A minor battle over contemporary worship music is heating up in the blogosphere. It all began when Chuck Colson wrote "Soothing Ourselves to Death" for Christianity Today. Then, Sam Storms responded with "Mr. Colson, I respectfully disagree." Yesterday, Justin Taylor weighed in, siding with Storms. Finally, today Tim Challies defends Colson in his post: "Mr. Storms and Mr. Taylor, I Respectfully Disagree."
What is this debate over? The opening paragraph in Colson's article:
When church music directors lead congregations in singing contemporary Christian music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We'd been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called "Draw Me Close to You," which has zero theological content and could just as easily be sung in any nightclub. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed. "Let's sing that again, shall we?" he asked. "No!" I shouted, loudly enough to send heads all around me spinning while my wife, Patty, cringed.
More specifically, Storms and Taylor disagree with Colson's assessment of the song "Draw Me Close to You." Here are the lyrics to the song:
Draw me close to you, never let me go.
I lay it all down again, to hear you say that I'm your friend.
You are my desire, no one else will do.
No one else can take your place, to feel the warmth of your embrace.
Help me find the way, bring me back to you.
You're all I want. You're all I've ever needed.
You're all I want. Help me know you are near.
Storms and Taylor find the song to be a heartwarming and godward expression of praise. Storms says:
The song is intentionally written to be an intercessory cry for the awareness of God's presence, a plea that his loving embrace (spiritually speaking, of course) and the security of his affection never end. It is an expression of personal consecration and commitment. It is a declaration of the all-satisfying love of God and the soul's delight in it.
There isn't a sentiment or syllable in the song that isn't found somewhere in the Psalms as an expression of legitimate, biblical, heartfelt worship.
True enough, but I don't think this sufficiently answers Colson's concerns. Challies provides an excellent example to bring our concerns home:
I began to think of songs in the mainstream that could pass as Christian songs. One of the songs that I thought of was that once-famous Bryan Adams song, "Everything I Do." I noticed that it does not have any words in it explicit enough to tell the listener for whom it was written. The only object he refers to is "you," with no reference to the usual "baby," "girl," or "lover." Therefore, it could be a song sung from a woman to a man or a man to a woman. Fair enough. I'm sure we can all think of examples of songs that are written in such a vague fashion. As I listened to it I began to wonder what would happen if we were to sing that song in our church. Couldn't we just direct the song towards God?
Exactly. Which brings us back to Colson's original point, that this song "has zero theological content and could just as easily be sung in any nightclub." Challies goes on the give helpful instruction in the choice of worship music. May we all be challenged to give legitimate, biblical, heartfelt worship through songs filled with strong doctrinal truth!