Friday, 18 September 2015

Theology in worship example

In the previous post I prepared the way for an example of how times of worship are filled with theological statements, through which surrendered minds and hearts are effectively taught (and teach) theology about the Christian God in ways that are sometimes neither clear nor consistent with what the Scriptures say. I have chosen this song - not because it was theologically the worst recent worship song I could find, but because it was the FIRST song I looked at for this purpose from Christian worship website,, who state that they selected these songs based on "Our criteria are biblical faithfulness, singability, and congregational use." The title of the song is “My God Is Stronger”, from the album The Fading Veil, by TCCCollective and is written by Josh Bayne and Paul Reeves.

So without any more build-up, here are the lyrics (which come with a punchy tune), along with the video if you want to hear it:

When I'm drowning my hope still stands,
For my God walked upon the water.
When I'm calling You hear my cry,    and run to help me like a father
Storms rise quickly, but You are with me.

So bring on the wind, bring on the waves, my God is stronger.
Bring on the flood, open the gates, my God is stronger.
Trouble will come, I won't be afraid.
My God is stronger.  My God is stronger.

When I'm empty, You'll fill my cup.
For You made wine out of the water.
Never failing, unending love, You came and saved Your sons and daughters.

Storms rise quickly, but You are with me.
So bring on the wind, bring on the waves, my God is stronger.
Bring on the flood, open the gates, my God is stronger.
Trouble will come, I won't be afraid.

My God is stronger.  My God is stronger.

And it's over, 'cause He's overcome!
Now it's over, cause He's overcome.
and    greater is He that's in me.
Greater is He that's in me
Greater is He that's in me.
And I won't be afraid.

Greater is He that's in me!

Bart Ehrman, renowned biblical scholar-sceptic, often states how useless it is to state that an extant manuscript is 97% faithful to its textual ancestor, "the original", in the verses it provides. He asks: What exactly are we measuring here? Letters? Words? What if the missing or added word in a manuscript was the word "not"? What if we switched two nouns around? These percentages would still seem pretty impressive, but the fundamental meaning would be crucially altered. This song is a great example of such a problem. You could say, John, surely you can agree with 97% of this? In this case, Ehrman's thinking is spot on. That is a meaningless thing to ask me, because they assume that you can piecemeal theology.

There are two key lines in this song that do not seem to meet's criteria of biblical faithfulness.

Firstly: "my God walked upon the water"

Starting from the source, that is the gospel stories of Jesus walking on water. Obviously something floating on water that shouldn't implies an action of God in this story (see 2 Kings 6:1-6!). Furthermore, the disciples were indeed amazed at Jesus, the authority and power he received from God his (and their) Father was not just incredible but fearsome.

But the Biblical language seems to clearly imply that Christ's authority was received from Him who is properly called "God".

John 17:2For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

Eph 1:22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church

Matt 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David

John 5:27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 

To say more than that, that Jesus simply is God walking on the water is to refer firstly to fourth and fifth century creeds, and only secondly to what the Scriptures actually say. It runs the risk of making the One Jesus calls "my God", "my Father" and "your Father", obscure or optional, since they are basically identical.

The next quote exacerbates this problem significantly:
You came and saved Your sons and daughters.

Jesus is not our Father.
This blog is not usually a place for capitalisation, but apparently it really needs underlining in the evangelical worship song-writing world:

J E S U S   I S   N O T   O U R   F A T H E R

Jesus is our co-heir and brother. If you believe the Bible more than evangelical songs, then you are on my side on this one:

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Mark 3:35 Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother (! In counter-reference to Mary)

Evangelical worship tends to be profoundly untrinitarian, and to its own detriment. It could legitimately be confused with a form of unitarianism that is surely far worse than the Biblical unitarianism strand. Typically, it is not at all clear who is being referred to when the word "God" or "Lord" is being used, and (amazingly) as this song has shown, even "Father". I apologise for using a strong word, but the situation is a total mess.

This short analysis really confirms for me why I can no longer hope to engage with this milieu from within, except perhaps to speak out via platforms like this. From time to time, I ask myself: am I just taking this all too far? The fact that this was the first song I examined from an evangelical site that was confident of biblical faithfulness of its "top 20", really reassures me that I am in line with the direction I sense God has sent me.

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