DiM | “Call It Grace” by Unspoken

Presentation1CCM Radio Edition.

April 28, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Call It Grace” by Unspoken which currently sits at #17 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

This song is better than the most of what I’ve been hearing on CCM Radio. This week the better of our local stations is doing their fundraising (sidenote: stop assuming that everything you do as a radio station is “spreading the Gospel”… the Gospel is infrequently articulated and absent from the majority of the music being played) so I’ve had the radio tuned to Air1. Wow, they’ve gone full seeker-mergent-nonsense with Tony Campolo and Levi Lusko getting airtime for their moralistic deism posing as Christianity. This song is on the better end of the “listen with Discernment” spectrum, but the problems in the song were enough to make granting an “approval” unsettling for me. Let’s take a look/listen.

UnspokenVEVO

 

Lyrics (via LyricsBox)

It’s the light that pierces through you
To the darkest hidden place
It knows your deepest secrets
But it never looks away
It’s the gentle hand that pulls you
From the judgement of the crowd
When you stand before them guilty
And you got no way out

Some may call it foolish and impossible
But for every heart it rescues, it’s a miracle
It’s nothing less than scandalous
This love that took our place
Just call it what it is, call it grace
Call it grace

It’s the breath that’s breathing new life
Into what we thought was dead
It’s the favor that takes orphans
Placing crowns upon their heads
It’s the hope for our tomorrows
The rock on which we stand
It’s a strong and mighty fortress
Even Hell can’t stand against

Some may call it foolish and impossible
But for every heart it rescues, it’s a miracle
It’s nothing less than scandalous
This love that took our place
Just call it what it is, call it grace
Call it grace
Call it grace

Amazing, unshaking
This is grace, this is grace
Unchanging, unfailing
This is grace, this is grace

Some may call it foolish and impossible
But for every heart it rescues, it’s a miracle
It’s nothing less than scandalous
This love that That Jesus took our place
Oh call it what it is, just call it what it is
Call it grace

Discussion

Okay, so the best thing going for this song comes by way of what may have been an ad-lib after the bridge, you’ll see above where I crossed out what is in the posted lyrics and wrote in the ad-lib. Here, we have a Gospel nugget, but it’s not presented well and it comes very late in the song. The biggest problem with this lyric is the pronoun game and the treatment of God’s Grace as a thing unto itself. This is common for an evangelicalism that is steeped in Star Wars Christianity where Faith is like the Force and Grace can be an opportunity, or Love, or a second chance, etc.

The Pronoun Game. Were it not for the ad-lib, the “it” of the song would have no direct object. Whatever “it” is… apparently cannot be known directly, it has to be experienced in some way and then that experience… well, let’s just Call It Grace. We’ll assume that’s what grace is… whatever “it” is in the song. Now, we do have that last ad-lib connecting “a love that took our place” with the Name of Jesus. That’s a Gospel nugget. Took our place where? What did it mean when He took our place? Why did He take our place? What does this mean for me? None of these questions gets any sort of answer in the lyric of the song. The song just poetically hints at experiences it assumes the listener will be able to piece together. That’s not sharing the Gospel, folks… that’s being vaguely spiritual-ish. We’ll work through some of the hints at scripture, and we’ll see that reading the Actual Scripture gives so much more clarity than these paltry hints. And here’s the thing… as with most of the songs that fall in our middle-category, only those whose doctrine is sound and scripturally rich have any chance of being edified by these vague works of art… most will walk away clouded, confused, and leavened.

Starting with the ad-lib rescue, let’s look to the best place in Scripture where we can see the answer to what it means to have Jesus take our place, and we’ll pull from Romans 5.

Romans 5:6-9 (ESV) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Immediately, we get to our second point, too, being that the song talks about grace as a thing unto itself apart from God. But notice that is not how the Apostle Paul talks about the Grace and Love of God. It’s personal. He loved us by dying for us in our place for our sins. We could go to a few places, but let’s look to Paul’s intro in his letter to the Galatians because it will help connect these points to the next point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:1-10  (ESV) | Greeting

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospelnot that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Now, in this specific context Paul is most concerned about the Judaising heresy, one which sought to compel Gentile believers to convert to Judaism in order to be (or to prove they truly were) Christians. This heresy hasn’t gone away, we still have various hebrew-roots and torah-observant legalists running around, but we also have the non-jewish versions like theonomy and moralistic therapeutic deism. While these errors are not in today’s song lyric (yay!) the sterile treatment of Grace as a thing unto itself drives a wedge between the blessings of the Grace of God and the God from Whom that Grace flows. That wedge creates a gap that is easily filled by false religion of works.

I don’t see any upside to treating the Grace of God separately from God Himself. There is no benefit, no edifying purpose in it. In my view, it only presents a pitfall.

Now, lets work through the vague hints toward scripture found in the verses.

Verse 1. The picture of rescue in this paragraph doesn’t demonstrate the message of Salvation, because our condemnation wasn’t before the world, it was before God. We sinned against God and were dead in our sins and trespasses from birth. I think this verse is pulling more from the pericope adulterae:

John 7:53-8:11 (ESV) | [The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11.]
The Woman Caught in Adultery

[[They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her,“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

As you can see in the note pulled from the ESV (and other good translations), there is a concern regarding this account. It is absent from the earliest copies of the Gospels entirely, and the copies that have the story aren’t always in the same place, or even the same Gospel. It’s included, but with a strong caveat here. While nothing in this section directly contradicts scriptures, taking this narrative passage and building theology from it is strongly discouraged. If we keep it in the text, we must keep it submitted to the rest of Scripture. Jesus didn’t forgive here because there were no accusers left, He forgave her. The scribes and Pharisees were not misinterpreting the Law of Moses, and Jesus didn’t argue what the Law commanded, He instead argued that He alone was just to judge the woman… and He forgave her. What the song ends up doing with this clouded passage is somehow make all of us the woman caught in adultery, and Grace rescues us from all who judge us… but it’s clunky in its vagueness. God doesn’t slip us away from the judgement seat, we stand before Him, accused by the devil and we are indeed guilty before God. So, the Gospel isn’t us being whisked away… it’s Jesus standing before us, taking our punishment in our place and imputing His righteousness onto us, so that we might bear the Righteousness of God the Son while standing in the sight of God the Father.

Chorus. Okay, so the chorus plays in the wiggle room left by the pronoun game. Some may call it foolish and impossible is probably a reference to Paul’s letters referring to the Message of the Cross. Remember the rescue mechanic for “it” was Jesus, but here they are using “it” to refer to the message of the Cross.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV) | Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

This passage is also where we get the idea that the Gospel of the Grace of God is a scandalous one… the notion that God would save us in this way, by faith in what He has done, and not in something we have to earn or make up for. It’s not a terrible reference, just a vague one… mostly due to the poor pronoun game. We preach the word of the cross, we preach Christ and Him crucified… and the world thinks it foolish, to their own destruction. Sadly, the song doesn’t actually preach it… it hints at it.

The second verse has the same issues of vagueness, pronoun play, and treating salvation as a result of a Grace somewhat separated from the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. There is a reference to Salvation as being adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. But it focuses too much on the outcome (blessings) of that adoption while skipping over the means of that adoption, the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:1-14 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

I hope that once you read through how the Apostle Paul wrote of the Gospel in several letters, it becomes more clear why I take such an issue with the sterilization or isolation of the concept of “grace” apart from the Triune God who Saves.

Conclusion

I think this song is okay, but too vague and open for misinterpretation. The pronoun-game without a clear object is a pitfall that really should be avoided in writing, even artistic expressions of the Gospel. As with most of the songs coming out of CCM, we need more Gospel. Not just for the unbelievers that they might be granted saving faith, but also for the believers who need to grow and be encouraged in their Faith. That doesn’t come by artistic introspection or contemplation… faith only comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17).

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

2 thoughts on “DiM | “Call It Grace” by Unspoken

  1. After reading this I would like to see you review some of Keith Greens more well known songs, yes there is a lot to chose from, and I dont know if your interested in doing it, here is list of 11, http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/11-keith-green-songs-helped-change-worship-music, I have no connection with that site BTW. Again after reading several of your reviews, I am wondering if someone like Keith Green would pass your tests or filters. Green’s music helped me a lot when I first got saved. I think a lot of his music (and life). He is one of the pioneers of CCM and would like to see more songs in your approved category. Even if you dont do a full review, maybe a post on your thoughts about his music. Thanks JW

    • I, too, would like to see more songs in the Approved category. I’ve contemplated seeking out “approved” material, but my time is limited as this is a not my primary vocation. So, the approach I’ve been taking has been to evaluate what is already being considered the “top CCM songs” in the industry and exercising Biblical discernment. Growing up, I also loved Keith Green’s music. Keith’s theology is a little seeker-sensitive for my taste, but I think a lot of his songs would be “approved” simply because of how plainly his lyrics proclaimed Christ. When I find some time, I think it would be a nice “throw-back Thursday” sort of DiM. Thanks for the recommendation, and for taking the time to comment.

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