I was reflecting with somebody recently about the songs we sing. We can sing songs that reference God, but not much else. It is interesting, when you actually analyse what we have sung, that folks from quite a few other religious backgrounds could come in and sing those songs without any real change in their understanding of God at all. That doesn’t strike me as ideal.
I was re-reading something in Michael Reeve’s The Good God and came across this quote that seemed relevant:
John wrote his gospel, he tells us, so ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31). But even that most basic call to believe in the Son of God is an invitation to a Trinitarian faith. Jesus is described as the Son of God. God is his Father. And he is the Christ, the one anointed with the Spirit. When you start with the Jesus of the Bible, it is a triune God that you get. The Trinity, then, is not the product of some abstract speculation; when you proclaim Jesus, the Spirit-anointed Son of the Father, you proclaim the triune God.
And what Arius demonstrated was the reverse: when you don’t start with Jesus the Son, you end up with a different God who is not the Father. For the Son is the one Way to know God truly: only he reveals the Father. John Calvin once wrote that if we try to think about God without thinking about the Father, Son and Spirit, then ‘only the bare and empty name of God flits about in our brains, to the exclusion of the true God’. He was quite right. For there is a vast world of difference between the triune God revealed by Jesus and all other gods.
I think that is about right. And so I wonder whether we are better in our songs to specifically reference the Father, Son and Spirit more than we talk more generally about God. It’s not that using the word God is wrong. Nor that it would always be inappropriate. But I suspect many of us hear about God and do not naturally think of Father, Son and Spirit. I am quite sure when Muslim visitors come into our meetings it isn’t where their minds go and I suspect, those who have become believers from a Muslim-background, may well find some specificity more helpful too.