Thursday, May 14, 2009

That Old-Time Religion: Not Good Enough for Me

Sunday school songs taught me many theological truths, even before I was old enough to realize I was learning anything more than simple lyrics and a simple tune. For this reason, I have been trying to expose my preschoolers to some classic Sunday school songs. Last week I was playing a CD of these oldies-but-goodies (Cedarmont Kids’ Sabbath School Songs) when I really listened to the lyrics of one I hadn’t learned as a child:

“Give me that old-time religion. . . . It’s good enough for me.”

Ignoring the use of “religion” (a term I hate because it suggests lifeless rituals as opposed to an active faith in a living God), I was shocked to hear some entirely unbiblical ideas in a few of the verses of this particular version:

“It was good for the prophet Daniel. . . . It was good for the Hebrew children. . . . and it’s good enough for me.”

Wow! Doesn’t the New Testament say that the religion practiced by the Israelites was not good enough, that the Law was only a shadow of the coming Messiah, designed to show us that we cannot achieve perfection on our own (Hebrews 10:1-4)? I began to wonder if I had a CD of Jewish songs, rather than Christian songs, but no, the playlist includes “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and “Twelve Disciples,” among other distinctly new-covenant tunes.

I believe in the value of tradition, but I am not willing to embrace a pre-Christian, old-time religion as “good enough for me.” I will settle for nothing less than a living, relevant faith that makes a difference in my life today.


  1. What I think Hebrews is saying is that OT practices weren't good enough on their own and needed Christ to serve as their foundation. There's no claim in Hebrews that the OT believers are all going to hell, so obviously it must have been good enough. But it's not good enough on its own and wouldn't have been good enough if Christ hadn't come. NT practices are in the same boat, actually, aren't they? I think the song is probably trying to say that what's common to both Daniel and us is good. So I'm not sure the song is problematic for those reasons. I do worry about the idea that it's merely good enough, though. Is it merely good enough?

  2. That's a better way to look at it! I suppose when you remember that they were looking forward to the coming Messiah, it would be the same faith.

  3. Interesting, I know that song is one of the favorites at the church I attend. I do realize that there are a lot of problems with traditional religion.


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