Sunday, 28 October 2007

Songs and theology

I’ve been reading Ron Sider’s excellent “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience” (more of that in another entry). Almost as a passing comment, he highlights the difficulty that he has with a worship song, which he enjoys singing but has problems with some of the lyrics. I guess that most of us will have our pet hates.

And, yes, I am going to share mine with you!

Today in church we sang (well actually I didn’t) “I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation” by Mark Altrogge. The first verse is OK, as a statement of personal commitment; but for me it’s all downhill from there on. The last two verses start like this:

I want to see the kingdom of God
In my generation …

I want to see the Lord come again
In my generation …

The first problem for me is the view of the kingdom as something not yet present (more of that in another entry as well). But then, who do we think we are, to sing to God that we want the Lord to come again - if you don’t mind very much – in my generation! I’m dumfoonert!

What made it worse today is that our minister is preaching a series on “Disillusioning the Illusions” (sermon titles and series titles can wait for another rant!). Anyway, last week he was talking about the problem in our culture of “I want it my way and I want it now”. So how can we sing a worship song the following week, that starts every verse with I want, I want, I want…?

Or should we just switch off our brain when we stand up (or sit) to sing?


That Hideous Man said...

Didn't manage church today - was at home with sick kids.... however there are numerous songs whch make me wince. In fact on my blog I once held a small competition to find the worst Christian song lyrics, the depressing results of which can be found here:

On the particular song that you cite, I agree with you about the kingdom of God, being present (although in tension with its fullness which is yet to come, as per the Lord's prayer). The song lacks theological precision - but seeks to express something OK; I think the author should maybe have a few penalty points on his poetic license, fo failing to include the word "fulness" (etc) b/c he couldn't get it to scan presumably!

The second one is kind of an awkward lyric - want it all you want, it ain't gonna change what God has planned! However, Rom8 does suggest an appropriate longing for the final consummmation of all things. "Come quickly Lord" the early church cried - and this is a good cry, if linked with an optimistic view of Christ's return and what He will do with this poor world when he comes. If our "I wants" have been changed from desiring possessions and reputation to a longing to see the Lord - well then fair enough.

However given the clumsy way in which noble sentiments have been handled here, perhaps that's another three points on his poetic license and he's rapidly approaching a ban!

His Girl Friday said...

That was an interesting observation...I'm afraid I've thrown in the towel on Christian music ages ago finding it either too mushy/feel good, or just lacking 'in flavour' so to speak. The church we went to has a band, but I honestly felt like it was all about entertainment...and 'I want....'
I still like old Jars of Clay, and some of our local talent, Kate Miner. Some of the old hyms, are of course, beautiful and inspiring.

KJ said...

well said my friend. The kingdom of God that you mentioned is sort of what I recently wrote about. It;s the part of my faith right now that I'm really focusing on. God is present NOW. Not just when we pray or sing the right words, or do the right thing or when we get to Heaven. "Holy, holy holy. the whole earth is full of the glory of God," the angels said. The word glory here, I'm told, is the Hebrew word, kavod. It means weight. "The whole earth is full of the weight of God." "where can I go to flee from your spirit?" I'm believing that those verses don't just reflect beautiful poetry, but rather is the truth of our existence whether we acknowledge it or not. I'm trying to acknowledge that presence in all things.

His Girl Friday said...

HM, I liked your 'worst lyrics' post...a fun (however, sad-observation) idea!

kj, nicely said, and shared