Thursday, April 06, 2006
Justin Taylor and Sam Storms vs. Chuck Colson, Tim Challies (and Me)

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!
posted at 11:00 AM  
Comments (9)

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Gaddabout said...

I don't get Tim's point. Why, exactly, would it be wrong to sing "Everything I Do" as a song of worship to God? Implications of the words belong to the heart of the worshipper, not the songwriter.

Furthermore, songs with strong theology can be immediately stripped of their meaning by being sung by someone with no intentions of worshipping God. "Amazing Grace" has been used for secular vocal auditions for years.

Words do mean things, but meaning is only given from the heart to the mouth. What, I ask, is so unworshipful about asking God to draw us close?

I may be reaching too far here, but I think this has more to do with wrongful notions about masculinity than it does with theology. I also think one can go too far in taking an anti-emotional plea. If it's truly about God, and not us, we won't be afraid of worshipping him in our simple words.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger John said...


I am not sure that you see our point. Maybe pointing you toward another resource can help. Check out an article by John MacArthur: "With Hearts and Minds and Voices."

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Gaddabout said...


While I have great admiration for John MacArthur, we are clearly set apart in disagreement on this issue. Of course, I'm a charismatic, so that divides us plenty on matters of methodology.

Perhaps my greatest disagreement on the issue is MacArthur's belief that worshipping God in song is primarily a teaching didactic, that somehow expression of love or passion for God is, at best, a secondary motive, if not aBiblical. In contrast, I believe all worship -- which should include every single action we take on this earth -- should be an expression or passion for God.

Getting back to my point in the original post, I think it's very difficult to attack Draw Me Close on theological grounds. The complaint must be that it's not bad theology, just that it can be easily construed out of context. I suggest to you this song in the context of likely four or five others that do reinforce good theology, it is the perfect expression of perfect theology: You are God and I am not and I need You, Lord, to guide me. David repeated theme hundreds of times in his Psalms. I don't see the conflict.

Where I think this attack is really based is about the masculinity of the song. As Steve Camp calls it, "God is my girlfriend" songs. I also admire Camp, but I think it's clear he's uncomfortable with the lack of emotional detatchment in the words. It's unfortunate that secular culture has coopted terms like "passion" and "intimatcy" for sexual connotation, but that remains the kind of language David, a true worshipper, used to express himself to God for God's glory. We would do well to imitate David in this regard.

At 2:21 AM, Blogger Austin said...


You asked, "Why, exactly, would it be wrong to sing "Everything I Do" as a song of worship to God?"

Here is one line from the song:

"I'd fight for you, I'd lie for you."

Telling God that you would break His law is never a good thing - regardless of the heart condition. Uzzah had great intentions when he tried to keep the Ark from falling over, but we know what happened to him.

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Gaddabout said...

Austin, not knowing all the words to the song, I totally agree with the inappropriateness of that line.

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous texasesq said...

"I'd fight for you, I'd lie for you."

Did not Corrie Ten Boom and others lie for the sake of the kingdom of heaven?

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Austin said...


Yes, Corrie Ten Boom did lie. And I hope that if I were in the same circumstance, I too would defend the lives of innocent men, women, and children. However, does that make lying ok in that circumstance? In my ethics class, this same problem was addressed. Is there such as thing as situational ethics? The problem as I see it is that situational ethics leads to utilitarianism and pragmatism - and ultimately indifferentism (which are all opposed to biblical Christianity).

With that said, I believe that the law is the law - period. Lying is wrong. But I also believe that, in Corrie Ten Boom's circumstance, leading innocent Jews to the slaughter to save one's own life is also wrong. This is one of those rare exceptions that I think requires serious prayer and study in the Word of God. It's not an easy answer. Either choice leads to a negative consequence.

So in summary, without being too vague, I beleive that lying is wrong. But I also believe that if I were in Corrie Ten Boom's circumstance - which was a very rare chain of events - I would do the same. But I do not believe that we should ever sing to God about breaking His commandments in a positive way.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger von said...

On the issue of 'lying'... what Scripture actually says is 'bear false witness'. To 'witness' in this case might be translated 'to give accurate testimony to the relevant authorities'. The Nazis in WWII were not 'authorities', they were illegitimate.

A 'true' statement is not one which merely 'gets the facts right', but one that communicates correctly. The correct communication to someone actively attempting to commit evil is... misdirection.

On the main point, why would one need to demostrate the theological falsity of something to have it be innappropriate for worship? A National Geographic film might be non-false, but it would not be appropriate. We need to worship using all of our faculties; including theological 'depth' not mere 'non-falseness'.

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Chuck Colson could he would "theology" about the Transubstantiation, Holy Water, Maryology, Legalism, the Pope, and Confessionals.

I agree that And Can It Be is superior to arminian praise choruses but Colson is not talking about Sola Fide. He is just a grumpy Pelagian.


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