NT Wright According To Van Halen

Leave it to me to find a way to interweave one of my favorite theologians with one of my favorite rock bands. But I have found a way. Actually, I noticed the coincidence a while back, and I believe that I even mentioned to a good friend of mine. But it’s time to post it. I was doing a BRICK yesterday (in triathlon that refers to a workout which consists of a bike followed by a run) and heard a particular song on an old playlist (it is a proven fact that you can train at greater intensity and for a longer duration while listening to music) and decided to put it out here.

The song is Best of Both Worlds, and, in my humble opinion, it is on the list of the greatest rock songs of all time. Great guitars. Sammy instead of Dave. Classic Van Halen sound. And who would guess, great lyrics that don’t focus on sex. Of course, Van Halen is partially known for lyrics with double meanings, the second meaning of which is often sexual, so I may be missing the boat here by refusing to look for the second meaning. Anyway, here’s the lyrics:

Don’t know what I been livin on.
But it’s not enough to fill me up.
I need more than just words can say.
I need everything this life can give me.
Come on baby close your eyes.
Let Go. This can be everything weve dreamed
It’s not work, that makes it work, no.
Let the magic do the work for you.

Chorus 1:
Cause something reached out and touched me.
Now I see that all I want…
Chorus 2:
I want the best of both worlds.
And baby I know what its worth.
We can have have the best of both worlds.
A little heaven right here on earth.

There’s a picture in the gallery of a
Fallen angel looked alot like you.
We forget where we come from sometimes.
I had a dream it was really you.

Chorus 1
Chorus 2

You don’t have to die to go to heaven,
Or hang around to be born again.
Just tune into what this place has got to offer.
Cause we may never be here again.

Chorus 2

Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis talks about how God is responsible for all truth, wherever we find it. And that wherever we find it, we should claim it. It is God’s truth whether it comes from scripture, church, a pastor, a rabbi, Buddha, Gahndi, Torah, New Testament, the Florida Gators, or a rock band. So I am claiming it.

NT Wright talks about how Christ referred to God’s kingdom as something that was both at hand and continually coming. My Jewish friends reading will not understand this, and I understand that they have no need for it, so they will have to accept my apologies for being so blatantly New Testament here. But NT Wright makes some important points for us as Christians, and this song speaks to it in a way. Dr. Wright returns to the more classically orthodox belief that Christ’s return will mark completion of a work that is currently underway, that being heaven (God’s realm) and earth (our realm) continually coming together. The culmination of that is God’s restoration of all of creation to himself and in the state that he originally intended. This makes much more sense to me than the current mainstream dualistic Christian belief that God is going to wisk those away who have jumped through the right hoops to some spiritual eternal existence with him while the bulk of mankind is sent to an eternal hell for punishment because they missed a few of the hoops. It also places our focus on what we can do here and now to make this world a better place rather than focussing on the avoidance of something, namely sin. When we spend our lives avoiding and sterilizing we forget to go out and do. I don’t think God intended that.

So Van Halen captures this thought first in the title. I want the best of both worlds, heaven and earth. Later in the chorus heaven on earth is even mentioned. I like that. There is also a bit of a sense that there is something unexplainable out there with words like “let the magic do the work for you,” and “something reached out and touched me.” But I perhaps like the bridge the best, and I especially like the line that you don’t have to die and go to heaven or hang around to be born again. We get so focused on what is out there in front of us and predicting what it actually is that lies out there in front of us that we forget to live now. We forget to “just tune in to what this place has got to offer because we may never be here again.” We fail to see how imposing our Christian religious beliefs on others can actually be very offensive and elistist. And then we hide behind the excuse that we are giving them ultimate truth so who cares if they are offended. Great stuff to remember, and I think about it ever time I hear this song.

So I may be reading a lot into it. I’m sure Van Halen wasn’t researching NT Wright when they penned these lyrics and then made a eleventy billion dollars off the song. They may actually be talking about sex. So maybe I out to be trying to find a way to link it to one of Rob Bell’s other works, Sex God. Either way. Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.


7 responses to “NT Wright According To Van Halen

  1. Interesting post in light of one book I’m reading right now, “The Battle for God”. I never realized all this rapture stuff is quite recent theology, only coming into existence in the 1800’s. The author compares this teaching to the European fantasy at that time of the ultimate war which would destroy pretty much everyone but them, whoever the ‘them’ happened to be. “Premillennialism was a fantasy of revenge: the elect imagined themselves gazing down upon the sufferings of those who had jeered at their beliefs, ignored, ridiculed, and marginalized their faith, and now, too late, realized their error…the reality it purports to present is cruel, divisive, and tragic.” (If anyone reading this thinks she is picking on just one religion, the answer is no, she takes on fundamentalism in all three Abrahamic religions. I’ll be writing about the Jewish component soon.)

    It’s good to live life now since really, it’s all we’re guaranteed. I think some people are afraid to live for now because they think having such a mentality will remove all restraint. I don’t understand their thinking, however. I’ve never heard of anyone who when given just a short time to live went on a self-destructive tear. Instead I’ve heard many stories of people striving to make every minute count. Surely that is the more common reaction to the realization that life is short, that we need to be sure to live each day with purpose rather than treating these days as nothing more than garbage we must live through in order to get that ‘prize’ at the end.

    Hey, you describe your understanding of it all from your perspective. It’s not mine, but so what. You speak of trying to make the world a better place right now and I can be right with you on that one. If more people would take the same attitude they just might be so busy fixing the world they wouldn’t have time to bug kids shopping at the mall!

  2. How Trnitarian of you :) NT certainly ruined a lot sermons with his positions in Surprised by Hope. Thanks for seeing the parallel and sharing.

  3. I like Van Halen – David Lee Roth era that is – wasn’t a huge fan of Sammy…the lyrics are good though.

    I like your sentiment about a ‘here and now’ theology – impacting the life we live right here, right now. I am not a huge fan of a spitituality that doesn’t mean something that involves the person reading it – faith means we have to get involved in some way.

    I have many debates with people concerning how involved we are to be in our faith – and I think – we are all we really know and can be responsible for. Why worry about heaven when we have enough here to deal with? Heaven is the hope – here is the reality.

  4. Maybe the song expresses the inherent, innate longing in human nature itself. Instinctively we seem to know that the world was meant to be a better place than it is. And every person on earth is longing for love. Mother Theresa said, “There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread.”

    Jesus said Christians are to be light in the world and salt in the world among people. If we love like He loves, we will each be doing what we have the power to do in making a bit of heaven on earth here and now.

  5. loving like he loves means actually doing what he did, NOT just theoretically believing that he did it and thinking that it was nice—2 very different things. we need to make sure our actions back up our beliefs and not just let our beliefs become lip service to spout about. do we all really take the time to HONESTLY examine that? if not….clanging cymbals ring a bell.

  6. You’ve certainly come a long way when God begins talking to you through Eddie, Alex, Sammie and that guy who played the Jack Daniels bass. Good post.

  7. Well, I certainly have come a long way as I look back with a long way yet to go as I look forward. It’s good to know that even Eddie, Alex, Sammie, and the other guy can claim a bit of the truth. They probably were sober when they wrote this one. Maybe not a lot of the other ones.

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