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“They would have to sing better songs for me to learn to have faith in their Redeemer”— Friedrich Nietzsche

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47 comments
  1. Songs tell a great deal about our psyche, our society and our priorities. If the church sings watered down, out-dated words we don't even believe that are steeped in hyperbole and ridiculous piety, why would anybody believe in the God we profess to know? Better songs will bring about more people hearing and singing the love and truth of God, which will, in turn, internalize it to their hearts. Great quote.

  2. Lips said:

    It is rather hilarious that Nietzsche said that. Such a true statement though. Why does CCM music have to be so terrible 99% of the time? I mean damn, we are singing about our God, the one that saved us. That is something worth singing about, and not just in the key of G.

  3. i have such a passion for creativity in worship.we are creative beings who are called to show God's incredible creativity through everything we do.and you do just that. so thank you.

  4. deisy said:

    wow that's a challenge =P

  5. Jeff said:

    My initial reaction:1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB)"…man looks at the outward appearance,but the LORD looks at the heart."Thankfully, it's not about the songs or my ability to sing them.

  6. I think when someone doesn't want to believe in Christ, they begin to criticize: I don't believe because of the christians, or I don't believe because of Church or music or whatever… I think Mr. Nietzsche had he's own selfish reasons beyond the christian music of his time. The Holy Spirit doesn't need our christian music to convince someone, but once the Holly Spirit works on us, we still can say no. It's not about the music, it's all about us.

  7. my sentiment would be the same as this quote from Gandhi."I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." — Mahatma GandhiThe two basic commands to love God, and love his people (Deut 6:5) has become so complex for the church. I am the first one to admit that I am guilty. Worship has become so capsulated and mercantile that we become robot like. Although, in recognition of this, I am free by the grace and the mercy that is endless to surrender all, and act accordingly; expressing truth and spirit. Loving God with all, and loving His people from what I had received. "World, I have overcome youWorld, I have overcome youWorld, I have overcomeBy my song and the blood of a son"Thank you for that.

  8. good point, Nietzsche. i love Jesus… but sometimes i feel the same way.

  9. Kim Joy said:

    I do think a greater effort should definitely be put to hearing these songs from heaven and producing them correctly but for the soul purpose of pleasing Our Lover. Remember when Rich Man ask Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to tell his brothers about hell? Abraham said, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."Well, he may think a better song might persuade him but I doubt it.

  10. AlAmy said:

    Let's be careful and not be music & art snobs either….let's serve our congregations first!

  11. well, the second part of the quote is ".. and his disciples would have to look more redeemed!" So, I suppose, his first statement was just stating his general distaste for the music – but the second pretty much reveals his observations of the hypocrisy of some who might categorize themselves as part of the "Redeemed."I suppose that I tend to agree with both of his statements, except to say that, I doubt that his mind/heart would change, even if he considered the music spectacular. Oh, and rather than "looking" more redeemed, maybe "acting" more redeemed.

  12. Caleb said:

    Did anyone ever stop to think maybe he was just being a jerk? I mean we are talking about Nietzsche. You know the "God is Dead" guy. I don't think we could of played the sweetest melody available to change his mind. We as Christians are so worried about fitting in and seeming like the secular world that we lose sight of the fact that we're supposed to stand out. Not in a hey I'm a holy roller and your gonna burn in hell kind of way, but in a hey, here is something different, here is the love of Christ. In the words of Bob Goff…We're not supposed to blend in; we're not supposed to stand out; we're supposed to change everything.

  13. I think this is a great reflection of why we should look at music from varying perspectives. i hear it all the time that worship music shouldn't be about you or me or the music or the style or the "fill in the blank" but about God. Which is true. However, it's also true that not everyone who goes to church is following Jesus. And they're there looking at everything and taking in everything and when we sing lame, watered down, simple, or out dated songs then that says something to the person who was told to come check it out.

  14. Robert said:

    What is the context of the quote? I've learned that context can be important in developing an opinion of any soundbyte.

  15. This is interesting…there was some pretty good music in Nietzsche's day…what would he say today?

  16. Rachel said:

    I think this goes for any Christian music. Most of what is played on Christian radio does not sound that good and a lot of it is way too superficial. It's also way too simple. The lyrics aren't creative by any means, and anyone with an ear for music can easily pick up the chords. It's not really attractive to anyone. I think a lot of artists try to hard to sound "cool" instead of sounding "good." I think Christian music should aim at making more songs like your "How he loves," Phil Wickham's "Beautiful," Derek Webb's "Wedding dress," and Sixpence None the Richer's "Beautiful, Scandalous, Night."

  17. Not trying to start an argument here, but I'm not sure that a great song is determined by the key it is in, or what position you play a certain chord, or how creative the chord progression is. I feel like a great song can simply be determined by if it moves people and God or not. Some people enjoy Chris Tomlin and feel something when his songs are played and you can't fault them for that or Tomlin for writing it. The same with Hillsong, Matt Redman, Jeff Buckley, and even harder stuff like Underoath. Now, I agree that there is something special about the music of John Mark Mcmillan that many don't have, but for me they are so good because I find something about myself written in each song. His albums really speak to me, so I don't want to sound like I don't enjoy something creative or new/fresh. I just don't believe that because a worship style or song type/genre is popular that is means it's less creative or even seen as less of an offering to God. Each song is unique because it's written by one person or one group of people and those moments will not ever happen again because it was particular to those people and that moment. I don't think I am smarter than Nietzsche by an stretch of the imagination, but God forbid someone ever establish belief in anything based on the music. Although, I could be reading more into the quote than needed or maybe not enough. And John Mark, if you are reading this I mean nothing other than a humble opinion. I will be the last person in history to claim I have cornered the market on wisdom.

  18. Love it. We worship THE creator.. Beauty itself. How do we manage to sing and write such crappy music about a magnificent God?As a songwriter and worship leader… I'm convicted and inspired by this quote. Although I praise God He's so much bigger and more powerful than the songs of sinners, and that he can do anything with anything, I think we ought to be creating from the wellspring of creativity that comes from the horrible and brilliant journey of knowing Him. Really knowing Him. Not from the motivation of a label telling us to write something catchier or more palatable for the American church. Off to write. Ps: I think you have written some of the most beautiful and creative songs out there… Not just within the bounds of music about Jesus but.. In the music world at large. I'm inspired to be a better artist because of how you worship Christ with excellent and honest poetry.

  19. Jared said:

    I completely agree with where Nietzsche was coming from. Look at the number of secular artists that are breaking new ground musically every day compared to the tiny number of Christian artists that accomplish the same. The proportion is embarrassing. As Christ followers, we are supposed to reflect our Creator's artistic abilities. If we are truly honest with ourselves, can we say that we do in fact show how unique and innovative our Creator is? Do we write about how and why we're really seeking Christ or are we just writing another played out love song with Jesus' name scattered throughout? I have a few atheist friends that have communicated the same feelings about Christian music as Nietzsche. Are we trying to draw the lost who are outside into God's beauty, or are we baking cookies using the recycled template for our friends in the kitchen? Seems like we just keep eating the same crappy cookies.

  20. brown said:

    My buddy gave me a rough breakdown of mallachi last night. He said the prophet critcized the people for sacrificing their lame and sick animals. He said G-d doesn't want your sucky crap, give him the studs of the group, G-d deserves the best of what we have if it's an offering.

  21. Danya said:

    I can't really speculate on Nietzsche's thoughts, but it does strike me. It makes me look at myself and my own music, and wonder if what I'm creating is enough that God could use it to pierce the heart of even the most stone-cold of atheists. Am I creating something beautiful for God to inhabit, or, in the end, will it just be background noise?

  22. Damyne said:

    Nietzsche wasn't really talking about music when he said this at all. He doesn't really care about the songs themselves whatsoever.Kind of like God in Amos 5:23Or in the words of Jon Foreman, "I hate all your show" "instead, let there be a flood of justice, an endless procession of rightousness"Nietzsche didn't really think that better songs would convince him of anything, he would have had to see people actually living the life of Christ, rather than the life of the modern "christian".

  23. Thats such a good post. Although this guy was straight Atheist, he still said some good stuff about Christianity and the Church. Ive always appreciated the meaning behind him saying,"God is Dead." Which wasn't meant to be taken literally. He just meant it as saying that Christians made God dead (irrelevant) because they took all the fun and creativity out of living for a creative God. I like that quote to though, it seems to fit right along the same lines.

  24. Dear Fred Nietzsche,I've looked at the atheist hymnal you sing from. Kind of thin, isn't it?

  25. Matt said:

    False. It is ridiculous to deny the Savior because of some sinful human's life or music. That won't fly on judgment day and it shouldn't fly with us.The cross is the message, the Spirit the enabling.

  26. Kevin Rogers said… Dear Fred Nietzsche, I've looked at the atheist hymnal you sing from. Kind of thin, isn't it? [hahahahaahahahah]

  27. christian culture has been lacking in the arts, media, and entertainment area…bad designers, movies, and music 90% of the time. i think it's a good way to scorn, but a terrible and shallow reason to deny what so many peoples' lives revolve around.

  28. I think that what anyone who hasn't fallen in love with God yet doesn't realize is that we aren't singing for them…real worship is about singing to our King. And if He's not your king, then you can't understand. Our music isn't relevant to their culture, we have a new culture. But I would say that our music is much better than it used to be because more song writers and worshipers are less afraid of laying everything out on the table, and just being real…being who they really are and opening themselves up and pouring their hearts out in worship, and it shows in our music, and has become something like…a beautiful mess.Having said that, the rest of Friedrich Nietzsche's statement: "his disciples would have to look more redeemed…"I think that too many of us, believers haven't taken hold of the life that Jesus brought us, the abundant life (John 10:10). And let's pretend for a minute that Friedrich really would have changed his mind had the music been better and we looked more redeemed….There are too many religious people…people who follow the rules and make themselves look oppressed, when Jesus came to give us abundant life and the kingdom of God is, "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17)

  29. hollyet said:

    i hope he heard a song that moved him toward god in his lifetime. music can be an amazing vehicle for stuff that being said doesn't have the same import. it's a gift.

  30. Jeff said:

    You have to remember that Nietzsche's whole life was a reaction against the teachings of Jesus. His father was a Lutheran minister and Nietzsche himself studied theology before renouncing his faith. Sure, Christian music could be better. There is always room for improvement. But when you consider that this comment came form a guy who wrote a book called "The Anti-Christ" and famously declared that God is dead, I don't think he would have changed his mind even if David himself showed up and played the 23rd Psalm for him.

  31. John, First and foremost I would like to say thank you, thank you for instilling in me a new hope, a new motivation, a new outlook. I would like you to know that I pray for you, I thank God for people like you, and I thank him for leading me to you. Now to my point, I wanted to share this video with you, and since you have shared so many of your favorite musicians/artists with us I only think its fair that your fans give back and share some of there favorite musicians and songs with you. The video below is of Pearl Jam (one of my all time favorite bands) and there song Yellow Ledbetter. This to me is true art, and what a true artist does. The lead singer for pearl jam Eddie Vedder wrote this song, and got the inspiration for this song while sitting with his best friend Tim Ledbetter on Tim’s front porch. As they were sitting there Tim got a call that his brother had died over seas in the first Gulf War. After the call Eddie Vedder and Tim went for a walk together and as they were walking Tim made a comment about wondering if his brothers body will be sent back in a box or a bag. Shortly after that comment on the same walk Tim saw an American Flag flying out in one of the neighbors yards. So he stopped, raised his hand, and with tears in his eyes saluted the flag. After he did this Tim saw that the couple who owned the house and the flag were sitting on their front porch. So Tim waved to them, but the older couple gave him a nasty look and didn’t wave back because of his “alternative looking appearance” says Eddie Vedder. That being said, to this day Yellow Ledbetter remains Pearl Jams most famous song among its fans. Even though nobody knows exactly what Eddie Vedder is saying. He changes the lyrics every time he sings it live, and he mumbles throughout most of the song. The only two lines that remain unchanged and can always be heard are … “In a box or a bag” and “Can you see them on the front porch they don’t wave.” When asked in an interview if he could explain the lyrics Eddie Vedder simply said “There’s Lyrics?” My inference is that when Eddie Vedder sat down to write this song the emotion the feeling was so strong, so rancid in his gut that words couldn’t describe it. So instead he uses his voice as and instrument to connect with the audience, and to try and portray his feeling. That is true art, musicians are supposed to be artists and that is true art.continued next comment

  32. it's both, and. The quality of a song certainly doesn't convict a person of sin; the Holy Spirit does. Nietzsche's inability to be convicted of his need for redemption from Jesus was ultimately a choice of his will (or a mystery), but let's think about the type of persons and the kind of art that has brought each of us closer to Christ as redeemer. Those persons and art pieces speak to us in personal ways. For someone as intellectually brilliant as Nietzsche, there ought to be an equivalently brilliant artist or theologian who can speak to his heart, because the Holy Spirit uses us to get through to others. For the majority of people who have lower IQs than Nietzsche, the unoriginality of Christian pop culture is less of a stumbling block, but the issue underlying this, which is the authenticity and passion of our faith, is what the entire world needs, high IQ or low.I like the way you put it JMM, that you make music for God and humans to listen to. It's both and. It's not just one or the other. Because we were created to be salt in God's mouth AND light in the world (children of light, AND salt of the earth).

  33. it's both, and. The quality of a song certainly doesn't convict a person of sin; the Holy Spirit does. Nietzsche's inability to be convicted of his need for redemption from Jesus was ultimately a choice of his will (or a mystery), but let's think about the type of persons and the kind of art that has brought each of us closer to Christ as redeemer. Those persons and art pieces speak to us in personal ways. For someone as intellectually brilliant as Nietzsche, there ought to be an equivalently brilliant artist or theologian who can speak to his heart, because the Holy Spirit uses us to get through to others. For the majority of people who have lower IQs than Nietzsche, the unoriginality of Christian pop culture is less of a stumbling block, but the issue underlying this, which is the authenticity and passion of our faith, is what the entire world needs, high IQ or low.I like the way you put it JMM, that you make music for God and humans to listen to. It's both and. It's not just one or the other. Because we were created to be salt in God's mouth AND light in the world (children of light, AND salt of the earth).

  34. We also need to consider Nietzsche's unique musical tastes. One fellow musician described one of his works by saying, "You have raped the muse of music." That said, many of his earlier compositions were very nice, and are much more pleasant to listen to.It is further necessary to recognize the impact of Nietzsche's philosophy upon his musical tastes. Early in his life, he enjoyed Wagner, until Wagner started to become extremely popular. To Nietzsche, originality and personal uniqueness were vital. So with how much Christian music copies from itself and is intertwined with the whole genre, he could never like Christian music. More than four chords is just the beginning of the overhaul.

  35. I've heard it said (I think) that a nation or a movement never rises above the songs that it sings. While Nietzsche's comment was probably more out of haughty criticism that honest searching, it would do us well to move away from powderpuff "God You're cool, thanks for being cool" songs and actually sing about how we really feel, like the Psalmists did.

  36. "I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered fifth rate poetry set to sixth rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren't fit to clean those boots."-C.S. Lewis

  37. While at first read a loud part of me agrees – but mainly in the sense of those who seek to make marketable music as opposed to passion, birthing truth, accompanied by guitar. Of course, the argument can be made, that in the course of seeking to make "our music" better, we will be, in fact, making it much easier to fall in love with ourselves for creating it, instead of falling in love with who we created it about and for.

  38. That's why you're my favourite Christian song-writer.

  39. Ouch; any movement is typified by its music. Gutless music means a gutless movement.I speak from personal experience when I say this. If a persons heart cannot engage seeking Christ in music (forsaking debates about content), that person’s faith lacks luster. I wrote a blog post about that just today, the topic is on my mind.

  40. There will always be music snobs. While honest creativity is important, one must remember that one man's trash is another man's treasure. What may seem formulaic and boring to some may be uplifting to others. By which standards shall we judge our songs of praise? By the world? Or in the eyes of God? I too enjoy more complex and unique music by the likes of John Mark, Derek Webb, David Helser, Sojourn, Waterdeep and others, but I can appreciate a 4 chord popular anthem just he same. We must remember that if popular Christian music didn't reach people it wouldn't sell. I have known many many people who would have a hard time connecting with God through music that I think is "better." As long as we praise HimOnalirit and truth

  41. Oh, Nietzche.. Well I love that he used the words "to learn to have faith (in their Redeemer)." I think it was also awful polite for him to capitalize "Redeemer," too, if that was him. I can't teach someone to have faith in Jesus. I can show them my faith; I can live by my faith. And I can walk in the truth. And if faith comes from receiving the truth, then to receive you have to hear. So worship should come from the truth. Should be shrouded and wrapped up so tightly and sweetly in the truth of Jesus. And the gospel. That is dang persuasive. More persuasive than my emotions or my singing voice, it ENLIGHTENS my emotions. It strengthens my breath. And I want for the congregation I'm leading, the people who are hearing, to sing/hear/speak/pray in truth. Solid, clear, truth. True worship is the response to God's goodness. The necessary recurrent realization of our need for him, and of our littleness in comparison to who he is. I think if people are able to see this, this awesome heaven-lit, heart-whole response to Jesus in worship, they'd be able to do nothing but see him.

  42. First of all, there is a lot of just plain fake "christian music" out there. We've all heard it, but at the same time I think the quote from C.S. Lewis above a ways tells the truth about even those songs. It's a Holy Spirit thing. He will use whatever he wants to draw us closer in relationship to the living God. That's why I have had life changing Holy Spirit moments when I have heard all kinds of music, "Christian" or otherwise. There is a total paradox, we are called to worship God in spirit & in truth and yet it's the Holy Spirit that helps to conjure the spirit of worship in us. What's more the music I see in John Mark just echoes the sort of remnant of "Christian" music that has always been striving to be honest about life and faith and the journey. Back when I was a kid it was there in artists like Mike Knott, Terry Taylor, Mike Roe and all of that group. Now they have been ignored, treated poorly, & never given the success & exposure of the more popular christian music but they continue on creating music from the bottom of their souls in all it's beauty & ugliness. But who are we to determine how the holy spirit will move or who he will chose to move through. If people are blessed by what I consider to be fake, trite, cookie cutter worship songs that is the Holy Spirit's job. He will move in whatever way he wants, but what if there was a revolution of artists like John Mark and the older generation of artists I mentioned…what a difference it would make in the world today….

  43. This just really pumps me up to be honest. I doubt its appeal to either John Mark or myself is in its criticism of the melodies of our music. What often fails in strictly labeled "Christian" music today is in its overuse of the same ole' phrases, making us capable of singing collections of words that have lost their meaning. I mean come on we're singing directly to the creator of our universe… our lyrics, our worship better be just as passionate.oh p.s. did anyone else love the fact that even Nietzsche referred to him as our "Redeemer", so much more personal than "their God"

  44. I spent some time in college studying the aesthetics of Nietzsche…his musical taste was pretty limited (echoing the comments above about musical snobbery). I think today we should be concerned about whether or not we are making music that is transitory and appeals to "taste" rather than lasting and beautiful (objectively beautiful) art. As someone who plays on a worship team, I have heard worship leaders make comments such as: (1) "we're going to play an old song now" (referring to a song that was written in 2001); (2) "I don't like hymns" (referring to the traditional ones in hymnbooks). So, when we appeal to taste, we turn off those who don't have our tastes and we create art that isn't meant to last. I think Nietzsche felt that. He was Music has seen an upheaval in the last half-century with pop and rock & roll dominating the musical landscape. I don't think this is entirely a good thing. Music (particularly folk music) used to serve a social function – to draw people together to celebrate, mourn, and contemplate. Pop music is for consumption, in my iPod, by myself. Good Christian worship music can exist in that medium but eventually we have to get outside of ourselves. We all believe in the "holy catholic church, the communion of saints", so we should make music that reflects our self-understanding as a communion past, present, and future, rather than just present. All that being said, Nietzsche said that Bach's Passion of St. Matthew was Gospel. Something for us to think about when we contemplate our roles as artists.

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