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Is Modern Worship Helping Deceive People?

“Just read through the Psalms and you will see many topics that you would never hear in the average church worship set.”


There are many problems in the church today, and they are evident to many of us, whether pastors in the church, or other leaders, or even just amongst the general laity. Not that we all agree about what all these issues are, but still there are many that are clear and none that are clearer than that there is a severe weakness across the Western church, an aversion amongst many Christians for certain themes in the Bible like judgement and wrath, and deep flaws in how many Christians actually understand God. You could say there is a whole side of God and his truth that many Christians don’t want a bar of. 

I think we could point to several reasons for this. The most common one people mention is the teaching of the pastors in the modern Church. Many people have serious issues with this, and this is certainly an issue. But I think there is a much more common reason that many Christians have a very deficient theology of God and his word, and that is because the worship is often inadvertently helping to deceive people.

Now, I know there are songs that are sung in some churches and on Christian radio that generally teach some error. But most Christian worship songs tend to be more vague than explicitly heretical. And many songs which are sung are completely fine theologically. What is causing the deception is often not what is sung, but what is not sung. Repetition has been used in the Church since the beginning to teach people both simple and complicated theology. We even see some examples of this in the Bible, like the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, in parts of 2 Timothy 2 and elsewhere. Repetition, that is constantly repeating the truth helps it to stick in the minds of people. And modern worship achieves this, but on such a narrow range of theological issues that Christians are being catechised into a deficient theology without even realizing it. 

This is easiest to demonstrate by showing things that the Israelites sung in their worship that you would never find in a modern worship song. In this case, about how this world is controlled by corrupt politicians and how God sees that. The Bible is not afraid to bring up this issue in the context of worship, for instance, Psalm 2 explicitly teaches about the corruption of the political leaders of David’s day and God’s response to this: 

“1 Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

Psalm 2:1-12

One thing that became clear during the COVID years is that most Christians had not taken to heart what the Bible says about the corruption of political leaders in this world. This is an incredibly important theme in the Bible. In fact, it is one of the dominant themes of books from Judges, through to 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, all the way through to making up much of the teaching of the minor and major prophets.

Yet many Christians thought there was really only one basic passage about government in the Bible, Romans 13, and that we should just inherently trust the powerful. You could not get any further away from the message of the Bible than that. The Bible’s reflections on power and the powerful in this world are far more detailed and intelligent than that, encouraging deep scepticism of the powerful and shrewd dealings with the leaders of this world. But many Christians are unaware of this.

I would argue this is the case, at least in part, because we don’t sing songs with themes like Psalm 2. When was the last time you sang a Christian song about how this world is ruled by rebellious, conspiratorial leaders, who rage against the true king? Never? Rarely? Probably never in Church. But the ancient Israelites sang about themes like this quite a bit in their worship. Just read through the Psalms and you will see many topics that you would never hear in the average church worship set.

It is not like writing songs according to these themes can’t be done. It can. Here is a wonderful example from Petra, called Angel of Light:

“City lights are flashin’, they call you to the streets
Hearts are filled with passion in everyone you meet
The Boulevard is waitin’, it wants to get you high
Neon signs are waitin’ to sell you anythin’ you want to buy

But I know your devices, it shouldn’t seem so odd
You lied from the beginnin’, I see through your facade

Angel of light, I see you glow in the night
But you only bring darkness to my soul
Angel of light, you’re tellin’ me wrong is right
But I won’t let your evil take control

They follow in your footsteps, not knowin’ that you fell
Bumper to bumper on the freeway to hell, you lead them into wrong
You make it look so right, you lead them into darkness
And make them think you lead them into light

But I know where you’re going, too bad you’re not alone
If it wasn’t for the real light, I might have never known

Angel of light, I see you glow in the night
But you only bring darkness to my soul
Angel of light, you’re tellin’ me wrong is right
But I won’t let your evil take control

You got the clergy workin’ overtime to widen the narrow way
You’ve got politicians everywhere listenin’ to what you say
You’ve got false apostles teachin’ lies, perverting the only way
You’ve got principalities and powers waitin’ to obey

You’ve got philosophies and vain deceits lyin’ to deceive
You’ve got hate and greed, ungodly lusts in the deadly web you weave
Somehow you’ve got so many thinkin’ you’re not even there
One look is all it takes to get them blinded by your glare

Angel of light, I see you glow in the night
But you only bring darkness to my soul
Angel of light, you’re tellin’ me wrong is right
But I won’t let your evil take control, oh no

Angel of light, I see you glow in the night
But you only bring darkness to my soul
Angel of light, you’re tellin’ me wrong is right
But I won’t let your evil take control
I won’t let your evil take control, oh no, no, oh Lord, oh no.”

This is a powerful song that directly teaches Christians how the evil one works, including how he works through the leaders of this world,

“You got the clergy workin’ overtime to widen the narrow way
You’ve got politicians everywhere listenin’ to what you say
You’ve got false apostles teachin’ lies, perverting the only way
You’ve got principalities and powers waitin’ to obey”

Every time I hear this song, I smile, because I know that the Petra guys understand more about how this world works than many pastors and Christians. They understand that many of the clergy are on the devil’s team. They understand that many politicians are servants of the devil. They understand that there are false apostles everywhere. They understand the devil has a legion of powers doing his bidding. Every Christian has some awareness of this. But not a lot.

Christians are incredibly deficient in understanding evil. They understand the gospel, they understand the grace of God, the mercy of God, the Father’s heart, and many things along these lines, because we sing about them a lot. And WE SHOULD sing about them a lot. But they don’t understand many other things the Bible talks about, because they don’t sing about it a lot. I guarantee for more Christians their worship songs give them their theology more than their pastor’s sermons.

If you were to ask many Christians what their favourite five Bible verses were, few could tell you and few could repeat them. But many could repeat the lines of their favourite worship song, new and old. Especially if played to music.

It is for this reason that I think, often inadvertently, that Christian worship is often helping deceive Christians because we have limited too much how many themes from the Bible that we sing about.

I certainly was never taught a song like this in Sunday School, and nor were many other evangelicals. Perhaps we need to repent for our neglect in this area.

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