Who Do We Worship? (Oneness/Jesus-only Worship Songs), Part 3
by Karl Kemp 10/20/2011 / Bible Studies
Now we will consider two songs from worship DVDs produced by Christ for the Nations. I'll reproduce an e-mail (two pages long) that I sent to Dennis Lindsay (November 5, 2007), who is the President and CEO of Christ for the Nations. The e-mail documents the problem I have with these two songs. It has only been two weeks (now it has been more than three years), but I have not received a response to this e-mail.
"Dear Dennis Lindsay,
I'm directing these questions to you Dennis (or to a person you might designate). I hope you will respond to this e-mail. I'm not attacking anyone. I truly want to be a blessing to you, to Christ for the Nations, and to the body of Christ throughout the earth. I want to promote unity in the one church, but unity in the truth.
I have been a Bible teacher in the greater St. Louis area for about forty years. I received an MA degree in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis in 1972. I was at a Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship meeting in St Louis in the 60s that your father attended, and I read a book that he wrote on the end times. I don't know much about Christ for the Nations, but I'm confident that much good fruit comes from that ministry, very much including your emphasis on missions and worship.
I'm not an expert on Christian worship songs, but I have been noticing for a long time that a high percentage of worship songs being written in our day worship only Jesus. I'm sure it is appropriate to have songs that worship only Jesus, but He taught us to worship the Father first and foremost, even as He taught us to (typically) pray to the Father in His name. We Christians desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. And we need to worship the God of truth in the Spirit and in the truth. The more we do things right, according to His Word, the more He will be glorified, and the more He can use us and bless us.
The primary thing that is bothering me as I do this study are the songs that seem to deny God the Father as a Person distinct from God the Son. That's easy to do if the songwriter thinks that there is only one Person, whether we call Him Father, Son, Holy Spirit, or Jesus.
I realize that many Christians (millions of Christians) think that the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit) are the same Person (oneness), but that certainly goes against what the early Christian church believed, and much more important, it goes against what the Bible teaches. I'm speaking of the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches in its entirety. I realize that there are a few verses that fit the idea of oneness. ((I had a footnote: Many Christians have made the serious mistake of clinging to a few verses that seem to prove their viewpoint and closing their minds (from that time on) to what the rest of the Bible has to say on the topic. I'll use an experience I had with a local leader of the Jehovah's Witnesses for an illustration (even though the Jehovah's Witness can't be considered part of the Christian church in that, for one thing, they deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ; they don't consider themselves to be part of the Christian church anyway in that they believe they are the only ones who are saved.) This leader was totally convinced that if he listed ten verses that speak of God and Jesus, he was proving that Jesus is not God. He eventually got up and left my house (with some indignation) when I didn't agree with his point and tried to show him what the rest of the Bible has to say on the topic. His mind was closed; he wasn't interested in anything I had to say. It's true that God the Father is the One typically called God in the Bible, but if we open our minds and consider everything the Bible has to say on the topic, we learn of God the Son (the One who became the God-man through the virgin birth) who is deity with (and always existed with) God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.))
Does Christ for the Nations believe in the three (distinct) Persons of the Trinity. I have always assumed that Christ for the Nations does believe in the Trinity, but now I'm not so sure. For one thing, under the 'Core Values' of the 'Mission Statement' on your web site it doesn't mention God the Father or the Trinity, but it does mention 'exalting the Person and work of Jesus Christ.'
I have to assume that the writer of these words doesn't believe in the existence of God the Father as a Person distinct from the Lord Jesus Christ. When I listened to 'Song Stories' in the 'Bonus Material' on the DVD, I found further strong evidence that the writer equates the Person of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in that He said, 'Love Song came out of my love for the Father. I love Him so I wrote a love song to Him.' But the song is clearly addressed to 'Jesus the King of heaven.' I'm not saying this to attack Rick Pino; not at all. Maybe I am misunderstanding him somehow (but I doubt it), but it wouldn't be all that surprising if he equates the Person of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in that millions of Christians hold that viewpoint. Perhaps that is a common viewpoint, or the dominant viewpoint, around Christ for the Nations. Is it?
This song is clearly addressed to Jesus, and the words of this song seem to strongly suggest that when Jesus is being worshipped the one Person of God is being worshipped.
One primary problem (from my point of view) is that the words of Revelation chapter 4 that are used in this song refer to God the Father, not the Lord Jesus Christ. The words 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come' are taken from Rev. 4:8. It is clear though that these words refer to God the Father. He is the One sitting on the throne in Rev. 4:2-5:7. The fact that the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, comes and takes the scroll from the right hand of God the Father, the One seated on the throne, in Rev. 5:7 demonstrates that God the Father (not the Lord Jesus Christ) is the One seated on the throne here.
I should add that in Rev. 1:4 the words 'from Him who is and who was and who is to come' also refer to God the Father. Notice that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (the Trinity) are mentioned in Rev. 1:4, 5. (I had a footnote: There is widespread agreement that the "seven Spirits who are before the throne" of Rev. 1:5 refer to the Holy Spirit, with seven being the number of divine perfection that is often used in the book of Revelation. Also see Rev. 4:5; 5:6.) It is common to mention the three Persons of the Godhead together in the New Testament. I should also mention that the words of the song about being 'clothed in rainbows of living color' and the words 'Flashes of lightning Rolls of thunder' undoubtedly build on the words of Rev. 4:3 ('and there was a rainbow around the throne') and the words of Rev. 4:5 ('And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder'); both verses speak of the throne on which God the Father is seated in Rev 4:2-5:7.
Thanks for considering this e-mail. May God's good and holy will be fully accomplished in you and at Christ for the Nations! In Jesus' Name!"
For one last example, let's discuss the words of the popular chorus of the worship song, "In the presence of Jehovah." Many worship songs clearly deny the Trinity with words like "Jesus, You alone are God," but the oneness view of God is not so obvious in the words of this chorus.
In the presence of Jehovah
God-Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles ended (vanish), hearts are mended
In the Presence of The King
I assumed that this song was written by someone from a oneness perspective, or at least someone strongly influenced by the oneness perspective. I learned on the internet that this song was written by Geron and Becky Davis, published in 1985. After a little research I confirmed that Geron Davis comes from a oneness background. First I'll quote a sentence from the article "The Other Pentecostals," (I had a footnote: The article "The Other Pentecostals," in the June 1997 issue of "Charisma," was written by J. Lee Grady. After ordering this article from Charisma, I found the article on the internet: www.rickross.com/reference/upci/upci2.html.) "More recently, UPC (United Pentecostal Church) songwriter Geron Davis wrote 'Holy Ground' and 'IN THE PRESENCE OF JEHOVAH' [my emphasis] - worship songs that have broad popular appeal." And I'll include a few brief excerpts from the article on Lanny Wolfe in the Wikipedia internet encyclopedia:
"Though he [Lanny Wolfe] heavily influenced the greater world of gospel music during the 1970s and 1980s, it was through his work within his own particular religious denomination, the United Pentecostal Church, International, that this work was accomplished. While people throughout Christianity may be able to hum a Wolfe tune, most of his day-to-day career was spent as the Dean of the School of Music at a Pentecostal Bible school, Jackson College of Ministries." "He headed the music departments at the following Bible schools affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church, International: Christian Life College in Stockton, California from 1965 to 1966; Gateway College of Evangelism in St. Louis, Missouri from 1968 to 1974; and at Jackson College of Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi from 1974 to 1993."
"His influence remains in Pentecostal/Charismatic worship music since many worship leaders are well adept at finding or creating the same sound. Many Christian recording artists studied under his leadership within the UPCI, such as GERON DAVIS [my emphasis] ("Standing on Holy Ground"), Mark Carouthers ("Mercy Seat"), among others."
Some of the Lanny Wolfe's songs that are mentioned in this article are: "Surely the Presence (of the Lord is in this Place)"; "More than Wonderful"; "Someone is Praying for You"; "Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul"; and "Greater is He that is in Me."
I also learned from the internet that the Davis' home church is Christ Church, Nashville. (They moved to Nashville in the mid 90s.) I don't know enough about that church to fully categorize them (many churches of our day incorporate ideas from several branches of Christianity), but their statement on the internet regarding what they believe mentions that they believe "in one God, revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit." That statement fits oneness doctrine perfectly; notice, for one thing, there is no mention of three Persons. They also say that they believe that water baptism "is scripturally administered 'in the name of Jesus.' " But, thankfully, they say that they "freely embrace those of contrary opinion." (United Pentecostals, and they aren't the only ones, teach that you can't be saved if you aren't baptized in Jesus' name.)
(I had a footnote: The article, "The Other Pentecostals" mentioned above, gives some interesting information that will help us understand Christ Church, Nashville. "Prominent leaders have broken ranks with the UPC [United Pentecostal Church] over the years, including...L. H. Hardwick of Christ Church in Nashville, Tenn. [L. H. Hardwick was a founding pastor of that church and has served the church as pastor for fifty years.] Last year, UPC pastor C. G. 'Jabo' Green of Houston was elected to lead a network of dissident UPC leaders who wanted more grace and less sectarianism. The organization represents 430 U.S. ministers. Green, 57, says even though most pastors in his network affirm the Oneness position on the Godhead, they don't require new members to be rebaptized in Jesus' name.... And they don't teach that other Christians aren't saved. 'I have no stones to throw at the UPC,' Green says, 'But I can't go along with the narrow-minded idea that everyone has to believe exactly like us to be saved.' ")
From a oneness point of view, the one Person they are worshiping in this chorus is first called "Jehovah," then "God-Almighty," then "Prince of Peace" and then "The King." The one Person of the Lord Jesus Christ is being worshiped, whether He is called "Jehovah," "God-Almighty," Prince of Peace," or "the King" (or Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, Abba Father, Savior, Alpha and Omega, etc.) It is not surprising that oneness Christians write from the point of view that they are worshiping one Person. This is what they believe!
We know who the "Prince of Peace" is in that Isaiah 9:6 informs us that this is a name/title of the promised Messiah, the One to be given to us (Isa. 9:6) by Yahweh (God the Father) to save His people, etc. (I had a footnote: See the discussion of Isaiah 9:1-7 in my paper titled, "Verse-by-Verse Studies of Selected Eschatological Prophecies from the Book of Isaiah." The paper was published in August 2000. An abbreviated version of the paper is posted on my internet site.) We know for sure, by the way, that "Jehovah" is not the correct spelling of the name. For one thing, Hebrew doesn't have a "J." Most scholars believe "Yahweh" is the correct spelling. We know for sure, based on the Hebrew Old Testament, that the four letters YHWH are correct. In the Old Testament the name "Yahweh" is used more than 6,800 times. We don't find this very-often-used-name in many Bible translations, including the NASB, NIV, KJV, and NKJV, but we can know when this name was used in the Hebrew text in these translations, because they substitute the word LORD, with four capital letters, in place of the name Yahweh. The name is not used in the New Testament. First and foremost this glorious name Yahweh is used of God the Father throughout the Old Testament. For many examples, see my article, "The Name 'Yahweh' and God the Father and God the Son: The Name 'Yahweh' and A Listing of Some of the Large Number of Passages in the Old Testament Where We Can See God the Son Along with God the Father." It seems clear that we cannot rightly exclude the Person of God the Father when we speak of being "in the presence of Jehovah" in a worship song.
I have observed that when some (or many) Christians see the word "LORD" (or "Lord") in the Old Testament, they wrongly assume it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, since (for one reason) the title "Lord" is often used of Him in the New Testament. This mistaken idea helps perpetuate Jesus-only worship (where God the Father isn't being mentioned or, in some cases, His existence is effectively being denied), and all the more so in that a large number of Christian worship songs have been taken from, or based on, verses from the Old Testament, especially from the Psalms. A large number of psalms/songs/verses that were addressed to Yahweh in the Old Testament are used in songs addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ in our day.
If I am misunderstanding any of the songs I have included in this article, I want to be corrected. We need the truth! We need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches!
May God's will be fully accomplished through this paper, and may His people be edified!
Copyright by Karl Kemp
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.