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July 17, 2008

Comments

Friar_Tuck

do you expect anything different from this congregation?

robin dugall

I know what I think off-hand...detonate that song! Is that worship to celebrate destruction! It seems like we are "dancing" around people's pain...each "sin" broke the heart of God. I don't think there is vegenence in God's heart about judgment even when it is deserved. I wouldn't lead that song in a public gathering if it were under "my watch".

Rob

Rob Murray

This perspective of God definitely does not help with my quest to understand God more as my father!

Stephanie

wow....i'm left speechless after reading that. it breaks my heart that they would sing something like that, especially since i love pretty much everything that i read or watch from their pastor....leaves me not knowing what to think

Derek Rishmawy

Wow. That is gnarly and intense. I gotta say when I read the lyrics that's kind of horrifying at first. I went and listened to it though and it had a different effect than when its just read cold like that. (By the way, are those the full lyrics? I heard other lines about God's light shining and stuff like that. I also don't see anything about the destruction of sinners in the song, just about the eschatological judgment of the world in its sinfulness.)

Couple things: Friar Tuck: congratulations on completely writing off an entire congregation of more than 6,000 of your brothers and sister in Christ, many of them freshly converted to Jesus from crazy pagan lives in one of the most intensely godless cities in the U.S., in fewer than 10 words! That's talent. Sorry if I'm being a jerk, but your response struck me as arrogant and condescending. Mine probably is too, so Mike, if you feel I'm out of line, let me know and I will apologize to FT.

Robin: Correct me if I'm wrong but I didn't see anything in the lyrics Mike posted or in the one's I looked up about vengeance being in God's heart in the judgment. It just talks about the judgment. That being said, "vengeance" is said to be the Lord's isn't it? (Rom. 12:19) I mean, the fact that God will judge and avenge is kind of the reason that Christians are not supposed to right? And note: by vengeace, I do not mean "malice" or some kind of humanly undersood anger. I simply mean God's just response to evil. I dunno, the more I look at the song, the more I think we might be reading stuff into it that simply isn't there.

For Mike: I have some trouble with the song too. Thing is though, it reminds me a lot of the Bible. How do you feel when you read Revelations? I mean, I know all about the genre and the way things that sound weird and violent can be read a little differently and stuff, but even with the most benevolent reading, its still a gnarly book (partly) about God's eschatological judgment, destruction, and renewal of all things and there is a lot of dying and violence. Its definitely darker and worse than that song. And the Prophets. Wow. Jeremiah and Isaiah are...well, lets not go down that road. I guess what I'm asking is, how is this different from what we see in Scripture? I mean, sure it's one-sided on the holiness/wrath side of things. But we have tons of songs that are one-sided on the mercy/love side of things. Maybe is a balance thing that way.

I'm not saying I would play this in my church. I'm just chewing on it too I guess and wondering how much of the weirdness of that song comes from the song, or from my own initial reaction to it.

Derek

Chris

Wow. That is amazing.

Even worse, the other day I heard a church read THIS during their service:

"For behold, the Lord will come in fire and His chariots like whirlwind, to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire. For the Lord will execute judgment by fire, and by His sword on all flesh, and those slain by the Lord will be many."

What a horrible mischaracterization of God! I can't believe that. The author of that should be stoned for misrepresenting God that way.

Judgment? Anger? Rebuke? Slaying many? Doesn't sound like the God I know.

I think we should all write the author a letter to let him know that he is doing God a disservice by representing Him that way. I did some internet searching and found out it's a guy by the name of "Isaiah." Apparently he's written some other pretty inflammatory stuff, too, like how it "pleased God" to "crush" His servant and to "put him to grief" in order to "render Himself a guilt offering" for others. As if, right?

I mean, at best this Isaiah seems to be a bit unbalanced in his approach and at worst he misrepresents the character and nature of God.

It's so sad when churches do this, you know? Who or what is this church asking us to worship? What kind of God would do something like this? Not my God, I assure you.

I think I might give this Isaiah guy a piece of my mind. Apparently I can find more of his writings in the Bible. The above two passages referenced can be found in Isaiah 66:15-16 and Isaiah 53:10, respectively. We should all check it out and shake our heads in shame for the destruction that this Isaiah guy is doing for the cause of Christ.

Darin Brill

I agree with Chris. I know the worship leader who wrote these lyrics and all of the songs he's written are very biblically grounded. This song does not sum up who God is, but neither does any other song we sing. If all of Mars Hill's songs had this leaning, then there would be a problem, but in the 5 years I have gone, I have seen a well-rounded music catalogue.
Did God flood the earth? Yes.
Did God, through Jesus, "burn off" the curse? Yes, Jesus bore that curse (Gal. 3:10,13) on our behalf. The flood pictured what would come to be God's full judgement on sin and sinners, and the cross is where the judgement we all deserved was satisfied for Christians.
Did God hate his Son? This may be where most of the bickering about the song springs from. But yes, if God hates sinners and His wrath is upon them (just look up "hate" and "wrath" in a concordance), and 2 Cor. 5:21 says on the cross Jesus became our sin, that explains why he said "Father, why have you forsaken me" and why's God's just wrath could be substituted onto Him. What keeps people from understanding and believing this isn't some logical incongruency or an idea of "cosmic child abuse", but haven't a low view of the weight of their own sin! Sin really is and was that serious!
"Heaven will disappear with a roar. The host of God will come to destroy. Sin is a declaration of war." This is from revelation 19 and 20 I'm assuming. There is a picture of war there, of the earth and heaven fleeing from the presence of the Lamb (20:11) prior to judgment. This is a very graphic section and is very heavy. The point is that that all will occur because of sin. God will unleash His active wrath at that time, when, on account of His own glory, the cup of His wrath will overflow and cannot be pent up any longer.
"God will have his glory one way or another".. if people don't give him his due honor and glory willingly, God will have it in the end. As another of Mars Hill's songs puts it:
"collapse our knees beneath us, become our King"

Scott

I think the vast majority of all contemporary Christian sects/denominations/movements/etc. have tendencies to emphasize certain aspects of God's character or nature over others. From Catholics to Calvary Chapels to Reformed to the Emerging Church, accross the board I can't find one particular group that is "fully balanced." Perhaps it might be that that one group does express God the best possible way and I am ignorant at this junction in my faith. But I am willing to argue each group has some area(s) to work on in terms of balancing out their particular theology.

But I think this point is recognized by a lot of people. The thing I wrestle with is the brute fact that we are called to be effective missionaries in our culture. If a non-Christian walks into a service and hears of God wanting to destroy the world, they will walk right back out, whereas if they walk in and hear of God's unconditional love, they will be more inclined to stay. On the other hand, if only sing of God's love and not His holiness/justice/wrath, arn't we downplaying something of God's character? So this puts us in immediate tension between the command to be effective witnesses to to the world and the command to worship God's holiness, justice, and wrath as well as His love, mercy, forgiveness.

I think the imperative question to ask is how do we honor God's holiness, justice, and wrath in a way that is: A) balanced with his love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, while at the same time B) is done in such a way that isn't blatantly offensive to non-believeres.

I believe my position will get two criticisms from opposing sides.

First, some will say that we should never let us being "effective" in the way we evangelize get in the way of our worship. My response is that we are commanded to love the lost and singing songs about God destroying the world may not be the best way to show His love to the lost. And if you don't care about how you come accross to the lost, I don't understand how you can say you love the lost.

Second, some may say that holiness, just, and wrath are not part of God's character or nature. (Or at least are parts of His character that shouldn't be praised). My response is it completely ignores a huge chunk of Scripture that shows differently. It also runs into some philosphical problems between the relationship of God and morality.

With that said:

I think the more important question is how does one worship God's holiness, justice, and wrath without coming off like complete ass to the rest of the world?

Mike

Well said, Scott, well said.

I was thinking the same thing. I am not saying that I do not believe in the judgment of God. I do. The larger, more glaring question for me is this... what does our worship say about God's ultimate dream and desire for humanity?

I also have to ask this. What about "God hating His Son"? I don't know if I'm sold on this language. I'm struggling to find something in scripture that allude to this. Did God ever look on his Son with "hate"?

Also just thinking out loud here, but how does this square with trinitarian theologies in particular?

Tony Myles

Well... I do know the pastor the church (Mark Driscoll) has in the past made fun of worship music most other churches embrace. Here's a quote from Relevant Magazine last year:

"I’ll be happy when we have more than just prom songs to Jesus sung by some effeminate guy on an acoustic guitar offered as mainstream worship music. Right now most worship music is still coming from the top down through such things as Christian radio and record labels. But the trend today in a lot of churches is writing your own music to reflect your culture and community, and I pray this trend of music from the bottom up continues."

So obviously he's green lighting the concept.

Now, whether or not he's right or wrong I cannot say with any accuracy. I can, though, say that as a pastor of a local church myself I hope the people I serve get a better sampling of worship songs than what is currently out there. This one in particular, though? I'm not interested in.

And perhaps that's my point... the personal concepts and reflections of two people - a senior pastor and a worship leader - affect way more things and theologies and people and ideas and questions and legalisms and traditions than people realize.

Chris

"My response is that we are commanded to love the lost and singing songs about God destroying the world may not be the best way to show His love to the lost. And if you don't care about how you come accross to the lost, I don't understand how you can say you love the lost."

Scott, I would encourage you to spend some considerable time reading and re-reading 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5. In that passage, it seems to me that Paul is advising the Corinthians to not care about the reaction they are afraid that they might receive from their audience. It appears to me that Paul feels it is inconsequential.

Rather, they are to continue to preach the whole counsel of Christ anyway, because that is what they are called to do.

Let me illustrate with some passages:

"For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness" (1 Cor 1:23)

In other words, the Jews and the Greeks are not going to like the message you're preaching. But we preach it anyway.

"For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." (1 Cor 2:2)

Do you not think that "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" also included the gnarly thought that God was "pleased to crush" His son (Isaiah 53:10), because of His anger and wrath against sin? All you have to do is read Romans to see how clearly Paul discusses the wrath and anger God has against sin. No doubt that was a part of Paul's message in any church he preached in. And no doubt Paul preached it anyway. And no doubt people were offended by it.

So why would he do it? Why would Paul preach that even if he knew that it ran the risk of offending nonbelievers? Well, consider what Paul goes on to say:

"I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:3-5)!

In other words, if I dressed up the message and cut out the stuff you didn't want to hear, there is a risk that your faith would not be genuine because you were being fooled into a message that wasn't all true. But if I preached to you the whole counsel of God (which, if he did in Ephesus, he must have done in Corinth--see Acts 20:27) then when you came to faith we would know for certain that it was by the power of the Spirit and not because I “persuaded” you with words that were easier for you to hear.

You see, Scott (and Mike), when all we preach is a lollipop gospel of love for sinners that does not also include an honest discussion of the hate that God has for sin, then we run the risk of fooling people into Christianity, making them think that it's something that it's not. And the danger in that is that we produce false conversions--people who have come to an image of God that is frankly not true.

But if we preach the WHOLE counsel of God, wrath and all, then when we have people still coming back week after week we will know that it is because God has done a work in them.

Human reason alone will never accept the true gospel message, wrath and all. Again, 1 Corinthians: "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (v. 18). The only way that a person will accept the gospel message is if God has done a work in him/her, and that will be proven if someone can accept that message having heard all of it.

I think that we underestimate the power and ability of God to convert sinners using any and every part of His Word. Your post reflects a false assumption that we are the ones responsible for converting sinners, and so we need to do God a favor and cut out part of the Word that He has commanded us to preach because we are afraid that it will be offensive.

Believe it or not, there are some who will walk into a church one Sunday and hear a message that God hates sin and will destroy all sinners and will be converted based on that. And there will be others who will hear about Jesus healing a blind man and will be converted based on that part of the message, too. When we begin shrinking back because we don't want to "offend" unbelievers, in reality I think we are not giving God enough credit to use His Word to reach others.

Let me sum it up this way:
1. God has commanded us to preach His Word (2 Tim 3:16).
2. There are some difficult things in God's Word (see Isaiah, Revelation, etc.).
3. Because of #1, we still preach #2, and trust that God can (and will) use every part of His Word to bring sinners back to Him (1 Cor. 1:18-2:5). It’s not for us to decide what we do or don’t want to preach.

I'm sure there will be disagreements...but before you disagree, please read 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 and see how that squares with the view you will put forth.

Darin Brill

well put Chris. There are a lot of things Mars Hill believes are biblical and teaches that people don't like to hear. That eldership is reserved for men, that God has predestined Christians to adoption as sons, that you are sinful at your core, that hell is real, that His anger is real, that those things that aren't stated as sin in the bible can be redeemed for Jesus etc. But none of these things are at the center of the teaching at the church. Jesus is. I've heard many sermons from many different churches, and comparitively, MHC is amazingly Christ-centered. I don't mean to say they are perfectly so by any means, but I really think Jesus is growing this church because it is being steered by Him. I don't really find complaining about another church's song lyrics very edifying overall, unless there's an obvious reason for doing so and there's obvious theological problems with it.
And as an aside, Mars Hill is actually very proactive in regards to how they deal with theological untruths in song lyrics. In the years I've attended, numerous songs have been pulled out of rotation because the words were too theologically unclear or just plain untrue. Most are kept and just tweeked though. A recent example of this is the song "I'll fly away".
http://www.voxpopnetwork.com/doxologist/2008/04/07/song-stories-why-i-had-to-let-%e2%80%9ci%e2%80%99ll-fly-away%e2%80%9d-umm-fly-away/
Darin

Scott

Hi Chris -

I read I Cor. 1:18-2:5 as you asked. I don't think it contradicts what I was saying.

Let me be more concise. The message of the Gospel itself can be very offensive to the world. I acknowledge that. Paul acknowledges that in in the passage I Cor. 1:18-2:5. That was never my point.

My point is that is very different from saying the church (i.e. the messenger) is allowed to be offensive because the message is.

Let me give one example to illustrate. The doctrine of Hell is usually viewed as very offensive in and of itself. CS Lewis took this seemingly offensive doctrine and explained why it is actually God's compliment to human free will in _The Great Divorce_. Meanwhile, on many college campuses in So. California there is a guy who comes in with a blowhorn and large signs telling people how God is pissed and wants to send them to Hell, which typically just pushes people even further from Christ. So in both cases, there is an offensive message. But in one case, the means of delivering the message is loving/truthful whereas in the other case, the means of delivering the message is filled with anger/judgmentalness.

I personally do not think one ought to come off like a complete asshole when representing Christ. If you think the blowhorn guy isn't doing that ... then we'll have to agree to disagree.

Chris  Pritchett

Could this song be a message that carries the weight of what God did in Christ on the cross? Perhaps the word "hated", though it sounds incredibly offensive, captures the strength of the separation Jesus experienced from God when he bore the sin of the world, in that moment. Maybe it captures the ultimate love of God by destroying the consequences of sin. I'm not totally sure and the lyrics are a bit vague to describe what, exactly, they are referring to, but could it be a strong and intense way of communicating love of God by taking on the sin of the world? "To the last time You burned off the curse"--God burning off the curse of sin in Christ; "Heaven will disappear with a roar"--the absence of God that came with cross in order to give the full and complete presence of God in the resurrection; "The host of God will come to destroy Sin is a declaration of war"--God destroying sin. If what I seem to suggest is true in my interpretation of the song, surely it leaves out the good news that comes in the resurrection. Perhaps this is a song that could work on Good Friday that needs to be followed by songs of joy on Easter Sunday. Mike, what do you think?

Mike

Chris, I see where you are coming from and agree. I think the song is definitely trying to tap into a Reformed image of God and the cross. To me that is not really the issue.

I still go back to the line of God "hating" his son and wondering just how accurate that picture is. While I fully believe in future judgment, I'm seeing the image portrayed in the song as dangerously close to celebrating the judgment of God. It is one thing to acknowledge the judgment of God, it is another to revel in it.

What concerns me is that it appears to even brig up this kind of question elicits the response from some that one does not believe in judgment altogether, as if the only way to value something is to canonize it in song.

Again, hear me... I believe in future judgment, I wonder if this is the best representation of it in song. While some criticize worship for a lack of balance one way, I wonder if this goes in the opposite, yet still unbalanced, way. The judgment of God is something that I think breaks his heart. He grieves over it. I'm just wondering if this song takes the same posture.

Perhaps I'm wrong though...

Derek Rishmawy

Well, technically, the Psalms at various points tell us to rejoice and be glad about the judgment of God. Psalm 96 and 98 come to mind and I'm pretty sure there are a few others. Judgment, as I understand it, is not always the purely negative action of handing out punishment as you seem to be picturing it. It is also the time of rewarding good, and finally eliminating evil for the restoration and recreation of all things. I mean, doesn't the Bible at some points seem to make it sound like judgment is a part of salvation? I dunno, in light of that, it seems like the kind of thing we can celebrate. We might have to explain it a bit for people who don't get that, but, then again, I think we ought to explain what we mean by the words "God's love" before we sing them as well.

Anyways, just thinking out loud here...

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