The Sacred Hymnal?

A few years ago, I noticed in a hym­nal I was singing from dur­ing a church ser­vice some­thing which was stat­ed in the intro­duc­tion to the hym­nal. It said that sec­ond to the Bible, a hym­nal is the most sacred book in Chris­tian­i­ty. Fair enough, as a hym­nal is some­thing which per­tains to God and not to this world.

Some time after that, though still a cou­ple of years ago, the pas­tor of Gar­ri­son Creek Bap­tist Church here in town gave a few min­utes dur­ing a ser­vice to say­ing that mod­ern music was hor­ri­ble and that he could­n’t believe some­one would update an old hymn with mod­ern music. This dec­la­ra­tion came less than 24 hours after he priv­i­ly explained to me that he did­n’t see a prob­lem with mod­ern Chris­t­ian music but did­n’t feel right about hav­ing it in the church ser­vices (nei­ther do I). 
I’m just curi­ous what some peo­ple think. The Bible pre­scribes noth­ing about styles of singing or instru­men­ta­tion in pri­vate mat­ters (it nev­er speaks of instru­men­tal music in regards to church, so we should­n’t to what God has spo­ken by hav­ing it, I think). Are we doing some­thing hor­ri­ble for singing “All Crea­tures of Our God and King” in the arrange­ment the David Crow­der Band per­forms on Illu­mi­nate? What about Mer­cyMe’s ver­sion of “The Love of God” from Spo­ken For?

Should we com­plain about it as if the tra­di­tion­al arrange­ments are sup­posed to be enscrip­turat­ed for all time in a set pat­tern? Think­ing log­i­cal­ly, many old hymns were not writ­ten words and music at the same time, as mod­ern songs often are. Either an already exist­ing (often “sec­u­lar”) tune would be used, or one would be applied lat­er on to a poem, thus mak­ing it a piece of music and a hymn.

Frankly, if putting “Fairest Lord Jesus” or “Onward Chris­t­ian Sol­diers” and so on to a more mod­ern music gets peo­ple to sing it, praise the Lord! The tunes they were orig­i­nal­ly placed with were mod­ern music which at one point was prob­a­bly frowned upon just as much as rock music is today! (And frankly, I’m glad that peo­ple got over that whole Gre­go­ri­an chants non­sense… NMSAA!

I can under­stand not want­i­ng to change the word of God around to make it more “user friend­ly”; it should be as lit­er­al as pos­si­ble using con­tem­po­rary words and syn­tax in what­ev­er lan­guage it is being trans­lat­ed into, as far as I’m con­cerned. But that is the word of God. That is some­thing far above any hymn could ever be.

Brethren, exam­ine your­selves in light of the Bible. If a reli­gious tra­di­tion can­not be defend­ed sole­ly from it, drop the tra­di­tion and hold fast to the word. Most music-relat­ed tra­di­tions could be dropped with­out being any less biblical.

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Rick Beckman