Yesterday, my article critiquing the song “Reckless Love” was published at The Christian Post. Steve on Twitter responded that the problem was not simply with the song so much as with the worship group that produced/performed the song:
“we should asking if the Christology and teachings of Bethel are biblically accurate. If it’s not, then the question about a specific song will become moot.”
On Steve’s view, the theology of a songwriter delimits the meaning and function of a song. So, for example, a song’s lyrics may present no obvious theological problem, but if the songwriter holds an aberrant doctrinal view, that view nonetheless renders the lyrics unorthodox and thus inappropriate for corporate singing in an orthodox church.
For example, imagine a song that includes the lyric “Jesus is Lord and he died for your sins.” That appears to be a clearly orthodox statement. However, if the songwriter denies the full divinity of Christ, then the lyric is rendered unorthodox becaues the fullest meaning of “Jesus” in that lyric is fixed by the original belief and thus “authorial intent” of the songwriter.
I do not agree with Steve. When I sing a song that states “Jesus is Lord,” I sing the lyric in accord with my understanding of the words. It’s a good thing too because it is unlikely that I know precisely what the original songwriter’s theology was. Indeed, in many cases, it is impossible to access the songwriter’s beliefs and precise intentions.
This leads to a reductio ad absurdum of the position. If the original songwriter’s meaning delimited the meaning of the song for every subsequent singer or listener, then in virtually all cases subsequent singers and listeners would not know what they are singing or hearing since the original songwriter’s views and intentions would be inaccessible to them. Conversely, to sing any song responsibly, the listener would first need to be apprised of the beliefs of the original creators. But this is absurd.
So to come back to Steve’s critique, regardless of whether a songwriter’s theology is fully orthodox, I still may benefit from listening to and singing the songs since what I would hear and sing when I say “Jesus is Lord” is not delimited by the mental intentions of the original creators/performers.