Friday, June 29, 2007

Hymns vs. Choruses

I think there is a lot of truth in "Praise Music Flunks" over at the American Spectator:

IT IS AN INTERESTING PARADOX. Churches devoted to rigorous, difficult theology -- real Christianity, in short -- have largely adopted praise music, mainly to get people in the doors. In doing so, they have denied their parishioners an intimate connection with the art, the music, the poetry, and the history of the faith of our fathers, embodied in hymns.

Mainstream churches, which have left Christianity behind for liberation theology, "peace and justice" theory, deconstruction, and modernism, still cling to the hymnbook, to the hard work of teaching choirs to sing in harmony, and to the expense of maintaining pipe organs.

Read the whole thing.

The article reminded me of an insider's joke that some of you might be able to appreciate:

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the farmer, "it was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns."

"Praise choruses?" said his wife. "What are those?"

"Oh, they're OK. They are sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked his wife.

The farmer said, "Well, it's like this - If I were to say to you "Martha, the cows are in the corn"' - well, that would be a hymn. If on the other hand, I were to say to you:

Martha, Martha, Martha,
the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows
the white cows,
the black and white cows,
are in the corn,
are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,

Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well, that would be a praise chorus."

The next weekend, his nephew, a young, new Christian from the city came to visit and attended the local church of the small town. He went home and his mother asked him how it was.

"Well," said the young man, "it was good. They did something different however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs."

"Hymns?" asked his mother. "What are those?"

"Oh, they're OK. They are sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked his mother.

The young man said, "Well, it's like this - If I were to say to you 'Martha, the cows are in the corn' - well, that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you:

Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense
Hearkenest they in God's sun or His rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed.

So look to the bright shining day by and by
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn
Where no vicious animals make my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.'

Then if I were to do only verses one, three and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.


Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathy said...

The essayist makes a glaring error. "You are my all in all" is a direct scriptural allusion to passages in the New Testament such as I Cor 15:28 and Colossians 3:11. It is NOT "a piece of pop endearment"!!

And "you are the treasure that I seek" refers to the parable of the treasure in the field (Mt 13:44).

Critique is certainly called for. But it should begin by being accurate!!

Anonymous said...

Well, there you go, let's look at that parable about the treasure in the field and see if the song interprets it correctly. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who found a treasure in a field, who buried it and then went and sold all he had to buy that field.

So, it is the kingdom of heaven, and not us, who finds the treasure. We are not the man, and the man was not seeking treasure, he just found it in the midst of a field that was not his. He then went and sold all he had to buy that field so he could possess the treasure that was in it. For argument's sake, lets assume that we are the man, would it do us any good to sell all we had to purchase Jesus? No, for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and not of works.

No, we are the treasure (and only a treasure in God's eyes, and that by grace), the world is the field, and He gave up all He had (though he was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that you, by his poverty, might become rich), to purchase the field for the sake of the treasure hidden in it.

Another problem with this praise song is that it denies another place in Scripture that says, "No one seeks God, no not one." This song claims, "No, that's not true God, I am seeking You, You are my treasure." Also, God said, looking forward to the time of the Messiah, "I will be found by a people who did not seek for me."

So, Jesus is not the treasure that we seek. We were not seeking Him, we were just lying around in the dirt of the world, and He found us. Then He set aside his divine attributes to become one of us, and one of the poorest among us, was condemned to die for sins that He hadn't committed, was stipped naked and crucified, selling all He had so that He could purchase the field for the sake of those who would believe in Him.

This praise song is not based on Scripture, it is a misinterpretation of Scripture based on bad theology. And it is not the exception to the rule, it is a perfect example of exactly what is wrong with most praise music. Now, I am sure that someone will pull out all the exceptions to that rule as proof that I'm wrong, but it will not change the fact that at least 90% of the praise songs spend more time praising us than God, singing about our experiences, our desires for God, our love for God. And if someone writes a halfway descent one, like "Our God is and Awesome God," they strip away the theologically deep stanzas and just sing the chorus over and over again, which has become meaningless without the supporting stanzas.

Φ said...

Anon: Wow! I have never heard that interpretation of that parable before! You have the theology exactly correct, although now that I think about it, it's tough to know exactly what meaning Jesus intended. I'll ask around.