Petra at 50: Beyond Belief (1990)


In celebration of Petra turning fifty years old in 2022, here at I am going album by album through their discography and reflecting on the role their music has played in my life. In this post my focus is Petra’s twelfth studio album, thirteenth overall, most successful, and probably most well-known, 1990’s Beyond Belief.

The Backstory

After This Means War! and On Fire!, Petra was riding higher than they ever had. Then, touring with renowned evangelist Josh McDowell, they released Petra Praise in the fall of 1989, and it only became they biggest seller ever. It appeared they had reached their summit as a band. But with the same lineup from the past two albums still intact (Schlitt/Hartman/Cates/Lawry/Weaver), Petra still had a higher rock to climb. In the summer of 1990 they released their first studio album with Dayspring/Word Records, Beyond Belief

Album Information

Beyond Belief would prove to be Petra’s biggest seller, going gold. It would also garner the group its first Grammy Award after five nominations. To go along with the album the band produced a mini-movie (below) that became a youth group staple. It contained music videos from the album.

My Origin Story

You would have thought I’d bought this album right when it came out, but that didn’t happen. I wasn’t at a point in my life yet where I was in the know about when new albums were about to come out. At least not Christian pop and rock albums. I discovered this one as I discovered On Fire!, when it was played on the loud speakers before and after our youth group meetings. And I probably bought this one some time in 1991, after I’d gotten a CD player for my birthday the summer before. I quickly fell in love with this album, a couple of songs especially, which I’ll get into below. 

Album Information

  • Released: June 20, 1990
  • Recorded: Pakaderm Studios, Los Alamitos, CA
  • Album Length: 44:00
  • Label: DaySpring / Word Records
  • Producers: John Elefante and Dino Elefante
  • The Band: John Schlitt (lead vocals, backing vocals); Bob Hartman (guitars, arrangements); John Lawry (keyboards); Ronny Cates (bass); Louie Weaver (drums)
  • Additional musicians: John Andrew Schreiner (additional keyboards); John Elefante (background vocals, arrangements); Dino Elefante (background vocals, arrangements); Dave Amato (background vocals); Walt Harrah and the Los Alamitos Congregational Choir (background vocals on “Love”)
  • Recording:
    • John Elefante (producer, engineer, mixing at Pakaderm Studios, Los Alamitos, CA)
    • Dino Elefante (producer, engineer, mixing at Pakaderm Studios)
    • Lynn Keesecker (A&R direction)
    • Mike Mireau (engineer)
    • Jeff Simmons (assistant engineer)
    • Bob Ludwig (mastering at Masterdisk, New York City)
    • Amy Linden (art production coordination)
    • Buddy Jackson (art direction)
    • Beth Middleworth (design)
    • Mark Tucker (photography)
    • Carol Buckley-Frazier (hair, make-up)
    • Susan Wakulsky (stylist)


1. “Armed and Dangerous” (4:06) –– The album begins with a rocker grounded in certain victory for those who belong to the Lord. The lyrics speak of an army “not so tough on [its] own” which “sometimes even fail[s] the smallest test,” but God’s enemies will scatter. The people of God are ready to storm the gates because of Jesus’ blood. The way the band almost screams the chorus, “ARMED! AND! DANGEROUS!” stands out. Great way to start.

2. “I Am On The Rock” (4:37) –– Of all the Petra songs of this era this one might be the best suited to the arena rock so popular in this era. The lyrics speak of a world undone. There is no foundation in the world to stand upon because it’s coming apart at the seam, but the one who belongs to Jesus can shout, “I am on The Rock! The sure foundation!” That foundation is then described as “His revelation” (i.e., the word of God). And the bottom line? “There is no Rock in this world but our God.” The hooks, the harmonic chorus, Hartman’s guitar solo… they all make for another great Petra rock song.

3. “Creed” (4:36) –– This song jumped out at me from the moment I first heard it. The slow keyboard intro gives way to John Schlitt singing the “Apostles’ Creed.” You don’t even hear the guitar or drums until what is practically the second verse. Schlitt sings, “I believe in the empty tomb and the stone that the angel rolled away,” then it kicks in and he continues, “He descended and set the captives free, and now He sits at God’s right hand and prepares a place for me.” As does the Creed, this song is a summary of the Christian faith. “This is my creed!” they sing in the chorus, “The witness I have heard! The faith that has endured! This truth is assured! Through the darkest ages past, though persecuted, it will last, and I will hold steadfast to this creed.” Hartman’s guitar screams at times. All of the instruments are on point. Schlitt is at the top of his game. This is a near perfect song.

4. “Beyond Belief” (5:06) –– The title track became one of Petra’s most beloved songs, from the instantly recognizable intro to the catchy chorus. My personal story about this chorus came after I had children and my son turned the chorus of “Be-yond belief” to “De-odorant! De-odorant!” Now I can rarely listen to this song without thinking of it. It’s still a great song with some great lines: “Leap of faith without a net makes us want to hedge our bet. Waters never part until our feet get wet.” Ultimately, what I love most about this song is its message. Salvation through Jesus Christ isn’t just about avoiding hell and getting our ticket to heaven. Jesus saves us to take us beyond belief. For the believer, there is always a higher place to go in our faith. Another great song.

5. “Love” (4:10) –– Perhaps the best Side A in the history of Christian music concludes with what is perhaps the most beautiful sounding ballad Petra ever produced. With lyrics straight out of 1 Corinthians 13, this song is wonderfully played and artfully sung, in both lead and background vocals. The chorus really stands out to me: “Love knows when to let go. Love knows when to say no.” And then my favorite, “Love grows in the light of the Son, and love shows the world that the Son of Love has come.” There’s a bit of Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” in this one, especially when the choir comes in on the chorus. The thing is, Petra does know what love is. They rightfully declare that true love is always pointing to Jesus.

6. “Underground (4:33) –– I love every bit of the guitar in the intro to this song. Lyrically, the song is about a Christianity under attack from an increasingly hostile world. Rather than cower in the face of opposition, the band boldly declares, “I won’t go underground. I won’t turn and flee. I won’t bow the knee. I won’t go underground. I won’t turn and hide from the rising tide. I won’t go underground. I won’t compromise what the world denies. I won’t go underground. And I’m not ashamed of the cross I’ve claimed.” For 1990 this song is prescient. It more than holds up in 2022. It’s easier to identify with: “They’re taking notes on what we say. You know they’d like to lock us all away.” This is a quality fast-paced rocker.

7. “Seen and Not Heard” (3:54) –– God’s children always need to be heard, because God’s word always needs to be proclaimed, but the point of this song is still well taken. We need actions behind our words. As sung in the last line, “Don’t let your mouth start talkin’, until your feet start walkin’.” A Christian who is just words may not be a Christian at all, and is at the very least just a clanging cymbal. All that said, the song is another which feels made for arena rock. 

8. “Last Daze” (5:04) –– This song is about the moral, ethical, theological, and spiritual fog in and among the unbelieving as this world gets ever closer to the Second Coming of Christ. Paul writes of a strong delusion in 2 Thessalonians. Bob Hartman took that idea and put it into song, using a clever play on words for the title. I really like Ronny Cates’s bass work leading up to the guitar solo, and if you are paying attention at the end of the song, you’ll hear a little bit of Hartman doing his Jimi Hendrix “Purple Haze” impression. Fun stuff.

9. “What’s In A Name” (3:34) –– This is, to me, the most unique song on the album, and one of the more unique songs in Petra’s catalog, at least from this era. A fast start is followed by a slow down for the verses, in which Petra goes through a list of different names and terms for Jesus, straight out of Scripture: Rabbi, good teacher, The Son, Master, Messiah, Lamb of God, and so on. It could actually be considered a good teaching song, especially for newer believers who may be confused by some of the different names and terms for the Lord in the word of God. I do love the end of the chorus: “At the name of Jesus, name above all names, there is power and glory. Forever and ever! Forever and ever!” 

10. “Prayer” (4:15) –– The album concludes with the second of two ballads, and as you might expect from the title, this song is in the form of a prayer. It begins with the giving of thanks to God for salvation. The second verse is a request that God make the one doing the praying evidence of what His grace can do, so that a generation struggling will find Him. The third verse is about asking for God’s sustaining grace, His protection from the evil all around us. It’s a beautiful ballad, and while it may seem odd to close this album with a ballad, it is a fitting postlude.

Ranking the Albums

  1. This Means War! 
  2. On Fire!
  3. Beyond Belief – Now this was the hardest ranking to make! This is the most popular album in Petra’s history, and the most polished they ever sounded. In an era in which Petra’s musical style was popular with those, like myself, who liked the arena rock of bands like Def Leppard, this was, in a sense, Petra’s Hysteria. As you’ll see when I list songs below, the album, particularly “Side A,” is well represented. The only reason I put it at three, and not higher, is that “Side B” trails off very slightly. It’s all still quite good, but when you’re ranking these things it’s sometimes hard to delineate, especially here near the top. The bottom line is that this is not only an iconic album, it’s a great album.
  4. More Power To Ya
  5. Never Say Die 
  6. Come and Join Us
  7. Not Of This World
  8. Back to the Street
  9. Captured In Time And Space
  10. Beat The System
  11. Petra
  12. Washes Whiter Than
  13. Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out

The #Petra50

  1. “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered” – from This Means War! (1)
  2. “Creed” – from Beyond Belief – As stated above, this one is near perfect. 
  3. “More Power To Ya” – from More Power To Ya (2)
  4. “Adonai” – from Beat The System (3)
  5. “Whole World” – from Back to the Street (4)
  6. “Grave Robber” – from Not Of This World (5)
  7. “Hit You Where You Live” – from On Fire! (6)
  8. “Chameleon” from Never Say Die (7)
  9. “Love” – from Beyond Belief – An absolutely beautiful ballad. Love grows in the light of the Son, and love shows the world that the Son of love has come.
  10. “Road to Zion” – from More Power To Ya (8)
  11. “Godpleaser” – from Captured In Time And Space (9)
  12. “Not Of This World” – from Not Of This World (10)
  13. “This Means War” – from This Means War! (11)
  14. “Come and Join Us” – from Come and Join Us (12)
  15. “All Fired Up” – from On Fire! (13)
  16. “The Praise Medley [“Let Everything That Hath Breath” / “Without You We Could Do Nothing” / “Praise Ye The Lord” / “Hallelujah Chorus”] – from Captured In Time And Space (14)
  17. “Angel of Light” – from Never Say Die (15)
  18. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” – from More Power To Ya (16)
  19. “Hollow Eyes” – from Beat The System (17)
  20. “Beyond Belief” – from Beyond Belief – An outstanding title track with a message calling the listener to going to a higher place in his or her faith.
  21. “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened” – from This Means War! (18)
  22. “Stand in the Gap” – from On Fire! (19) 
  23. “Fool’s Gold” – from Back to the Street (20)
  24. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – from Come and Join Us (21)
  25. “It Is Finished” – from Beat The System (22)
  26. “Woman Don’t You Know” – from Come and Join Us (23) 
  27. “Where Can I Go” – from Come and Join Us (24)
  28. “Not By Sight” – from Not Of This World (25)
  29. “Clean” – from Captured In Time And Space (26)
  30. “King’s Ransom” – from Back to the Street (27)
  31. “First Love” – from On Fire! (28) 
  32. “You Are My Rock” – from This Means War! (29)
  33. “Counsel of the Holy” – from On Fire! (30)
  34. “Beat The System” – from Captured In Time And Space (31)
  35. “For Annie” – from Never Say Die (32)
  36. “Magic Mirror” – from Washes Whiter Than (33) 
  37. “The Coloring Song” – from Never Say Die (34)
  38. “Bema Seat” – from Not Of This World (35) 
  39. “Back to the Street” – from Back to the Street (36)
  40. “Get On Your Knees and Fight Like A Man” – from This Means War! (37)
  41. “Somebody’s Gonna Praise His Name” – from On Fire! (38)
  42. “I Am On The Rock” – from Beyond Belief – A great song for the arena rock atmosphere for which it was written. The message is that Christ is the sure foundation!
  43. “Magic Words”- from Washes Whiter Than (39)
  44. “Why Should the Father Bother?” – from Washes Whiter Than (40)
  45. “Walkin’ in the Light” – from Petra (41)
  46. “Seen and Not Heard” – from Beyond Belief – Too much talk, and not enough walk. 
  47. “The Water Is Alive” – from This Means War! (42)
  48. “Armed and Dangerous” – from Beyond Belief – The way this song opens the album let’s you know you are in for quite a ride.
  49. “Killing My Old Man” – from Never Say Die (43)
  50. “Stand Up” – from More Power To Ya (44)


Dropping off…

  • “Morning Star” – from Washes Whiter Than (45)
  • “Second Wind” – from More Power To Ya (46)
  • “You Are I Am” – from Back to the Street (47)
  • “I Am Available” – from This Means War! (48)
  • “Mary’s Song” – from Washes Whiter Than (49)
  • “All The King’s Horses” – from This Means War! (50) 

Parting Thought

What else can you say about Beyond Belief? If you were looking for one album to show people what Petra was all about, this might just be the one. It’s well written, well played, well produced. While I didn’t rank it at the very top of my list, it may be the most well rounded of any Petra album. There are no duds on the album, and it all holds up extremely well. You can hear the entire album here

2 thoughts on “Petra at 50: Beyond Belief (1990)

  1. I’m surprised that Petra’s song, “No Doubt” was not included in either of the lists above. They did sing it here on their 50th Anniversary Tour. Cory Blanchard

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