Evangelical Worship Edition
January 8, 2016. In this edition we are going to be taking a look at the next song on the top new song list for 2015 found at Worship Together. Today’s song is “O Praise The Name (Anastasis)” by Hillsong Worship.
Hillsong Worship Lyric Video
Lyrics (via Worship Together)
IntroVerse 1I cast my mind to Calvary where Jesusbled and died for me. I see His wounds,His hands, His feet. My Saviour on that cursed treeVerse 2His body bound and drenched in tearsthey laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb.The entrance sealed by heavy stone Messiahstill and all aloneChorusO praise the name of the Lord our GodO praise His name for ever moreFor endless days we will sing Your praiseOh Lord, oh Lord our GodVerse 3Then on the third at break of dawn, the Son of
heaven rose again. O trampled death where is yoursting? The angels roar for Christ the KingChorusVerse 4He shall return in robes of white, the blazing Sonshall pierce the night. And I will rise among the saints,my gaze trans fixed on Jesus’ faceChorus
Writer(s): Dean Ussher, Marty Sampson, Benjamin Hastings
Theme(s): Communion & Reflection , Resurrection & Sacrifice , Easter
CCLI #: 7037787
Scripture Reference(s): Romans 5:8
The good news here is that nothing that is said in the lyrics is plainly untrue. What Hillsong has put together here is a string of statements pulled from Scripture, most of them accurately. The problem I have with this song is the Hillsong formula for worship and scripture reading. There is a focus on the events that took place, and painting an emotional picture of those events and an under emphasis on the meaning of those events. The song roughly outlines the Easter story and skips ahead to the Return of Christ but the focus isn’t on the core of the Gospel… repentance and the forgiveness of sin… our sins. As close as they’ve come to a really solid song, Hillsong can’t close the gap, because as a church their theology pushes Word of Faith (WoF) and Prosperity false-gospels… that Jesus somehow died so that we can be successful, healthy, and wealthy, and popular. He didn’t. He died so that we might be spared from the Wrath of God by His blood on the cross. What is most frustrating here, is that their proof text is so close to the truth… but they narrowed it to a single verse, Romans 5:8… not surprising to find it isn’t even a complete sentence.
Romans 5:8 (ESV) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You see, part of the Hillsong formula is to quote portions that are vague enough to allow them to eisegete a seeker-sensitive meaning. While we were sinners, Christ died for us anyway so we can live a victorious life… something like that. Let’s look at the verse in its immediate context.
Romans 5:1-11 (ESV) | Peace with God Through Faith
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
What Hillsong does with this song does is romanticizes the ugliness of Christ’s death on the cross and skips over the ugliness of the guilt and shame of our sin. It also makes treats the cross as an event in the distant past that has to be “envisioned”. Finally, the songs skips ahead to Christ’s return… leaving a bit of a vacuum where a real understanding of what the Cross means in our everyday Christian walk… it’s the point of forgiveness for our sin… our real and ever-present sin while we walk this earth in sinful, fleshly, cursed bodies. Should the LORD tarry, we will all die as the direct result of the curse of the sin of Adam. The gift of forgiveness is one we need every day of our lives… not just on Easter.
Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
So that is what I find lacking in this song, and I firmly believe that it was no mere oversight; rather, it is the result of the doctrine of Hillsong. The doctrine in their music will not surpass the doctrine preached from their stages.
Having said all of that, the question we must now deal with is whether a church with sound doctrine can find a place for using this song in their contemporary worship. In this case, it might be the case, though I think another verse should be added and I’d suggest rewriting the first verse altogether. But let’s work through the verses and see where we might reference a Biblical teaching.
Verses 1+2. I really have a problem with the whole I cast my mind to Calvary. As I indicated earlier, it unduly separates our current existence from the Gospel of Jesus’s Death and Resurrection. It sets the stage for a mental exercise, a vision cast, or even a guided meditation of historic events… when we really just need to read God’s Word. Some probably overlook that as a mere turn of phrase, but when we see what is being emphasized in the details, I see His wounds… His body bound and drenched in tears, he’s all alone… these are strongly emotive words. The goal is to get the singer weepy and emotional… this is a guided exercise akin to that of guided relaxation, only with a different end state. This is the romanticizing of the ugliness of the cross I mentioned. What isn’t mentioned, is that our sin needed punishing, that had He not borne the Wrath of God against sin for us, there could be no forgiveness of our sin.
Chorus. Musically the chorus is very dramatic. It plays very well if your worship leader has a powerful singing voice. Theologically, it is a bit trite. It falls somewhere into that “I’m going to exaggerate my worship to demonstrate my passion” that we normally see in secular love songs. I think what we are seeing here is another outflow of the problematic theology of prosperity teachers… they take promises for the afterlife and misappropriate them for this temporal life. Likewise, while it is true that we will spend endless days in eternity praising God while in His presence… to claim we do so in the here and now is to exaggerate and outright lie. So, when we rightly understand the reference found in the chorus as being that of the afterlife, in the New Heavens and the New Earth… the chorus becomes a confession of what will happen after the Resurrection. This goes back to the vacuum I mentioned earlier… this present life, where we are learning to place our full trust in Him.
Verse 3. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I think there is some good teaching possible here, though the arch of the song passes right over it. The phrase O trampled death where is your sting isn’t just about death not being able to keep Jesus dead. Let’s look to Paul’s discussion of the Mystery in 1 Cor 15:
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV) | Mystery and Victory
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Did you see that? Paul connected the sting of death to our sin. The Law of the Lord is the power of sin… how so? Because God’s Holiness and Justice demands that sin be destroyed. There is no power apart from God. So, in verse 57 we understand that God gives us victory (over sin and death) through our LORD Jesus Christ, who bore the full price of sin, and over came death and the grave. Praise the Lord!
Verse 4. We do look forward to the Return of Christ. True to seeker theology, there is no acknowledgement that Christ is returning for His own. There is just an implication that as long as you think you’re in, you are. That’s seeker theology, and we don’t expect anything more solid than that coming out of Hillsong. The Bible teaches that those who are sealed by God the Holy Spirit are the Bride of Christ. Jesus isn’t just coming back to pierce the night, but to Judge both the Living and the Dead. I have no doubt that is the meaning that most pour into that verse when they think about it, but the lyric doesn’t go there, you have to do it yourself. Without sound doctrine, you won’t get all the way there on your own.
Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV) | Spiritual Blessings in Christ
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Suggesting that Jesus isn’t coming for everyone, though, doesn’t really fit the seeker-sensitive model of preaching.
Can this song be sung in your church’s contemporary worship service without teaching error? I suppose so, but my question is why not have the congregation sing a song that teaches sound theology? What is the purpose of the song set in your corporate worship gathering? Finally, if your theology doesn’t match that of Hillsong, why would you be compelled to use one of their worship songs for your service?
Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
4 thoughts on “DiM | “O Praise The Name (Anastasis)” by Hillsong Worship”
I stumbled across your post when I was look into this song’s origins. I always appreciate when we really take seriously the way we worship, but I can’t stand with you on this one. I definitely don’t agree with everything Hillsong does or says, but I can’t disagree with this song. If your grounds for its criticism is that its theology is incomplete, then you’d better start working on your renditions of Grudem’s Systematic Theology set to music. We cannot view the cross as anything other than a distant event that happened a long time ago, because it happened a long time ago. We have to “envision” it because none of us were alive to see it. Though if you consider bleeding and dying, and “bound and drenched in tears” romantic, then I’m worried for you. The song doesn’t capture all of the brutality of the cross, because a song can’t. Words can’t. We do the best we can 2000 years after the fact. The biggest thing though is that you said the core of the gospel is “repentance and the forgiveness of sin.” Repentance is what we do in response to the gospel. It is not the gospel. Nothing that we do is the gospel. That is a works-based salvation that spits in the face of the grace and mercy of Jesus. It really seems that most of the reason you’re tearing this one apart is that you just don’t like Hillsong, so you’re stretching to find something wrong with everything they do. I don’t like Hillsong’s church either. You don’t have to stretch to find stuff wrong with them. But this is a solid song. If you only sing songs written by people that you agree with on everything, then everybody better start writing their own songs. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone with whose theology I unswervingly agree, but that shouldn’t get in the way of our coming together to worship as a people united by the blood of Christ. After all, I’m not Anglican, but I still sing Amazing Grace. Bet you do too.
Repentance isn’t something “we do”. Repentance isn’t our work. So, no, I’m not pushing a works-based righteousness here. Repentance has 2 parts, contrition and faith, and both of those come as gifts of God’s Grace through the Holy Spirit.
The incomplete theology here doesn’t require a systematic theology book set to music (I did chuckle at the hyperbole); rather, there is a specific purpose in these DiM reviews. I’m looking for a clear proclamation of the Gospel in the lyrics of these songs. In this one, the lyrics gloss over repentance and the forgiveness of sin. That leaves the song in the “middle category” (neither “approved” nor “disapproved”). This isn’t a list of what Christians can or can not listen to for entertainment or just a “feel good / happy” vibe. We’re looking for clear proclamations of the Gospel first, and solid Biblical teaching second. The final disposition of this song landing in the middle ground, means that I’m merely asking Christians to be discerning when they hear this song play on the radio. It’s on the listener to remember the Gospel of forgiveness of our sin, daily.
Thank you Jorge for taking the time to assist us with the analysis of these songs.
You said “The good news here is that nothing that is said in the lyrics is plainly untrue. ” but I think I have picked up something very odd.
In verse 3 they refer to Jesus as the “Son of heaven”. I do not see that in Scripture at all!
It is rather a term used by the Chinese for their ancient emperors. I am strongly suspecting that this is meant to appeal to the growing number of believers who are pushing an agenda to say that “Many important symbols and ideas within Chinese culture point to Jesus”. There are a number of books being written to that effect now, the most popular one it appears is called “True Son of Heaven: How Jesus Fulfills the Chinese Culture”. I do not think it is right to syncretize Jesus with other religious characters and gods.
Thank you for writing. While I agree that we shouldn’t use Names for God that are not Biblically correct, I’m not sure “Son of Heaven” is being pulled directly from Chines culture. Jesus is God the Son, who came down from heaven in the incarnation… lived, died for our sin, and rose again on the Third day. He is presently at the Right Hand of the Father and will come again. The name could be thought of as a reference to the passages of His baptism, “And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11; Matt 3:17; John 3:22). It’s good to keep a close eye on the phrasing, but we don’t need to yield valid descriptions of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture simply because other cultures/religions have something similar. The Peace of the LORD be with you.