In one of my classes, we discussed if the author or songwriter matters. The discussion included Hillsong and Bethel music that many contemporary churches sing, raising the question about an endorsement by affiliation. If the text has a biblical reference and is not against doctrine, should the song be OK to sing?

a) A few years ago, churches and music publishers dealt with this issue. A well-known musician and songwriter was convicted of sexual misconduct, and although he repented and apologized, his music was removed by publishers and is not sung in churches anymore. Was it the “cancel culture” or the right thing to do?

b) Another songwriter committed acts that violated people’s rights and freedoms, even causing death, many years ago – but we sing one of his songs in worship. Yet, statues of other people that committed similar crimes in those days are removed, and history books are updated to reflect what really happened. When singing songs in worship, does it matter what songwriters did in the past?

c) Does a songwriter’s beliefs matter as long as his songs are biblical? A songwriter who was part of a Messianic sect where, e.g., marriage was abolished, believing that all sinners would be saved (incl. Satan), and none would die as the Second Advent was at hand – can the church sing a hymn by this author? We do.

d) The Mormons sing many of the same hymns we sing in church. Can we also sing biblically accurate hymns written by Mormons? They have beautiful tunes, and everything is available online. We can easily create an approved song list. Does it matter who the songwriter is, as long as the text does not contradict Scripture?

We had a fruitful discussion. If authorship matters at some times and other times not… who decides? Our subjective emotions? Yours of mine?

It became more interesting to quote some Psalms: without the authorship of the Holy Spirit, some Psalms would be considered unscriptural! So… authorship matters – but if it conflicts with our desires to sing certain songs, we favour our desires…?

The class discussions were not to collectively determine what is right and wrong but to make students from different church backgrounds think and decide for themselves. (It made me think about what we sing in our churches and how some songs were approved.)


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