Is He Serious??

Rusty at [New Covenant](http://newcovenant.blogspot.com) has a post up criticizing a song he doesn’t like about being [so in love with Jesus](http://newcovenant.blogspot.com/2005/05/jesus-i-am-so-in-love-with-you.html)

> You are God in heaven
> And here am I on earth
> So I’ll let my words be few
> Jesus, I am so in love with You

> The simplest of all love songs
> I want to bring to You
> So I’ll let my words be few
>Jesus, I am so in love with You

“What is it about our culture, here in America, that motivates us to emphasize a *personal relationship* with this Jesus who loves us…” Rusty asks, “Is this a pattern that is modeled in scripture?”

Is he serious? He can’t find a single reference in scripture that talks about a passionate, personal relationship with the Godhead? Hoo boy.

How about…

[Psalm 42:](http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2042;&version=77;)

> 1 As a deer longs for streams of water,
> so I long for You, God.
> 2 I thirst for God, the living God.
> When can I come and appear before God?

> 3 My tears have been my food day and night,
> while all day long people say to me,
> “Where is your God?”

> 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls;
all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me.

or [Psalm 63:](http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm%2063;&version=77;)

> 1 God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.
> I thirst for You;
> my body faints for You
> in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
> 2 So I gaze on You in the sanctuary
> to see Your strength and Your glory.

> 3 My lips will glorify You
> because Your faithful love is better than life.

> So I will praise You as long as I live;
> at Your name, I will lift up my hands.

> 6 When, on my bed, I think of You,
> I meditate on You during the night watches.

Highly questionable, that passionate, personal stuff.

To be fair to Rusty, he’s actually combining two theological questions: Is personal, intense, intimate emotion appropriate to direct toward God? and Is it appropriate to conflate all three persons of the Godhead into “Jesus”? The answer to the first question is, unequivocably, yes. Absolutely! The answer to the second question is…. eehhhrngh…?!

Obviously, you can’t have too correct an understanding of the trinity, and people have gotten into some weird theologies by means of an inaccurate understanding of the Trinity (witness the “Jesus only” movement in pentecostalism, Unitarianism, Mormonism, and no doubt a whole host of others). I’m very content with the traditional formulation and willing to leave it at that, though I’m sure it’s possible to have a finer, even more accurate understanding. But It would take an awful lot of complicated thought to come to a finer understanding than we already have without sliping into heresy, and obviously a worship song is not the place to originate that kind of complicated thought. Qualified assertions are hard to fit into regular meter.

In a song, there are really only two ways you can deal with the trinity while affirming the traditional understanding: either repeat the same verse three times, one for each part of the Tinity, or conflate. The song at the top conflates the Father with the Son: “You are God in heaven… Jesus.” “God in heaven” would be the Father, but the song makes Jesus out to be the same person. Theologically, they’re *not* the same person, but the song is clearly not trying to make that kind of an assertion. The song also fails to mention the Holy Spirit, but you’d be hard-pressed to demonstrate that the writer intends to deny His existence. Instead, by conflation, they intend to invoke a proper emotion directed toward all three as a body by appealing to two of the parts. This is a standard rhetorical technique, pretty much the same as saying “Alpha and Omega” to invoke all the letters in between.

Is this practice biblical? I think it is. Otherwise, everywhere in scripture that involved God having a physical body would be careful to distinguish the second person of the trinity, and everywhere it talks about Jesus would involve his physical manifestation. But a nice fine line like that doesn’t hold out. For instance, in the Old Testament theophanies, where the “angel” in question has a physical body, but is referred to as God, it’s generally assumed that the person speaking is actually Jesus, but the text makes effort to distinguish between the Father and the Son. It just says “God” or the “Lord” and goes on. On the other end of the spectrum, in Revelation, it’s Jesus who says “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” but it isn’t particularly clear that he’s talking about anything other than a spiritual experience.

So, for my money, the song is fine so far as the trinity is concerned, and very fine so far as personal affection. Now, about that whole “let my words be few” thing, I dunno….

5 thoughts on “Is He Serious??”

  1. I think a lot of us have a problem with the line “let my words be few” especially in the modern world where we have to literally scream to be heard amongst the throng. It just goes against most of our grains. My project over the last few months has been to wean myself off of T.V. I’m down to about a half hour per night, and that’s mostly news stuff, which when I think about it, is probably the most troubling to the spirit of all!

    I think one of the problems with the modern man’s personal relationship with God is not the ability to pray but the ability to be quiet and meditate. I know I have a problem with just sitting still, quiet, and clearing my own loud thoughts so I can here His!

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  2. OK. So you’re taking the “let my words be few” in the context of [Psalm 131:2](http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm%20131;&version=77😉

    > I have calmed and quieted myself
    > like a little weaned child with its mother;
    > I am like a little child.

    Or [Psalm 123:2](http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm%20123;&version=77😉

    > Like a servant’s eyes on His master’s hand,
    > like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand,
    > so our eyes are on the LORD our God
    > until He shows us favor.

    I can see that. I wasn’t thinking in the context of “stilling my soul.” I was thinking more along the lines of saying less about/to God somehow glorifies God more, which didn’t make a lot of sense.

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  3. This may come across as harsh or judgmental but what’s Rusty’s problem that he is uncomfortable with the idea of a personal, passionate relationship with the God who loved him enough to die for him. I consider the crucifixion pretty passionate and personal and I would think it would evoke a response of like kind.

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  4. Well I don’t know how I missed your post linking back to mine (way back in June, no less).

    I do not dispute that God is personal and loving. On the contrary, I believe that to be one of Christianity’s unique characteristics (and, as a sidenote, I believe it to be a critical factor when assessing whether or not God created the natural realm – as opposed to purely naturalistic mechanisms). My primary concern with the song Let My Words Be Few have to do with how that particular version is sung. The “love” that is expressed by the female singer, via her passionate breathing, could be taken in at least one way that is nowhere near the love expressed by the Psalmist in Psalm 42 or 63. Additionally, the Psalmist is writing a Psalm to God; not to Jesus. The song is addressed to Jesus (albeit, as the second person of the Trinity and, therefore, God). I do not believe that the line “you are God in Heaven” denotes God the Father simply because the song is about Jesus (and because Jesus is also in Heaven). This is my secondary concern, that we tend to focus so much on Jesus, that we end up becoming Unitarian in our approach.

    The problem with our 21st century Western idea of a “personal relationship” is that it is not modeled in scripture. Instead of preaching “You have sinned against God and need to repent if you are to partake of His plan of redemption” we hear “Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with you.” Read the book of Acts and you won’t find this 21st century idea of a personal relationship couched in the message. When we tell people that Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with them, they understand it to mean that Jesus wants to heal their hurts, to take away their pain, to be relevant to their needs, and to be their friend. Jesus, therefore, becomes the means by which their life can be fulfilled. This is backwards. It’s not “Jesus loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life!” but, rather, “God loves the world, and has a plan of salvation through His Son.” (ref. John 3:16)

    In over-emphasizing the feel-good aspect of a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe I beleive we end up trivializing it. Our relationship with God transcends His meeting of our needs and His healing of our hurts.

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  5. Well, a little delay on my part too. All kinds of interesting things to discuss here:

    I’m afraid I can’t say much on how the song is sung. I’ve never actually been in a church that sang it as a congregation (or in any kind of performance). I’m familiar with it because I have the original CD recording by Matt Redmond. There’s no breathy crooning in my version; in fact, the mixing are such that the background vocals are at least equal to (if not louder than) the lead singer, which creates an obvious corporate aspect. Nevertheless, I agree with you that **any** worship song which brings more attention to the singer than to the God we worship is *way* out of line. It’s intrensically “bad worship,” no matter how good the music might be.

    As far as the unitarian question goes, I don’t know what I can say, other than recommending a spirit of charity. It’s one song, and rarely does a single song a ballanced theology make. If every song your church ever sings focuses entirely on Jesus to the point of ignoring the rest of the Trinity, it’s probably a problem. But it seems like it would be less of a problem with the song than with your goofy worship leader (the same one who’s encouraging a girl to croon on the stage and call it worship :).)

    As for the “personal relationship” thing… I think it all depends. The reason we emphasize it so much now is that a century or two ago we had the opposite problem. There was no personal understanding of God whatsoever. People were allowing themselves to drift along with a general concept of sin, ignoring the concept that they *personally* had sinned, that they *personally* had offended God, and that He *pesonally* would be having some dealings with them if they didn’t repent in a very personal and individualistic way. By hiding behind a very corporate understanding of sin, righteousness, and judgement, individuals were shuffling themselves off to Hell. That was sort of the point behind Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Probaby today, in a lot of churches, we’ve slipped a bit too far the other way, and could use an adjustment toward the corporate understanding of our relationship with God. But it seems like the church in America is starting to shift back in that direction too, ironically just as the larger culture is coming to realize that “fulfillment” must be found in something quite larger than our individual selves.

    However, with an understanding of the deeply personal aspect of our relationship with God, why *shouldn’t* Jesus be the primary focus of that? He is the image of the invisible God. God-become-man can’t just be a theological feather in our caps. He was the one who actually made himself known to individuals in the most personal way possible. Why is it somehow better to sing cries of personal desperation to God the Father? Of course, if I had *my* preference, we’d be making an effort to direct our cries of personal desperation and longing for God toward the Holy Spirit, since he’s the one we have the most personal dealings with on a daily basis. But that seems like too small a nit to pick.

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