Should churches sing songs by Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation and others that preach a false gospel?
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Should Pastors encourage their churches to sing songs by Hillsong, Bethel, Jesus Culture, Elevation Worship and other bands that stray away from orthodoxy and preach a false Gospel?
When we speak of worship the first thing that comes to the mind of many Christians are songs, music and singing. However, when the bible speaks of worship it speaks of it in two ways, the wide and narrow. In the wider sense every human worships. We either worship the God of the bible or the god of our making.
In Romans, the Apostle Paul commands the church in Rome to offer their lives as a living sacrifice unto God. He says this is true spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. He further goes on to give them more commands which help towards offering their bodies and lives as spiritual worship.
Singing Songs Hymns and Spiritual Songs
In this article we will focus more narrowly on an element of corporate worship which is singing. Singing is an important part of corporate worship and the bible commands us to sing. The Psalm is a clear example of songs composed to God. To know more about corporate worship I would encourage you to watch the film Spirit & Truth which can be bought here or here, you can also read an article about it here.
Paul to the church in Ephesus commands them to address one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and to sing and make melody to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:17 - 20 says, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here we see though the singing in corporate worship is mutually beneficial, the object of the corporate worship is nonetheless God and him alone.
Let us also consider where Paul writes to the church in Colossae in Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Here, Paul commands the church to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom and one of the way they are to do this, is through singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and we see again the object of their worship is God. We also learn another aspect of songs. The church was to use it in teaching and admonishing.
Singing is mentioned many more times in the NT. We see it when the Apostles are in prison and when Christians rejoiced and sang to God.
So if our object of worship is God then our singing as scripture commands must be directed towards Him and must be about Him. Some may argue that spiritual songs means songs written by a Spirit lead Christian. Oftentimes when someone says this, they are warranting to sing song that they felt inspire to write and these songs they wrote were not really inspired from God’s word. What spiritual songs really means is songs that are in agreement to the bible. Because the word of God is Spirit Inspired and therefore, we are to sing in accordance to God’s word songs which have sound doctrine.
This brings us back to the original question asked.
A. The first and biggest issues is the content of their songs:
1. Often times most of their songs are not scripture based, their songs are not directed to God but has man in the center with an aim of emotional appeal. While Hillsong may have a mix of good and bad songs, we cannot say the same of Jesus Culture or Bethel. The later two’s movement simply have deeper theological root issues. A good example of a man centered song would be What A Beautiful Name – By Hillsong While most of the song sounds fine and has good theology at the start, the third stanza breaks down the song. We hear a needy god and an overly important man. It sang thus, "You didn't want heaven without us So Jesus, You brought heaven down."
There was no void in the trinity before man was created. It is the glorious God who willingly wanted to show his love to man therefore he created man to worship him. This song and many of them do not address sin or the fallenness of man or the wrath of God to come and the main reason why man must be saved.
A regular theology of such songs creates a weak god and obscures man’s view of sin and the Holiness of God! Furthermore an intake of theology that speaks only of what man will do or what he wants to do focused on us will create a work based Christian who looks too much at himself and tries to be right rather than looking to the righteousness of Christ and being convicted of sin. As we saw before in Colossians 3:16 songs are designed not only for emotional enrichment but to teach us so that the whole man will be built up.
2. Their songs move from unhealthy to completely unbiblical. Some examples are songs such are:
Hillsong - So Will I (100 Billion X) In this song there is a lot of good sound doctrine but mixed with it errors. Theistic Evolution is encouraged in the song.
And as You speak A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath Evolving in pursuit of what You said.
When the author of the song Joel Timothy Houston the son of Brian Houston tweeted about it, he made it clear that indeed he did affirm theistic evolution. The bible teaches that God created the world in 6 Days and rested on the 7th. Genesis 1, further says each creature was created in their own kind this word is repeated 11 times in Genesis Chapter 1. Another line in the song seems to be directly against scripture. It sounded emotionally appealing but it was infact biblically wrong.
Every precious one, a child You died to save And if You gave Your life to love them so will I Like You would again a hundred billion times But what measure could amount to Your desire?
The bible is clearly against the idea that Christ needs to die again and again. Rather than uplifting his once and for all perfect atonement to save every person elected to be saved through all ages. The song instead appeals to the emotions of people at the expense of promoting a false doctrine. Scripture says elsewhere in Romans 6: 9 – 10 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.
If Christ had to die repeatedly his death would mean nothing different than that of the OT animal sacrifices.
We also see this false understanding debunked in Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Hebrews Chapter 9 deals again with this well. Songs with poor theology will misinform those who sing it too. Songs that teach sound truth builds up the church but songs that only cater to the emotion will be poor in theology and will fail to build the church. Such a church will be stuck on milk and never mature in their faith. We have an example of such immaturity in the NT with the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:2). We see this idea in the book of Hebrews. Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to reteach you the basic principles of God's word. You need milk, not solid food! (Hebrews 5:12)
Another example of a song that has wrong Christology is Glory To Glory – Bethel Music
Created from dust You came and You lived among us You took on our frame You walked in our pain And now You're taking us higher
Right at the beginning of the song, we observe a heresy! Perhaps the author’s intensions was to liken Jesus to us and show how he was humble to take on the form of man. Yet we can’t overlook this flawed theology. This teaching is heresy. The Athanasius Creed written by the early church fathers written in the 5th or 6th century, has this to say about the Trinity, and the incarnation of Christ
The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings; there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being. And further says The Son was neither made nor created.
The writers of this creed did not invent this theology but found it from the very words of Scripture to counter false teachings about Christ and about the Godhead. The Gospel of John opens up describing Jesus as the Word to us saying, John 1:1 – 3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Paul writes to the church in Colossae speaking of Jesus saying, Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Christ is not a created being rather he was from eternity past with the father through Him was all of creation brought forth. False Cults such as Mormonism, Arianism or Islam teach that Christ was human or Created being.
Therefore we see that the content in their songs spans from good to error to heresy.
B. Their Theology
The question then is what about many of their good songs? Especially songs that are God exalting and have good lyrics. This question brings us to the bigger problem with these movements that is their theology.
Hillsong is part of the Health Wealth and Prosperity Movement very closely connected to Word of Faith Movement. They teach that God wants everyone to be healthy and wealthy and promises financial and physical wealth for Christians in the here and now. This is not what the bible promises. Yes as Christians in the life to come we will be set free of sickness, pain, suffering and everything else that has been affected as a result of the fall. However, the bible is clear that In this world you will have trouble. John 16:33b
Brian Houston has also written a book called You Need More Money.
Elevation Music is part of Stephen Furtick’s Movement which ranges from seeker friendly teaching to heresy. Stephen Furtick’s preaching is mostly unbiblical and is motivational without having Christ at the center of the sermons. In his sermons he clearly teaches Modalism, a teaching which denies the trinity. He is also part of the Word of Faith Movement and affirms many false teaches and Prosperity Gospel teachers.
Bethel Music and Jesus Culture are from the same Bethel Movement. This movement is plagued with heresies one of them is Kenosis which teaches, “Jesus set aside his divinity, choosing instead to to live just as a man completely dependent on God.” Face to Face with God page 108, Heaven Invades Earth Page 75, Bill Johnson - Jesus Emptied Himself - Charisma Magazine.
Bill Johnson taught this at one of the Hillsong Conference. This teaching denies the Hypostatic Union of Christ that He was fully God and fully man. Bill Johnsons twists Philippians 2:6-9. In this passage we see that Jesus emptied himself by becoming a servant and not ceasing to be God like Bill Johnson teaches. Colossians 2:9 says For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
Another false teaching that is practice is that of soaking or grave soaking/sucking. He teaches about this in the book The Physics of Heaven Chapter 4 – Bill Johnson. There is much more that one can write about but these few examples show why they are a false movement.
All these movements use their music for a purpose. They direct people to listen to their teaching and draw the crowd into their false teachings. To manipulate the senses and to bypass all intellectual barriers so as not to think rationally about God and the bible.
C. What does the bible say about false teacher and associating with them?
Jesus himself warns of false teachers in Matthew 7:15-20 & Matthew 24:24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Paul warns the church in Galatia saying, Galatians 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
He further rebukes the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13 – 14 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough… For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ… And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Also 2 Peter 2 is a chapter dedicated to write about false teachers.
John in 2 John 9 – 11 tells us what to do with them. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
Since God’s word is clear we must follow his word and not receive their teachings into our churches. Some of us may be sound and want to pick and choose songs that may be right from these teachers but our freedom should not allow others to stumble. Personally, I believe when the word of God is clear and says not to have anything to do with them then we must obey God’s word.
Also if you listen to their music and buy them, it means you are financially contributing to the growth of these false movements. Further this is confusing for new believers and those who are just growing in the Lord.
D. Content and Source Matters:
Some would say do not throw the baby out of the bathwater. Let us eat the meat and throw away the bone. These sayings are firstly not from the bible neither do we have any such examples from scripture where false teachers are teaching right doctrine and their doctrine is affirmed and used in the local church. I have often heard people quote Philippians 1:15 – 18 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Firstly in this passage these people are not false teachers and neither are they preaching a false Christ. They are those who do not like Paul and his ministry their main issue is that of sin namely envy and rivalry. Secondly their Gospel or preaching of Christ is not a false Christ but the true one that Paul preaches too their intensions are wrong.
Whereas the false teachers have another christ a false one the christ of Islam and Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses are not the Christ of the Bible similarly the christ of Bethel and Elevation and to some extant even Hillsong is a false christ! We do see a right affirmation thrice in the bible by an evil spirits, demons themselves in the bible recognized Jesus and his apostles and gave right affirmation and even gave glory to God! The first instance is in Matthew 8:28 – 29 Where Jesus was met by two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs. These demons rightly recognized Jesus as the son of God when others around him failed to know Him. Another similar one is that of the Demon possessed with a Legion of Demons in Mark 5:7 here again the demons rightly recognize Jesus as the, Son of the Most High God. In Acts 16:16-18 we see Paul confronted by a slave girl who is demon possessed she rightly acknowledges them by saying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Note that both Jesus and Paul who walked in the footsteps of his master Jesus do not respond by saying this Demon says the truth they see what you all cannot see and speak the truth however the demon and I are not on the same side! Jesus and Paul rebuke the demon and do not take part in anyway with their right affirmation. These instances get us closest to the false teachers of our days who peddle false teachings into the church by making songs that applying to the vast types of people some true to scripture to draw maybe even the elect and some emotionally appealing to appease the false professors. The Pastor’s call from Titus 1:9 is that, He must hold firmly to the faithful word as it was taught, so that he can encourage others by sound teaching and refute those who contradict it. Jude 1:3 says, Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Therefore, brothers let us hold fast to God’s word and to obey what He has commanded from His word to us!
E. Failed Preachers in Church History
Finally, Christians throughout history have embraced truth-filled songs composed by authors who have held to unsupportable beliefs or who have fallen away from the faith.
These are those from church history who were sound but later left the faith or went away into false teachings what do we do with them? Two examples are
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” written in 1757 by Methodist preacher Robert Robinson, who later drifted away from the faith.
“It Is Well with My Soul,” written by Horatio Gates Spafford after he lost his four children in the sinking of the SS Ville du Havre in November 1873. His teachings on eternal punishment and the Holy Spirit were at best ill-informed, and at worst heretical.
So, should songs that strongly proclaim the truth of God’s Word no longer be used in corporate worship given other errant beliefs or practices by the authors or associated churches?
When we look at the times in which these men wrote these songs they were not affirming false teachings. Also, there are issues which Christians can disagree on which are secondary issues in Christianity. For example, Christians can differ on their view of the end times. But on core doctrines such as; who God is, his nature, the trinity, the Gospel, the Divinity of Christ, inerrancy of Scripture if a supposed Christian was to believe differently, he is worshipping a different god and not the God of the Bible.
F. Sing Sound Theology
Let us be encouraged that God protects His church and there are many sound worship artists that encourage Christians and brings glory to God in worship and equips the church. Let us seek to sing songs that are Gospel saturated so that the church will worship in Spirit and Truth and when unbelievers come to the church they will be convicted with the truth of God’s Word. Also as God’s word commands us to sing the Psalms, I would encourage Christians to learn them and sing them and make use of God’s heavenly songbook for the church!