For several days, I have been prayerfully pouring over the lyrics of a song entitled Holy Water by We the Kingdom. According to Billboard’s rankings, Holy Water has been flooding Christian radio and held the top position in digital sales for three weeks; and yet, we will not be singing about holy water at our Baptist church.
If you are unfamiliar with the song, the lyrics to the chorus are:
Is like sweet, sweet honey
On my lips
Like the sound of a symphony
To my ears
Like holy water on my skin
Whenever we gather as believers and lift our voices in song, the words of those melodies should speak biblical truth into our hearts and minds. So, I found myself drowning in spiritual confusion as I tried to soak in the theological meaning of Holy Water.
How is God’s forgiveness like “holy water”? The words are used in the song in reference to immersion, but they also imply that the baptismal waters are infused with regenerating power, a theological position historically rejected by Baptists. Thus, the lyrics to Holy Water are muddy:
Dead man walking, slave to sin
I wanna know about being born again
So, take me to the riverside
Take me under, baptize
These rhythmic lines stir the theological waters by suggesting that being born again occurs at the moment of baptism.
The song also uses “holy water” as a veiled reference to the more commonly recognized sacramental element found in Catholic liturgies bestowing grace upon those who have been blessed. When we encourage believers to sing about holy water many people will reflect upon this Catholic practice. By combining Catholic and Baptist rites Holy Water presents a conflicting doctrinal application concerning God’s grace.
We the Kingdom claims the song is a celebration of “God being the Living Water that carries forgiveness and grace into our desert places;” and yet it is unclear if they believe God’s grace is bestowed upon us through our faith in the shed blood of Jesus or through a baptismal holy water. One of the hallmarks of Baptist’s theology is the denial of baptismal regeneration, and we should be cautious when introducing a confusing message concerning the efficacy of holy water into our worship music. Again, the lyrics hint at that blessing:
I don't wanna abuse Your grace
God, I need it every day
It's like holy water on my skin
Unfortunately, the lyrics of Holy Water are not a symphony of theological truth, but rather a syncretistic clanging of clashing Christian traditions. If we have to preface song lyrics during a worship service to clarify their theological message, then the song is probably not one we need to introduce to those gathered in our churches who may not comprehend the spiritual implications. The lyrics of Holy Water are an insoluble mixture of religious rituals that dilute the gospel; and for this reason, we will not be singing about holy water in our Baptist church.
Dr. Richard Sams has been in pastoral ministry for the past 25 years and is presently serving his 20th year as the pastor of Calhoun Baptist Church in Calhoun, KY.
Perspective piece writers in Kentucky Today do not necessairly reflect the views of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.