The Pursuit of God

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Worship Song Analysis: IN CHRIST ALONE by the Newsboys

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In the world of Christian worship songs, you’ll find a lot of simplistic ditties, some songs with more insightful lyrics, and then there is the occasional song which is written to be a kind of theological review about what Christians are supposed to believe.  When it comes to the Newsboys’ song In Christ Alone, we are presented with a lot of theology about Christ.  Good.  Whenever Christian songwriters start listing off widely accepted doctrines, it’s a fabulous opportunity to practice discernment.  But we also need to remember that the purpose of worshiping our Gods is to please Them by expressing our sincere, God-honoring sentiments about how much we cherish Them.  Far too often, Christian worship leaders show no concern for God’s feelings as they choose songs with lyrics which grossly insult one of more of our three glorious Creators.  Rather than just mindlessly follow their bad examples, we need to be asking our Gods for Their input about which songs They do and don’t like.

Now as the title suggests, In Christ Alone is a song which is trying to exalt Christ—alone.  And while there’s nothing wrong with praising one God at a time, we Christians are not monotheists, and we need to avoid lyrics which end up snubbing our other Gods.  Yes, Christ is epically fabulous.  But Yahweh and the Holy Spirit are equally fabulous.  It is never acceptable for us to be elevating one of our Gods above the Others in any area.  They’re all glorious, They’re all wonderful, and They are all intimately involved in our lives.  They’re also all jealous by Nature, and quick to take offense when we start suggesting that One of Them is lacking in magnificence.  Bearing this in mind, how do you think the opening line of In Christ Alone is going to strike Yahweh and the Holy Spirit?

In Christ alone my hope is found.

In Christ alone, huh?  So Christ is the only God you get excited about these days?  Christ is your All-Sufficient One?  What are Yahweh and the Holy Spirit—old news?  When did you decide that They no longer played any essential role in your life?  Are you hearing the problem with this alone language?  Saying your hope is found in Christ is just fine, but when you add on the term alone you are excluding Yahweh and the Holy Spirit.  Not only are you excluding Them, you are casting Them in a very negative light.  After all, if Christ is your only hope, then the obvious implication is that were you to be with just Yahweh and the Holy Spirit, you’d be in some negative situation.  How is this an honoring way to talk to your Gods?

Suppose you have three really good friends: Paul, Josh, and Tina.  The four of you are always hanging out together and you have a long history of being there for each other.  Well, one day the four of you are hanging out together when Tina suddenly says to Josh, “Josh, you are my only friend in the world.  You’re the only one I can really count on.  You mean so much to me.  I so appreciate you in my life.  You’re the only one who’s ever been there for me.  You’re the only one who’s ever helped me.  Yes, you’re my only friend in the whole wide world.”  How are you and Paul going to feel about this little speech?  You’re going to feel quite miffed.  Well, this is how In Christ Alone comes across to Yahweh and the Holy Spirit.  Because while you heap the compliments onto Christ’s head, you keep using that exclusive term alone to make it clear that whatever you’re saying about Christ does not apply to your other two Creators.

As we often say, the Trinity doctrine is manmade guff, and when we run too far with this “God is One” business, we end up in a mess.  One of the ways we veer off course is by forgetting to remember that our three Gods work as a unified Team, and They care about Each Other more than They do about us.  This means that Jesus is not going to be pleased to hear you excluding Yahweh and the Holy Spirit, even in the context of worshiping Jesus.  We can’t isolate our Gods like this. We can’t schmooze over just One of Them without having the Others react to what we’re doing.  If you were to seek Jesus’ insight on this issue, He would teach you to exalt Himself and Yahweh and the Holy Spirit with equal enthusiasm.

So now that we understand what’s wrong with exclusive language, let’s check out what Verse 1 has to say about Christ.

[Verse 1] In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my Light, my Strength, my Song;
This Cornerstone, this solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All—Here in the love of Christ I stand.

You should really be saying that all three of your Gods are your “All in All,” but clearly the Newsboys aren’t grasping the importance of this issue.  Meanwhile, they are tossing out a bunch of honoring titles for Christ: Light, Strength, Song, Cornerstone.  That Cornerstone business is a cultural metaphor from Bible times which conveys great importance (see Psalm 118).  So here in Verse 1, you’re exalting Christ as playing a critical and highly positive role in your life.  This would be quite nice if you weren’t implying that He’s the only Being who you view this way.  Now let’s go on to Verse 2.

[Verse 2] In Christ alone, Who took on flesh, Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness, Scorned by the ones He came to save.

Here’s the thing about Christ: He’s not the first God to show up on earth in human form.  In Genesis we find Yahweh strolling around with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Jump ahead to Abraham and we find Yahweh coming in human form, eating a meal with Abraham, then taking a private stroll with him so they can chitchat about Yahweh’s plans to annihilate Sodom and Gomorrah.  Here’s an important question: how come we aren’t sticking Yahweh with this guff about being “fully God and fully man”?  Why is it that Yahweh can show up as a human multiple times and even appear to be digesting a meal, yet we aren’t then trying to say that He can only be in one place at a time.  What is it about Christ coming in human form that makes us all decide that He is less than God?

As a Christian, you really need to stop clinging to this offensive rot about Christ being “fully God and fully man.”  Human beings are created beings.  Christ is God Almighty.  Christ is not created.  When you insist that Christ is fully man, you are reducing Him and turning Him into some half God-half man hybrid.  Such thinking is utterly offensive to all three of your Creators, plus it is unjustified, for when Christ called Himself I AM, He was claiming to be the same kind of Being as Yahweh, and Yahweh makes it very clear that He is not created.

It’s important for you to understand where you are getting your delusional ideas about Christ.  Yes, the Church has stuffed these lies down your throat, but where did she get them from?  Well, think about it: who do we know that has a major beef with Christ being exalted as equal to Yahweh?  Those New Testament apostles, of course.  Those hardcore monotheists like Peter, Paul, and the author of Hebrews.  Those men found it more than a little disturbing to teach that Christ was God Almighty, so instead they taught that He was just a human (see Who is Jesus?).  In fact, the rejection of Jesus’ Divinity is such a prominent theme in the New Testament epistles, that it resulted in some fierce debates about who Christ was in the early Church.

When Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian, he understood that Jesus was God Almighty, not some human bumbler.  When Constantine looked around and saw a bunch of folks calling themselves Christians while they insisted that Christ was just a human, he was rightfully bothered.  So he ordered his Catholic bishops to do something to squelch these irreverent rumors about Christ being created.  The bishops put their heads together and came up with a cockamamie theory that Jesus and Yahweh were not only the same kind of Being, but They were also a single Entity.  Great.  So now we’ve fixed the Divinity of Christ but at the cost of totally losing a grip on Christ’s individuality.  We’ve now turned Him into some alternate personality of Yahweh.  So now we’ve got one God with a split Personality.  Way to make the problem worse, bishops.  But this is how the Trinity theory got started, and thanks to our early leaders failing to include any of our Gods in their theological debates, we now circulate this absurd theory that Christ is not only just another version of Yahweh, but we also say that Christ is “fully God and fully man.”  You see, what happened is we refused to fully step away from the rebellion of the Jewish apostles.  You won’t find those apostles ever suggesting that their magnificent Yahweh is some half-human hybrid no matter how many times He shows up in the form of a man.  No, the Jews were quite careful to keep on defending the Divinity and supremacy of Yahweh while they took a bunch of potshots at Christ.

When we finally got some real Christians happening—and that means believers who were recognizing three Divine Beings—we ended up freaking out about how far from those monotheistic Jews we were straying, so we corrupted our theology about Christ just so we wouldn’t have to own up to how far off base Christian posers like the apostle Paul really were (see Debunking the Conversion of Paul).  Now, as a modern day believer, you’re getting brainwashed with this guff that Christ is somehow less than totally Divine, thanks to your leaders mindlessly passing on the idiocy of those early bishops century after century.

It’s because you have your head full of bad teaching about Christ that this line about Him being the “fullness of God in helpless babe” sounds right to you.  But no, this is actually a derogatory way to speak of Christ.  God Almighty is never helpless.  It doesn’t matter if He looks helpless—He isn’t helpless, nor is His existence limited to that physical frame.  The Creators of all things are not human beings, and They do not share our limitation of only being able to exist in one place at a time.  While Jesus was lying in His crib in the form of a little baby, He was also present all over this world, as well as in every other world that He co-created with Yahweh and the Holy Spirit.  While Mary was arranging His baby blankets, Jesus was holding Mary’s molecules together and controlling her every movement.  So let’s get real about how helpless Jesus isn’t.  Marveling over the way Jesus showed up in human form is all fine, but you need to be careful not to cross the line of thinking He actually became human, because humans are not Gods.

Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—Here in the death of Christ I live.

As is common for Christ focused songs, Yahweh gets a quick side mention here, and of course the only quality we recognize about Him is His immense wrath.  Nice.  So while Jesus is being hailed as our Light, Song, and Strength, Yahweh is that angry Volcano who would be exploding all over us if sweet Jesus wasn’t there to protect us.  How quickly we forget which God it was who “so loved the world” in John 3:16.  That would be Yahweh.  Yahweh is not just Mr. Wrath.  Yahweh does not just sit around obsessing over how sinful we are and lusting after revenge.  Yahweh is the Guy who gave rebellious Israel countless chances to return to Him even though she spat in His face for centuries. 

It is Yahweh who publicly declares His approval of Jesus in the Gospels, so you need to be careful with the common Christian image of Yahweh glaring down at Jesus in disgust as Jesus hung on the cross.  You also need to realize that it does not say anywhere in the Bible that Yahweh turned His face away from Jesus at any point.  Such details are being projected onto the text and by the time we describe Jesus and Yahweh as being opposed to Each Other over and over again, we actually believe that They are.  Well, no, They’re not, and this is a totally unacceptable way for us to view Them.  Jesus never referred to Himself as our High Priest, nor did He ever describe Himself as interceding with Yahweh on our behalf.  Such irreverent images were invented by snarky Paul and that fool who wrote the book of Hebrews.  Such men demonstrate how out of touch they were with both Yahweh and Jesus by the nasty way in which they describe Them.

Here’s an important principle to keep in mind: throughout the Gospels, Jesus describes both Himself and Yahweh as functioning as our Judges in eternity.  He says that both He and Yahweh will be passing out the eternal rewards and punishments, and in Revelation, He depicts Himself as utterly enjoying stomping on those who defy Him.  We love to depict Jesus as a mighty Warrior riding on a horse, which is imagery we get from Revelation 19.  But we are careful to leave out the part where Warrior Jesus then has a jolly time stomping on human souls in the winepress of Divine wrath (see Applying Revelation 19: Warrior Jesus).  We don’t mention how that sword sticking out of His mouth is used to strike down the nations, which He is described as ruling over with a “rod of iron.”  You see, Jesus is not some gracious pushover.  He can be every bit as violent and wrathful as Yahweh, and Yahweh can be every bit as gracious and loving as Jesus.  Our three Gods have the same basic characteristics, but They always work in alignment with Each Other.  This means it is never acceptable to paint one as Mr. Nasty while the other is Mr. Nice.

Here’s another critical point that you need to understand: the death of Jesus was utterly unnecessary.  You see, salvation was readily available to anyone who wanted it before Christ revealed Himself to us.  In fact, Christ did nothing to change the means by which we get saved, for salvation is and has always been acquired through reverential submission to the true Gods.  Before we knew about Christ, Yahweh was the only God we needed to submit to.  Once Christ came, He said that just submitting to Yahweh was no longer sufficient.  Today we have to submit to Yahweh and Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the only true Gods in order to acquire salvation. There’s no tacking Christianity on to Islam or Buddhism or any other religion.  Our Gods demand our exclusive devotion.  If we try to hedge our bets by praying to Them as well as to other gods, we are going to end up in Hell.

So if salvation is acquired through reverential submission, what was the point of the cross?  Well, according to the Church today, the cross provides you with total shielding from the wrath of your Gods.  In other words, it doesn’t matter how you treat Them from now on.  You’re in, so rebel up a storm, because it’s all good.  This is where we go when we run too far with this idea of “the wrath of God being satisfied.”  The wrath of God really is not satisfied, because our Gods are not mindless doormats who find it irrelevant when Their creatures spit in Their faces.

Let’s use a human metaphor to help you get the cross in proper perspective:

A young man named Marcus is living in a kingdom which is ruled by a king with absolute authority.  Marcus is an orphan—he has no parents or family, but he has a whole bunch of attitude.  Marcus is a troublemaker, always committing crimes and causing no end of trouble in his neighborhood.  Well, King Darius takes a very dim view of punks like Marcus.  King Darius demands respect from his citizens, and since Darius is the creator of all of the laws that Marcus is breaking, Darius takes Marcus’ criminal actions as a very personal insult. When he receives complaints about Marcus’ behavior, Darius sends messengers to warn Marcus that the lad had better shape up or bad things will happen to him. 

Well, Marcus blows off Darius’ warnings, and one day Darius’ patience comes to an end.  When another bad report about Marcus comes in, Darius has the troublemaker arrested and brought to his royal court to stand trial.  He says to Marcus, “This is your last chance.  You either submit to my authority or you are going to be executed.”  At last, Marcus cracks and he launches into a long, tearful speech about how sorry he is and how wrong he’s been to discount Darius’ authority. 

When Darius sees that Marcus’ repentance is sincere and not just lip service, Darius makes a shocking announcement.  He declares that he will officially adopt Marcus as his own son.  Because there’s a law in the land that no son of the king can be executed, Marcus is now in a far better situation.  But does this now mean that Marcus and Darius will go on to develop some great father-son bond?  Not necessarily.  Darius demands respect, and if Marcus doesn’t give him enough of it, Darius isn’t going to warm up to the young man.  Meanwhile, even though Marcus can no longer be executed, there are plenty of other punishments Darius can dole out if Marcus gives him a bunch of attitude.  You see, Darius has accepted Marcus as his son, but he has not granted Marcus permission to stop treating Darius like his king.  And the mere fact of being adopted does not give Marcus intimate knowledge of who Darius is.  Darius controls how close they will become from that point on, and he will not share knowledge of himself with anyone who gives him a bunch of attitude.

In this metaphor, you’re like Marcus while Darius represents all three of your Creators.  When Darius adopts Marcus, that’s a parallel to what happens when your Creators decide to grant you salvation.  Salvation does not change who you are, nor does it guarantee you some close bond with Them.  Salvation is about your Creators deciding to be gracious towards you—so gracious that They tell you that you no longer have to fear being cast into Hell.  Instead, you can know that you will end up in Heaven when you die, and this is of course a big sigh of relief.  But while your Creators are agreeing to adopt you as Their metaphorical child, They aren’t promising to let you know Them well, nor are They saying that you can now treat Them any way that you want.  Instead, They demand that you treat Them with respect, and They say that if you don’t, there will be dire consequences.

Certainly intimate communion with our Gods is a real thing, and certainly They delight in drawing us closer to Themselves when we are responding well to Them on a soul level. But if we’re going to start warring with Them, shutting Them out, and acting like rebellious brats, then They will retaliate with discipline.  The problem with saying “God’s wrath is satisfied,” is that this language implies that God no longer has any angry feelings towards us.  Well, of course He does.

If a human man is ripped off by some stranger, he is angry.  But if it’s his own wife who betrays him, isn’t he even angrier?  Of course he is.  Being accepted by our Gods increases the intensity of Their reaction to us.  It was Yahweh’s chosen people who He spends the most time railing at in the Old Testament.  The more insight we are given about who our Gods are and what They want from us, the more accountable we become.  So there’s no sense in which becoming saved means we can kick up our heels and blow off all concern for our Gods’ feelings.  Just as a woman’s concern for a man’s reactions to her greatly increases after she falls in love with him and marries him, so also our concern for our Gods’ preferences should be continually increasing after salvation.

[Verse 3] There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain;

We need to be careful with the concept of Christ dying.  The meaning of death changes greatly depending on what kind of being we’re talking about.  For example, when a dog dies, it ceases to exist. It’s corpse decomposes into basic elements which then get recycled back into the soil of the earth.  Dogs do not have souls that go on to eternity (and we Christians really need to stop with this offensive guff about our pets being in Heaven—see Honoring God with Our View of Heaven).  Well, ceasing to be is what happens to animals and plants, but when it comes to humans, it’s a whole different story.

Death for humans is when God separates our souls from our earthsuits.  Our souls are then transferred on to a different dimension—Heaven or Hell—while our physical bodies decompose dog style. So our bodies cease to be, but our souls do not.  We humans are spiritual beings.  We are our souls.  So for humans, death is a change in location, not the end of existence.

So which of these scenarios applies to Christ?  Neither one, because Christ is not a human.   Because the New Testament apostles say that Christ is a human, we find them teaching a bunch of guff about Christ going down to Hell for three days, returning to earth, then ascending into Heaven.  Christ is portrayed as having human limitations, and that means He can only exist in one place at a time, and that His location is ultimately controlled by Yahweh.  This is why Peter uses such limiting language about Christ in Acts 3:

“For Jesus must remain in Heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as Yahweh promised long ago through His holy prophets.” (Acts 3:20-21)

According to Peter, Jesus is stuck in Heaven until Yahweh lets Him out.  Well, no, this is how it works for humans, but it’s certainly not how it works for Christ, because Christ is God Almighty, and a true God is omnipresent.

So what is the correct way to view the death of Christ on the cross?  Well, first we have to get a correct view of Christ before He died.  That human shell He was walking around in was nothing more than a kind of costume for Him.  When He died, He simply set His costume aside for three days, then picked it up again to wow everyone.  He didn’t really get stuck in Hell for three days, nor did He get stuck in Heaven (see Did Jesus spend three days in Hell?)  As God, Christ is always present in Heaven, in Hell and everywhere else.  There is never any location we can name where Christ is not present, thus it is quite absurd to speak of Him going somewhere as if He has actually left a different location.

While His disciples believed Him to be stuck in the underworld of Hades for three days, Jesus was actually still with His disciples and with every other human on the planet.  No, Christ really wasn’t “slain” by darkness.  Darkness is not a deity, but you’ll find the apostle Paul inventing several new deities in his epistles.  Paul speaks of Death and Sin as if they are living beings with the power to oppose God.  Such talk is utterly absurd.  Jesus’ death on the cross was nothing more than a charade which He put on for our benefit.  To make anything more of it is to reduce Christ as being less than fully Divine.

Then bursting forth in glorious day, Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory, Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;

Sin’s curse?  Here’s more of Paul’s influence showing through.  Paul deified both Sin and Death, then he said that Death was so totally potent, that Christ still hadn’t managed to defeat it at the time that Paul wrote his epistles.

For Christ must reign until He humbles all His enemies beneath His feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Cor. 15:25)

Paul is not about to grant Christ eternal ruling over anything.  Instead, he portrays Christ as some incompetent temporary ruler who is struggling and straining to beat that superior foe named Death.  What happens when Christ finally succeeds?  Yahweh will knock Christ off of His throne, take His Authority away, and Christ will of course bow down to Yahweh as the only true God.

And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Yahweh, who subjected everything to Christ, so that Yahweh may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)

Meanwhile, according to the dingdong who wrote Hebrews, the mighty Yahweh was totally overcome by that bad ole devil named Satan, who controlled the great power of Death.  You see, apparently Yahweh has a problem with making creatures who then evolve to become stronger than He is. The author of Hebrews says that Yahweh simply couldn’t find a way to get Satan under control, so that’s when He came up with Christ: the created super angel who voluntarily morphed into a human to help Yahweh defeat some speck of an angel.  According to the rules of whatever magical fairy world the author of Hebrews was living in, only a literal human could manage to defeat Satan.  Thus we’re told:

Because Yahweh’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could Jesus die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. (Heb. 2:14-15)

Wow, what a rebellious fool.  And as we sing that “Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,” how quickly we forget that it was Yahweh, not some being named Sin, who did the cursing back in Genesis. Of course a closer reading of that account will reveal that sin was already abounding in Eden before the famous fruit sampling (see Debunking The Fall: The Many Lies Christians Tell About Genesis 3). You see, this business about being under the curse of sin is total rot, and quite a nasty slam on Yahweh.  For when we say that Christ saved us from sin’s curse, we’re clearly suggesting that before Christ came, we had no hope of salvation.  Wow, really?  And what are we doing with all of those accounts in which Yahweh throws such epic grace and forgiveness down on the heads of repentant rebels throughout the Old Testament?

Today it is common for Christians to slander Yahweh by talking as if it was only after the death of Christ that Yahweh underwent some dramatic change in Personality and went from being that wrathful, impossible to please “God of the Old Testament” to being some brooding Judge who grudgingly grants us mercy since Christ is constantly nagging at Him to be nice (see Songs that God Hates: Before the Throne of God Above).  Well, no, this is a very insulting way to talk about Yahweh.

This is a great problem with Christians: even though Yahweh is talked about far more than Christ in the Bibles we’re always clinging to, we totally blow off every nice thing that Yahweh does in those sacred pages and instead act like Christ is our first experience with mercy.  We talk as if Christ “fixed” Yahweh by coaxing Him into being gracious.  How very nasty of us.  But of course, once we make Christ out to be the Hero while we make Yahweh out to be our Enemy, it’s no wonder that we want to wax on and on about the blood of Christ like it’s something we just can’t live without.

For I am His and He is mine—Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

What exactly was the blood of Christ?  It was the physical fluid which drained from His physical earthsuit, which He used as nothing more than a costume.  Christ Himself does not have a body, DNA or platelets.  Christ’s blood is not some mystical fluid which still exists.  Christ isn’t traveling around in a physical body today.  He simply uncreated that shell He used back in Israel the same way He created it.  So when we start deifying the blood, worshiping the blood, and trying to metaphorically fling it around like some magical potion today, we are acting like idolatrous little twerps (see Hymns That Lead Us Astray: There is Power in the Blood). We shouldn’t be focusing on blood, crosses, or any other earthly props.  We should be focusing on our Gods.

[Verse 4] No guilt in life, no fear in death—This is the power of Christ in me;

The term “no guilt in life” is far too broad. Good guilt is the very appropriate feeling of discomfort that we experience when we are stalling around about obeying some conviction our Gods are giving us.  No, Christ really hasn’t made us “guilt free.”  Christ is never going to tell us that it’s perfectly fine for us to pay no attention to anything He says to us now that we’re saved.  A Christian who is incapable of feeling guilt is in a very bad place.

From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.

Yes, Jesus certainly does control your destiny, but He also presents you with choices, and He says that those choices will be a major factor in determining the kind of destiny He chooses for you.  And let’s not lose sight of the fact that He makes decisions about you in collaboration with Yahweh and the Holy Spirit, not by Himself.

No power of Hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

And what exactly is a “power of Hell”?  This is a reference to demons, of course, and to refer to demons as the authorities of Hell is a very common error that Christians make.  We get this from the New Testament apostles, of course, for they had a major problem with grossly exaggerating the power of angelic beings while downplaying the sovereignty of Yahweh.  In real life, Hell was created by our Gods, and They are the Rulers of it, not Satan (see Satan Q&A). 

This is the end of our song, which has proven to be quite polluted with some very wrong theology about Christ, salvation, and sin.  Add this business of offering all the compliments to Christ alone while we infer that Yahweh doesn’t know anything but wrath, and this song just doesn’t qualify as acceptable worship for our Gods.

FURTHER READING:
Intercession: Exposing the Lies
Know Your Bible Lesson 67: Fully God & Only God
The Trinity Doctrine: Is it an obstacle to salvation?

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