Friday, October 20, 2006

Worst Christian Song Lyrics?

It's a generally attested fact that the rise of modern worship songs in churches has meant that Christians have ended up singing some really ropey lyrics. From sentimental schmaltz to heinous heresy - we've got 'em all! However, there are a few which I have sung recently which seem to be in a class of their own. In listing these turkey's I also offer you, gentle reader, the opportunity to post your nightmare lyric to see if we can find the very worst Christian lyric of all.

For starters there is the perennial favourite, "Jesus, we celebrate your victory". The offending lyric is "and in his presence our problems dissappear". This lyric is appalling because it means, if you got problems, guess what? you're not in the presence of God! If you have enjoyed something of God's presence, His guidance, His touch, His love - then it's all just a delusion, a self-induced pseudo-spiritual facade; if your problems remain. This is unbiblical hogwash of the first order; justifiably usually parodied as "and in his presence, our theology dissappears".

Next up we have the otherwise well-written "Shine Jesus Shine" a good song marred by its rather poor central lyric/title which seem to imply that the glory of God is mostly about how shiny He is. Now there is no doubt that God in His glory is absolutely dazzling to human eyes. However the glory of God is much more about his sheer significance than his mere luminosity. The 'mountains melt before Him' because of His absolute importance, or 'weight' and overwhelming presence - rather than his shiny-ness. It's not a disaster, but it misses the point and to outsiders sounds trite.

Finally we have a recent favourite lyrical disaster zone from Australia, where the song, "the power of your love" tells us that "the weaknesses I see in me, will be stripped away, by the power of your love". In 2Corinthians, the great apostle Paul, (weak, poor, harrased, blind, with thorn-in-flesh) wrote that our weaknesses are God-given. There is no indication in scripture that our inherent weaknesses will be stripped away at all - rather that they will be used to glorify God. The Bible often says that God gives His people strength, but that is completely different because the strength of God comes through reliance on Him and enables us to accomplish more that would be possible in and of ourselves; however we remain reliant because our weaknesses remain. Wasn't Jesus 'weak'? Didn't he sleep, cry, desire food, struggle to do God's will!? If we are in the business of being transformed into the image of Jesus, then we may achieve great things, but not necessary diminution of our weaknesses. Perhaps Adam in the garden wanted to eat the apple because he was fed-up being weak, being finite, being dependent and wanted to be like God in a wrong way. I hear this attitude reflected in the song that suggests that God is making us less weak. If only the author had written that God was at war with our "sins" rather than our "weaknesses" then I'd sing the line gratefully, joyfully and with expectation, because there is no doubt that God is at war with these! -

"Our weaknesses stripped away?" Give me strength!


Anonymous said...

"He shall reign and we shall reign with him", which I never felt comfortable singing.

Also feeble in the extreme are various lines from "Once in Royal David's City" such as:
"and he feeleth for our sadness/ and he shareth in our gladness"

"Christian children all must be/ mild, obedient, good as he".

That Hideous Man said...

"And we shall reign with Him" is certainly a lyric that requires careful handling. One one hand it is a biblical phrase, but we cannot but help interpret it in the light of Christendom. So whereas Biblical eschatology envisages a time in which God will in some way share His authority with a fully redeemed humanity (a renewed Eden where Adam once 'reigned' for/with God); our Christendom lenses make us think that this line is about lording it over others in some way!

Do you think the David's City stuff is wrong or just "feeble"? I can't see a theological problem with the words, is it just the doggerell you object to?

That Hideous Man said...


Comes from the Christmas carol, "Away in a Manger" where it says: "But Little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes"!

This is total heresy. (No, seriously!!!!!!!)

If Jesus was a baby who didn't cry, didn't suffer from the usual infant obstacles like colic and teething, insomnia etc then he didn't fully share our humanity. He was wasn't a real man. If the Son of God didn't truly "take flesh and dwell among us" then we are not saved.

This is either Docetism (Jesus' physical body was illusory); or Appolinarianism (that God occupied and controlled a human body but didn't become human). What this line absolutely is not, is orthodox Christian faith.

Anonymous said...

How about "You took the fall, and thought of me above all" from the song, "Above All" by Lenny LeBlanc and Paul Baloche.
As if somehow it's our worth rather than our depravity that brought about the events of Calvary. Our elevated self-worth is often exemplified in comments such as "if you were the only person on planet earth, Jesus would still have died for you." This may be true, but rather than a commentary on our great value (as it's usually intended), this is simply to state that my sin alone would be sufficient to warrant the Savior's penal substitutionary atonement.

That Hideous Man said...

I too dislike the "thought of me, above all" line in that song - but for quite different reasons.

The distorted gospel that Jesus died for me, "because I'm worth it" is all around us and is a woeful misinterpretation of grace. I don't think that the "if you were the only person...." thing is neccesarily either about our worth or our sinfulness, but about His love and self giving. (something which cannot be understood without seeing our sinfulness!).

My objection to this lyric is that it is extremely individualistic. It would be much more biblical to say that Jesus thought of 'us' to reflect the truth that Jesus loved the church and gave himself for her! If we individualise it like this song does we end up losing sight of the scale of what Jesus achieved at calvary - and its significance.

Anonymous said...

Not nec. heresy! - Just sacarine Victoriana!
It only becomes heresy if it is considered as an absolute-all-time normative statement - as given in your interpretation.

As a poetic (and yes yes highly coloured)observation of a particular moment it is OK.
A moment of peace for all amongst the poverty of the surroundings & the bloody-ness & pain of birth is fine. Of course where this falls down is that we don't perhaps have the proper context in other songs which do emphasise poverty & pain & fear of birth.

Horray for Victoriana that's what I say.

However - with the wider point on what we sometimes sing in church I totally agree. Sometimes it is weak, luke warm & insipid - and at worst it can indeed be just plain wrong.

That Hideous Man said...

Hmm - I find it very odd that the songwriter asks us to picture the
incarnation in the light of this "one moment of peace" rather than to see
the reality of the child Jesus.... and I think that docetism lurks behind
some Victorian Christianity

The ONLY way that the writer could not be considered heretic is if in
Victorian eyes a "good baby" didn't cry but a "bad baby" did ie - the
actions of a newborn infant are to be assessed in moral (mot merely
physical) categories and that it was an attempt to picture Jesus as sinless.
Even so - we can't sing that today because we don't believe it's sinfulness
that makes infants cry - but that its normal and natural and part of what
it means to be human.

The patristic view of incarnation is that 'what is not assumed cannot be
saved' the incarnation was real! Surely better than these dodgy half-human
jesus' we are offered in hymns.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with lots of these modern songs is that it's all about what "I'm" going to do. "I will praise you forever blah de blah" as if anyone of us can be sure we will praise for another day never mind for ever. Or "I will serve you will all my heart, being and soul cause I'm a right on middle class evangelical" but I wonder what's for lunch. New age obsession with me me me and my spiritual development. Stop the rantmobile I'm getting off.

That Hideous Man said...


A Graham Kendrick number which startS with the line “I can hear it there’s a party going on” and included the phrase “faith fiesta”. There was another which had the line “Let’s be undignified”.

What about “you’re my all you’re the best” which is notable not just for being laced with lashings of fromage but also because it is sung to the tune of “with a waddle and a quack”.

Or, “help us bring light to the world, that we might speed your return”. That can’t be right.

Anonymous said...

What about "Emptied Himself of all but love, (and bled for Adam's helpless race", from "And Can it Be". Perhaps we have to allow for poeticism (not polemicism!), but it seems like an inadequate reference to kenosis (which in itself seems an inadequate position). Also, I wonder if Adam's race can legitimately be described as "helpless" by a Wesleyan theologian (namely Charles Wesley). Perhaps he was a closet Calvinist!

That Hideous Man said...

Yes, "emptied himself of all but love" might be pushing it a bit, even if one accepts much of the theology that has unfolded from Paul's use of the word kenosis in Philipppians. No-one thinks that Jesus emptied himself of his rational or moral characteristics in his kenosis do they?! That Jesus 'empited himself' in some way is not disputed, its only the extent that is subject to dispute. Wesley wrote these words long before 'kenotic theology' was developed though, so to interpret him as making a statement which comments on a debate he would have been unware of isn't entirely fair on him - even if it affects how we sing it today.

The suggestion that Charles Wesley's personal spirituality and lyrics owe more to Calvinism than he would want to admit is not a new one. Calvinists often love Wesley's hymns because they resonate so well with their own devotional lives. "And Can It Be" is a particularly good example, especially verse 4.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;My chains fell off, my heart was free,I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

This sounds like experietial Calvinism to many people!

That Hideous Man said...

I should have added that the view that the Wesley's were not true Arminians, but what he terms "inconsistent Calvinists",comes from J.I. Packer.

Caroline D said...

Well my worst lines in a worship song would have to be...
'I want to be a tree that's bearing fruit that God has pruned and caused to shoot. Oh up in the sky so very very high I want to be a blooming tree...bright colours like daisies, more fruit than Sainsbury's, you'll be a blooming tree.' Not only does this appear inconspicuously among other 'more normal' songs in a Spring Harvest song book but on the occasion I have heard it sung, was rendered with great solemnity... there is something wrong with bringing names of large companies into worship... do they sponsor their slot? There is little more to say about such a song...

That Hideous Man said...

PLEASE tell me you are joking and that isn't an actual song!??!

Anonymous said...

I Love Broccoli - Hamilton, Ron

Oh, I love broccoli!
It's such a tasty sight.
And liver makes me quiver
With sheer delight.
I always clean my plate,
Morning, noon, and night.
I'm thankful for each bite.

Verse 1
Ev'ry time I eat a meal,
I bow my head and pray:
"Lord, I thank You for the food
You give to me each day.
Help me to appreciate
The blessings You supply,
Carrots and zucchini squash,
As well as apple pie."

Verse 2
Mommy is the greatest cook
In all of history;
She can make a choc'late cake
Without a recipe.
Ev'ry meal is ecstasy
That no one can surpass;
Three week old bologna
Tastes like pheasant under glass.

Verse 3
Cauliflower, brussel sprouts,
And yummy black-eyed peas:
Vegetables of ev'ry kind,
Praise God for all of these.
"Thank You, Lord, for purple plums
And pumpernickel bread,
Even for the little snack
Before I go to bed."

©1983 Musical Ministries, Majesty Music, Inc.

Caroline D said...

Blooming Tree, Doug Horley, number 62 in Spring Harvest Praise 1997...