By Zach Rudolph
I recently came across an article by Jonathan Aigner titled: “Keith Getty States the Painfully Obvious: Contemporary Worship is ‘Dangerous’.”
In it he claims: “Modern worship is an movement of “cultural relevance.” It’s “utterly dangerous,” and is leading to the “de-Christianizing of God’s people.”
“An authentic generation doesn’t begin with catharsis; it has to begin with an authentic picture of the God of the Bible.”
“Over 75 percent of what are called the great hymns of the faith talk about eternity, Heaven, Hell, and the fact that we have peace with God. Yet, less than 5 percent of modern worship songs talk about eternity.”
“Contemporary worship, or pop worship, as I like to say, is spiritual junk food, a quick and easy answer to deep spiritual hunger. But in the end, it only leaves the church bloated and addicted.”
Although I agree with his sentiment, I disagree on his emphasis. Underneath this argument is a kind of assumed Gnosticism. An assumption that if something is emotional, if it speaks to the senses, it must be bad… as if God made heaven but not earth.
Even if conceded that all modern worship is shallow (which I don’t) it would still be a case of trying to fix roots by critiquing leaves.
It also assumes that the role of music is to teach. I disagree. I believe the role of teaching is to teach. Critiquing a song for being insufficiently-theologically-complex is no wiser than critiquing a BMW for being insufficiently a watermelon.
The role of music is emotion. And if we believe emotions to be a part of our proper and God given nature, then demonizing them is not driven by a desire for goodness, But rather; a desire to elevate our tastes above others. Because, to do so makes us (ironically) feel better.
Perhaps the most insidious assumption his piece makes is that, only those people over there are vulnerable to corruption. You need not look very long at the more traditional forms of Christianity to see how they too are corrupt.
It implies a sort of caste system. The implication is that *those* shallow modern worship artists and the millions that worship with them simply aren’t on my level. They still want music they can feel, can you even imagine needing that!?
Something I’m continually fascinated by is, the churches that write the most moving worship songs almost ALWAYS have some teaching that is shall-we-say… suspect. This is not a coincidence. It’s inescapable. I myself have written two albums. And from my experience, songwriting is a process of tapping into what people are feeling deep down but struggle to communicate. As a result, the better you are at tapping into that subconscious stream of collective emotions, the worse you will naturally be at balance.
This is inevitable. Take the church you think has the most sound theology. Are they out there writing the songs that bring us to tears? Of course not. They could no more do that than they could rewind time. Their natural inclination towards balance is wholly incompatible with the hypersensitivity to emotion that is needed to write captivating songs.
This is why it’s hilarious when Taylor Swift wants to give us her political opinions. The Mystic and the Lawmaker are both completely necessary but neither can touch what the other is capable of. Both sides need each other.
“There is one body, but it has many parts” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
A deeper walk with Christ involves the slow, tedious process of giving into our vices, hating ourselves for doing it, and doing it again. Until slowly, after years of repetition, piece by piece, turning over desires. knowing we truly cannot trust ourselves.
I’ve recently been slowly working my way through N. T. Wright’s Paul: A Biography and if there’s anything I’ve taken away it’s this: God has a lot of patience. From the way we bicker today about how we should worship, all the way back to Paul and Peter fighting over whether or not converts must be circumcised.
We have always argued over these things. And that’s a good thing… it shows we care. But to indulge the idea that anything we could do would be perfect is (in my opinion) to overplay our hand. We have always and will always be flawed and it is only by the mercy of God that any of us should be anything but damned.
In my opinion, much of modern worship music is utterly beautiful and captivating. Likewise, the older I get, the deeper my appreciation for more traditional worship grows.
So, that begs the question: Which one should you participate in? That’s easy. The one that makes you cry. The one that pulls all your thoughts & emotions; all your disparate and warring desires into the attention of the infinite.