I have to admit, I am no fan of Hillsong. Bring out the pitchforks and release the hounds! And while we’re at it, I am not too fond of worship either … As a genre, that is. I’m just not a fan of the soft pop-rock influences that dominate the “Contemporary Worship Music” scene, as the genre is often called.
Now Press ‘Repeat’
I often find contemporary worship music lacking in creativity, and I find it a pity that worship has been narrowed down to this one genre; it’s become a musical style, and it’s just not mine. One of my personal favourite worship moments was singing August Burns Red’s “Redemption” (from the album Messengers) during one of their shows in Belgium. That’s one of the worship styles I like, but I understand that I also cannot expect everyone to be on the same page.
Next to the genre, I also do not fancy songs that go on forever, and unfortunately many of the worship choruses are an invitation to not stop after only four repeats. “With hymns at least you know when they end,” said Christian comedian Tim Hawkins during one of his shows – and I often feel the same. But I also felt like that about almost every concert I’ve ever been to where this was done, including shows by some of my favourite bands.
Now I haven’t even begun to express my theological struggles with Hillsong. I do not necessarily believe that Hillsong has bad theology; I think they have limited theology. Many songs are very individual-oriented and focus on power. It’s about strength in me. Few songs however talk about central theological issues like the resurrection of the body (apart from Jesus’ one) or the Trinity. The first centuries of Christianity were filled with trying to grasp the complexity of the Trinitarian God, but few songs today still address this wonderful doctrine. Or how about some more songs in the line of the lamentations seen in several Psalms and the Prophets? There seems to be no room for complaint in the church of contemporary worship music.
But truth be told, Hillsong has convinced me that I should keep hoping that their theology will broaden. Recently they released the album No Other Name with the opener “This I Believe (The Creed)”; a song lyrically based on the Apostles’ Creed, one of the earliest summaries of Christian theology and a document that is considered as authentic teaching by every Christian denomination.
In the early church, owning the whole Bible was almost impossible to afford, not only for individuals but for (house) churches as well, so most churches had one or maybe two books of the New Testament, if they were lucky. Soon, it became clear to church leaders that they had to compose a good summary for the Christian faith; a guideline for recent converts to know what was essential and non-essential in the Christian faith. Enter the Apostles’ Creed.
This is – apart from other creeds in the New Testament (e.g. Col. 1:15-20) – the oldest creed we have and unfortunately it is too unknown in evangelical and charismatic circles. The Creed addresses the Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit) and which roles each of them has played in salvation history. It affirms God as creator, saviour and restorer. The Creed affirms the both divine and human nature of the Son (from the Spirit, but born from Mary) and his actual death and resurrection. Attention is also given to the Spirit and the establishment of the Church and the Christians within it. It ends with the judgment of the world and the renewal of creation. In addressing all of these doctrines, the Creed is a great summary to know by heart as a Christian.
For the above reasons, I am logically quite thrilled that Hillsong put the words of this great document to music and this way hopefully spreading its theology wider. And yes, the pop rock and the possibility for endless repeats are still there; but hey, I can’t expect everything to meet my preferences at once.
Hillsong Worship – No Other Name (Capitol, 2014)