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'God is Love' by Percy Dearmer ~ Analysis of a Popular Hymn (And Bible Analysis)
God is Love ~ A Lovely Hymn
Every morning, when I was a child and teenager, we had school assembly ~ and it was always a Christian assembly. In other words, it was very similar to a church service.
There was usually a story with a moral, followed by a few hymns and some prayers. This was not a faith school; it was like this in all schools, until the country became more secular and more multi-cultural.
Some of the hymns were rather dirge-like but, generally, in school, the teachers chose some nice, lively tunes for the youngsters.
One oft-sung hymn was 'God is Love, His the care'. I think that the story which accompanied it was probably the one about how God cares for everyone, and even notices the smallest sparrow fall.
Both the story and the hymn are uplifting, and assure us that God loves, and cares for, every single one of us.
But, as I said, this was a Christian assembly, so was based on the Christian idea of God ~ the God of the Bible; the God of the Old and New Testaments.
Does God, as described in the Old and New Testaments, really love and care about every one of us? And, if this is not true, is it morally right to encourage children to sing such 'sacred' songs?
Copyright, Sources and Me
This article is copyright Tricia Mason.
All Rights Reserved.
Sources, plus further information, can be found in the links and videos, near the end of the item.
Images are noted with their sources, etc.
For clarity, I'll just add, here, that I am agnostic. I do not know whether 'God' exists and do not think that it is possible for anyone to know ~ not for sure.
I do not believe that the Bible is the word of God, or that it tells true stories about God. I think that it describes how an ancient tribe interpreted what they perceived to be 'God'.
I do not know whether or not Jesus existed, but consider that it is quite possible. However, while I believe that he might well have been considered a (non-supernatural) 'Messiah', I think that it is highly unlikely that he was 'God Incarnate' or 'Son of God'.
God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall
Another children's hymn about God's love ~ written in 1874 ~ even for the littlest sparrow:
Lyrics: Maria Straub
Music: Solomon W. Straub
God sees the little sparrow fall
It meets His tender view;
If God so loves the little birds,
I know He loves me, too.
He paints the lily of the field,
Perfumes each lily bell;
If He so loves the little flow’rs,
I know He loves me well.
God made the little birds and flow’rs,
And all things large and small;
He’ll not forget his little ones,
I know He loves them all.
He loves me, too, He loves me, too,
I know He loves me, too;
Because He loves the little things,
I know He loves me, too.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
"And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows".
"I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.
"Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
"Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God."
Lyrics and Music
The lyrics of 'God is Love' were written by Percy Dearmer, in 1925.
They are usually sung to the tune known as 'Theodoric' ~ Gustav Theodore Holst's 1916 arrangement of 'Personent Hodie', from the 1582 'Piae Cantiones'.
This was probably based on the mid 14th century song 'Intonent Hodie'.
(The lyricists for both 'Personent Hodie' and 'Intonent Hodie' are unknown.)
The site 'The Hymns and Carols of Christmas' states that the 'Piae Cantiones' was a Collection of songs, for Church and Schools, published by Theodoric Petri of Hyland in 1582.
Apparently, these were mostly of ancient Swedish origin, but the information that it gives for 'Personent Hodie' is that the words were from 1582 'Piae Cantiones', from 14th century German, from 12th century Latin.
Gustav Theodore Holst ~ originally von Holst ~ was born on 21st September 1874 and died on 25 May 1934. He was an English composer, of German extraction. His most famous work was 'The Planets Suite'.
God is love ~ his the care,
tending each, everywhere;
God is love ~ all is there!
Jesus came to show him,
that we all might know him ...
Jesus shared all our pain,
lived and died, rose again,
rules our hearts, now as then ~
for he came to save us
by the truth he gave us ...
To our Lord praise we sing ~
light and life, friend and king,
coming down love to bring,
pattern for our duty,
showing God in beauty ...
This refrain is sung after each verse:
Sing aloud, loud, loud!
Sing aloud, loud, loud:
God is good, God is truth,
God is beauty ~ praise him!
Percy Dearmer - Some Books
Who Was Percy Dearmer?
Percival Dearmer was an English priest, author and lyricist who was born in Middlesex in February 1867.
In his youth, he attended Westminster School and later Christ Church College, Oxford, where he attained his BA and MA degrees.
Though his works date back several decades into history, the songs are still sung and the ideas behind them are still relevant to many.
Dearmer wrote, or translated, a number of hymns, and was also responsible for the 'Parson's Handbook' ~ an Anglican clerical manual. He was very influential in the field of church music.
His wife, Mabel Dearmer, died in Serbia, in 1915, while serving with a first world war ambulance unit, where Percy was chaplain.
Mabel and Percy's two sons also served in the Great War. One, Geoffrey, survived, and lived to the age of 103, but the other, Christopher, died of wounds incurred in battle ~ also in 1915.
Percy Dearmer suffered personal loss, and must have seen many horrors during the First World War, yet he still wrote 'God is love'.
Dearmer married again and fathered three more children, one of whom was killed in the Second World War.
He died in May 1936 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Mabel Dearmer ~ Percy's Wife
First World War Memoir, by Mabel (White) Dearmer
Poems by Geoffrey Dearmer
Christopher Howse on Percy Dearmer
"Percy Dearmer was a strange cove, but an energetic one.
"He had the idea that the Church of England should worship in what he imagined was the spirit of the Sarum rite or English usage.
"Not for him the Baroque candlesticks and fiddle-backed chasubles favoured by Anglo-Catholics who adopted a style of liturgy that had developed with the centuries."
Christopher Howse 19 Apr 2013 The Telegraph (online)
Geoffrey Dearmer ~ Soldier-Poet
Percy Dearmer's son, Geoffrey, who lived to the age of 103, was a World War One soldier-poet.
A book of his works, including an ode to his brother, who died in the Great War, can be purchased from Amazon ~ simply called 'Poems'.
'God is Love' ~ Says 1 John
The first three words of Dearmer's hymn echo a phrase from the Biblical book, 1 John. Here are the quotes, as translated for the New International Version ...
1 John 4:16 ~
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."
1 John 4:8 ~
"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
Amalekites - Poussin
How Much Loving Care?
How much loving care did God, as described in the Bible, show to all of humanity, and even to the animals ~ except Noah, his family, and a pair of each the living creatures ~ when he sent the flood??
How much loving care did God, as described in the Bible, show to the Amalekites, when he ordered them all to be slain ~ specifically mentioning children and suckling babies?
How much loving care did God, as described in the Bible, show to King David's baby, when he let it die as a punishment to his father?
How much loving care did God, as described in the Bible, show to Job ~ his most pure and ardent follower, when, as the result of a challenge from 'Satan', he allowed him to lose everyone and everything that he loved and to suffer undue torment?
The list goes on.
God, as described in the Bible, is described as vengeful, jealous and cruel.
The Book of 1 John says that 'God is love', but much of the rest of the Bible contradicts this.
Love is ...
Other Hymns Make the Same Claim - About A Loving God
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
By: Henry W. Baker
The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine forever.
Where streams of living water flow,
My ransomed soul he leadeth
And, where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love he sought me
And on his shoulder gently laid
And home rejoicing brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With thee, dear Lord, beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spredst a table in my sight;
Thine unction grace bestoweth;
And, oh, what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never.
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house forever.
Lutheran Worship Hymn Number 412
Tune: St. Columba
Prof MTH on 'YouTube'
'ProfMTH' on 'YouTube' looked at the idea that 'God is love' and found some Biblical definitions of 'love' in the New Testament; Paul's letters:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
(New International Version + New American Standard Version)
Love is patient
Love is kind
It does not envy / is not jealous
It does not boast / does not brag
It is not proud / is not arrogant
It does not dishonor others / does not act unbecomingly
It is not self-seeking / does not seek its own
It is not easily angered / is not provoked
It keeps no record of wrongs / does not take into account a wrong suffered
Love does not delight in evil / does not rejoice in unrighteousness
It rejoices with the truth
It always protects / bears all things
It always trusts / believes all things
It always hopes / hopes all things
It always perseveres / endures all things
Love never fails
Prof MTH also found some Biblical contradictions.
He could only examine a few, but here is one:
The New American Standard Version of the Bible states that 'love is not jealous'. If God is love and love is not jealous, then how is it that Exodus 34:14 tells us: 'Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God'? How can a loving God also be a Jealous God, when the supposed word of God explains that love is never jealous?
Prof MTH mentions a number of such contradictions, indicating that the Bible shows God not to be love. He includes God's reported behaviour towards Job.
The video is included, towards the end of this article. It contains more examples of God not fulfilling the Bible's definitions of 'love'! Well worth watching!
Is God love?
I do not know whether or not God exists, but, if God does exist, then I doubt very much that 'the king of love' is how 'he' is described in the Bible.
I do know that some of the Biblical descriptions of God indicate that he is not a loving parent but, rather, that he is a cruel, jealous, vengeful being.
A loving parent would not condemn his offspring to hell, for example, simply for doubting his existence, when his existence is, self-evidently, in doubt.
Could God exist, but not as described in the Bible ~ a truly loving God?
Of course this is possible, yet, though there is much that is good on the earth, there is also much suffering. Would a loving creator God produce powerful creatures that rip weaker creatures limb from limb?
Isn't it more likely that 'God' is a word that we could use for whatever power, forces, rules, etc, etc, lie behind life, the universe and everything, but that this is not a personal God?
Deuteronomy 32:39-42 (NIV)
“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.
I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.
I will make my arrows drunk with blood, while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders.”
Hymns and Hymn Stories
Personent Hodie - The Music for 'God is Love'
The Words of the Hymn
God is love ~ his the care, tending each, everywhere;
There is much suffering in the world. Children are abused and murdered; animals are torn apart by predators; babies are born with terrible health problems; innocents are tortured; tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc, kill thousands. Where is this individual loving care?
In the Bible, dreadful things happen, which are supposedly condoned by God. Here is an example: Insolent sons, and daughters, who cannot actually prove that they are virgins when they wed, are supposed to be stoned to death! Is this what we expect from a loving father?
If fathers treat their children like this, or if leaders slaughter whole nations (as God ordered the slaughter of the Amalekites), then we consider them to be criminals. We do not say that they are the epitome of love, tending their own.
Jesus came to show him, that we all might know him ... Jesus shared all our pain
According to the Bible, God sent himself ~ as his own son ~ as a human sacrifice, to suffer horribly on a cross before dying. Crucifixion was a hideous punishment.
What sort of person would send their own son to suffer and die like this? Mankind could have been redeemed in other ways. The death and suffering of one apparent rebel, amongst many, was not really necessary. The Bible says that Jesus felt forsaken.
Jesus ... came to save us by the truth he gave us ...
And yet the truth is not clear. Many are unconvinced that Jesus was God incarnate ~ or even real.
light and life, friend and king,To our Lord praise we sing ~ coming down love to bring,
Certainly Jesus's message was more loving.
He said 'love thy neighbour', 'love one another', be a 'good Samaritan', 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone', etc, etc.
However, according to the Gospels, he also said:
''Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division ... " [Luke 12:51]
God is good, God is truth, God is beauty ~ praise him!
It would be right to worship a God, who represented love, goodness, truth and beauty, but we are asked to praise someone else.
According to the Bible, God allowed his most decent and devout follower ~ Job ~ to suffer unmercifully, yet he rewarded Lot, who offered his virgin daughters to strangers, so that they could sleep with them. But Lot's wife was killed just for looking back at her city, as it was destroyed.
When King David did wrong, God ensured that his baby died and his wives were publicly raped.
When Saul allowed some Amalekites to survive, God complained, because he wanted them all dead ~ every baby, child, pregnant woman, old person, had to be killed by the sword.
Is this goodness? Is this love? Is this what we would accept from any earthly parent?
No! We would not accept it. We would say that it was evil and unloving ~ and we would punish this behaviour; not revere it.
Yet we sing praises to this God, whom the Bible offers us.
But the God offered by the Bible is only a God imagined by an ancient tribe. We do not have to accept their descriptions!
For some reason, though, Christians do accept this version of God.
And they ~ and we ~ sing 'God is love'!
'Saul and the Amalekites' - A Bloodthirsty Story!
By Steve Wells
'Drunk With Blood: God's Killings in the Bible' by Steve Wells
In his book, 'Drunk With Blood: God's Killings in the Bible', the author, Steve Wells, asks: Who has killed more people; God or Satan?
These are his results, based on numbers given in the Bible;
Satan: 10 (God allowed the killing of Job's family by Satan)
Is this really what would be expected of loving god?
Books: 'God is Love'
By Philip Gulley and James Mulholland
Does God Really Love Every One Of Us?
Does God, as described in the Old and New Testaments, really love and care about every one of us?
It would be nice to think so, but the evidence indicates that this cannot be true.
We want to feel loved and safe and secure. We want this for our children.
But, hiding behind the beautiful and benign words of sacred songs, is a Bible, which tells stories of a God who slaughters tiny babies!
If it is not true that 'God is love', then is it morally right to encourage children to sing such 'sacred' songs?
Well, we allow, or encourage, children to believe in wonderful, imaginary worlds ~ worlds of fairies and Father Christmas. These lovely old hymns are beautiful and harmless ~ provided children are not scared into believing in God, through fear of hell ~ and not persecuted, for questioning the veracity of the words.
God may or may not exist, but surely he is not the being described in the 'Old Testament'? Surely, God would not be so cruel to his 'children'! Surely children should not be scared into believing that the Bible is a book about a loving father God?
Love is God
Wouldn't it be a better world if we adored, revered honoured and yes, even praised, 'love'.
If we treated love with the reverence and esteem that it deserved, then surely the world would be a better, safer and happier place.
There has been so much turmoil, war and hatred because of religion, but love is a positive, happy, caring, sharing emotion.
Rather than 'God is Love', I would prefer to think 'Love is God'. Love is powerful; it is universal, it is creative, eternal, invisible.
1 Corinthians 13 is right, I think, when it notes; 'And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love'.
Edit: Another Verse ~ 'Love One Another'!
There is another verse to the hymn 'God is Love' that I remember from school-days, but which I didn't find when checking the words online:
None can see God above.
All have, here, man to love.
Thus may we, God-ward move;
Finding Him in others;
Holding all men brothers!
This ~ when we consider the words ~ is the most important verse of them all.
It is quite true that we cannot see God. We cannot know, for sure, whether or not he even exists and, if he does, we cannot know what kind of God he is. If he is there, we still cannot know whether he is a personal loving God or some kind of, possibly abstract, 'clock-maker'.
If we want every human and every other living creature to feel loved, and to be loved, then it is up to us. We must love one another ~ just as Jesus is reported as saying in the Gospels. We must care for our Earth and all the living plants and creatures in it ~ including each other.
None can see God above! We should not be looking to an ancient mythology for care, but to each other and to the fragile world upon which we live.
'The King of Love My Shepherd Is' ~ Another 'Loving' Title for a Hymn.
Relevant Items From Liftandsoar
My Hubs ~ Christianity, Etc.
- The Destruction of the Babies and Children of Amalek ~ The Slaughter of the Amalekites
- QUOTE: "How could the Earth, and all Creation, be so Beautiful, without a Creator?"
- 'The Jesus Dynasty' by James D Tabor
- A Story of Palm Sunday, Easter Week and Insurrection!
- 'Swords' in the Gospels of the New Testament
- Easter Miscellany
Related Items - Links and Sources
- Evil Bible Home Page
- Immoral Violence in the Bible Ordered by a Tyrannical God?
- A Truth in Three Hymns
- Lyricist: Percy Dearmer - HymnsWithoutWords
- The Worshiping Church 400: God is love - his the care | Hymnary.org
- Percy Dearmer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Gustav Holst - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Personent hodie
- Personent hodie - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Biography and hymns of Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877)
- God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall
- Dwindling In Unbelief: The Amalekite Genocide
- Why was the ancient God so cruel? ChristianAnswers.Net