Crossing the Music Minefield

by | Aug 30, 2015

Joseph Herrin (08-29-2015)

I have concluded that I had better post a follow-up now to my recent blog titled Music Quest as my inbox is filling up with e-mails on the subject. I have had many people write to me to suggest musicians and groups that they enjoy or would recommend to others. I have profited by becoming acquainted with some music I was not aware of previously. The group mentioned most frequently, and one which I am happy to report appears to produce some spiritually uplifting music, is a group out of Australia called Sons of Korah.

Clicking on the “About” page will eventually bring one to the explanation for the name of this group. Following is an excerpt.

About the name
The name “Sons of Korah” comes from a group of Old Testament Levitical musicians to whom at least 13 of the Psalms are attributed. The original Sons of Korah were responsible for the ministry of music and song in the Old Testament worship and particularly with the musical composition and performance of the psalms…

The Story of the Sons of Korah is a wonderful story of God’s grace. In the Old Testament text of the Psalms reference is made to those who were involved in the composition of the psalms. Psalms 42 to 49 as well as Psalms 84 to 88 are attributed to a group known as the “Sons of Korah”. It appears that this family of musicians were descendants of the same Korah who led a rebellion against Moses in the desert (Numbers 16). This was a serious crime that led to serious consequences for all those involved. We read that God caused the ground to open up and swallow all those who were involved in the rebellion along with their families (vs31ff). The idea of a judgement like this that involved the wiping out of the rebels as well as their families was that the line of the rebellious should not continue in the earth. It is therefore quite surprising that in Numbers 26:11 we read the words: “The line of Korah, however, did not die out.” And sure enough as we follow the genealogies through Chronicles we see that that the line of Korah did indeed continue. According to 1Chronicles 6:31ff, David, when he was organising the different tasks for the temple worship, assigned the ministry of song for a large part to the Kohathites. The head of this group was Heman who is the writer of Psalm 88 and more significantly is a direct descendant of Korah the Kohathite. Hence the psalm is also attributed to the Sons of Korah. It seems that at some point this musical family came to be called after their rebellious forefather. Korah was an infamous historical figure in the Israelite consciousness, remembered as an example of rebellion against God. To be related to him would have been a notable thing, though not necessarily a negative thing. The continuing existence of this family line was a testimony to the grace of God who, although he would be right to wipe out the memory of sinful men from the earth, is nevertheless forgiving and whose heart is always for restoration and redemption rather than for destruction. The Sons of Korah were therefore a living testimony to God’s grace. They certainly had much to sing about. We feel the same way.
[End Excerpt]

With this explanation, Sons of Korah seems like a very good name for a group whose music has consisted entirely of performing the Psalms. It has the added testimony of expressing the idea that  they too were once sinners and rebels estranged from Yahweh, who have been shown abundant grace. A good name would not mean much, however, if the music the group produced was not pleasant to listen to. I was delighted to find that it is beyond pleasant. I found the music, much of which can be heard on YouTube, to be spiritually uplifting as well. Following is a sample.

I believe there are 8 separate albums which have been produced by this group. You can find them all for sale in CD format, or as a digital download, at the following link.

The price is a bit steep, and I wanted to purchase all of this wonderful music, so I looked on Ebay and was able to find the complete collection of 8 CDs for sale for considerably less than the $200 it would have cost me at the link above. I did manage to spend my entire music budget with this one purchase, but I believe I will be well satisfied having done so. The albums purchased will provide many hours of pleasant and spiritually uplifting music. That is a rare and precious thing.

There were other good recommendations for music. You can find some of them in the comments under the blog titled Music Quest. As I mentioned, individual taste does play a factor in one’s enjoyment of music. Not all of the groups or individuals that readers recommended are producing music that I would choose to listen to, but that does not mean there is anything spiritually amiss in the music. There are some genres, or sounds, that each of us will find appealing or unappealing. I will list additional music that was recommended to me at the end of this post.

In this blog post I want to focus on a specific aspect of music’s appeal to individuals. The Bible informs us that those who are new creatures in Christ are tripartite beings. We have three distinct parts to our makeup. We have a body that serves as the place of habitation for our soul and our spirit.

I Thessalonians 5:23
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Yahshua Christ.

Those who have not been born of the Spirit of Christ are what the Bible refers to as Adamic men, or “mere men” (I Corinthians 3:3-4). This is how we all enter this world. As Adamic men we are bipartite beings. We have a body and a soul.

Genesis 2:7
Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Our body was formed of the dust of the earth, and to dust it will one day return. This body was animated as Yahweh breathed life into it. This life is what we refer to as our soul. Man is not complete when he is merely an Adamic man. Yahweh determined that man should attain to His image and likeness and He is a tripartite being consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is commonly understood that Yahweh is a triune being. (See the writing Yahweh, His Breath, and His Word for an explanation of this.) What is less commonly known is that Yahweh also is described as a seven part being.

Revelation 4:5
And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God…

The numbers 1, 3, and 7 are peculiarly linked to the nature of God. The Bible tells us:

Deuteronomy 6:4
“Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one…”

It also tells us that God exists as three persons, or manifestations.

I John 5:7
So there are three witnesses in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.

(Yahshua, the Son of God, is referred to as “the Word.”)

As we have seen, the Bible also speaks of the seven spirits of God. It should not be surprising, therefore, that a completed man should also manifest these same numeric characteristics. I am one man. Yet I also have a body, a soul, and a spirit, making me a three part man. These three parts can be further subdivided into seven parts.


Cognition (Mind)
Volition (Will)

Body (Sensory life)

It is pertinent to the topic at hand to note that music appeals to man at all levels of his being. There is music that appeals to the flesh of man; his body, or sensory life. There is music that appeals to the soul of man; to his mind, his will, and his emotions. There is also music that appeals to the spirit of the new creation man.

The challenge laid before those who are disciples of Christ is to distinguish at which level(s) music is appealing to them. The apostle Paul wrote about the necessity to develop the discernment to divide between the various parts of our being.

Hebrews 4:11-12
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

I will not go into a discussion of Sabbath rest here. I will only define this rest as being in a state of agreement with Yahweh. In this condition there is an absence of striving. The flesh and soul have been brought into subjection to the spirit, which is the proper order of things.

A great tragedy is that most Christians today are unaware of the need to divide between soul and spirit. Most cannot tell the difference. They do not know how to judge the thoughts and intentions of their own hearts. Many think a thought is a spiritual thought when in actuality it is a soulish thought. Many believe they have had a spiritual experience when they have in fact had a soulish experience. Many confuse soulish excitement for spiritual experience. This confusion exists when Christians are evaluating music. Many may hear a song that excites their soul, or even their flesh, and exclaim, “My! Wasn’t that a spiritual song!”

Many churches (I would venture to say the great majority of them) make much of this inability of Christians to divide between soul and spirit. They will put together a band and a group of singers who will give lively performances during their meetings. When everyone has gotten pumped up emotionally the preacher will come to the front and tell everyone that the Spirit of God is surely in that place.

Let us consider for a moment the following words of the apostle Paul.

Hebrews 5:14
But solid food belongs to those who are mature, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Paul is speaking of the ability to discern good and evil when it comes to testing doctrine. The same challenge is set before Christians as they are called to test music. What senses does one use to test doctrine? Paul is surely speaking of all of a man’s senses. At the physical level a man must use his sense of hearing, or sense of sight, to perceive a doctrine. At the soulish level a man must use his mind, or intellect, to understand and evaluate that doctrine. At the spiritual level a man must exercise his spiritual senses to evaluate good and evil in what he is hearing, or seeing. He must attend to the voice of his conscience, as well as communing with God that the thoughts of God might be made known to him.

It is this last area of sensory experience, that of spiritual sense, in which believers suffer the greatest deficiency. Not having exercised their spiritual senses, the majority of Christians find that their spiritual discernment is lacking. They are ill equipped to discern between good and evil. This is true whether they are considering doctrine, or evaluating music.

What makes this lack among Yahshua’s body even more problematic is that most who confess to be believers in Christ are unaware of the need to divide between soul and spirit. A common experience among Christians is that, having consulted with their soul, they believe they have received counsel from their spirit. This subject is described in greater detail in the book Sabbath. See particularly the chapter titled The Tree of Strife.

If we are to properly identify good and evil in any realm of life, we must exercise ALL of our spiritual faculties. What I have found is that many when posed with the challenge to make a distinction between good and evil, use only their bodily and soulish senses to do so. When we ask a person to give a recommendation, we are ultimately asking them to divide between good and evil. When I invited readers to share with me their recommendations for uplifting spiritual music, I anticipated the response I would receive would be a mixture of the soulish and the spiritual. This proved to be the case.

I am going to run through an example of how I evaluated the various music recommendations that were sent to me. This example is given to serve an instructive purpose, for it will reveal how all the senses come into play when a believer is called to evaluate between good and evil. It will also serve as a guide for those who wish to identify at which level of their being the music they are listening to is appealing, or unappealing, to them.

The example I am going to use is the music of Josh Garrels. Two brothers in Christ wrote to me separately to recommend this man’s music. I had never heard of Josh Garrels before, and I suspect that many of those who read this blog have never heard of him. He will therefore make a good test case, for the challenge to discover whether his music is spiritually uplifting will be confronted without any prior prejudice in the matter.

Josh Garrels

In December of 2011, Christianity Today named Josh Garrels as “Album of the Year” winner. The album he had released that year was titled Love & War & The Sea In Between. You can read the full story at the following link.

Josh Garrels has a very unusual musical style. It is not at all what one would anticipate hearing if they were listening to a Contemporary Christian Music station. The eclectic nature of his music is what many people find appealing. His approach to the music industry is also quite unusual. He gives away all of his new albums for one year before he begins charging for them. The reason for doing so, is impressive.

Love & War & the Sea in Between, the culmination of 18 months of grinding away at the creative machine and perhaps the biggest leap of his life: He is giving away the album for one year. Seriously. Download it for free at It’s no marketing gimmick or publicity stunt. It’s not even Garrels’s idea. It’s God’s. In the spring of 2011, the album was almost ready, lacking only Josh’s final vocals, arguably his best instrument. But he’d been fighting colds and flu, and lost his voice for four months. He tried antibiotics, vitamins, steam, extra sleep, lots of prayer. Three weeks before the album deadline, Garrels began fasting. One afternoon, while taking a hot bath, he said aloud, “Lord, I pray with this album that no one would rob you of your glory.”

Garrels says God’s reply was immediate: Are you going to rob me of my glory?

“I almost felt like Job,” Garrels says. “All that time, Job had been basically raising his fist to God, saying ‘What have you done?’ And then when God finally answers, Job’s humbled and put in his place. It was that kind of experience for me.”

Garrels says he strongly felt God saying, “Give it to me.” He says, “It was like an offering. I had to weigh the cost of giving away the most substantial work I’d ever done. It all came to me in about 20 minutes, like this big download. It reached a point where I had to say yes or no, and I had to say it out loud. So I said, ‘All right. It’s yours.’ And I knew that meant I had to give it away for one year, like it was a year of Jubilee.”

He got out of the tub, dried off and dressed, and came out to tell Michelle about his revelation. She started laughing, then crying “tears of joy,” she says. She told Josh, “That sounds awesome!”

“It felt so exciting to me,” Michelle says now. “So adventurous, so unknown. And it fit into this larger picture of what God had been teaching us about generosity, obedience, and simplicity. He obviously had plans far greater than our own, because it’s something we never could have dreamed up…”

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the couple’s finances have been just fine; as people discover his music, they’re buying his older albums and coming to his shows, resulting in ample income.
[From Christianity Today article linked above]

Josh Garrels is in his mid-thirties now. He was admittedly a closeted rebel growing up. He had a good guy reputation at home and at school, but he would sneak out to the parties at night and drink and do drugs. He even sold drugs for a time. The Christianity Today article provides the following narrative.

Even as he lived a lie—good boy at home and school, bad boy sneaking out at night—he was still compelled to tell the truth. Once, when he and two teenage buddies were driving from one party to another, a cop pulled them over. They’d each had a few beers, and all had open cans in the car—including Garrels, who was behind the wheel. In the back seat, somebody was rolling a joint.

As the policeman approached, Josh’s friends frantically tried to hide the evidence. But Josh, inexplicably, didn’t panic, and when the officer asked if he had been drinking, Garrels looked him in the eye and said, “Yes sir, I have.” His friends groaned and shook their heads. The cop asked Garrels to get out of the car, to walk in a straight line, to touch his nose, to count backwards. Garrels flunked them all. Busted, he thought.

The policeman looked down, kicked the gravel around a little bit, then said something wholly unexpected. “Get in the f—ing car!” he barked at Garrels. “And if I ever see you again, you’re going straight to jail!” Josh and his buddies drove away in silence. Thirteen years later, Garrels remembers that episode as a strange sort of divine intervention. “I was already at a point where I knew something had to change in my life,” he says. “It was like the Spirit of God was after me. I had a sense that we received grace because of my honesty and confession in that moment.”
[End Excerpt]

At the age of 19 Josh surrendered his life to Christ. He spent three years in theological training while also pursuing his love of music and completing two albums. At the age of 24 he began pastoring a small Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Indiana. He was torn between ministry and music, and a few years later he made the decision to leave the pastorate in order to devote himself full-time to his music.

I learned these things by exercising my senses. I had to employ the senses of my body to ferret out sources of information on Josh Garrels, and to read the articles and view material. I also listened to a number of his songs, mostly watching YouTube videos. With my soul, I engaged my intellect to process the information that was coming in. At the same time I prayed, asking Yahweh to guide me. In my spirit I lacked a peace about some of the music I was listening to by Josh Garrels. It did not produce a sense of spiritual uplifting within me, and I wondered why. Was it the unusual nature of his music? Was it the absence of a clear testimony of Christ in most of his songs? Were certain comments I read about and by Josh Garrels the source of my unease? I needed to exercise further discernment before I could embrace his music, or recommend it to others.

There was nothing in the Christianity Today article that was particularly alarming. In fact, it presented an image of Josh as an unusually honest and sincere believer who was willing to follow Christ to acts of obedience that were beyond the norm for most Christians today. I know of very few musicians who give away their music, or who repeatedly turn down profitable contracts with record labels. That the sound of his music was different than other Christian music did not bother me. In fact, I would count that as a point in his favor, for I find most CCM music to be rather formulaic. Aside from a few exceptions, there are few popular Christian songs or singers that I like listening to.

I also read an article on NPR. I thought this to be an odd forum to feature an article on a Christian singer. NPR is known for its secular liberalism. It is not a station I would judge to be favorable to Christians or Christianity. So why did they produce a favorable episode on Josh Garrels? The article was titled A Christian Musician With More Questions Than Answers. Hmm… That did not strike me as particularly impressive. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with having questions. Many Christians would benefit from a good dose of humility and would do well to admit that they don’t know the answer to a great many things. But to have more questions than answers – that seemed like something one might expect to be said about a Christian who rejected the Bible as authoritative, and who might be willing to reconsider some very basic Biblical concepts regarding good and evil, truth and error. The article begins with the following.

There’s an inside joke among some who sneer at contemporary Christian music: “Jesus Per Minute.” How often does the artist say Jesus’ name?

Last year, Christianity Today magazine named Josh Garrels’ Love & War & The Sea in Between its album of the year. In 66 minutes, Garrels mentions Jesus exactly once. 

The absence of mention of the name of Jesus more than once on the album is not an indictment in itself. It depends on why the singer doesn’t mention Jesus more than once. What is he singing about? What fills up the rest of the album? The NPR article continues:

Garrels, a 33-year-old former skate punk who says he sold drugs in high school, lives in Portland, Ore., with his wife and three young children. His music has earned him an adoring following. He’s been courted repeatedly by what’s known as CCM — the contemporary Christian music industry — and he always declines.

“The music I make doesn’t tend to go there all that often, like, just in awe of God,” Garrels says. “More my music, I would say, is trying to peel back layers and find out where is God in the midst of this city that I live in, and this marriage I’m in, and these things that are going wrong and these things that are going right. Does that make sense?”

Josh Garrels asks questions more often than he offers answers.

He says he’s comfortable performing on both sides of the sacred-secular divide: One night, the youth ministers are clapping; the next night, the bartenders are giving him high-fives.
[End Excerpt]

This still is a bit nebulous. There is nothing wrong with singing to the bar crowd. Yahshua was criticized for hanging around prostitutes and tax collectors, and the drinking crowd. He was Himself accused (falsely) of being a drunkard and a glutton. His reply was:

Mark 2:17
“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If Josh Garrels is in the bars to call sinners to repentance, then he should be applauded. The article includes the following words.

Garrels is playing a sold-out concert at Portland’s historic Alberta Rose Theatre. He’s sitting on a stool wearing a white skullcap, a work shirt and work boots and resting a Gibson guitar on his knee. While the venue is decidedly secular — his fans are sipping craft beer — Garrels does a little preaching toward the end of his set.

“The song is called ‘Bread & Wine,’ because we’re invited to eat the body that’s broken for us and drink the blood that’s spilled for us, to enter into literally the suffering so we can receive something that is way beyond us and be healed.”
[End Excerpt]

I don’t know if that was all that was shared. I wasn’t there. Journalists are notorious for cherry picking statements and giving a lopsided view of things. The comments provided by the NPR writer do not make mention of Josh speaking of mankind’s sin, the wages of sin, or a call to repentance. Perhaps Josh did speak some about these topics. Perhaps he did not. The subject of sin is not very popular. You will never find the Joel Osteens of the world preaching about sin and repentance. It would be nice to know what witness Josh Garrels is giving. The statement above is a far cry from  a gospel presentation.

Looking at the BIO page on Josh’s website, I was concerned about a statement I read there.

Love & War & the Sea In Between was influenced by the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, which Garrels calls, “mysterious and ominous.” A stark contrast to the four seasons he experienced during his youth, Garrels says, “The evergreens, mist, rain, rocky coast, and stretches of uninhabited woods feel wild and untamed. I think the terrain also influences the area’s culture and spirituality. Living here has deeply affected me and my work.”

I was raised in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up in the city of Portland, Oregon, the same city Josh now resides in. There is a lower percentage of people who attend church in Oregon and Washington than any other states in the nation. There is also a higher percentage of homosexuals, with Seattle and Portland falling behind only San Francisco for the number of homosexuals among the population. The population of the Pacific Northwest is very liberal (i.e. immoral, without moral absolutes). Assisted suicide, legalized marijuana, and other hot button issues show up there before they do the rest of the nation. There is a very strong New Age influence present, and significant focus on Native American symbolism, religion, and life.

When Josh states that “I think the terrain also influences the area’s culture and spirituality” it must be understood that the culture and spirituality of the region is NOT Christian. It would be more appropriate to describe it as neo-pagan. What does Josh mean then when he states, “ Living here has deeply affected me and my work”? Are these neo-pagan influences encroaching into his life? Is he falling to the subtlety of the New Age concept of Christ as some cosmic power that pervades everything around us? One way to answer these questions is to watch his videos and listen to his songs, evaluating them with a critical mind, and keeping one’s spiritual senses attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit. One of Josh’s most popular songs on YouTube is White Owl.

Watching this video does raise many concerns about the spiritual beliefs and message of Josh Garrels and the image of Christ he is promoting. There is unmistakable Native American symbolism in the video. There is also much that appears to be promoting New Age concepts of religion.

Let me comment on the owl before addressing other New Age elements. The owl is NEVER used as a positive symbol in the Bible. In fact, it is listed among birds that are unclean and forbidden to be eaten in the Old Testament. (Leviticus 11:16, Deuteronomy 14:15) This owl in the video is adorned with numerous spiral symbols. These spirals are found throughout the video and in other artwork associated with Josh Garrels. The spiral symbol is a common Native American religious symbol as well as a symbol associated with other occult groups. The spiral signifies the “journey in search of the center.” This is a concept embraced by New Age practitioners. It is not found in the Bible.

Following are the lyrics to the song White Owl.

White Owl

When the night comes,
and you don’t know which way to go
Through the shadowlands,
and forgotten paths,
you will find a road

Like an owl you must fly by moonlight with an open eye,
And use your instinct as a guide, to navigate the ways that lays before you,
You were born to, take the greatest flight

Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love
To carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow
Every hollow in the dark of night
Waiting for the light
Take the flame tonight

Child the time has come for you to go
You will never be alone
Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm

Like a messenger of peace, the beauty waits be released
Upon the sacred path you keep, leading deeper into the unveiling
As your sailing, across the great divide

Like a wolf at midnight howls, you use your voice in darkest hours
To break the silence and the power, holding back the others from their glory
Every story will be written soon
The blood is on the moon
Morning will come soon

Child the time has come for you to go
You will never be alone
Every dream that you have been shown
Will be like living stone
Building you into a home
A shelter from the storm
[End of Song]

Let us look at the following portion from this song.

Like an owl you must fly by moonlight with an open eye,
And use your instinct as a guide, to navigate the way that lays before you,
You were born to take the greatest flight

Note that the song does not say to fly with both eyes open. It speaks of “an open eye.” This is a New Age, Eastern religious concept. The pineal gland, chakra, third eye, etc.. When a person acts on a hunch, they are said to have exercised their third eye. Developing this “sense” of spiritual sight is the goal of many false religious practices. This is clearly what is referred to when Josh Garrels says “use your INSTINCT as your guide.” There is a vast difference between being led of the Spirit of Christ, and being led by one’s instinct. And what is the “greatest flight” Josh Garrels refers to? It is the quest for enlightenment, which the young boy in the video is shown to be acting out. He captures some spirits that arise from the waters and places them in his lantern to give him light along his journey.

The pool itself bears a distinctive design of Native American artwork.

The song continues with the words:

Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love
To carry visions from above into the places no man dares to follow

Does a serpent have wisdom born of love? Satan is referred to in the Bible as “the serpent of old.” He appeared in the guise of the serpent in the opening chapters of Genesis, offering to mankind wisdom and knowledge that were forbidden by Yahweh. The song also states:

Waiting for the light
Take the flame tonight

According to a Wicca website, fire represents the following:

Fire is the primary transformative force, and the creative power of passion. Fire also represents the Light of the Divine. So Fire is invoked at all Wiccan celebrations.

The Owl itself is sacred to Wicca.

This image from a Wiccan website has the following words:

Eyes of the night.
Silent flier through dark skies
Lend me your vision that I might
Find my way to secret knowledge.
Teach me to listen that I might
Hear wisdom when it moves in the world.
Unite my heart and mind
And let me feel your wings opening in my life.

The video shows the young boy being born aloft by a white owl.

To sum up, none of the imagery in this video is Christian. Nor is there any mention of Yahshua/Jesus. The concepts of flying like an owl with an open eye, searching for the light, the presence of spirals, and other symbolism and lyrics are all common to New Age religious teachings and to Wicca and Native American shamanism. There is nothing in this video, or in the words of the song, to suggest that it is a Christian song at all. It appears completely to be a New Age themed video and song. The words on the Wiccan owl prayer could very easily be the source that inspired Josh Garrels’ song. If Satan cannot get men to renounce Christ, he will do his very best to get them to re-imagine Christ. The New Age concept of Christ is growing in popularity in this hour.

This song and video by Josh Garrels is not an exception. Disturbing connections to the occult and false religion are found throughout his videos. One of the things he is shown doing frequently is composing or playing music out in nature, in the woods, or atop a high place. This was the practice of followers of idolatrous gods all the way back in the Old Testament. We read of the idolaters meeting in their sacred groves, or on their high places. These were locations that were sacred to the deities they worshiped, and they felt closer to their gods when in these locales.

There is nothing inherently evil about playing music outside in settings of nature, for Yahweh is the Creator of all nature. However, when there are other indications that a person is being influenced by New Age, or neo-pagan beliefs, it is prudent to consider whether performing outside under the sky and trees is yet another manifestation of unclean spiritual influences.

The image above is taken from another Josh Garrels video.

The strange circular imagery behind him is definitely not Christian, though I cannot identify it. However, the presence of candles and the circle do once more evoke images of a Wiccan or occult ceremony. Following is a close-up of Josh performing this same song.

The image is a bit unclear, but he is wearing a t-shirt with the white owl symbol on it. In fact, this symbol of the white owl has become associated with Josh Garrels. He offers the symbol on various merchandise, or as a sticker to be attached to any surface. I do not think anyone would interpret this symbol of the white owl as a symbol of Christ, or Christianity, but it will certainly be familiar to many who practice Wicca or shamanic religions.

Another point to consider is that Josh Garrels sings in an unnatural voice, which to me has a disturbing effect. Some have described Josh Garrels voice as “falsetto.” The root of this word is “false.” Is Josh singing in a false voice because he is in actuality a false disciple of Christ, singing songs about a false Christ?

Philippians 3:2
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision…

Following is a screen shot from another video titled Words Remain by Josh Garrels. Josh’s website informs us that the song was recorded in an Episcopal Church in Manhattan. I can state with certainty that every Episcopal church in Manhattan is totally apostate. I have not been able to find out which Episcopal church the video was recorded in. The most notorious Episcopal Church in Manhattan is St. John the Divine. This is a Luciferian place connected to the Rothschilds and the U.N.. It has had on display an image of a nude female Christ on a cross, and has served as the forum for homosexual plays where God and Christ were reviled. I have written about this church in past writings. (The writing Babylon Burning is available as a PDF file to those who request it.)

Although Josh Garrels may well have recorded his song at a different Episcopal church in Manhattan, they all alike are promoting a false image of Christ and Christianity. These places are filled with unclean spirits (I visited some of them in Manhattan when I was in New York back in 2009). They are NOT a place I would recommend as a venue to record any song that honored Yahshua. Why record in the house of the great harlot? The Spirit of Christ is calling forth:

Revelation 18:4-5
“Come out of [Babylon/The Great Harlot], my people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.”

Note once again the presence of candles. Additionally, all of the hand bell ringers are dressed in black, flanked by candles on either side of them. One could imagine the setting being that of a black mass, or some other dark spiritual ceremony. I sensed a very dark spiritual presence in the churches I visited in Manhattan. This leads me to conclude that Josh Garrels lacks sensitivity to the presence of spiritual darkness.

This brings me back to the subject of this post. Most Christians do not have their senses trained to discern good and evil. I suspect that Josh is a very sincere person, but his spiritual background has not instilled in him a discernment of the deception of Satan that is all around us in this hour. While still a new believer, Josh enrolled in a Christian College to receive theological training. He then entered at a very young age into the role of a pastor of a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. This in itself could have sown the seeds for New Age practice and thought to begin germinating in Josh’s life. Following is an excerpt from a website that discusses the New Age mysticism being taught at C&MA seminaries and Bible colleges.

In recent years, the C&MA has exhibited a disturbing trend back to its roots in contemplative Christianity and mysticism, also integrating elements of the heretical emerging church movement, new-age spirituality, and postmodernism. Seminaries affiliated with the C&MA are openly and actively promoting mystical practices and contemplative and emergent spirituality. The Lighthouse Trails Research Blog listed the C&MA as one of the top 50 organizations with a significant role in bringing contemplative Christianity to the church. Also included on this list were such organizations and denominations as Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer, the Emergent Village, and the highly liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Presbyterian Church (USA). As defined by the Lighthouse Trails Research Project, 

Contemplative Spirituality [is a] belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are “spiritual formation,” “the silence,” “the stillness,” “ancient-wisdom,” “spiritual disciplines,” and many others.

Contemplative Prayer
One of the mystical doctrines being embraced by the C&MA is contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer, also known as soaking prayer and centering prayer, is the unbiblical and mystical practice of emptying one’s mind of conscious thought and turning to one’s inner self to find the presence of God.

Contemplative prayer is being practiced and taught at official Alliance seminaries. Because all Alliance pastors are trained at one of these official schools, the false doctrines imparted to these students will eventually permeate the local churches affiliated with the denomination.

After having examined many witnesses, including Josh’s own songs, videos, and words, I am unable to embrace him, his theology, or his music. The apostle Paul gave the following admonition to Timothy.

I Timothy 5:22
Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

The act of laying hands on someone was a sign of acceptance and endorsement. Paul was cautioning Timothy to not be too quick to embrace or endorse another man, even one who professes to be a disciple or follower of Christ. In this hour when so much deception has entered into the churches, we must be especially diligent to test all things.

Let me wrap up my thoughts regarding discerning the spiritual quality of music. In all of the resources I looked at, I had to employ my physical senses. I also had to exercise the senses of my soul which include cognition, or mind. It is not enough to merely observe something. We must observe it with scrutiny. There must be an active testing of that which we are observing. Many Christians put their minds in neutral and merely evaluate music emotionally. They think mainly about how the music makes them feel, and the feelings they are sensing are mainly of the flesh and soul.

As disciples of Christ we need to develop the habit of praying and asking Yahweh to guide us to know whether something is acceptable and pleasing in His sight. Praying serves a couple of purposes. First, it engages our soul and spirit as we deliberately orient our being to discern anything that might be amiss. Secondly, Yahweh instructs us to ask Him for wisdom and guidance. James wrote, “You have not because you ask not.” He also wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally and without reproach.”

Once we do these, we need to be sensitive to the voice of the spirit, utilizing those spiritual senses Yahweh has given to us. If we sense something is not right, we need to explore further. We may also need to return to prayer and ask for further revelation from God.

Some of the things in the lyrics and videos of Josh Garrels stood out to me because I have been testing things for many years now. As a result, I have become aware of many of the deceiver’s works. Paul wrote, “But solid food belongs to those who are mature, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” The more we exercise our senses, all of them, the more capable we become, and the better equipped we will be to divide between good and evil.

There were a number of individuals who wrote to me recommending various singers, who I wrote replies to, explaining why I could not accept them. One thing we cannot abandon is truth. Some might say, “I like this music. It makes me feel good,” or “I find it interesting and pleasing.” They might object to putting all things to the test of truth. In this hour, an increasing number of Christians are abandoning discernment. They want to get along with everyone, and be the friend of the world. It is unlikely that such individuals will zealously put music to the test, for in an hour of spiritual darkness one must expect that the majority of music tested, like doctrine itself, will prove to be deficient, or tainted by some evil of the enemy.

Nevertheless, Yahweh is seeking a remnant who will place love for Him above all other loves. He desires a people who will put all things to the test to know whether they are approved by Him. If this means you have to throw out the vast majority of the music you have collected over the years, music that may be precious to your soul, or a delight to your flesh, then so be it. Be zealous for God and He will reward you.

Yahweh does not want your life to be bereft of music. He wants you to experience music that is spiritually edifying. I will list here some of the other recommendations that were sent in to me. I share them for YOUR TESTING. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says…”

Lauren Daigle  – Many Songs Available on YouTube
Relaxation Hymns 3 by Jim Engle –
10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman –
Phil Wickham – Many Songs Available on YouTube
Music from the Welsh Mines (1957) –
Christ Our Life –
Keith and Kristyn Getty –
You Are My Hiding Place – Don Moen –
Rob Smith – Straight From God Album –
Mike Adkins –
Shannon Wexelberg –
Regi Stone –
A Playlist Submitted by a Reader –

Heart4God Website:  


Parables Blog:  


Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063


  1. Unknown

    Hi Joseph,

    These images of owl that type was its looked such like kind of a paradigm shift as known to "ancient alien cave" as it looked such form as demons, however, you can look up in Google's Image. And matter always, I am deaf and lives in SW Portland, but not able hear from Josh Garrels song, but can read his song writes… but I stand back as I can see in his own character as in fauns-style to me, and also in my spirit felt him too drys as cloud without rain.

    And also I like to mention about on your three parts of subdivided into seven parts… but there the Great Commandment of Yahweh in OT, that you love Yahweh whole with our Heart, Soul and Might as in three parts, but in NT in Greek language as Yahshua told that you love God all with your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength? (OT= 3 plus NT= 4 = Seven!?!)

    breath life (as energy)

    Are those make sound to you?

    Bless you, Matthew

  2. Unknown

    You can get individual songs from Sons of Korah for $1.29 with iTunes and the full album downloads are much cheaper than on their website. If you want to use them in other programs you can easily. I like to convert them to high quality MP3s (320kbps) with MediaMonkey (free) so I can transfer them to any device or media player. I personally feel that $20-25 per album is a lot when I like only a handful of their songs. So this option was a great find for me. For $30 I got all the songs I really like from them.

    God bless!

  3. Arian

    Hey! Randomly came upon your blog post while searching for a Josh Garrels white owl skateboard. My husband and I made that white owl video and I just want to make sure you don't read too much into the artwork. Or, at least, don't let the artwork effect your view of Josh. He assigned us the song but gave us a lot of creative freedom. And it is just a video about a boy being sent by his father on a journey to bring light to the darkness. And while it seemed perilous and lonely and confusing at time, he experienced his fathers provision and rescue when he needed it. There are certainly a lot of tribal looking elements in the video but that's because they looked cool and fit the mood of the song. I'm very aware of the dangers of new age and other dark practices creeping into our churches these days so I'm sorry if this video feels like that. And I can't speak to the lyrics other than we know Josh a little bit just from doing videos for him over the years and he seems legit. I know lots of animals and other things from nature have become symbols for dark things over the years. But God made white owls and my husband drew that particular while owl so in Jesus's name, I claim it to be good and for God's glory. Thanks for the work you do to shed light on darkness. Keep fighting the good fight!

  4. Joseph Herrin

    Hello Arian,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. The purpose of this blog post was not to focus on particular individuals. I am not seeking to pick on Josh Garrels, nor yourself. Rather, this post was written to encourage Christians to exercise spiritual discernment when listening to music and selecting what musicians they will follow. The principles shared were general. Josh Garrels was merely used as an example to demonstrate to those who profess to be disciples of Christ how they should test all things.

    Although I appreciate the sentiment you are sharing when you write, "Don't read too much into the artwork. Or, at least, don't let the artwork effect your view of Josh," I am inclined to offer different counsel. Josh may have given you much artistic liberty in coming up with the design of the graphics, but he approved your work and this video is a centerpiece among all of his songs and videos.

    Arian, many Christians do not seek to identify the source of the inspiration that comes to them. Satan masquerades as an angel of light. He is very capable of suggesting ideas to people. Those who are not careful to evaluate the source of their thoughts often assume the idea was their own, or they may even attribute the inspiration to the Holy Spirit when it was in fact an unclean spirit influencing them.

    As I shared in this post, there is a strong theme of New Age spiritualism running through the lyrics and images for the White Owl video. You are suggesting that the video is just "about a boy being sent by his father on a journey to bring light to darkness." Yet both the lyrics and images have a Native American motif and are imbued with messages that are common in New Age religion. There is a difference between the story you and Josh collaborated on and the Parables of Christ. The Son of God never imbued His stories with occult symbolism, or the ideas and language of idolatrous religions. These elements are present in White Owl. Every Christian should test these things to identify whether any unclean spiritual influences were at work.

    You have acknowledged your awareness of the danger of New Age and other dark practices creeping into the churches. I would encourage you to be very sensitive in identifying whether these things are creeping into your own work. It is true that God made white owls, but you and your husband have adopted owl designs which bear a striking resemblance to Native American and New Age designs. These are very distinctive, as the design of the Wiccan owl reveals in the article above.

    When words are derived either wittingly, or unwittingly, from New Age and occult practices, we cannot simply claim them to be good and for God's glory. Yahweh has cautioned His people to make a distinction between the holy and the profane. We cannot adopt the profane and declare it holy. This is the great error of Roman Catholic syncretism. Syncretism is a practice Yahweh deems unacceptable. (See the teaching titled Syncretism.)


    May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.

  5. Joseph Herrin

    I should have written "When words OR IMAGES are derived either wittingly, or unwittingly, from New Age and occult practices, we cannot simply claim them to be good and for God's glory."

  6. Arian

    Thanks for taking these matters so seriously. That means a lot to me! Keep on keeping on!

  7. Unknown

    Why do you use butterfly symbolism in your writing on the Sabbath?

  8. Joseph Herrin

    Dear Jacob,

    I use the butterfly as symbolism to copy Yahweh's usage of it. The butterfly always starts out as a caterpillar where it eats and eats. It then goes into a cocoon state where the miracle of metamorphosis occurs and it comes out a butterfly. This is the same pattern followed by every man or woman who follows Christ. Before we become Christians we are slaves to the flesh. Afterwords we become a new creation in Christ. A butterfly is the same insect as a caterpillar but they are brand new. They eat different. They fly. They are in all ways new creatures.

    To read about this transformation in detail, see the book The Remnant Bride. It is available to be freely read on the Book page of the Heart4God website.

    May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days,


  9. Unknown

    Thank you for the reply Joseph. It feels a bit odd that you chose the butterfly symbol, as that is very much apart of other religious traditions such as Native American, and Wiccan stuff as well. I get the parallels you are drawing, but the bible does not mention butterflies either. I found your piece to be heartfelt, and compelling, but then it was also strange to find this symbol in your writing.

    The coincidence is rather interesting considering your critique of similar things in Josh's work. Might I mention, I found your post because I too found the lyrics and video for White Owl to be off-putting, and wanted to see if anyone shared my unease.

    I find this passage to be difficult, when it comes to discernment: "for in what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and in what measure ye measure, it shall be measured to you." How can one discern without being judgmental?

    Let us pray and give thanks for the grace and mercy that has been freely given to all of us despite our falling short. Freely we have received, let us too freely give. Let us pray for all mankind, even our enemies as the Lord commands, and as sons of men, let us forgive sins in this life, as the Son of Man indeed has the authority to forgive sins on this earth.

  10. bramkillz

    Even though this is quite an old page and an old comment, I want to share something. Paul actually used a ton of references to the culture and beliefs of his time in his letters to the churches. It is what the people knew, and he used those pagan concepts and cultural references to point to Christ.

    However, I can’t help but feel alarmed by the lyrics, music and even Josh himself. It seems like as the years passed he has adoped a more and more universalistic and mysic (read New Age) view of God, which greatly concerns me. I hope and pray that God might lead him into truth, faith, love, hope and understanding of who He really is. I personally am going to stay away from his music for a while to evaluate it further, and maybe I’ll shoot his Facebook page a message, maybe I’ll get a response.

    (I never use blogger, so I’ll have to use this stupid Google account which I named and created when I was still an unbeliever, so pardon the name.)

  11. Unknown

    Hey there. I’m actually in the middle on my opinion of Josh. I used to love his music and then took a step back and have yet to return to listening to him although I have considered it. I am commenting about your analysis of the “Like a serpent and a dove, you will have wisdom born of love.” and not because you are criticizing him completely.
    I am fairly sure that’s a reference to the Scripture Matthew 10:16, albeit the wording is a tad different. Matthew 10:16 in the Greek states, “Behold I send forth you as sheep in midst of wolves be you therefore shrewd as the serpents and innocent as the doves” We can’t immediately throw out verses mentioning certain animals and mention them as being bad because animals have many symbolic meanings. Both Yeshua and satan are referred to as lions. Not every mention of a lion is good in the Bible, but not every mention is bad either. Same with serpents. Yeshua says to be as “phromimoi” as serpents, as “intelligent, prudent, sensible, wise” as them. He also says to be as “akeraioi” as doves, as “simple, unsophisticated, sincere, blameless” as they are.
    Fire is also symbolic of Abba Father too. It is not always pagan. Abba Father speaks to Moshe in a burning bush. He guides the Israelites through a pillar of fire. Fire is also purification I believe. We all need to be careful about calling things pagan or bad when they have spiritual, Truthful, Biblically sound applications too.


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This is the Blog site of Joseph Herrin. It is a companion to the Heart4God Website. Writings are posted here first, while the Heart4God site contains an archive of all of my books, presentations, concise teachings, audio messages, and other material. All material is available free of charge. Permission is granted to copy, re-post, print, and distribute (free of charge) any of the material on these sites.

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