Why are There No Apophatic Contemporary Christian Songs? (Except This)

Jason Micheli —  October 10, 2013 — 1 Comment

Skeptical BelieverI know ‘apophatic’ is a mouth full.

Also called the ‘negative way,’ apophatic theology asserts that God (because God is transcendence itself) is essentially and absolutely unknowable. In addition, because we’re finite sinners we’re constantly prone to cast our projections, assumptions and images upon God, rendering God in our image rather than vice versa.

For this reason, apophatic theology is an attempt to strip away our anthropomorphizing of God by confessing what God is NOT rather than assuming what God is.

 

So rather than saying ‘God is mighty’ we profess that ‘God is not hate.’

Instead of calling God Father we first confess that ‘God is not male.’

Rather than praise ‘Our God is an awesome God’ we sing ‘God is not evil.’

While the apophatic tradition is prominent in all the theistic religions of the world, particularly Islam for what should be obvious reasons, Maximus the Confessor and the Pseudo Dionysius are its most noteworthy Christian practitioners.

I mentioned apophatic theology recently in a worship planning meeting, in anticipation of our Skeptical Believer sermon series. In fact, I commented/observed how apophatic theology flies in the face of most over-confident, anthropomorphized evangelicalism and thus is nearly 100% absent from the airwaves of contemporary Christian music.

Andreas Barrett, our resident bard, took my off the cuff remarks on a Mystical, Medieval tradition and wrote up a song that might’ve made Maximus the Confessor smile (doubtful actually, I mean…you can’t have a very good sense of humor if your name ends in Confessor).

295024_10151240304491769_259193053_nAnyway, here’s the song. The lyrics at least. The music’s an upbeat, fiddle-led country tune:

Heaven’s Knot  ♦  Words and music by Andreas Barrett

I don’t know what you are, but do I need to know? 

I may have once upon a time, but I forgot. 

Now your ways are unknown, but I’ll always be your own, 

All the while I’ll be untangling heaven’s knot

Heaven’s not a place to cry, 

Heaven’s not the stars and sky, 

Heaven’s not a place just past the pearly gates.

I don’t know what you are and though it may appear bizarre, 

I will follow where your mystery awaits.

I don’t know what you are and I may never know; 

Sometimes just a clue would hit the spot. 

But when the truth is unseen, I will still know what it means; 

All the while I’ll be untangling heaven’s knot.

Heaven’s not a place to hate, 

You can’t put that on heaven’s plate. 

Heaven’s no eternal isolation zone.

I don’t know what you’ll be, but it’s pretty clear to me: 

Heaven’s not a place for us to feel alone.

Heaven’s not a place to cry, 

Heaven’s not the stars and sky, 

Heaven’s not a place just past the pearly gates.

I don’t know what you are and though it may appear bizarre, 

I will follow where your mystery awaits. 

I will follow where your mystery awaits.

 

Jason Micheli

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One response to Why are There No Apophatic Contemporary Christian Songs? (Except This)

  1. Andreas is a genius.

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