What are your thoughts on using songs of ministries you disagree with?
I was recently asked this question by a dear Christian. I really appreciate this sibling in Christ and I appreciate their desire to honor our Lord. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.
First, this is an important question because music is very important and teaches (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18-19).
And those who teach are held to a higher standard and must give an account (James 3:1).
Second, there is a lot I disagree with regarding a lot of different ministries.
I disagree with Presbyterians when it comes to some topics but gladly sing their worship songs and count them as my dear brothers and sisters. We should not, however, sing songs that are not theologically true. I believe all songs that are sung in public worship should be evaluated to make sure they are theologically accurate and beneficial.
Third, I believe we should also note that God speaks through and uses all sorts of people and things.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul rejoices that the gospel was being preached even when it was being preached from envy and rivalry (Phil. 1:15-18). God used Balaam and even spoke through the mouth of a donkey (Num. 22:1ff). Paul quoted secular poets. Israel plundered the Egyptians (Ex. 11:2-3; 12:35-36). They took things that were not used for God’s purposes and used them for God’s purposes.
“All truth is God’s truth.” Augustine said, “let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master.”
John Calvin said something similar: “All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.” And he says this in his Institutes of the Christian Religion:
“Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears.”
This actually happens a lot in biblical scholarship. There is a lot that Christian scholars glean from nonChristians and those who are heterodox and even heretics (e.g. historical studies and grammar).
If there is a place to learn from and quote thoroughly secular writers and artists it seems there is a place to also learn from and quote Christian writers and authors even when we disagree on important matters. I will say, however, that this point should be caveated with the fact that Paul said not to associate with someone who bears the name of brother but acts like an unbeliever (1 Cor. 5:11). So, this is not a carte blanche principle.
Fourth, of course, it would be ideal that all sources be thoroughly orthodox.
It should also be said that sometimes a qualification is in order so that people know that just because a certain person is referenced it does not mean that their whole system of belief or ministry is supported. I believe this is a wisdom issue. Nowhere does Scripture spell out what exactly this should look like in practice.
Fifth, we benefit from a lot of resources we don’t fully agree with.
I disagree with C.S. Lewis on some important issues but I have gleaned abundantly from his ministry. Also, Reginald Heber, the author of the famous hymn “Holy, holy, holy” was an Anglican priest and bishop. I believe that Jesus is our great high priest (Heb. 4:14-16) and I believe in the priesthood of all believers but I don’t agree with the modern-day office of priest. But, I’m still thankful to sing “Holy, holy, holy.”
Sixth, conscience may not permit some people from using resources from some ministries and that is okay.
Regarding issues about questionable matters, I have found these 13 questions helpful.
Lastly, here are some questions to consider.
I have found these four questions very helpful from Todd Wagner:
1. Are you examining everything you consume (sermons, books, music, movies) through the lens of God’s Word?
2. Does the song stand on its own, proclaiming the truth of God’s Word without explanation?
3. Is it possible to separate the truth being sung from the error of its associations?
4. Would using the song cause us to actively support an errant ministry?
So, I personally do not typically have a problem singing songs of ministries that I disagree with if the song that is being sung is correct theologically and will bless and build up the body of Christ.
 For example, there is a lot I disagree with about Bethel. See e.g. “9 Things You Should Know About the Bethel Church Movement.”
 Acts 17:28, Epimenides of Crete (c. 600 BC) and the Stoic poet Aratus (c. 315–240 BC).
 On Christian Doctrine, II.18.
 See John Calvin’s commentary on Titus 1:12.
*Photo by Edward Cisneros