Recently, I read a blogger lamenting the loss of biblical songs being written these days. For him, the golden age of Christian music could be found in just about any hymnal. Biblical seems to be a qualifier for just about everything lately – biblical teaching from a biblical church. Meeting biblical qualifications for biblical leadership. It strikes me as a terrible idea to focus on biblical songs and biblical worship.
Not all hymns really are biblical. Take ‘In the Garden’ – it doesn’t really match with the Garden of Eden or the Garden of Gethsemane. Or ‘It is Well’ – it doesn’t really match up with Jesus’ teaching in general. They don’t quote or expand upon Bible verses.
Let’s say in twenty or forty years time, a song using metaphors like: “upload our praises to God … download in us the Holy Spirit … let love hyperlink us together … in the name of our father’s domain …” becomes wildly popular. Would it pass the Biblical test? I doubt it.
When we limit ourselves to the ‘Biblical’ qualifier – then we decide that anything that isn’t Biblical isn’t worthy of Him. All praises, hymns, songs, stories, prayers, poems, paintings, sculptures, digital art, etc. aren’t just unworthy, but unholy as well.
Must everything be biblical in order to be approved by God? Obviously not – after all, God likes us and were not biblical. We’re not from ancient Israel or Rome. We’re not speaking Aramaic or Greek. Were not reading Latin. Men don’t wear robes and women don’t really wear what women used to wear over there either. We don’t sing their songs or tell their stories. We’re a whole seperate culture that’s as unbiblical as can be.
We might use biblical as a qualifier, but we don’t always mean the same thing every time we use the word. It’s flexible enough for us to give a sense of authority to our ideas without really defining how to limit them according to the Bible’s instructions.
You see, two authors have written books about trying to live biblically – ‘The Year of Living Biblically’ by A.J. Jacobs and ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ by Rachel Held Evans – they discovered that the qualifier ‘biblical’ never really meant: “in accordance with a literal reading of Scripture.” By refusing to pick and choose what everybody else does, they showed that nobody lives biblically these days. We all compromise somewhere.
I don’t think that we ought to test everything we create to see if it passes the ‘biblical’ approval test or for that matter, we ought to root or source everything we do in the Bible as a sure foundation for praising God. For one, the stories don’t always resonate with us. Most of us don’t know where the valley of Elah is and what it meant for David to have fought Goliath there. Sure, we’ve read the story over and over again – but it’s not ours. It’s not ours in the same way that Pearl Harbor means something to my grandparents or 9/11 means something to us.
By limiting us to whatever is biblical, then we can’t look to God as a source of comfort when the next disaster or tradgedy strikes. We can’t use our own metaphors or history to try to relate to or search for God in our own context. We can’t relate to God outside of the Bible when we’re only permitted to look for him in the pages of the good book. Such a limited God. Hardly worthy of the title omnipresent if we can’t praise him with the language of the present. But that’s what you get when you’re only interested in a biblical God who insists on being praised biblically from the biblical Bible.