Thursday, November 11, 2010

Random Thought

I told the story of Nicodemus at Cubbies last night. All through preparing it, I had the hymn "Ye Must Be Born Again" (by William T. Sleeper) stuck in my head. I've known the song forever, and probably learned it as a child.

A ruler once came to Jesus by night
To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
The Master made answer in words true and plain,
“Ye must be born again.”

“Ye must be born again,
Ye must be born again,
I verily, verily, say unto thee,
Ye must be born again.”

It wasn't until tonight, while singing it in the shower, that I realized.... That song is not Scripturally accurate. Twice in John 3, Nicodemus asked, "What do you mean?" If he had to ask Jesus twice, apparently it wasn't "words true and plain."
In our church, there are three "camps" - there's the Hymns Are Gods Chosen Music, the Hymns Are So Old and Irrelavent to Today, and the Why Can't We All Just Get Along? camps. I happen to be part of the last (and I'd say a majority of our church is, too). Even though I'm the worship leader, and 97% of the time, we only do new worship songs (meaning, songs less than 20 years old), I love the old hymns. But I think if someone is going to talk about praise and worship songs being "not Scripturally accurate," that they need to hold their hymns to the same standard. Just because the Church has been singing a song for over a hundred years doesn't mean that the writer couldn't have been just a bit off when he wrote it..... just looking for words that made him feel good, or even for words simply because they rhyme.
And, as an aside - I'd like to point out that I try to only pick out songs that do line up to the Scriptures. There are some I really like, but that aren't accurate (These are the days of Your servant, David, rebuilding the temple of praise. -Days of Elijah) and some that just don't make sense (You are beautiful my sweet, sweet song. -You Are So Good To Me) Some say, "Well, these new worship songs just say the same thing over and over." Well, the original praise and worship songs, the Psalms, do the same thing. Psalm 136, for example: Your faithful love endures forever...... 26 times. (I feel justified when we sing "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever." ☺)
Anyhow. Just a little thought/rant.

And I would like to point out that Jesus did make Himself perfectly clear, later into his conversation with Nicodemus. I think maybe His seemingly strange and evasive answers were to draw a thinker like Nicodemus in, to listen to the heart of His message, which was this:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)


Brooke said...

Personally, I think the whole hymns debate has a lot more to do with preference of musical style than people would admit. I have come to love the old hymns even though as a teenager I couldn't wait to find a church that sang modern songs. When I did find a church with modern worship services, I heard hymns sung in a whole new way and fell in love. On the other side of the table, if some of the die hard hymn singers heard praise songs being sung in the "older" style, they would probably love them too.

The Other Rachel said...

For what it's worth, C.S. Lewis thought that hymns were 'bad poetry set to worse music.'

I don't really have an opinion about church music (most of the music at mine comes from about the 13th century, which means we neatly sidestep these debates altogether ;),but I really like your point about scriptural accuracy.

Also, I think it's important to keep in mind that both praise songs AND hymns are often written to be poetry set to music. It's important to judge a piece of art based on its actual genre, not just on the context in which you happen to use it. Is it good poetry? Good, perhaps it can be useful on Sunday morning. Is it bad poetry? Er, then why bother with it?

All that being said, Lewis and I have the same favorite hymn: "Jerusalem". (Charlotte Church does a nice version...) Just keep in mind that it's poetry and not meant to be taken literally. ;)

Doug or Janice Rhodes said...

On the other hand the words WERE true and plain....just took time to soak in to Nic. Jesus never wasted words. I have more trouble with hymns that speak of a "double cure." There is only one cure....the precious blood of my Savior.