Monday, 6 November 2017

When people reject songs due to theology issues

When people reject songs due to theology issues

The context for this is a YouTube tutorial video for a song called 'Reckless Love' by Cory Asbury. The person doing the video has gone to a huge amount of trouble to put together a brilliant tutorial.

In the comments section, there is a response from someone who states they aren't doing songs from Bethel or from Hillsong any more due to the theology from the churches.

In the specific instance of this song, the commenter also didn't approve of the word 'Reckless' as thinking about God, or the undertones of romantic love in the song.

Update 2019 - I've also had the displeasure of seeing a YouTube 'review' of the song Reckless Love which is unhelpful at best - "Reckless" isn't "Biblical". Hmmm.. Don't remember seeing YouTube or the internet in the Bible either... And some old hymns are full of non-Biblical words or (as with the King James Version) full of words that we don't use and make no sense.. My dad used to teach me that if you can't be nice then don't say anything. I'd add except pray. The enemy wants to see the church divided. As Joyce Meyer says we need the church to unify around the core truths we all agree on rather than the smaller issues we disagree on.

So why do people dislike some songs?

Often there are people that may have a good point theologically. Other times someone may just have a personal issue or grudge that has built in their mind. Sometimes people focus too much on theology that they lose sight of the wider picture. Others become so tunnel visioned on what's 'right' that they can lose their love and actually become 'wrong'. Sometimes it's a simple misunderstanding of the meaning of words. Other times people want their way or feel frustrated. And there are times where people simply don't like songs.

My Experiences of people rejecting songs

A few years ago, I was at a church that I felt moved away from seeing a wide picture of worship to focusing on some very minor and trivial issues that became so magnified that it started to lose sight of what worship was in a macro sense - songs helping us engage with God, worship him.

This is the same church that (wrongly and actually not even Biblically) felt we did too many songs having the words 'I' and 'me' and not enough saying 'us' and 'we'.

One of the issues that one person had was with the words of 'Consuming Fire' by Matt Redman. In this person's view, they didn't like the lyric, 'There must be more than this...' In their view, this was saying that there must be more to what God will do which seemed to be against the fact that what Jesus did on the Cross is complete.

In this instance, the complaint wasn't right because the song is not saying Jesus hasn't finished his work but a cry from the heart that 'God there must be more to you than what I'm experiencing' with the writer inviting God to breathe within him and waiting on God to do a work in him.

At the same church another week, someone giving a talk made a big song and dance about a song from Ben Cantelon called 'Guardian.' The complaint on this occasion was that the song talked about God as a 'guardian' with the speaker very vocally stating that God isn't our 'guardian' but our Father.

Again, the speaker was completely wrong and he had quite an aggressive attitude about the whole thing! The song is talking about God as our protector and not as a guardian that you'd have to manage a trust fund for an under-18 (which is what the speaker believed the song was saying).

Another person also mentioned their frustration with the lyrics of the song, 'Our God' by Chris Tomlin. In this instance I can't recall what the issues were specifically but a reading of the song shows a strong and Biblical framework.

In the case of 'Reckless Love' on YouTube, I also feel the commenter was wrong to suggest that the song writer was meaning that God was 'reckless' as in 'unconcerned.' This is not what the song is saying. Instead, it is saying that God's love is a love that is daring, adventurous and one that goes beyond what we would do.

The comment about the song being too romantic, is not one that stands up to any scrutiny either. Instead, this song is about God's passionate pursuit of people to show himself as God, as well as his pursuit of his people to make them fully his. A cursory (and for some uncomfortable, even reckless) look at Song of Songs shows both a romantic love and a picture of Christ's love for his bride, the church.

In a more recent case, some people have taken issue with the Hillsong track, 'So Will I (100 Billion X')' which they mainly disapprove of or have questioned due to the use of the lyrics, 'A hundred billion creatures catch your breath, evolving in pursuit of what you said.'

Those who believe in creation in 6 days and reject evolution (but not adaptation) question whether this is a song that promotes an evolutionary worldview (and indeed one where there must have been sin and death before Adam and Eve). The question here is whether the songwriters meant 'adaptation' (within species) as opposed to evolution (between species and something that has not ever been found). Then the question is 'if they meant evolution' then should we reject the song?

Should We Reject Songs due to theology?

This is perhaps at the root of some of the comments made. Their cases are specific, but the general point is about whether we reject songs due to their theology? Or whether we reject songs if we don't like a particular artist, ministry, church.

One question revolves around Biblical interpretation: how do we understand and read the Bible? If we take the Bible literally then we have to literally do all the things the Bible says. But this can never be the correct way to read the Bible and it also reduces the Bible down to only what we read (so it can never comment on things that aren't in the Bible).

Instead, the Bible needs to be read as God intended it to be read when he moved on people by the Holy Spirit to write it. This honours God and the Bible in the highest and greatest possible way and is our model for living. As followers of Jesus, we are mini-christs, reflecting his glory and carrying his light, life and presence.

Reading the Bible in this correct way, it helps give principles as well as specifics about issues of every area of life, death and eternity. We see what God gives us to see, feel what he gives us to feel and do what he says we should do.

Theologically, we also know (from Scripture) and common sense, that not everything about God is in the Bible. The Bible is God's true word to us that he knows that we need. The Bible is not a complete overview of God, his character, nature, history etc. God's Word makes it clear that God is above and beyond our understanding. The way we approach him is to seek him for revelation into what we do know revealed in the Word. Sometimes he reveals what we don't know and other times he doesn't, knowing that we couldn't understand or deal with things. He is God, we are not!

We also know that not everything Jesus did, said, thought is in the Bible - the Bible testifies to this in John 21:25. So conversely, we know that Jesus did things and said things that were of God (because he is God) but that aren't in the Bible.

In terms of song-writing, songs directly from the Bible should be at the heart of what we do. It is good when songs are taken completely from Scripture. The International House of Prayer in Kansas City do this in a great way. But if we always do this for every song, we're sometimes forced to compress words into spaces that don't fit, or we can lose a poetic rhythm, lyric or timing that God may give us.

So along with songs straight from the Bible, songs that capture the essence of the Bible, of God, of Jesus, of his Kingdom should also be part of what we sing. To not do this is a denial of the fullness of God, who he has released us to be (creators, creating in the image and for the glory of the creator) and of songwriting potential.

It is good to use words that we maybe can't find in the Bible but that reflect God's heart - or even modern ways of saying things, or even new words.

Remember that God's Word was written outside of time (by God, although in time by man inspired by him) for the whole of time - but was written for every tribe, race, tongue and generation - and we're all different. We all say things different ways, express ourselves differently. As another example, the English language (as one example) doesn't have the words for something that the Greek language does, so obviously using different words is a good thing.

Ultimately it all boils down to whether something glorifies God. All of our life should do this. We can sing a theologically correct song and read the Bible in church but if our life isn't being transformed into his likeness and we're not loving God and others, then our words are empty.

In terms of the rejection of songs from places or people we may not agree with, it's a slightly more tricky or personal choice. My own view is that we can lose something if we become incredibly limiting in what we sing. And the question is: you may not like something or a church (like Bethel) for example. But are they glorifying God? Is God using them? And be really, really honest with yourself - what's the real reason you have an issue?

I personally have no issues with Bethel or anyone else and unless a church is completely off the Biblical grid I don't consider these to be issues when choosing worship songs. Remember that David was a mess and yet his Psalms have been used in millions of songs through history. Are we to reject David because he had views we don't agree with or did wrong things? Can we even deny the redeeming power of God in we become so choosy? Are we placing our personal preference over what we sing? Is it about control? Maybe it's not, but it's worth considering.

I often find those with the biggest issues with things like worship or songs are often people who are deeply frustrated within themselves and even struggling.

And maybe you need to be challenged about what you believe. Maybe it's you that's limiting God. Sometimes our fear of being wrong in something can actually hinder a work of God that regularly (in the Bible and in the life of God's church) does things that confound, confuse and offend. As someone famously wrote, 'God often offends our minds to reveal our hearts.'

So maybe a question for all of us is that when we feel offence rise, maybe this is God's challenge to us and not for us to judge others with a standard may or may not be right. Don't miss out on something of God because you don't fully understand it. God did great things in the Bible that people would have missed out on had they been offended! He is still doing that today.

Worship is Powerful and Transformational

Finally, worship is about God's presence and it is transformational. When I sing a song, in my heart I'm asking the question, 'is this anointed?' Is this a worship song that is God-breathed, reveals something about God, does something in my heart or in the heart of others?

The answer most times is yes.

Reckless Love, So Will I, Our God, Guardian, Consuming Fire have all lit fires in the hearts of people that I have worshipped with. They have breathed life, fuel, God's encouragement, a passion for God, a desire for the nations, for prayer, for a life that honours God into hundreds, maybe even thousands of people that I've known and seen.

It is absolutely right to want to honour God and his Word and the pursuit of this is what we're all after. But...

At the heart of worship songs for me are these questions: does it have God and his Kingdom, his Holy Spirit, his love, his power, his glory all over it? If it does and it's got a good tune (!) then I want to use it. At my heart I don't want to miss anything of God that he has for me.

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