Written by: Nathan Birr
At the risk of offending friends, being excommunicated from the church, and possibly losing my salvation, may I suggest to you that Chris Tomlin’s “Good Good Father” is actually a bad, bad song?
I won’t dwell on the fact that I find the song kind of fluffy (yes, God is good, we are loved by Him, and He is perfect, but instead of just repeating those things, couldn’t we expound on the how and wherefore a little?) and hard for me to relate to, since I myself have never had God whisper to me in the night. Instead, I want to address the key issue I have with the song and the reason I’m writing this to begin with: it espouses bad theology.
Let’s look at the opening line of the song: “I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like . . .” In other words, there are a lot of theories out there about who/what God is. Tomlin’s responds, “But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of the night.” Do you see the problem? Tomlin doesn’t counter the myriad ideas about God with Scripture but with a night-time whisper. How does he know the whisper was God? How does he know the whisper was correct? And what differentiates Tomlin’s God experience (a whisper in the night) from the thousands of stories other people have? Couldn’t a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Mormon or a Muslim or a tree-worshipping Druid hear a whisper in the dead of the night telling them something warm and fuzzy too? That doesn’t make their “story” of God true.
The song should say, “I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like, but I’ve read and studied the Bible and so I know the truth.” But that doesn’t flow off the tongue quite so well (not that flowing off the tongue well is apparently any kind of metric for Christian worship songs). This may not seem like a big deal, but what happens when a seeker shows up in our church, or a new Christian is there, and they’re trying to figure out who God is? We sing Chris Tomlin’s “Good Good Father,” and they go away from our service thinking that if they want to know God, they should go home, tuck themselves into bed, and wait for Him to whisper to them. And we’d better hope the “liar and father of lies” doesn’t “[masquerade] as an angel of light” and tickle their ears with midnight murmurings first. Instead, shouldn’t we be stressing to people (in our sermons, our worship songs, our everyday conversations) that if they want to know God or know what He’s like, there is one place and one place only where they should seek that knowledge—His Holy Word?
I don’t mean to denigrate Chris Tomlin, nor do I question his personal doctrine (because I don’t know it). I only know the theology expressed in his songs, and, at least in the case of “Good Good Father,” that theology contains a gaping hole—the song even promotes inaccurate theology. That promotion is not overt, and may not even be intentional, but I think that makes it all the more dangerous. And while the majority of the theology in the song is just fine, that doesn’t excuse the bad theology, and in fact, makes it easier for bad theology to slip by unnoticed. The good theology also loses its power because, not being rooted in the Bible, it has no authority—no more than anyone else’s argument for who or what God is like. And that is why I think “Good Good Father” is actually a bad, bad song, and why I propose it has no place in Christian worship services.
Nathan Birr is an author of more than a dozen books, including “The Douglas Files,” a detective series dealing with tough issues from a Biblical worldview. He and his wife Sierra live in Sheboygan, WI. Nathan’s website is nathanbirr.com.
AMEN and AMEN! Been saying it was a bad song for a long time. Thanks for giving some sound proof.
Mediocre doctrinally, but so are some of the hymns. We need to test all things by doctrine.
Amen! Thank you!
Chris Tomlin only popularized this song but it was written by Pat Barrett of Housefires. I am all for sound doctrine and theology for corporate worship, but I gotta say I was in a rough patch when I heard this song for the first time in my friend’s living room, and it encouraged me so much!
Was this article meant to be a comedy or some sort of satire? I literally laughed out loud!…lolol. Thanks for bringing a joy to the day. I hope no one is taking this seriously…
Clearly Tomlin wrote the song based off of his personal relationship & encounter with the Father, as the Psalmist David often did- i.e. “The Lord is my Shepard…”. Does that imply that one should head off to pasture and await a shepard to express themselves as God? C’mon….lol.
Interesting piece sir. I’m still giggling…lol.
I was just about to leave the same comment as Anna above. I heard Casting Crowns sing this song at Red Rocks in 2016. How come no one’s crying “Stone THEM”???
I am a classical pianist, and I don’t need to approve of the theology of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninoff to appreciate their music. God has told us what pleases HIM in music (1 Chron. 15, when the ark of the Covenant was brought in by David, is a GREAT example of what pleases the Lord — “play LOUDLY on musical instruments,” and in Psalm 149 and 150 as well the Lord makes it clear that we are to “play with loud clashing cymbals”). THAT eliminates the acappela hymns my new church is singing (I have some work to do!). Lol.
If your relationship with God is deep, then you will understand the song, its all about our personal relationship with the Father in heaven through Christ Jesus… the Bible says in John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:”
Dear brother you are making an article base on your personal experience with God, and as a Christian not intending to offend you that your understanding about the song is superficial, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with wisdom, knowledge and understanding so that your inner man (spirit) will grow and you will understand the deep things of His kingdom, and also seek more of Him in your life.
John 10:2-5 King James Version (KJV)
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
Since the Father is being left out of worship these days and there is a Father, Son, and Spirit that we worship, at least it’s trending in a favorable direction. Successive approximation.
You got it all wrong. The song is perfectly fine to me.
As I read this article, all I could think about is the writer of this article failed to remember something very deep and abiding about a relationship with God, and that is that a relationship with God is personal and intimate.
Mike describes it perfectly above, so I won’t repeat it. Does this writer not remember the still small voice that God spoke to Elijah in? Does he not remember that even Nicodemus went to the Lord at night, when no one else is around? I contend the Lord does some of his best work at night when no one else is around to hear.
Just my two cents.
How is that bad theology when it’s not theology at all? He’s suggesting that while some may “think” they know God, he has actually encountered God personally. I’m sorry, but this article just sounds like you don’t like the song and you want to justify that.
I find it absurd you speak of theology and not Jesus Christ.
Who has asked Jesus what he says about it and has his testimony. That is what matters.
A song is a form of praise..he is not giving a Bible Lesson…but….a Praise….
He is speaking as to who the Living God is in his life..if God is your Father there is little explaination needed…
Have you ever read the Book of Psalms?? Do you see a connection? Here is a scripture…Mark 10:18.. Are we now clear on who he is speaking of?
All praise must be Biblically and theologically correct.
Again, no testimony
Nothing wrong with this song. Surely, surely there are more serious peessing issues to focus on.
Interesting thoughts. However, Tomlin didn’t write the song.
Exactly. Rudimentary research is more difficult that typing a complain on the internet. Lazy reporting is bad theology as well.
Contrary to what many in the modern church are led to believe, the point of Christian worship is not to have a saccharine experience of warm feelings but to bring glory and honor to God. Even if the lyrics were acceptable, the spirit and message the song conveys is a cheap replica of true worship, not the real thing. The cherubim aren’t singing songs of this ilk in the presence of the Ancient of Days, and neither should we.
“I heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like”
-What stories is he referring to? Accounts from non-Christian religions? Tales of others’ experiences of God? Stories from the Bible? He seems to be discounting these experiences, but how can he do so given that his only source of truth is his own experience?
“but I’ve heard a tender whisper of love in the dead of night”
-Is the whisper real, akin to something Elijah experienced, or a metaphor for something else? Either way, it is affirming one’s emotional experience as if we aren’t supposed to test the spirits.
“and you tell me that you’re pleased and that I’m never alone”
-What exactly is God pleased with? Very rarely in the Bible is God pleased with what man does as we are told that every inclination of man’s heart is wicked. and instances in which God praises man, it is done when man is faithful. The good servants in the parable of the talents are faithful with what their master gave them, this is why the master praises them. Hebrews 11 honors not those who passively laid in bed having a strange experience of love, but rather those who responded in some faithful manner to God.
“you’re a good, good, Father, it’s who you are (x3)
and I’m loved by You, it’s who I am (x3)”
-The parallelism of the chorus only reinforces the passivity of the singer. That God’s goodness is innate is true. Yet man’s response is only that his essence is being the object of love? Why isn’t the singer responding in faith to God’s goodness? Although many won’t like hearing this, this lyric is elevating human worthiness in a way contrary to sound doctrine. Ask for yourself if using the lyrics “I am” should be referring to anyone than the God of Exodus 3.
“I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide”
“But I know we’re only searching for answers you provide”
“Cause you know what we need before we say a word”
-The idea behind this lyric is common to our modern ears; lost people are looking for the right things in the wrong places. Terms like “seeker-sensitive” are devised in order to better appeal to unbelievers. Yet the idea is largely false, resting on a poor interpretation of Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus commanded us to seek so that we should find, he didn’t glibly assume that those who weren’t found yet were sincerely seeking God or righteousness. In fact, he promised that seekers would find. But what we have to seek is first the kingdom of God. Most who are lost are not honest seekers searching for answers but rather sinners looking to justify their lives.
“You are perfect in all of your ways” (x6)
-The lyric is of course true. Yet why are we subjected to a bridge which repeats the same lyric mindlessly, putting the singer in a trance?
“It’s love so undeniable, I can hardly speak”
“Peace so unexplainable, I can hardly think”
-The bridge did it’s job apparently, as the singer is now admitting he has given up his mental faculties. Of course the songwriter is referencing Paul’s words about peace that surpasses understanding. Yet in that very same verse, (Phil. 4:7), Paul mentions that this very peace will guard the hearts and minds of believers. It isn’t that the surpassing peace of God takes away our ability to think, in fact it is the exact opposite.
“As you call me deeper still” (x3) “into love” (x3)
-Are we falling deeper in love, like with a boyfriend? One can see how, with a few lyric changes, the relationship can easily be described as quite carnal.
Nailed it. Thank you. Are we worshiping ourselves our the Great I Am?
You got it! I have been saying the same thing essentially
This hits the nail on the head, and are really the words I’ve been looking for. We’ve lost the true meaning of worship, and we think being close with God means getting spiritual high after spiritual high. The songs that are sung in churches today are so empty and meaningless. I hate what Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation, etc. are doing. They draw in masses of weak believers and secularists with their music and then fill their heads full of lies. They get just enough of god (little g because what they’re worshiping isn’t the one true God) to feel comfortable and then they die and are thrown into the lake of fire for eternity.
I see the problem with much of modern CCM is that is indeed emotionally based. Sure, God and His Love for us does evoke emotion, but the modern music itself seems to worship the worship and emotion more that the Giver of Life. Billy Graham said it best. Never get these out of order…. Fact – Faith – Feeling, because the feelings come and go, so never put them first. My salvation is based on facts that I have faith in which at times makes me emotional. We do have to remind ourselves at times who we are in God, but repeating “it’s who I am” over and over isn’t how I do that. Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, plus nothing. Take eye lashes off of self unless doing self inventory. I love old hymnals because they show us where God had brought us from and where he is taking us. That is what evokes true worship. We see Gods love in how He has destroyed the work of satan in our lives to give us the life he always intended for mankind. We know God from His word. He hasn’t his his character from us. Don’t listen to stories of what people think God is like. If you want God to speak to you, open up his word… the Bible is His love story to us
I agree with this article so much. Someone in comments referenced Elijah hearing the still small voice… “What doest thou here?” It was actually a gentle rebuke, not a blanket statement of pleasure. God loves us unconditionally but is not pleased with us unconditionally. It is our duty as His servants to study and seek to please Him by following His precepts. I am so glad there are others out there who test things Biblically not just defend something because they put their likes and tastes above the Holy Word.
I feel that the author is nit picking. As Christians, we all should know the Lord and what it’s like to hear him speak to us, our spirits. You can take almost any song or even scripture and disect it or parts of it to prove whatever point you want to make. Jesus says, my sheep hear my voice and follow me. There is nothing wrong with this song. God is a good father and he does love us and he wants us to know that he loves us and I’d say if you are not hearing the Lords voice and heart saying he loves you, and you belong to him, perhaps there are other issues going on. The song simply says although we’ve all heard stories of what God is like, I’ve experineced his love for me, I’ve heard him tell me, that I’m his. To say that we shouldn’t sing a song of Gods love or character because someone who doesn’t know Christ or someone who hasn’t heard the voice of the Lord might take it wrong, is just out right ridiculous!
thank you for your article. you bring out points for thought.
my issue with the song is the line
“and I am loved by you [yes correct], it’s who I am , it’s who I am, it’s who I am”.
it’s who I am – I don’t understand his meaning. Those words sound like there is something about me that is deserving or worthy of God’s love. Inspite of who I am, John 3:16. “For God so loved ” me” that He sent His Son. In my unworthiness, God loved me. Please explain those lyrics in a way that are biblical if possible.
I have been in the music ministry for 30 years. While in college, a professor railed on a classic hymn as theological heresy, and I thankfully learned to be critical of every word and note sung in worship. My (literally) tone-deaf pastor passed to me the best music minister advice I ever received. “You must sing and lead with your real closeness to God. Your talent and ability are worthless if your heart is not right each service.” The current of today’s CCM is feeling over faith. (As was the sound and sentiment of the “these be thy gods” worship service at Sanai) The rhythm and style is sensual and many modern sheep and goats have come to regard this sensuality as spirituality. I call most of it, “Jesus is my boyfriend” music. One indicator of this worldliness in the songs is that the worldly players promote it. Jesus exhorted us to not marvel if the world hated us. What does it mean if the world loves and praises us?
My biggest problem with this song is ‘making’ people in the congregation sing things that, for the majority, aren’t true for them; in other words, to sing second hand testimony. Line 2 – “But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night”. Well no I haven’t actually!! I always replace that line with “But Yours is the tender whisper of love in the dead of night”, which was obviously the experience of the writer, so less of a lie for me to sing.
AMEN! Nice to learn that I’m not the only one who sees the fluff and safety nets in order to produce songs that leave too many windows open for misunderstanding and bad theology. Thanks for addressing this.
Well, at first I was like…. whait a minute, it’s a song, and if you’ve never been forlorn and lost and despite and in pain, you’d never get it. The song isn’t explaining, its acknowledging. Then I saw the title of the page… amd I realized that a Dispensationalist may indeed struggle with this; God is drawing you, you have no choice- you are either His or you’re not. Prayers for your understanding- and please pray for mine- we are all on the learning curve. But yeah, acknowledgement of who God is and who we are, experiencially, emotionally, relationally, not so much a bible study lesson on the attributes of the Lord- not that those are mutually exclusive either… but it’s a song, and it isn’t wrong, so lighten up. Be well brother.