Among the many arguments dealing with music and Christians, there is the issue of who Christians should listen to. More specific, should Christians should listen to artists who either espouse unorthodox or even heretical doctrine, let alone unbelieving artists? A group that is mentioned more often than not is Phillips, Craig and Dean (PCD), each one a pastor of a church, who, it is claimed (I use the word “claimed” because I have heard arguments for both and against this statement) are proponents of the Oneness doctrine.
The subject of this post is not to argue for or against the Oneness doctrine or even to debate whether or not Christians should listen to PCD’s music or not. For an interesting take on this matter, I’d recommend reading this article. The part that I would agree with most strongly is when the author states, “Listen CLOSELY to the lyrics – evaluating everything that comes from them.” Of course, I would encourage such advice for ANYTHING and ANYBODY – discernment is an excellent habit.
What I would like to do in this post is to do just what the author is recommending – to evaluate their song’s lyrics, checking for any “theological seepage.” This exercise is just as much for my own education as for anybody else’s who happens to read this. The song titles are listed in bold and underlined followed by any thoughts on that particular song. There are some songs that I don’t have a whole lot to say about and others I do. If you are interested in reading the lyrics, a simple Google search should help. A short note to keep in mind also is that PCD does not write all of their songs, but “borrows” from other musicians, especially in their later albums. Also, when I reference “bad theology” I am specifically referring to the Oneness doctrines. Okay, here we go. The following songs are all on PCD’s album Favorite Songs of All. I chose this album since it is a compilation CD of some of what they consider their best songs. In another post, I’ll pick another album or individual songs from various albums to discuss.
Freedom of the Sea
Nothing in this song speaks of their Oneness theology
No Matter How Long It Takes
Apart from a man centered view of salvation, there is no other bad theology
Favorite Song of All
While this song seemingly speaks of only one member of the Godhead (Jesus Christ) as referred to in the chorus (“When those purchased by His blood…”), there aren’t any lyrics that would confuse any of the members of the Trinity. The song could be speaking entirely of Christ.
Turn Up the Radio
Pretty much just a “feel-good” song with nothing theological in it – except for perhaps the line “His Spirit calls my name again and again” – which could actually make the argument that the “Spirit” is distinct from the other person the “His” is being referred to.
I Want to be Just Like You
This song can give some confusion as to the roles in the Godhead. Take the following lines for example:
And I whisper a prayer that someday he’ll see
He’s got a father in God ‘cause he’s seen Jesus in me
Taken at first glance, it would seem to take the role of Heavenly Father and attribute it to Jesus, God the Son. But if we consider the words of Christ in John 14:8-9, this phrase is actually quite Biblical: “Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (emphasis added) It would then be right to pray that a son would see God the Father by observing God the Son in a person’s life.
Shine on Us
A song originally by Michael W. Smith, it does not contain any specific references to a particular member of the Godhead.
Mercy Came Running
In this song, Jesus is alluded to as “Mercy,” clearly seen in the following lines:
Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once his blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail
In this song, there is actually a hint of the separateness of God and Christ. If we keep in mind that “mercy” is referring to Christ, the first line seems to separate God (the Father, perhaps?) and Christ/“mercy”:
Once there was a holy place
Evidence of God’s embrace
And I can almost see mercy’s face
Pressed against the veil
I would conclude that this song does more for the Trinitarian view than the Oneness doctrine.
Concert of the Age
This song is about the singing and praising of God that will occur in the eternal state. There are a couple of references to specific members of the Godhead, again seemingly making the case against Oneness in one instance and can be construed as for it in another. First, the part that helps the case against Oneness. Near the end of the song, we have these lines:
But on behalf of the Father
We give you the King of heart and soul
I would take this lines to include three separate people or groups; the “we” would be the singers; “the Father” would be God the Father, distinct from the third person who is; “the King of Heart and Soul.” On behalf of the Father, the singers are presenting the King of Heart and soul. It doesn’t make sense to say that it means “On behalf of the Father, we present the Father.” Additionally, Rev.19:11-16 ascribes to Jesus Christ the name of “King of kings and Lord of lords.” From this, it is easy to see how “King of heart and soul” can be a reference to Jesus.
What about the following lines in the chorus?:
At the concert of the age
The great I Am takes center stage
This could be taken to refer to God the Father, since it is he who is generally regarded as having used this term in Exodus with Moses. (see Ex. 3:14, for example) However, in John 8:58 Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Here, Jesus is claiming for himself the name of “I AM” – as evidenced by the fact that upon hearing this, the Jews wanted to stone him for blasphemy. The line could be a reference to God the Father, but it is not a required reading of it.
Overall, an “inspirational” kind of song that has little theology in it. There is a brief reference to Jesus, but it’s more about the singer’s “mama.”
Build a Bridge of Love
A song to encourage unity in believers, the only reference to a member of the Godhead is in the line “O Father make us one.”
This is the Life
A song without a lot of substance or theology. This song is perhaps one of my least favorites since it almost gives a hint of a prosperity gospel. (“Oh, I‘m feelin’ alright / Day or night, rain or shine, this is the life”)
Little Bit of Morning
(Ironically, this song comes right after This is the Life) The second verse speaks of the crushed hope that the disciples must have felt when Jesus died, but having risen from the dead, Christ “conquered death and hell / Because He lives now we can say…”
He’ll Do Whatever It Takes
Despite the man-centered view of salvation permeating the song, the lyrics speak of the love and “efforts” Jesus has undertaken to save us.
Crucified with Christ
This is song is perhaps one of the best that PCD sings. It speaks of our death in Christ and the “resurrection power” we have because of his death. There is no “bad theology” in this song.
That’s all for this album. As can be seen, none of the songs has a meaning that must be taken to endorse the Oneness doctrine and the ones that appear to do can, in fact, have a very Biblical explanation.
[As a side note, I’ve gotten a little behind in my book reading and reviews, but I hope to have more posted soon.]