from “Proclaiming the Gospel in Worship” by Johnold Strey
Many songs like these contain non-Lutheran theological concepts that are subtly, or not so subtly, implied in the texts. This is one of the main reasons why the members of the WELS Commission on Worship have advised against many of the songs that comprise the ―worship and praise‖ genre. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this concern is with a few examples. The four praise songs that follow are found on both of the aforementioned CCLI lists.
“Shout to the Lord” by Darlene Zschech
My Jesus, My Savior, Lord, there is none like you;
All of my days I want to praise the wonders of your mighty love.
My comfort, my shelter, Tower of refuge and strength;
Let every breath, all that I am never cease to worship you.
Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing Power and majesty, praise to the King;
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar At the sound of your name.
I sing for joy at the work of your hands, Forever I’ll love you, forever I’ll stand,
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.
Perhaps the best understanding we can take from this text is that it is a First Article song. Apart from the reference to Jesus as ―my Savior‖ in the opening line, there are no specific references to salvation, only to God‘s creation and protection. We have already noted that First Article songs can have a place in corporate worship, but we also noted that an appropriate balance must be achieved. Klemet Preus notes in his book, The Fire and the Staff: Lutheran Theology in Practice, that a common symptom in contemporary Protestant preaching is to stress God‘s providence over his grace.33 Is it any surprise, then, that many songs with Protestant background praise God more for his providence than for his grace? Furthermore, is it beneficial that the most frequently sung praise song in Lutheran churches during 2005 refers to ―My Jesus, My Savior,‖ and ―the promise I have in you‖ apart from any direct reference to God‘s gospel promises or the redeeming work of Christ?
33 Preus, The Fire and the Staff, 336–346.
Another concern with these lyrics is the underlying assumption that the purpose of God‘s grace and providence toward us is so that we will praise him. In the first four lines, each statement containing God‘s titles or characteristics is immediately followed by a statement of praise apart from any clear acknowledgement of our salvation. The fact that we praise God is a natural result of his grace and providence, but it is not the purpose. The purpose of God‘s grace is to rescue us from sin, death, hell, and the devil. My sanctified living and my sanctified praises are a fruit, or result, but not the purpose. We see the opposite assumption in Evangelical and Protestant preaching. Protestant preaching often uses the gospel as a springboard for the third use of the law. Sanctified advice and didactic exhortations become the purpose of Protestant preaching, just as the Christian‘s praises become the purpose of God‘s goodness in this song.