Hold Fast – MercyMe

To everyone who’s hurting
To those who’ve had enough
To all the undeserving
That should cover all of us
Please do not let go
I promise there is hope

Hold fast
Help is on the way
Hold fast
He’s come to save the day
What I’ve learned in my life
One thing greater than my strife
Is His grasp
So hold fast

Will this season ever pass?
Can we stop this ride?
Will we see the sun at last?
Or could this be our lot in life?
Please do not let go
I promise you there’s hope

You may think you’re all alone
And there’s no way that anyone could know
What you’re going through
But if you only hear one thing
Just understand that we are all the same
Searching for the truth
The truth of what we’re soon to face
Unless someone comes to take our place
Is there anyone?
All we want is to be free
Free from our captivity, Lord
Here He comes

In this next section we are going to be looking at MercyMe’s hit Hold Fast. When Bart talks about the song, he told us that he wrote the chorus after seeing a really bad wreck on the freeway from his tour bus. If I were to talk about the song at length I would be repeating many of the things I said in my last post on Third Day’s song Mountain of God (if you have not read that post, I would suggest reading that post first). They are similar in the sense that they both deal with the songwriter suggesting that life is bad now, but life in the future looks better. What is uniqueness and centrality of the song comes from the hope found in it. There is a call “hold fast” because “help is on the way.”

There has been a central eschatological vision within the church universal over all time that centers on this message of “hope.” The message is basically that in the midst of pain and suffering there is a better hope for the future-that the present pain is not an eternal pain. In the book of Hebrews, for instance, says that, although things may be bad, we have a high priest who sympathizes with us, and we have a whole host of patriarchs who have undergone similar struggles. We are called to the same struggle, living in the hope that the parousia (the coming of God) will come soon to relieve us. We live in the imminent hope that Jesus Christ will return and “save the day” (as Bart says in his song). In the song, the theological value emanating from the song is that “greater than my strife is his [God’s] grasp.”

The bridge is especially designed to pull us more into the eschatological hope of the parousia. In it, Bart attempts to move beyond each individual “feeling alone” to a unifying movement where “we are all the same.” In what sense does Bart mean we are all the same? We are all the same because we all “search for the truth.” But again, what is this truth? Bart outlines the truth as “what we’re soon to face unless someone takes our place” (a clever rhyme) because all we want is to “be free.” In other words, the truth is that when the Lord took our place on the cross, we are freed from “captivity.”

There are two allusions at play here: (1) the substitutionary atonement model; and (2) Exile. The first-substitutionary atonement-is the theological belief that Jesus died on the cross so when we face the parousia, if we have believed on and accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, we will not have to die for our sins and be put into an eternal Hell in separation from God. The freedom that Bart finds is freedom from sin. The second allusion, what Bart calls “captivity,” is probably a reference to the Jewish exile, where they too were waiting in hope that a savior would come to save them from the Roman Empire. All in all, the song seems to center on this eschatological waiting.

But this is also where the song becomes a bit muddled. Substitutionary atonement is not something one has to wait for. The atonement took place on the cross. In this sense, if this is the theological framework Bart is working from, there is confusion in his theological language. At one point, Bart is saying they “want” to be free (in the present), but at another point he references that someone must come to take our place. This someone was the person of Jesus Christ, it has already happened, it is finished. If Bart is referring to the parousia this is one thing, but he is seems to clearly referring to Jesus’ atonement in another portion of the song. Thus, we cannot be quite sure what Bart means to accomplish by means of the song itself.

We will note, however, that this is the first song of the three we have looked at where the Christian songwriter references a “Lord” (Tomlin references “king” but king is not a specifically Christian image). But we still must admit that Lord can refer to any number of things. For instance, it could refer to Braham. It could refer to Allah. We are beginning to note a general trend that Christian songwriters seem to be wary of referencing Christian scripture and tradition within their music. I am still not quite sure what to think of this yet or how to interpret such omissions in contemporary Christian music.

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5 Responses

  1. Two things:
    First, the view of Hell as “separation from God” should not be included in a definition of Substitutionary Atonement.
    Second, you said “we cannot be quite sure what Bart means to accomplish by means of the song itself” but I think the message is straight forward. What he means to accomplish is obvious, it’s a song of hope in the face of struggle. However “muddled” the theology may be, the song has done what it was meant to do.

  2. Interesting. How is hell viewed in the substitutionary atonement model?

  3. It’s the negative alternative to heaven. The details are left open. It can be “separation from God,” punishment from God, or just some horrible fiery place. Substitutionary atonement was articulated before people even started thinking of separation from God. Theoretically, you could be an annihilationist and still believe in substitutionary atonement. All I am saying is that “separation from God” is a very specific view among many views of hell.
    It is the most popular choice among S.A. people, but it is a non-essential to S.A. (this view is most commonly demonstrated by the so-called “bridge illustration”: a classic illustration which strongly pairs S.A. with the “separation from God” view of hell.)

  4. i absolutely luv this song!!!!its one of my favs!!!!!!

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