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Let Us Worship. And Sing About God’s Wrath!!!

October 14, 2011

It’s hard to hear a southern gospel set and not hear about God’s grace, mercy, and love.   And for that I’m thankful.  His redemption has freed us from the bondage of sin, and our Father loves us.  He sent His Son to show us just how much.

While no match for God’s grace, I am still aware of sin’s power in this kosmos.  And how God is full of justice.  God is holy, both loving and wrathful.  I cannot understand the gospel, until I understand the law…at least, because in the law I see my Adamic nature and my natural sinfulness.

We have the book of Judges, which is a bloody, gory piece of literature.  Yet it is still God’s truth.  It is still inspired.  It still provides a look into the ultimate redemptive work of Christ.  I once took a seminary-level course on Joshua/Judges, and the outline was Joshua: Victory Through Faith; Judges: Failure Through Compromise.

So, my question is this…would you enjoy more music about God’s wrath, than what we have, or the basis of the Law, preceding the Gospel, if properly balanced ?  God’s love is the message, but He used wrath to get it done.  Some of the ancient hymn writers would combine these aspects of redemptive theology, from Adam, to the Cross.

Outside of the box, sure.  Actually, soon I shall share the Levitical rituals and offerings, and the consequences, in poem form.  Could even this be a mode in which southern gospel songwriting moves forward in a theological rooted, yet obscure perspective?  I do think Christ has to be the center in order to make it fit the framework of anything ‘God related’ in song, but it can be done. But something more specific, and deeper than “I was once a sinner in darkness, and Christ set me free…insert testimony”.  Amen and Amen.  Those songs should always be around, because it’s true and liberating.

I’m talking more about God demolishing the Amalekites, Philistines, because Israel played the prostitute, they’re now in Babylonian captivity, and how much it bites to disobey God…yet God works it out for His glory through introducing the Messiah, even in those depressing and wrathful moments of Scripture.  Call it ‘God On the Mountain’ on steroids, lyrically and conceptually.  I wouldn’t mind singing more about God’s wrath.  It would more vibrantly showcase His grace and love.

Of course, I’m not Jewish or Catholic.  Or Wesleyan.  Yet, I love all my Christian brothers and sisters.  Your thoughts, please.

  1. Michael Booth made the case and convinced me several years back. There is a place in Southern Gospel for songs covering a wider spectrum of God’s attributes than what we currently find, and, if properly done, that would include a song about God’s wrath.

  2. Wes Burke permalink

    You beat me to it, Daniel. Michael made that comment as well in response to our mega-review of Declaration, in talking about wanting songs that were deeper theologically than the standard SG fare for that album. I think he’s still trying to find a good song about God’s wrath.

    • It is not convincing that he would say that, although I’ve not sat down to talk with him about it, he is for sure, a stout armchair theologian.

      I’m not talking going all Westboro Baptist Church on the industry. But you can do it in this genre properly. And needs to be.

  3. I dunno. If you cram too much REALLY HEAVY theology into a song, it tends to buckle under its own weight. From a purely artistic perspective, it can get very clunky very fast. I think you can write quality stuff that still flows in an aesthetically pleasing way. Otherwise it can feel a little like the dialogue for Inception… you remember, everybody was constantly explaining and spelling everything out, and it was kinda clunky? Okay, maybe you didn’t see the movie, but you know what I mean. 😉

    Basically I’m not sure that just because there’s an attribute of God that’s important, or parts of the Bible that are important, that it means we need to write a song about them. It may well mean we need to preach more sermons about them though. Great sermon fodder doesn’t necessarily make good song fodder. They’re different conduits—what works naturally for one might not work so naturally for the other.

    • Who said it had to be heavy? The weight of God’s love is as heavy as His wrath. But it wouldn’t be the easiest thing to write about…and that’s because the fan base is fragile. Not because there aren’t artistic writers out there. It would work just as naturally as another good song, the separation would lie in us…we wouldn’t respond as naturally. Mostly because we’re not accustomed to it.

      And yes, there should be more sermons on it, as long as it does point to Christ in the appeal.

      • I disagree. I mean yes I do agree that fans wouldn’t respond as naturally, but I don’t think it’s a “problem” with fans… like “Oh we’re so used to milk we couldn’t eat meat.” It’s a problem with the intrinsic difficulty of crafting a good song around God demolishing the Amalekites. I mean that could turn out more like beef jerky than porterhouse steak, you know? 😀

      • Well, the Amalekites were a stretch, but I love beef jerky, especially deer jerky. I think we need more of it. Not the Slim Jim kind.

  4. Actually, the sort of song you’re talking about doesn’t have to be weighty at all.

    Lee Roy Abernathy: “A Terrible Time Down There”

    I rest my case.

  5. And yes, Southern Gospel can benefit from songs that do more than just talk about how wonderful it is to be a Christian on earth or how great Heaven is going to be after death.

  6. Dean Adkins permalink

    Ever listen to “Sansom” by the Statesmen?
    It includes the line “killed 5,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass…”. It also contains one of my favorite phrases regarding Delilah tempting Sansom…”she plied her femininity and all her wily charm…”

    • Anytime I find out “ass” is included in a southern gospel song, I must check it out. Maybe YGG will submit this song in her regular “Bring It Back” column.

      • I’ve heard a lot of clever little songs that manage to work in deep OT references like that… but if we’re supposed to be singing serious songs about God’s wrath, I don’t know how helpful they are. 😀

  7. Why is southern gospel so Heavenly minded? Look at the average age of its fan base….

    Seriously, though, any song has to be able to draw a listener in, Christian or not. Singing a song about God’s wrath, while with good intentions, could backfire and turn the listener off.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love a good hellfire and brimstone sermon from an excitable Pentecostal preacher. But like YGG, translating that into song will definitely limit the audience.

    • There’s something for everybody. I still believe roughly 1/4 of Artists are Apostate. Maybe singing more about God’s wrath may convert them.

      • Lead Singer permalink

        I looked into the mirror of my soul and only found myself there. By the time I had taken care of all the sin in my life, I found I had no time left to examine anyone else. The Holy Spirit spoke and said, “I do.”

        God is like a coin. He has two sides. Love and wrath. If you will explore the classical music of the masters you will find great pieces comparing the two sides of God. To bring greater impact they used the minor keys as a contrast to the major.

      • Indeed. Ancient writers and composers were not shy to display “the dark side” of biblical theology.

  8. lee65 permalink

    An old Bluegrass song i’ve heard a lot might fit the bill ,the chorus goes:
    Oh what a weeping and a wailing
    When the lost were told of their fate
    They cried for the rocks and the mountains
    They prayed but their prayers were too late

    I think the title is I Dreamed Of The Great Judgment Morning

  9. Another thought about the Amalekites. Unless I’m mistaken, God didn’t directly reach down and smite them. That was one of those situations where the Jews were supposedly commanded to do it on God’s behalf, which raises all sorts of knotty, complicated questions, like why would God tell human beings to commit murder? It’s one thing for God Himself to take the life of every first-born Egyptian because He’s the giver of life. But telling people to do it… let’s just say it’s murky, not that clear, and not exactly the kind of thing to pump your fist and write a song about.

    • Which confirms my Reformed theology. But let’s be clear…I did say that was a stretch. I’m serious about the concept, sarcastic in the description.

  10. I read the discussion about needing more songs about God’s wrath with interest. The Bible admonishes preachers to preach the “WHOLE counsel of God” which of course includes God’s wrath…more particularly His certain judgment of those who reject Christ and face hell for eternity. I personally feel a strong responsibility to WRITE the whole counsel of God in Gospel songs…especially for the unsaved person who might never go to church but will listen to the radio. I probably push the envelope as much as anyone (even “The Old White Flag” has a man who is headed for hell and unless he gets with with God will one day “walk right in”). But I think the fans would accept more songs of this type than some of the artists would record. I think some of them think songs have to have an upbeat message. If a song’s content is strong on the certainty of God’s judgment against sin, it should include the fact that in His foreknowledge, He already had the Remedy…already knew Jesus Christ would have to suffer and die in our place, and He allowed that because God so loved!! So a song about God’s wrath and judgment would STILL ultimately be about His love and mercy and grace. So I definitely agree, especially considering that we’re certainly in the last days and probably have little time to get the Gospel message out, Southern Gospel writers need to have the courage to write what it takes to put lost people under conviction and point them to the Cross. And then, trust God to get the ones worthy of recording into the hands of artists who will have the courage to record them. Sorry this is long…it’s something I’m passionate about. Thanks for bringing up the subject. Dianne Wilkinson.

    • Lead Singer permalink

      I agree with you Dianne. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember hearing an old, gray haired evangelist say, “I have preached messages on God’s love and grace and messages about sin and God’s punishment. More souls came to the alter when hearing about the love of Jesus than ever did when I singhed their tail feathers over the flames of hell.”

      Everybody will spend their life in enternity one way or another. They just have to decide where. Statistics show that more Americans believe in a literal hell than they do a literal heaven.

      I’ve enjoyed your music for years. Keep a stack of staff paper and plenty of sharp pencils nearby as you allow the Holy Spirit to flow through you. God bless.

    • I should have said that it’s difficult to craft a well-flowing song about sin and wrath… unless you’re Dianne Wilkinson, of course. 🙂

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