In the latter half of last year I had a running series on Hillsong (pastored by Brian Houston) in which I contended with them over their practice of deleting lines from Bible verses and presenting the gospel in a manner that clearly contradicted their faith statement regarding repentance. The two issues were interconnected because they deleted a line from 2 Chronicles 7:14 (turn from their wicked ways) that spoke of repentance. You can read a good summation of it here or click on the "Hillsong Saga" label under this post and scroll through all the previous posts. It does make for shocking/intriguing reading.
One of the standout features of the series and the correspondence that occurred between both Robert Fergusson (their chief theologian) and Joel A'Bell (executive pastor) was their constant refusal to even engage the issue of the altered Bible verse - they seemed to hope it would go away by ignoring it (which is a great way to demonstrate your theological credentials). Today, I am giving an update on this saga because one of my regular readers (Glen from New Zealand) took the initiative to write to them and ask the same questions - and much to my surprise he actually got an "explanation" from Paul Aylett who is the customer service manager for Hillsong Music Australia - and that is a big organization.
Here is the correspondence with Glen's words in bold and Paul Aylett's words in italics.
To whom it may concern,
It's been brought to my attention that the verse 2 Chronicles 7:14 has been incorrectly quoted on the insert of the Hillsong Live: Mighty to Save CD.
As quoted on the insert, the words (that seem to be most commonly translated to English as): "and turn from their wicked ways" have been removed from the verse. From what I can see, there is a slight gap between the first part of the verse and the second part where the missing words should be.
As a Christian, I take the Bible very seriously. And find the removal of these words grieving. I would like to quote Revelation 22:19 (NIV):
"And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."
I appreciate that mistakes can happen; but as Hillsong represents the church I would like, at the very least, to have this mistake acknowledged, and all future publishing of the insert to have the missing words added (true to the translation the verse was taken from).
Paul Aylett then wrote back:
Thank you for your email to Hillsong Music.
We at Hillsong also honour the Word of God. Please see this excerpt from our Statement of Belief,
"We believe that the Bible is God's Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our everyday lives."
The intent was to represent the Scripture within the parameters provided. A close examination of the verse will reveal that the words ‘I will hear’ has also been removed to allow for the verse to meet the allocation available on the jacket.
Please understand our heart in this matter.
Once again, thank you for contacting us, we appreciate your diligence and rigour with the Word of God.
Regards, Paul Aylett
Glen wasn't satisfied (of course) and had another try:
Thanks for the prompt reply.
I like the excerpt from the statement of belief you quoted. I agree.
Are you saying that the words were removed from the verse so it would fit on the CD jacket? Is the jacket allocation more important than quoting a Bible verse correctly? There is clearly enough room on the CD jacket for the whole verse.
I honestly don't understand Hillsong's heart in this matter. I don't understand why Hillsong would intentionally remove important words from a Bible verse.
Can you please explain?
Paul responded and If you read ever so carefully you might spot some hypocrisy - see if you can pick it up:
Thank you for your reply.
At Hillsong we place the highest importance on Scripture as previously stated, and in no way are we devaluing Scripture.
Once again, thank you for your feedback.
Regards, Paul Aylett
Three questions/comments immediately spring to mind as I read this dialogue:
1. It is true that "The intent was to represent the Scripture within the parameters provided", if by that they mean that they were using an incomplete Bible verse for an incomplete gospel.
2. How exactly does editing Bible verses to meet the requirements of your own "parameters" reflect that "in no way are we devaluing Scripture"? Putting Scripture at the feet of your own agenda is Scripture devaluation of the highest order.
3. Is this correspondence evidence that repentance is not only absent from their gospel presentation, but also absent from the Hillsong culture?
Please write to Hillsong and voice your protest at this disgraceful behavior - the most disgraceful of which is their refusal to even acknowledge that they have done something wrong . . .
Tom Hanks summed up the problems at Hillsong best when he said those famous words "Houston we have a problem!"