Worship Theology (Part 1)

     I believe my generation and the subsequent one are obliged to get their doctrine from the songs we sing instead of from the living Word of God. Passing by one of our committed, older youth in church a few weeks ago, I quoted 1 Peter 2:9. She looked excited and said something like, “Oh, I know that song!” Of course, she was referring to “Marvelous Light” by Charlie Hall. I said, no… that comes from the Bible – and her response shocked me… “Really?”

     As a Worship Pastor, I get to hear a lot of great music. There are worship songs that exemplify and even teach biblical doctrine to their audience. Some of the great hymns of the faith like, “There Is A Fountain,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and others are just packed with deep theological truth. Modern hymns such as, “In Christ Alone,” “Before the Throne of God Above,” and “What Grace Is Mine,” are also drenched in doctrinal substance. And then there are some contemporary Christian songs that are equal in that devotion to doctrinal truth – “Come, Ye Sinners,” “By His Wounds,” “Everlasting God,” “Worthy Is the Lamb,” just to name a few. But there are other songs that don’t quite measure up.

     Point of Grace has cranked out some pretty good music over the past few years, but look at the lyrics to the chorus of one of their more recent chart-toppers, “How You Live:”

Turn up the music Turn it up Loud

Take a few chances Let it all out

Because you won’t regret it
Looking back from where you have been
Because it’s not who you knew and it’s not what you did
It’s how you Live

But the Bible teaches that it’s all about “Who” you know, and that will in turn affect “how you live.” Call me picky, but this is pretty significant. Can we really justify teaching Christians that how you live is more important than Who you know? Christian soteriology cannot approve of this.

How about that good old standard, “Because He Lives?” Now, this is one of my favorite hymns to sing (well, the first verse anyway), but it has a significant problem in the last stanza. Check it out:

And then one day I’ll cross the river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victory,

I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.

Hebrews 11:1 explains the essence of faith as being the reality/assurance of things hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. Well, since faith itself IS proof of what is not seen, then if we have to wait until we “see the lights of glory” to KNOW He lives, we don’t have faith! The ironic paradox here is that without this faith, one cannot be saved (Eph. 2:8), and thus, will never see the “lights of glory.” My point is that we don’t need to wait until heaven to have the assurance that Jesus lives. It is the joy of the Christian to know that for sure right now.

       I don’t want to get too carried away, here… There are plenty of new songs AND old hymns that just don’t exemplify biblical truth / biblical theology.


       Here’s the real purpose of this blog: We have become more interested in the immanence of God than in His transcendence. There, I said it. Our postmodern culture places high emphasis on inner feelings and the promotion of self-love. And our churches are conforming to the image of the culture instead of the image of Christ. David Wells wrote, “today’s churches are simply in a transitional period, and if they fail to repudiate their experimentation and repent of its outworkings, the day will shortly be upon us when evangelical spirituality will become indistinguishable from New Age Spirituality,” (from his book, God in the Wasteland).

       Is God’s immanence important? Absolutely. But God is not only immanent. He is holy. He is awe-inspiring. He is omnipotent. He is eternal. He is transcendent.

       But many of the songs we sing could easily be confused with a New Age or transcendentalistic concept of God because of their feel-good, anthropocentric tone. The common cliche is “SANDALS and CANDLES!” I laugh at it, but it really burns me at the core. There’s not enough room on this blog to deal with this subject fully, but it’s a good start anyway…

Grace and Peace,

P.S. – can you think of any worship songs / hymns that do NOT exemplify correct biblical theology?

  One thought on “Worship Theology (Part 1)

  1. May 13, 2010 at 9:56 PM

    First of all, thanks for the humbling experience. I thought I was smarter than you or at least as smart as you, and then I had to go and look up the word "soteriology." Hahaha! Just kidding. Well, really I did have to look that word up, but I don't think I'm smarter than you. I've heard a handful of people sing that POG song for special music, and the crowd has all but offered a standing ovation. I'll have to get back on the "P.S." part, but a few years ago this man was leading worship on Mother's Day, and he had planned for us to sing the song "Thank You" or whatever it's called. (For all that you've done I will thank you; for all that you're going to do; for all the you've promised, and all that you are is all that has carried me through; Jesus, I thank you…" He changed the lyrics so that every time there was a reference to "Jesus" we would say "Mommy!" Can you believe that? So imagine us singing, "Thank you for loving and SETTING ME FREE; Thank you for giving YOUR LIFE JUST FOR ME; How I thank you! MOMMY, I thank you!…." and on and on it went! I love my mom so much, and she's made a lot of sacrifices for me, but I'm pretty sure that I still needed Jesus for salvation!

  2. May 13, 2010 at 10:26 PM

    That's repulsive, Courtney – the song, that is… not that I'm smarter than you :)Isn't that amazing. How about those patriotic songs we all love so much… "America the Beautiful," "My Country 'Tis of Thee…" Nothing like singing praises to the nation during a church service, eh?

  3. May 13, 2010 at 11:10 PM

    Speaking of "patriotic" songs…This guy I went to college with most definitely fits into the "sandals and candles" bunch and leads a very well-known Christian group who led worship at a bunch of Student Life Camps over the past few years. He had a COW because his church's preschool choir taught his son, "The Lord's Army." He was upset because he had to explain to his son the following terms: army, artillery, infantry, cavalry, and enemy. He believed that the song promotes violence. That is unbelievable.

  4. May 15, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    Wow, well I guess he's not a fan of Ephesians 6:10-17, huh? What does he do with that passage?And how old is his son? 5? 6? Has he never heard the stories of how Joshua led the "Lord's Armies" and conquered so many lands / people groups? Is he not a fan of the children's song, "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" either? Or how about Pharaoh's armies being wiped out in the Red Sea after the Israelites passed through? What is he teaching his children?!Oh wait, I know… "God is love." Isn't that just all feel-goody…

  5. May 15, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    Well, there are several songs that we sing that bother me. Twila Paris' lyrics "You were Lord of creation before there was time". The term "before" indicates the existence of time, therefore there is no "before" there was time – it should be outside of time. How about "Enough"? "All of You is more than enough for all of me" – more correctly stated, as my friend likes to put it, "All of You is more than enough to completely obliterate all of me.""What a Lovely Name" states that Jesus lovely name is "reaching higher far, than the brightest star". Now, this song is not directionally or astronomically correct. "Higher" indicates a perspective from earth since we think of the stars being high, it should be "reaching farther than the brightest star" – not indicating from earth's perspective (at least higher than the dimmest star from earth's perspective would be better – although the dimmest isn't necessarily the farthest star). Higher than the brightest star, though, has no meaning.Okay, those weren't Biblically inaccurate; they were picky.How about "Brethren, We Have Met to Worship", one of my favorite hymns? The last verse says that in heaven "Christ will gird Himself and serve us…" – That is not the marriage feast of the Lamb that I read about in the good ole "B-I-B-L-E".JoeW

  6. May 15, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    Haha – yeah, Joe… as I read those first few, I thought, "Yep, this is very Joe Wolfe-ish. Too smart for me." lol. But I have my own nit-picky preferences about some songs too… That Needtobreathe song, "Signature of Divine" is a Christian rock song that makes extensive use of God's name for Himself – "Yahweh." But the Jewish people were so reverent of that name that even the scribes chose to substitute it with "Jehovah," or the "LORD," as most of our translations read. And here we are flippantly tossing it around in a rock song. And that last verse of "Brethren We Have Met to Worship" has bugged me for years, bro. What an image – I thought we were going to worship Him for eternity, not sit around at a table while Jesus puts on an apron and cooks and cleans for us. Wow.

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