In the trade: The songs Arminians – and Calminians – love to sing





In You have won my heart, now I can trade my ashes in for beauty: How one does not come to faith in Christ, I examined the song, “At the foot of the cross.” I examine more closely the lines “You have won my heart” and “Now I can trade these ashes in for beauty,” and show how it exemplifies the Arminian/synergistic view of justification (obtaining a right standing before God).


When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith (monergism; mono “alone,” ergos “work”), while the Arminian says that man cooperates (synergism; syn “together,” ergos “work”) with God in that he is ultimately justified (made right with God) only when he turns to God, that is, wills to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates (born again) the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation.(See Calvinism and Arminianism).


A “Calminian” is someone who loves the story about the arch of heaven. As the believer approaches, he sees written above the arch, “All are welcome.” He passes through the arch into heaven. He turns around to wave farewell to the sorry stubborn lot who preferred to stay outside, and sees written above the inside of the arch “predestination.” Happy reconciliation.


I was in correspondence with a music leader of a church. With his permission, here is the conversation. He initially appears in agreement with my critique of the view I expressed in “At the foot of the cross.”


Music leader


“So many of the really good songs with good messages still have some dodgy words in them, even some of the hymns. Most modern song writers are not theologians and often words are chosen to fit the rhyme or the flow of the music (one of the reasons I still really love hymns). So do we go with the overarching message of a song and allow for poetic license or do we chuck it out because of a questionable word? I would say that if the incorrect word or words are clearly pointing at incorrect doctrine, chuck it out.” He then begins to tweak his tune and seems to repenting 180 degrees: “Can ‘you’ve won my heart” be interpreted any other way than “I’m giving Him my heart because I’m so impressed?’”


“When I was preparing for Ash Wednesday I came upon this verse in Isaiah  “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isa 61:3  KJV). It’s within the context of the passage that Jesus quoted and proclaimed Himself to be the fulfillment of Luke 4:18-21.” “I will give the benefit of the doubt to the possibility that the author of our communion song is referencing to this verse (Isaiah 61:3 previous paragraph), which would mean that her use of the word “trade” is simply alluding to an exchange of one thing for another and not a commercial transaction. I would then go back to my original interpretation of the words “…you have won my heart…”, as referring to Christ winning over sin and death, beating sin and rescuing me from death and not me giving my heart to Him as a prize since He is to be glorified because it was all His work.”




“If it is understood that only after Jesus takes the heart of stone out of us and replaces it with a new one (like His), and in so doing makes us free to choose him (we choose Him because He first chose us), then “you’ve won my heart” does seem to be acceptable. But, unfortunately it is not understood that way (by the song writers as well as by most who sing it), which is proven by another line in the song (much worse), ‘I have traded…..'”


“Theology is nothing more than how we think about scripture. Poetic “license” in how we right our songs has to e faith to the scripture meaning. To play safe, why don’t we just use scripture for our lyrics, because scripture is always right. There are already thousands of beautiful songs that have scripture lyrics. It’s a great eye-opener scrutinising all the fluff on the buff of many of songs of “worship.” Makes one feel like a peeping tom.”


End of conversation.


The music leader conveys the impression that he has found a solution to what he considers a misunderstanding, and that when seen it the right light, “trade” may not be so bad after all.


A few more comments.


He is finding it hard to shuck off his Arminian coil, even though he had told me previously that he believes the monergistic doctrine that only after you are born again do you come to believe. The Arminian/synergistic view is (first you make a decision to have) faith then comes regeneration, which flies in the face of Ehesians 2: 1-10:


“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.But3 God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this (refers to the whole previous chunk, namely, “by grace you have been saved through faith) is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (My italics and emphasis).


“Dead,” in verse one; is that, I ask, merely “poetic license?” If so, the sinner cannot really be (spiritually) dead but still has enough life in him to blink or wave his limp poetic pinky, which is all that God, philosophy and poetics require for the sinner to retain the imaginary dignity of his free will. Is any “trade-off” possible between “really” dead and “poetically” dead? To answer that question, let’s return to the Arminian “trade.”




1. the act or process of buying, selling, or exchanging commodities, at either wholesale or retail, within a country or between countries: domestic trade; foreign trade. 2. a purchase or sale; business deal or transaction. 3. an exchange of items, usually without payment of money.


The songwriter obviously has basic interpersonal communicative English skills, and thus should know what “trade” means. If so, how to explain the use of this inappropriate term in the song? It’s pretty obvious; she thinks like an Arminian and, being consistent, writes songs like an Arminian. I suggest she knew exactly what she was conveying, namely, an exchange effected ultimately by herself (God has voted for you, the devil against you, and you have the final vote).  What, though, does the Bible say? God didn’t traded anything, neither did (could) I. This, however, does not mean that I did not accept Jesus, but merely  that I did so only after God raised me from the dead and made me free to do so. The Arminian position is “God I accept your offer.”


On the monergistic view, therefore, there is everything wrong with “I traded.” Keep in mind that we are talking about justification (our “standing” before God), which is conditional on regeneration, faith, and repentance, in that logical order (which occur simultaneously). The dead “I” cannot be involved because it is unable to lift a darning finger or to reverse the lethal damage of the Fall. And this reversal is what justification is all about (as Martyn Lloyd Jones makes so clear in his teaching on Ephesians). Nor can there be any trade – a cooperative transaction. Justification is a unilateral divine sovereign act of love; a pure gift; like winning a lottery, but only better, because it’s rigged for you to win – big time. Also, you don’t need to buy a ticket, and more; your prize is far greater than your money or your life –


Or my wife. (“I’ll see you afterwards!”).




3 thoughts on “In the trade: The songs Arminians – and Calminians – love to sing

  1. Every webpage has key words registered with search engines to help users find the sites with the type of information they are looking for. It seems that you look at every sermon/song/conversation with your calvanist search spectacles and pounce on every offending word that would betray arminian thinking.

    If it were just a matter of words, you would be absolutely correct in reasoning that the author of the song is probably Arminian. But, it’s never just about the words we use.

    I am so releaved to serve a God who hears my heart and overlooks my innadequite language skills

      • The issue, music leader, as I said in the article, is not with the songwriter’s English language skills, but with her theological bent, which is clearly of this kind, “I decide to give my heart to Jesus, which results in me being regenerated (born again).”

        Your defence of her position indicates that you have the same beliefs, and not any deficiency in your communication skills.

        If, though, you do believe in contrast to the songwriter, that you do NOT first give God your ashes then He gives you beauty, you would then have no problem in “seeing” that “I traded” is theologically wrong.

        The difference between monergists (salvation is all of the Lord) and synergists (you co-operate with God in your salvation where you have the final vote) is not often a difference in language ability but in theological inclination. I see nothing at all wrong with your or the songwriter’s language ability.

        Language ability is easier to improve than theological bent, alas, for the latter requires radical divine intervention. And where does this start? In eternity, “when” God, the Father gave his elect to the Son.

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