We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Odd Christmas Song

We sang this song in our assembly Sunday:

Who Would Have Dreamed

On a starlit hillside, shepherds watched their sheep 
Slowly, David’s city drifted off to sleep 
But to this little town of no great renown 
The Lord had a promise to keep 

Prophets had foretold it, a mighty King would come 
Long awaited Ruler, God’s Anointed One 
But the Sovereign of all looked helpless and small 
As God gave the world His own Son 

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen 
That we could hold God in our hands? 
The Giver of Life is born in the night 
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world 

Wondrous gift of heaven: the Father sends the Son 
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love 
He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse 
So we can be daughters and sons

So why do I think this is odd?  The chorus says “we could hold God in our hands.”  Um, the only people who could have held Jesus as a child were those who were contemporary with him in history.  How can “we” hold Jesus (God) in our hands?

This is just some “feel-goodism” which the non-discerning gobble up.

This is an example of what I meant when I said, “Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.”

There are so many good Christmas songs that we really shouldn’t have to resort to this sort.


Bro. Nick Nicholas said...

Thank you for your discernment in showing the 'feel good' fault of this song - as C. H. Spurgeon wrote over 100 years ago

- DISCERNMENT is not knowing the difference between right and wrong.
It is knowing the difference between RIGHT
- and ALMOST right.

Tim Maguire said...

Well spotted Glenn. Also the "daughters and sons " feminist influence nonsense. Gal 4 tells it as it really is.

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

I see this differently. From a purely, literal point of view, any artistic license with analogical content would seem repugnant but that is the nature of music and poetry. And therefore, almost every song in our Christian repertoire will surely find criticism.

The problem phrase (that we could hold God in our hands), in this song, is figurative. The rest of the chorus adds important context; "The Giver of Life IS BORN in the night REVEALING God’s glorious plan
To save the world."

It's not that you and I can physically hold Him in our hands. But THE IMPORTANT part of the message of the song is His INCARNATION. That is how God revealed Himself, His Truth and His gospel to the world; The Son of God in human FLESH. And when He did that, His Word came with many invitations to physically BEHOLD, SEE, and TOUCH,

Critics have always and still do try to disavow the incarnation. I am reminded of how Thomas doubted the reality of the risen Lord, and how Jesus said to him, "TOUCH my side and my hands."

Other similar figurative examples from music come to mind. For example, In the great modern Christmas carol,
Mary, Did You Know,? is this question, "...(did you know) when you kissed your little baby, you've kissed the face of God?"

And in, O Come, All Ye Faithful this phrase, "Come and BEHOLD Him."

In, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, "Christ is BORN of Mary," and "how still we SEE Thee lie."

In, Away In A Manger, is some figurative speech that, I know, troubles a lot of people, "...but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes." Hokey? yeah! Foolish? Maybe. Of course, nobody believes that the Baby never cried but the important message of this figurative language is the allusion that it is a REAL HUMAN BABY.

I could go on, but I hope that this is sufficient to illustrate the point that in much of our expressions of worship, we humans can figuratively TOUCH our God because He has come to us in human flesh.

Merry Christmas

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

In addition to my former response, I want to add this:
The words WE and OUR in the phrase, We could hold God in our hands, are used in a representative way. When Mary physically held her baby, we all figuratively held her baby in the same sense that, as our federal head, when Adam sinned, we all sinned.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I full understand figurative language. But this song has US - the current people - able to hold the baby Jesus. Can't be done.

And, no, Mary is in no way representative -- not even figuratively -- of the rest of us in the way Adam was our federal head. If that was so, the Bible would have told us.

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

Sorry Glenn. I hate to keep hammering on this. As you might know, I select all the music and lead the congregation singing in my church. It takes me two to three hours each week to read my pastor's sermon notes, review the scripture texts, and then select six songs and hymns. It is a laborious task and there are many good songs that have, seemingly problematic phrases. Where I can, I make subtle changes. Or, sometimes I eliminate problematic verses. But sometimes I just have to remember that musical messages (just like spoken messages from pastors), unless they are quoting scripture, are of human origin, and some poetic or artistic license is allowable for the sake of communication.

By the way, we used that song in our service last Sunday also. It was sung by five of our children. I had to review the words and I decided to allow it for its overall merit.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


We will just have to agree to disagree. I will only allow "artistic merit" to go so far. I don't allow illogic or just plain inanity which I see here.

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

It was a poor example; I didn't mean to imply that Mary was our federal head as was Adam. But I do think that, when Mary held her baby, we shared in that experience just as in John 1, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among US and WE beheld His glory. I wasn't there. He didn't live in my neighborhood. I didn't see His glory. But I think the passage in John one is relatable to me personally because when He came in human flesh, He dwelt with US (humans) and the glory of God has been revealed to us.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Nope, we can't share in hold her baby any more than I can share in holding the baby of someone 200 miles away.

I don't like songs or even phrases in songs that are put there for "feel good" purposes.

Bro. Nick Nicholas said...

Just because 'artistic merit' is a commonly accepted practice in most churches does in no way justify it.
Most unfortunately - there is much 'wrong theology' that is increasingly prevalent in the newer 'christian music' - which was a contributing factor in why I left the church where I was at for 10+ years.
How seriously do most 'Christians' here in 'Amerika' literally take that which is written in "the word of the Lord":
For "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."
(Galatians 5:9 ~ KJB)

Paul said...

Just stumbled across this after reading about this song on a John Piper blog article. I'd never encountered this song before, but have to agree with Ralph. There's discernment, and then there is not seeing the wood for the trees.

I would have no problem in singing the line "And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen that we could hold God in our hands?"

Here's what I understand by the question posed there. God is outside of his creation, and the line is there to inspire awe over the stunning fact of the incarnation, when God entered into his creation, and became something that *could* be touched.

If the grammar really needs analysing, then firstly the "we" can be taken to be applied generally to the human race, meaning that we as a type, as finite people (not individually due to time/space constraints) can touch God. It is simply a statement that a human can now touch what was previously untouchable.

Secondly, note the word "could", as opposed to "do". It doesn't say we "do", but we "could". If I were living in 1st century Israel, then I could touch him. I know I'm not, but that's not the distinction being drawn here. The distinction the song is making is between what any human could do before the incarnation (when none could touch an infinite God who was only spirit and not flesh) and what was made possible by the incarnation, that he became touchable.

Lastly, I find it in these words the wonderful truth that one day I WILL touch him physically, when he returns to this earth.

For all these reasons, I understand the point the writer was making, and am not distracted by the mere technicality that I individually cannot YET touch him, since I am moved by the fact that he became something that can be physically touched by a human.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I understand the use of "could," but since none of us were there, none of us could.

I don't have as much problem with this "touchy-feely" song for personal devotion as a "radio song," but I see no place for it in congregational singing.