To the lyric writers of Christian worship songs.

I have enjoyed  been entertained by listened to your works. There are several specific aspects about lyrics in many Christian songs I would like to bring to your attention.

(1) One egregious phrase (maybe it’s just because I hear the same song so often) reminds us that Yahweh “is King above all gods”. The western world, which is the socio-cultural milieu for these songs, has eschewed polytheism for the 1,500 years. Given this, may I suggest that lyricists refrain from employing anachronistic phraseology, and instead employ lyrics that reflect monotheism.

(2) The word “Oh” (and its variant “O”) is an exclamation of surprise or of intense feeling. It shouldn’t be used as a verbal stocking-filler to meet the metre.

(3) When was the last time you ever heard someone shout the name “Jesus” in adoration? It is uncommon, to say the least: I have only heard this once in twenty years and it was not in the context of music. Telling Jesus that we “shout [your] name” is therefore not technically an untruth but I don’t know many people who indulge in it on anything approaching a regular basis.

(4) I often find lyrics encouraging me to perform activities that are effectively nonsensical, such as to “shout aloud to the Rock”. Metaphors should be consistent: no one shouts at a rock, unless you are Gandalf or a Fremen. The Scriptures tell us Moses spoke to one, and Jesus indicated that rocks could cry out. At the return of Christ, unbelievers will cry out to rocks to shield them but this is not in the context of praise.

We might shelter beneath a rock, or lift high a banner, but we would not shelter in a consuming fire, or lift up a high tower. Likewise, chains are not smashed, certainly not in the proportions that humans are used to imagining, blunt force has little effect on solid metal ellipses. A more appropriate metaphor is of a chain being released, snapped or broken.

(5) Some phrases, such as the above, might be considered as poetic licence; however, this could be an excuse for unwillingness to think of a less trite phrase. Consider the line: “your cry of love rings out across the lands.” Harking back to point (1), a phrase such as “the lands” is perhaps not anachronistic, but is hardly modern. It is Biblical, but so is sprinkling yourself with water containing the dust of a fully immolated red heifer. Instead of “lands”, try “world” or “earth”. And “ringing out” was hip in the 1960s but these days it means the phone hangs itself up after a time if the other person doesn’t answer. Mind you, it isn’t as bad as the song that carries a line about people standing in array, which is a painfully awkward phrase; too nerdy even for Martin Prince.

(6) As I wrote this I noticed the preponderance of lyrics about shouting. What about living for the praise of God? Granted, living is mundane compared with a resounding yawp, but it does comprise a greater variety of expression. As I read the Bible, obeying Jesus’ teaching is a better kind of praise than an emotive bellow, no matter how exuberant.

(7) The purpose of “worship” music is to focus on God. I find it difficult to do this when faced with logical incongruities. Again taking the line “your cry of love rings out across the lands” as an example, a cry is a loud wordless vocalisation that expresses intense emotion. It is possible to utter a cry of love. But what is this cry of love? It is the Gospel, the good news of God. A gospel is news; an important message about a great act that a person has done. News is information. Information is transmitted by language. Language requires words; combinations of sounds or symbols, each of which represents a concept, such as smell, abstracted or fluffy. Here is a paradox. A cry, irrespective of the catalysing emotion, carries no intelligible information. But the Gospel is news, which by definition is intelligible information. Can the paradox be solved? Or should the line just be rewritten?

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