Sunday, April 22, 2007

What a weak faith I have

Lyrics and meaning of songs are very important (Col 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" - Admonish: "reprove ... urge ... give advice to ... ", OED). I want to discuss a song that has bugged me since I first heard it.

What a friend I've found,
Closer than a brother;
I have felt Your touch,
More intimate that lovers.

Je-sus, Je-sus, Je - sus,
Friend for - ev - er.

What a hope I've found,
More faithful than a mother;
It would break my heart
To ever lose each other.

I'm starting off by stating my presuppositions:
I don't like this song - it would please ME to prove this song wrong. The major question is WHY would it please me to prove it wrong. I want worship God properly, the way HE tells me to worship, not the way I FEEL I should worship. 1 Thess 5:21:"Prove all things, hold fast that which is good". I believe that this is NOT good, and therefore, I do not like it.

I have to ask myself, where is God's glory in this piece of music. This is a by-product of a particularly weak world and Bible view. This reduces God's love down to that of human standards by simple (non-Biblical) comparison. Once again we find ourselves looking at God like he is just another guy we met on the street. Nearly every line would rather compare his love to another kind of HUMAN love.

I would like to beg the question: How on EARTH are we supposed to love God? Sing this song and ask "How am I to love Jesus?" This kind of emotional or sentimental "praise" to God finds me asking - what are we teaching by playing this song? What kind of position does this put Jesus in? Should we be putting him in a position at all? What are we teaching by playing this song? What does scripture have to say about friendship with God?

Lets deal with these one by one, then deal with the song itself in comparison.

How (on EARTH) am I supposed to love God?
Due 6:5 "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might".

All my heart. I must crave no other and nothing else. That which is flesh is flesh, spirit, spirit. I am allowed to want a wife, the Bible says that it is wrong for a man to be alone (Gen 2:18), but above all God must prevail.
All my soul. There is no space for anything else but God.
All my might. With all the strengths God has given me to praise and honour him. (I cannot bring him Glory unless I bring the Glory he has given me). TO GOD BE THE GLORY! I will gladly throw away every song I have ever heard and go back to singing every line out of the Bible than sing a song that even PROMOTES the THOUGHT that God is anything less than what he is.

This is the manner in which we MUST love God. This is a command, not a suggestion!

What kind of position does this put Jesus in? Should we be putting him in a position at all?

This song reduces the love of God. I wish I were a Greek. They had four (as far as I know) words for 'love'. So often we mix up "Oh I love cheese sticks" with the love intended by "I love God". God calls for 'Agape' love. Not for the love of friendship or the love of a spouse. By singing words like these, and therefore 'believing' (or at least advocating the belief in) them, we confuse ourselves of the manner in which we love God. For example, when we love God 'like a father' we are comparing him with our human, fallible, fathers. Instead we should swap the measurement around, I would say "My mother couldn't love me the way You (God) do" or "Your (God's) love is far greater than that of my brother". This song is simply trying to EXTEND human views on love and project them on to God! I can't stand it anymore! The word 'love' appears in the KJV in 547 verses, and 646 times (please note this includes words like "LOVEd", and unfortuantely "cLOVEn"). I have to say that the Devil is perverse, and really sneaky. The definition I have from e-sword is the epitome of what English people think of love: "have affection for (sexually or otherwise)". Otherwise? This definition lends us to think that love appears sexually, or in (possibly) some 'other' form! (this is like saying "I know it's there, but I'm not going to look at it or define it") The world is twisted brethren, it really makes me ill. Love for God is anything BUT sexual, it is anything but 'OTHERWISE'.

I have to ask sometimes "Is my God big, or is he infinite?" I suggest people who 'like' this song take a real honest look at WHY you will defend a song, or a belief, or even a T.V. show (Especially when you don’t use scripture to defend it). Unless you manage to convince me of God's SPECIFIC glory, I'm not buying it. I don't watch secular T.V. - and I can still relate to normal people. When we are called to be "of the world, and not in it" - a verse I cannot find, just by the way, we are being called to go out and do HIS work, and nothing else other than studying what he has given us. I'm not going to stop you from watching T.V., but I seriously suggest you look at what you believe in. There are Christians, and there are Satanists. If you have the "I'll do what I want" attitude - you are a slave of modern pop culture, and the Bible is not the book for you. I would suggest the "Book of the Law" by Aleister Crowley - in his Book, in the Book of Thelema it says "Do what you wilt shall be the whole of the law" - this is a Satanic law book. If you think I'm wrong, fine, I'll step back, but remember "Your will be done" - and remember the speaker, Jesus himself (Matt 6:10, 26:42, Luke 11:2, Luke 22:42, [Acts 21:14]). So when YOU want something, ask yourself - "am I giving Glory to God? Am I doing his will?" I really apologize to the sensitive, but no amount of "Desperate Housewives" or "The Simpsons" are going to further you place in the Kingdom of God. You cannot defend it, and the ONLY reason I would even THINK of watching these shows is to prove that they are not of God.

What are we teaching by playing this song?
Another manner of asking this question would be to ask: "What can I learn from God in this song?" This song puts God, and Jesus more specifically, on the "Just Friends" level (I believe it's the 'lets be friends' speech of spirituality). No matter how you look at it, Jesus is, in this song, no more than a friend, is he a great friend? Not really, he seems to be a "really nice friend". He seems to be a better lover, and a better brother. I looked up friend in the New Testament (because that is where Jesus actually appears). And I asked myself, "where does he say he is my friend" - even before I looked I believed there is scripture to support it, and behold 15 verses and 16 occurrences later: Matt 11:19, 20:13, 22:12, 26:50, Luke 7:34, [in Luke 11:5, :6, :8, 14:10, John 3:29, 19:12 and Acts 12:20 Jesus is not talking about his friends], John 11:11 and James 2:23*. James 4:4 speaks of friends of the world.

What does scripture have to say about friendship with God?
Wow the Bible is amazing when you actually read it. I've learnt so much just writing this. Lets look at James 2:23 "And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God." I'd like to point out "he was called the friend of God". He did not call himself a friend of God. If God came down and said "You - are my friend", would you immidiately stand up and say "Hey! Hey! I can't be that bad!" Would you forget your place? Who are you to claim your friendship with the Almighty? What have you to bring Him? It is not for us to claim our friendship with God. If people call you a 'friend of God' - what a blessing! Do you go around blessing yourself? If you call yourself a friend of God, this is what you are doing! For us to claim this title for ourselves is overstepping the boundary. In the 34 verses in all of the Bible (New and Old) Not ONE has any man claiming the friendship of God for his own! We can learn a lesson from this. I did find some interesting points to discuss though:

Proverbs 18:24: "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." is this "friend that sticketh closer than a brother" God? I surely hope not. The scripture says "A friend". This implies that there is more than one, or it could be none - it is NOT SPECIFIC. And I'm sure that it is refering to people that are "closer than brothers" (this is ironically exactly the same as the lyrics - and this shows I am on the right track here - see where I discuss the lyrics). What's funny is my fellowship at church are closer to me than my sister (I have no brother) is, for sure, and there are many of them, and I do not call them God.

Song of Songs 5:16 "His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." It is at this point I strike quite a wall. This seems to advocate the entire song in one verse. This verse cries out "He's my friend and my lover" all at once. But wait. Who is 'he' singing about? Is it God? I looked, God is not mentioned ONCE in this ENTIRE book. It is a very strange book, Song of Songs. The I found something out - this book is an ALLEGORY ("a story, play, poem, picture, etc., in which the meaning or message is represented symbolically", OED) I know that King Solomon wrote this book, but he wrote it from the perspective of the BRIDE of a KING (the third role is the chorus - the "daughters of Jerusalem"). This allegory is particularly PHYSICAL in nature, she talks of her breasts, being "like towers" and because of this she finds "favor" (8:10) in the eyes of the King. So now we have a symbolic message about God. The bride is symbolic of Israel, Gods people (or the church of Christ), and the King being symbolic of God (or Christ). The KJV I have at home says that the highest human fulfillment is in the love of a man and a woman, but spiritual fulfillment is heightened in the love of God for His people and Christ for His church. Please note that this is known as the eisegesis of Scripture - adding something that is not obviously there! However, please bear with me. So we have the roles being symbolic, so why now do we not consider the RELATIONSHIPS between these roles symbolic? They have to be considered symbolic, for this eisegesis to work properly. This means there is something far different (symbolic) than friendship between God and Israel, Christ and the church. This passage does not, in any manner, condone the naming of Christ or God "Friend".

I do not see the same allegory in this song. If it is based on the Song of Songs, then perhaps we should be more specific in its purpose. I must say though, the allegory is difficult to spot, and what is the purpose of the chorus? Is this the Holy Spirit? I don't know. This allegory idea only strengthens my position, however, because it shows that friendship and the love felt by lovers are mere failing earthly comparisons to the true love of God and Christ - sexual love has no place on the alter of my Lord.

That was only the introduction. Now that you know where the lines DO come from, and what the purpose of the lines are, I would like to go through each line of the song, and compare it to scripture.

"What a friend I've found"
I get to cover both the title and opening line of this song. Thank God that he allowed this song to be named by the first line. This is such a huge theological issue at the moment. But I have a few questions:
-Did you find him?
Prove the existence of God with a logical scientific argument. Don't tell me that "design dictates designer" - if you choose this manner of argument, then prove that the Christian God is the true God, without the use of scripture. More often than not this is EXACTLY why people DON'T want to believe in God. Christianity is an OFFENSE to people; they don't want to think they are wrong; they do not want to believe in hell.

If I can make a promise it is this: You will never argue someone through the gates of Heaven. God must first allow the person to receive his Grace for them to believe. The reason we believe is because God has allowed it. When Jesus spoke about being "born again" (John 3:3) he was saying that we must experience a spiritual BIRTH. Did you choose birth, where you would be born, etc. I only have myself as an example when I say that I didn't. It is the same with God, he is not some lonely old man hoping that people believe in Him, he is an ACTIVE God who calls people to service (Paul is an excellent example). When we see that we are dead in sin, revealed by the Ten Commandments, and are convicted that we must repent by the Holy Spirit, it is here where know that we are saved. I did not find God or Jesus simply by waking up one morning and saying "Hey, today I'll believe Christ died for me". God chose me, don't ask me why, I can't tell you.

Suppose we did find him. Let us assume that in order to receive salvation (by repentance) that we need to select or accept God and Jesus. It is at this point I would like to point something out: To choose God would be a righteous act. The main aim of this is to focus on the term "ACT". Salvation by WORKS. No work can obtain salvation but the work of believing. Would you seriously and honestly be able to present the Gospel message to someone saying that? I can't. The definition of Grace is "(in Christian belief) The unmerited favour of God", (OED). Some more definitions include the word "favour" as well. I could hardly believe my heart as I read this definition, oh the Joy that fills my heart. UNMERITED! We have nothing of merit that would grant us a FAVOUR of God - this is even supported by the very language we speak! Isiah 64:6 "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." If our humanly "righteousness" is as filthy rags, where does that leave the things of ourselves that we do not find righteous?

-Is he just a buddy, do we have a right to call ourselves his friend?
I've covered it before, but perhaps a small summary is in order. No where does anyone in the Bible claim their friendship with God. If we are called friends of God, we are receiving a blessing. We do not claim blessings for ourselves. Nor do we forget that God is most high King of all. We do best to learn from those before us. In addition to this 'friend' is defined as "a person with whom one enjoys mutual affection or and regard (usu[ally]. exclusive of sexual or family bonds)", (OED). This argument is supported by my argument above. If we have nothing good (or "righteous") in or of ourselves to present to God, how dare we offer Him our friendship? The whole picture of the cross was Christ LOWERING Himself to the level of man. We must be absolutely ashamed of what we have done to His Kingdom, His creation. When he steps down and calls us his friend, we do not respond with "hey friend", I feel compelled that I will respond "Lord I am not worthy, but I thank You". Humility is SUCH a huge issue lacking in the Christian faith.

"Closer than a brother;"
Is Jesus closer than a brother? I sure hope so. The problem with this (among other lines) is it leaves far too much out. How close are your brothers? Some people do not have brothers (like myself), do I simply leave this line out because I do not have one, am I anathema simply because I have no earthly thing to compare my ALMIGHTY HOLY God to? The second thing I wonder is "are all brothers consistently close?" I looked in proverbs and found some interesting verses on brothers:

Proverbs 17:17 "...a brother is born for adversity". Jesus is closer than a brother. This is so painfully obvious.
Proverbs 18:24 "...there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." I can represent this verse mathematically in two ways:
->"For one brother, there exists one friend, such that the friend is closer than the brother"
->"For some brothers, there exists some friends, such that the friends are closer than the brothers"
These statements do not EXCLUDE the idea that you can have a brother closer than a friend. I'm not arguing the brotherly part, but rather the friend part.

"I have felt Your touch,"
This line makes little to no sense out of context, so I have to review it with regard to the next line as well:
"More intimate that lovers."
Would you sing this to little children? Would you ask little children to sing this song with you? I certainly would not. We have to ask ourselves WHY. Who among us has felt the intimate touch of a lover? Should we be singing about that which we do not understand, or wish to have to describe. This kind of line makes the imagination go wild. I stand firm that the imagination, specifically regarding the flesh, is the enemy of the human who desires righteousness. Romans 12:2 (renewal of mind), 2 Corinthians 10:5 "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" I will not play or advocate the singing of these lines to ANYONE, simply because it cannot be played for some.

"What a hope I've found,
More faithful than a mother;"

I like these lines, except for "I've found" of course, but that is not a reason to accept the entire song - I certainly offer NO scriptural basis for singing these lines. They say that there is a hope like no other (incomparable and therefore fitting to my God). He is more faithful than a mother, in the same manner that he is closer than a brother. But I am warning the reader: I HAVE NO SCRIPTURE TO SUPPORT MY LIKE FOR THESE LINES. If it is not part of the book, it's not part of my worship to God. I have heard that the Gospel does speak of God being "more faithful than a mother" in those words, however when I did a WORD search on combinations of ["mother" and "faithful"] and ["mother" and "more"] in the KJV, ASV and GNB, I could not find it. This is cause enough to dislike the lines.

"It would break my heart
To ever lose each other."

Here is where the biggest stumbling block, in my opinion. Here is where the reader and I may disagree the most. However, I have an argument for two sides of the coin here. These lines are either plain WRONG (my belief) or they do not make sense.

The "Plain wrong" defense.
I did not choose God, as seen from my argument above. Would God choose me, and then un-choose me? This boils down to "Can my salvation be lost?" If you believe you can lose your salvation, you do not trust God 100%. It is a lack of commitment on your side. If you believe in God, is he not greater than any evil? What possible evil could pluck you from his hand? What evil is so great that would cause Christ’s atonement for you to not satisfy the wrath of God? This is the only way our "hearts [could] be [broken] to ever lose each other." God would have to be unfaithful. You would have to believe in him, and still not have eternal life (Read John 3:16 to find out if God is a liar in this regard).

Nonsense argument.
Well, we have seen that God is faithful. He is an unchanging absolute. So the only way to lose our salvation (hypothetically speaking, of course) is if WE are the unfaithful ones. If we choose to go back into the world, it would be because we feel that God is unfair, or there is something that we have a misunderstanding with God. If you were to discover such a 'truth' and you were free of your Christian slavery to God, no longer caring about what must be done or the manner in which is done, would it break your heart? To not choose God means you don't want to have a heart linked with His. You would not feel sad, but happy! I do not believe that this is even possible, but ponder on this, read your Bible.

I will briefly look at the chorus.
"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus"
"Friend forever"
I have stated my dislike of calling Jesus our friend. If I were to cut out the MOST non-scriptural lyrics the song would look like this:

Closer than a brother;

Je-sus, Je-sus, Je - sus,

What a hope,
More faithful than a mother;

The problem here is there is vain repetition now. The chorus is "empty, trivial, unsubstantial" or "useless, followed by no good result" (OED). Why? Worship is a teaching tool. It is not there to sway emotion by the playing of instruments! If emotions are stirred, it must be because of the TRUTH being portrayed - meaning the lyrics need to be right in His sight - as revealed by the scriptures, not by me.

I like mathematics, and the tally is in:
(not including VERSE and CHORUS)
Original word count: 49
New word count: 17
Percentile removed: 65
65% of the song, in my opinion, which I support with a foundation of scripture, is INCORRECT.
With this in mind, I feel the rest of the song is in vain, and therefore 100% useless as worship to God.

I think I have laid down my argument. Please take this and consider it properly. I admit that I am flawed and my argument is long. I do this not simply because I dislike the song, but I feel that God has placed it on my heart to test these things. If we do not test the music we play, and accept it on a purely humanistic basis, we will end up singing pop songs in the church. We cannot lay back and blindly accept the teachings we receive. Although we are to trust in our teachers, if we take anything for granted other than scripture, we will be the ones who will have to account for adding to the word of God. I will not be present when this song is sung, unless I am proved wrong by scripture and sound reasoning.

1 comment:

Qjay said...

I have to say something about this. It's been bugging me ever since I wrote it. Perhaps some back story is necessary. I had three days to prepare my thoughts on the song, and I think I went a little overboard.

I feel now that I lacked compassion for others while I wrote this. The presupposition is wrong - you should never dive into anything disliking it automatically. I feel that this loveless approach to discussion is probably not the manner in which Jesus approached things.

I also think that if you feel this is the kind of song you want to sing, you sing it. If you want to watch T.V. programs etc. I won't call you a Satanist. I feel now that perhaps I need to take a step back and not be so 'in your face' with my feelings and beliefs. If I want to change something, I should not write letters, perhaps an open discussion would be a better approach.

I'm not saying that I disagree with the my sentiments of the blog though. I found that when I approached people out of love rather than out of a blind dislike that they listened and understood what I had to say. I think the bottle the drink came in could be slightly more easy on the hands kind of thing.

I do feel that this was necessary, though - I learned a lot about the people around me. Everyone reacted in a different way, and I am appreciative that I could find out what I did. I also feel that perhaps the good needs to be looked at rather than the bad. If we take the good we can out of this song, it may make people feel safe in Churches, provide a comfort to them, regardless of my feelings on the song. I'm sorry if my argument is hurtful in any way. That is not it's intention.

I have made a rather big decision based on this whole thing and I think it is where I need to be.

I am also writing this because I am expecting rebuttals, and I have thought of some things I would like to say before any just tries to shoot me down.

"What a friend I've found" may not be in reference to salvation, it might be the friendship that we do have in Christ. I'm not saying he's NOT our friend, he does say he is. I'm just saying we must caution ourselves to OUR acclamation of it. But I do propose this, if one thing MIGHT be one way, or the other way, is that good strong teaching?

I do not plain out disagree with closer than a brother, the fact that he is intimate, the hope that we do have in Jesus, or the fact that he is more faithful than ANY mother. I would like to caution people to think who God is though, and not consider Him from purely an earthly and fleshly position.

There are many nice ideas in this song. The last two lines are where my greatest disagreement comes from.

I must express disappointment in those who do not want to consider songs like this. There are those who will sing a song purely because it feels right, with no thinking toward the message that is conveyed. Music is such a powerful tool, and we must remember that what we put in is what we get out. To simply say that "It is right" with no scriptural backing is wrong. I have heard some of the old hymns actually come with scripture references, just to show that very thing. One of my best teachers told me that the musical argument in churches is not new, and that just goes to show it.

The end is nigh, Jesus is coming back. We must be sober-minded to be sure that when we sing, we sing in the right way, with the right words. I'm not throwing out my electric guitar or my drums any time soon, but I will say that perhaps we need to think before we act.