The Effectiveness of Traditional Hymn Tunes
From time to time I receive critical feedback about what I am doing over at Reformed Praise and thought that I would share a recent email that is thought-provoking. I haven’t responded to the author yet, so perhaps your comments might help me craft a deft reply.
On the homepage of reformedpraise.org it states:
Hymns have long been a rich source of deep lyrics, but many traditional tunes used to sing these hymns hinder rather than help believers feel what they are singing.
I lovingly disagree with this point. I love the old tunes and find them easy to sing and rich in melody. I have never found them to hinder my worship because the content is the focus. The one word that came to my attention here is “feel”. Corporate singing is the worship of believers to the truth of God’s Word and His character. Feelings cannot be trusted and should not be a focus of worship. Today’s music is sung to ellicit “feelings” and get people stirred up to a point of hypersuggestiveness to where they cannot reason. We should be responding appropriately to God and His Word in humility and praise.
When we sing at our church we encourage our congregation to “think” about what they are singing and understand who God is. Yes, sometimes it does bring tears to my eyes when I think of who He is and what He’s done for me, however, I don’t get worked up and get caught up in feelings or emotion. Why is FEELING significant? I cannot find Biblical support for the triumph of the emotions over the mind. While some make the case that the heart is the center of response to God, that in the hebrew paradigm first means the MIND.
Reformedpraise.org goes on to say:
The modern worship styles (and there are many) offer a new arena to make these hymn texts come alive to new generations. When these classic and biblical texts are wed to contemporary tunes, the result is a truly powerful worship experience that enables God’s truth to settle deep in our hearts and minds.
And the response:
The danger here is that we are capitulating to the culture and giving them what they want, which isn’t true worship. Why does our worship have to be an “experience” for it to be powerful? If we go down this road then the next thing is to change the Word so that it is more “relevant” to todays culture. God forbid!!!
I hope this helps us think through the issues of style, tradition, emotions and their proper role, and making truth central to Christian worship.