derek webb calls his biggest hit “theologically narrow”

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Monday, October 15th, 2012

derek webb calls his biggest hit “theologically narrow”

derek webb thankful

my humble little blog serves as a repository of snapshots of my life at any given time. i’m glad to have it. of course, the yin to that yang is that i’m also slightly horrified every so often when i look back and see something that i so strongly believed at a sepcific time and i, well, don’t so much now (to say the least). fortunately, it’s only on display for the few thousand unique visitors each month that stumble upon this blog.

i can’t imagine what it’s like to have spent 20+ years sharing my theologies and bearing my soul to hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of people. that’s exactly what derek webb has done since he began writing songs as a part of the grassroots christian band caedmon’s call and continued for nearly a decade as a solo artist. so does derek, like myself, ever look back with any contrition about past songs or specific lyrics.

well, in a recent interview with, that very question was posed to derek. i found his response particularly interesting and worthwhile. here’s the video (the entire clip is worth watching, but the part i’ll primarily comment on begins around the 4:00 mark):

[videoplayer file=”″ width=”580″ height=”350″ autostart=”false” bufferlength=”3″ /]

the primary song in question is thankful from caedmon’s call’s 1999 commercial and critical breakthrough, 40 acres. as derek points out, it’s the biggest commercial hit that he’s ever had and says it’s his “most pointed and most theological song” (lyrics). so it’s that much more significant for him to call out that particular song.

more than just being a hit song, though, my interest was particularly piqued by him talking about it because it’s a song that—in spite of it being a really great song—i deeply disagree with theologically.

increasingly, over the years, one of my most deeply held theological positions is the inherent goodness of people. without going into all the biblical minutiae, i believe that god made people good and the fall didn’t fundamentally change that. people aren’t inherently wicked. we are not totally depraved. webb doesn’t stop, though, at just total depravity. thankful could be an anthem for all the TULIP-believing neo-calvinists.

to be clear, derek doesn’t recant the particulars of the theologies. whereas i’d love to have heard that, what he says is probably more commendable. as hard as it is to say, “my belief was wrong,” it’s just as difficult to have enough self-reflection to say, “the manner in which i lived out and engaged my beliefs with others was wrong”. theological arrogance is less about one’s particular beliefs and more about the posture in which one posits or lives out those beliefs.

certainly, the message hits home for me. this blog has been built largely on parsing through my beliefs, often in ways that are very forthright and unapologetic. much like my belief in inherent goodness, one of my increasingly important values over the past several years has been theological humility. so, i’ve become much more aware and sensitive to the manner in which i “pick fights” regarding theology. to this point, webb’s final sentence is a critical line to remember:

“i had a lot of fight in me in those early years. and i think i was fighting the wrong fights. and therefore i think i was writing the wrong songs.”

may we all have this level of self-reflection. and may we all spend our time writing the right songs.