The Phantom of the Opera and The Spirit of the Arian Snare

This haunted face holds no horror for me now. It’s in your soul that the true distortion lies.” Christine, the Phantom of the Opera

It almost goes without saying that the best Broadway musicals are the ones with best scores. The most enduring shows are the ones with songs that stick. The Phantom of the Opera is one such a musical. The heroine of the story is a young chorus girl named Christine. Although she is an orphan who appears to lack formal training, she is inexplicably able to sing as well as the prima donna she replaces in an emergency. Christine claims to be able to sing so well because of training she has received from a being she calls “The Angel of Music”. Christine’s “angel of music” turns out to be none other than the mysterious, vicious, and dangerous Phantom of the Opera. His obsession with Christine nearly becomes her undoing. Although he appeared to be a benefactor, he was actually a selfish and malevolent monster out to possess her. The same could sadly be said of the relationship between seeker sensitive churches and their potential members. Such churches use The Arian Snare to draw in attenders and, in turn, possess their time, talent, and treasure despite providing no in-depth biblical teaching or Christian community. The Polemics Report describes the Arian Snare as follows:

The “Arian Snare” (also known as Snarianism) is a term designed to explain the way that heretical and sub-christian sects often lure people to them, their meetings and their points of view by using engaging and compelling music. Often times, the music itself is not heretical or sub-Christian, but it is used as “bait” or “lure” to snare orthodox Christians into coming dangerously close to them…Many of the most prominent heretical groups today use music as their primary draw, including the Word-Faith and highly immoral prosperity cult, Hillsong, and hyper-charismatic Montanist sect, Bethel Church Redding.

Strangely enough, a hit song from The Phantom of the Opera perfectly describes the tactics by which seeker-sensitive (or seeker sensual) churches employ The Arian Snare. In the song “The Music of the Night” the Phantom of the Opera describes the way his music can help him seduce the target of his lust.

Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness wakes and stirs imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses
Helpless to resist the notes I write
For I compose the music of the night

The Phantom understands the importance of ambiance. A common practice of churches that use sensual music to drive their services is to dim the lights. This creates a concert atmosphere. It also heightens the perception of the sense of hearing. It is their stirring music that these churches want to be the focus, not their errant theology. Taken by the atmosphere, attenders may let down their defenses and fail to perceive the trap that has been set for them.

Slowly, gently night unfurls it’s splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
Hearing is believing, music is deceiving,
Hard as lightening, soft, as candle light,
Dare you trust the music of the night

As the Phantom says, hearing (when this music right) is believing. At once, the right music can be overwhelming like a storm and gentle like the light glimmering candle. The Wimber Model is a formulaic process commonly used by seeker sensual churches to lead attenders through feelings of engagement, exaltation, adoration, and intimacy. Using music, seeker sensual churches use various emotional states to deceive attenders into believing they are experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Close your eyes, for your eyes will only tell the truth,
And the truth isn’t what you want to see,
In the dark it is easy to pretend,
But the truth is what it ought to be

Perhaps the Phantom read the gospel of John before composing this stanza. In Chapter 3 of John’s gospel Jesus states, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” Seeker sensual churches do not seek to attract convicted Christians. Rather they seek to appeal to those who still struggle with sensuality. Using lust to attract sinners, seeker sensual churches cloud the truth.

Softly, deftly,
Music shall caress you,
Hear it, feel it,
Secretly posess you

The Phantom is a charmer. Seeker-sensual churches create the illusion that attenders are caressed by the Holy Spirit. However, far from leaning on the everlasting arms, attenders are gently stimulated in a dark room by something altogether different. In the most charismatic seeker sensual churches the time of singing is a strongly physical experience. Worshipers sway back and forth, some even fall to the ground. The question must be asked, “Is it merely music that possesses the individuals at such a service or is it something altogether demonic?”

Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind,
In this darkness which you know you can not fight,
The darkness of the music of the night

The Phantom of the Opera hid his hideous visage behind a white mask. He sought to let his music distract from his horrid appearance. Music can distract from reality. Reality is sometimes harsh; the truth (as Jesus points out in John 6) can be hard to accept. Seeker sensual churches preach a carnal “best life now” theology that starkly contrasts the earthly persecution and trouble promised to Christians in the Bible. The music of seeker sensual churches is a religious opiate given as an alternative to difficult biblical truths. As Shai Linne puts it, it’s a “crown without a cross.”

Close your eyes start a journey through a strange new world,
Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before,
Close your eyes and let music set you free,
Only then can you belong to me

The Phantom understands that people seek to escape from the world they know. So do “pastors” like Andy Stanley, who seek to create “churches that unchurced people love to attend”. Seeker-sensual churches present themselves as stark contrasts to the traditional churches that their targets leave behind. They give attenders that they impression can be set free from the restrictive rules of their former churches. They can have their cake and eat it, too. This deception is perpetuated using the Arian Snare.

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication,
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation,
Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in,
To the power of the music that I write,
The power of the music of the night

The Phantom appeals to the flesh. Seeker sensual churches know that their targets have a desire for sexual deviance and alcohol abuse. As churches, they cannot offer these things. They are, after all, for sale at the liquor store. The church must differentiate itself. Seeker sensual churches use music to press the buttons of their attenders. They often use romantic songs that present Christ as more of a boyfriend than a king.

You alone can make my song take flight,
Help me make the music of the night.

The Phantom knows that, given enough time, the target will be singing along and participating. Participation is the final step. That is when one becomes a partaker in the action, not just an observer. This is the same way pornography viewing leads to sexual deviance in the flesh with others. It lowers inhibitions. It’s the same strategy frat boys use with young freshman girls when they ply with with alcohol. Songs such as “How He Loves” and “Holy Spirit” are prime examples of Arian Snare sensuality. Don’t endure them. Don’t let them in your church. Expose them to the light. When such songs are sung, ask yourself if your own church has a Phantom of the Cantata.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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@gsethdunn

Seth Dunn

Editor at Pulpit & Pen
Host of the Christian Commute Podcast
Member, Evangelical Theological Society
@gsethdunn

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