Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Unholy love songs

At the university where I work, the new semester is underway, so the various student organizations have gotten busy promoting themselves and soliciting new members. Our many student Christian groups have gotten in the act. This week, one of these groups has a "praise band" playing in the main campus commons. Based on the brief snippet I heard as I was walking by, they sounded fairly competent. They were joined by a few guys and gals who waved large colorful banners as they danced to the music. All in all, it looked like a fairly well-planned operation, but yet the whole thing gave me the faintly queasy feeling in the tummy I often get from such demonstrations. The flags, the dancing, and the altar call they gave all contributed to this feeling, but above all it was the songs they were singing that bothered me.

Of the lyrics I heard, I can say one thing in the group's favor: they weren't ashamed to name the name of Jesus. Good for them! However praiseworthy their boldness might otherwise be, I must still give their performance a thumbs-down, because their songs fell into the same trap that's ensnared much of today's praise and worship music: they sing freely of love for Jesus, but yet they utterly fail to truly praise and worship Him.

In Scripture, the Psalms of David and others extoll the many perfections and attributes of God with perfect throughness and depth: His goodness, righteousness, omnipotence, holiness, and justice, etc.. With the onset of the great revival we call the Protestant Reformation, such hymn writers as Isaac Watts, John Newton, Charles Wesley, and William Cowper added many new songs to the church's repertoire which, although uninspired, often do an excellent job of exhorting the church to praise God in his fullness. Many of these hymns speak of the believer's love for God in terms of intimacy and endearment, to be sure, but they invariably make it clear that the God whom we worship, although very near to His Elect, yet remains holy, exalted, and very, very high above us.

The contrast between the God portrayed in the Psalms and in the great hymns with the God of much of today's contemporary worship music could hardly be greater. On the whole, the picture you get from this music is little better than a series of love songs to Jesus. In fact, it would take very little work to recast many of these lyrics into a secular love song. Don't get me wrong: I'm not condemning all secular love songs. Instead, I am expressing my deep concern with the manner with which a sizable portion of the church sings of Jesus as though He was little more than a lover or friend. To be sure, the sinner can know no better friend than Jesus, and surely the believer ought to love Christ with all his heart, but is our love for Christ to be expressed in the same manner we might express the love for a beloved human being? God forbid that it be so! I would go so far as to say that many of these love songs to Jesus so belittle and demean Him that they verge on blasphemy.

Although the believer enjoys a great and tender intimacy with God through Christ, he must always remember that His God and Savior is high and lifted up: Holy, Holy, Holy is He!!! When we forget God's holiness in our worship of Him, we fail to worship Him Biblically. Love songs can be proper when sung to a proper subject (especially one's husband or wife), but our God deserves a type of praise and adoration that is reserved for Him and Him alone. May the church come its senses and purge God-dishonoring "worship" from its midst!

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