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Orthodoxy

Which Way is the Ground?

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I was sitting in an Arby’s, trying to eat a fish sandwich, with my ears completely unprotected from the all-out assault of country music blasting throughout the place, when I heard a most unfortunate song.  Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good” was released as a part of his What Makes You Country album at the end of 2017.  And - no doubt obvious from the title - the track conveys the artist’s belief that most people are good.  The chorus goes like this:

I believe most people are good

And most Mama's oughta qualify for sainthood

I believe most Friday nights look better under neon or stadium lights

I believe you love who you love

Ain't nothing you should ever be ashamed of

I believe this world ain't half as bad as it looks

I believe most people are good

Now, if we were wanting to criticize popular song lyrics, there would be an almost endless torrent of material to tear apart, but this song seemed especially egregious to me because of Luke Bryan’s reputation as a Christian (he has a song, “Pray About Everything”, and he grew up playing music with his church youth group), and because of another line in the song in question that claims:

I believe them streets of gold are worth the work

But I’d still wanna go even if they were paved in dirt

By referring to “streets of gold”, Bryan is pointing to a belief in what has been written in the book of Revelation. 

The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. (Revelation 21:16-18)

Bryan claims in his lyrics to believe in these streets of gold.  Now, he says that they are “worth the work”, which in itself is very troubling given what the Scripture teaches about salvation by grace and not by works, but that’s not the direction I really want this critique to take.  Supposedly, he believes in the reality of this heavenly Jerusalem depicted in the book of Revelation because it is written about in the Bible.  “Streets of gold” aren’t a part of the naturalistic evolutionary worldview and dogma, so he didn’t get that from the godless culture.  He got it from Scripture and Christian teaching.

But this is where so much of the song comes across as gross and contradictory.  If Bryan likes the idea of streets of gold from the last chapters of his Bible, then why does he write a whole song dedicated to a concept that the Scriptures completely contradict: namely, that most people are good?

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.  Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.  The venom of asps is under their lips.  Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)

The above passage probably wouldn’t make a very good country song!  And yet this is what the Bible teaches about the supposed goodness of man.  And lest you think that maybe Paul goes a little over the top quoting all of these Old Testament references in Romans 3, remember how Jesus responded to the rich young ruler who simply addressed Him as “Good Teacher”:

“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18)

If Jesus reacted that way to someone flippantly calling Him ‘good’ (and He actually is good, because He is God - which was the whole point), then how do you think He would react to Luke Bryan’s song?

There’s another line of the chorus of the song that would be greatly offended by a direct confrontation with Scripture, and that’s the one that proclaims, “I believe you love who you love; Ain't nothing you should ever be ashamed of.”  Clearly, this is a reference to the current sinful revolution in our culture which tries to say that unnatural relations between two people of the same sex are to be accepted as normal.  The Bible makes a very different claim:

"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them." (Leviticus 20:13)

"For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error." (Romans 1:26-27)

The Bible's message is always very consistent.  Not one person has been 'good' since the fall of Adam (except Jesus, of course), and homosexuality has always been "shameless", "dishonorable", and "an abomination".  If the Bible isn't your source of truth when it comes to these questions, then there's no reason for it to be the source of truth regarding something like the streets of gold.

Luke Bryan - like so many who bear the name of 'Christian' in vain - is picking and choosing what he likes from God's Word, while ignoring the rest and replacing it with the values of the godless culture around us.  Rather than imitate such a person, look instead to a man like Ezra, who made God's Word his intense focus:

"For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." (Ezra 7:10)

This is the model for a faithful Christian.  We should set our hearts to study the Word of God as the ground and foundation of all truth.  And, once studied, we should "do it" - that is, seek to obey it in every aspect of our lives.  And finally, we should teach it.  Rather than write songs that confuse and contradict what God has said, we need to be intentional to faithfully teach others what has been graciously revealed to us.  The country music is optional.