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Singing’s Gone Global

Singing’s Gone Global has been written slowly, beginning in the seventies, as the author moved from singing merrily whatever was sung, to more reflective joy. ‘Gone Global’ reflects the belief that singing is a gift from God, which has expanded globally as man has expanded globally, and is reflected in the Imago Dei—God’s Image. The book begins with a short praise of singing, and a reflection on the antiquity of human singing, picking up on Hohle Fels, Jubal, Exodus, and the sweet singer of Israel. We then move to the early church, Global Israel, and learn from the wisdom of Paul, a gifted Pharisee who hoped in the resurrection. We see that singing can include the blues, as well as being of gratitude and greatness. Jesus himself sang just prior to his execution, Christians sang in jail, and the church was soon seen to be a singing church.

As to the impact of songs, we consider what, if any, impact they have on the demonic, the divine, and (may one say?) the dust. It’s in the latter arena, humanity, which is the book’s focus.  For our sake it’s best to get the songs right before they go viral. The book goes to town with this theme. Borrowing from Nick Page, it presents the idea of the Luton Epiphany, that Christian songs can be mystifying nonsense even to Christians. If nonsense songs turn into Mûmakils, we have a real fight on our hands in restoring sense.

Songs can aid worship. Some go so far as to all but limit worship to songs—the church music team are hailed as its worship leaders. Is singing the worship slot of the week? Singing’s Gone Global deeply explores the whole idea of worship. In so doing it examines prayer-types, as well as the trinity. Unhappy with the Sabellianism coming through in so many songs, it seeks to bring theological understanding to bear, a standard by which to judge songs and to discount the contamination of Jesusism (Jesus Onlyism). Should we proclaim, “you alone are God, Jesus”, or should the father and spirit get some kind of look in? As to prayer-types, this book tries to show what types such as praise, gratitude, chat, worship, request, actually are, and with each type it asks whether it may be directed to the Holy Spirit. Such questions encourage a trinitarian perspective in life. Paul’s God/lord approach is used as standard, though the book speaks of the ways each eternal person is lord, highlighting the supremacy of what Thomas Smail called the forgotten father of Jesusism.

It then moves to a variety of problems under over a dozen headings, whether real or fanciful, which infect songs.  Such includes the grammatical, the archaic, the incomplete fragments, and some directly theological questions, such as whether in spite of Heb.7:7 we can bless God, whether Jesus is a friend, and whether it’s good to have a good god. It also includes some thoughts of the proseuchology—the study of worship, in which visualisation is vital. A number of other issues analysed over decades as a lyricologist, are also treated. Attempt has been made to weigh the downside of certain follies in song writing, and to give them demerit values. But imagine an Arminian song, and a Calvinist song. The Blemish Avoidance Grade (BAG) system does not dismiss either, but looks to contaminating follies which reduce the credibility of both, thus making Arminianist and Calvinist songs better. In short, Singing’s Gone Global offers a cleaning process, strongly advancing the idea of decontamination. Copyright law must not strangle the church. The book is decidedly trinitarian, and while accepting that good Christians exist in Sabellian circles, automatically fails unitarian songs.

A number of songs are analysed, and given a BA Grade. For instance, Shine Jesus Shine, warmly accepted as prophetic, is given but a C+ (66%): demerit is given for bad visualisation (–25 points) and decontextualisation (9 points). A lesser song might rate an A as blemish free, but might also be free of significance. We should seek significant songs which also lack blemishes. As standard, each song is offered whatever rewording is needed to achieve an A grade, and a summary of each song is given. It is blemishes across the theological spectrum being considered, not the theological spectrum. For example, take a Calvinist and an Arminian song. Each song would begin at 100%, then be equally subject to demerits to the extent that they exhibit the listed follies, which are incidentally irrelevant to both theologies. An analysis has also been made of random song books, where a percentage of their songs have each been scanned for the listed blemishes. This is done to develop the art of almost spontaneous discernment of any new song. Christians are not to be connoisseurs of Christian (and non-Christian) songs, too refined to sing any. Yet it is hoped that songwriters will as a body wise up and upgrade their offerings. Each songwriter is at least a potential global televangelist—may their teaching be sound and their singers neither committed to propagating truth served up with heresy, nor to general folly. Some ideas are also made as to how copyright (not Christian as such) can be the servant and not the master: lyrics should not be written in stone. Finally, seven common Christmas Carols are rewritten, from a slightly wider take on blemishes, such as the stable fallacy, and tardisial nature. Carols such as O Come O Come Emmanuel, O Little Town, O Come all Ye Faithful, and O Holy Night. Their songwriters are briefly looked at, fostering the idea that it can be good to know a little about the history of individual songs.