Ty sent in this question:
A lot of people at our church like the song “Your Grace Is Enough” which I think was co-written by Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin. I did some research on Matt Maher and found that he is a well-know Catholic artist. There are some who would say that since the song was written by somebody who is Catholic that it shouldn’t be sung. How should we think through something like this?
Before I share my thoughts, I wanted to address the question, “Is it possible to be a genuine Christian and a Roman Catholic at the same time?” I think so, despite numerous doctrines of the Catholic church that conflict with Scripture, such as purgatory, indulgences, and salvation by faith plus works. I know Catholics who have placed their trust completely in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. To my knowledge, they’re truly born again.
But that doesn’t answer the question. How do we think through using songs written by people who hold beliefs contrary to what we believe the Bible teaches? I don’t think there are hard and fast rules in this area. But here are some thoughts.
Immediate content matters most. Knowing WHO wrote a song shouldn’t make it better or worse. I should first evaluate a song’s merits on the lyrics all by themselves, without any explanation, because that’s the way most people will sing and hear them.
Associations are important. Even though lyrical content is most important, we don’t always sing songs in a vacuum. I want to be careful about introducing a song that might be good in itself, but might lead to people getting exposed to a ministry, artist, or church that I wouldn’t otherwise be enthused about. Since “Your Grace is Enough” is more well known because of Chris Tomlin, it wouldn’t be a problem for me.
Associations can change over time. Churches sing songs today that were penned by Roman Catholics, Unitarian Universalists, and others who held to theological convictions we might not agree with. But because the song is disconnected from its origins, no one knows.
Composers often reveal their theological biases. If I know a song has been writen by someone whose orthodoxy I have a question about, I should exercise more care in examining the content. Songs by Catholics sometimes present a view of grace that’s unclear, or heavy on the result of grace and light on justification by faith. I find that often the problem is what the song leaves out, rather than what it actually says. For instance, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear was written by Edmund Sears, a Unitarian minister of the 19th century. While it’s been set to a beautiful tune, and can carry powerful connotations, it isn’t very clear on the meaning of Christ’s birth.
Bottom line, if I think singing a song is going to expose my church to an unhelpful influence, I’ll skip it. I if I don’t think that’s going to happen, and the lyrics are solid, I’ll sing it.