Drumming for the Lord?

The things you have described as taking place in Indiana, the Lord has shown me would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit. Ellen White,  Selected Messages Book 2, 36)

This is a very familiar quotation used in any discussion of whether we should use drums in the church or not. The text explicitly says “just before the close of probation.” How do we know we are that close already? We can just look at the Pope’s message presented last week. That’s a prophesy being fulfilled. Or at Jesus’ words of warning found in Matthew 24:1-26 where He talks about wars and rumors of wars, nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes, many false prophets and christs shall stand (most recently another one with lots of followers in Siberia), famines, pestilences, etc. A while ago I had to look up the number of earthquakes that have occurred in the past years for a flyer I was designing. The outcome was 196,782 earthquakes between 1990 and 1999; 473,827 earthquakes between 2000 and 2012! If from 1990 earthquakes would  have occurred at this same rate for twelve years long, my calculator would give me the answer of 262,376 earthquakes. That’s a huge difference between the number of earthquakes in the twelve years starting from 2000. So if you would ask me, I wouldn’t even doubt we’re living just before the closing of probation.

Music to deceive the very elect

Before we go back to the subject of drums, there is a reason why Ellen White is so alert about music in the church. In 1898 Satan led something into the Adventist church called the "Holy Flesh Movement" in Indiana. People had many strange beliefs  which were completely contradicting the Bible or any Adventist point of belief. Of course they had loads of instruments accompanying their worship services. Elder Stephen N. Haskell was there to review the whole matter. He sent a letter to Ellen White with his great concerns. She was in Australia at that moment and knew nothing about it. Now notice what Sister White writes in her letter to Elder Haskell concerning the music:

I bore my testimony, declaring that these fanatical movements, this din and noise, were inspired by the spirit of Satan, who was working miracles to deceive if possible the very elect (Letter 132, 1900, 5–8, October 10, 1900; Released December 10, 1971, emphasis supplied).

“To deceive if possible the very elect.” Didn’t Jesus mention these things in Matthew 24 concerning the false christs and prophets that would arise? That is happening right now! Through music Satan wants to deceive, if possible, the very elect right now! Now you understand her concerns. Having this all said, let’s dig a bit deeper into the subject regarding drums. Because, of course, that’s why you’ve decided to even start reading this article.

In my search for the truth, the Lord led me to a fantastic little book called Drums, Rock and Worship by Pastor Karl Tsatalbasidis. At the end of a series on music by Pastor Dwayne Lemon, who said that he could not cover the subject of drums due to a lack of time, he did suggest buying this book. I could not go to the Amazing Facts bookstore fast enough to order my copy.

African roots

Now to understand anything about any subject, one must always start at the beginning, at its roots. And so it is with drums. We’re going to the Southern part of the world, to the warm continent called Africa. You must have seen those programs on TV where native Africans dance around a fire, sing songs, play drums and worship their gods, usually wearing masks. In his book Tsatalbasidis has quoted a few writers with a tremendous knowledge about this instrument. In Planet Drum: A Celebration of Persecution and Rhythm is this sentence: 

“West Africans believe that the spirits ride the drumbeat down into the body of the dancers, who then begin the erratic shaking movements of the possessed” (Mickey Hart and Frederic Lieberman, 202-203, emphasis supplied).

Tsatalbasidis’ reply is:

Notice that it’s the drum rhythms that call down the Orisha, with the end result being possession. The drums are the medium being used to contact supposed ancestors, and this type of spiritualistic communication is absolutely condemned in the Bible. Indeed, the “dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Therefore, this is communication with evil spirits–spiritualism (Drums, Rock and Worship, 26, 27).

In Southern America slaves were allowed to keep their hand drums. But in northern America they weren’t, so they invented the foot drums, the beginning of the trap set or drum set we know today.

Some might say: “The inviting of spirits was then. What Africans did with their drumming doesn’t mean it still happens today. I just want to worship God with it.” But a few pages later Tsatalbasidis quotes a West African drummer Babatunde Olatunji, who used to play the drums very often in his village in Africa. When he got a scholarship to study in New Orleans, he was so sad to think he had to stop playing that through which he used to invite the Orisha. He brought only a small frame drum along to amuse himself on board of the ship.

But when I got to college and first turned on the radio and heard, “When I love my baby, every time it rains I think of you, and I feel blue,” I was so stunned. I remember thinking, hey that’s African music; it sounds like what’s at home. And the same thing happened when I heard gospel music. So I joined the campus jazz combo (John Miller Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility, 29, emphasis supplied).

That’s quite shocking, isn’t it? It’s even in jazz and gospel music. Tsatalbasidis has some more info on the music genres such as gospel, jazz, rock and blues in his book. Let’s move ahead more in time to when Tsatalbasidis was a young man studying different music genres at the university.

He writes:

The goal was to internalize rhythm and become “one” with it. When that was achieved, it became easier to play counter rhythms. A teacher once said that a good performance feels as though you’re not playing–but that something else is playing through you. He was describing the “oneness” that is supposed to exist between the performer and the time, the rhythm that powered the music. When “oneness” is achieved, it becomes hard to tell who is really playing. I never realized that in my playing, I was inviting demons into my life (Tsatalbasidis, Drums, Rock and Worship, 9).

Postmodernism in rock music

Now let’s go to another part. According to Stanley J. Grenz, with postmodernism “there is no absolute truth: rather, truth, is relative to the community in which we participate” (A Primer Postmodernism, 8).

Pastor Tsatalbasidis states the six postmodern principles:

1. Truth is not “rooted” in the Bible, rather it’s “rooted” in my community or culture.
2. Truth does not exist outside of my community or culture. Truth does not exist outside of ourselves.
3. There is no such thing as an all-encompassing Truth, universally valid for everyone.
4. There are as many truths as there are peoples and cultures.
5. There are many truths, which exist alongside one another.
6. There is no absolute truth.
(Drums, Rock and Worship, 38).

Now here comes the crucial part. Grenz writes yet again in A Primer Postmodernism how expressions of postmodernism can range from fashions to television and include aspects of our culture such as music and film, architecture, art and literature. But postmodernism is above all an intellectual outlook.

In Tsatalbasidis’ book Grenz is quoted and writes the following: “Film may have made postmodern popular culture possible, and televison may have disseminated that culture, but rock music is probably the most representative form of postmodern culture . . . . Rock music embodies a central hallmark of postmodernity” (A Primer Postmodernism, 36, emphasis supplied).

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