Question #332

What about the song “Open the Eyes of My Heart”?

This morning (Sunday), our song leader lead "Open the Eyes of My Heart", which startled me. I have heard that song before, on TV, as part of a instrumental "worship CD". After I called this to the attention of my husband, he wanted to know more, so I got on the web. Your site came up when I searched "Songs of Faith and Praise" (the book our congregation uses). I was distressed to find new and old favorites of our congregation being critiqued, as being doctrinally unsound or inaccurate. Before my husband addresses these concerns with any of our elders, I would like to supply him with solid information. How many songs in "Songs of Faith and Praise" originated from denominations, and were written to be part of an instrumental "worship service"? Would it, in your opinion, be wrong to use such songs in worship if the congregation is singing them a cappella? (Frankly, some of them just don't work well - they are short and quite simple, like songs written for young children.) Which songs (like "Open the Eyes of My Heart") are also used in faux-churches? This is a matter of concern to my husband and myself, and I would appreciate any further information on the matter.

The Answer:

Prior to the reception of this question I had never heard of “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” Thanks to the internet I have now heard it. It is obviously a “feel-good” song that, at least in this performance, was trying to work up the emotions of a youth gathering of some type by the music and by the use of typical music concert special effects. It was clearly directed more at entertainment of the spectators than to the worship of God. However, that should not be taken to mean that emotion is wrong in worship in song. In fact, it is my opinion (note the word “opinion”) that one of the reasons for God’s placing singing in worship is because it does address the emotions when it is properly done. Far too often our singing is done without any feeling at all – it is just done because it is supposed to be done and we hurry through it to get to the “important stuff.” A song service, properly done by drawing out the emotion of the music which in turn draws out and emphasizes the meaning of the words is a powerful means of worship. It helps to energize the spirit’s praise of and draw the soul nearer to the God who saved us and whom we worship.

Unfortunately, all of the words were not sufficiently clear to understand them. To the extent that they were clear, nothing was heard that was unscriptural. “Open the eyes of my heart” is figurative language. The song does not address how the eyes were to be opened. According to today’s religious environment there are two possibilities: 1) a “quiet voice of God” speaking to the individual or 2) through the word of God. According to scripture there is only one way – through the word of God. If the song had used the former it would be unscriptural. While it does not use the latter, it is certainly possible to sing the song with that understanding. Thus, it is not unscriptural in that regard.

Now to the real issue of the question – how many songs are written for musical accompaniment and by denominational authors. No count has been made nor could it be made without knowing the religious affiliation of each author. Comment has already been made on this issue in response to Question 324 which you may want to read. I would add one more example here. “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” was written by John Bowring in 1825. Bowring was an Englishman, a member of the Unitarian Church, and from about 1849 to 1859 served Great Britain in the far east as its Consul in Canton and then as Governor of Hong Kong. The story is told that Bowring wrote this great hymn while engaged in opium traffic. The inspiration for the song is said to have been (prob¬ab¬ly apo¬cryph¬al) that Bow¬ring was sail¬ing past the coast of Ma¬cao, Chi¬na. On the shore were the re¬mains of an old, fire gut¬ted church. Above the ru¬ins, he saw the church’s cross still stand¬ing.

Bowring was engaged with Jeremy Bentham as the first editor of Bentham's Westminster Review beginning in 1824, so it is not likely that he was in China sailing past the coast of Macao in 1825 when the hymn was written. As for the opium trade, it is certain that he hand a hand in it while in China because England was engaged in the opium trade at the time. The opium trade was the cause of the Opium Wars between China and England. Nothing was found that indicated whether Bowring was personally a user or a trafficker. Nonetheless, it is clear that Bowring was not a New Testament Christian. Should we then not sing the song? That does not follow. I am reminded of a story told on a great preacher of the past, G.C. Brewer. It is said that at a business meeting a particular proposal was being discussed. Almost immediately an objection was raised – “we can’t do that because that is the way the Baptists do it.” Brother Brewer was said to have responded, “Then we had better bold the doors closed and go in and out through the windows – the Baptists use the doors.” The moral: study the words of a song to determine if they harmonize with scripture. If they do the words are acceptable; if they do not the words are unacceptable. The music is also worthy of review, but for different reasons. Primarily it should be easily “singable” by untrained singers. How can we worship with a song we cannot sing?

A good test was stated by the webmaster of this site in his lessons on Revelation. While discussing the great songs recorded in that book, he posed the question whether, in light of the great songs recorded, some of the “ditties” we sing and that are in Songs of Faith and Praise would be sung in heaven. The then posited the test, “If we would not sing it there where God is worshipped, why would we sing it here in worship to God?” How many of our songs would fail that test?

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)