Thursday, June 18, 2015

Spiritual Songs (Part 6 of 8)

In an attempt to encourage this discernment, I offer the following analysis.  I offer two praise songs for examination.  I will then turn my critical eye toward my own favorite in the interest of fairness.  Finally, I will examine examples of excellent hymnody.  In this examination, we will analyze the lyrics alone, leaving style and musical questions for another day.

“Your Love Is Strong” by Jon Foreman

In the interest of full disclosure, I love Switchfoot and Foreman’s songs.  Remember, we are not calling these songs bad.  They are good, just not best for corporate worship.

An easy glance at the lyrics will show you that the inspiration for this song comes from the Lord’s Prayer. (Matt.6:9-13)  So far so good.  The first problem comes in the emphasis that the artist places on this prayer.  In his exegesis, the prayer demonstrates the strong love of the Lord.  This interpretation does not appear in the context of the prayer.  The immediate context of the prayer involves the simplicity of our prayer life and indeed all our spirituality.

Second, this song demonstrates the imbalance that plagues modern worship music.  It emphasizes God’s love to the detriment of His other attributes such as holiness or wrath.  Could you imagine a modern writer crafting a song that repeated the refrain “your wrath is strong.”  It probably would not hit the top of the Christian music charts.  Yet this statement is as true as the former.  Indeed, the power of God’s wrath demonstrates the power of His love.

Finally, we must note some troubling theology.  “Let Your kingdom come in my world and in my life,” presumes that we possess a world and life, which we don’t.  Do birds really not play a note out of tune?  This ignores the effect of sin on the created order.  Birds are as subject to sin as we are.(Isa. 65:25)

“It is Well” Bethel Music

Again, the inspiration for this song clearly comes from Horatio G. Spafford’s great hymn, “It is well with my soul.”  Instead of an extended discussion of confidence in God, this song takes a shortcut to that confidence with a brief allusion to the days of the disciples.  We see allusions to Peter’s walking on the water and Jesus discussion of faith.

The major problem with these lyrics besides their blatantly repetitive character is the emotive notes throughout the lyrics.  This song takes a greater one and chops it up.  The apparent motivation is the artist taking a shortcut to the spiritual experience.  Truth takes a backseat to the creation of an experience through music.

“Love Song for a Savior” by Jars of Clay

Well, what can I say.  Repetitive - check.  Vapid - check.  Theologically obscure - check. Confusing lyrics - check.  Do I still love it - check check.  Just because I may like it doesn’t mean it’s excellent or best.  We should not include it in our liturgy for corporate worship, but every time I hear it, it transports me back to sunny Saturdays driving down Scenic Highway in Pensacola, Florida.

None of the forgoing measure up to the quality we ought require in hymnody for corporate worship.  None are best.  None reflect the completion of truth we ought experience in our spirituality.  For that, we need the words of the past.

(Continued next week)

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