Review: From the Inside Out

Here I review Hillsong United’s ‘From the Inside Out’ (2006).

A thousand times I’ve failed;
Still your mercy remains.
And should I stumble again,
I’m caught in your grace.

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades;
Never-ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame.

The first stanza, in my opinion, does an excellent job of pointing the hearer to the comfort of the gospel, an essential thing that often gets left in the dust when sermons begin to sound like marketing schemes selling ‘5 practical ways to improve your relationship with your significant other’ (I’d rather take inapplicable sermons than that kind of Pelagian garbage). This first stanza very well acknowledges that the Christian is simul iustus et peccator (‘at once a righteous man and a sinner’), which is more than I can say for a lot of that stuff that enters our minds from the Christian subculture.

The second stanza, which serves as a refrain throughout the song, reflects on God’s transcendence (‘when all else fades’, ‘Your glory goes beyond all fame’) and his immanence (‘Your light will shine’, which in its context refers primarily to God’s incarnated presence among us). It reminds us both that God’s faithful and that we rightly put our trust in him. The way this comes together is edifying without expressing anything particularly complicated: God is with us, and he’s greater than anything else.

Your will above all else,
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing You praise.

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades;
Never-ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame.

(In) my heart and my soul, I give you control:
Consume me from the inside out, Lord.
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out.

Here I do have a concern with the wording of ‘I give you control’: it resounds quite differently from ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’ (Lk 23.46; Ps 31.5), which Christ said on the cross before giving up his ghost. Though it’s well worth reading the Psalm at this point, I’ll say merely that the refrain, though less concrete than the Psalm, does make good resonances with the image of Christ as light and with the ‘holy, holy, holy’ sung by the seraphim. With this refrain, however, saying ‘I give you control’ is all the more jarring and inappropriate.

I do notice that Hillsong tends to write lyrics that verge on semi-Pelagian heresy (e.g. in ‘Came to My Rescue’), although here it’s merely on the level of diction that downplays too much the Lord-servant and Creator-creature relationship in favour of an emphasis on the servant’s own ‘choice’. This isn’t to say choice is an illusion, but we must keep in mind that to have faith in God merely fulfils the command to obey the gospel, and we’d do well not to make it seem like such a great act that exceeds the call of duty.

Secondarily, I can also say the ‘losing myself / In bringing You praise’ may lend itself quite easily to the misuse of praise as a sacrament of mystical union with God. This is to be warned against because such things are shared in corporately, in the sacraments that Christ has actually given: holy baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. If these are replaced in what Luther called ‘enthusiasm’ in the pejorative sense, we’ll be replacing God’s given means with Man’s concocted means of union with Christ.

Both of these trouble spots concern God’s lordship over us, which we must affirm even as we reflect on how appropriate it is to act in accordance with the reality of this relationship we Christians have with our King.

On the last two lines up there, ‘Let justice and praise become my embrace / To love You from the inside out,’ I’ll simply link to what I’ve written before on how the Eucharist, a way that God causes us to love him from the inside out, results in justice and praise. (For the inside-out thing, Peter Leithart makes a few comments via Athanasius on Adam’s extrinsic grace and Christ’s intrinsic grace.)

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades;
Never-ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame.

And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise:
From the inside out, Lord, my soul cries out.

Obviously, the last lines of this song are posturing a bit, but I’m not really opposed to the kind of posturing that goes somewhere rather than being a mask of sometimes self-manipulated peppy emotion to hide our sinfulness. I do wish, though, that by the end, what with praise and inside-out love and transformation and all that, the song would take the focus off the individual and onto God’s work in the Church. As it is, I can agree with the sentiment, but the individualistic bent and the emphasis on individual passion may undermine what the first stanza did well.

Overall, a pretty good song, but I do have concerns with it. Used carefully, with attention to some of the potential problems, it can be good for worship.


3 responses to “Review: From the Inside Out

  1. I ❤ that song. Check my blog for my response to this.


  2. i like the song, and i like your review. keep them coming


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