My friend, David Hahn tendered this question. It’s a good one that got me thinking.
“If the worship songs you sing were the only theology you had, would they be sufficient to sustain a mature and abiding spiritual walk? One that can face the tough questions of life?”
I love the hypothetical here. It is a very timely question that is filled with twists and turns. As I look out from one of the countless diverse theological windows of the denominational world, I doubt that these questions can be easily answered. I do have some questions though.
1. Whose version of theological correctness?
2. What do you consider the tough questions of life?
It is true that these offerings are often the only means from which many Christians derive their theology. Let’s strip it down. Hymns, worship songs art, dance, etc. are an enormous influence in our lives, but they only are a reflection of the Word. They by themselves have no more power to permanently sustain than an image of a steak dinner reflected in a mirror has the ability to feed you.
The glaring problem in this context is accountability to the Word. To whom are songwriters accountable? Without some oversight, the potential for murky watered concepts and poorly mined assumptions are quite possible. Slowly, inattention or casualness to study scripture, personal opinion and human logic all have the potential to take over a songsmith’s heart, and therein lies fertile ground for the Gospel to be displaced. It’s much like the pathway of the Gnostics….no matter how well intentioned the songwriters …little by little, the truth is orphaned along the way and really no believer is safe on this tenuous footing. Every lyric must be weighed against scripture….but will it?
My “shoot from the hip” answer to this question is there aren’t…and will never be enough hymns, spiritual songs or endless combinations of worship songs even with the most powerful creative content, that could sustain a believer to any degree of maturity or deep spiritual continuum.
The commercial songwriter is in the business of whittling down lyrical ideas for simplicity and time, because they only have 3 to 4 minutes to convey their idea and tell their story. I understand this, I am a product of 42 years in that arena. Some ideas only require that short time frame, but the deeper issues of the Bible require far more. I think for the most part songwriters are on their own.
Recording and publishing entities have a commercial bent driven by economics, and those who directly oversee these creatives are not theologians. They are musical business people. These are good people who do their best to be discerning , and in most cases love God with great fervor. But the fact remains, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to have writers who have written some formidable songs in their careers, enjoy (because of previous successes) the perception that every one of their songs must be theologically taut, whether or not it is true. It happens. Many times..not all…this confluence of economics, consumer market perception and weakness in the accountability of a songwriter, does not bode well for a healthy theological outcome.
I appreciate David’s response back to me..
“Each generation must grapple with life and must give voice to the Gospel in answer to sing to the Lord …a new song. Songwriters need to write the full counsel of God for today, much as the ancients have in the early church: the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.”
His point of presenting the full counsel of the Lord is critical. One example for me is not seeing many references to the Trinity in modern day hymnody or songs of worship. I think the issue there is that the Trinity is difficult to romanticize. But that’s a whole nother bunny trail I don’t have time to address in this blog.
But now we come back to the question…whose theology? In context of a mass market it’s complicated. For me the simple answer is simple. Trust only the Word.
Here’s my postlude. What an overall saddened state the church finds itself at present. It has been sorely weakened in the continual acquiescence to culture and the selective dismissal of what is, the authority of scripture….and the only response from the Body is a disquieting impotence that finds believers saying….”What happened?”. The “rightness” of different factions of faith is at play as well. There are mainstream denominations that center on the awe of God, Evangelicals with their focus on the teachings of Jesus, and Pentecostals and Charismatics stressing the experiential elements in faith…each more than not, dismissing the other with little deference. It’s a mess, not unity, plain and simple. There’s much more to sort out here than hymns and spiritual songs. A lot more. This post is no less important though, and is a wonderful challenge for all of us to think. Thank you for that, David.
Just one opinion here, and how ever well intended….ever prone to hyperbole and error. Cheers!!! 😍