A Review of Newsboys’ ‘Your Love Never Fails’ and “My Good”

Ever since the LORD got a hold of me in a rather gripping way, I have had the commitment that I won’t listen to so called secular music (which I did for quite a few years leading up to this turn); and this is has been the case since 1995. As a pastor’s kid, and a Christian kid growing up, newsboys-front-poster-image_0we weren’t allowed to listen to rock-and-roll; but we did listen to what some have called easy listening music (so the classic ballad types songs, etc.). Anyway, given my current commitment, I listen to “Christian” music; the reality is that often, though, when you listen to the lyrics, it isn’t always that Christian—that said, it is usually better than the concepts being communicated in its secular counter-parts. So, given my music listening habits, I listen to Christian radio stations; in my area Air1 on 102.7fm is probably my favorite (it plays more edgy and rocky types of songs juxtaposed with other Christian music radio stations in the area). One of the songs they have been playing quite frequently lately is the Newsboys newer song Your Love Never Fails. As you listen to the song most of it comes straight from scripture, and is quite edifying. Here are the lyrics:

Nothing can separate
Even if I run away
Your love never fails
I know I still make mistakes
You have new mercy for me everyday
Cause Your love never fails

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There may be pain in the night
But joy comes in the morning
And when the oceans rage
I don’t have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me
Your love never fails

The wind is strong and the water’s deep
But I’m not alone here in these open seas
Cause Your love never fails
The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I’d reach the other side
But Your love never fails

You make all things work together for my good
You make all things work together for my good

But I am more concerned with what I have emboldened in the lyrics; this is the bridge of the song, and it is quite problematic from my perspective. Clearly this is appealing to a common interpretation of Romans 8:28, which reads:

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

To read ‘my good’ into this passage, as so many Evangelicals, in particular, do; is awry. Exegete, Leon Morris highlights this point in his critical commentary on the epistle to the Romans; he writes:

Paul does not explain what he means by the good, but we must clearly understand it in the sense “final good” or “true good”; it certainly does not mean in all things we count for good, such as our pleasures. (pg. 331)

To read this as the Newsboys do in their song, is to misread this passage; and they are in good company. The fallout or disillusionment that this misreading has the potential to engender, though, is disastrous. Not only that, this reading represents a pelagian, hyper-pietistic, quietistic one that points the person (the Christian) to their circumstances and their personal experience of their experiences instead of grounding the good in ultimate purpose and point, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, in the context, is the ultimate good in which creation’s orbit finds its spin—indeed, look at the preceding context starting in Romans 8:18ff, it is all referencing creation/new-creation motif—and notice the immediate context, it is all about being predestined in Christ.

The reason the Newsboyian reading can leave us with a feeling of stupor and angst is because ‘my good’ most often does not usually seem to be the most immediate experience of most of us Christians. In fact given another dominant Pauline theme, like his ‘theology of the cross and Christian suffering’, our most immediate experience will probably be that of pain, angst, and bewilderment; it won’t fit into what we usually think of the feelings that we would associate with ‘my good’ (like blessing, etc., framed by material creature comforts etc.).

Anyway, I just wanted to highlight how misleading the Newsboy’s reading actually is. It is theologically and exegetically incorrect, and thus it can set us up for major disappointment and further navel-gazing if and when things don’t appear to be happening for ‘my good’.

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9 thoughts on “A Review of Newsboys’ ‘Your Love Never Fails’ and “My Good”

  1. I can’t get into their new stuff. With both Peter Furler and Phil Joel gone, it’s not the same band at all. I miss the creativity and witty lyrics of their ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ days. Ah, that was good stuff! Now, they are a rather generic praise band. I’ll listen to my Passion conference cd’s for that.

    I have to say that I have found as much spiritual insight and strength from quality “secular” music — as long as it is attentive to reality (not romanticism or saccharine). I’m thinking of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and many more. They can communicate the grandeur and simple beauty of God’s creation — in both the highs and the lows — in a very edifying way. The joy and the sorrows are all there, honestly engaged. Evangelicals have an acute failure to enjoy reality, so we escape it with our CCM and evangelical subculture. I’m actually in favor of having an evangelical subculture (and CCM!), but we should not be so fearful of being contaminated or falling from our spiritual highs. Just some thoughts.

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  2. Bobby,

    I agree completely. It’s troublesome that so many contemporary praise songs focus on “me” rather than on God. There’s got to be a balance between contextualizing the Christian worship service so that it is culturally relevant without importing the values of the surrounding culture uncritically.

    Help me with one thing though, what do you mean by “quietism”?

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  3. Well, theoretically, couldn’t “my good” be resurrection? I don’t know if that’s really a stretch for these sorts of lyrics.

    I usually disavow “praise music” because the lyrics are empty and I’ve had some vicious things about “Christian” record labels. It’s just ghetto thinking really.

    Now I don’t know if you like metal (as prog metal like Dream Theater) but there is a great band called Theocracy. The band competes with other bands (secular?) but all of the lyrics have explicitly Christian themes. I think with metal it’s more acceptable because the lyrical content is always epic, colorful and sometimes mystical. So whether you’re singing about Christ and Him crucified, the Fairy King and Elven warriors or being a Viking and raiding and raping the land; as long as you have good instrumentals you’re prized.

    Anyway, Christian or non, I’ve heard some pretty lyrical gold from “secular” bands and some have even better theological insight than so-called “christian” ones. I feel way more rooted in reality listening to Megadeth or Metallica, hearing real people emotions, than most songs singing bizarro teenie love songs about the abstract noun “god” with Jesus thrown in as a selling point.

    If these bands can’t compete for musical quality in a real market, why section off a corner and settle for B rate singing, lyrics, instrumentals etc. It all sounds very Tetzel, christendom-like, but at least the Roman Catholic polity of the Middle Ages had aesthetic taste.

    My 3 cents,
    Cal

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  4. @Kevin,

    Yeah, I agree with you about the Newsboys; I definitely like their real old stuff, and not their newer stuff.

    I also agree that there are so called secular musicians who are thoughtful, engaging, and worth listening to. At the end of the day, it comes down to a personal weakness for me; music, in many ways, in the past, led me away from Christ; which is why I have this particular commitment. I would say that even though much of Christian music is not all that Christian, lyrically, there is still a certain ethos behind it that helps me to keep focus in the right direction. That said, as this post evidences, I am not listening uncritically. I do, in passing, listen to some secular music, but not much; and I could appreciate the artists you mention.

    @Andre,

    Bob Marley is an interesting character; I just don’t know enough about him to comment. I’ve heard that song Get Up Stand Up more than once, but don’t recall its particular lyrics or context at the moment; so I can’t comment further … sorry. What do you think about Bob Marley?

    @Mike,

    While not the best definition, this will give you an idea:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quietism_(Christian_philosophy)

    @Cal,

    Yeah, there some “Metal” songs that I agree with you on; one from Metallica, don’t recall the title (it’s one of their classics). I was never into Metal, I was more into Snoop Dog, Warren G, and West Coast rap; along with alternative music (like Greenday et al). Anyway, as I pointed out to Kevin, for me, this is a weakness, and my commitment reflects that weakness. Listening to Christian music, so called, has more to do with the ethos, than it actually does with lyrics, often. And I am not against what you or Kevin are getting at; I have heard so called “secular” songs that definitely capture the reality and rigor of life more than many many so called Christian songs.

    @Everyone,

    This post wasn’t intended to argue against Christians listening to “secular” music; maybe this post was ultimately an exercise in just noting how important it is to be critical listeners as we listen to whatever music we are listening to.

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  5. Hi Bobby!
    I could just about echo everything you just wrote. I have no “commitment” but if listening to the secular, I soon find myself on a “trip the light fantastique”, and the light isn’t the Lord, I should move away from it. I also listen to CCM critically. 1st, if I’m hearing to much “I” and “me” right off the bat, I’m suspicious. A brother once said that he once was confessing to the Lord, “boy, do I love you Lord”, in an emotional moment, and he sensed the Lord replying, “No, I Love You”. In other words some of the songs sound too self-agrandizing. And of course I listen critically for musical talent too. It doesn’t have to be edgey (doesn’t hurt), but if my high school chorus director would have thrown it out, I’m not interested either.

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  6. Andre,

    I am aware of Rasta Christafari etc., which seem to be syncretistic belief structures. I’m not convinced that Marely was a Christian, but I hope so.

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