This is the point in my blog-writing where I have to ask myself, "Should I really write exactly what I am thinking?"
The answer this time is "no," though I will try to re-package those thoughts in a way that is the most palatable for Christians reading this post. As much as some might disagree, I'm really not trying to step on anyone's toes or do direct damage to others' sensibilities.
I do, however, want to wave the red flag when I really feel like it needs to be waved.
So that brings me here -- to the love song medley.
Before I cite specific songs that, in my strong opinion, do damage to Christianity through the romanticism of Christ, I should first give a little background information about where the "Jesus Romance" theology of sorts comes from.
Understanding the Bridal Paradigm is key to understanding Christian romance songs
The Bridal Paradigm is the major doctrine behind the bulk of "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs heard today. This theology has been made popular by the International House of Prayer (IHOP; also, they may have originated this doctrine), Hillsong, Jesus Culture, and countless other Christian bands.
Basically, the paradigm states these core beliefs:
- We are all brides of Christ individually
- Jesus is a groom that is desperately heartsick for humanity
- Our relationship with Christ should be as romantic as the relationship found in the Song of Solomon (both figuratively and, in some cases, literally)
Because of that foundation, it should be easy to see how the worship songs that follow often mirror some of the works of John Donne.
There is a lot more thought and countless other influences that go behind writing songs; however, I see no other issue as important as this one when it comes to contemporary Christian music.
I see no other issue as important as this one when it comes to contemporary Christian music.
So for now, that's all the background I think is necessary.
There are several examples to choose from when it comes to picking out manifestations of the Bridal Paradigm in contemporary music. Staying consistent with the bands I mentioned earlier, here are lyrics from Jesus Culture and Hillsong, as well as a couple of songs by Misty Edwards, a worship leader at IHOP.
Now hopefully you believed me (and if not me, the website I linked earlier) when I talked about what the Bridal Paradigm is. It's a real belief and it is, quite frankly, wrong. I'm holding off on using every seminary student's favorite six-letter "h" word, but I won't shy away from saying it's downright wrong.
So if you are starting to have an understanding of what the Bridal Paradigm is, you'll see the connection between that doctrine and the songs I just shared.
For instance, in the Jesus Culture song, the singer is asking God to "romance" (as a verb) him or her. Romance always has a more intimate connotation than "love," and when it is used as a verb in the context of two lovers dancing...well, who knows what it means.
Hillsong's song talks about having intimacy with God that's "closer than a kiss" and the Edwards' lyrics speak about man and God being "in love" with one another and how Jesus died because He wanted man's love.
All of these songs in their full context (to some degree) reflect aspects of the Bridal Paradigm. The most obvious commonality between the songs is the Song of Solomon references that serve as the backdrop for the lyrics. There are different ways to interpret that Old Testament book, but using its explicitly romantic language as a way to describe God's relationship with men individually has never been a popular belief in the Church.
"Jesus Romance" theology is probably more popular and has more influence than we think. More songs than I could talk about on this blog feature elements of the Bridal Paradigm. These are songs that are played on Christian radio stations and in Christian settings all of the time.
I would like to throw out a couple of challenges to you.
1. Listen for the Bridal Paradigm in the songs you hear on the radio. Don't "head hunt" or be obsessed with finding faults (like I'm sure some people think of me!). But if this is the first time you've heard of this theology or if you're being reminded of it, I think it will be a good idea to become more self-aware of the songs you hear.
2. Listen to these resources by pastor Keith Gibson. He has done a decade's worth of study on IHOP, written books, given countless presentations, and honestly cares about truth. These audio clips are most definitely worth your time.
God loves us with a sacrificial love, not an erotic love. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us because His righteousness demanded it, not because His lovesickness desired it.
Here's a great alternative to the Bridal Paradigm: