Saturday, July 30, 2005

New Fad: Let's Sing Hymns

Tennessee Ernie FordChristian artists breathe new life into old hymns
What with Phil Johnson's blogging (and excellent) critique of an "evangelicalism" given to fads, this Billboard story seems quite timely. Apparently, the new "thing" for Contemporary Christian Music is to emphasize the old complete with millions spent on making sure we know CCM is emphasizing the old. :-)

Billboard's Deborah Evans Price writes: "With so many hymns albums being released this year, Word Distribution created a special marketing program for Christian retail. The "Hymns & Stories" promotion runs through Monday and features 11 titles, including albums by Grant, Cleveland, Greene, Fernando Ortega, Randy Travis and Gordon Mote, as well as several compilations."

Price quotes Amy Grant who says "...the lyrical depth and theological content found in the hymns are providing a source of renewed inspiration for artists and fans. "The lyrics are the things that are so phenomenal about the hymns," Grant says. "You might forget every sermon from your childhood, but you remember the teaching because it was in the songs." Michael Horton agrees: "The average Christian will learn more from hymns that from systematic theology..." (Michael Horton, In the Face of God, p. 195).

Ashley Cleveland sees hymns as a uniting force. "There is a mindset that they represent antiquity, [that] they are dusty old relics that aren't relevant, but to me nothing could be more relevant," she says. "There is so much division in our culture and even within the Christian community, but when you pull out a hymn that everybody knows, we are all unified." And here I thought it was truth that unifies and error that divides. All we need is a little Kum-ba-yah to give peace a chance.

I'll grant (no pun intended... well maybe) that we have a new generation of Christian kids who really don't know the classics. But it would be interesting to make up a list of all of the hymns that are being "re-introduced" to a new generation. In one of the great treatments of the inherent gnosticism of American Revivalism and its children, In the Face of God, Michael Horton points out that many of the hymns we grew up singing are grounded in the Romanticism and subsequent Revivalism of the late 1800's. Many of these hymns, "claiming a direct, immediate, secret, mystical, and indeed unique experience with God...represent the romantic shift from the objective to the subjective, from the person who is known to the person who is knowing (knowing in the gnostic sense, viz., experiencing)." (In the Face of God, p. 197).

Horton continues: "'Victory' and perfect peace, perfect joy, perfect surrender are prominent themes in these songs, heavily influenced not only by Romanticism, but by the Keswick 'Higher Life' movement, which B. B. Warfield characterized as 'Protestant mysticism'... the God and the Christ outside of us (the Reformation emphasis) is replaced with God and the Christ within the indvidual's heart (the medieval and gnostic emphasis)... the mystic's love for Jesus is romantic; the orthodox believer's love for Jesus is filial and is always linked to his saving work. We do not love Jesus 'just for who you are', for apart from his saving acts we do not have any reason to love him any more than we love any other historical figure." (Michael Horton, In the Face of God, pp. 197-199).

Horton is reminding us that just because something is "old" and "sentimental", doesn't mean it has value. Some of these hymns that are being "reintroduced" to a new generation are best forgotten.


Jeremy Weaver said...

Horton's appendix, 'A Perspective on the Spiritual Drift in Hymnody', in the book that you quote, is awesome. I would recommend buying the book if only for those seven pages.

I am one of those who has learned Theology from Christian music. Thank God for artists like, Michael Card, Steve Green, Campi, Glad, and a couple of others who saw it their mission to make a name for God and not themselves.

Luther had a great vision for the church, I believe, when he said, "Give them a Bible and a Hymnbook and the flame will spread on its own."

It is truly sad to see Luther's vision, and God's vision, of the church as a singing people being hi-jacked by musicians and song-writers who do not have the theological depth that is needed to effectively teach and worship God.

In short, I liked this post.

Breuss Wane said...

"In the Face of God" was/is one of the most life-altering books I've read.

Bhedr said...

Dude you don't like the hymns or what are you saying? I hope you don't want to throw out the book of Psalms while your at it?:-}

Hey if CCmers wanna start learning how to put content in their music then this might be a good start.
Don't shake it.

Correct me if I missed something

Bhedr said...

.......?....? Space case reporting back in. i re-read it. i see your point.

Bhedr said...

Gotta learn to get over those Knee jerks.

Bhedr said...

Campi's content rules though.

hey help me out, I'm still trying to figure who he sounds like from the 80's. Is it that guy from Chicago(not Cetera the other one)? I can't put me finger on it. I'll think of it one day. my wife thinks he sounds like Neil Diamond, but I don't think that's it either.

Breuss Wane said...

I think I've always thought Campi's sound was unique. The only time I think an overt copycat got played was on Justice... Steve Campsby and the Range. :-) But I don't think there's an album out there like Mercy in the Wilderness, which mixes great content with great production. Just think where he'd be with all that filthy lucre. :-)

Bhedr said...

Bingo! Thanks Chad it is Hornsby. Finaly I can get a good nights rest.