the post-modern problem in worship

30 09 2009

I am pretty much over the whole anti-post-modern dialogue at church. My perspective is that moderns and post-moderns are no closer philosophically to the truth of God than the other. They both have problems, so why not just leverage the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses.

I think it would be beneficial, though, to address the problem with post-modernism in worship.

If you watch this clip from Return to Source: Philosophy & the Matrix you can get an idea of what the problem is.

Starting at the 1:02 mark (the section ends at 1:57) Frances Flannery-Dailey retells the beginning of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, in which he utilizes a Borges fable to make a point.

The story is of an empire that makes a map so detailed it covers exactly the real world. As the story goes the map degrades, which represents the fall of the empire.

In this story the real world holds primacy, and the map is secondary.

Baudrillard takes the idea and flips it. For his illustration the map endures as the real world rots. His point is that now the “maps” of our lives have primacy and the real has become irrelevant.

Sheryl Crow’s lyrics from “If It Makes You Happy” reflect this state of life

If it makes you happy
It can’t be that bad
If it makes you happy
Then why the hell are you so sad?

The bottom line is that lives are no longer being based on reality. The reason life still hurts is because reality hurts.

How does this relate to worship?

Worship usually is leveraged through songs which when done correctly are a representation of the real – Scripture backed truth.

What happens when people start to base their beliefs off the songs and not an encounter with the Truth?

Fyodor Dostoevsky is credited with saying

At first, art imitates life. Then life will imitate art. Then life will find its very existence from the arts.

We can apply this to worship in this way: “At first, worship is rooted in a true encounter with God. Then an encounter with God will be rooted in worship. Then our relationship with God will find it’s very existence from worship.”

Is it a real relationship with God if worship is what makes our relationship with God? Worship is an interactive response with God for who He is and what He has done.

Worship as the base for our relationship with God is like physical intimacy without the relationship. Intimacy without relationship, while fun is ultimately hollow.

The problem with post-modernism in worship is the predisposition to allow the reflection of the truth and the associated experiences as truth themselves.

God’s truth should hold primacy while worship should be a reflection; it should hold a subsequent position in our hearts.


Jesus is not my boyfriend – what Southpark can teach the church

23 09 2009

I really appreciate Matt Redman’s honesty in this clip. I applaud his admission about searching Scripture and finding it hard to find the romantic imagery used in many modern worship songs.

I don’t know if you are the type of person who finds it a little challenging to sing songs that seem like love songs to God. When I talk about love songs, I’m talking about the ones you hear on the radio for lovers.

One of my favorite Southpark episodes is Christian Hard Rock from season 7.

What I really like about this episode is that it makes fun of Christian songs by saying the formula is easy. Just replace words like “baby” with “Jesus” and you have a Christian hit. For example “I love you, baby” becomes “I love you, Jesus.”

The problem with lyric writing like this is that it is self-focused. There are good things about acknowledging the thought and feelings we have about God, but they have to be based on the truth.

God doesn’t ask us to be in a love relationship with Him that is analogous to a man and woman falling in love. Though there is the image of the church as the bride of Christ, we are to love God by obeying His commands.

Jesus is not my boyfriend and He’s not supposed to be my boyfriend. He is my Lord, my Savior and my God. Did we ever consider that maybe God created a special love feeling for human beings that is similar but not exactly like the love we should have for God?

What is interesting to me is that when people encounter God in Scripture, they don’t go on about how beautiful or lovely He is. People usually are stunned, blown away by His holiness and His power. There is an awesomeness about God that cannot be described. It doesn’t cause gushy feelings in our hearts, but instead makes us fall to our knees.

I’m not saying that He is not beautiful or lovely, what I am saying is that it is not the emphasis of Scripture. Look up “beautiful” and “lovely” with “God” or “Lord.” Then look up “holy” and “mighty” with “God” or “Lord” and you will find many more hits.

This is what I am thinking: Scripture’s emphasis should be reflected in the lyrics of the worship songs we sing.

one thing that scares me about worship

16 09 2009

One of my great concerns about church is reflected in a quote by A.W. Tozer

Christians don’t tell lies they just go to church and sing them.

Isaiah 29:13 states,

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

And in John 4:23 Jesus tells the Samaritian woman,

the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

It seems so simple when it happens to us. Someone says you did a good job or that they like your haircut or whatever, but you know they don’t. They told you with their words, but you could see right through it. Why do we think we can fake out God?

When someone straight up lies to you not only do you not recieve the fake compliment, but it probably starts to turn you off from the person. (At least that is how is works for me.) It ruins the relationship.

God doesn’t only percieve that we are not genuine (uh hum… LYING) He knows! Peter in John 21:17 states to Jesus, “you know everything” and 1 John 3:20 states, “he knows everything.”

I can’t think of anything in the Bible that says we have to sing when we go to church. I think God would rather us just shut up if we can’t sing in truth.

It seems apparent when we look at John 4:23 that God desires worship to be given in truth. Additionally, looking at Isaiah 29:13 is seems important that we are aware of our hearts, which should be postured in the same direction as the lyrics of the song.

Worship is not just a sing-a-long; it is a service to God that demands us to be truthful in what we are offering to the Creator of the universe.

shouldn’t a corporate song be about us?

9 09 2009

Something has been on my heart lately about worship songs. I want to see more songs about our God.

Pay attention to lyrics of worship songs you will find most of the songs are written in first person singular.

There is nothing wrong with writing in first person singular. Since songs are written from an individual perspective it is understandable to be written in first person singular. It’s also easier to rhyme with “me” than with “us.”

Psalms has a lot of songs from an individual perspective, but there are ones with group perspective such as Psalm 66.

If the church is one united group of people it would seem good to write songs in first person plural.

We are on a movement together of proclaiming Jesus Christ. We worship together. Using “we” and “us” promotes unity.

Church is not as much a bunch of individuals moving together, but rather a single entity made of many parts.

We the one church, the one bride of Jesus Christ are on one mission to proclaim the name and power of Jesus Christ to all.

He is not just my God, but our God. Let’s worship our God.

is “made to worship” a worship song?

2 09 2009

Read the lyrics:

Before the day
Before the light
Before the world revolved around the sun
God on high
Stepped down into time
And wrote the story of His love for everyone

He has filled our hearts with wonder
So that we always remember

You and I were made to worship
You and I are called to love
You and I are forgiven and free
You and I embrace surrender
You and I choose to believe
You and I will see who we were meant to be

All we are
And all we have
Is all a gift from God that we receive
Brought to life
We open up our eyes
To see the majesty and glory of the King

And even the rocks cry out
And even the Heavens shout
At the sound of His holy name
So let every voice sing out
And let every knee bow down
He is worthy of all our praise

If we look at the lyrics through the definition of worship we will see that this song ironically is not worship. The verses talk about what God did; it’s a retelling of facts. The chorus is us telling each other what we were made for. The bridge states that nature worships God, and then commands us to worship God.

Looking at the song I don’t see us ever telling God anything. If I stretch the definition, I can say that we are affirming things God did in the verses, which can remind us of our place relative to God. But what gets stuck most in our head is the chorus and that is just us telling each other encouragements.

The song is not a bad song, nor theologically incorrect. It’s just not worship.

I feel I must mention I really like Chris Tomlin, so I was kind of disappointed that this song caught on at churches. I really like songs he has made famous whether written by him or not – How Great Is Our God, Indescribable, Rejoice, etc.

We shouldn’t just accept every song on a “worship” album as a worship song. Test the song and if it passes, go for it.

*Added 9/2/09 @ 10:24PM: I think the question I wrestle with is differentiating between retelling history of God and when retelling is worship. In my definition I came to the conclusion that worship should be directed toward God. I don’t know if that came out in this post. It always seemed to me that this song was more about us singing to each other.