Friday, May 25, 2007

Worst Worship Songs Ever

Things are getting a little heavy round here (theologically speaking). Its Friday today, so to lighten it up a little, lets talk about the worst worship songs. You know, the ones you hate, the ones you don't sing, the ones which either the music or the lyrics make you want to puke up all over the lady next to you in her Sunday best. The songs that enrage you so much, you almost think for a minute about changing teams and joining another religion. You get the picture :-)

Inspired by this post, I want to list my own top five worst worship songs ever. Please feel free to comment and add your own lists, just remember to give a reason why you nominated each song.

  1. His Banner Over Me, by Kevin Prosch. No offense Kevin, but I don't know what you were smoking when you penned this one. Its just awful. Musically, it makes me sick to the stomach. Not only that, but the theology is just terrible, and in fact, down-right wrong. Taking verses out of context left-right-center, the song demonstrates an utter failure to grasp the basic meaning of the message of the Song of Songs. What the KJV or NIV means by the "his banner over me was love", is quite plainly, "He desired to make love to me.". Basically, under the guise that we are singing about the Father's Love, we are really singing about How's your Father? Please. If that doesn't want to make you hurl, this trite line will: "You do all things well, just look at our lives.". Saint Paul, when looking at his life, said he was the chief of sinners. If there is one thing that does NOT give God glory, its the flippin' mess we make of our lives!

  2. I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, by Delirious/Martin Smith. I Know, Martin Smith is an amazing guy, and I don't want to offend him, but this song is plain pish. Its trite, its silly, and it has three main flaws:

    • "I could sing of Your love forever" -- maybe so, but I sure couldn't. I'd get bored after a while, and get a sore throat as well.
    • "Oh, I feel like dancing - it's foolishness I know" Really? Try telling someone in a nightclub how foolish it is, and then run out before he chucks his pint over you.
    • "they will dance with joy, like we're dancing now." One truly hopes that the world categorically DOES NOT dance the way most people dance during this verse. Every time I sing this, I look around and see people nervously fidgeting and perhaps tapping a foot or nodding their head, usually out of time to the beat. If anything, lets pray the world will dance with joy UNLIKE we're dancing now.

  3. Come, Now is the Time to Worship, by Brian Doerksen. OK, before reading further, let me just say that Doerksen is Da Man, and my wife and I even used some of his music at our wedding. But this song is just plain daft. Instead of getting to worship God, we just look around at each other, inspiring one another to come to worship. But since we are all assembled to worship, why the heck don't we just start praising God, rather than telling everyone to start worshipping! Its catch-22.

  • Heart of Worship, by Matt Redman. Now Redman has written some amazings songs, no doubt, but this one is a stinker. I'll cut to the chase:

    1. "For a song in itself Is not what You have required". Here we have the absurd situation that we are required to sing a song telling God that he doesn't want to hear us sing the very song we are singing. Genius! Only a Christian song could come up with this logic.
    2. "I'm sorry, Lord, for the things I've made it" Why in Flaming Hell am I apologising to God now? Rather than getting on with praising Him, the song makes you mumble a half-hearted apology about some supposed "thing" that we have made worship. I love worship. The only "thing" that gets in the way is the triteness of the lyrics we are forced to sing!
    3. "Though I'm weak and poor...". The irony of all those well-fed, Middle-Class White Christians singing such a line...

  • There's some song about the Father's Love that has to qualify as one of the worst songs of all time, Christian or otherwise, but thankfully I can't even remember its name.

    There's loads more, but that's all I can think of for now.

    What songs would you nominate? And why?
  • Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Fierce God At War: Part III - The Gospel

    A Herald
    Photo courtesy of Ted Szukalski's
    Digital Photo Gallery

    There has been much banter going on recently about what the gospel is, and what it means, and whether evangelism involves proclaiming the gospel. Before I spill the beans on the ultimate theory of atonement (UTA), I'd like to thrash out perhaps the most important question every Christian should ask themselves, namely "What is the Gospel?".

    First, lets do some lexical footwork. We'll start by looking at the Greek word used for the gospel, as found in your Bible. The word in the manuscripts when transcribed into Latin script is literally euaggelion but is often written (and pronounced) as euangelion. This breaks down into two words, thus:

    eu — good, benign
    angelion — message, from angelos, messenger.

    According to Vine: "[it] originally [i.e. before N.T. usage] denoted a reward for good tidings; later, the idea of reward dropped, and the word stood for the good news itself. "

    It seems that caught up within the idea of the good news is the intrinsic concept of it being proclaimed, announced, preached, told-forth, etc. This of course goes back to the image of a messenger arriving with exciting news. So we see the word gospel used along with the following Greek words:

  • kerusso, "to preach it as a herald," e.g., Matt 4:23; Gal 2:2 (see PREACH);
  • laleo, "to speak," 1 Thess 2:2;
  • diamarturomai, "to testify (thoroughly)," Acts 20:24;
  • euangelizo, "to preach," e.g., 1 Cor 5:1; 2 Cor 11:7; Gal 1:11
  • katangello, "to proclaim," 1 Cor 9:14;
  • douleuo eis, "to serve unto" ("in furtherance of"), Php 2:22;
  • sunathleo en, "to labor with in," Php 4:3;
  • hierourgeo, "to minister," Rom 15:16;
  • pleroo, "to preach fully," Rom 15:19;
  • sunkakopatheo, "to suffer hardship with," 2 Tim 1:8.

    I want to underscore what should be obvious from above: the good news or message that Christians have should be proclaimed, heralded, spoken-forth, announced and otherwise made known!

    Now some people have the taken above as a warrant to pitch up uninvited or unwanted and to subsequently start shouting out about God's judgement on the wicked, or the need to repent. The problem with that is a failure to properly contextualise the examples of the Apostles. The Apostle Paul reminds us: "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!". Since Paul was specifically called to take the gospel to the Gentiles, I am not sure we can all apply that verse to ourselves. But I do think it stands a general encouragement to consider how seriously Paul saw the gospel and its telling forth.

    Now the astute among you may be wondering what the heck this has to do with Fierce God at War. Without further ado, lets drill down into what exactly the message of Christianity actually is. Scholars such as Walter Brueggeman and N T Wright have argued that the essence of the gospel is God's Cosmic Victory and the idea that Jesus is King. My attempt to put that together is the following:

    The gospel is the narrative proclamation of Jesus as King over all, a triumphant King who has defeated all the powers of darkness, including Sin, Satan and Death itself. The arrival of this King has put the World under judgement, and salvation is found by "changing teams" and aligning and pledging allegiance (repentance) to this King Jesus, who is God in person as a human being.

    I had to stop there, but I was going to put in loads more stuff about the resurrection, the New Creation, and so on. I will look at all this soon through the lens of the unfolding drama/narrative of the gospel throughout the bible. In the meantime, I want to return to the original word, euangelion, and propose its meaning thus:

    • The phrase literally means, at a grammatical level, "good news"
    • The connotations extend the meaning to include the idea of a message being proclaimed, a victory being announced, a war being won, and even the proclamation of a new king being enthroned. In the that lase sense, it was a summons to allegiance, to pledge your life to the new King. Remember, so far we are just looking at the nuances of the word as used in its historical context, before it was even used by Christians.
    • Looking at the phrase and concept in the narrative of scripture, we come across in Isaiah the Herald in the mountains — a messenger is running across the mountains, with an important message for Israel: “Your God reigns!”, he shouts. He has come to announce the best news in the world: God himself — Yahweh — is personally returning to Zion, to Israel, in order to sort out Israel and sort out the world, by becoming King of Israel, dealing with Israel's enemies, judging Israel, judging the pagan nations, and somehow through and in this dealing with Evil, Death and Sin itself. After this we see the Glory/Paradise/Shalom of God come to cover the whole earth, peace comes to all creation, heaven on earth, everyone is full of joy, wolves and lambs making babies, etc, etc.
    • Looking at New Testament usage, we see the word in the most basic sense refers to the basic facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. In other words, we could say it refers to the Christ Event itself, and in particular, his Passion.
    • Beyond that, the word by extension refers to the proper interpretation of these facts: in other words, the gospel is the personal, social, national and cosmic consequences and implication of the Christ Event. This is where finally we see the notion of the Kingdom of God: the legacy of the Cross.

    Finally, I leave you with this story, an good example of how to do evangelism ("preach the gospel") in this post-modern world.
  • Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Fierce God At War: Part II - Christus Victor

    Jesus The Warrior

    With all these furor going on about penal substitution, and whether or not Steve Chalke is possessed by a demon (OK I exaggerate!), I thought it would be time to push the debate on to a very much neglected theory of atonement: Christus Victor. For some reason it seems that when this phrase is mentioned, some folks just shake their head and mutter something about ransom to Satan being absurd. And with that, the entire theory is dismissed.

    Enter Gustaf Aulén (1879-1978), a Swedish theologian and scholar, who authored a ground-breaking book on the atonement, entitled Christus Victor. Wikipedia picks up the story:

    Aulén argues that theologians have misunderstood the view of the early Church Fathers in seeing their view of the Atonement in terms of a Ransom Theory arguing that a proper understanding of their view should focus less on the payment of ransom to the devil, and more of the liberation of humanity from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil. As the term Christus Victor (Christ the Victor) indicates, the idea of "ransom" should not be seen in terms (as Anselm did) of a business transaction, but rescue or liberation of humanity from the slavery of sin.
    -- Wikipedia, "Christus Victor"

    Far from being a rehash of the idea of Jesus selling his life to Satan to buy humanity back (the Ransom theory), Christus Victor is the idea and drama that Jesus came to fight against and triumph over the evil powers of the world, the 'tyrants' under which mankind is in bondage and suffering, and in Him God reconciles the world to Himself.

    If I understand this correctly (I haven't actually read the book), we would see the following elements included within this "theory" of atonement:

    • freedom and deliverance from evil spirits, the occult, etc. (Col 1:13)
    • the disarmament, shaming, and triumph over the Powers (Col 2:14-15, Cf. 1 Cor 2:6)
    • overcoming the "world" (John 16:33)
    • liberation from the elemental spirits/false gods (Gal 4:3,8-9)
    • the defeat, binding and assured future destruction of Satan and his evil angels (Heb 2:14, 1 John 3:8)
    • the victory over Death & Hades (Heb 2:14)
    • redemption from the curse of law (Gal 3:13)
    • freed humankind from Sin & Death (Rom 8:2-3)
    • the unification of mankind; the breakdown of hostilities and ethnic division (anybody got a verse for this?)

    If the above isn't enough, some folks would even add reconciliation of the entire world to God into the bargain. Now, with such a great motif, is there any need for other theories of atonement? Well, actually there is, and I will blog on that very soon. But for those that whine on about "Penal Sub Only" (PSO*), let it be known that heavy-weight theologian N T Wright is a big fan of the Christus Victor theme. And those who listen often to Mark Driscoll will know that he often describes the atonement as Christ's victory over Satan, Sin and Death. Greg Boyd also holds to Christus Victor, and weaves it into his warefare worldview (which has been critiqued by Jeremy over at Parablemania). So dwell on this for a while, beforeI move on to talk about my grand theory of atonement... :-)

    * - I just made this up, from the KJO = King James Only phrase...

    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    Fierce God At War: Part I

    I've just finished reading Satan and the Problem of Evil, by Gregory Boyd, a scary sounding book with an even scarier front cover. Apparently eyebrows were raised when this book was delivered to the children's charity where my wife works! Far from being some dark nefarious tome, filled with incantations and insights into the demonic, this book is actually a thesis of how free will and God's ultimate control (omnipotence) balance out. I haven't got the space and time to delve into Boyd's full thesis, but rather I want to reflect on his dominate theme: God is at War. Contrary to the idea of the somewhat Greek philosophical concept of the omnipotent God in complete and utter control of creation, Boyd asserts that the scriptures themselves do not paint such a picture. Rather, the primary motif we find in the bible is one of divine, heavenly and spiritual conflict. Something has gone seriously wrong with the fabric of creation: the whole world, seen and unseen, is rebelling against its creator. Greg calls this viewpoint the trinitarian warfare worldview.

    I may at some point delve into the philosophical implications of this viewpoint, but at the moment I want to stay on the theme of warfare: the idea that God, the Father-Son-Spirit, are in some sense in a battle against evil, against Satan and his "hosts of spiritual wickedness". I also want to explore a parallel idea: the notion that Christians, being "in Christ", join in with this spiritual battle.

    I find this idea in the writings of another favourite author of mine, John Eldredge. In a fantastic book called Waking the Dead, Eldredge warns his readers concerning the danger of dismissing the warfare worldview, by which he means, the notion that as Christians we are fighting a spiritual battle against Satan and his allies. Jesus himself told us that "the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy", yet according to both Boyd and Eldredge we often just roll over and accept much of our life as "God's will".

    The warfare paradigm of scripture is not very popular these days. Our bible translators do their very best to hide it from us. We read words like "Lord Almighty", and think of some lofty god, when the actual Hebrew means something like "the God of angel armies", or "the God of the armies who fight for his people" (Waking the Dead, p160). Over at The Resurgence, Anthony Bradley tells us the story of Jesus In A Pink Dress, a mural he saw in a church building which has subsequently shut down due to the death of the congregation. My point? That perhaps the feminisation and pacification of Christianity, Christ and Creation is doing more harm than good. I know this is going to be controversial and offensive to some, and I welcome pushbacks. But I believe I am onto something here.

    Eldredge writes further on:

    The attitude of so many Christians today is anything but fierce. We're passive, acquiescent. We're acting as if the battle is over, as if the wolf and the lamb are now fast friends. Good grief -- we're beating our swords into plowshares as the armies of the Evil One descend upon us. We've bought the lie of the Religious Spirit, which says, "You don't need to fight the Enemy. Let Jesus do that." ... Seriously, just this morning a man said to me, "We don't need to fight the Enemy. Jesus has won." Yes, Jesus has the won the victory over Satan and has Kingdom. However, the battle is not over."
    -- Waking the Dead, p168.

    I've got loads more to say on this topic, but I'll leave you with the words from one of my favourite films:

    Théoden: "I know what it is that you want of me. But I would not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war."

    Aragorn: "Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not."

    Is the contemporary church and the contemporary Christian more akin to Théoden or Aragorn? Why has Jesus been seen in a pink dress? And are the rumours of Jesus driving around the Middle-East in a Volkswagen Cabriolet offering aromatherapy really true?! Watch this space... (and feel free to comment!)

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    More Controversy

    This blog would probably not even exist if it wasn't for Bishop N T Wright and Pastor Mark Driscoll. Both these men, in their own very different ways, have encouraged me to dig deeply into the scriptures in a fresh and new way. Ironically, although they would probably disagree with each other on many topics, taken separately in moderate doses, both men provide a wealth of great teaching and preaching.

    In what appears as another wave of controversy to sweep the Western Evangelical church, both Wright and Driscoll are again making headlines.

    Wright: Theological Rock StarWright: According to Adrian, the Presbyterian Church in America have recently concluded that Wright is Wrong, primarily because what he is suggesting is contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith. To those that have read Wright, this comes as no real surprise. Wright is arguing for the reformed church to be always reforming, and if you reform something, its clearly not going to fit into what came before.

    Driscoll is another chap that would repeat the mantra of Semper Reformanda, although perhaps he would see this reformission more in terms of methodology than theology. However, Mark has been causing waves again, this time by releasing a controversial and subsequently "banned" church planting video to be shown at the National New Church Conference (Florida, USA). According to Mark: "Apparently the video was shown at the event, was well received by the attendees, and then criticized by Bill Hybels from the stage.". Check out Mark's take on it, and be sure to watch the video! For an alternative view on the issue, check out Ben Arment's blog.

    update (02/05/07): For a final wrap-up of the Driscoll video carry-on, see TallSkinnyKiwi, who was at the conference and sets the record straight for us.

    Further update (14/05/07): Seems like the video was "banned" after all. See Bob Blog for details. Having now seen the video myself, I can't really see what all the fuss is about. I get the impression that if Jeremiah or one of the OT prophets were around today, we would all be blogging how offensive he was!