Freudian Slips

This week, people at my church made two telling choices of wording, one unintentional, the other intentional.

The unintentional one took place during one of the impromptu Scripture readings that Sovereign Grace encourages between songs. A woman came to the front and announced that she was going to read something from “the book of Piper, where it says–I mean, where Piper says…”

When the sermon began, our pastor, Ron Boomsma, who consistently defies all the negative associations I have with Calvinism, explained graciously that, while John Piper is a good writer and theologian, our church does not in any way believe that his writings are as authoritative as Scripture.

Ron is right and represents both our church’s and the greater Reformed movement’s positions correctly.  However, there is an oddly canon-like solidarity to the Reformed attitude towards Reformed writers:  Reformed writers are treated with a loyalty that evokes the idea of scriptural inerrancy (though no Calvinist would actually say that those writers were inerrant), and non-Reformed writers are looked at dubiously, as if they couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say.  They’re outside the canon.  I’ll devote a whole post to this idea when I have a chance.

The second choice of wording came during worship, in the song “Come, Now Is the Time to Worship.”  The worship team had chosen to modify the lyrics slightly.  The original goes:

Come, now is the time to worship

Come, now is the time to give your heart

Come just as you are to worship

Come just as you are before your God


One day every tongue will confess You are God

One day every knee will bow

Still the greatest treasure remains for those

Who gladly chose You now

For those of you from the high church: yes, that’s the whole thing.  But I’m not here to analyze the original song.  The interesting part is that our worship team found not one, but two parts that were objectionable and needed to be changed.  Their version went:

Come, now is the time to worship

Come, now is the time to give your heart

Come, come by the blood to worship

Come, come by the blood before your God


One day every tongue will confess You are God

One day every knee will bow

Still the only treasure remains for those

Who gladly choose you now

Why the changes?  While the latter isn’t theologically objectionable in any way, neither was the former, so why the changes?

The latter is pretty straightforward: the original wasn’t Calvinist enough because it wasn’t a strong enough confirmation of the elect.  Of course, the change only throws into stark relief that the song still references “choosing” God, so the revision job wasn’t complete enough.

The former change had me puzzled, but after some thought, I decided it was another Calvinist modification.  Since they don’t believe it’s possible to want God except by divine grace, they needed to correct the whole implication of human will in the command “come,” so they inserted a clause that obliquely implies that God is the cause of your ability to come to God.  You may wonder what the point is of telling someone to do something if they’re incapable of controlling whether they do it or not, but in this case, I think the song is absolved because it’s intended to be hortatory, rather than commanding; it’s encouraging you to do something, but with the full knowledge that you were going to do it whether it told you to or not.

The problem with changing the lyrics to a familiar song is that you’re making two equally prominent statements: you’re affirming the new lyrics and you’re denying the old ones.  So, whether or not the worship team intended to, they are rejecting the idea of coming to worship “just as you are.”

The most curious question of all is:  Why bother changing the words at all?  Why not just write a new song?  Our worship leader composes his own songs all the time.  It isn’t like this is an old standard of the church; it was written in 1998 for WOW Worship.  It’s got eight lines and 33 distinct words.  Hardly seems worthwhile to change one-sixth of them.

Since, as I mentioned, there is nothing objectionable about the new lyrics, there’s nothing wrong with the change per se.  It is a curious and revealing choice, though.



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2 responses to “Freudian Slips

  1. Pingback: The Three Rules Triumph Again « Chimaera

  2. Pingback: Worst. Bible. Ever. « Chimaera

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