In writing his music, he takes an approach to infusing Scripture that I find rather fascinating, described here as follows:
This song is Bible-based, but you didn’t use the text word-for-word. Please explain some good practices in capturing Scripture in song.
Redman: My ideal for songwriting is to infuse passion with truth. I love worship songs that are so rich with the word of God, but very obviously exploded out of the heart of the songwriters in a passionate way. You can, of course, take a big chunk of Scripture and keep it word for word, composing a melody for it. I’ve never been very good at that approach and honestly I think it’s a very tricky thing to do, within the style that I tend to write in. The main benefit of that approach is that people can commit the Bible to memory through song, and there’s much to be said that’s very commendable about that (my personal aim has never really been the memorizing of Scripture, as brilliant as that is). But my main aim in songwriting is to see something of Jesus, and then reflect it. So I’ve always taken a different approach.
The best way I can describe it is actually found in Eugene Peterson’s book, Under the Unpredictable Plant. He writes that when Jonah is in the belly of the fish he pours out a prayer of great passion but notes that not one phrase in the prayer is original—it all comes from the Psalms. In fact, it comes not just from one psalm, but many different psalms. So he’s not just reciting a piece of Scripture in that moment. He’s pouring out his heart, and many different phrases from the Psalms are being woven together into his prayer. The point is, Jonah is in an intense situation, and what pours out of him is utterly heartfelt, and yet also utterly full of the Word of God. My ideal is that the same could be true in the writing of worship songs—that we could be so full of the truth of Scripture that in our most intense moments in life, be it joy or sorrow, what pours passionately out of our hearts is infused with the Word of God. It may not be a whole portion of Scripture—perhaps the song contains an essence of something Paul said in one of his letters, with a phrase or two from the Psalms, with an overtone of what Jesus said at one point in the Gospels, and something from the Old Testament in there too. That’s definitely a key to make sure our songs are raw and real—and yet full of life-changing and God-honoring truth.
While obviously not dogma, I'm finding that approach to feel really both authentic and scriptural. What I am curious about is the tradition that encouraged such an approach. Does Matt Redman talk about his faith journey somewhere that expresses where this comes from?