Just Say Shazam!

Another day’s commute, another theologically odd Christian song on the radio.

This week’s offender is 7eventh Time Down‘s Just Say Jesus, a brand-new offering that appears to be getting an increasing amount of play time.

It’s not entirely bad. There is some good stuff in the lyrics about the power that is in the Name of Jesus.

But it goes just a bit too far.

The way this song would have you believe, the Name of Jesus is some kind of magic spell. When nothing’s going right, just say Jesus and it’ll all turn around.

I don’t want to be the fly in anyone’s ointment just for the sake of it, but this puts me in mind of the Biblical account of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:11-20. These guys were Jewish exorcists according to the pattern of the time, using magical incantations calling on angelic powers in order to try to drive out demons. Observing the success St. Paul and the other followers of Jesus were having at driving out demons using the name of Jesus, the sons of Sceva tried to add this name to their list of powers to call upon.

The Bible records that they began to command the demons to leave saying “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches…”

The Bible says the demon responded “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?

Now, these guys had no relationship with Jesus at all beyond their common nationality, but it’s still a strong warning against treating the name of Jesus the Messiah as a magical spell.

Or worse yet, “When no words will come because of all your fear, just say Jesus”.

How very Mary Poppins. Her version was “Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious”, but it’s, disturbingly, exactly the same idea. A magic word thet changes everything and overcomes your fear by its own strength.

The name of Jesus isn’t a word of power like “Shazam!”. The power in the name of Jesus isn’t in the word, it’s in the Man.

In Hebrew thought, a person’s name signified their character. Who they really were. Abram got renamed from “Exalted Father” to “Father of a Multitude”. Jacob got renamed from “Supplanter” to “Prince of God”. Jesus is the Koine Greek form of the Hebrew Yeshua, meaning “YHWH Rescues”. God’s agent of salvation.

Calling on the name of Jesus isn’t some magical incantation; it’s an acknowledgement that God is in the right when He says that we need a Rescuer, and an expression of trusting oneself to His rescue plan effected through Jesus.

Then, too, when the police demand entry to a building, they used to say “open up in the name of the Law!” “In the name of” just means “by the authority of”. It means that the policeman isn’t acting in their own person, isn’t a private citizen trying to gain entry for whatever ends. The policeman acts as an arm of the civil government; refusing him entry isn’t just “not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin”, it’s an act of defiance of the legal authority of the entire civil governing authorities themselves.

We make our policemen get warrants from a judge for the search of private property in order to prevent abuses, because this isn’t a power to wear or use lightly, but when a policeman legally demands entry, he’s there as a representative of the civil government and his authority doesn’t come from himself or his weapon, but from the Law of which he is a servant.

That’s what “In the Name of Jesus” means. To so demean its true meaning as to reduce it to “something to say when you can’t say anything else” is getting near to blasphemy.

That’s fairly extreme, but this is serious stuff. I’m pretty sure that whoever wrote the song didn’t mean to be using Jesus’ name as a magic word, but there’s no excuse for this sort of sloppiness. You wouldn’t catch the Wesleys or Fanny J Crosby or Ira Sankey or any of the great hymnwriters of the past in this sort of error. You wouldn’t catch Rich Mullins or Twila Paris in this sort of error. And as prolific as some of them were, that’s a lot of words that they needed to get right.

I recently reposted my post on “Magical Thinking”; this is exactly the sort of nonsense I mean when I say it. The idea that if you do or say a certain thing, you get a certain result.

The name of Jesus the Messiah isn’t Abracadabra, and it’s certainly not Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious.

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