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Thursday, February 12, 2009
Chris Tomlin Critique Response
Earlier this week a friend sent me a link to this blogpost by a quite distinguished professor of theology at Regent College in Van Couver, Canada. The post excoriates Chris Tomlin as a songwriter and borders on an ad hominem attack. After sleeping on it, I decided to post a comment to the growing trail. My comment is somewhere down around #58. I welcome you to read it, but would prefer if you have a response directly to me to make it here on my blog rather than on his. Of course, if you want to respond to him, you are free to comment on his blog as you please. 

The internet is a dangerous place.  ;-)


posted by John David Walt | at 2/12/2009 10:30:00 AM



Blogger Timothy Miller said...

Mine's comment 60.

You could've been a little more forward. I appreciate the gentle nature of your comment, though.


11:19 AM EST  
Blogger Aaron Perry said...

JD, I thought you shared much better than I could have what my thoughts were. Dr Stackhouse's criticisms should not be ignored and should be engaged, but his manner was certainly not conversational.

11:29 AM EST  
Anonymous chris heuertz said...

dude... how do i leave a comment on that hack-job's page???? oh dear... you know i'm always up for a good fight ;)

11:46 PM EST  
Blogger sandra r. said...

As I was reading it, my thoughts went something like this:

He closed his blog from any more comments. Hmm.

If this guy is a theologian, then I'm pretty afraid for those under his instruction.
He didn't even elude to the prominence of the Trinity in that song or the lines which are Matthew 6:13 (to me the most powerful part). And, it seems apparent he isn't aware of the story behind the song or the other writer!

You did a good job giving grace, JD. I don't know that I could have done the same so smoothly.
And, prayers for you, Chris, and all of the other songwriters because even though you guys are pretty tough to take it, unkind words really hurt.

2:52 AM EST  
Blogger John D. Palmer said...

Here's what I think. I think Chris Tomlin can handle any and all criticism of his work. I'm sure he has in the past and is prepared to do so in the future. I'm confident in him and his integrity and character even though I only know him through his music.

What was substantive of Dr. Stackhouse's blog post? Even when I x out the personal and character jabs he makes and say put a general "popular Christian artist" into its place, Dr. Stackhouse ends up falling into the easy whine section of the church that we who have been progressive with our music and worship have had to contend with since the days of Amy Grant and "Fathers Eyes".(I'm sure that it even predates that era thats just about where I jumped in)

His first "whine" is about ryhm, which I thought was so utterly elitist and snobish that I could do little other than laugh out loud. If we are to "do better" by Dr. Stackhouse's standard then we would all need to enroll in classes that Dr. Stackhouse would choose best for us to "properly" learn how to ryhm. And even after that we would need to score high marks in that class to be considered worthy of putting pen to paper in praise of God. His "whine" is so utterly laughable that I kind of feel sorry for him. Being as educated, written, and read as he is, I have to believe if he ever comes down off his elitist cloud he will look at his post and be embarrassed to have his name on it. He could easily have done better.

The second prong of his "whine" does have some merit. I think we all can have a substantive conversation about theological integrity in the lyrics of our music. Just because Chris Tomlin is part of this conversation I can think of at least 3 or 4 of his songs that I have been frustrated with where praise and worship is concerned. Pretty sure it was not his fault because he doesn't put on the liner cover of his album's "USE THESE IN YOUR WORSHIP SERVICE's because thats what I wrote them for" I mean, while his roots may be in Worship leadership, I'm almost certain he is a Christian artist whose purpose is to give people some good music. Wonder of Wonders he has accomplished that.

So. I think we leave Dr. Stackhouse to his ivory tower of academia frustrated that he is not as widely recieved as Chris Tomlin. And remember at the end of the day. . . .He's a Canadian.

5:41 PM EST  
Blogger Kendra said...

Lots of words and opinions on that post! My head is swimming. As a young writer, I can agree with Stackhouse's emphasis on form, though I wouldn't agree fully with his critique. I'm learning a deeper respect for the excellent examples of the writing craft and their respect for form first, and after that the freedom to explore. Their work is rich with flavor, and not just a sugar rush. I would be more like the sugar rush as a writer - less experienced and leaning toward what is popular in my generation. Send me back to the baker!

Stackhouse was overly derogatory, but I appreciate the bold challenge. We do need to cling to our theology tightly. Form is secondary.

I grow in conviction, too. I see a lack of knowledge and honor for older forms. Many people comment about the lack of content in what is popular. I know I need to grow there, too.

At a funeral this week of an elderly saint, a man of great respect, I listened. The church of Christ has such a tradition of gathering in order to value what is truly honorable. Like gentlemen and ladies of my grandfather's era, the craft of graceful social form is rarely seen (by me personally). It is a form that upholds honor in certain ways.

I've never know kindness as much as when I am with men of that era. I've not yet found a match to some of the hymns burned on my heart and mind. There is something valuable there worth keeping.

I don't think that all of this should be resurrected, rather valued through mindfulness and respect. For heaven's sake, I showed up to the funeral in boots and jeans because I forgot. But the form of reverence and love was there. My "form" didn't stick out much because of the evidence of my heart.

I think Tomlin could grow from the challenge. But for the most part, his heart is evident, as well as the growth of his lyrics and musical structure over time. I don't see it stagnant. Someone other than me would be more helpful in that area.

My last words will be those I walked away from the funeral with. I think they conclude what we need to take action on quite well. These are words from a brother in Christ who passed away leaving a legacy of excellence in form and heart:

"Stay close to the spout
where the glory comes out."

Stackhouse might like that rhyme.

6:39 PM EST  
Blogger Rob said...


12:40 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to read this man's blog often. In fact I went there originally because he expressly disagreed with some things that I believe are very important to Christian faith and I wanted to hear him out, but over the many many months I have been reading, I have become more and more disappointed with the attitude of his blog.

JD, as far as you comments go, I was impressed with the humility and thoughtfulness that came through in your assessment. You were right on the mark. Some of Stackhouse's critiques were certainly valid, but the attitude that pervades the post is off-putting to say the least. Not to mention Stackhouse apparently missed some of Chris' better songs.

9:56 PM EST  
Anonymous Zach Hendricks said...


Very well put together. Couldn't agree more with what you said; critique is fair play, but don't come off as a mocker/scoffer. Fortunately the truth of God transcends a rhyme scheme.

Hope to see you again soon brother.

10:13 PM EST  
Blogger Derrick said...

I wish you had never been bothered with the professor's comments. I honestly cannot see any productivity to the Professor's comments. Great response though...can't say I could've shown that much humility at all.

Dream big...be well...

10:03 AM EST  
Anonymous elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I consider Chris to be one of the best modern-day psalmists of our generation. I chronicle him as such on a regular basis. I don't give a fig about "poetry" and the logistics of how to make it all fit into man's idea of how it should write. I care about worship, and as far as I'm concerned, Chris does a fine job of leading me to the feet of Jesus--truly, the only place that matters to me.

7:28 PM EST  
Blogger OnNorthFace said...

Agree JD. It's one thing to critique a genre or what one may believe to be a generic issue. It's quite another to get personal and slight someone's art. Especially when assumed to be 'mature' in the Lord.

I think Jesus likes Chris's songs and (unless I'm mistaken) that's who they are written for?

Definitely a fight worth picking...

6:38 PM EDT  

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