Category Archives: Lyrics

Vocals Only: “The 5th Chair” – Episode Five

The next episode of “The 5th Chair” is now live! Many people have been asking me what my ‘real opinion’ of the talent level in this year’s show is. Time to reveal all…watch this episode to find out what I really think –

Link 1: Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson (
Link 2: Lionel vs Sabrina (
Link 3: Blake vs Lij (
Link 4: Mat vs Soli (

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Time to get honest! In this episode Dr Dan provides his assessment of the level of talent on display in this year’s show. It’s not all negative…Dr Dan also provides some great advice to young singers when interpreting the classics.

The episode finishes with an update to Dr Dan’s Top Eight (now a ‘Top Six’) as well as Dr Dan’s “Pick of the Week.”

“The 5th Chair” project with Dr Dan is a weekly independent video review of the third season of “The Voice Australia” (2014).

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Transcendently Immanent

There are many wonderful tensions in the Word. One such tension is observed in the worship orientation of God’s immanence (closeness) and God’s transcendence (distance). “The theological term immanence speaks of God’s nearness, His pervading presence in the space where we live [emphasis in original]”(Wilt, 2009, p. 186). The term transcendence recognises God’s supreme sovereignty and ‘otherworldliness’. Prior to God becoming man in Christ Jesus, God’s presence was expressed through the cultus of the Old Testament law and its tent/tabernacle/temple rites (White, 2000). God’s immanence was experienced by virtue of his transcendence. But then God became flesh. The transcendent became immanent. As David Peterson (1992) rightly acknowledges, “…‘it is not only his glory, his name or Shekinah, but God himself, God the Word, who dwells with his people. Now at last the longstanding tension between the transcendence and the immanence of God [was] resolved’” (p. 94).

The ‘longstanding tension’ has been resolved in Christ. Amen.

Unfortunately we still grapple with the practical expression of this resolution in our churches. Two thousand years after Christ’s ascension we are still unable to hold the pendulum in balance. We find ourselves swinging from one position to another. This oscillation is seen clearly in the lyrical content of our worship repertoire. Mark Evans (2002) identifies that, “another consideration of the theological (lyrical) analysis of contemporary congregational song takes into account questions of immanence or transcendence, that is, is the repertoire focused more on our intimate relationship with God or his transcendent holiness?” (p. 101).

It has been my general observation that in the modern church we have settled into camps of either/or. The conservatives celebrate God’s sovereign transcendence, while contemporary models seek to focus on God’s felt presence. It would seem I am not alone in making similar observation. Warren Wiersbe (2000) highlights the generational differences by stating,

I’m generalizing, but it seems to me that the younger generation leans towards the immanence of God, a God who is more a present Friend than an exalted Sovereign, while my generation is more accustomed to a transcendent God who is worthy of our worship and praise. (p. 179)

Whether it is denominational or generational one thing remains certain, we continue to seek balance and assurance in that which God has already accomplished. Sadly, our meanderings and squabble have led to the following observation by Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever (2009).

For far too many evangelicals, worship has been reduced from service to God to an experience of God [emphasis in original]. As a result, we have become obsessed with questions of aesthetics and style. When we move to a new city, we church-shop based on the style of music or service. When we grow dissatisfied with our current church, we assume that the problem, in part, must be that we need a different style of worship. What all of this betrays is that in public worship, what we are fundamentally after is an experience. That experience no doubt differs from person to person. Some are searching for that spiritually ‘orgasmic’ wave of emotion that carries them along for the rest of the week. Others are seeking a profound experience of transcendence and awe. Others are looking for a feeling of warmth and acceptance. Attached to each of these experiences that we have defined as ‘worship’ is a style, often musical but sometimes more that produces the emotional state we are seeking. (p. 251)

I quote Lawrence and Dever at length because they state succinctly the core of the issue. We have become selfish in our worship. It has become about what ‘I’ want. The argument has deteriorated to the ‘self’ determining what is right and proper as opposed to what God and His Word says.

Jesus promised that where two or three are gathered in His name He would be among them (Matt 18:20). Often used as a supporting scripture for God’s immanence we must also note its acknowledgement of Jesus’ claim to deity; His omnipresence and thus his transcendence. It is not in our strength that either His immanence or His transcendence is experienced but by His grace.

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14–18; ESV)

Can we throw off the shackles that so easily ensnare us? With humble reflection and necessary repentance of selfish ways – perhaps! Firstly we must recognise that our focus of the corporate gathering is to celebrate together a God who is omnipresent; a God who is with us, a God who is transcendently immanent.


Evans, M. (2002). Secularising the sacred: The impact of Geoff Bullock and Hillsong church on contemporary congregational song in sydney, 1990–1999. Unpublished Thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, AUS.

Lawrence, M., & Dever, M. (2009). Blended worship. In J. M. Pinson (Ed.), Perspectives on christian worship: 5 views (pp. 218–268). Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Peterson, D. (1992). Engaging with God: A biblical theology of worship. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

White, J. F. (2000). Introduction to christian worship (3rd ed.). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Real worship: Playground, battle ground, or holy ground? (2 ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Wilt, D. (2009). Contemporary worship. In J. M. Pinson (Ed.), Perspectives on christian worship: 5 views (pp. 143–217). Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers.


In a Word…Theology!

For many the word theology is an intimidating term. It conjures thoughts of highly trained professors (in suede jackets) pouring over Hebrew and Greek text, unearthing the mysteries of God’s word which lay hidden to the lay person’s reading. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2008) does not form such an intimidating picture when it defines theology as, “religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed” (Soanes & Stevenson, p. 1495). Theology is what we do. Essentially, every Christian is a theologian. The challenge is whether, as Bob Kauflin (2008) states, “am I a good theologian or a bad one?” (p. 28). Before theology – that which is practiced; is doctrine – that which is taught.

There are two widely practiced approaches to the study of Christian doctrine, systematic and biblical (Bryant, 1982, pp. 616–617). Simply, biblical theology commences its study of scripture objectively allowing scripture to reveal its themes. Systematic theology approaches Scripture subjectively extracting text in order to define a theme. It’s from these two principles that we might draw some insight into the differing approaches when selecting material (songs) for Sunday’s corporate gatherings. For some believers it’s a matter of the means needing to justifying the ends. I.e. the lyrical content (doctrine) should determine the manner in which we worship. For others the end point validates the means. I.e. the worship expression (theology) and experience form the foundation on which to structure the choice of songs; both lyric and melody.

Paul Zahl (2004) in his apologetic for Liturgical worship further defines the two different approaches in his thoughts on the construction of liturgy for corporate gatherings,

The Latin phrase that covers the philosophy of worship I am presenting here is this: lex credendi lex orandi. That means: What we believe determines how we pray. Quite a few liturgical scholars and theologians today want to reverse the order and write: lex orandi lex credendi, or how we pray (i.e. worship) determines what we believe [emphasis in original]. (p. 25)

Kauflin (2008) makes the statement, “Songs are de facto theology…‘We are what we sing’” (p. 92). Many would agree with Kauflin’s statement (Basden, 1999; Carson, 2002; Dawn, 1995; Peterson, 1992; Wiersbe, 2000). Warren Wiersbe in his book Real Worship: Playground, Battle ground or Holy ground? (2000) takes the thought a step further warning, “Naïve congregations can sing their way into heresy before they even realize what is going on” (p. 136). In observing the vast array of worship styles I find Wiersbe’s warning to be a sober reminder that what goes in generally comes out. At this point I must stress that this discussion does not centre on the prejudicial war waged between those who preference hymns over modern choruses or vice versa. It goes much deeper than an individual’s partiality to one musical style over another.

So how does this affect the garden variety Contemporary Worship Singer? The first question to be asked is do you think about the lyrics that you sing? Secondly have you considered that by virtue of your being on stage you inadvertently support the doctrine and resulting theology of what is being sung? Singers love to give voice to flowing melodies, but is a beautiful melody enough qualification for the use of a song in the corporate gathering? I agree with Marva Dawn (1995) when she writes “It is crucial, then, that leaders of the Church study carefully our underlying theology of worship and the specific worship practices that result, for they do, indeed, determine who we are” (p. 106). Here I reveal my own view. The means must justify the ends. Like Wiersbe (2000) “I am convinced that congregations learn more theology (good and bad) from the songs they sing than from the sermons they hear” (p. 136). However (and on this point I close), this does not mean that we can focus so heavily on the lyrical content that we forget to develop melodies and arrangements thereof that best deliver the doctrine. It must be sing-able! Sadly, too many ‘great lyrics’ have been set to ‘sub standard’ music – surely we can have both. I think that if we were to apply this rule to the repertoire list of most churches it would result in a significant cull of songs, but what would be left would be rich in doctrine and produce good, in a word – Theology!


Basden, P. (1999). The worship maze: Finding a style to fit your church. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Bryant, T. A. (Ed.) (1982) Today’s dictionary of the bible. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Carson, D. A. (Ed.). (2002). Worship by the book. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Dawn, M. J. (1995). Reaching out without dumbing down: A theology for worship for this urgent time. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Kauflin, B. (2008). Worship matters: Leading others to encounter the greatness of God. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Peterson, D. (1992). Engaging with God: A biblical theology of worship. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (Eds.). (2008) Concise oxford english dictionary (11th, Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Real worship: Playground, battle ground, or holy ground? (2 ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Zahl, P. F. M. (2004). Formal-liturgical worship. In P. A. Basden (Ed.), Exploring the worship spectrum: 6 views (pp. 21–36). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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