Gertrude Stein once noted that Hamlet continues to be discussed not because of what is understood about it but because of what is not. David Ruis’s “There Must Be More,” a staple of Christian contemporary music since its release, in 1994, is hardly Hamlet; still, despite its inclusion in a genre of music not known for its complexity—a genre known, if at all, for a simplicity not always distinguishable from vapidity—it remains both baffling and beguiling.
The argument the song’s narrator makes is more or less as follows: I am crying out for something real because I know, deep in my soul, that there must be more. I am tired and weak, but I keep hanging on—“just keep hangin’ on/ ’cause there must be more.” The speaker is in manifestly bad shape—groaning, kneeling, and perhaps in danger of what centuries of Christian thought have designated the worst of sins: despair. But not yet, because each stanza offers an uplift from dejection at the conjunctive pivot. Because.
The peculiarity of that because becomes clearer when considered vis-à-vis its potential substitutes. Why not employ and or as or for or since, any one of which would better fit the song’s metrical requirements? Why cram because into one beat, inelegantly lopping off the first syllable? Because only because (from the Middle English bi cause, “by cause”) insists so on causality. What is the cause of the narrator’s groaning and crying out? The very idea that “there must be more.” Note the choice of must: a declaration that there must be more is much less certain than a declaration that there is more. Wanting something does not make it so; the petition is rooted in doubt. Ludwig Feuerbach, patron saint of skepticism, writes of this fallacy when he complains in The Essence of Christianity that “God springs out of the feeling of a want.” The singer “cries out for something real,” “can’t let go,” and keeps hanging on because of—well, wishful thinking.
After two stanzas of this, and a round or two of repetition, Ruis pitches the song an octave higher and cries out, “There must be more,” drawing out the oh of the final word for three imploring measures. With a few last words, also repeated—“River, flow,” “Fire, burn,” and “Holy Spirit, breathe on me”—the song ends. Flow, burn, breathe on me, the narrator insists: give me some help here, Lord. This is a cri de coeur of doubt and profound distress. So why do people look so happy when they sing this song?
Because “There Must Be More,” like other overtly Christian music, is intended and sung not just as a song but also as a prayer. The singer finds himself short on the faith he needs, so he pleads for more of it: a fascinating paradox in which he asks the God of whom he is not quite certain for help with certainty. In the meantime, though the prayer is not yet answered, he predicates his actions—all that hangin’ on—on what imperfect faith he does have. One thinks of the unnamed man in the Gospels who beseeches Jesus, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” With a humdrum melody and seemingly unremarkable lyrics, this brief song articulates with tact and fluency the paradox of the doubter’s faith.
Year of song’s release: 1994; Word count of song, excluding exact repetitions: sixty-four; Author’s professions, according to the author: songwriter, worship leader, church planter, pastor, communicator; Albums recorded by author: When Justice Shines, The Mystery, The Mystery (Acoustic), Love Has Come (Christmas EP); Books written by author: The Worship God Is Seeking and The Justice God Is Seeking; Percentage of results offering lyrics, guitar chords, and covers on first page of Google search for “There Must Be More, David Ruis”: 100