You have to understand, I’m a John Piper fanboy. I even named a product with my business after him (shameless plug here). Desiring God wrecked my theology and my overall outlook on life. Piper. Is. My. Boy.
So you can imagine my confusion Tuesday when I disagreed with him for like the third time ever when he critiqued Hillsong’s hit song, “What a Beautiful Name.” The lyrics in question are as follows:
“You didn’t want heaven without us.
So, Jesus, you brought heaven down.”
“I don’t favor the lyric he quotes,” Piper said on the Aug. 7 edition of Ask Pastor John. “It fits too easily into a theology of a God who created because he was lonely, and then saved people for the same reason. He just can’t be happy without us.”
At first glance, I was inclined to agree with him and honestly felt pretty iffy the first time my church played the song. Call it my Reformed sensibilities telling me how wretched and unloveable I am as a sinner. However, when taken into context with the bridge of the song, I don’t think the lyric lends itself to a needy God theology.
“Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again
You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever, God, You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names”
Also, as Pentecostal as Hillsong Church is, I believe this lines up pretty well with question 20 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
Q: Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A: God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
Piper is huge on God doing whatever he desires and actively promotes big God theology, which I love. I understand that there’s a thread of bad theology through Western Christianity that portrays a needy God that just so desperately wants you to come hang out with him, if not for that pesky free will always thwarting him. I also understand that this song may not be the best in congregations where that’s an issue. Ultimately, the leadership of the church must decide on a song-by-song basis what works best in their own context.
Piper has been walking in the faith twice as long as I’ve been alive, so I very well could be missing something he sees clearly, but I think this is a case of prejudices clouding his vision of a song that should probably be celebrated for its truths rather than struck down.