I’m becoming increasingly convinced that one element of post-modern worship music is lyrics filled with disjointed images. The lines themselves may refer to Scripture or an image from Scripture, or an application of a biblical concept, but the combination of the lines only serve to deliver a hodge-podge of diverse images that have nothing to do with one another, seem to be chosen for their rhyming potential, and do not work as a systematic line of reasoning or discourse which grants any sort of understanding.
The images of Scripture form a rich tapestry of recognizable and consistent ideas that promote an intellectual and emotional understanding. There is inherent unity, repetition, expansion, and irony that is possible because of the context and connection of these references.
This is rarely true in lyrics that seem to rely upon a “cool” concept or “safe” religious words. If stuck for a two-syllable word, “holy” generally works well. Sometimes “holy, holy” is effective. Forget about the biblical, Trinitarian repetition of holy—especially if you’re only lacking four syllables. Of course, “hallelujah” works for four syllables as well.
The dripping emotionalism of God being “the air we breath,” of Jesus thinking of me “above all” others while on the cross (not you, but me—Jesus loves me best), of the “passion in the art,” the resolve that we make to live in the light of the reformation truth of Soli Deo Gloria (which contradicts the Reformation teaching), the subjective assessment of God being altogether lovely, worthy, and wonderful to me because of my personal experience with Him, and songs that talk about the fact that we’re just about ready to sing about the fact that we are planning on joining in worship after we sing about what God is going to do when we do finally get around to worshipping.
The other thing I can’t understand is why it takes three of four people to write a song with four lines of repeated lyrics and two lines of music.
It bears repeating that even though lyrics may be biblically true, they may not be presented in a manner that is good or beautiful. In fact, the very way in which they are presented may undermine the actual content. For example, we should ascribe glory to the Lord, but by the time we’ve repeated the word “glory” 25 times, have we really understood the concept of ascribing glory? Has there been a deepening of our understanding? A growing in knowledge or wisdom?
There is a burden of discourse, biblical connectivity, historical continuity, and intellectual as well as emotional instruction that should be inherent in the songs we sing. Artsy images may catch our imagination, but having been caught, where do they ultimately lead.