my choice for worst christian song ever: ancient words

Rod of Alexandria has begun a meme asking different bloggers to choose the worst Christian song in existence and describe why it is so abhorrent to them. Those who know me know that I have been no fan of much of what passes as “Christian music” for many years, be it what we today call contemporary worship or “praise” music, ridiculous, out-of-date hymns (especially those particular hymns with “Christian soldier” themes, or those that employ the use of the word “yonder”), or the newest fad, wannabe Christian rock songs, which (imho) were they any good would be able to cut it with the big boys and girls on the “mainstream” charts like U2. The fact that so many Christian musicians and bands choose to flee to the safety of the “Contemporary Christian” minor leagues to have any chance at “success” is quite telling.

And let not a Christian song’s widespread presence in churches across the country fool you; the fact that a “praise song” gets played repeatedly in many worship settings is usually more of an indication that the song’s instrumentation is easy to play, or that the congregants mindlessly singing along lack any theological training or inquisitiveness than it is an indicator of a well-written song. Let us also not neglect the possibility that many crappy Christian songs survive only because individuals in worship settings are often too polite to look to the person standing next to him/her and say, “This song really, really sucks!” For some reason, we’re told we’re not supposed to criticize bad Christian songs, because it may have edifying qualities to another listener no matter how theologically unstable the song’s lyrics may be. This phenomenon tells us much about the state of Christian music (and Christian knowledge of the actual text of the Bible) today. But I digress…

Contemporary worship or “praise” music bugs me the most. With their theologically vapid lyrics, I have just about had it with what passes for worship music today. The theological complexity of many of these songs today often sounds like little more than: “Jeeezussss, I sooo freakin’ loooove youuuuu, you are my all in all, fill me with your presence, help me feeeeel you inside me, me me me me me me me me.”

It seems “worship” is quickly taking the place of doctrine/dogma as that which stands in the way of what ought to be at the center of the Christian life: service to others. But, service to others is hard (read: “haaarrrrd,” like a whiny child), and takes a lot of time, as does forgiveness, kindness, making do with what you have, and educating oneself about precisely what one believes (and, for that matter, what one does not believe, as well as what can be proved and what cannot be proved, what is outdated, and what no longer belongs as part of a modern Christian life!). It’s much easier and much more fun to see church as a divine therapy session, where self-righteous, self-absorbed doctrine helps us feel superior, and “meaningful worship” helps us recharge for another dreary week of actually having to interact with others outside of the gated communities and guard booths, and make a difference in the unsterilized, unsanitary world Christians are supposed to be affecting. But again, I digress…

Being raised in the Restoration Movement in an a cappella tradition, song lyrics are all the more important, especially when there is no instrumental accompaniment to cover up poorly written, theologically defunct, or grammatically incorrect words.

Speaking of theologically lacking, grammatically incorrect music, let me introduce Lynn DeShazo and perhaps one of the worst offerings of grammatical nonsense of the past few decades. About five years ago, the University Church of Christ in Malibu introduced a song entitled Ancient Words into the repertoire. This group of thrown-together words that some call a “song” has got to be one of the most ill-conceived songs in the recent history of the English language. And yet, it gets passed along from one church to another like a joint at a reggae concert, often without anyone ever pausing to ask, “but is this really any good for us?” If you succeed in getting past the fact that Michael W. Smith is performing it (above), you are then left with the unavoidable reality that the song is a complete butchery of the English language.

Here are the lyrics:

Holy words long preserved
for our walk in this world,
They resound with God’s own heart.
Oh let the ancient words impart.

Words of Life, words of Hope
Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e’er we roam
Ancient words will guide us Home.

CHORUS:
Ancient words ever true
Changing me and changing you,
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart.

Holy words of our Faith
Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice
Oh heed the faithful words of Christ.

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world.
They resound with God’s own heart
Oh let the ancient words impart.

CHORUS x4
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart.

Please allow me for a second to explain the grammatical concept of a transitive verb.

Intransitive verbs do not need an object. I run. The dog eats. He dies. These verbs are intransitive; they don’t require direct or indirect objects. One cannot die something. You die. In this sentence, “die” is an intransitive verb. However, transitive verbs are verbs that require objects. For instance, were I to say, “Tomorrow, I am bringing,” you would think me an idiot, because “bringing” is a transitive verb and requires a direct object. What, precisely, am I bringing? (Answer: I’m bringing the smackdown on this disgrace of a song.)

Now re-read the lyrics to Ancient Words above and pay special attention to the chorus. “Oh let the ancient words impart.” Period. Impart what exactly? Impart direction? Impart wisdom? Impart love? Joy? Happiness? What are the ancient words imparting? Nothing! We don’t know what the ancient words are imparting because the song’s author never tells us! She just wrote some pretty sounding ancient words together, but forgot the ancient rules of grammar!

Here’s a Christian lyric for you: Of what good are open hearts if we know not what the words impart? (See, this stuff is easy.)

It’s a sixth grade grammatical song for an increasingly sixth grade Christian consumer market, willing to recite anything – including theological and grammatical nonsense – just to have their ears tickled and feel good. In many contemporary worship services, words mean nothing, but, if we sing them with heart and passion, perhaps we can overlook the fact that the lyrics are fundamentally ridiculous.

So add Ancient Words to Ha-la-la-la-la-la-la lei-lu-jah (whose second verse, ‘Jesus is a friend,’ sounds like a bunch of snakes hissing at each other), Blue Skies and Rainbows, Shine Jesus Shine, Onward Christian Soldiers, I Come to the Garden Alone, and anything written and/or arranged for a cappella by Ken Young as songs that should never be sung in corporate worship settings. And, as I have the unfortunate experience being reminded of others, I shall add them to this list.

Until such a time as this, allow me to offer this challenge to songwriters: focus on the lyrics. Good lyrics make good songs. But, don’t just write pretty sounding lyrics. Show your lyrics to others, preferably, to those with a theological education and at least a sixth grade education in English grammar. Use poetic license, but check for glaring grammatical errors. And, for the love of all that is good and holy, write lyrics that have meaning beyond simply fitting alliteratively into a fixed syllabic space.

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63 Responses

  1. . . . good analysis

    People who sing these ditties are … in an analogous situation to those who are “in love with love”

  2. I heard an interview with Keith Richards in which he discussed the importance of placing the right vowel sound at the right part of the melody. Can you imagine the blank look you would get from CCMers if you brought that up?

  3. To paraphrase one interviewee: “Praise songs are to hymns what greeting cards are to literature”

  4. here is a sure fire winner for worst lyrics EVER!!

    “Tween evangelist? Justin Bieber film packed with prayer”

    No analysis needed…

    USA today Article below…

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2011-02-10-Justin_Bieber_evangelical_08_ST_N.htm

  5. My “favorite” Ken Young song? Thomas’ Song–the song where we confess that we will not believe in the resurrection unless we see and physically touch the resurrected body of Jesus. Good luck with that!

  6. exactly. i heard that same interview. the important part in much of entertainment is making it sound good, regardless of the meanings. it’s why i always thought smashing pumpkins was even better if you read the lyrics, ’cause you could rarely hear what corgan was saying, and he wrote some pretty cool stuff. it’s why bob dylan never had the commercial success of a pop star: he was busy writing profound lyrics and changing the way people think, not just entertaining them.

    the fact that worship music lyrics are playing to the sound and not to the message is troubling indeed. pure entertainment.

  7. Theologically, this song is an ode to bibliolatry.

    And yeah CCM is all about music sounding good and never about the lyrics, thus its lack of artistry.

  8. You’ve hit the nail on the head. And add to it, if we were making a list, The Heart of Worship, aka, It’s All About You, Jesus. Uuhhh… no it’s not!

  9. I generally have issues with most of the 7-11 songs — the ones with seven words that we repeat 11 times in case God wasn’t listening the first 10 times.

    My least favorite of the genre though would have to be “I Lift My Hands.”

  10. Man, I love this post. I thought I was the only one. Every year at PUL I get a little queezy. Not because I hate the songs (which I do) but because they’re bad teaching. Much of what life-long churchsters have in their heads isn’t the bible, but it’s their preacher, Ben Franklin, and lots of bad song lyrics, too. When the theology of a song stinks and the tune is outstanding (to the taste of the listener) it’s like funneling stupidity straight into the person’s brain.

    To quote a movie:
    “I weep for the future”

  11. Hi
    i agree with you that worship music today is not great could you have a listen to my songs and let me know what you think
    Peace

    Malachi c3 v16
    Tommie

  12. I can see your point regarding the song, but I challenge your apparent view of corporate worship (can’t find that phrase in the Bible) or of singing as worship.

    You are right on in your view service to others – that is true worship, according to Romans 12. Somehow we have glorified singing and music, much like the secular world, and elevated them to mean worship. Worship in the Old Testament almost always meant lying prostrate on the ground and offering a sacrifice.

    I cringe when I hear “worship service” (no one bows down, we are not serving others where they need it the most), “worship pastor” (how is he teaching me about true worship during the week), “worship rehearsal” (Really? How does one rehearse for worship?) or “go to your house of worship on Sunday” (since Jesus died, the temple system no longer exists, and we are the temple).

    The language may be subtle, but it has changed our belief system of what true worship is and put way too much emphasis on music instead of offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our true, spiritual worship.

  13. I assume Dr. Cargill also hates the words of the “ancient” song “Jesus love me – yes I know – cause the Bible tells me so”. I believe your comments on “Ancient Words” are more based on elite biblical knowledge of the Head and NOT of the Heart. I always get nervous with writers who are so in depth with “Religious Studies”. Looking at the teaching of Jesus, what did Jesus say about religion? In John 4 Jesus was saying that neither the Jerusalem church or the Samaritan church is the true church. God is seeking true worshipers! True worship comes from a personal relationship with Him from people who are seeking Him! Jesus is not seeking a church of religious elite but rather people who are humbly seeking Him in spirit and truth. Somehow I believe that God is not judging the content or grammar of the words in the song “Ancient Words” but is judging the motive and content of the writer’s and worshiper’s heart.

  14. Mike L, unfortunately, my problem with the words to this song have absolutely nothing to do with ‘religious studies’ or theology; the problem is simply with the butchering of the English language.

    But, in order that you can better understand the point I am making about the misuse of transitive verbs in this song, please allow me to offer you.

    -bc

  15. I actually love the hymn ‘Ancient words’ and find it quite amusing to read posts which categorize people who like certain songs (usually ones the writer dislikes). I am also sure that you could study lots of poetry and secular lyrics and find the same grammatical errors to get pedantic about
    You say: ‘It seems “worship” is quickly taking the place of doctrine/dogma as that which stands in the way of what ought to be at the center of the Christian life: service to others. But, service to others is hard (read: “haaarrrrd,” like a whiny child), and takes a lot of time, as does forgiveness, kindness, making do with what you have, and educating oneself about precisely what one believes (and, for that matter, what one does not believe, as well as what can be proved and what cannot be proved, what is outdated, and what no longer belongs as part of a modern Christian life!)’
    I do not see how you can leap to the conclusion that singing these worship songs automatically precludes one from serving others, practicing forgiveness, kindness, making do with one’s lot and education about one’s faith. I came to my faith by studying many belief systems and finding authenticity in Christianity. That does not stop me from still studying all human belief systems. I also tried to serve others all my life and still try to do so in retirement.
    Perhaps people should stop getting so dogmatic about what is only really private preferences, and stop demonizing people who disagree.
    DL

  16. diana,

    fair enough. but that doesn’t fix the poor grammar in the song.
    there are plenty of popular songs that butcher the english language.
    i’m still trying to figure out from this song what exactly the ancient words are imparting.

    as for your comments about service vs. worship, i am not saying that doing one precludes one from doing the other.
    i am saying that singing songs (particularly those written with poor grammar) should not take the place of service.
    thanx for the note.

    wishing you,

    bc

  17. Hi bc
    I think the objective of grammatical rules are to help people to understand one another, not to be a burden or a weapon to use against others. I often cannot understand very young people and grieve about their butchery of the English language. However, I know they understand one another, which is the purpose of language so I must just relax, or a coronary or stroke may be my just reward. As I said about poetry and lyrics, as long as we understand what the author is trying to convey, grammar should be of secondary importance. in ‘Ancient words’, my love of the Bible as God’s word to us, finds an echo in the lyrics, however ungrammatical.
    Kind regards
    Diana

  18. Bob, I am a member of the millennial generation, and while I enjoy praise and worship music, I sometimes get annoyed at songs that seem to be a lot of noise with little substance. However, I think you are wrong in your criticism of Ancient Words. It has a powerful meaning, and ironically, your criticism of it is the exact reason why I like it. I believe that the song is what is needed in today’s Christian music era. Michael is singing about the Bible and our need to heed its words. That is why I like it. Other songs often sound abstract or weak. This song is about the Bible–literally. It is also well orchestrated. Every note isn’t in one key, and there are more instruments than the guitar and the drums as are the case with other songs. Since when does a song have to fit all of the rules of the English language? Like poetry, songs are art, and they don’t always fit the rules of grammar. I think you should examine this song with your heart and less with your head. There is nothing biblically inaccurate about it, and it is not heresy, so I really don’t see a problem with supporting it.

  19. Let every man be persuaded in his/her own heart, Roman 14:5. Let nothing be done with strife…, Phillipians 2:3.

    Personally, I do like the arrangement. However, grammer will be among the least of reasons I’d put forth to throw out someone’s expression of worship.

    Those that worship God, must do so in spirit and truth. Only by God’s Spirit can one worship him, but the Spirit bears witness to the truth (Christ) as revealed in the Bible.

    Hence, it is equally important that the written truth of the Bible undergirds and anchors us, so that all our motives and actions will be acceptable in the sight of God. The two are inseparable, Grammatical error is a marginal issue not to become a stumbling block for anyone.

    Christ worshiped God in all that he did, therefore in it’s entirety, his life is an example of worship in the big as well as the little things.

  20. If you really knew the holy scriptures and had experienced their impact on your life (eg. any of the four mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:16), would you need to be told what these ancients words impart, grammar notwithstanding? Really?

  21. Well said,Yaw Perbi!

  22. Thank you for addressing a major complaint I have about ‘worship songs’. The other complaint is the narcissism. Only hip-hop or rap songs are more self centered. (But then so are the Psalms—Ah the use of the First Person Singular is an artistic choice by the poet to focus on God’s might, love, goodness etc.) Now if I can only find a PhD in Music to highlight the habitual use of only 4 chords in a song, one of which being a suspended 4th….

  23. What do the ancient words impart? They impart God’s heart, life, hope, strength, change, and Christ’s faithful words. Just because the song doesn’t immediately tell us what the words impart doesn’t mean it’s not there.

  24. Jen, I have to disagree, because as I have said many times before,

  25. Just because you’re not finishing your sentences doesn’t make your point of view correct. The song is theologically sound, it’s just not gramatically up to your standards.

  26. It’s not correct to ANYONE’S standards.

    But, that said, I wish for you

  27. Thank you for this.

    I have close friends who are enamored of worship music and always trying to convince me (a songwriter/musician/whatever) to appreciate its greatness. And boy have I tried.

    My first hangup is turning church into a mediocre rock show. When I was 17, a U2 concert was a “religious experience.” Now at 41, I don’t want my religious experience to remind me of a concert I went to when I was 17. Plus the songs at the U2 concert (even the early material) were like 100 times better.

    My second hangup is with the utterly crappy lyrics in most of contemporary worship music: “You are good, you are good,” “You’re a good, good god.” It makes Jesus/God into a cartoonish Santa Claus character. Jesus you are so awesome!

    My third hangup is with the utterly unoriginal nature of most Christian rock/pop. Nearly every song I hear reminds of something else: U2, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Alanis Morrisette, Bette Middler . . . or . . . mostly things that were fresh around 1992.

    What irks me is that 1) we already have at least 10 centuries worth of great Christian music. And 2) In the last century, numerous “contemporary” (at least at the time) artists have created excellent and inspired Christian music: The Louvin Brothers, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie Bob Dylan, U2 . . . to name a few. There is no shortage of workable and modern Christian songs. So if you really want to rock out like The Edge . . . pick a song and work it up for your worship group and go ahead and overplay it! Add two bass drums. Add lots of reverb to the vocals! Turn your amp up real loud! And get “drunk in the spirit.”

    As for me . . . I’ll be listening to something written around 1872.

  28. You are right about the grammar (impart knowledge? or a fear of God?) if that is your only reason for disliking the song then just hush up. Really! Look up the meanings of impart. I would think to any believer, the meaning is already implied. I have my issues with praise and worship songs and Christian rock… but if they help to save souls even a few then it is worth it. As long as it is not false teaching, and the heart is in the right place, there is hope. Maybe instead of criticizing you could have found away of saying something constructive about good grammar or the lack of good grammar distracts from the lyrics and the song. That is not difficult I think. That is why God looks at the heart, I am sure he is not concerned about the grammar. Taking a line from a movie …”I am sure he is crushed.” by the bad grammar that is.

  29. [...] power) of this brilliant and clever video is that it’s dead on the money. The unimaginative, grammatically ignorant, theologically defunct tripe that passes for “worship music” today is parodied [...]

  30. I’ve only just discovered your website. I heard ‘Ancient Words’ and thought it had quite a lot going for it, but jarred at the bit that imparts nothing. I agree that it’s poor grammar, and the song could also be encouraging bibliolatry, but in spite of that it has a lot going for it.
    As a Brit, I tend to be a little cynical about American use (and abuse) of English, so I was gratified to see that you are so keen to defend our common language.

  31. I am also a Brit and most of my research has showed me that most people believe that grammar can be more flexible in poetry than otherwise. If the audience the poetry is meant for understand it (and most Christians I have spoken to understand what this imparts means) then it is acceptable. Just something from Shakespeare:

    Multiple negation in Shakespeare
    thou hast spoken no word / all this while / … Nor understood non neither (LLL, 1880-2)
    love no man in good earnest, nor no further in sport neyther (AYLI, 196-7)
    I am not valiant neither (O, 3541)
    Is’t not enough, young man, / That I did never, no nor never can (MND, 780-1)
    Allowing for the fact that grammar was more flexible in Shakespeare’s time, he however did not allow himself to be hidebound by it!

  32. I felt creative and thought I would have a go at getting rid of the infamous ‘imparts’ line. My alternative chorus is:

    Ancient words, ever true,
    Changing me and changing you.
    May these words from God’s own heart,
    Transform our lives in every part.

    This could infer that it’s the words which change us, but it’s clear to me that it’s the Spirit through the words. However, I’m open for any suggestions.

  33. If your know the word of God(Bible), then you will understand what “ancient word” means. It’s a very meaningful and life transforming song of worship. Watch your words.

  34. Lol. I would watch the words, but there’s no direct object. ;-)

  35. Robert, I must admit that I share many of your feelings toward
    modern worship music, much of which seems bereft of any talent
    or inspiration whatsoever. I too was raised in a conservative,
    non-instrumental worship environment, and I cringe whenever a
    song written within the last couple of decades is introduced to the
    congregation.

    That said, I wish I could get you to rethink your stance on Ancient Words. I find the song has, refreshingly, real talent behind the
    composition, having some beautiful harmonies, and it seemed
    obvious to me as I learned the song that “impart” was referring to
    the “truth of God’s word”. And perhaps, like Christianity itself, not
    everything can be put down in black and white; some things must
    be left to the heart to discover.

    God bless.

  36. The music is not in question. It does sound nice…until you think about the words, and the lack of grammar.

    Here, let me illustrate to you why transitive verbs need

  37. Hmm, I’m not sure if this critique doesn’t confuse English composition with creative writing. I would expect the rules of grammar to apply more strictly with the former than with the latter.

    For example, someone could write in an article:
    “Ancient words impart wisdom.”

    And the person could write the same content in a poem:
    Wisdom
    Ancient words impart

    I wouldn’t charge the second rendition with being a “butchery of the English language.” It was never intended to follow the same rules of grammar.

    For the poetry of “Ancient Words,” I could offer an individual interpretation (which poetry often elicits).

    Holy words, long preserved (Preserved for what purpose?)
    For our walk in this world (Where did they come from?)
    They resound with God’s own heart (How would He communicate His heart?)
    Oh let the ancient words impart

    To put this poetic language into a conventional sentence:
    The ancient words of Scripture are holy words that impart God’s own heart for our walk in this world.
    -or-
    Let the ancient words of Scripture, those long preserved and resounding with God’s own heart, impart holy words for our walk in this world.

    Not every lyric is intended to be a conventional sentence. From an article on E.E. Cummings from Poetry Foundation:
    Cummings decided to become a poet when he was still a child. Between the ages of eight and twenty-two, he wrote a poem a day, exploring many traditional poetic forms. By the time he was in Harvard in 1916, modern poetry had caught his interest. He began to write avant-garde poems in which conventional punctuation and syntax were ignored in favor of a dynamic use of language.
    E.e cummings. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/e-e-cummings

  38. A point you may have. However, I’d argue instead.

  39. Eric, you have raised an alternative perspective to Bob, pointing out the difference of poetry from written prose. The rules can be broken!
    There is a fundamental freedom in poetry, which is what makes it special. I am not a great poetry fan, but your contribution has really made me think.

  40. It’s been said already but it’s all I could think of the entire time I read this; lyrics are not legal documents. Now I detest the theologically weak kneed and musically lame songs more than most, however, a lyric is an more an artistic expression like a poem. the “ambiguity” is there intentionally. Tell me after reading Shakespeare, or listening to a Marx brothers bit that they fall grammatically perfect. They won’t. They’re linguistic stretches and creativity are what defines them. You can try to set a systematic theology to music, but I promise it won’t catch on. And lastly I think it’s saying let the ancient words be what God imparts not, not so much saying that the AW impart something them selves. But look at that, a freedom to interpret, That’s art for ya.

  41. Well said, Clinton. I agree with what you have said, and have previously even quoted some Shakespeare which used double negatives all over the place.Young people often slaughter the English language, but they understand each other and that is the object of language surely, isn’t it? As I’ve said before, believers know what the words in AWs mean and that is what is important.

  42. Remiss I would be, were I not to mention,
    The words of a famous bard.
    For perhaps he might say, of this very thing,
    It be “Much Ado About Nothing”

  43. Were you to use the grammar of the song in doubt,
    you would respond that it be ‘much ado about’.
    ;-)

  44. Here in the Philippines, save for a very select few who truly understood proper grammar (which probably belong to the upper middle classes or the rare gov’t scholars), we care very little about it. What matters in churches here is whether or not your song could connect. Poverty here in the Philippines is not an enemy–for most of us, it’s the status quo. Try visiting here for a change to see for yourself. I disagree with the grammar technicality as a necessity for worship songs. Who cares? Of course, this is a lame excuse for songwriters–such as myself–to stop improving ourselves and just bear with wrong grammar. We are making songs for the King of Kings! He deserves our very best! Still, that is only a very small portion of what He’s really after: the hearts of those who make the songs. Thus, I agree with the shallowness of most contemporary worship songs today. I mean, seriously, what could AW “impart” to a single mother of 3, at the tender age of 21, trying to eke out a living as a prostitute, hopelessly drifting, looking for love, for peace, for meaning in all the wrong places? With this issue I strongly agree with the writer of this article. Just so you know guys some of us here in this world are dying–starvation, sexual abuse, drug addictions, injustices, gang wars, corrupt politics, prejudices, and in the worst of areas, wars and diseases. In my opinion a worship song should CHANGE something, whether it’d be men’s hearts or it seeks God’s hand to do something for us, hopefully miraculous! These songs shouldn’t just mumble out some religious mumbo jumbo. As for AW, is it theologically sound? Yes. But compassionate and faith-building, NO. IT builds this hype about the Bible but never really discusses what the Bible says. And FYI, those Ancient Words became a Person, and what He did, the desires of His heart, how He healed the sick, how He sought and rescued sinners from their past, how He defended the oppressed, and rebuked the self-righteous and proud religious Pharisees, the priests during His time. So yeah. who cares. Give us a song that lifts up Jesus Christ. Bad grammar or not, if it helps us see the love of Christ’s heart, we’ll sing it. “Heart of Worship” is something I consider as a classic case of bad grammar, but you have no idea how that song has led a lot of people back to Jesus, even those who attend church but whose hearts are far from Him!

    P.S. Alan Gibson’s version is much much better! >_<

  45. Hi Caleb I sympathise with people’s poverty and hard living, but I don’t see how we can expect every song to give answers to these. AW does at least point to the scriptures that will tell us about the only answer to the world’s problems, Jesus Christ. Although I live in a rich country, I had a very hard time when my husband left me with four very young children to bring up on my own. I know this does not compare with the difficulties in the Philippines, but without my own family here to help me and living in a new area with few friends, I found the scriptures a great solace and support. Therefore, I think pointing people to it, whatever their circumstances, can only be good.

  46. I am generally not a fan of most contemporary Christian music. However, the song “Ancient Words” has the ability to move me to tears – especially when I’m alone. The tune is straightforward, stately and actually quite traditional in structure. I think I will have to say, that on this song, we must agree to disagree. “Ancient Words” is made powerful by it’s sentmental and tender melody that closes with a classical melodic ending that reminds me of old hymns of the church.

  47. ‘…Ancient words impart’ means to be imparted, filled or saturated with the ancient words. O let the ancient words fill (you should know that the ancient words will fill nothing but our hearts).

  48. What??? I think you missed the point of a transitive verb.

    Ancient words = subject
    impart = transitive verb (which requires a Direct Object)
    direct object =

      MISSING!!

    This is the entire point of the post!

    And in no world on earth or in heaven does “impart” mean to fill. It means to grant, bestow, give, make known, pass on, disclose, transmit, communicate – but not FILL. Good grief. You’re just making things up now.

  49. Oh for goodness sake, its poetry – stop being so pedantic!!! Spare us from the grammar police!

  50. Of COURSE it’s poetry, but it’s crap poetry.
    It’s the equivalent of a poem that reads, “Oh Jesus, I just want to give you.”

    Give you WHAT??? Impart WHAT???

    It’s not a matter of ‘it’s poetry,’ it’s a matter of a lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of the English language (even if it’s ‘just poetry’).
    It gives poetry and poets a bad name, like it’s OK to misuse language as long as you call it ‘poetry’.

    (That said, the melody is wonderful. I just wish whoever wrote it knew how to

  51. We understand your point. I wish you weren’t an

  52. …articulate scholar, insisting on things like grammar and math and logic, as we here in the religious art world have no need for these.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  53. In the days of Jesus there were Pharisees and Saducees who were more interested in the letter than the spirit of worship and you recall that Jesus was always scathing in his remarks to them. Worship is a heart thing. Even the most unschooled can give God awesome worship and God would rejoice over them. Everybody cannot be a theologian or a formal song writer, but EVERYBODY CAN BE A WORSHIPER! God accepts our worship, whether we sing it or bow down or dance. They are all scriptural. Indeed the psalmist says, “Sing a new song unto the Lord.”

  54. OK. But in the spirit of “Ancient Words”, the psalmist actually says, “Sing a”.

    If we’re going to ignore the direct objects of transitive verbs, even the psalmist sounds ridiculous.

  55. Mark, I like the melody. What I have a problem with is

  56. I get your point,but maybe the following can help!
    The Bible says that Jesus is the Word Himself so if you take the word “impart” which means:
    To grant a share of/To make known or/To pass on. Could it be possible that the author of the song means that Jesus (being the Word) is imparted in our hearts.

  57. Shame on all these professors who criticise the spiritual master piece. The music ‘Ancient Words’ and the composer, are known all over the continents, but nobody knows these critics and their work pieces across continents. I m listening to it in a corner of Africa here. I love it. xtechnologies@live.com

  58. once again, speaking of grammar…

  59. This is an interesting discussion in spite of its sparring nature. When I first encountered these lyrics, I had a “hmmm” moment because “impart” seemed to be dangling. I find it helpful to research rather than belittle, so I consulted the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. There I found three definitions for impart as a transitive verb and one definition for impart as an intransitive verb. The intransitive verb means simply “to share, as a gift.” Older dictionaries did not add the intransitive definition, evidence that language does evolve.

    Upon reflection, it seems to me that the understood indirect object has a bearing on this discussion. For me, these words point to a sovereign God whom I hold in awe. They affect me in the same way as the words that God spoke to Moses, telling him to tell the Egyptians that “I Am” had sent him. For me (understood indirect object — one of those coming with open heart), “impart” without one specific direct object has a more eternal, unconstrained by boundaries sense.

    Thanks, Bob Cargill, for initiating a thought-provoking dialogue.

  60. I just heard this song for the first time about 5 weeks ago. Simply put I love this song and it’s become my new favorite song. It touches my soul because the words reflect what I believe the Bible is….ancient words from God tried and true that changes people. Don’t care if you want to chop up my grammar or punctuation!

  61. I find this hardline position towards grammatical correctness in song to be rubbish. It’s also inconsistent, accepting some poetic license while insisting on the particular personal rub of “transitive verbs must have a direct [read: in the same line] object.” You might feel it’s a non-contestable grammatical rule. In the context, some grammarians might not hold such a conservative view. Linguists would have yet another viewpoint. Grammar is not math. Opinions don’t matter in math. There are plenty in grammar, much like theology.

    I am a classically-trained musician and can turn the snob knob up about as high as anyone. Running in that crowd, there is peer pressure (arguably, a neurosis for some) to crank that knob ever higher–and you will *always* find someone whose amp goes to 11, impossibly above your 10. However, mellowed by time, I’ve come to realize that is just not healthy for me. I suspect it’s not healthy for anyone. Sometimes I can’t help myself, though, and I mentally rip some song for part-writing errors (“What a noob! Parallel fifths!”) and other 16th century rules that really don’t apply to the style.

    Sometimes I too regret the relative dearth of meaning in these modern songs compared to the great hymns. It’s a rather unfair comparison, though. The great hymns are the best of what survived over centuries. Even then, I personally often find it too much to sing one of these hymns while contemplating the theological gems jam-packed in its lyrics. I also tire past about 45 minutes of Bach chorales, after which a simple 4 chord tune can feel like a vacation. There’s no question which makes a more enlightening study. Perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea to leave it there sometimes–in the study–and latch onto something simple to free up one’s mind and heart during worship, with all of that knowledge giving weight to uncomplicated lyrics.

    If we are justified (in every sense) only when we have all the right answers, though, we’re all in trouble… especially in fields where one authority’s right answer is “yes,” another authority’s is “no,” another says “it depends,” and still another will say “that’s asking the wrong question.” It leads to a weariness to great for words.

  62. elitist claptrap … this academic is not sufficiently educated and experienced in language, especially literary expression, to understand that there is an implied object and that participants in the song (singers/audience) are allowed/encouraged/invited to complete the sentence …

  63. This is obvious that this poster hAve no moral right to challenge what God use someone to spread a thing in wide range thus. Before we speak God knows our thought. What matters is the motive behind those songs mr linguist.

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