Saturday, January 22, 2011

The loss of the particular.

A friend of mine on twitter commended Kari Jobe for her worship ministry. As a student at an evangelical seminary, I've heard Jobe's name mentioned before. I've even bought one of her songs (maybe two?) and think she has a wonderful voice. I know a lot of people who have benefited from her music and her talent for singing, not to mention her seeming commitment to Christ.

I did some research on Ms. Jobe this morning and ended up at her facebook page where the above music video was posted. When you play it the first time, you are very touched by the words. Who wouldn't want to worship a God who intimately cares for His creatures? And who wouldn't want to worship a God who still cares for His creatures even when they do everything against His wishes?

When the song was almost finished, I had the same impression as I did when I was exposed to the charismatic movement (IHOP - International House of Prayer). There are an incredible amount of songs about how the Lord makes us feel. But I've noticed two profound weaknesses with songs like these.

First, they almost always use the word "You." As a monotheist, I have no problem with the unity of the Trinity. In fact, I think Gregory of Nyssa would wholeheartedly embrace this constant affirmation of God's unity even in distinction. But God still has chosen to reveal Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He truly is the Triune God and we should understand that the works of God are Triune. At the risk of sounding like I'm asking for too much differentiation, I wish there would be more specific speech about God's triunity that He has provided for us. As Dr. Corduan used to tell us repeatedly, there is only one "what" yet three "who"s.

Second, there are few songs that speak about how the Triune God makes these "feelings" possible. Few songs reference God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, God the Son who was sent by the Father for us and for our salvation, and God the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. It seems like these general statements about the feelings one gets from this God offer nothing of particularity. What differentiates the feelings expressed in these songs from those of any other religion? The external works of the Triune God not only reveal the identity of the God the Church worships but also bring confidence that we are faithfully witnessing to His revelation. At the risk of sounding cynical, I wanted to ask Ms. Jobe, "how do you know that God is for you?" "How do you know that He will never abandon you?"

My main concern is not apologetic. My main concern is for the Church and its sometimes lack of thoughtful speech and witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ when we write music. I hope future leaders might recognize some of these weaknesses and how it might negatively effect our perception of the Triune God.

1 comment:

Nate Jenkins said...

I used to get hung up on issues like this quite a bit. Some of the stuff out of Kari Jobe and Gateway Worship frustrated me because I thought it was theologically "sloppy". But I've come to believe that the spirit of a thing overrides the rightness of the words. Obviously, the aim is for both music and good writing to be present, but I'd prefer a right spirit. I think that is what makes Kari Jobe and Gateway Music such an attractive group to listen to - even if they are not writing songs that will survive the years, they seem to be writing from a place of love and reverence - as she mentions in the video, a very private and personal place. The Scripture encourages songs, hymns, and spiritual songs - and I think Jobe leans more towards spiritual songs.

As for the "You" bit, English poorly captures the plurality of that word - whereas, for instance, French has the tu and vous forms. Of the French worship I've heard, it uses the informal and singular tu form when speaking of God, which I think is the wrong pronoun to use as you pointed out. The formal plural would be much better employed.

But all your observations are legit. These are just mine.

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