Over the past few months I’ve been involved in several different Christian meetings where Chris Tomlin’s song “Good Good Father” was sung. I have to say that after having to dredge through that horrific song yet again yesterday at a chapel meeting, objectively “Good Good Father” exemplifies everything that is wrong with Christian music being sung in the church today.
Let’s start with the obvious. This is a Christian song that never once mentions God or Christ at all. Yes, the name “Father” is there, but you could literally sing this to your biological dad without stretching beyond the meanings conveyed by the song.
Secondly, this is one of the most repetitious songs ever written. The chorus is: “You’re a good, good father. It’s who you are. It’s who you are. It’s who you are. And I’m loved by you. It’s who I am. It’s who I am. It’s who I am.” That’s fourteen unique words in a chorus that’s thirty-four words long. And if you think that’s bad, the entire song contains 384 total words, but only 74 unique words.
And when we look at the content of what is actually said, it’s all of “You’re a good father and I’m loved by you.” The “It’s who you are/who I am” is completely redundant (again for content purposes—which isn’t dealing with stylistic and poetic aspects). But consider that for a moment. The way this is put together makes it truly ambiguous to what meaning is meant. Does it mean “You’re a good, good father because you love me” or does it mean “You love me because you’re a good, good father.”
The difference between those two concepts is vast.
More egregious than that ambiguity is the grammar of the song, which I think actually makes it more likely that the first meaning (“You’re good because you love me”) is the intended meaning. Who is the subject throughout the entire song? You might be tempted to think because the chorus starts out with “You’re a good, good father” that God is the subject, but aside from one place in the bridge that is literally the only place where God is the subject in any sentence. The second line, “And I’m loved by you” shows the real subject of this song: I. Tomlin even had to switch to passive voice for that line to keep “I” as the subject of the song, because active voice would have said “and you love me.” (For those who don’t remember, passive voice is when an action happens to
the subject; active is when the subject does
The verses bear this out:
Oh, I've heard a thousand stories of what they think you're like
But I've heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you're pleased
And that I'm never alone
Oh, and I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching
For answers only you provide
Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word
Now what is this song about? It’s about me, me, me. “I’ve heard”, “I’m never alone”, “I’ve seen”, “I know”… This is supposed to be a praise song, right? Can you imagine someone giving praise to another person in that vein? (Actually, you don’t have to imagine—just read an Obama speech. He’s good at injecting himself into every topic.)
The theology is atrocious here too. Tomlin is saying he’s heard thousands of stories of what God is like, but what is his confidence about who God is? He heard some whispers in the dead of night. Now I may be weird, but if auditory hallucinations form the basis for what you think God is like then that’s pretty messed up. First, why are we going to trust Tomlin’s auditory hallucination instead of the thousands of other stories? After all, Tomlin is only giving us one more story
of what God’s like.
Secondly, you’d think that if God were a wise God, He’d find some way around this subjectivism. Perhaps give us all revelation that we could look at together without having to wonder about whether someone truly heard from God or was just reacting poorly to his supper. Perhaps something written down so everyone can examine it independently and discuss interpretations and wacky stuff like that.
Nah, whispers in the dead of night work so much better. Just ask the Mormons.
But you can’t even escape the “me me me” part of the song when looking at the bridge, which (as I alluded to earlier) actually makes God the subject for a bit. It starts out:
Cause you are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
Now so far that’s actually not too bad, aside from the repetitious redundant repeatedly saying the same thing over and over and over and… But then the bridge continues, still starting off as repeating (because why work on more lyrics anyway? You’d have to come up with rhymes and crap like that.):
You are perfect in all of your ways to us
Oh. “You’re not objectively perfect, but you’re perfect to us.” That’s what you tell your eight-year-old cousin when he comes in eleventh in a race of nearly a dozen competitors. That’s not what you say to the Almighty God of the universe who is perfect even if we don’t think so because we are not the standard of determining what perfection is!!!!
You know, the only part of the song that’s accurate is the line near the end. “I, I can hardly think.”
Yeah. And it shows.