Tuesday, April 24, 2012

“The Cross is not enough” – the Hillsong excursus

As part of my post-resurrection Easter spiritual practice, I’m reading Cross Is Not Enough: Living as Witnesses to the Resurrection by Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson, Australian Baptist thinkers. I thought it would be a good discipline to blog as I read my way through the book. Chapter one is here, Chapter two is here, Chapter three is here, Chapter four is here

There is one comment by Clifford and Johnson from chapter four I’d like to pull out and reflect further on:

Perhaps one reason for Hillsong’s success is that the resurrection is celebrated in uplifting songs.

The comment reminded me of some worship work I did back in 2007. The church I was pastoring was doing an Easter evening church series on the topic of the real Jesus. As part of that, wanting to encourage the primarily youth congregation to think about what they sing, the pastoral team were each allocated a random contemporary song and asked the question – “what are we thinking when we sing this.”

I got given the Hillsong song, titled “For all you’ve done.” Somewhat to my surprise (and in an endorsement of the comment made by Clifford and Johnson) I found quite a well-developed theology of resurrection. Here were some of my comments on “For all you’ve done.”

The song has 3 parts. The opening is fascinating;
My savior
Lifted me from the miry clay

I hear echoes of the Old Testament. For example Psalm 40:1 -3; I patiently waited, LORD, for you to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit, full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you.

Such echoes of Jesus are present in a number of places in the Old Testament. The most well known is Proverbs 8, with what I call a “Cosmic or Wisdom Jesus,” Jesus present at the birth of creation, giving wisdom to life. So “for all you’ve” done starts with a creation Jesus present redemptively within creation.

The middle of the song keeps the Old Testament theme going:
Forever, I will never be the same

At this point, I become a bit uneasy, as there is the potential of Jesus being mushed into Almighty God. But then the song gets very specific.
Cos You came here
From the everlasting
To the world we live
The Father’s only Son

This is a good Incarnational theology. This Cosmic Jesus is God before time, that came to live. The life of Christ is essential. “For all you’ve done” includes every day of every one of those 33 years.

The good theology continues as the song moves to end:
And You lived
You died
You rose again on high
You opened the way for the world to live again

I find fascinating the echoes of resurrection and ascension. Jesus fully human and fully divine “opened the way.” The human body of Jesus ascends into God. In the Ascension, the way for humans is opened to God. What is more, God is changed as God embraces humanity.

In summary, “for all you’ve done” is a surprisingly broad song theologically. Christians often limit what Jesus does to the cross. Yet this song names Jesus, for all you’ve done as including creation, incarnation, life, resurrection and ascension.

So salvation in Christ is not limited to the work of the cross. It starts with God making the world, involves the sending of Jesus, God with skin on, moves through thirty three years of healing to the embrace of the cross, the surprise of Easter Sunday and the ascension, as Jesus opens the way. That’s the Jesus being worshipped in “for all you’ve done.”

(The original post is here) and if you check out the comments, quite some heat was generated!)

Posted by steve at 07:16 AM


  1. But, you have forgiven me, right? 🙂 Not one of my better moments on the interwebs.

    Comment by Bill Kinnon — April 24, 2012 @ 8:29 am

  2. Yes Bill. Thanks for your honesty and prophetic advocacy.


    Comment by steve — April 24, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  3. If I ever listen to Hillsong, I actually go to that album. I really love Hallelujah and Evermore.

    Comment by Tim — April 24, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  4. Hillsongs is held with very deep suspicion by the Anglican family, especially by our Sydney brothers annd sisters, but like you I find that not is all wrong in their ‘songs’.

    Comment by Chris — April 24, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  5. I have just started the book. I like its challenge to the norm of the cross as central – which has certainly been my default – so i’m hoping to learn some good stuff.

    I resonate with what you say here in light of the book.

    Comment by hamo — April 25, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  6. BTW – couldn’t read the original as it went thru to drafts

    Comment by hamo — April 25, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

  7. thanks Hamo. Fixed the link. Been like that since 7 am yesterday and you’re the first to comment. thanks


    Comment by steve — April 25, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

  8. Hamo,

    Regarding your comment re emphasis, I can’t help wondering what type of book these two would have written if they were not based in Sydney? How much of their reflection is shaped by the power of Sydney anglicanism on one side, and Hillsong on the other?


    Comment by steve — April 25, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

  9. That’s an interesting question Steve. I am familiar with the context but not south with Ross or Phil’s theological emphases. I doubt either would sway towards SA or HS though. I’d wonder if SA might be very loud there and need a push back and this is one way.

    Comment by Hamo — April 25, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

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