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Hymns have greater theological depth?

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  • #16
    To be frank, I'm terrible when it comes to lists like this. I like too many of all types.

    Instead, I would find detractors of the current P&W millieu, search their blogs, and highlight the hymns that they like the best.
    Nick Alexander
    Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
    Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
    Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.


    • #17
      Originally posted by TheOldATrain View Post
      From recently or from previous eras?
      As long as it is well known, I'm not sure it matters. Recent hymns are usually not as well known....j Anything you'd find in a hymnal is my suggestion.


      • #18
        Since I'm struggling to get a list, let me get this started.

        Here is a list of the most popular 25 hymns:


        The last 5 they list are modern, so I'll just list the top 20 from the site (I'm not sure where their source is):
        1 Amazing Grace
        2 How Great Thou Art
        3 Holy Holy Holy
        4 It Is Well
        5 Great Is Thy Faithfulness
        6 Praise To The Lord The Almighty
        7 Be Thou My Vision
        8 All Creatures Of Our God and King
        9 All Hail The Power Of Jesus
        10 Blessed Assurance
        11 To God Be The Glory
        12 When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
        13 Jesus Paid It All
        14 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
        15 How Firm A Foundation
        16 Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing
        17 Crown Him With Many Crowns
        18 At The Cross
        19 What A Friend We Have In Jesus
        20 Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

        For many of these songs, I can think of a CCM alternative that says the same thing. Granted, it might not have lyrics that are as well written or poetic... Examples include:

        Hymn - CCM Equivalent
        Amazing Grace - This Is Amazing Grace (Wickham)
        How Great Thou Art - How Great Is Our God (Tomlin)
        Great Is Thy Faithfulness - Forever (Tomlin)
        To God Be The Glory - Glory To God Forever (can't remember artist)
        Holy Holy Holy - Holy Is The Lord (Tomlin)

        The above seems to solidify my thought that it isn't so much that hymns have greater depth, but that their lyrics are written with greater poeticism. But this is true of the way people spoke English over 100 years ago in general. Reading the writings of our founding fathers, I see a depth of vernacular that greatly shadows how your average politician speaks today even given their speech writers.

        However, there are few hymns on this list that go into theological territory that I think is deeper than any CCM equivalent I can think of. Here are those:

        It Is Well
        Be Thou My Vision
        All Creatures Of Our God and King

        But with CCM songs like these, I'm not so sure that CCM's shallowness holds (except for your average K-Love fare)....
        You Won't Relent (Jesus Culture),
        Jesus Take The Wheel (just kidding :-)
        I Know Who I Am (Israel Houghton)
        I Will Search (I think Israel Houghton as well)
        Ten Thousand Reasons (Redman)
        Last edited by gregrjones; 04-18-2015, 07:29 AM.


        • #19
          Here are some others that many know, even though you may not:

          I Bind Unto Myself Today (attrib. to St. Patrick). One of the great ancient hymns brought to life, a personal commitment prayer that links that with solid exegesis. The prayer "Christ Be With Me..." part is the climax of this wonderful hymn, and served as the basis of Tim Hughes' "Everything", but the other parts are more well known.

          Hail Thee Festival Day: One of the great joyous songs. NOTHING in CCM P&W COMES CLOSE to the joy in this song. NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          All Glory Laud And Honor: Another Great Joyous Triumph. Just reading these lyrics lifts my soul that modern songsmiths--as great as they are, cannot touch.

          VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS (translated: O Come, Creator Spirit Come): You want to call the Holy Spirit down in your gatherings? Why not use the hymn of the ages? This hymn was sung (in English) before every session in a retreat in 1967, that led to the birth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, that's how powerful it was.

          O Sacred Head Once Wounded: Eloquence and Emotion. The power of Christ's passion come to breathtaking life.

          This is just the beginning.

          BTW, I have to disagree with you strongly, Greg.


          I'm not saying it's a bad song in its own right. It's a good song, one that I have used. But it has a number of problems. First of all, it has the double-octave melody, rendering it harder to sing than the original hymn. Secondly, they are focusing on two separate events. The CCM praise song focuses specifically on Christ's salvific action on the cross, along with verses that focus upon the Father's might and awe. The hymn is actually far more personal... the author is a wretch, and goes into detail as to how he has been transformed: he's been taught to fear, delivered through many dangers, toils, and snares, etc. The CCM song makes no personal focus on how grace can change a life on a personal scale; it's the story of the cross and resurrection, but not a lot of clarity as to what it means to be "set free."

          That's not a dig on either song. They're different songs. They both do very well for the purposes that they have been written. One cannot replace the other, not even close.
          Nick Alexander
          Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
          Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
          Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.


          • #20
            Random Thoughts:

            I've played piano/organ/guitar for more funerals than I ever wanted to. In almost all situations I am asked to feature a song that was written during the lifetime of the deceased.

            The choruses of the 70's and the 80's really did tend to be shallow. CCM is different; it has verses. In many ways CCM songs are just modern hymns.

            Many songs in the hymnal are theologically incorrect. I had a pastor about 10 years back that loved to point out (to me, in private) what was wrong with the hymns we did at our traditional service. There wasn't a balm in Gilead, it wasn't a bleak mid-winter, the night wasn't silent, etc, etc...


            • #21
              I realize this is a fairly old thread but I will throw in a few thoughts for you all to think about.

              The original question seems to indicate the purpose of singing songs is to educate the congregation in theology. But is that really the case? I guess the proper place to go to answer that question is the Psalms. Do they have theology in them? Of course. But is that their purpose? Not by a long shot.

              Of course we do NOT want to sing songs with bad theology. Those should be weeded out as quickly as possible. As a worship leader and a congregational leader (deacon and elder) I have had to remove several songs that had just plain bad theology in them. The first one I removed was a blatant display of Gnosticism. Everyone loved it because it had a catchy tune and a funky bass line. But i had to dispose of it.

              But then it comes down to who is actually supposed to be teaching theology? The pastor/congregational leadership (elders) or the songs? I say the former. The Psalms do several things.

              1: Extol/proclaim what God has done for us. This falls into the category of “praise.” It is directed at others.
              2: Enumerate God’s attributes. This can be directed at others or ourselves. It is reminding us of who God is more than just what He has done. It is also “praise.”
              3: Thank God for all he has done in the past and will do in the future. It is directed at HIM and not us. It is the category of “thanksgiving.”
              4: To prostrate ourselves before HIM mentally and sometimes physically. This is what worship truly is and is directed solely at HIM.

              There is nothing on that list that includes teaching theology.

              My favorite Psalm is 95. IMO it should be a favorite of all worship leaders. It describes a process of going from Loud boisterous praise (Come let us sing for joy) to quiet meditation (Let us worship and bow down) to hearing God teach us. (Today if you hear His voice).

              THERE is the proper time/place for theological instruction, AFTER we are mentally bowed down before the presence of the Lord.


              • #22
                Thousands of worship songs have been written over the centuries. But how many are really great songs? Not many, comparatively. So I wouldn't expect many great worship songs came out of the last 40 years, and even less out of the last few years. Just because it's on the Top 40 CCM list this week doesn't make it a great song, just like most of the songs in our old hymnal were not great songs. But there are several "contemporary" hymns that I do in church: "In Christ Alone," "How Deep The Father's Love For Us," "You Are My All In All," "Speak O Lord," "Wonderful Merciful Savior," just to name a few. They are all well written and rich in theology.

                Here's my basic criteria for the worship songs I select:

                * They must honor and glorify God

                * They must be Scripturally accurate

                * They must be singable by the congregation

                And last but not least: NO 7/11 songs; (7 words, 11 times).Rote repetition worship songs drive me bonkers.