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Behind the music: The baffling views about God held by Bethel Music’s Amanda Lindsey Cook

I was baffled and dismayed by the responses in an interview the Christian Post conducted, in April, with Amanda Lindsey Cook, a prominent worship leader and songwriter with Bethel Music. The interview was about her most recent album, House on a Hill, and about what Cook was thinking about God as she wrote the songs for this album.

I was baffled because it is very difficult to make any sense of Cook’s words. And I was dismayed because she makes a number of statements about God that raise many serious questions, including, most basic, what is her view of God? You can read excerpts of her statements below, but the bottom line is she seems to have some very confused and unbiblical views of God.

Yet, despite her muddled and misleading statements about God, her music is very popular. Some of her songs that you may have heard include “You Make Me Brave,” “Closer,” and “I Will Exalt.” They’re played on Christian radio stations and sung in churches throughout the nation. But the combination of Cook’s half-baked theological views and the popularity of her music raises the question: does the songwriter’s viewpoint or intent matter when it comes to writing songs for others to worship God?

Consider that question as you read some excerpts from her interview, below.

Amanda Lindsey Cook’s peculiar statements about God

  • “Every day I increasingly felt like gravity and the great beyond, called God, was working in my favor.”
  • “I love this divine essence that we so commonly refer to as God. I think it becomes this common, almost familiar thing that it has connotations because we basically impose our belief system on whatever we think God is when we say the word ‘God.'”
  • “I love the names that this essence and this divine presence gives itself. In the Old Testament, where God describes themselves as ‘I am,’ also the name Yahweh, ‘the intake and the exhale of breath.'”
  • “It’s this common acknowledgment, this communal aspect of living, where we’re all connected, we’re all part of the common thread … to be connected at the source to this divine presence, this Christ consciousness…”

If that interview isn’t cause enough for concern, Amanda Lindsey Cook also teaches at Bethel Church in Redding, California, home to Bethel Music. Given her unclear and curious responses during the interview, one may wonder how she ever was approved to teach at any church, let alone one as large and influential as Bethel Church.

What’s the right response?

In light of this interview, I believe churches should reconsider their use of her music and any other music coming from Bethel Church (or elsewhere) that is written by songwriters with such a woefully deficient view of God.  As has been rightly noted by some people, the music Christians sing in church services has at least as great an impact on their theology as the sermons do. How many people go home after a service ends and keep singing the songs, long after they’ve forgotten the sermon? Theology is woven into hearts through music.

I believe that, contrary to what some have suggested, the intent of the songwriter does matter. It is popular in this postmodern era to say that the intent of a songwriter is irrelevant; what matters is only what the singer is thinking about when they sing the words. But this individualistic, 21st century notion fails to acknowledge the communal nature of a worship service. Specifically, it neglects the important and powerful purposes for communally declaring truth about God in song. But if a song’s lyrics are so theologically vague that anyone can import any meaning to them — God can be the force of “gravity” for some and “the intake and the exhale of breath” for others — then how can a congregation be unified in truth during their worship?

Some may make the assumption that, since their church is theologically sound in its teaching, then their congregation will sing the vaguely worded lyrics with a biblical view of God in mind — regardless of what the songwriter was thinking about when she wrote the lyrics. But this assumption is not safe to make in this age when errant theology abounds. It’s an especially faulty assumption when songwriters, including Cook, have gone on record publicly explaining the meaning behind their lyrics — a meaning that, theologically speaking, leaves much to be desired.

At the very least, worship leaders should occasionally spell out what they mean — and don’t mean — when singing certain lyrics, so there’s some level of the congregation staying on the same page. But how much better for a church to choose songs that are more precisely worded and are theologically accurate to begin with.

After all, if a songwriter’s intent isn’t important, then why not have churches sing any number of songs, secular included, that can evoke hazy notions of God, like “My Heart Will Go On” (by Celine Dion), or “All You Need is Love” (by the Beatles), or “How Deep is Your Love” (by the Bee Gees)?

The image of congregations singing their hearts out to the Bee Gees is, of course, ridiculous. Clearly, intent does matter.

About the author

Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University

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30 Responses to “Behind the music: The baffling views about God held by Bethel Music’s Amanda Lindsey Cook”

  1. Janis Says:

    Keep sharing Holly ! So many need to hear the truth about false teachings, practices and music!!!

  2. John Says:

    Holly, Cook says, “I love this divine essence that we so commonly refer to as God. I think it becomes this common, almost familiar thing that it has connotations because we basically impose our belief system on whatever we think God is when we say the word ‘God.’”

    This is the AA higher power! Where is Christ the King? God help those young people at Bethel Redding.

    Thank you for your diligence.

  3. Sean Says:

    I’ve been researching the music of Bethel church Redding for 7 years because it was being used at a church I was attending at the time. I found many problems with the theology behind the music and with the things being said by their worship leaders. I found a video interview with Chris Quilala where he told of his coming to Jesus as happening when he started laughing uncontrollably at a youth camp. In the same interview he stated that the reason for their music was to bring people into the teachings of their church.

  4. Nadia Says:

    I truly feel like I have arrived home coming to this website. It’s such a blessing to see other believers testing and questioning especially the music industry that has really slipped under the radar of Biblical discernment. I have disconnected from their music a while now and warning others as well.

    I researched a bit, and recently found two Bethel worshippers casually joking about worship on their Instagram accounts which I found very sad. Amanda started laughing while she sang the song: “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, as I walk upon the water…” She “tried” to walk on some flowing water (it seemed) during the video clip but couldn’t and started laughing.

    Another artist, Brian Johnson posted a photo of him behind the scenes of an upcoming worship concert saying: “getting ready to rock and roll tonight” What a sad approach to draw close and worship the King 🙁

    We have to be watchful. Times are changing and a lack of the love of Truth will lead to being handed over to a Spirit of deception (2 Thessalonians 2)

    Thank you for what you do Holly. I’ll be forwarding your email to everyone I can.

  5. John Says:

    Believe it or not, I’ve been in churches where the following songs were sung during the service:
    You Raise me Up by Josh Groban
    Let it Be by the Beatles
    Happy by Pharrel Williams

    I can’t help but think that many modern churches are in danger of becoming nothing more than night clubs.

  6. RebeccaLynn Dikeman Says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been very concerned with Bethel and their music for some time. Frankly, the messages being promoted through much of today’s “Christian” music leaves me wondering just how long until we finally take notice of the wolves in sheep’s clothing who act, dress, and even sing like us? It’s no mistake that Lucifer had great musical abilities in Heaven. He too knows the power of it and we’d be wise to remember that. Thank you for another great post!

  7. Robin Says:

    The statements indicate a mixture of Christian and new age thought. She is probably reading a lot of esoteric type books and getting into contemptible (sorry- contemplative) prayer and all this “Christian mysticism” that so many Christians are seduced by these days. It is serious. If she is dabbling in that she will open herself up to that spirit. And that will come out in her ministry.I know because I’ve had experience of this in the past. It’s very, very seductive. Only by the grace of God I was delivered.

  8. Darryl Allen Says:

    I’m reminded of Cory Asbury’s “Reckless love of God”. Coincidentally, also from Bethel. All one has to do is define “reckless” (careless; Merriam Webster)and consider that he is assigning that attribute to a Holy God. In my view, God’s love comes in many forms and one of which is unconditional but “reckless” cannot be a view of God found anywhere in His word. Thanks Holly for insisting that we have the right view of God in the Christian music we listen to.

  9. Mo Says:

    I agree with Robin. I use to be highly influenced by Bethel many years ago.

    They are nothing but a cult, like the JW’s and Mormons and Catholics. (I use to be Catholic)

    Just because you put Jesus name on it doesn’t make it Christian.

    Checkout Lighthouse trails ministry (especially Warren Smith’s writings)

  10. Christian Says:

    I love singing old hymns, sign psalms to Express my love for God. Agreed that some of the wording is questionable, but words like Lucifer in the comment section are heartbreaking. I do enjoy a healthy dialog, but relentless criticism is not an acceptable way in the body of Christ. Many Christians seek unity in the body of Christ and ways to work towards John 17. A healthy dialogue is fruitful and provides room for correction, fairly loveless criticism is not only unbiblical, it is direct contrast to the unity in the body that Christ prayed for. Hope this will resonate in your next comment section and assessment of other articles, the young generation is leaving the church because of lack thereof.

  11. Carol Berubee Says:

    New Age, not Christianity.

  12. Alicia Lowery Says:

    Just because they use words that you don’t understand to express themselves does not mean they’re not walking with God or it’s new age. I recognize this as a religious spirit. The same spirit that the pharasees had when Jesus walked on earth. As followers of Christ we are supposed to test the spirit, what are the fruit of the spirit. Romans 5:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you not recognize the gift of the Spirit, the power of Joy, the power of his Peace,the Overflow of the Holy Spirit. The first time I heard a speaker from Bethel was at a conference. I didn’t know anything about their worship style or belief system. My life has never been the same since, the love, grace and Mercy speaker showed on stage left me speechless. They didn’t sound like my church, they didn’t dress like my church but they had the one thing so many so called Christian churches lack and that’s forgiveness, Grace and love for their brothers and sisters regardless of their nationalities or upbringings. The power and anointing of the Holy Spirit dwells at Bethel and all those who follow the scriptures. Even after all the false attacks,they stand they’re ground because God is their defender. I pray that our heavenly Father opens your eyes and gives you revelation and wisdom in the areas you lack or don’t understand. I pray also that you practice the pause before you attack the works of God.

  13. Evelyn Wells Says:

    Christians really really need to read the BIBLE. God’s Holy Word taken daily will keep you from errors and false beliefs. God is Almighty and full of Grace. Salvation happens when you believe in Him and accept Him as your Lord and Savior.
    God and His Word CANNOT be distorted to appeal to “young people”. What will their faith be established on if not Jesus Christ. What in this corrupt world is she talking about? Has she ever read the Holy Bible? Pray for her and Bethel to come to the truth of God’s Word.

  14. OLADAYO OLUWALOLA Says:

    Thank God we still have the reminants who are discerning..we need to get to the place of prayer and ask the God to open the eyes of those who do not know any better.

  15. Gretta Harris Says:

    Oh my goodness! It makes my heart sad to read such negative comments about what God is doing at Bethel. Nothing i can say will change your minds, as im sure your intentions are good. But just like the”drive- by media, you have taken comments out of context and have failed to research the heart of these people. The Word of God reigns. And it reigns at Bethel.

  16. Mark Scheiderer Says:

    It used to be that heretics had the same vocabulary as Christians, but a different dictionary. Now they have a blatant New Age vocabulary, but remain in the Church …. and hardly anybody says anything. Today’s heretics are nothing more than demons wearing a Mr. Rogers mask.
    “Selfianity” has replaced Christianity in most churches.

    To Gretta Harris who posted above – 2 Corinthians 11 talks about “another Jesus, another Gospel, and another Spirit..” Bethel has all 3.

  17. Sean Says:

    Being actively apart of bethel, I appreciate how you shared your views. This is the first post that I have read concerning bethel that gave a point and did so in a Christian manner. All the rest of “discernment” stuff I’ve read has just been a bunch of fear mongering hype trying to receive people. T

  18. Deanna Joy Says:

    Alicia Lowery Says:
    June 21st, 2019 at 9:59 pm
    I recognize this as a religious spirit. The same spirit that the pharasees had when Jesus walked on earth.”

    I would offer the following to consider ~ “Pharisees spoke but did not DO” that is the message we are getting pounded with all the time. YOU don’t have to DO anything for GOD, He did it all!! This is so far from the truth of what is written in God’s word. The living to be feared and respected GOD of all creation expects reciprocated faithful obedient love just as Christ did when he walked this earth. Christ Jesus IS OUR EXAMPLE not our substitute.

    Alicia I agree with Mark Scheiderer ~
    June 22nd, 2019 at 12:13 pm
    It used to be that heretics had the same vocabulary as Christians, but a different dictionary. Now they have a blatant New Age vocabulary, but remain in the Church …. and hardly anybody says anything. Today’s heretics are nothing more than demons wearing a Mr. Rogers mask.
    “Selfianity” has replaced Christianity in most churches.

    I would offer for consideration ~ Self is the issue here ~ I have seen deception at it’s core from a man I married and was madly in love with ~ the core of the deception was SELF ~ and that is the same with BETHEL ministry ~ everything can look and sound great, but the lying prophecies and bewitching people into believing they are being healed or given a prophetic word for their life ~ I was at a BETHEL follower’s healing meeting and she prophesied 4 or 5 times about my body having certain ailments that I did not have ~ claiming that I must truly have an issue with the back of my throat because the SPIRIT never lies!! As if I am suppose to say, Oh, yeah, I’m sorry you were right I do have a problem with the back of my throat!” She later came over to me and said, “I really don’t want this child of yours to leave without receiving from you Father!” I left receiving TRUTH From my Father that I will never grace the doors or shadows of these people again ~

    What she was saying was, Let me try one more time and be right this time and then let the powers of hell that work in me for my own personal fame (because Satan will give you power to do signs and wonders for your names sake, he doesn’t care if you glorify him or not, he only cares that you DON”T GLORIFY GOD THE FATHER AND Christ Jesus, but yourself!! That is the issue at hand in American’ Christianity, all she wanted was for some manifestation of some sort to occur on me to prove she had heavenly power to make my body react to her false words of prophecy . . . Nope, out of there.

  19. Pat K. Says:

    Holly, I am curious, were you able to listen to the album in question? If so, what was your experience in comparison to the interview?

  20. Holly Says:

    Pat K., yes, I have read the lyrics of some of the songs and listened to some of them, as well. In my view, the lyrics lack precision and theological or biblical depth.

  21. Deanna Joy Says:

    I find there is a lot of emotion vs Truth ~ The word of God say’s His TRUTH is what set’s us free, not emotions that make us feel good about ourselves or secure that God loves us!!

  22. Alicia Lowery Says:

    This is to all the Amanda Cooks who are being attacked by other Christians. The enemy wouldn’t be fighting YOU this hard if you weren’t doing something RIGHT. Continue to walk in your purpose AND in your calling, continue to Love God, Love Others, Serve Others and share the gospel. God will use your voice to minister to believers as well as unbelievers. The reason so many churches are losing this generation is because of the religious spirit and devisive spirit. Remember GOD qualifies us NOT men. Do not get discouraged and continue to be reckless for Jesus!!

  23. Dave Ellis Says:

    The phrases she is using give away Bethel’s invovlvement with contemplative prayer, whose roots are in Eastern mysticism. So the fact that she starts speaking in terms of the Divine Essence, the God within in and all of us being connected together in some way. As a previous comment says, this is New Age, god-in-everything-and-everyone mush. It is no surprise, becaue Bethel don’t see the Bible as authorative.

  24. Carol Berubee Says:

    Alicia Lowery — you said, in defense of Amanda Cooks, “The enemy wouldn’t be fighting YOU this hard if you weren’t doing something RIGHT.”

    So, are you saying that Jesus was the enemy when He was rebuking the Pharisees; Paul was the enemy when he was warning us about the Judaizers and other false teachers; and Peter and Jude were the enemy when they warned us about false teachers, using “harsh” language and condemning the false teachers? Cuz only the enemy says “negative” things about professing Christians??

    Please re-read the NT and don’t skip over the “offensive” language you don’t like concerning false teachers. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Truth. Christians are created in Christ in righteousness and holiness of truth. Truth is paramount. We are to guard the truth and warn others about the false. It is love in action.

  25. Dave Ellis Says:

    One wonders if Alicia Lowery is a member of Bethel?

    Defending Bethelites or Johnsonites is actually standard form for people involved in the church and it’s associated ministries. Johnson himself refuses to acknowledge any criticism, and his followers and students have a similar attitude that people from Bethel are never in error – I speak from experience when challenging Hohnson’s teaching that Jesus was not God during His earthly ministry.

  26. Terry the Censor Says:

    Some perspective from a non-religious person:

    It should not be surprising that God will be imagined in a way that fits the personality of the individual believer. After all, nowadays God is generally thought of as formless — though the OT says he has hind parts. God is said to be all-knowing — though in the Garden of Eden he couldn’t find Adam. God is believed to be all-loving — though in the OT he is described as vengeful and he kills a whole lot of people.

    Mainstream Christianity has selectively picked and chosen what God is, despite what the Bible says, so that he is now a remote, formless essence. He is indeed more like gravity now than like a sentient being.

    > The enemy wouldn’t be fighting YOU this hard if you weren’t doing something RIGHT.

    This defence of Bethel is the exact reasoning I see on UFO and conspiracy blogs. It can be used to justify absolutely every form of lunacy.

    > “Love Is All You Need” (by the Beatles)

    That is not the name of the song.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_You_Need_Is_Love

  27. Karen Fairbanks Says:

    I’m not at all surprised that someone with her strange views of God is associated with Bethel. She fits right in there. That has to be one of the strangest “churches” out there. Very disturbing views, practices and beliefs. Music matters! And the lyrics are very important. If it does not have law and gospel, worship of my savior and what He has done for me, a worthless sinner, then I’m not interested in singing it on Sunday. I cringe when I hear people complain about the old hymns and want to sing contemporary music. No thank you. Some things need to stay the same.

  28. Angela Says:

    Hi Holly and all on here… Spotted that this same worship leader has also called Jesus an “enlightened master” on her Facebook as this article spotted:

    https://thewordlikefire.wordpress.com/2019/06/24/bethel-redding-singer-amanda-lindsey-cooks-jesus-as-enlightened-master/

    Further new age language and terminology…

    Maranatha, Angela

  29. Tyrone Flanagan Says:

    Dear Holly, Are you aware of the ministry of Andrew Strom and his website, Revival School? He left the NAR and has written some great exposes about it in his book
    “True and False revival”. Great insider stuff. J. Lee Grady a former NAR “apostle” has also penned some really good articles on
    proper biblical discernment for Charisma magazine. He is still well
    regarded in prophetic and charismatic circles and both of these men could be good allies to contact and try to cultivate relationships with. NAR folks dismiss you as a Biola based religious commentator but they can’t do this with Andrew Strom and J.Lee Grady. I live in the central coast of California and I would be open to hosting conferences in this area to provide an alternative to NAR events like Patricia King meetings. There is plenty of dissent within charismatic circles about the current NAR obsession with communing with angels. Both of the men that I have mentioned will have nothing to do with this. I believe that you should try to develop alliances with folks within the charismatic community that are well respected to form a united front in speaking to the NAR. Sincerely, Tyrone Flanagan
    . Sincerely, Tyrone Flanagan

  30. Kim Droptiny Says:

    I too was baffled by the interview and also thought it was a bunch of nonsense! You pulled out the right quotes that were VERY revealing about her heart and beliefs. Thank you for what you are doing. May the Lord protect you. I wonder if you receive a lot of negative back-lash?

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