The Importance of Hymns
In it's rich history, the Church has sometimes wandered from it's center overemphasizing a single aspect of the truth. She has strayed too far to the right or left. Testimonies abound that during these times truth has had one last friend within her walls. Even when the Gospel was unrecognizable in her pulpit, it was still found in her hymnal. Even when it looked as though the prince of darkness was having his way, Christ was teaching and admonishing His people through Psalms, Spiritual songs and especially through Hymns.
A hymn is not music which happens to have words, rather, a hymn is a text which is filled with the Word, and which is appropriately and effectively wed to music.
So what makes the best hymn text? According to Ephesians and Colossians, the answer would be those hymns that have the richest concentration of the Word of Christ. They may fall into 3 categories:
1. Hymns that have Scripture quotations
2. Hymns that have scripture allusions (images/references)
3. Hymns that have accurate scriptural formulations of doctrine and experience. Rock of Ages, for example has some direct allusions to Scripture, but if filled with good, solid doctrine as it describes a believer's experience. Images of a rock, cleft for a hiding place, water and blood from Christ's side, the double cure from sin's guilt and power - all point to good experiential theology. Salvation and Justification: Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy law's demands. Our total dependence on the work and merits of Christ: Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save and Thou alone, and finally, the reminder that after our life is fully lived for Christ our approach to God will be identical to the moment of conversion - hidden in Christ. The theology is as profound as it is simple.
We will not attempt to define - if that is even possible - the exact meaning of each of these 3 terms (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs), except to point out (as Courtney Furman did in "A Surprising Light", that "While we cannot be dogmatic about the precise nature of the distinction among these three types or categories of music, it is obvious that early Christians used more than just psalms, and it would appear that the latter 2 categories might include those of someone's "human" composition, in addition to others, possible from canonical Scripture.."
In order to establish biblical standards for music evaluation (both public and private)., here are some questions, that might help us to ask of our music choices:
1. Does the text adhere to biblical doctrine, or is it "soft" on truth?
2. Is the music convincing in its craft, technical discipline and emotional flow? (Does it represent worthy effort, and is it manipulative?)
3. Does it exalt God only, or human sentiment on a subject?
4. Will it stand the test of time - will it be useful beyond this generation?
5. Which is more memorable - the words or the music?
6. If used in worship, will it draw attention to itself, and detract from attention to God?
Here are 4 principles to use in evaluation of music:
1. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3) - Avoid music that exalts anything above God, including human love, religious feelings, and personal fulfillment.
2. "Let everything be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40) - Avoid music that may have a biblical text, but ravages or diminishes it through sensation or excessive volume, or virtuosity (focus on the talents of the artist rather than the subject).
3. "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (1 Cor. 14:15) - Avoid songs which may have some good thoughts, but say nothing of any consequence, even bypassing the mind for the heart. Sometimes even good ideas are buried in manipulative sentimentality.
4. "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men...and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8) - Use music which affirms godly life and clear doctrine, and makes no effort to accommodate the world and its fleshly domain.
It is Saved By Grace Music's desire to make available Christ honoring CDs.