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Don't Knock Christian Rock

The author of the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music and a Lutheran seminary professor says the genre deserves more respect

Mark Allan Powell is professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary and an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is the author of 17 books and over 100 published articles on theology and the Bible.

Powell is a leading scholar in study of the Gospel of Matthew, has done influential work in understanding the Bible as literature, and has been a primary researcher in study of the historical Jesus. With his latest book, he changes gears to look at how figures such as Larry Norman, Stryper, and Aretha Franklin have contributed to the body of Christ. Powell's Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music (Hendrickson) is a 1,067-page collection of reviews, discographies, and critical summaries of artists—from household names to the obscure. As Powell writes in the introductions, "They're all here: the pilgrims, the pious, the outcasts, the hypocrites, the prophets, the heretics, and the martyrs. Rock & roll is a beautiful thing and it is my contention that the history of rock cannot be understood without consideration of the square pegs and misfits who inhabit the pages of this book."

Christianity Today's Todd Hertz spoke with Powell about why he wrote the book, the importance of obscure musicians, and the theological merits of rock.

Why did you write the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music?

I worked as a general market rock journalist and critic over 30 years ago [for The Houston Post]. In 1970 I became part of the Jesus movement revival at the time of the very earliest contemporary Christian music artists. The music was very meaningful to me.

As I became a professional theologian and I learned to think of things in what are supposed to be sophisticated and nuanced ways, I have never forgotten ...

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