.

  12. You are very fixated on his statement about berdahl’s statement on syncopation and the occult and his use of it in an absolute sense.

    You have pointed out successfully that he went to far with his statement! But do you Theomusicologist think there is
    1. a link between syncopated music and the occult/evil or maybe
    2. that syncopated music is used by the occult.

    There is something interesting I have noticed, just watch channel mtv you will find what I would call some strikingly evil stuff being paraded before your eyes and ears, just look at the album covers in your local music store, another plethora of evil stuff, read the words of a lot of the music and you will find another whole world of evil spewing out. And the weird thing is it’s nearly exclusively related to the styles of music that Berdahl is bringing our attention to.

    Is music completely Amoral?
    or like Berdahl is advocating is there something in the music itself?

    It seems kinda hard to get into that real gangsta mindset while listening to something akin to mozart. And you would rarely see women gyrating around scantily clad with some lovely Bach music skipping away in the background, the picture just doesnt fit. But bust out some Jay-z or 50 Cent and then now you’re talking.

    1. Thanks for engaging, Teaspoon. If Becky picks up on your comment, she can reply to that.


      Your first sentence is a value-loaded statement that says more about you than about me. The whole point of this series is to ‘show’ serious readers/thinkers that this whole way of thinking and reasoning is ethically corrupt – he has literally failed the ninth commandment – and therefore his claims for spiritual authority in this area are themselves bankrupt. So yes, you can just about get away with accusing me of mere ‘fixation’ and you are entitled to your opinion. But the kind of loose thinking he propagates is, unfortunately, now common enough in Seventh-Day Adventism to be a big part of why we are not growing as a church.

      You have asked if there is any link between syncopated music and the occult, and then asked the ancillary question ‘maybe syncopated music is used by the occult?’

      I very much hope to be in a position to explain syncopation in a proper video resource at some point. But for now, let me try to answer your question.

      The Bible itself has been used to justify all sorts of evils. Growing up, my family was friends with another family where the wife and mother refused to countenance Christianity in any way. Reason: growing up in apartheid South Africa, she sang hymns every Sunday while black people and mixed-race people were treated as lower-class citizens – including by her family – and she swore blind that she would be no part of any religion which allowed for people to be treated like that.

      So is there a link between Christianity and racism? You might need to ensure that your language is precise before answering that question. Depending on your answer, I will respond to your first question.

      Is syncopated music used by the occult?

      Are you sure that this is a well-conceived question?

      Operas by Wagner, Mozart, Verdi, Donizetti and others have some of the most salacious plots you can imagine. Adultery, rape, incest, violence, jealousy, murder, lies, more lies and the rest. But many of these arias and choruses are very non-syncopated.

      Is non-syncopated music used by the occult?

      Teaspoon, the evidence suggests that you have not really rigorously thought this through for yourself. I am a conductor of Bach, Handel, Mozart et al. I studied with a three-time Grammy Award winner, and my own reputation as a conductor of European sacred classical music is slowly growing. I don’t think you realise that Bach (my favourite composer) is FULL of syncopation. I also suspect that you do not know that nearly all of the truly world-class performers of sacred classical music are not Christian in any way. Many are homosexual. But they sing, play and conduct Bach beautifully.

      Now, which would you rather? A performance of classical music that sounds beautiful and that – in your mind – does not inspire the kind of gyrating we see in hip-hop videos from scantily clad women – but which is performed by a world-class musician who has totally rejected the Holy Spirit? Or one of ‘gansta rap’ that is also spiritually corrupt? Have you read EGW on this subject?

      “Display is not religion nor sanctification. There is nothing more offensive in God’s sight than a display of instrumental music when those taking part are not consecrated, are not making melody in their hearts to the Lord” (Ev 510).

      Your cheap association with so-called black music and the obvious trope of scantily clad women with ‘syncopation’ may be sincere, but it is woefully badly-informed. No, music is not completely amoral, but this whole line of thinking is redolent with class issues and even race issues, and it is precisely why I have taken Berdahl on. Not all music – including classical music – glorifies God. But not all syncopated music is against God – and that includes some contemporary worship music. Scripture alone will not facilitate an argument to say that God ONLY likes non-syncopated music – he sees what is in the heart! Our duty as public speakers and teachers is to truth, and just like Paul had to call out Peter for his inconsistencies whilst knowing he himself was not perfect, I do the same herewith.

      Christian Berdahl speculates beyond the pages of Scripture (his belief that when the serpent spoke to Eve, he sang – that’s just one example). His feelings have come first. His culture comes second. Scripture is then forced to fit. There is NO integrity in that!

      No-one is perfect, but the questions you have asked above make it very clear why someone has had to say something about what Berdahl is doing and the damage he is causing.

  13. I just want to say that I hope I didn’t say anything harmful or gossipy about Mr. Berdahl in my previous statements. If I have, I would like to apologize. I think the Holy Spirit has been weighing on my mind about this for some time and I don’t want to be guilty of any kind of slander or needless negative talk. I don’t know his or any man’s heart, nor do I want to pass any judgment as though I did, so again I apologize. Jesus is coming soon and some things that were more of an issue to me before are becoming less and less important as Eternity comes more and more into view. God bless you all in your various ministries and God bless Mr. Berdahl in his as well.

    1. I very much appreciate your words, David, but I would say that you have done more good than harm. Jesus is indeed coming soon. Priorities are changing for many of of us…

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