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

  1. Grace Funk Says:

    I would like to point out something that i noticed from the comments about Cory’s song Reckless Love. I totally understand where you are all coming from in this point about Gods love being ‘reckless’ because his love isn’t reckless. However that being said I don’t think that he was meaning that God’s love IS reckless but that it can SEEM reckless. Because in all honesty God’s can and sometimes does seem reckless. Who leaves 99 healthy sheep and goes after just 1? If you asked a shepherd they would probably say that that would be ‘reckless’. Because it is. God isn’t reckless. What he does can seem reckless. If you listen to his interviews and really look at the HEART of the song then maybe you could understand that. I believe that that is what Cory Asbury was trying to get at

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