7.31.2006

Artistic License vs. Heresy

Take the following excerpts from popular praise songs I have encountered recently [this list is by no means exhaustive]:

(1) "I'm coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about you. It's all about you, Jesus."
- The Heart of Worship

(2) "You took the fall, and thought of me above all."
- Above All

First, what is wrong with such lyrics. With regard to (1), it completely ignores two members of the Trinity elevating Jesus above them, since as it claims it is all about Jesus. Jesus doesn't even believe that it is all about Jesus. That said, one can hope that this was not the intent of the author. This mistake seems to come from the mistaken thinking that 'Jesus' is simply a pseudonym for 'God'. [UPDATE: Dale Tuggy over at Trinities sees such indiscretion in using the term 'Jesus' as a sign of modalism.] With regard to (2) I think it is incorrect since I subscribe to the Piper/Edwards line of thought where God, at the risk of idolatry, must always be uppermost in God's mind. Therefore, if Jesus thought of me above all, he would be committing idolatry. I'm not even sure if one can provide a positive spin that can explain such a falsehood. The best I can think of is that his love for me was one of the reasons for his sacrifice, but this is much different than the lyric.

What ought we to make of such lyrics, and thus, such praise songs? There is no doubt that Christian contemporary praise songs are theologically anemic when compared to hymns, but this is a different issue. Are such songs simply theologically lazy and given that they are in the genre of poetry their mistakes can be excused when in the heart of worship (pun intended) or are they simply heresy, if not blasphemy, and to be avoided?

I go back and forth with this one. In favor of such songs, (i) many people seem to succeed in worshiping God in singing them, (ii) some 'artistic license' seems to be inevitable for the sake of rhyming if nothing else (though at least 'divinity' rhymes with 'trinity'), and (iii) perhaps we can say that though the lyrics are literally false they implicate something that is true (this would be what I was trying to get at in giving my spin above). On the other hand, (i) such songs can lead to confusion for those who don't know how to give them a proper interpretation [if that's what I was doing], (ii) if such lyrics really are heresy or blasphemy how could one really worship God by uttering them?, and (iii) it is doubtful that all such inaccuracies implicate truths. Implicatures ought to be easily discernible which the above examples do not seem to be (at least for the majority).
[note: it may be responded that this is the fault of the pastors and congregations for not being theologically sophisticated to discern the lyrics cannot be literally true and that something else must be meant.]

Thoughts? Additions?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jon,
I too have struggled with this issue. I think that there's even more grevious theological blunders in some modern praise songs. It makes me happy to remember that just yesterday our church ended the great hymm with "God in three persons,Blessed Trinity"
I would not go so far as to say that praise songs are evil but I do feel that the general trend to empathize our emotions in the act of worship is a dangerous pattern that destracts from true worship of God with all our mind, and all our strength by over focusing on the heart.

Benjamin M. said...

Jon,

Thank you first for writing this intriguing question. Thinking on this topic I began to wonder if it is a question that we, as Christians, need to burden ourselves with. My answer to this is a resounding no. Let me paraphrase what I believe you are asking us to think about, “Are these songs we sing a form of worship as they focus not on the Triune divinity of God but instead merely on one aspect in Jesus? Or worse, are the songs merely focusing on our own joy about what this single aspect of the Triune God endured for us? Simply, ‘Well thank you God, isn’t that wonderful what you did for us. Hooray!’ ” I believe that while the second question has merit in the terms of making sure we do not take Christ’s gift of death and resurrection lightly the first question is only relevant if God places as much weight as we do on how one worships and not the worship itself. Now, to clarify, I am not taking the means of worship lightly by saying we only need to praise 'God' in terms of 'the force' or 'the all' that man often sites to confirm that they are indeed, 'Spiritual'. I do put the parameters of worship into our generally accepted view of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. With this solid foundation present I simply cannot imagine God frankly caring about the songs we choose to sing and the topics and the lyrics we put out there in our attempts to express devotion to Him. We are a spiritually meek people in intellectual matters of all aspects, and yes I include the most esteemed among us because God took the time to mention this in His word, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” (Corinthians 1:25) With his intellectual superiority so obvious I have to believe he is not grading our attempts at rhythm and diction in any other manner than a proud parent would of a child who is merely attempting to please Him with an act of kindness and generosity or creativity. It seems simple and a bit cliché, but it really is 'The thought that counts' here. When you have given your heart totally over to God and you desperately want to worship him it is not your poor attempt to string a few sentences of text together ‘theologically sound’ as they might be that will be the mostly meaningful thing brought to this table.

In that aspect, theology is what I want to address next. I think your fears that we seem to focus our songs to God the Son too much is irrelevant for three reasons. First, though we find throughout scripture that God is indeed a jealous God we do not find anywhere (to my knowledge) that God is jealous of himself. In the Old Testament we find God’s jealousy creeping into the fray when his people turn there backs on Him to follow some stupid shinny rock or other pleasure that distracts them from the relationship he is trying to have. “Hello, people I’m over here” is merely the simplest way to put what God is feeling in this situation. It’s like your girlfriend or wife getting fed up with you watching that meaningless program on TV when she is trying to have an honest to God (pun totally intended) conversation with you that will bring you both closer together and strengthens your bond. She does this pleasantly at first and then, if you’re unresponsive, gives you a death glare that triggers you into action. The early Biblical Israelites were much like this, though God’s death glare was often accompanied by actual death, plagues and wars of immense destruction. In these songs, you are worshiping Jesus, or something that Jesus did or said. This is not a bad thing. You are worshiping God, or at least an aspect of God and from my accounting of Genesis the big three aspects of God the Son, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are like peas in a pod, what you do for one, you pretty much do for all. I do not think God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are taking count and checking off how much attention God the Son gets. There is no jealousy because the worship is focused on where it’s supposed to be, on God.

Second, I must note that as God created man he must understand man’s tendency to be first and most grateful to the aspect of a deity they can best relate to. Sure God the Father is in charge, Jesus defers to him in all counts in the Gospels. He is, by all accounts, the aspect of the Triune that is most revered by the other two. This being said, who knows what He is supposed to be like, let alone look like, let alone relate to. He is shrouded in mystery as a thing unknown and so powerful that it is best not to approach him as his voice would kill you instantly. He is someone who is hard to know. As for God the Holy Spirit, even Jesus had a heck of a time explaining what this aspect was so He instead explained what it would do. Simply saying “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you..” (John 14:26) A Comforter, OK, sounds great and all but what is it exactly. You know about the gifts He gives you but what is HE exactly, guesses at best on this one. A ghost, a person, a big dictionary of useful facts, we have ideas but nothing really to hold on to. Now Jesus, there is your poster boy for God. We have an idea of what he looks like, and he looks like us. Pictures of him are plastered everywhere and what we gain from this is a sense of familiarity. He was a human being for a good thirty odd years and we can relate to that. Some of us have been human for double that so we feel like good old Jesus gets us, gets our joy, gets our pains, and gets our issues. He isn’t in the sky looking down on us, instead he is right there, chummy, understanding, good people. Oh he saved my soul to, great I can worship that, I’ll even sing about it.

The third reason is worship is not saddled to the aspect of song only. If they, from hymns to modern praise and worship, were the only means of expression then you would have a point. The worship scale might be skewed in one direction and that would not be a healthy expression of worship to God. It isn’t. Humans worship in many ways, in work, in rest, in speech, in actions, in emotion and in thought. We worship God the Holy Spirit by accepting the gifts He gives us and putting them to the uses He designs. We worship God the Father by accepting his Son, His gift, into our lives. We worship him by accepting the beauty of what He has created. We worship by using our brains to answering these very questions. These songs are but one aspect of worship to God in Triune Deity. I personally like them, though you are right about some of them really need better writers.

I’m sorry about being long winded but I thank you again for you excellent question. These points are merely my opinions, feel free to disagree, discuss or discredit.

jon said...

Ben,
I think you have misunderstood my qualms [perhaps since I was trying hard not to make the post too long and sacrificed clarity]. My issue is not that such songs focus solely on Jesus and ignore the other members of the Trinity, but rather that they flat out declare something that is false, something blasphemous. I think you raise another interesting issue - one that may also be problematic - but I think that it is less problematic than the issue I am concerned with.

I am worried about some of your comments. You say that with regard to such matters , 'it is the thought that counts'. Is it? I'm sure the thought does count, but is it all that counts? In your parent analogy imagine the kid saying "all that matters is what mommy says." Are you proud & happy, or do you feel that something has gone wrong.

This is a bit far-fetched, but indulge me: say an eager new Christian desperately wants to serve God. In his haste he misreads the Bible as saying that you SHOULD steal. The guy then goes out and as an attempted act of worship steals. Does this act glorify God? Is it an act of worship? I agree that his heart does count for something, but I am concerned with the act. If singing such songs are acts of blasphemy (which if taken literally they are), then can they glorify God? Can singing them be anything but evil?

This brings me to anonymous' comment. Calling the singing of such songs evil seems harsh, but:

(1) All blasphemy is evil
(2) In singing such songs individuals sing blasphemous lyrics.
(3) Therefore, in singing such songs individuals do something evil.

It's hard to see where to dissent. The artistic license/true implicature route seems to be the best [deny premise 2], but it is also a hard road to travel. 'God is so big' is not literally true, but it is easy to grasp the meaning behind such a claim. Things are quite as clear with regard to the lyrics quoted above [particulary (2)].

Benjamin M. said...

Jon,

I think I might have misunderstood your qualms but since you have clarified them I still wonder what the nature of your concern is. I concede that your argument that these songs are questionable in their theology but are you more concerned with the nature of the songs themselves or the consequences to singing them? I take the conclusion that you are more concerned with consequences because you said the last response, “I agree that his heart does count for something, but I am concerned with the act” and how you found criticism in my parent analogy. You found that my conclusion of “It’s the thought the counts” was insufficient. If the thoughts are insufficient to you then I must assume that you require actions. This is why I believe you added the consequence of a loyalty shift when you stated the hypothetical child change association in his loyalty and love from the correct dual partnership of the parent to the mother only. This change I would assume leaves the father ignored or even despised by the child.

My question is, “Why and how is the child making this decision to shift his loyalty and love from the correct dual parent partnership and instead focusing it only to the mother?” I would assume two possibilities for this action. First, the father did a negative act to incur this loyalty shift or second the mother fed the child negative implications about the father to produce the shift. In both possibilities I find that a child, to my knowledge, does not hate the father upon birth, but would need an experience such as abuse, abandonment or something as simple as coldness to generate feelings of negativity. Are these songs a form of negative act or implication because they are theological unsound? Is the possibility that they are incorrect provide enough ammunition to sway the faith of a believer to a more heretical bent? My thoughts to these questions are that this could only be accomplished by having total ignorance to the other aspects of the faith. I do concede that this is possible to a brand new Christian, whose zeal as you mentioned could produce an act of heresy or worse a continuation of false heretical teachings. But I do not think this would be long term damage as most confusion can be cleared up by no greater education in true Christian doctrine in your most simple Sunday school. I find myself in agreement with Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:15-18)

So how do these songs, though theologically suspect, cause the shifts of loyalty I believe would be necessary to make them heresy when they are presented not at all with the intention Paul warns us about? Christ in the songs, though theologically imperfect, is still preached. Does this have the danger you are wary off or are they merely, as you asked in your original post, “Artistic License”?

jon said...

Ben,
My concern is both with the nature of the songs and the consequence in singing them.

If we continue to expand the parent analogy it would not be right to view the child's disconnection from the father as stemming from anything wrong the father has done. To make the analogy apt, the child would simply need to misunderstand what a family is and the nature of parental relations. In such as case something is clearly wrong if the child does not acknowledge his father's role as well as his mother's role.

I don't think the verse you quote is to the point since the question here is not how the gospel is being preached but *whether* it is being preached. I would argue that Christ is not being preached in such songs because what is being sung about him is false.

The danger is not that these songs have lyrics that are theologically imperfect, but that they have lyrics that are heretical and blasphemous. It may well be true that 'long term' damage can be avoided, but this does not address the question of whether or not the singing of such songs creates immediate dammage in singing their lyrics. Any sin can be forgiven, the question is whether or not there is a problem here.

This is a good way to summarize the problem: Is Christ being preached in such songs?
Answer 1: NO, the lyrics are literally false and heretical and blasphemous.
Answer 2: YES, the lyrics are literally false but they implicate truths or the falsehoods are permissible under something like artistic license where the genre has looser standards.

Cliff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cliff said...

If one believes that spiritual gifts are those characteristics of God that manifest themselves more prominently in one person than another, then it is my belief that the women I married possesses the gift of "God's Death Glare."

Benjamin M. said...

Jon,

Let us strip away at some things here, despite my attempts you seem unwilling to let go of the assertion that these songs are circumspect because you believe they teach false doctrine."Literally False" you exact words are. You want to focus on meaning and consequence but I wonder if this discussion had anything to do with these things. You contend that key lines from praise songs render them heresy and therefore they cannot be an acceptable form of worship to God. I disagree. We are moving away in our discussion from the songs themselves so lets move back to them. Let us explore these supposed heretical songs more closely.

To this first line of thinking, making Jesus the center of attention is your main contention with the song and why you label it heresy. "I'm coming back to the Heart of Worship and it's all about You, Its all about you, Jesus." I decided to look at the context of the full song by Matt Redman. What I found is nothing the least bit heretical. The songs theme is indeed about focus and that focus is on God. The reader seems to be disturbed about the current situation of his meditation on the aspect of God and wishes to shed all distortion and distraction which will allow himself a clear, unhindered communication with his creator. Now for the line in question, I cannot find anywhere beyond pure semantics what would leave you disturbed. Does the song become less heretical if the writer says, "It's all about you, and its all about you God, Jesus and His Holy Spirit." The themes I spoke of earlier are still evident in the song and if you still contend with the wording may I refer you to my earlier posts assertion that a creation resonates most clearly to the aspect of its creator that it can best relate to. As you made no qualms about this assertion I must conclude you agree with it. That being the case, can one not assume that when a writer wishes to express a name to what he is honoring, he will choose a subject he is most familiar with? And can we not also assume that by doing this he does not make the song heretical by leaving out key aspects in his merely artistic choice, but instead composes a metaphor of expression he is currently feels at the time of write?

The second selection is more problematic for the simple reason it seems to indicate that the needs of a human being outweigh the most minor thoughts of an all-powerful God. So what is the line in contention and what is the authors context here? The song, written by Michael W. Smith, is again mixing metaphor, artistic interpretation and theology. The two main verses of this song focus not lightly, but totally on the all-powerful nature of God. Name an aspect that you consider great, teh author asserts that God is indeed above it. In teh chorus the author makes the conterversial statement as the song shifts from the assertions that God is the most powerful aspect in the Universe to a being humiliated and deserted, a wretch. "Trampled on the Ground." "Rejected and Alone." are but a few of the descriptors. The reader must wonder why this happend to the all-powerful being and the author makes his assumption. This all powerful being did this for the author himself. "And he thought of me, Above all." At first you agree with the assertion of idolatry because despite the fact that its a nice feeling that God would do all this for you, its heretical to assume this because if the Piper/Edwards line is to be agreed to then he must have been thinking of Himself only when he did this. Himself being God. But let's assume he wasnt, that he was actually thinking about me when he did this act. Is this idolatry? Is is idolatry to focus attention to the creation instead of on the creator? Can you not think of a lesser and honor the higher? Do you not again, to use an aspect of the parent/child analogy, clean you room to honor the parent? Though let us assume your mind is focused on how the bed is made and how the toys need to be put away, are you not, at the height of thought, doing this because you wish to give honor to you parent? Once again, the author uses license to describe a feeling metaphorically. The song is not about the greatness of man and how God's thoughts moved toward that greatness, but instead it is about the wonder of the act itself.If we are to believe this act, I grant the author clemency here because he is attempting to describe what is impossible to describe.

jon said...

Cliff, I think you're right.

Ben, I agree that there is nothing wrong with most of what these songs state, and I doubt that their authors had any bad intentions. Nevertheless, their 'metaphors' or their sloppiness at certain points does concern me.

'The Heart of Woship' ceases to have any of these problems were the lyric to read "it's all about you Father, Son, and Spirit." In my original post I even grant that this is likely what the author meant. That said, it is not what the song says. What the song does say is false and heretical. I have stated that I am open but skeptical to the possibility of an 'artistic license' response that gets rid of the problem.

Your response seems to be that there is nothing heretical in uttering a lyric that leaves out 'key aspects' even though the removal of these 'key aspects' makes the lyric false and makes the lyric *literally* heretical since as you mention "Jesus defers to God [the Father] on all accounts" -- as such it cannot be all about Jesus.

Why? We've seen why the presence of good intentions appears to fail at the task. Is there some other reason? I agree that such a response might be possible, but I can't think of how it would run.

With regard to the second lyric, I am not saying that God was *only* thinking of himself in his great sacrifice, only that God's primary reason has to be that of glorifying himself. There is still room for additional reasons such as his love for mankind. Indeed Jn. 3:16 tells us that this was at least among his reasons.

If we use your room cleaning analogy, why think that God's attention has to be 'focused on the lower'? Given all his 'omni'-attributes I would think that his attention would be covering all, yet his priorities [or ording of the attention that is most importanat] would remain unchanged. I would think that if even for a second God thought of something lower than him 'above all' it would be idolatry.

I don't get how the metaphor is supposed to work, and why think that such an act is impossible to describe? You seem to be describing it in giving it that very description. It may be impossible to *fully* describe it, but that does not warrant describing it falsely.

Annette said...

I have read in the comments that "it's the thought that counts". No, it's not the thought that counts, it's whether or not something is biblical.

This is one of those conversations that my hubbie and I have had OODLES of times. And I used to think that ...It's the thought that counts. His viewpoint is that many people learn their theology from the songs that they sing. and think about, the tunes we learn stick in our brains, sometimes better than the word of God does. If you are singing a song that you consider a worship song to God and not biblical in what you sing... you are 1. not worshipping God
and 2. you are blaspheming his name and in doing so you are 3. sinning.

I do not want to be sinning when I want to be worshipping God. I do need to watch what I sing.

So..unlike my hubbie...i don't throw out a song for one line that I don't like. I will re-lyric that song so that it is biblical (often just changing one word will do the trick).

It does matter what words we use in the songs we sing/write. Having someone read them over or critique them to make sure they are theologically sound is a good idea.

If they can't be made biblical... they shouldn't sung as a worship song to our Lord and King.

Barbara said...

Jon, thanks for this post. I struggle with the praise and worship songs in my church. And, "I'm coming back to the heart of worship" is one of those, among others.

When these songs are sung, sometimes, I want to leave the Sanctuary, honestly. There is something deep within that rejects most of the songs, and the music that goes with them. I find myself standing, just holding my hands, and wishing the song service was over. I would love to go right into the sermon!

Other Sunday morning, I just felt like bursting out and singing, "Oh, the Blood of Jesus".......:)

Mindy S. said...

Humble though my opinion may be compared to such heavyweights I respectfully offer my two cents:
Worship is expressive by nature. Maybe Matt Redman, when writing "the heart of worship" was, in fact, singing it to Jesus. Maybe at that moment, he was reflecting on the work of the cross, or the redemption that came from it. Maybe it was written as worshipping the Son of God. Can we only worship the trinity in its entirety? If the three are indeed one, must we worship them only together? For me, the essence of that song is the fact that it’s not about me, my response, my feelings my emotion, but about God.
As far as the other song, I’ve agree. Jesus wasn’t thinking about me. He was thinking about God’s will. That song has always bugged me.

jon said...

Mindy,
I am not saying that it is wrong to worship one member of the Trinity. It is great to worship and sing to Jesus. The problem I have with that song is that it says things to Jesus that blaspheme the other members of the Trinity. This I find problematic.

Jeremy Pierce said...

There's another problem with (2). It makes it out to be about the singer, as if Jesus died for other people only secondarily.

One issue to keep in mind is that the phrase form 'it's all about X' is usually hyperbolic. Suppose a pundit is discussing a particular policy, and someone says, "Well, it's all about the money." That doesn't usually mean that issues are irrelevant. It usually means that money may be the deciding factor.

In this case, there's also the context of the song, which is a contrast between self-focused motivations and Jesus-focused motivations. Saying that it's all about Jesus isn't really going beyond that contrast. In context, making it out to be a contrast between Jesus and the Father is pragmatically inappropriate. Since the Bible regularly uses such contextual restrictions and then says things that in an unrestricted context would be false, I wouldn't get too up in arms about it. This isn't artistic license. It's just good, contextual interpretation. Context often restricts reference.

I have a harder time justifying the second case. I'm unfamiliar with that song, but judging by the summary by the later commenter it seems as if what Michael W. Smith intended was the point that Jesus was putting the concern of saving sinners above the concern of his own difficulties. It's thus not a contrast between being motivated by submitting to the Father's will (his own stated motivation) and being motivated to serve people. It's a contrast between being the action he might be tempted to do (not go to the cross) and the action he did do (going to the cross). Since the latter involves submitting to the Father because the Father's will is to save sinners, then it is at least indirectly about saving sinners. I guess it depends on what "above all" means. Does it mean above every other possible motivation, including the ones that go along with saving sinners? Or does it mean above alternative and contrary motivations? The context as described in the comment seems to me to suggest the latter.

In my flesh, I agree with the comment that worship songs are too focused on empathizing our emotions. I say it's in my flesh, because I know the psalms too well to say this as a serious objection. They do that all the time, and they were the songs of worship for the old covenant community. Should that change in the new covenant? I sympathize with the argument on one level, but it must be a bad argument ultimately, or God wouldn't have chosen so many psalms that do this to be inspired scripture.

I should also put in my two cents about Piper. Piper is a reductionist about motivations that scripture clearly presents in God. Piper makes God's love for human beings be merely a side-effect of God's love for himself. That strikes me as completely contrary to what scripture says. It's God's other-seeking love, when there's nothing in it for God, that makes God's love so contrary to human love. It's when we have nothing to offer God that God's love is so poignant. It indeed is other-motivated, and this is an essential element of God's character. Piper's mistake is to think that God's doing something because it pleases God is the same thing as God's doing it merely because it pleases him. But then this is the mistake of hedonists throughout the history of philosophy.

To bring it back to Smith's song, I would say that Smith isn't saying that the only or highest motivation in God is that he treats us as more important than himself. It's that what motivates him is to love us, since that above all is what God is like.

I think the Philippians quote Ben gives actually leads to the reverse conclusion. Paul isn't worried about motives. He cares if Christ is preached. What is said is key for him, not what it's said. This is when the motive is bad but the words true. Is he going to reverse himself and say that the motive is what's important when the message is in fact false? I doubt it.

jon said...

Hi Jeremy,
I'm not sure that I agree that "its' all about ..." is usually hyperbolic. I do agree that it is often used in a restricted domain of discourse. For instance: "with regard to this issue, it is all about. . .". The issue in the song, however, is what is the heart of worship (what is worship about) and with regards to this issue it is not all about Jesus. If it is hyperbolic, it would seem to say in the least that the most important thing with regard to this issue is... which would still be false. So I agree that the context can be restricted, but I don't think that you have restricted it in the right way.

I also have a hard time thinking that 'above all' means only above every contrary motivation.

I don't want to get too off topic with Piper, but I'm curious as to where you find him saying that God acts solely for his pleasure. Where in Scripture do we see God acting where there is nothing in it for God? And why not think that the other-seeking aspects of God are realized in the Trinity?

Carol said...

I'm the least of these when it comes to these deep theo-philosophical discourses, but here goes anyway...

I don't think it's blasphemy. There is Genesis chapter 1, then Genesis chapter 2. After that, everything else is pretty much all about Jesus, no? The OT points forward to the cross and the NT points back to it. Because I don't fully understand the whole nature of the Triune God, I believe them to be separate, yet inseparable. What am I missing here?

My salvation is all about Jesus and I worship Jesus. Yes, I worship God. There are folks out there who also worship God, but they don't worship Jesus. Jesus is the great unequalizer between me as a Christian and them. That is not to say the Father and the Spirit have no involvement for me as a Christian or should be at all minimized - they are HUGE - but I don't see that singing to Jesus is blasphemy in the context of this song.

I'm not even going to address the M.W.Smith song.

Re: CCM vs. hymns, when the old hymns were new, they were often met with disdain as well. The psalmters were as resistant to them as may of our more seasoned believers are to the new styles of music. When organs were first introduce into churches, people walked out. (Barb and I have met on the music turf before and we still love each other.)

For me, the most important thing I must scrutinize is whether or not what *I* write and do and say and think is biblical or not. The mirror tends to keep me so busy, I don't always have time or energy to point the magnifying glass at others.

P.S. I don't even like CCM. Too many prom songs and power ballads.

Interesting discussion. Stumbled by via the Carnival.

Benjamin M. said...

Jon,

I think Carol makes an interesting point in her post about CCM v. Hymns. Do you think some of your feelings regarding this issue stem from a root of dislike or distrust of CCM praise songs? We can all agree that many of the newer songs can be simplistic, bubbly and poppy and because of this often could run the risk of clouding vital theology. Hymns do have the advantage of being older, which although stale, afford it the filter of discussion and dissection that often lead to general acceptance. With this in mind I ask again whether your overall concern of heresy comes from the bias you might feel regarding this type of song. I'm not saying that if it does your point would be any less compelling but I think it could direct this discussion to the validity of new forms of medium in worship and how to apply biblical standards to them. Side note: If this is something worth discussing then what is the, 'Biblical Standards' G-d asks from us in our worship? Does anyone have a solid thesis on this?

Jeremy Pierce said...

Jon, here are some posts on my blog about Piper. Those should answer your questions:

1. Christian Hedonism
2. Why I am no longer a Piperite by my co-blogger Wink
3. Moses and Paul: Christian Un-Hedonism
4. Self-Centered and Other-Centered Jealousy

The focus of 1 and 3 is more on our motivations, while 2 and 4 are more about God's motivations, but I think all four deal with issues relevant to both issues.

jon said...

Ben,
I don't have any real beef with praise songs. I'm sure they have their place in worship. I wish that there were more contemporary songs that had more substance. Getty & Townsend are two writers of 'modern hymns' who I think do a great job mixing good music and powerful lyrics.
The above debate is not about praise songs in general, but rather a few which are not representative of the whole.

von said...

Did you read what Chuck Colson said about praise songs?

Benjamin M. said...

What did he say???

von said...

You can find it outlined at:
http://thereformedbaptistthinker.blogspot.com/2006/04/justin-taylor-and-sam-storms-vs-chuck.html