So let’s talk about the ‘Supreme Leader’ Test. This is a test designed to see if a song is actually a Christian song. The test goes like this:
If the song in question was decontextualised from its provenance, could it be sung without adaption as a hymn of praise to the leader of North Korea?
Let’s talk a bit about the decontextualisation part and why that’s important. I understand the author-is-dead position and people who want to read as if authorial intention is irrelevant. But if a text is part of a communicative act, and you want to provide a different interpretation to that act, you are providing a different implied author in your reading. So the act of reading a text in a radically feminist manner, for example, often involves construction an implied author and setting that is, in some cases, radically feminist, in other cases, extremely patriarchal. In both cases, we may know that attributing such things to the author and setting is not fair, but death-of-author readings say this doesn’t matter. For this test we are doing a little bit of ignoring the possibility of authorial intent. We’re setting it aside a bit.
So this test involves some partial blinding of ourselves to the author and the provenance of the song. What if the lyrics just turned up on the internet with no author attributed? What if we thought they were translated out of Korean into English? Could this song be readily understood as song to a dictator, or another deity, etc..
There is a companion test along similar lines that we will probably meet, the ‘My Jesus, My Boyfriend’ test.
There is nothing in this song that suggests the identity of the King in question.
There is nothing in this song that identifies any member of the Trinity.
There is nothing in this song that distinctly alludes to or employs Biblical language (The allusion criteria would at least give us a clue if we stripped the provenance of the song that it was still a song emerging out of a Christian-influenced or derived culture)
Members of other monotheistic faiths, and some polytheistic ones, could happily sing this song.
Members of devoted political parties could happily sing this song.
Members of the factions of deluded dictators of small nations could happily sing this song.
I don’t think Christian songs need to necessarily have deep exegesis, connect us to biblical texts in a redemptive historical paradigm, explicitly mention Jesus by name, in order to be good. But this one just does nothing, nothing to suggest I’m singing praise to the Triune God of the Bible. Generic praise is faint damning praise.
Write better songs Chris Tomlin.