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Who Do We Worship? (Oneness/Jesus-only Worship Songs), Part 2
by Karl Kemp
10/18/2011 / Bible Studies
Discussion of "Here I am to Worship" and Several Other "Worship" Songs.
First we will consider the words of the song, "Here I am to Worship," written by Tim Hughes, which was referred to in the article by Fern Holm. I'll quote the first two verses and the chorus of the song (I had a footnote: I took these lyrics, and some of the other lyrics included in this section, from the internet site: www.stlyrics.com/songs/t/timhughes22168.html and
Light of the world You stepped down into darkness Opened my eyes, Let me see Beauty that made this heart adore you Hope of a life spent with you
Here I am to worship Here I am to bow down Here I am to say that You're my God You're altogether lovely Altogether worthy Altogether wonderful to me
King of all days So highly exalted Glorious in heaven above Humbly you came to the earth you created All for love's sake became poor
I agree with Fern Holm that this song should be categorized as a "Jesus-only/oneness" song (whatever the intention of the songwriter). Jesus is the only One worshiped in this song, and it is (at a minimum) strongly inferred (it seems to me) that God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit) doesn't exist as a distinct Person in the Godhead. It seems to me that this popular song will influence many Christians in that direction, whether Tim Hughes actually believes that God the Father exists as a distinct Person in the Godhead, or not.
When the songwriter (and the worshipers using this song) comes before the throne of God to bow down and to worship and says to Jesus, "You're my God" (What about God the Father on the throne?; He is the One who sent His Son to save us, etc.) and refers to Jesus as the One who created the earth (What about God the Father?), it is strongly inferred that God the Father doesn't exist as a distinct Person, whether that was the intention of Tim Hughes, or not. ((I had a footnote: God the Father created the earth and every being/thing else that was ever created (cf., e.g., Gen. 1:1-2:4; Eph. 3:9 [When this verse is read in context with Eph. 3:8-12, it is clear that the apostle Paul is speaking of God the Father when he says, "God who created all things"]; and Rev. 4:11. [I'll quote Rev. 4:11 (NASB, 1995), "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created." In Part 1 of this article, I demonstrated that the words of Rev. 4:11 are spoken to God the Father.] We also learn from John 1:3, 10; Col. 1:16; and Heb. 1:2 that God the Son was also active in creation in that God the Father created through Him.)) In this song Jesus (or, more accurately, God the Son) is the One "who stepped down into darkness," and the words "You're my God" are spoken to Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus is the One who "became poor" (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). Tim confirmed to me in an e-mail that this song was directed to Jesus (see below).
It is quite significant that the words of some other songs that were written by Tim Hughes on this same album ("Here I am to Worship") worship the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that even more strongly infers that God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit) doesn't exist as a distinct Person in the Godhead than does the song "Here I am to Worship." (We'll consider the words of two of these songs as we continue.) That fact makes it all the more probable that the existence of the Person of God the Father is also being denied in the song, "Here I am to Worship." Even if Tim didn't intend to communicate the idea that God the Father doesn't exist as a distinct Person (and that would be difficult for me to imagine when I consider the words of these songs), it is clear that many Christians using these songs are being rather strongly influenced in that erroneous direction.
I learned on the internet that Tim Hughes is a popular worship leader from England. His father is an Anglican pastor. I'll include a relevant excerpt from "Today's Christian," July/August 2006. " 'During that time I [Tim Hughes] had been thinking and meditating on the cross,' he says. 'I began to concentrate on Philippians 2 - about Christ's humility and how He became obedient to the point of death on a cross. I was challenged with the wonder of His sacrifice for us.'... 'I began to ask, How are we gong to respond to Christ's great sacrifice on the cross? Do we bow down? Do we scream out? Sometimes we don't know how to respond, even though we desperately want to.' The answer finally came to him in words that spoke matter-of-factly about the act of worship itself: 'Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that You're My God.' " The article went on to say that "Tim, who now travels around the world with the Soul Survivor ministry, recorded this song on his 2001 debut album, and it went on to win a 2003 Dove Award." The article also mentioned that "Tim wrote 'Here I Am to Worship' while a student at Sheffield University, where he worked with a young-adult ministry called Soul Survivor."
I sent an e-mail to Soul Survivor asking them if they believe there are three distinct Persons in the Godhead. I haven't received an answer. The roots of Soul Survivor were in St. Andrews Anglican Church, Chorleywood. Mike Pilavachi, who was a youth worker at that church, and Matt Redman, who was a young musician who led worship there, started Soul Survivor in 1993.
I didn't have Tim Hughes e-mail address, but I sent an e-mail to him indirectly through Soul Survivor and Matt Redman, briefly asking him about his view of God and who this song is addressed to. Tim replied (June 19, 2007), "I believe in one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However when writing ["Here I am to worship"], it is directed to the person of Jesus, the one who stepped down into darkness and humbled himself on a cross (Phil. 2). In response to this amazing sacrifice we worship. Also the bridge section, 'I'll never know how much it cost...' is sung to the person of Jesus." Notice that Tim didn't say that he believes in one God, three (distinct) Persons," but he did mention "the person of Jesus, the one who stepped down into the darkness...." I'm not sure what Tim believes. I sent him an e-mail asking for more information and making my concerns known, but I haven't received a reply.
I'll reproduce the e-mail I sent to Tim Hughes. I'll include a few comments in brackets.
I very much appreciate your humility and your response. I very much want to please God and to be a blessing to you and to the body of Christ, and I know that you want to please God and be a blessing to the body of Christ. Please let me ask a follow up question or two. Please help me understand.
You said you believe in 'one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,' but do you really believe in three distinct Persons of the Godhead? And do you really believe what the New Testament so often says about God the Father as a Person distinct from the Lord Jesus Christ (there are many hundreds of such verses, but for example, John 4:21-33; 14:6-21, 23-31; 16:23-33; and 17:1-26)?
If you believe the Lord Jesus is at the Father's right hand, how can you ignore (or deny) the existence of God the Father in your song, 'Jesus You Alone' with the words 'Jesus, You alone shall be my first love'; 'To Your throne I'll bring devotion...' (God the Father is on the throne and Jesus is at His right hand, as many verses demonstrate); and 'You alone will be my passion, Jesus...'? [When I first asked Tim my question(s), I only knew of his one song, "Here I am to worship." Regarding that song, I could have asked Tim how he can come to worship and bow down before Jesus (at the right hand of God the Father on His throne) and say to Jesus, "You're my God," while ignoring (or denying the existence of) God the Father. And I could have asked many similar questions regarding the few songs of Tim that I know about. I only include three examples of Tim's songs in this article, but I could have included more songs from the same album.] I'm very sure that the Lord Jesus Christ would be the first One to say that first and foremost God the Father must be worshipped. I realize, by the way, that millions of Christians in our day ascribe to the oneness/Jesus-only view of God, but I don't see how.
The fact that your songs are so popular makes it very important for you to not leave the very strong impression that there is only one Person in the Godhead, and all the more so if you really believe there are three distinct Persons. I'm very sure that you want to do the will of God.
If you don't believe in the three distinct Persons of the Godhead, please tell me. I have been a Bible teacher for about forty years (on a rather small scale), and I plan to share the information you're sharing with me. Thanks for your help. If I can help you, please let me know.
In Jesus' Mighty Name,
As far as this article is concerned, it doesn't make much difference what Tim believes. What really matters is what his songs communicate (teach) about the existence of the Person of God the Father; who we are to worship, etc. It seems clear to me that some of Tim's songs strongly communicate the idea that God the Father doesn't exist as a distinct Person and that we are covering all the bases (so to speak) when we worship Jesus. Some of Tim's songs will surely influence many Christians in that direction. There can be no doubting the fact that this is what millions of Christians believe in our day, and the trend is growing. And there can be no doubting the fact that Jesus-only/oneness "worship" songs are strongly promoting this erroneous trend.
Now we'll consider another song written by Tim on this same album; the song is titled, "Jesus You Alone." This song seems to even more strongly communicate the idea that God the Father doesn't exist as a distinct Person than the song "Here I am to Worship." It doesn't seem possible that Tim could seriously believe in the distinct Person of God the Father on His throne (at whose right hand Jesus is) and write the words of this song and use them to lead Christians to come before God's throne to worship only Jesus. (Anyway, I'm not writing this article to criticize Tim or anybody else. He knows what he believes and who he worships.) I'll quote the words of this song:
JESUS, YOU ALONE shall be my first love, my first love. [What about God the Father?] The secret place and THE HIGHEST PRAISE SHALL BE YOURS, shall be Yours. [What about God the Father?]
TO YOUR THRONE [Jesus is with God the Father on His throne (cf., e.g., Heb. 12:2; Rev. 3:21; 22:1, 3). We cannot rightly come to this throne to worship Jesus and deny the existence of (or ignore) the Person of God the Father.] I'll bring devotion, may it be the sweetest sound. Lord this heart is reaching for you now.
So I'll set my sights upon You, Set my life upon Your praise [What about God the Father?], Never looking to another way. YOU ALONE WILL BE MY PASSION, JESUS, You will be my song. You will find me longing after You. [What about God the Father?]
Day and night I lift my eyes to seek You, to seek You. Hungry for a glimpse of You in glory, in glory. [What about God the Father?]
I'll also include some of the words from another of Tim's songs on this same album, "I'll Always Love You" (and there are other songs on this album that communicate the same idea):
I just want to love I just want to sing TO THE ONE ABOVE [which is Jesus as the following words confirm; He is "the One above," but what about the Person of God the Father?]...
I'll always love You I'll always sing to You, JESUS I long TO WORSHIP YOU IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH [These last words are doubly problematic in that Jesus spoke of "(worshiping) THE FATHER in spirit [Spirit] and truth" in John 4:23, 24, but Tim is using these words of worshipping Jesus in this song.] ....
I assume Tim Hughes, who is very influential in the area of Christian worship (writing songs; leading worship; teaching classes to worship leaders, etc.), is a sincere, humble, Christian who wants above all things to please God, but it seems clear to me that some of his songs are furthering the trend toward the Jesus-only/oneness viewpoint of God. So too for Matt Redman (I mentioned Matt above); I'll quote three of his songs as we continue.
Many Christians in our day, and I'm sure that includes quite a few songwriters, don't stop to think much about such all-important details as the existence of the three Persons of the Trinity. Such details are pretty much irrelevant to many Christians in our day, but I am convinced that they are making a serious mistake. Christianity can only stand on the truth of God; we must know and live the truth of God's Word. There is no gospel of salvation apart from the truth of God's revelation to us in His written Word. The name Jesus, for example, is only an empty shell that can be used (and often is used) by many people who deny most of what the Bible teaches about Him. The demons use that name too. That name is empty unless it is understood and accepted in faith in context with all the Bible teaches about that glorious Person/name.
I'll also quote three of Matt Redman's songs that seem to deny the existence of the Person of God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit), whatever Matt's beliefs and intentions as he wrote these songs. (I suppose Matt is as influential as Tim Hughes, if not more so.) Even if Matt didn't intend to deny the existence of the distinct Person of God the Father, these songs will surely have the effect of enhancing the viewpoint that Jesus alone is our God. I sent Matt an e-mail asking him if he believes in God the Father as a distinct Person in the Godhead. I mentioned that it seems to me that these three songs deny the existence of God the Father, and that if I understand his song, he even calls Jesus "Father" in the song "Salvation" and speaks of His "Father's Heart" in "O Sacred King." I didn't get a response from Matt.
First I'll quote the words of "O Sacred King" (1st Version):
O Sacred King, O Holy King How can I honour You rightly, Honour that's fit for Your name. O Sacred Friend, O Holy Friend, I don't take what You did lightly Friendship instead of disgrace.
For it's the mystery of the universe YOU'RE THE GOD OF HOLINESS [The last words of this song confirm that Jesus is the One being addressed. What about God the Father?] Yet You welcome souls like me And with the blessing of YOUR FATHER'S HEART [To call Jesus "the God of holiness" and to refer to His "Father's heart" seems to deny the existence of the Person of God the Father (and God the Spirit).] You discipline the ones You love There's kindness in Your majesty
JESUS, those who recognize Your power Know just how wonderful You are When You draw near.
Now I'll quote the words of "Salvation":
Salvation spring up from the ground Lord rend the heavens and come down Seek the lost and heal the lame JESUS bring glory to your name Let all the prodigals run home All of creation waits and groans Lord we've heard of your great fame FATHER [It seems that Matt is calling Jesus "Father" here, which serves as a strong confirmation of the fact that the existence of the Person of God the Father is being denied in this song.] cause all to shout your name
Stir up our hearts oh lord, Open our spirits to know who you are Put a cry in us so deep inside that we cannot find the words we need We just weep and cry out to you
Now I'll quote the words of "Shout to the Lord":
JESUS, it's all about You [What about the Person of God the Father? The Lord Jesus Christ (and the Bible in general) directed our attention to God the Father.]
My JESUS, my Savior Lord there is none like You [What about the Person of God the Father?]
All of my days I want to praise The wonders of Your mighty love [What about the mighty love of God the Father?]
My comfort, my shelter Tower of refuge and strength Let every breath, all that I am Never cease to worship You [What about the Person of God the Father?]
Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains will bow down and the seas will roar At the sound of Your name I sing for joy at the works of Your hands [What about the Person of God the Father, the One behind all creation (see above)?] Forever I'll love You, forever I'll stand Nothing compares to the promise I have in You
Now let's consider the song, "Dwelling Places" by Miriam Webster (1999). I'll quote part of the article on her in Wikipedia: "Miriam Webster is an Australian gospel singer-songwriter. ... She has...toured Australia, New Zealand and the United States, and released several albums.... She has been serving with the Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia since 1996 and featuring on numerous Hillsong Music praise-and-worship albums since 1997."
I'll quote part of what Hillsong Church says under "What We Believe": "We believe in one eternal God who is the Creator of all things. He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit." This sounds good, but is seems that somehow the song "Dwelling Places" fell through the cracks. It seems that this song presents Jesus as God, with no one beside Him (but Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father), thereby seemingly denying the existence of the Person of God the Father (which is so common in so many songs in our day).
I'll quote the song and make several comments in brackets (I took the words from
Lovely are Your dwelling places [I assume that these words build on Psalm 84:1, which speaks of the loveliness of the dwelling places of Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, which centers in the Person of God the Father, but Miriam is addressing this song to the Lord Jesus Christ, which becomes clear as the song continues.] Thirsty I come after You. JESUS, my joy, my reward, Your love's restoring my soul. Now I'm Yours, and You are mine. And from my heart a song will rise.
Chorus: I love You, I love You, I love You. I love You, I love You, I love You. I love You, I love You, I love You. And my heart will follow wholly after You.
JESUS, THERE IS NONE BESIDE YOU Righteous Ruler of the earth, Nations will come and bow down. Name over all names [Based on Phil. 2: 9, 10 we can say that Jesus' name is above all names in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth, but we must understand that God the Father is the One who bestowed on Jesus the name which is above all names (see Phil. 2:9-11) and that God the Father did not bestow (and I don't believe He could have bestowed) on Jesus a name above His (the Father's) name. God the Son is subordinate to God the Father in His role. (See 1 Cor. 15:27, 28, for example], I sing You praises, And all that I can say to you is
I sent an e-mail to Miriam (through Hillsong Church) asking her (or anybody else at Hillsong who could answer the question for her) what she meant by saying that there is no one beside Jesus. I'll quote part of my e-mail here. "I was happy to see that Hillsong believes that God exists in three Persons, and it seems clear that you don't believe Jesus is the name of the three Persons ... The song is clearly addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ, but what does it mean when you say, "Jesus, there is none beside You"? Doesn't that deny the existence of God the Father? If not, why not? (I suppose you could say that there is none beside Him on the earth, but that isn't saying very much.) Thanks for your help! God's will be done in your life and at Hillsong."
My e-mail was passed on "to one of the senior lecturers at...Hillsong International Leadership College, Amanda Ferguson." I'll quote her e-mail and then make a few comments in response. I will also make one brief comment in a bracket in her e-mail. I very much appreciate the fact that Hillsong and Amanda responded to my question. I am impressed with their Christian integrity. It should be understood (I suppose) that Amanda was answering an e-mail question, not giving the definitive last word that Hillsong has to say regarding my question.
"Your question has been passed on to me to answer and I will endeavour to do so. I am a lecturer at Hillsong International Leadership College and am also one of the people responsible for checking the lyrics of the songs that are written. [I'm impressed with the fact that they have people responsible to check the lyrics of their songs.] If you are interested in learning more about our views on Songwriting I recommend my book 'Songs of Heaven' that I wrote a couple of years ago and that contains the thoughts of a number of our songwriters.
In response to your question on Dwelling Places and especially the line 'Jesus there is none beside You'. I think it is important to remember that a worship song is not trying to communicate the whole picture of theological truth. That is not its purpose. THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT THE PART OF TRUTH THAT IT DOES INCLUDE IS ACCURATE [my emphasis].
Looking at Miriam's lyrics it is clear that she has chosen to focus on Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity, throughout and as such it is appropriate for that line to do the same. I THINK IT IS CLEAR THAT 'JESUS' IS UNDERSTOOD TO INCLUDE THE WHOLE OF THE GODHEAD [my emphasis] and that there is no implication that the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are in any way denigrated.
As you will be aware it is possible to read verses in the Bible that focus on the divinity of God the Father without mentioning the Son or Holy Spirit and yet we do not think that the deity of either is being undermined. The number of worship songs either contemporary or traditional that mention Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the one song is relatively few and that is fine because their purpose is not doctrinal education but as a vessel for worship.
I hope this is helpful.
I'll quote the key part of the e-mail I sent to Amanda in response to what she said. "... I have one primary problem with your response. It may be accepted by many in our day (I really don't know if it is accepted by many who say they believe in the three distinct Persons of the Trinity; it may be; but it certainly is accepted by millions of oneness Christians who deny the existence of the three distinct Persons of the Trinity), but I don't believe it is in line with the Bible (or historic Christianity) to say that "JESUS IS UNDERSTOOD TO INCLUDE THE WHOLE OF THE GODHEAD...." THE NAME "JESUS" IN THE BIBLE IS STRICTLY RESERVED FOR THE GOD-MAN (the One born of the virgin Mary). And since the name Jesus does not include God the Father (or the Holy Spirit) the words of the song we are discussing seem to perpetuate the Jesus-only worship that is so widespread in our day (whatever the intention of Miriam).
Please believe that I am not trying to stir up trouble or major on minors. I sincerely want to serve God as a teacher in the Body of Christ, and I want to be a blessing to Hillsong Church and every true Christian. I believe we have a very serious problem in our day with tending to deny the existence of the Person of God the Father, the One who sent His Son to save us. I'm not suggesting you have that problem at Hillsong. I don't know hardly anything about Hillsong, but I believe the words of this song help perpetuate a seriously erroneous trend evident in many worship songs in our day. I am not suggesting it is wrong to have worship songs directed to the Person of Jesus Christ, not at all, or that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have to be mentioned in every song. But I don't believe we should say things like, 'Jesus there is none beside You,' and especially not in a day when Jesus-only worship is so widespread.
God bless you and your work! May God's will be fully accomplished at Hillsong! In Jesus' name!"
I'll quote the two primary sentences from Amanda's brief response. "Hillsong Church does not and never has subscribed to Oneness theology and we are fully Trinitarian in our doctrine. I am convinced that this is true of Miriam's theology too but, if you feel that this song is unclear then you need to act according to your conscience and not use it in worship." Miriam may well solidly believe in the three Persons of the Godhead, but I still have to say that the words "Jesus, there is none beside You" lend themselves to perpetuate the erroneous idea of Jesus-only worship, whatever Miriam believes or wanted to communicate with the words of this song.
We will finish this article in Part 3.
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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