H. Richard Niebuhr described liberal Christianity thus: 'A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.' For some time, I've wondered if the heart of liberal theology is the belief that man is actually not all that sinful, but is fundamentally fairly good. It is the message of Hollywood, of self-help writers, of humanism. It's the kind of position that tells us "Believe in yourself! You can do it!", "Do something for you", "It's ok if it feels good", "You might be a bit naughty but you're nowhere near as bad as your friend who...".
It's not a new lie that we are fundamentally ok. Around AD 383-410, there was a teacher in Rome by the name of Pelagius who taught against the doctrine of original sin, but suggested that sin only occurred in individual acts. He upheld that God does not hold men responsible for sins that they have no control over. He said that man's nature is still capable of choosing good and God without the help of God. He was clutching at straws.
Is Pelagian-style error creeping into our church music today? I think it may be. It's close to what is called semi-Pelagianism; following Pelagius to some degree- a position that says that humans can independently make the first move towards God, and that God completes the salvation process.
If it is, it comes subtly in the kind of songs that teach us we can relate to God casually, that encourage irreverence, that play-down sin, that make us people into something far more than we are. Songs that assume we inherrently have within ourselves the capacity to appraoch God without the need for his grace first. How many songs do you know that teach you that you're able to come to God of your own accord (i.e. without encouraging you to think about the gospel)? How many times have you sung lines like "I surrender all to You", "You're the only one that I could live for", "I'm desperate for you", "You are my one desire", "I will never stop loving You" and known for sure that you have meant it with all your heart?
A difficult question. I have sung "I surrender all to You" plenty of times, but I know full well that to this day, that still isn't entirely true of me. I pray that I can increasingly surrender my will, possessions and heart to God, but can I sing that I do until I actually do? By singing these things, am I not taking very lightly my relationship with God? The Bible is clear on all of these variations on the same theme that God draws us to Himself (John 6:44)- we do not choose Him. We have nothing of ourselves to boast in, and our songs ought to aid us in fearing and reverencing God, not relating to him as our "mate" or our "girlfriend". How we need less of "Hey Lord, O Lord, You know what we need" and "You took the fall and thought of me"; but so much more of "Indescribable, uncontainable, You set the stars in the sky and You know them by name" and "You give and take away, my heart will choose to say "Lord, blessed be Your Name".