This week, Passion 2017 was held in Atlanta. The Passion Conferences are aimed at the 18-25 age bracket and have impacted many people over the years. The present day Passion Conferences are connected to the One Day event held in Memphis, Tennessee in 2000 where I was confronted with my sin in a sermon by John Piper. Over the years, the conference has stood against sex trafficking and sought to encourage young adults to find their ultimate passion and joy in Christ.
Although some really good things have come out of the Passion movement, there have been some questionable things emerge through the years as well. This year, another strange thing happened at Passion that’s causing people to ask important questions. No matter how passionate we are, if our passions are unbridled and not submissive to the Holy Spirit, it will lead to sin. Passion without knowledge is deadly.
On Monday evening, a special guest appeared on the stage at Passion 2017. Previously unannounced, Carrie Underwood, the extremely popular country music star emerged onto the platform and performed her song titled, “Something in the Water.” She was invited by the Passion staff to sing a song that’s full of false doctrine to thousands of young impressionable college students. What’s even more sad is the fact that the entire Georgia Dome erupted with applause. They loved it. Were they applauding the performance? Were they applauding the doctrine of baptismal regeneration (a false gospel)? What exactly were they applauding?
College Students Still Need Parents
If you have a college student, remember that it wasn’t so long ago that you were assisting your child in the basic functions of life such as putting on their shoes and brushing their teeth. Just because your son has graduated from high school, that doesn’t mean it’s wise to let him navigate life all on his own. He still needs you. He is still under your care. You still have a responsibility to disciple him in truth and lead him in the right direction theologically and biblically. He still needs you to lead him to a sound church and to help him formulate sound biblical doctrine.
If your son or daughter was at Passion 2017 this week, it would be good to have an honest conversation about the music and the preaching. Your college student needs to know that Carrie Underwood is not a good example to follow. Regarding practical living, you don’t want your daughter to imitate her dress attire. Regarding theology, Carrie Underwood has openly supported the agenda of homosexual marriage. When asked about her position, she said:
“I’m in favor of acceptance…And I am a Christian person, and I do love the Lord, and I feel no matter who you are, what you believe, how you live your life, it’s not my place to judge.”
To hold the applause is not to be a killjoy as a parent. It’s necessary at times. Not everything is worthy of applause. This decision by Passion is one that must be addressed by parents in order to help college students avoid disastrous mistakes in practical living and theological formation.
College Students Need Faithful Pastors
We must not fool ourselves into believing that the entire Georgia Dome was full of college students and their pastors had absolutely no idea that event was taking place. The college students, in many ways, were organized and assisted by pastors in order to get to the event. Not everything that happens at a conference would be advocated by every speaker at the conference or embraced in a worship service. I get that. I understand that conferences have their place, but they must not be left unchecked.
College students are forming their doctrine of God, their doctrine of salvation, and their doctrine of ecclesiology (the church) at a rapid pace while moving through their college years. It’s essential for faithful pastors to shepherd them with care. College students need to hear pastors teach and preach with a certain discerning eye to the culture and a faithful tongue that speaks truth. The truth is, Carrie Underwood sang heresy to thousands of college students and the students let everyone know that it was acceptable. College students need to know why it’s really not acceptable. The lyrics to Carrie Underwood’s song, “Something in the Water” point to an age-old heresy—baptismal regeneration. A repetitive line in the song states:
There must’ve been something in the water
Oh, there must’ve been something in the water
Many pastors may have supported their students in going to the Passion 2017 event, and all of this was a complete surprise. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see college students have a greater passion for God, but there is a need to make sure that passion is rooted and grounded in the pages of Scripture. College students need to be taught the book of Galatians and learn that any additive to the pure unadulterated gospel is a damnable heresy (Gal. 1:8-9). That’s exactly what Paul taught and it’s what we must teach and preach in our present day.
Passion for God is needed in our day, but passion without biblical truth will lead to disaster. That’s exactly what Paul once said about Israel as he wrote Romans 10:1-4. College students need diligent and faithful pastors to stand for truth and hold the applause at times, and this is one of those critical moments. When a country music star sings to the tune of baptismal regeneration at a Christian conference, it’s proof that the Reformation isn’t over.