Kutless, “What faith can do”: Why faith in faith is crippled

I enjoy Christian music, especially when it focuses on worship. But recently one song has been grating on me, Kutless‘ “What faith can do.” I’ve expressed my reasons to my wife who shared them with some of her students. All said, it’s time to write down those reasons and explain a little more.

The lyrics of the song are clear and straight forward. The tune is kind of catchy, depending on your tastes. But the important thing is the message. Most Christians get their theology (their knowledge/understanding of who God is) from the music they listen to. As I encourage my readers to do often with my own work I’m hopeful Kutless would join me in encouraging you to read your Bible and apply what you learn about God to your music instead of the other way around (Acts 17:11).

At first I just wanted to expose the short-comings of this song but then I thought I would build it out a little to help people with other songs I may not have time to post about. Keep in mind that I’m looking at this song for two reasons: 1) to help you evaluate music so you can worship to it; 2) because most Christians learn about God through music without considering the teaching of the Bible.

Now there are good things about this song. Kutless uses secular language and references just as Paul used secular language to illustrate biblical points (the difference being the biblical points, as we’ll see). And the music and poetic language is well put together. There’s a reason it’s catchy. But we need to watch and pray so that we are not drawn away into bad theology (Matthew 26:41), which is sin.

There are three problems with this song, all subtle. First, faith plays an exclusive role as healer, deliverer, and miracle worker. Second, there is no mention of God or Jesus Christ. Third, no mention of God the Father or Jesus Christ leaves 10+ times where you are sufficient to accomplish whatever you face.

So for the first one, faith is used without referring to anything. When faith does not correspond to anything then it becomes a reference to whatever we want. So when I hear this song I hear that faith is this great and wonderful thing, all by itself. If I want all these things for myself, and they sound great, then I need faith – faith in … faith. Faith in faith is a subtle undercurrent in the Christianity of the United States. I would be more brash and call it heresy but generally people intentionally commit heresy. In circumstances like this one, it seems Kutless just strays away instead of intentionally leading people away. But they do intentionally focus on faith in faith, “Overcome the odds / You don’t have a chance / (That’s what faith can do) /When the world says you can’t / It’ll tell you that you can!”

For the second one, no mention of God, we have to look carefully at the song. The mention of stepping out into the water may be a reference to Peter stepping out to go to Jesus. It’s the only mention of the Bible and it’s focused on you having the courage to step out and not Jesus’ power to save (Matthew 14:31) and to keep the ones He has saved (Luke 22:31-34, John 10:28-29, Philippians 1:6).  There are as many and as clear references to the mythical re-birth of the phoenix, “Gotta find the strength to rise / From the ashes and make a new beginning” but again it’s faith in your own strength to rise from the ashes.

Third, no reference to God the Father or Jesus Christ leaves faith as sufficient for you. I just want to emphasize the conclusion of the first two. With faith as your only object of faith you end up self-sufficient and self-dependent. This is great for an individualistic United States that longs to pull itself up by its own bootstraps but it’s wretched Christianity. You are not the goal or focus of Christianity, God and His glory are. Christianity looks to Christ as the only Savior (John 14:6) whose power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)! So let us find power in the Holy Spirit who changes hearts. Let us find hope in Christ alone. And let us worship God as the mover of mountains and the worker of miracles!