I’m feeling nostalgic today and when I saw a tweet mentioning the 70s/80s/90s Christian rock band Petra, I began a search for their music on Spotify. It has an amazing amount of Petra’s music, so I have been reliving my Christian rocker days. Some of the music is as fantastic as I remember it (‘The Colouring Song’, ‘Beyond Belief’)! Some if it I cringe when I listen to it (‘This Means War’). It makes me think, ‘Did I really think this is good?’ Not just the music itself but the words.
One song that really made me stop cold is one of Petra’s earliest songs. I doubt I have heard this in… wow, 20 years. [Aside: Can it REALLY have been that long!] The song is ‘Why Should the Father Bother?’ Here’s the chorus:
Why should the Father
Bother to call us His children?
Why should the Spirit
Hear it when we pray?
Why should the Father
Bother to be concerned with all our needs?
It’s all because of what the Son has done
Part of me wants to believe that they went for the cute, near rhyming pattern (father/bother, spirit/hear it). Even if that’s true, is that what they mean to say? The Father would have nothing to do with us, the Spirit doesn’t listen to us – except that Jesus came and died for us. Behind this is the penal substitution theory of atonement that says that God can only love us because he needed an outlet for his wrath and took it out on Jesus. That way all can be happy because God let off his steaming anger and he can at least look at us again without being disgusted.
Rather, the ‘Father did bother’ – that’s why he sent his Son. I do hear the song saying that if it wasn’t for Jesus then God wouldn’t care a lick (which I hope the songwriters don’t mean). Perhaps, rightly or wrongly, I have heard this a little too much lately in the rush to defend hell from Rob Bell. I’m not saying that I agree with Bell (and I haven’t said much about it as I haven’t read his latest book, Love Wins), but I have wondered about the rush to defend Hell.
Perhaps in the write ups and reviews of Bell’s book, I have struggled to remember that God is first loving, and I’m sorry, I don’t hear the good news of a loving God when God demands acceptance in this life or get eternal torturous punishment. The reviewers have spent most of the time telling how Bell got his exegesis wrong or he did not thoroughly select from the church fathers. I haven’t heard anyone offer a more soundly exegetical reading that attempts to offer a truly loving message like what Bell is attempting to do.
I have always said that I need to study the issues more, and I need to get around to that. But, at the moment, I want to remind myself that God sent Jesus because he loved us.