Death Match: Mindbending Hymn v. Mindless Anthem

So here we are, folks. Ringside to the first ever brawl between worship songs.

In one corner we have a popular, contemporary song written by a handsome young Texan…

And in the other, a 300-year-old, rigid contender from a dead Englishman.

Know this: Both these songs are favorites of mine.

In fact, the contemporary tune is by far my favorite of this generation.

However, it’s problematic.

How? It’s symbolic of the sensual-seeking, emotion-raising trend of current worship songs.

In other words…it’s shallow in theology. Soft on Scripture.

Why Are We Pitting Worship Songs Against Each Other?

I’m not against engaging the emotions. I’m a card-carrying Methodist. The founder of my denomination–John Wesley–emphasized emotions.

But neither did he ignore the mind.

Paul didn’t ignore the mind either. In fact, he insisted you MUST engage it.  , “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.”


This is now, (A)beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am (B)stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,
2that you should (C)remember the words spoken beforehand by (D)the holy prophets and (E)the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,

that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

From the very beginning, Christians asserted we understand our faith. Not just feel it. And Christians have always used hymns as mechanisms to carry forth the doctrines of their faith.

And finally, Tomlin’s song is problematic because, as :

We are the most educated Christians in history, and yet our lyrics are considerably stupider than our much less educated Christian forebears–the people who sang lyrics by Fanny Crosby or Charles Wesley or Isaac Watts.

In other words, we are amusing ourselves to death. Entertainment trumps intelligence. Repetition supersedes thoughtful rhyme. Emotions supplant reason.

Unmasking the Tunes

If you haven’t guessed yet, the modern song I’m referring to is Chris Tomlin’s “.”

I like the song. Love it, in fact. It’s catchy. Arousing. Stimulating. But so is “ by The Ramones.

You can’t get either song out of your head. But neither song engages the mind. Both lyrics manage to be fragmented thoughts and bad metaphors strung together.

Let me ask you a question: When we’re more likely to remember what we sing in church rather than the sermon, don’t you think it’s important that these songs bear meaningful, thought-provoking, Christ-exalting lyrics?

I do.

So, what song is it that I believe soundly trounces “God of Wonders”? I’ve pretty much given the answer away…

Got it? Yep, the song is none other than “” by Charles Wesley.

This is serious craft from a serious poet. Who’s bent on honoring Christ. Explaining doctrine. Putting content to our faith.

For example, Wesley explains the doctrine of atonement in stanza nine:

He breaks the power of canceled sin / He sets the prisoner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean / His blood availed for me.

I’d give an arm–maybe a leg–for songwriters to crank out concrete, functional lyrics rooted in Scripture like that.

What about you?

I know . But I’d love to hear  do it. Anyone know how to make that happen?

Did they make it happen?

I look forward to your thoughts.

3 thoughts on “Death Match: Mindbending Hymn v. Mindless Anthem

  1. Anonymous

    I’ll give it a go myself. Love both songs. Agree with your post. Love the Wesley hymn. And just saw the church he pastored in Savannah the other day on vacation.

  2. David

    If you read the Bible, especially the Old Testament (to be honest I don’t think there are ANY songs in the New Testament, but I could be wrong on that point) the grand and overwhelming majority of the praise songs the priests sung (themselves assigned to do so by God and the kings of Israel themselves) the praises that David himself wrote and those the assembly of Israel spontaneously sung when led by the Spirit of the Lord… would rarely even take up half a page in a hymnal. In fact if they weren’t actual psalms from David, which as I said, themselves were generally rather short, often they would be around two or three lines total.


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