Though it’s quieted down a lot regarding Lifeway’s The Gospel Project, I thought I’d stoke the fires again. All the concerns about how some subtle Calvinistic influence will confuse church members and cause frustration and discord in otherwise non-Calvinist Baptist churches because of this material are a little melodramatic. After all, I’m quite confident that every one of those non-Calvinist Baptist churches has used one Calvinist work for years without complaining about its influence before.
And no, I’m not talking about Romans 9 and Ephesians 1.
I’m talking about a very Calvinist song. I’ve heard it said many times before that the hymnal contains the theology of the church. My wife was teaching some high school girls about the attributes of God and asked them to describe God in one word. I would have said something like “Holy” or “Love” or “Good.” The first thing that came to mind for these teenagers was “Beautiful.” It could be that’s just what girls think about. But a lot of the songs on Christian radio today emphasize God’s beauty. And that’s what came out of their mouths.
Songs have a strong influence on our lives. They inform our thinking, and to some extent, our theology. When I led music at our Hispanic church, I realized that a lot of the song suggestions I received reflected the theological views of the people who requested them. I also realized that I had to seek out those song suggestions, since I had my own preferences as well.
If The Gospel Project is dangerous to our churches, I think this Calvinist song is even more dangerous. Tear it out of the hymnal. Don’t sing it. Because if (and that’s a big if) The Gospel Project has a slight Calvinistic slant, this song is preaching Calvinism full bore.
For one, it emphasizes some of the five points of Calvinism. Obviously, it wasn’t written as a catechism or summary of TULIP, but it does have some points present, such as total depravity, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. It might even have unconditional election in there as well, but it’s much more subtle than these other themes.
The song attempts to describe the working of God through the life of a believer, from conversion to glorification. Prior to conversion the person was vile, a reprobate, lost in utter sin. When the song explains conversion, it makes no mention of the person making a decision to repent and believe or choosing to follow Christ. Instead it is covered completely from the perspective of God’s work on the unregenerate person.
As the song goes on, it fully emphasizes God’s persevering grace in the life of the believer. There’s nothing in the song at all about anything the believer does. Instead it emphasizes God’s sovereign control and outworking on the life of the believer.
Doesn’t that song sound like it should be banned from the hymnal for the sake of those unsuspecting non-Calvinist Baptist churches and their members? Couldn’t a song like that produce frustration and discord?
Song #104 in Lifeway’s new Baptist Hymnal.