Tomlin’s Gospel

At ponder anew, Jonathan Aigner writes a critique of Chris Tomlin. The criticism is fair, respectful, and thoughtful. I also agree with everything he has to say (which happens pretty frequently). He includes a reader response which argues that Tomlin’s music is justified by the thousands who have heard the gospel through his music.

This made me wonder what sort of gospel one gets from the music of Chris Tomlin. So, I took his most recent album, “Love Ran Red,” and reduced the lyrics to a creedal statement. The purpose of this distillation is to look at what Tomlin believes and whether this would actually count as “the Gospel.”

Here’s my creedal reduction:

I believe in God. To God be glory.

    The heavens worship at His throne,

    He is good, His love endures forever,

    He is the King of Kings and a Mighty Warrior,

    He is our shield and defender and will deliver us,

    His love comes like a flood,

         He fills up my heart and everything I’ve done is covered in grace,

    He came to me when I needed Him.,

    He died on the cross, broke the curse, and set me free,

     There is peace and healing at His table.

I believe in God the Father and His love at Calvary.

I believe in Jesus.

     He loves me. His love is greater than my sin and the grave.

     He is full of grace, power, kindness, wisdom, perfect peace, and righteousness,

     He came for me and I couldn’t run away.

     At the cross I surrender myself to Jesus and my sin is washed white.

I believe that when I worship I stand before the majesty of the throne of God.

I will feast at the table of the Lord.

Is this the gospel? Perhaps it’s better if more learned theologians make that decision. It seems to me that this album, which is based on the Psalms, expresses the Gospel in the language of American evangelicalism, which is what one would expect from an American evangelical. It’s very personal and involves surrendering to Jesus at the cross.

If I were to criticize Tomlin’s lyrics, it would be for his poor use of the English language and for his terrible poetry. I’m not an expert in poetry (I didn’t even realize I liked poetry until I was 29 years old), but even I can tell that this isn’t quality writing. Here are some examples:

The love of Jesus… is greater than all other thrones. 

His power in us, he is strength for the weak.

It’s coming like a flood, I’m dancing in the rain. 

Your love never changes, amazing.

My only hope, my everything. 

He loves me, He loves me, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me.

You alone the sovereign crown of royalty

Through troubled waters he won’t abandon.

The Father’s love at Calvary. My sin erased, my debt He paid. [Yes, the song actually says that. The word He is supposed to refer to Jesus in this song, but Tomlin never actually names the second person of the Trinity.]

There is such a great need for people who are skilled in poetry and theology to write new hymnody (I’m including all worship songs here as hymnody) for the church. May God bless Tomlin’s efforts. All the best to him.

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