It’s no secret that Cory Asbury’s song that debuted in 2017, “Reckless Love” has topped the charts and become the first choice for a worship song in many new age/mega churches across America over these last few years. Everyone who listens to this song at first listen usually loves it. But if you look at the lyrics and really dive into the meaning of the word ‘reckless’ and the way Cory chose to use it in his song, along with the church he attends and leads worship at… you may want to change your mind about this song. I know I did!
While there is another post series coming later about the issues with the Bethel church, Hillsong and other Hillsong groups’ music, the New Apostolic Reformation/Prosperity Gospel/Word of Faith movement, I highly highly recommend you listen to Justin Peter’s Clouds Without Water conference immediately (you can find it on his website and on YouTube) to learn about what all these things are and go in-depth in the scriptures on backing up everything he teaches. (When it comes to modern worship music, like we will be touching on today, it definitely tends to be theologically shallow and repetitive. Ever wonder why? Funny example here: https://youtu.be/fWicNLXxtj4 )
So while I will not being going in to deep detail about the Bethel church and issues with new age “Christian” music in this one post, there is still much to be said about this artist in specific, and this one song that seems to have really taken the western churches by storm. I needed some assistance in rounding out this post, so I used this blog post here for more in depth information that would be easy for everyone to understand! I highly encourage you to watch the videos, read the comments, etc. If you are just coming out of the New Age movement, please know that you are not alone!
Now let’s dive in!
Cory Asbury’s song, “Reckless Love” climbed to #1 on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs chart on March 3, 2018 and spent a whole 18 weeks at the summit. It also was 2018’s #1 Christian Airplay Songs title. This won both the Song of the Year and Worship Song of the Year Awards at the 2018 GMA Dove Awards.
“Reckless Love,” written by Cory Asbury, Caleb Culver, and Ran Jackson and published in 2017 by Bethel Music, has quickly become a favorite worship song in non-denominational and evangelical churches. However, every time we sing it in service, I omit one word: “reckless.”
According to the OxfordDictionaries.com, reckless means: “Heedless of danger or the consequences of one’s actions; rash or impetuous.” I challenge anyone to find one instance in scripture where any member of the Trinity is described as reckless, rash, or impetuous. I certainly haven’t, because it is antithetical to God’s character. Asbury even wrote a Facebook post defending his position. It says:
“When I use the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God,’ I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return. The recklessness of His love is seen most clearly in this – it gets Him hurt over and over. Make no mistake, our sin pains His heart. Yet He opens up and allows us in every time. His love saw you when you hated Him – when all logic said, ‘They’ll reject me,’ He said, ‘I don’t care if it kills me. I’m laying My heart on the line.'”
Trusting their leadership, congregants assume that the doctrine of the music in their church is sound and then riff off it. The result a lot of sub-biblical “inspirational” writing like this: “God’s love for us is reckless. He loves us unconditionally and without fear of rejection. His love is not self-serving. He puts us first. He loves us without fear of consequences. The way He loves us is quite simply reckless” (emphasis original).
This is what happens when worship lyrics are not put under the light of the scriptures, and in fact, substitute for it. God’s salvation plan was never risky or reckless, and all throughout the gospels, Jesus explains that he knows exactly how he is going to be received.
The idea that God is “bankrupting heaven,” smothering his love all over the place without regard to how it’s received and “laying his heart on the line,” as Asbury said, is just not biblical. God takes no risks because a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing by nature cannot take risks.
I know the term “reckless love” is catchy and might prick the ears of people submersed in a culture that craves “crazy love,” but God’s love is purpose-driven and perfectly considered—the opposite of reckless. As unpopular a truth as it is, it’s designed for God’s glory and to further his own ends. We are gracious recipients of God’s grace.
The fact that God has saved you personally and deliberately (John 6:37-45; Romans 8:16), despite your total unworthiness, is what should bring you to tears, not this notion that God is splashing his “childlike” and “ridiculous” love all over (again, Asbury is way off the mark) and just hoping someone reciprocates it, deeply wounded every time he is rejected.
To sing of God’s “reckless love” is to downplay his omnipotence and sovereignty in favor of a weaker, more vulnerable and “approachable” version of him. All too often, worship lyrics map the attributes of man onto God instead of promoting a more biblical understanding of him. We seek to package his attributes in concepts we are already familiar with, instead of acquainting ourselves with the God who reveals himself through the scriptures. We bring God down to our level, instead of seeking to understand him on his own terms.
As worshippers, we are obligated to ask ourselves: do the words coming out of my mouth, which are supposed to guide us in worshipping God for who he really is, accurately reflect God’s character? If they don’t, then how can we be worshipping in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24)?
There are many other worship songs that don’t ascribe purely unbiblical attributes to God. If the rest of this song really does help the congregation worship in earnest, might it at least be possible to substitute a different word for “reckless,” like “wondrous” or “awesome?”
Songs have tremendous power to influence our thought. We are vulnerable and emotional during worship, trusting the people leading us through the set, so church leaders must be careful stewards of the lyrics they present to the flock. If a particular lyric is promoting a less biblical understanding of God’s character, as “reckless love” clearly is, then it needs to be corrected. Sheer popularity cannot override that imperative.
Going along with that; back in 2009, Cory Asbury released Let Me See Your Eyes, a collection of indie-pop songs intended to bolster a passion for Jesus and sense His presence. Right there poses a big issue as well! New age, and new Christians who don’t already have a firm foundation in their walks with Christ and who aren’t in a church sound in doctrine with theologically-rich music, use new worship songs to ignite a feeling in their chests instead of being intentional about growing their relationship with God through studying the Scriptures, living out God’s Word, finding Bible-based hymns, etc. outside of singing that one song. They want the euphoric feeling, not Jesus. Because what happens after the song is over and the high from the bass and the impact you think the song has on you is gone? Is there a desire to be in prayer, to dive into God’s Word? Usually not because there is no feeling attached to it like there is with bass so loud, your ribcage is vibrating, an emotional feeling tied to having the lights off while you’re scream singing your heart out and crying. It’s like a drug.
The music that’s coming out of Bethel and Hillsong is being used to manipulate believers to strive for revival or really, just to manipulate believers in general. The EXTREMELY short and simple answer is that Bethel accepts a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel* (and to be honest, it pains me greatly to have to say that). If our theology is not biblical, then how we view, and interact with (or even write songs to) God will not be biblically or theologically sound.
For example, I would not praise my God to Mormon worship songs because they, too, worship a different God and a different Jesus. I believe we need to become more discerning when it comes to praise and worship… to move beyond how it makes us feel (or what our itching ears want to hear) and to really scrutinize the theology of it. This, of course, requires us to be in the Word.
I do believe the leadership at Bethel is using the music to drive the “revival at any cost” movement. I believe Bill Johnson has even admitted as much. This is manipulation…whether the leadership realizes it, or not.
Music is powerful because it is so emotional. It was actually music that drew a lot of people to the New Age Christianity in the first place.
We each need to take how we interact with their music, to God. But as for me, I have stopped listening to Bethel, Jesus Culture, Hillsong and Elevation, and any artist affiliated with these groups, indie singers too if the lyrics are not theologically sound. It’s not to say that all of the music is wrong or un-biblical or manipulative. But I want to be extremely discerning when it comes to what I am lifting up to God.
I’ve been researching (and doing some writing about) the infiltration of new age beliefs and practices into the western church for a years now. I’ve come to realize that many of our churches have embraced teachings that I can’t find in the Bible (when read in context and as Scripture is used to interpret Scripture). Some churches have even embraced beliefs and practices that God specifically told us NOT to follow. That theology crosses over into the music. Even when I did worship along with some of that music, I would occasionally get a check in my spirit, but because I was so emotionally invested, I just disregarded it. I’ve now learned too much to disregard it any longer. There have been certain songs, books, preachers, teachings, etc. that I have never felt right about, but couldn’t quite explain why. As I’ve been searching the Scriptures, along with some other research, I’m now understanding why I had those checks in my spirit. False teachers are indeed among us and heavily present in 90% of churches across America.
I’m not saying that NONE of the songs coming out of those groups are theologically sound – some are probably fine. But because of the impact that I know music has on me, I don’t want to embrace any song that I haven’t taken the time to prayerfully and biblically consider. And knowing that the theology from the churches and groups is so unbiblical, knowing what they are striving for, what they preach as “truth”… I choose not to support them.
Here is something to think about: most people listen to worship music far more than they read their Bibles. Today’s worship songs are well done, repetitive and catchy. Not only are many in the church getting their theology from the songs, but that theology is sticking in their heads far more than any Scripture that they might be reading. Why wouldn’t the enemy attempt to attack the music of the Church? That seems like a pretty easy “in” to change people’s perception of God.
I have been revisiting hymns. I’m moving very slowly when it comes to worship songs/bands. I’m learning to look into the theology of it all, instead of just leaning on how it makes me feel. *Bill Johnson, along with many in the Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements, believe that Jesus set aside His divinity while here on Earth. This is known as Kenotic Theology or the Kenosis Heresy. Bill has stated that Jesus had to be “born again” and that everything He did on Earth was done as a man in right relationship with God. This view is dangerous because it sets up the possibility for the “divinity of man” or the “little gods” doctrine. The Word says, “For in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)
So for Cory Asbury to be the worship leader at Bethel Church in Redding California, putting out music with lyrics that are anti-scripture, even in just one line, it immediately calls into question the true agenda of his songs and his heart in creating them. There is no recklessness of God’s love but there is recklessness in his song and the church he choose to support, follow, and lead in the way that is unbiblical.
I hope it is understood that I do not share this post from any place other than love. My heart hurts for those blind to the deception that has made its way into the Church…deception that is being exported to the Church, worldwide – through things like music, books, false biblical “translations,” etc… And we receive it all with open arms! I know I certainly did.
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 NIV
Please take the time to watch the videos. They contain so much more information than what I can possibly write and share here.
” I do believe they are using mysticism. Bethel is admittedly open to (and promotes) New Age beliefs and practices through books such as Physics of Heaven. Bill Johnson believes his mission is to usher in revival, at any cost. In this case, it seems he is willing to sacrifice TRUTH on the altar of “revival.”
Melissa Dougherty, along with Lindsay Davis-Knotts and Zack Knotts, break down some of the issues with Physics of Heaven here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG2GueeiBmE
When I was in the New Age, I loved using music and meditation to help me reach an altered state of consciousness. I, oftentimes, would reach that same state during worship at church. Music is definitely an excellent way to manipulate large groups. Notice that some speakers within the NAR and WoF movements will have someone continue to play music during their “preaching.” It keeps the group in that relaxed (hypnotic) state and makes any false teaching easier to swallow.
I don’t claim to know whether, or not, they KNOW that they are being manipulative…only God can make that call. But the fruit of what is coming out of Bethel, and churches like it, doesn’t really line up with Scripture in many cases. It breaks my heart. I pray for these leaders and their followers, especially since I used to hold to some of the same beliefs.
I will continue to contend for the faith. Praise God that He opened my eyes. I am praying that He continues to open the eyes of those still blinded by deception. I totally agree – the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is definitely worth it! Thank you, again, for your encouragement. Grace and peace to you! “
A more in-depth look:
“It is easy to identify blatant falsehood but, unfortunately, this particular topic deals with deception – which is usually not so obvious and is oftentimes buried in some truth (like a wolf in sheep’s clothing). On the surface, what is being said (or sung) may sound good, and maybe even “biblical,” but when more deeply discerned, it falls short of actual biblical TRUTH.
This is a link that helps to define what is, and is not, a worship song. https://www.pastortheologians.com/articles/2020/2/4/what-is-and-is-not-a-worship-song-a-case-study-of-raise-a-hallelujah Surprisingly, many do not give thought to what a worship song actually is.
This link tackles using songs for worship from sources (church, individual) who base their theology on unbiblical teachings. https://www.gotquestions.org/unbiblical-worship.html
Here is a video of Mike Winger biblically breaking down the lyrics of “Reckless Love.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79rjZLjh-cI I like his approach to addressing the concerns many have about the song. I believe he is kind, but scripturally firm, in his analysis.
I wish that I could give a simple breakdown of songs/lyrics that are bad – and exactly why they are bad – but it is a complicated subject with many variables (and I, sadly, do not have time for that level of research and writing, currently).
Not all of their songs are unbiblical. And even within the unbiblical songs, not all of the lyrics are wrong. Some of those lyrics may speak truth. This is where Christians need to decide what they are willing to sing, as worship. Not as a matter of preference – but choosing biblical truth over a song that makes them “feel good,” and choosing Scripture over a common “Christian” slogan that may sound biblical, but isn’t in the Bible, at all.
I hope this is helpful! And praying you do well on your senior thesis!