32 – Earth Has No Sorrow: Dustin Kensrue’s Deconstruction, Review of “The Grey” by Thrice, and Reviews of “Departures” and “Jesus, I Have My Doubts” by Jon Foreman
Review of Jon Foreman’s Departures album
I would classify this album as a Type 2.5 album. Many of the songs are solidly Type 3, but there are Type 2 and at least one song I would classify as a “personal” Type 1 (not meant for congregational worship) Lament: Jesus I Have My Doubts.
Before we can fully dive into that song, however, it is important to consider the entire context of that song. This album is a concept album about the year 2020 and how difficult it was for Jon personally, and every song plays a part within the context of the narrative.
I do not plan on talking about each song, but I will talk briefly about some important ones. I will also post a Spotify playlist that Jon created that includes his own commentary on each song (but be warned that he makes a pretty disappointing theological comment before “Side By Side”).
The album begins with a very dramatic song (probably the most dramatic song Jon has ever released under any project) called The Ocean Beyond The Sea. It talks about the futility of trying to achieve salvation on your own. The song is very poetic and does not specifically talk about Jesus, so this would be a Type 3 song.
One very interesting phrase that he uses to talk about salvation is “an elixir for all who grieve”. While this does not offer near enough specificity to accurately conclude that this elixir is the blood of Christ that covers all our sins, within the context of this album, the song sets the stage of dealing with grief specifically. And grief is something that cannot be fully processed without divine help.
The final song on the album is called Last Words. Jon is a fairly private person, but I believe this song is likely a sequel to the early 2019 song Joy Invincible from Switchfoot’s album Native Tongue. Joy Invincible is about processing a difficult medical diagnosis, while Last Words is about processing the death of someone close. From the lines of the song, this individual died of cancer, and from the raw emotion of the two songs, I would find it very difficult to believe they were metaphorical or imaginative. I believe this loss was real.
Most of the songs on this album deal with grief in some way. Each song has at least one line that is completely turned on its head when viewed through the lens of losing someone, but this is especially true in tracks 1-5. In track 6 (out of 12), we land on Jesus I Have My Doubts. We are going to go over this song in great detail in just a moment, but in short, this is a very raw Lament about not understanding God’s plan.
The song reads a lot like Psalm 88. There is very little hope in the verbatim context, but there are some important lines that help us understand that the wound is where the light shines through (see what I did there?).
One very important piece of context to help process this song is track 7, which I believe was placed alongside Jesus I Have My Doubts to be the direct center of the album. The song is called Thanks Be To God. The repeated refrain is “Thanks be to God who delivers me. Christ, Christ alone, come and set me free.” This beautiful song helps us to understand that it is in Christ alone that we can process our grief and still make it out in one piece.
Podcast episode of Jon Foreman talking about the album.
Quick overview of Dustin Kensrue’s deconstruction story
We have talked a lot about Dustin Kensrue on this show. He was one of the Mars Hill worship leaders in Seattle as the front man for a band called The Modern Post. He is also the front man for the secular band Thrice.
Mars Hill, led by pastor Mark Driscoll, was a major leader in the Young Restless and Reformed movement for many years. Their music in a lot of ways had the potential to compete with the Big Four: Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, and Passion. However, like with all things in this life, sin ruined everything.
Mark was caught stealing money from the church and buying many thousands of copies of his own book so it would hit the Bestseller list. His hope was to start selling even more once it was trending and put all the money back once the royalties started pouring in. He was caught and asked to resign, and that was when a very pesky little church bylaw kicked in.
From the start, Mark had built the church around himself, and had a bylaw included that would force the church to shut down in the event that he died. The leaders of the church understood the spirit of the law was to disband in the event that Mark was ever not the pastor (but he never saw another situation in which that would be possible save for his death), so to avoid legal battles, the church shut its doors.
At this point I am speculating a bit, but I can find it very easy to believe that following a pastor so closely and then finding out that his words didn’t coincide with his actions, it would be very difficult to continue believing his words. It is without question that Mark built his church around Mark all while saying he was building out around Jesus (now, I am not saying he was a false teacher, propagating heresy, or even that he is non regenerate; but I am saying he sinned big time and should never be in church leadership again; but that hasn’t stopped him from still being in public ministry).
Since leaving the crater of Mars Hill, Dustin Kensrue has given up on many of the doctrines that Mark Driscoll taught, namely the inerrancy, infallibility, and Authority of Scripture. Dustin now believes that the Bible is a list of stories written by flawed men that depict their ideas about God given their individual limitations of scope. He believes that the only absolute in this world is change. He believes that God is not immutable and that he changes his mind quite often.
He no longer believes in substitutionary atonement and that Jesus is not the only way to Heaven. He believes that the cross was cosmic child abuse and that God is essentially not an all powerful, all good deity. He says that he still reads the Bible, and that he finds it much more enjoyable knowing that his life doesn’t depend on it.
I hope and pray that Dustin sees the error of his ways and comes back to God.
Article we referenced: It’s Not Enough: Dustin Kensrue’s Turning Away
SIDEBAR: WHAT IS PROCESS THEOLOGY?
A concept of God that rejects His immutability and instead maintains that God changes and interacts with humanity. Adherents claim that it makes better sense of the God of the Bible, yet they deny many of the teachings of it. In Process Theology, there is no omnipotent God, and no immutable God. “The Process God is finite, mutable, less than omnipotent, and via his physical pole suffers alongside of his creatures. This is not thought to be a defect but rather an asset as it allows God to identify with his creatures and experience what happens to them as it happens.” (Feinberg, n.d.) In other words, a god of man’s own making.
For more on process theology, see John S. Feinberg’s writing.
Feinberg, J. S. (n.d.). Process Theology. The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved April 10, 2021, from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/process-theology/
Feinberg, J. S. (2001). No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Crossway Books.
Main Topic: The Grey vs. Jesus I Have My Doubts
Verse 1 There was a time when I tried to hold the ocean in my fists When I mistook the language for the light There was a tightness that gripped my soul and bubbled at my wrists And choked me within inches of my life Pre-Chorus But now I'm letting go And I can finally breathe, I can finally breathe Chorus And my hands are open, reaching out I'm learning how to live with doubt I'm learning how to lean into the grey 'Cause I've had enough of black and white I'll find another way and I will lean into the grey I'll lean into the grey Verse 2 There was a time when I tried to bind and bottle up the sea I tried to hide my heart inside my head There was a maze of these vicious lines that cut through everything I pulled against them till my body bled
Grant was reminded of the excellent Lutheran Satire video, Tyler the Ex-Evangelical Quits Swimming.
Verse 1 Jesus, I'm sorry 'bout last night Jesus, we both know I tried Jesus, feels like the world's in pieces I'm sure You've got Your reasons But I have my doubts Jesus, I have my doubts Chorus When everything that's right feels wrong And all of my belief feels gone And the darkness in my heart is so strong Can You reach me here in the silence? Singing these broken songs Looking for the light for so long But the pain goes on and on and on Can You reach me here in the silence? Verse 2 Jesus, what a week we've had? Jesus, has the world gone mad? Jesus, feels like the world's in pieces I'm sure You've got Your reasons But I've got my doubts Jesus, I've got my doubts Jesus, I've got my doubts Bridge Are You there? Can You hear me? Do You care? Are You near me? 'Cause I'm scared and I'm weary Are You there? Can You hear me? Are You there? Can You hear me? Do You care? Are You near me? 'Cause I'm scared and I'm weary Are You there? End Can You reach me here in the silence? I have my doubts
Mark 9:24 – “Help my unbelief!”
Thanks for listening
The Balm of Gilead podcast is a member of the Tech Reformation family of podcasts. If you enjoy the show, please share it with others. We enjoy hearing from you, so join us on the Tech Reformation Slack and let us know what you’re thinking. If email is more your thing, write to us at thereis <at> balmcast <dot> com. Thanks again and we’ll see you next time, Lord willing.