Above “Above All”

In his blog (archive now unavailable, but referred to on another blog), Bob Kauflin commented on the popular “Above All,” written by Paul Baloche, giving an example of how he (Bob) responds to people who want him to use it in worship:

“There are a number of things about this song I really like. The melody is enjoyable to sing and easy to remember. It does a great job emphasizing God’s sovereign rule over all, and focusing on the sacrifice of Christ. The poetic images are engaging and the harmonic progression is creative.

But two parts bother me, both near the end of the song. The first is the line “you took the fall.” It seems like an understated way of describing what Jesus did. Not wrong, but not the best.

The other problem is the line, “and thought of me above all.” I have no question that Jesus loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20). But he didn’t think of me “above all.” Jesus went to the cross to satisfy God’s righteous judgment against a sinful humanity. He thought of his Father’s holiness, justice, and glory above all. It may seem like a theological nuance, but it’s the difference between our faith being man-centered and God-centered. I don’t think that’s what the writers intended, but I think it could cause some confusion in people’s minds. Besides, I think we have other songs that better articulate Jesus died for because he loved us and for his Father’s glory. But, thanks for suggesting it, and please let me know if you have any other thoughts!”

In the grand scheme, there are a lot worse things than singing “you took the fall” to Jesus.  While this expression (like “When the roll is called up yonder” and “there’s an all-seeing eye watching you”) may strike me as chincy, I’d rather have someone somewhat shallowly sing that than not to sing anything that honors Jesus at all.

Songs are more than filler.  Since songs have bona fide thought-content, their messages should be examined.  It’s not that we must comb through every syllable of every song judgmentally, yet care exercised over the thrust of the message could result in better-founded theological understandings among us all.  When I subsist on expressions that call more attention to God than to me, my faith is more healthy.

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