Drinking Deeply

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 3:29 PM

Undignified

So today at church we sang "Undignified" - by David Crowder Band. //edit - original by Matt Redman//end-edit

Picture a Korean (some Chinese), (Reformed) Presbyterian Church singing this:
I will dance
I will sing
To be mad
For my King
Nothing Lord
Is hindering
This passion in my soul

Chorus:
And I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Some may say
It's foolishness
But I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Leave my pride
By my side
And I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Some may say
It's foolishness
But I'll become
Even more undignified than this
Than this

La, la, la, la, la, HEY!
La, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, HEY!
La, la, la, la, la

It's all for You my Lord!
I thought it was ironic. But it got me to thinking.

1) Is the concept biblical? I don't see any Apostles jumping up and down and singing their hearts out. Did Jesus encourage this sort of thing? Our only example of something like this is David's dance before the Tabernacle. Is that to be normative? What do you guys think?

The song also doesn't quite understand what "foolishness" in the Bible refers to. The cross is foolishness because the unbelieving generation doesn't understand it, God hasn't opened their eyes, it's not foolishness because people look silly. To outsiders yes, the Christian faith is completely incomprehensible. Who can imagine worshipping someone who was crucified at the hands of men? But at the same time, it is no excuse to look silly and stupid.

2) A completely unrelated topic, how much of music should be hypocritical? When we sing "I lift my hands" "I dance" "I sing." It surly is a lie if we're not actually doing it right? But at the same time, it is entirely plausible to use lyrics as a confession, to say "I wish I was like this, make me like this." In fact, that is probably how I approach most Psalms that talk about meditating upon God's Word day and night and the like. I simply just don't do it and I make it a prayer to seek it. (Though oftentimes I wonder if I'm not just rationalizing it away, change seems to slow that I do feel like I'm acting hypocritically when I read those passages and am like "oh I need to be doing this" and I do it a little and forget).

3) Whatever the case, worship should be done in accordance to how God prescribes. Check out this excellent series of posts done by a worship leader (who was a former pastor).

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Blogger codeman said...

I believe that Undignignified is acutally written by Matt Redman :) ...  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Undignified is written by Matt Redman.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus sang. Mt. 26:30, Mk. 14:26. Do you have a problem with Jesus singing?

And by the way, I'm Korean and Reformed, and my church has sang that song. Do you have a problem with Koreans?  

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Blogger mxu said...

codeman+ anonymous - Thanks for the info. I had simply searched the lyrics online and David Crowder Band was the first one that came up. The post has been edited for accuracy.

Anonymous - Thanks for pulling up that Jesus sang a hymn. I had never noticed that. Someone also mentioned that the Apostles sang songs in jail. But that kind of misses the point. I was questioning if the manner in which we sing/act was to be consistent with the song, not if we should sing at all.

I'm Chinese and going to a Korean Reformed church. I don't have a problem with Koreans, I was just making a remark playing off of the stereotype of Presbyterians being the "frozen chosen." Asians seem to be especially prone to that, and if your church is not a "frozen chosen," all the more power to you. If it is, it's not a problem unless the outward lack of emotion represents an inward lack of emotion as well. Along a simliar sense, an outward act of emotion tells us little about our inward feelings and affections toward God. Maybe the music is just exciting.

The issue I have with the song is that I do not see that mannerism of singing (rather than the singing itself) portrayed as normative in the OT and the NT.

The song also betrays a lack of understanding of the term "foolishness" as used in the Bible.

Similarly, there is nothing positive about looking undiginfied in itself. In fact, at first glance it might seem that Scripture directly contradicts the song by calling Christians to lead respectable and dignified lives. (1 Timothy 2, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 2)  

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Blogger Frank Martens said...

Here's my thought... Just because it's a "Christian" song doesn't make it a great worship song.  

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Blogger ts said...

i think you're worrying too much about normative examples in the bible, mxu. we don't wear head scarves or greet each other with a kiss, yet paul encourages it. the first christians simply sat on the floor, but we use chairs and pews. if the bible taught that we ought not dance, well, then you might have a point.

also, i don't think "dancing before the Lord" is a sin by any means, even if it does make people look undignified. Jesus was pretty lenient on people who made fools of themselves (such as the woman with the alabaster jar and the repentant tax collector in the luke 18 parable) while pretty harsh on those who wanted to maintain appearances.  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

This entry made me smile today. This song to me is not only undignified, but also unbiblical. We need to point out that worship on Sunday is not just an individual act, it is corporate. Meaning this question of what's normative and what's not is very important. Also, if actually "doing the act" is pre-requsite for singing rightly, singing some of the Psalms would be problematic. Try singing "I lift my eyes up to the mountains"...You better have some mountains in the background for that song. =) Thus, you lifting your hand, you bowning down signfies more than the bodily actions. This just means that our corporate singing is NOT a time for body worship on a grand scale. =)  

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Blogger Eric said...

I have long suspected that there's a certain number of songs out there in our worship corpus that were written as fairly specific responses to situations or realizations in the author's life or in the life of the author's congregation. This has always struck me as one of those songs. What I think is normative about the David story is that we should not despise worship expressions that come from the heart, even when they happen in a corporate setting, and even when the guy being kind of crazy is the guy up front that everybody looks to to lead the celebration.

Now that's not to say that everybody following David ought to have danced like David. But I don't think that's what this song is about. The heart of this song, I think, is "Nothing Lord / Is hindering / This passion in my soul." The prayer of this song is, "Lord, when I worship you, I don't want my expression to be informed one iota by embarrassment." That's a problem that I think far too few worship pastors are brave enough to recognize in their congregations. I would argue that what David's example in worship teaches us (both in that one procession and in what remains of his music) is that it is normative to come to God unhindered by anything, which includes embarrassment. Nothing ought to prevent any part of you from coming to the Lord just the way it is.

If we can accept that as normative (and for now I'll assume we can so I can develop my point) the question for the worship pastor becomes how to teach that truth to the congregation in the worship context. One way is to sing about it. Another way it to sing about an exemplar. I believe this song was written to do both of those things. I don't think the point of these lyrics is that we should be undignified, or that we should dance. The point is that to the extent you're not dancing because you're embarrassed to dance before God, you need to grow in your understanding of worship.

As to your second question, I think I agree with theocentric that the point is not precisely to be doing exactly what you're singing, but I do submit that we should be concerned about the principle that lies behind the lyrics. If I lift up my eyes to the projector screen instead of the mountains, big deal. But if I lift up my eyes to the projector screen instead of El Shaddai, that is a problem.

Perhaps an acceptable form this kind of hypocrisy might take, though, is if it's being done deliberately to stretch the congregation's capacity to express in worship in order to stretch their capacity to worship. Suppose that a particular worship pastor in a particular congregation in particular circumstances determines that it would be good for the congregation to learn to raise their hands. It might very well serve that pastor's purposes to sing songs that involve lifting hands, and by the nature of the case most of the congregation will not be raising their hands. But I think that's a perfectly acceptable kind of tension, so long as it actually goes somewhere.  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

I guess I could (at least in principles) agree with most of what eric said. But the question I'd raise is would there then be any expressions of "worship" we ought be ashamed of? If so, what informs our boundaries? Or is it just all "shameless" and about the heart...where the form does not matter at all? I don't want to put words in eric's mouth, but if that's his position, I think it's hard make a biblical case. Also, I'd like to concede that Eric's interpretation of the song is in fact in line with author's intent for that song. But what if I as a memeber who's called to sing this song don't interpret the song his way? What authority given or derived from scripture do you have to bind my conscience in sing this song, when my conscience tells me that song dishonors God? Unless you have a strong/clear biblical basis for this, I'll keep my mouth closed when this song is sung. Or is this individuality too offensive to corporate "craziness"?  

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Blogger Eric said...

Unless you're talking about expressing worship through sin, I can't think of any expressions we should be ashamed of, no. But that isn't a license to ignore other Biblical principles that apply to worship, such as orderliness in services and having an eye to the experience of the outsider who is among us. I think it also behooves the worship pastor (or whoever on the pastoral staff has responsibility for this sort of thing) to gauge whether any particular expression or song is actually going to stretch the congregation or simply be totally alien and meaningless (or worse) to them.

As for whether you sing this particular song or not, I don't see how that's different from the interaction your conscience has with any other part of church life. If something gets preached that I'm prepared to call wrong, I'm not going to accept the teaching and I'm not going to say amen to it. I expect you would do the same. Unless one of your pastors is actually challenging you to sing this song and find truth and value in it, I think that disposes of the conscience question.  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

Eric, i thank you for you reply. Let me just point out my last concerns here and then I'll let you have the last word.

First, I think you are begging the question. The question of shame is the same question of sinful worship. Are there any forms (regardless of the right "intention" or "heart") which is sinful (i.e. which ought to be shameful for the people of God)? Your answer seems to be "no." Then you go on to say that it does not lead to license. You have yet to prove this claim. What I see is pure subjectivity.

Secondly, I think you are confusing categories. I asked about what authority given or derived do you have to bind my conscience. Preacher is given this authority. And I as a memeber who practices Sola Scripture is called to keep even the preacher accountable. If I disagree, and my conscience is bound otherwise, it would/should be based on the word of God. This is not like the subjective dynamic you seem to articulate...and the parallel you made does not hold--especially when you haven't defended that such worship songs are tantamount to the preached word of God.

The issue of license and subjectivity are my main concerns. I think I can appreciate you concerns against legalism and formalism. But I am convinced that if Sola Scripture be practiced in our church music and in our worship...songs like "undiginifed" would be thrown out.

I'm willing to show this, but I think MXU on this blog could extend his thoughts on "foolishness" and God's prescribed worship and make a strong case. (Also if you are part of PCA or OPC, I would like to press some issues based on the Book or Order and the issues regarding the second commandment. But let me just encourage you to read up on that if you haven't already.)

Again, thank you for this exchange. =)  

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Blogger Eric said...

I don't think that was completely begging the question. Suppose for instance I get it into my head to express worship through murder, or any other action which can be labeled sinful irrespective of whether the context is worship. I certainly think we should be ashamed to claim to worship in any such way. But suppose I get it into my head to express worship through standing at attention. Should I be ashamed of that? I don't think so. It might be incumbent upon me not to do it for other reasons, just as it is incumbent upon me not to speak in tongues in a service if there is nobody available to interpret, but that's a separate issue. I certainly don't think that my position on forms of worship leads to a lack of license. I think a full understanding of Scripture does that, so I don't particularly care whether the "no license" position flows directly from my position on forms.

I'm afraid I don't see where you're getting this "subjective dynamic" in my response to your conscience question. If you imagine that I would label as wrong something that got preached on any basis other than contradiction of Scripture, or if you imagine I think you would do that, you're mistaken. Fill in that elipsis in my last comment and see if that answers your objection. Or let me try it another way:

You asked "What authority given or derived from scripture do you have to bind my conscience [to] sing this song, when my conscience tells me that song dishonors God?" Answers:

If you mean me personally, the answer is none, and I don't claim any. I can explain why I sing the song, and perhaps that will change your position. Either way, no authority is claimed to bind your conscience.

If you mean what authority could anybody have to tell you to sing this song when you think it dishonors God, my answer is nobody has any such authority. If your pastor were to directly challenge your views on this, I hope your conscience would demand you reconsider your views in light of whatever his challenge was. But that's not claiming he has any sort of right to bind you to do anything.

You also said "[Y]ou haven't defended that such worship songs are tantamount to the preached word of God." I'm not sure what you by "such" worship songs. If you mean "worship songs that don't proclaim truth," then I agree with you - those are not tantamount to the preached word of God. On the other hand, I certainly wouldn't put any stock in whether a pastor is speaking or singing when trying to determine whether the Word is being "preached." I don't quite see where this objection is going. Can you clarify?  

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Blogger bmorey said...

I know this is an old post but I figured others may find it by way of google like I did. For all of those that called this song "unbiblical" they should read the Old Testament a little more.

The concept for this song comes from 2 Samuel 6 where David danced before the Lord and Michal thought he should be more "dignified."

David tells her, "I will make merry before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible [or undignified] than this, and I will be abased in your eyes." 2 Samuel 6:21-22  

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